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From The Archives

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Athlete Ronnie Delaney in 1956. (Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI Collection). (Photo by Independent News and Media/Getty Images)


Noel Coogan recounts the day when the Irish cycling team was arrested

While the sixtieth anniversary of the Melbourne Olympics was remembered earlier in the year, the first Games to be staged down under was actually held in December, 1956. It was a very successful event for Ireland with Ronnie Delany’s 1,500 triumph the highlight and four medals gained in boxing also giving cause for celebration.


However, there was frustration for a small group of Irish cyclists who were hoping to represent their country in the Olympic road race. The trio were members of the National Cycling Association which was not recognised internationally and were taken away by police shortly before the start.


The Irish team comprised of Paudi Fitzgerald from Kerry, Tommy Flanagan from Meath and another Meath man, Tom Gerrard, a former Navan Road Club rider who had emigrated to Australia a few months earlier and was living in Melbourne.


Con Carr from Kildare was also selected but sufficient money was not raised to send him.
Paudi Fitzgerald was selected on the Irish team because of his overall triumph in the 1956 Rás Tailteann. That was the fourth edition of the famous race and the third over eight days. Fitzgerald won two stages to become the second Kerry rider to take overall honours, Gene Mangan having been the winner the previous year.


Tommy Flanagan was honoured with the trip to Australia after winning the National League, a series of long distance races with points awarded to the cyclists with highest placings. The Navan Road Club pedaller also rode consistently to take fifth place overall in the ’56 Ras.


Tom Gerrard was born in Navan town before living in the Gaelic football stronghold of Skryne for a number of years. Coning from a sporting family, his brother Jackie gained senior championship honours with Skryne and Tom was a strong cyclist who took second place in a stage of the Rás.


Each of the three counties was responsible for raising funds to send their man to Melbourne. Meath’s target of £600 was comfortably attained through church gate collections, dances and subscriptions from clubs, other organisations, businesses and individuals.


Flanagan recalled being presented with his Ireland jersey, a predominantly white garment with a tricolour band around the waist. There was a strong support for ‘Send Flanagan to Melbourne’ posters around Meath and the Royal County cyclist departed from Shannon Airport in the early hours of November 27th for the race on December 7th.


The Meath rider travelled alone as shortage of funds delayed Fitzgerald’s departure for another two days. Unlike the present times, no officials went with the cyclists.


Before flying out, Tommy Flanagan sent the following letter to the Meath Chronicle newspaper: “Dear sir, In an hour’s time I depart on a TWA plane to New York en route to Melbourne where I hope to represent my country in the Olympic Games road cycle race on December 7th. That I will soon be starting my journey is due to the wonderful support given to the NCA Olympic Games support fund by the people of Meath for which I want to thank them. I would be pleased if you would publish this short note to show my appreciation of my fellow countymen. Yours in sport, Tommy Flanagan.”


Paudi Fitzgerald linked up with Flanagan in New York and then it was on to San Francisco and Sydney before arriving in Melbourne on December 1st. The two riders were fixed up with accommodation in a suburb of the city.


The whereabouts of the Irish cyclists had newspaper reporters baffled and prompted the following headline, ‘Cyclists cannot be traced.’ Australian Cycling Association secretary Bill Jones said no entries on behalf of Irish cyclists had been received and they would not be allowed to start.


“Nobody will gate-crash on Friday. They can bring their shillelaghs with them if they like but they won’t be any use,” said Jones.  


At the time, Cumann Rothaiochta na hEireann (CRE), 26-county body, was accepted internationally to represent Ireland.


The three cyclists hoping to represent their country in the 1956 Olympics were given instructions by NCA officials to highlight the association’s plight.


Apart from the aim of getting away with the rest of the racers, they were instructed to remove every Union Jack they could find and, bizarrely, to extinguish the Olympic flame in protest at their exclusion. However, the latter proved beyond them!
Leaflets, printed in a few different languages, highlighting the NCA’s situation, were distributed among the spectators by Irish emigrants.


Looking back, Tommy Flanagan said they nearly got away with the rest of the riders. “We kept our tracksuits on as long as possible and the starter was down to six in the countdown when we were noticed. We were told we weren’t entered, the police were called in and we left peacefully. The police had sympathy for us,” he said.

Although not allowed to compete, Flanagan described the trip down under as a memorable experience. “Altogether we were away for three months and were treated well everywhere we went,” he recalled.
Strangely, Ronnie Delany’s gold medal triumph in the 1,500 metres did not impress some Irish people. NCA president and NACA vice-president Jim Killean expressed the odd opinion that “nobody won a gold medal for Ireland this time!”


 At the subsequent NACA congress Killean was critical of Nenagh Olympic AC members for taking part in the town’s welcome for Delany.


After being selected to represent Ireland in the 1956 Olympic Games, the three cyclists did not do much racing. But Tommy Flanagan still goes out for regular spins. At the time of writing, all three men are alive and well and can look back on a dramatic chapter in Irish sport which occurred 60 years ago this month.

 

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PAULINE MURPHY marks the 125th anniversary of the death of the ‘Uncrowned King of Ireland’ and the inception of the annual Ivy Day comemoration on Oct 6th.

 

This year marks the 125th anniversary of the death of the ‘Uncrowned King of Ireland’. On October 6th, 1891, Charles Stewart Parnell took his leave of this world at the much too young age of 45.


Parnell’s funeral was one of the biggest funerals in Ireland and drew up to 200,00 mourners, including a large contingent from the GAA. Parnell’s funeral took place five days after his death and the streets of Dublin thronged was with those who followed the funeral procession to Glasnevin Cemetery. Such was the size of the crowd that the funeral arrived through the gates of Glasnevin late in the night!


It was a major event and such was the strong interest and public demand, train companies put on special ‘funeral trains’ to bring mourners to the capital from all corners of the country.


In the days after, newspapers across the land published names of people who had attended the funeral in Dublin. If someone who had been to it and failed to see their name published in the paper, the editor was sure to get an angry letter from them!


The funeral made headlines across the globe. Newspapers in places like New Zealand, Africa, America and Australia, reported extensively on the massive funeral, one which was conducted on behalf of the Parnell family by Fanagans undertakers in Dublin.
Before Parnell was carried to his final resting place on the northside of the city, he lay in state in Dublin’s City Hall where up to 30,000 people passed by his coffin.
When the funeral procession took place and followed the route down O’Connell Street, (then known as Sackville Street) towards Glasnevin, Parnell’s dark brown horse, aptly named Home Rule, followed behind the hearse. A pair of his master’s riding boots dangled from the black drapped saddle.


Behind ‘Home Rule’ were former and serving members of parliament who walked in formation while carriages behind them carried members from corporations across Ireland. Several bands also made up the funeral procession while at the request of the Parnell family, no banners or flags were allowed.


The hearse containing the remains of Parnell was covered in a mass of floral wreaths while several more carriages had to accommodate the over-flow of such floral tributes.
Among the many floral wreaths that were then placed on Parnell’s grave was one sent from a lady in Cork and was made entirely of dark green ivy.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own (Issue 5571)

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Thirty people who were alive in 1916 opened up to film-maker Alex Fegan for a landmark documentary that covers a hundred years of life in Ireland, but their own life stories were the most fascinating, writes Eileen Casey.

 

One of the televisual gems of recent years is Older Than Ireland, a low budget documentary by Snackbox Films, distributed by Element Pictures (2015) and directed by Alex Fegan.


Since it aired on RTÉ television in late August 2016, the stars of this charming production continue to enjoy celebrity status. The film is especially significant for featuring men and women who’ve lived through the birth of the State, witnessed Civil War, technological advances and their effect on day-to-day living (washing machines, computers etc.).


olderthanirelandcoverIt’s an historical and social portrait, taken at a particular time, paying tribute to the outlooks of those who have gone through a broadening out of life in general, simplified in the expression ‘a car at every door’.


There are political resonances also. For example, Jackie O’Sullivan from Killarney met Michael Collins and Éamon de Valera, while Jimmy Barry from Waterford witnessed the 1920 Bloody Sunday Massacre when he was aged just nine.


 From start to finish, watching Older Than Ireland is a time travelling experience. The centenarians take us on a journey back to a distant past, recalling, among other things, memories of first shoes, first kisses, school days, work, romance, marriage, what reaching 100 means and of course the inevitable question concerning the afterlife.
It’s a journey that recaptures the magic and thrills together with the emotional pain of grieving the loss of loved ones.


Older Than Ireland brings laughter and tears in equal measure. Dolly Atley’s first shoes are forever bound with the circumstances of her father’s death. He had gone to market with his pony and cart, promising the one-year-old little girl that he would bring back ‘a new pair of shoes for his little doll.’


However, on the way home the pony became skittish and jumped into the ditch, killing Dolly’s father. While she sat in her armchair in front of the camera’s eye, she recounted this hugely significant episode in her younger life, holding the little shoes in her hands, faithfully preserved all these years. The shoes, barely the size of Dolly’s palm, seemed so poignant, connected as they are to such a bitter sweet event.
 
First shoes were certainly big news for most of the men and woman interviewed. Walking to school barefoot seems to have been a common denominator too, described by Kathleen Fosdike from Castleknock as often resulting in ‘big toes without a nail’. Shoes, for the most part, meant prestige and feeling important in a rural Ireland where money was scarce and where style took a back seat to the provision of day to day necessities.
The down-to-earth no nonsense attitude of some of the ladies, in particular, also brought smiles. Margaret Kelly from Ballinasloe described getting the cheque from Michael D, money that was spent on the party that celebrated her 100th year – “and sure if we didn’t get it, we’d have to do without it”. Who could argue with that? When asked how it felt reaching this milestone age, Kathleen’s sister Mary (101) insisted that her life was little different to when she was young “except I have more comfort now as I don’t have to do anything!”


Madge Fanning from Skerries took her centenary celebration in her stride and said it didn’t knock a feather out of her, that she didn’t get excited about it.
Dr Jack Powell from Nenagh, woke up on his birthday and thought he’d better get up, he had a big birthday to celebrate. Dr Powell worked as a vet all his life, not retiring until he was 98. A member of the Church of Ireland (or minority religion as he himself described it), he said he never felt excluded by his Catholic neighbours and when the roof of his church went up in flames, it was those same neighbours who helped put out the fire.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own
 

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Gerry Moran looks at the origins of the famous saying
and the man who inspired it

 

Thursday. Late morning. I am cruising the aisles of the supermarket with a wobbly trolley and a crumpled shopping list, compliments of my missus, when I hear the voice behind me.


“Well, how’s the form, Gerry?” I turn. It’s Jim, an acquaintance of mine, who I bump into occasionally. We shake hands. Jim, a big man, almost crushes my mitt and I thank God I have health insurance.


“Not a bother,” I reply, flexing my hand and resetting the bones. “And yourself?”
“Happy as Larry,” smiles Jim which makes me smile. Contagious things, smiles.
 “Have you ever seen him?” I ask Jim.
“Who?”
“Larry.”
“Larry who?”
“That famous Larry you’re as happy as.”
Jim smiles again, gives a wee chuckle and says with a bit of a grin, “I think he’s invisible.”
“Then, how do you know he’s happy?” says I, pleased as punch with my speedy and apposite riposte.
Jim raises himself up to his full stature, folds his arms and looks vaguely into the distance. “Larry,” he says, after some deliberation, “is a bit like God…I think you have to believe in him.”


And before you know it we’re talking about a higher being, an intelligent designer even, and then move on to minor philosophical observations such as: sure we might as well be happy, what’s the point in being sad, and what the hell if the world is going down the tubes, we have our health haven’t we, what more could we want?


And we’re singing from the same hymn sheet now as the other shoppers weave their trollies around us. And I can’t help but wonder if Larry sings, happy Larry that is, though in fairness not all happy people sing. Not all happy people CAN sing. And, for sure, not all singers are happy.


And these are the daft, random, sort of thoughts I have when I bump into Jim.
And don’t ask me how but now Jim moves on to aliens and the possibility that they visited earth millions of years ago and that we’re actually their descendants.
“Von Daniken,” I pipe up, ‘Chariots of the Gods’, an interesting book about that theory.”

But I don’t think Jim read that book, or maybe he didn’t hear me, and we’ve come a long way now from ‘Happy as Larry’, plus I’m beginning to fret about my car, parked in a nearby loading bay.
As much as I’m enjoying the chat with Jim I don’t want to have fork out €40 for a parking ticket; that, I tell Jim, would make me very UNHAPPY.


Jim chuckles and reaches out to shake my hand but I decline (I may yet have to see a bone-setter). “Listen,” I say to Jim, as we prepare to go our separate ways, “I’m thinking of hiring a private detective to check out this Larry, because I’m not so sure he exists, or ever existed, in fact I think he’s just another figment of our imagination.”
“Do that,” says Jim. “Oh, and by the way…get him to check out God while you’re at it.”

I smile, give a chuckle, head to the checkout and scuttle off to my car.
So, who exactly was this Larry? Well, I did a bit of detective work myself and discovered that Larry was, by all accounts, one Larry Foley, an Australian boxer, who was born in 1847.


He was a very successful pugilist who never lost a fight and retired in 1879 at the age of thirty-two. Larry collected a purse of £1,000 for his final bout (a substantial sum of money back then).
 Money can’t buy you love, but it obviously bought Larry Foley happiness back in the 1870s!


If ever a man was happy with his lot, it was Larry Foley, and he was renowned for being so. Larry, you’ll be glad to know (and so, I presume, will Jim) lived to the ripe, and happy, old age of seventy and passed away in 1917.

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Hope Foundation’s Maureen Forrest attends the canonisation of Mother Teresa, by Charlotte Nagle

I don’t think anyone could have predicted the incredible inspiring outcome that would unfold following a visit by one woman to the poverty stricken countries of Swaziland and Mozambique in 1980.

The remarkable journey of Maureen Forrest began after she witnessed the horrific suffering of the victims during the civil war in Mozambique. There and then, Maureen decided to make a life-long commitment to the poor.

Maureen first volunteered in war-torn Somalia, where she risked her life to volunteer in a centre for 2000 children. Maureen then travelled to Rwanda and volunteered in a centre flooded with refugees from the genocide, and prayed alongside the grim sight of mass graves.

“One of the stories that will always stay with me was when I was in Somalia and a little baby died in my arms for no other reason than us not having access to a bottle to feed it.”
In Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) Maureen had another life-altering experience that would inspire even more change, not only her own life but the lives of tens of thousands of young children and families living in abject poverty on the streets there.

This pivotal point in Maureen’s life arose following a meeting with Mother Teresa, when she was deeply moved by the hopelessness and exploitation of street children there.

Of her many meetings with Mother Teresa, Maureen said that that she was an inspirational woman who did not suffer fools and always spoke of her love for the poor and her sadness at seeing them dying without dignity on the streets.

“You knew, when you were with Mother Teresa that you were in the presence of someone extraordinary; she had an awe inspiring presence”

Following these extraordinary encounters in the early 1990s, Maureen returned to Ireland determined to fundraise for a protection home for girls, and set up The Hope Foundation in 1999. Since then her dedication, passion, drive and commitment has inspired thousands of people all over the world.

The initial goal was to run a home for 25 children and raise €25,000 a year to run it. Today the foundation runs over 60 projects including 12 protection homes and a hospital.
All at Hope continue to be inspired by the works of Mother Teresa and have been working closely with the missionaries of charity through the HOPE healthcare project and hospital, which was set up in 2008 with the help of the Irish Government and Irish Donors.

Maureen sees herself as part of an extended family (herself one of twelve children where she said the caring and sharing starts at home).

She is hugely helped by her sister Jenny Browne. Jenny, a Mercy nun is the HOPE overseas director spending much of her year in Kolkata.

For four months a year, Maureen also works on the ground in Kolkata as a volunteer. The experience of witnessing the very worst of human suffering from the mass graves in Rwanda, to the harrowing daily reality of life for the street children in Kolkata, led Maureen to believe that those living in abject poverty should be loved and embraced as individuals.  

Maureen Forrest turned 70 on September 11th, and her special birthday gift was to attend the canonisation of Mother Teresa on September 4th, at The Vatican.

“Attending the canonisation was just an experience of a lifetime, and one of the most treasured days of my life outside of the births of my children and grandchildren.

“Mother Teresa’s message is a simple one but a global one, one of love and of mercy. You could feel the love all around the Vatican. If more people join us, to help the poorest of the poor, to be a voice for the voiceless, the world will be a better place for us all to live in.

“We are but custodians of our planet, we must hand it over to our children better than we found it.”

Maureen Forrest was born in County Cork and worked for a time with Aer Lingus before settling down on a farm in Mogeely, Co. Cork, with her husband Dick.

“She has three children and six grandchildren. Her passion for the children with whom she works is unwavering.”

If you would like to donate to HOPE, you can do so on www.hopefoundation.ie or through The Hope Foundation office, Silverdale Grove, Ballinlough, Cork.

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Seán Hall pays tribute to the woman who was the secret singing voice behind many of the famous faces we have seen in Hollywood films down the years

On 24th July 2016, famed soprano of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Marni Nixon passed away at the age of 86. She is best known (or perhaps unknown) as Time Magazine dubbed her ‘The Ghostess With the Mostest’ having performed the songs on behalf of famous actresses in major movies like The King and I, West Side Story and My Fair Lady. She is also remembered as the mother of singer/songwriter, Andrew Gold, whose musical scores are still widely known to this day.

marni2Marni Nixon was born on 22nd February, 1930, in California to Charles Nixon McEathron and Margaret Wittke, one of four daughters. She never went by the second name of McEathron as children in school used to tease her with names due to a lack of pronounceability on their part for the name.


Her musical career began at an early age as a child film actress, starring as Angela Abernathy in The Bashful Bachelor (1942). Her musical career in Hollywood was sparked by performing angelic voices in Joan of Arc (1948), which starred Ingrid Bergman as the nationalist French saint. She dubbed over Margaret O’Brien in Big City (1948), which began a long trend in her career where she became known as the ‘Invisible Voice of Hollywood’.


The most famous of these dubbed recitals was voicing over Deborah Kerr in The King and I (1956), Disney’s film adaptation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.
The pieces which she sang included, I Whistle a Happy Tune, Hello, Young Lovers, Getting to Know You, and Shall We Dance?


Hollywood executives reportedly intimidated her into silence after this, with Nixon claiming she was told she would “never work in this town again”, should she reveal her part in dubbing the famed actress.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own (issue 5570)

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In July 2015, the White O’Morn in Maam, Connemara, was added to the Irish Register of Protected Structures. Liam O’Raghallaigh tells the story behind Hollywood’s most famous cottage.

 

The search for the thatched cottage which would become ‘White O’ Morn’ in the movie The Quiet Man started long before the filming began in June, 1951. Lord Killanin, aka Michael Morris, who lived in Connemara and knew the area well, did most of the scouting.

 

Irish actress Maureen O'Hara with John Wayne in a publicity still for 'The Quiet Man'. Original Publication: People Disc  - HH0390   (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Irish actress Maureen O’Hara with John Wayne in a publicity still for ‘The Quiet Man’. Original Publication: People Disc – HH0390 (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The cottage, which sits at Teernakill North, was, with several others, on a list of properties he presented to director John Ford for consideration. Ford, who was known to be an ‘awkward’ class of a man, had to be the one to make the choice. If anyone had the temerity to recommend a location, or anything else, then that was immediately ‘out’, however right it was; so he had to be brought to see each site himself, without comment, and then he, and only he, would give the nod. There was going to be only one BOSS.
 Of course, Ford chose the cottage at Teernakill, which had a stream running in front with stepping stones and a footbridge, the Failmore river running alongside and the Maamturk mountains in the background.


It was owned by local farmer, Walter Joyce, who lived there with his wife Bridget and family, and he was only too delighted to be paid money for the harmless use of his property. Apparently, Killanin suggested payment of £25 per week, which, of course, was immediately rejected by Ford, who then decreed that they should pay a princely £100 per day; untold wealth in the hungry 1950s.


One can only speculate whether Killanin, knowing Ford’s form, was playing clever to ensure Walter Joyce got a good deal?


The cottage needed a major face-lift for the movie so, after the first scene was shot, where Sean arrives at the door in Teernakill, the crew spruced it up and painted it and gave it a new thatch – front only, as the back of the cottage is not seen in the movie; new mullioned windows and a door; they also installed window boxes and flower beds and lots of roses for Sean to show off.


Now ‘real’ Quiet Man fans will have spotted that when Michaeleen and Sean first arrive at the footbridge by the cottage, there is hardly a puff of wind, and Michaeleen says, “Well, it’s a nice soft night so I think I’ll join my comrades and talk a little treason,” and yet, a minute later Sean enters the cottage in a howling gale. Now that is what you might call changeable weather; but there is a non meteorological explanation.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own (Issue 5570)

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Classic US TV Favourites Series by David Flynn

The story of the talking horse, ‘Mister Ed’ is remembered by many Irish people who grew up in the mid-1960s, or indeed the early 1980s, when the hit series was repeated.


‘Mr. Ed’s roots come from the ‘Francis – The Talking Mule’ series of movies that were popular in the 1950s, and starred song and dance man, Donald O’Connor. The premise of the movie series was focussed on the world of a talking mule named Francis, who only revealed himself to the character named Peter, played by O’Connor. Director, Sidney Lubin planned to make a ‘Francis’ tv series, but he couldn’t get the rights. Then somebody put him in touch with a series of short stories, about Mister Ed, written by author, Walter Brooks.


‘Mister Ed’ found his way to the CBS network, after they cast Alan Young as Wilbur Post. Alan had a leading role in movies of the 1950s, such as ‘Androcles and the Lion’ and ‘The Time Machine’ before he signed up for ‘Mister Ed’.


In the hit series, Wilbur and his wife, Carol, buy a suburban house and find a horse in the back stable as part of the deal. Wilbur finds the horse is able to talk, but unfortunately nobody else can hear him. The horse, named Mister Ed, has attitude and wit and seemed to have great understanding of human beings.


Carol, played by Connie Hines, can’t understand Wilbur’s attachment to the horse, but goes along with Wilbur’s eccentricities. Wilbur and Carol have neighbours, Roger and Kay Addison, who also find Wilbur eccentric. Later on there were some other neighbours – none of whom could make head nor tail of Wilbur, although Carol was popular with everyone.


‘Mister Ed’ began on CBS in 1961, and came to RTÉ during the early days of Irish television. In 1981, ‘Mister Ed’ was included in the line-up of the children’s Saturday morning RTÉ show, ‘Anything Goes’ in Ireland.


Alan Young may have appeared clumsy on the hit television programme, but he was highly intelligent and well-regarded in Hollywood, and directed many of the ‘Ed’ episodes, and while he never hit the big time again like he did with ‘Mister Ed’, he did continue acting and directing.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own (Issue 5569)

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On 5 September 1926, a timber barn being used as a temporary cinema in Dromcollogher caught fire when a candle ignited a reel of Nitrate film stock. Forty-eight people died in this tragedy, always known locally as the Dromcollogher Burning; forty-six of them are buried in a large grave in the grounds of the local church. It remained the worst known fire disaster in Irish history until the Betelgeuse incident in 1979 and the Stardust disaster in 1981, which claimed fifty and forty-eight lives respectively, writes Ray Cleere.

 

Dromcollogher is a picturesque little village in County Limerick, not far from the border of North County Cork and about eight miles west of Charleville. It is part of the parish of Dromcollogher and Broadford. It has a population of approximately 600 people. In the early twentieth century Dromcollogher boasted three tailors, two barbers, two shoemakers, two harness makers, one bicycle shop, two bakeries (Fitzgerald’s and Ahern’s) and two licensed premises.


On Sunday night, September 5, 1926, 90 years ago, Dromcollogher was the scene of a tragedy which resulted in a death toll and which, at the time, was almost unparalled in the history of Irish disasters in the twentieth century. It happened when fire broke out in a hall which was used as a makeshift cinema in the centre of the village while a film show was in progress.


The tragedy claimed the lives of 48 people, innocent men, women and children. The 48 people who died represented one-tenth of the population of Dromcollogher at the time. One entire family lost their lives in the disaster.


It was a disaster of unprecedented proportions and it was the only such cinema disaster in twentieth century Irish history. It was – and will always be – known locally as the “Dromcollogher Burning” which left a profound and lasting effect on the village and on its people. It made international news and it touched the hearts of millions of people around the world.


It remained one of the worst known fire disasters in Irish history for 53 years until the “Betelgeuse” disaster off Whiddy Island, near Bantry Bay, County Cork, in 1979 and the Stardust disaster in Dublin in 1981. By tragic coincidence the Stardust disaster also claimed the lives of 48 people, 55 years later.


At the time a local man named Patrick Brennan owned a hardware store in Church Street in Dromcollogher. It contained a storage area downstairs for timber, and five gallon drums of petrol. Overhead was a spacious loft with a timber floor. The room was used for showing films on previous occasions. Access to the loft was gained by an outside set of wooden steps. The loft measured 60 feet long by 20 feet wide.


At the far gable end two small windows, which were barred on the outside, flanked a small narrow room, which was portioned off from the rest of the room. It was used as a dressing room for amateur dramatics.

William “Babe” Forde, who was a local hackney driver and a businessman in Dromcollogher, rented the upstairs room from Patrick Brennan, for a film show. He hired Patrick Downing, a projectionist, to bring reels of film and a mobile projector from Cork.
 Downing had taken the reels of film from metal containers in which they were usually stored. At the time cinemas were closed in Cork on Sunday nights, so there was an entrepreneurial opportunity for an enterprising projectionist to make some money “on the side”, and unknown to the cinema-owners in Cork, who would have been reassured by the presence of the steel circular film containers.


The showing was timed to start at 9.15pm after Benediction had concluded in the nearby Church of St. Bartholomew.

Continue reading in issue 5565.

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