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Tipperary Drama Festival Gets Under Way In Holycross, Thurles

Reporter: Tom Ryan.

County Tipperary Drama Festival Committee 2018
President: Very Rev. Fr. Celsius Tierney, Parish Priest of Holycross/ Ballycahill; Chairman: Tommy Lanigan; Festival Director: Donal Duggan; Treasurer: Maudie Bourke; Secretary: Clare Ryan; P.R.O: Geraldine Henchion; Sponsorship: Ger O’Dwyer; Raffle: Diana Lacey; Technical Support: Marty O’Neill and Paddy Connolly; Subcommittee Members: Peg Ryan, Elaine O’Dwyer, Derek Doherty, Jack Henchion, John Glasheen, Aisling Henchion and Gerry Kennedy.

Ms Imelda McDonagh

The 36th annual County Tipperary Open Drama Festival got under way in style at St. Michael’s Community Centre, Holycross, last Friday night, following a glitzy ‘Cheese and Wine’ reception, hosted by the Festival Committee and attended by many local dignitaries.

The festival was officially opened by International Festival Adjudicator, Ms Imelda McDonagh , who was welcomed by Mr Donal Duggan, latter Festival Director for over three decades and the amiable and informative Master of Ceremonies nightly.

Amongst those introduced to the attendance by Mr Duggan were:-  Archbishop Emeritus Dermot Clifford; Very Rev Celsius Tierney PP; Festival Committee President Mr Tommy Lanigan; an old friend to the festival and its Chairman Mr Michael Lowry, TD; County Councillors Mr Micheal Lowry and Mr Seamus Hanafin and Ms Kay Cahill, (sister of TD Mr Jackie Cahill).

As former adjudicator, Mr Larry McCluskey, pointed out that audiences are very perceptive and appreciative in Holycross and not only do Holycross host the actual annual festival, but they also compete themselves nationally, with great successfully.

There were lovely tributes in this year’s Festival Programme; to the late Eibhlis Quirke, former Secretary of the Festival Committee and to the late Dan Gallagher of Thurles. (Ar dheis De a n-anamacha). The late Dan and his wife, Breda, previously sponsored the “Gallagher Award” for “Most Promising Actor/Actress” and Breda Gallagher and her daughter Mary, were most welcome guests on the night, upholding a proud tradition for the popular Gallagher family.

The festival continues until next Saturday, March 24th, when results will be announced and prizes presented, including the “Tipperary Star Cup” for Best Play in the Confined Section, and the “Tipp FM Trophy” for Best Play in the Open Section.

Wednesday, March 21st (Open section) Noel Coward’s “Blyth Spirit”, – Thurles D.G.
Thursday, March 22nd (Confined) “Some Girls”, Curtain Call, Dungarvan.
Friday, March 23rd (Confined) “Bold Girls”, Holycross/Ballycahill D.G.
Saturday, March 24th (Open) “Duet For Two”, Nenagh Drama Group.

Festival fever is particularly strong in the Suirside village currently, with the Holycross/Ballycahill group’s Jenny Bracken winning “Best Actress Award” in the Rush, County, Dublin, Drama Festival and Aisling Henchion nominated for “Best Sound” at the same festival.

There is a lot of buzz about “Bold Girls”.
It looks like being a very successful year for the talented Abbeysiders. There is huge excitement about the group locally and a record attendance is expected next Friday night to see them on stage in “Bold Girls”.  Early attendance is certainly most advisable and note the ever-popular Festival Club Tea Room will be in operation on a nightly basis.

“Bold Girls”, is a stirring play based around the lives of three women; Marie, Nora and Cassie, all living in war-torn Belfast. Although their men have been either killed or imprisoned for their political activities; everyday life must go on. But the appearance of a disturbing young girl, and Cassie’s revelations, suddenly threaten Marie’s carefully structured widowhood.

This impressive Holycross/Ballycahill group, directed by Claire Ryan; winners of the Confined Section in the Roscommon Drama Festival, comprise the formidable cast of:- Joanne O’Neill, Jacqui Lacey, Eleanor O’ Dwyer and Jenny Bracken, together with a top-class backup team. At time of writing they still have more festivals in which to compete, to bring them even possibly more honour.

Looking back at the Tipperary Open Drama Festival.
A number of other groups in this festival are no strangers to both the Confined and Open All-Ireland finals. Simply only the best groups take to the stage in Holycross, offering that rare opportunity to meet; not only theatre enthusiasts, but also talented Thespians from all over Ireland.

Holycross-Ballycahill Drama Group are in existence for over fifty years. The group have reached the All Ireland Confined Finals on many occasions, including, 2016, in Castleblayney with “The Thrill of Love” by Amanda Whittington and in 2013 in Rossmore Co. Cork with “The God of Carnage” by Yasmina Reza. They have won numerous acting, directing and set awards, not only on the country’s festival circuit, but also in All Ireland competitions.

“Sive” by J.B. Keane, “Run For Your Wife” by Ray Cooney, “Woman and Scarecrow” by Marina Carr and T.S. Elliot’s “Murder in the Cathedral” are among the critically acclaimed productions that the group have performed around the country. They have even brought “The Beauty Queen of Leenane”, by Martin Mc Donagh to Germany, following a special request by the American forces stationed there to perform at their base in Heidelberg.

The above group have won a string of nominations e.g. Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director and Best Set (Andy Slattery) awards around the country. A magnificent achievement for Director, Claire Ryan and her talented cast and stage crew.

Ursuline Convent Secondary Win Glasheen Trophy in Schools Drama Festival
With a hugely impressive production, Ursuline Convent, Thurles won the coveted Glasheen Trophy in the unique Schools Drama Festival, in which Presentation Secondary School, Thurles and two groups from Doon also participated.  Sponsors were Stakelum’s Office Supplies here in Thurles, who were thanked. Mr Donal Duggan, Festival Director went on to thank the teachers for their committed involvement in and contribution to the festival and for fostering local drama and an interest in drama from an early age.

So, it remains a fact; to quote the words of Festival Adjudicator for the “Schools Drama Festival”, Mr Conor O’Connell, (to massive applause, I might add), “Drama is alive and well in Tipperary”.


Thurles History Goes Under Auctioneers Hammer

Yet another chunk of Thurles and Co. Tipperary’s amazing history has been sold off at an auction held in Chatsworth Street, Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny, on Wednesday March 7th last.

Four rare works of art, once commissioned by the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly, back in the early to mid 19th century, went under the hammer at Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, in their recent Chatsworth Fine Art Sale.

Pictured L-R: Oil painted portraits of three Cashel & Emly Archbishops & one senior Priest (1) Michael Slattery (1833-1857), (2) Patrick Leahy (1857-1875), (3) Rev Edmund Ryan (1856-1868), & (4) Patrick Everard (1820-1821).

Lots numbered 268 to 271, which comprised the four oil paintings, of a former Senior Priest and three former Archbishops were sold off for between €300 to €500 each.

(1) Lot 268, estimated between €400-€600 was sold for €500, featuring Archbishop of Cashel, Michael Slattery, in a half length portrait of a gentleman seated in clerical garb, [Approx. size 89cms x 69cms (35″ x 27″)] in a heavy gilt frame.

Archbishop Slattery served as Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cashel & Emly from 1833 to 1857. Born in Tipperary Town 1783, he was educated at the Abbey School before entering Trinity College, Dublin at fifteen years of age, one of the first Roman Catholics ever to do so, eventually earning a Bachelor of Arts degree. Having decided to become a Roman Catholic priest, he was enrolled at St. Patrick’s  College, Carlow, before being ordained in 1809 and continued on at the collage as a professor of Philosophy and of Moral Theology. Later he served in the parishes of Ulla, Co. Limerick for two years, and in Borrisoleigh, Thurles, Co. Tipperary for over twenty years.

In 1832 he was elected president of St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth and served for two years. A supporter of moderate Nationalism and of Daniel O’Connell (Latter responsible for Catholic Emancipation passed by Parliament in 1829), he regularly spoke out against militant nationalism.

He was elected to succeed Archbishop Robert Laffan as head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly later that year, and was installed at Thurles Cathedral on February 24th 1834, going on to established a foreign missions department in St. Patrick’s College, Thurles in 1842.

Archbishop Slattery passed away in Thurles on February 4th 1857.

(2) Lot 269, estimated between: €400-€600 was sold for €340, and featured Archbishop of Cashel, Patrick Leahy, in a half length portrait of a gentleman in religious attire, [Approx. size 92cms x 71cms (36″ x 28″)] in a heavy gilt frame. (This sale must surely be to our greatest shame.)
Archbishop Leahy, son of Patrick Leahy, a civil engineer and Cork county surveyor, was born near Thurles, Co. Tipperary, on May 31st 1806, before being educated at Maynooth.

Serving as a curate in the diocese of Cashel, he was soon appointed professor of Theology and Scripture in St. Patrick’s College, Thurles, and shortly afterwards became President of the same institution. On August 22nd 1850 he became one of the secretaries of the Synod of Thurles, before being appointed parish priest of Thurles and Vicar General of the Diocese of Cashel.

When the Catholic University was opened in Dublin in 1854, he was selected for the office of vice-rector, under the then rector Dr. J. H. Newman, (later Cardinal Newman), filling a professor’s chair. He was elected Archbishop of Cashel on April 27th 1857 before being consecrated on June 29th of the same year. In 1866 and 1867 he, tiogether with the Bishop of Clonfert were both deputed, to conduct the negotiations with Lord Mayo, (Styled Lord Naas between 1842 and 1867, a statesman, Viceroy of India and prominent member of the British Conservative Party from Dublin), the chief secretary for Ireland, with respect to the proposed endowment of the Roman Catholic university.

He was a strong advocate in the cause for temperance; enforcing the Sunday closing of public-houses in his Diocese. Indeed it was due to his energy that the Cathedral of The Assumption, in Thurles was constructed at a cost of £45,000 then pounds.

Archbishop Leahy died at the Bishops residence here in Thurles on January 26th 1875, and is interred (February 3rd 1875) within Thurles Cathedral.

(3)Lot 270, with a value estimated between: €400-€600 same was sold for €300, and featured Cashel and Emly Priest Rev. Edmund Ryan, in a half length Portrait of a gentleman seated, book in hand, in priests collar, [Approx. size 89cms x 69cms (35″ x 27″)] in heavy gilt frame.

(4) Lot 271, estimated between €400-€600 was sold for €300, and featured Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, Patrick Everard, in a portrait of a gentleman seated in clerical attire, with Bishop’s coat of arms in top right corner, [Approx. size 89cms x 69cms (35″ x 27″)].

Archbishop Everard was born in Fethard, Co. Tipperary, and attended a local classical school. He was educated at the University of Salamanca in Spain where he had moved in 1776. He was ordained in 1783 and obtained a doctorate of Divinity from Bordeaux University. Following his studies, he was elected President of the Irish College in Bordeaux and Vicar General to the Archbishop of Bordeaux, until the French Revolution drove him out of the country. He spent some time in England as principal of a lay academy at Ulverstone, in the South Lakeland district of Cumbria, Lancashire, North West England, which he had purchased from the Jesuits, before becoming the president of Maynooth College in Ireland.

Following the death of Archbishop Thomas Bray on December 15th 1820, Patrick Everard automatically succeeded as the metropolitan archbishop of Cashel and Emly, until his death in 1821.

All four paintings were sold for a total final hammer price of just €1,440, or if you like, less than a current TD’s weekly minimum wage of €1,800.

It would appear that no one, to our shame here in Co. Tipperary, is minding our shop.


Which Are You, “All Wired Up” Or A “Palette Prisoner”?

Junk Kouture is all about creating fashion from recyclable materials of every sort. Its purpose is to encourage young future designers, in second level institutions, to create striking couture designs and impressive works of wearable art, from simple everyday junk that would normally find its way into our rubbish tips.

So, how popular is this competition? Well try to obtain a ticket for the Southern Regional Final in Limerick on March 9th next, and you will find the Venue is fully ‘Sold Out’.

This year once again a total of 6 young creative designers from Transition Year at the Ursuline Convent Secondary School in Thurles have taken part in the ‘National Junk Kouture Competition 2018’, sponsored by Bank of Ireland (BOI).

It is no secret that the annual National Junk Kouture competition aims to inspire and ignite passion in young teenagers, while at the same time subtly educating them regarding the importance of recycling and the reusing of what is too often regarded as waste materials.

Over the past number of years, Bank of Ireland’s Junk Kouture event has established itself as the premier recycling fashion competition for teenagers throughout Ireland and Northern Ireland; and in 2015, extended its creative platform, further afield; to the shores of Scotland.

Featured here are just two of the Ursuline Convent’s very imaginative, chosen dress designs, entitled “All Wired Up”, [modelled /designed by Miss Elena Quirke and design aided by Miss Alannah O’Donoghue and Miss Saoirse Quirke] ; and  “Palette Prisoner”, [modelled and designed by Miss Benita Wrochna and design aided by Miss Kayleigh Fogarty and Miss Kathelyn Egan.]

Congratulations! “Super designs and we wish all students taking part at the Ursuline Convent Secondary School, including those not featured here, the very best of luck”.


Imelda McDonagh To Adjudicate Co. Tipp. Open Drama Festival

M/s Imelda McDonagh to Adjudicate at the Co. Tipperary Open Drama Festival in Holycross, Thurles, Co. Tipperary, from March 16th to March 24th.

Author and Freelance Journalist Tom Ryan Reports:-

M/s Imelda McDonagh

Holycross/Ballycahill Drama Group, Thurles Drama Group and Nenagh Drama Group will be the Co. Tipperary representatives in the prestigious Co. Tipperary Open Drama Festival to be held in St. Michael’s Community Centre, Holycross. Competitors will bid for an array of awards, including the “Tipperary Star Cup” in the Confined Section and the “Tipp FM Trophy” in the Open Category.
The Festival Director is Mr Donal Duggan as usual and a dedicated committee have been working diligently to maintain the proud traditional status of the Abbeysiders in this great festival featuring the country’s top drama groups staging some of the world’s finest drama.

Meet Adjudicator M/s Imelda McDonagh
Adjudicator, Imelda McDonagh, is an award-winning director and actress with a first-class Honours M.A. in Theatre Studies. She is a qualified Make-Up Artist and holds a Licentiate (Speech and Drama) from The London College of Music.
Well known for her various acting roles as ‘Lady Bracknell’, in Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest”; ‘Blanche’, in Tennessee William’s “A Streetcar Named Desire”; ‘Baglady’, in the rarely performed Frank McGuinness play of the same name; ‘Stephanie’, in Tom Kempinski’s “Duet for One”; ‘Gertrude’, in William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, and ‘Kate’, in Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons”.

She recently performed with The Dublin Shakespeare Society, as part of the Shakespeare 400 celebrations and as ‘Maisie Madigan’ in the second of Sean O’Casey’s Dublin Trilogy, “Juno And The Paycock”.

Also, much at home in the world of musical theatre, M/s McDonagh has won the coveted Association of Irish Musical Societies’ award for ‘Best Director’, for her production of Samuel and Bella Spewack / Cole Porter’s, “Kiss Me Kate”, for Gorey, (Co. Wexford) Musical Society, and was nominated as ‘Best Director’ for the Irish Premiere of Alistair McGuckian’s “The Ha’penny Bridge”.

Her most recent production was the loosely based on actual events musical, “Footloose” (Music is by Tom Snow, lyrics by Dean Pitchford, and book by Pitchford and Walter Bobbie), for the Oyster Lane Theatre Group, her seventeenth musical to date.

Imelda has enjoyed adjudicating throughout Ireland since 2001, including the finals for Macra and the Irish Country Women’s Association (ICA) and the Confined All-Ireland Drama Finals, in Tubbercurry in 2017.

She is also secretary of The Association of Drama Adjudicators and has recently been awarded “The Civic Merit Award” for her services to the community by Irish President, Michael D. Higgins.

Programme of Plays and Drama Groups (D.G.)

Friday, March 16th, – (Open) – “Unbroken Circle”, – Gorey L.T.G..
Saturday, 17th March,(Confined) – “The Beauty Queen of Leenane”, – Kilworth D.G..
Sunday, 18th March, – (Confined)“Abigail’s Party”, – Skibbereen D.G..
Monday, 19th March – (Confined) – “Caught in the Net”, – Conna D.G..
Tuesday 20th March –  (Open)“Stolen Child”, – Brideview D.G..
Wednesday 21st March(Open)“Blyth Spirit”, – Thurles D.G..
Thursday 22nd March(Confined)“Some Girls”, – Curtain Call, Dungarvan D.G..
Friday 23rd March(Confined)“Bold Girls”, – Holycross/Ballycahill D.G..
Saturday, March 24th(Open)“Duet For Two”, – Nenagh D.G..

Conor O’Connell to adjudicate unique Schools Drama Festival

The County Tipperary Open Drama Festival Schools Festival, the only such event in Ireland will be held on Tuesday, March 13th, starting at 7.30pm.

The entries to date include Ursuline Convent Secondary School, Thurles; Presentation Convent Secondary School, Thurles; and Colaiste na Trionoide, Doon, east Co. Limerick, who will stage two plays.

The adjudicator is once again Mr Conor O’ Connell, nephew of former Thurles hotelier and businessman, Mr Derek O’Connell. A great friend of the organising committee; Conor has himself starred in an acting role on stage in Holycross, with the renowned Silken Thomas Players and who was a big hit with the young players last year.


Cathedral Of The Assumption, Thurles – Christmas 2017

The magnificent recently restored Cathedral of The Assumption, situated here in Cathedral Street, Thurles, Co. Tipperary, looks particularly attractive at Christmas time each year; enhanced by the construction of the Nativity Scene.  Same takes the form of a manger or crib located in a stable, together with other art objects (e.g. figures of the three wise men or Magi, shepherds, camels, donkeys, sheep and cattle, and of course Mary the mother of Jesus, with her husband Joseph) each and all representing and reminding us of the birth of Jesus Christ, which we celebrate and as recounted to us through Bible stories, to be found referred too, in particular, in some of the 27 books which make up the New Testament.

At this time each year the manger scene annually reminds me of the actions of my now long deceased (1969) grandmother. In her later years she would request her local friendly postman (Mr Walsh) to visit the local crib, giving him between a sixpenny piece and a half crown (latter a former denomination of money, equivalent to two shillings and sixpence or almost one day’s labourer’s pay back in the late 1950’s) to put into the collection box. The postman would remove a piece of straw from the crib and this would be placed in my grandmother’s purse, where it would remain until the following week of Christmas.

This action she assured me would guarantee that regardless of prevailing economic conditions, God would continue to supply all her needs. Strangely, I must admit that despite living in lowly impoverished circumstances all of her 90-year life span, her purse never appeared to empty, and saw her paying all her bills on time, while never having reason to be sent into hospital ever. Today our own home continues with this Christmas and Christian practise.

Of course, it is St. Francis of Assisi, (Patron Saint of Italy and one of the most venerated religious figures in our history) who is credited with creating the first live nativity scene, way back around 1223; his objective to cultivate the worship of Jesus Christ. We are given to understand that he had recently been inspired by his own personal visit to the Holy Land, where he had viewed the traditional birthplace of Jesus Christ.  The nativity scene, therefore, which he presented, can be viewed as his ‘physical modern-day holiday snap’.

So if you are in and around town over Christmas or if you are attending tonight’s Service of Christmas Carols in the Cathedral of The Assumption, do visit with your kids; it makes for nostalgia; long remembered reminiscences of happy family togetherness.