Dunmore Amateur Dramatic Society or (D.A.D.S. as it became known) had its genesis either in the mists of time or in Mary Howley’s pub ten years ago – depending on your point of view. I tend to favour the former myself because Drama has been part and parcel of this little village in North East Galway for much farther back than anyone living can remember.
There are photographs in existence from the early years of the 20th century which show that there was a drama group active in Dunmore even then. More recent folklore records some of the escapades of latter years which may be recounted in another article at a later date! It is beyond doubt that there was an active drama scene in Dunmore in the early part of the 20th century.***
However everything dramatic happening in Dunmore today can be traced back to the year 1955 when a group from Dunmore entered the fledgling drama festival circuit with the Frank Carney play “The Righteous are Bold” . They were extremely successful, reaching the All Ireland finals. Among the cast of that memorable play was a young woman named Margaret Walsh who won a “Best Actress” award and who went on to become the director and producer of many fine plays over the next forty years or so. Sadly, in 2007, the year of our greatest triumph to date, when D.A.D.S. reached the All Ireland Finals with Tom Murphy’s “A Thief of a Christmas”, Margaret passed away after a long battle with illness.
I came to Dunmore in the early 1970’s, having already developed an enduring love for drama in my native Crossna (near Boyle in County Roscommon) and my very first memory is of a superb production by Margaret of the Brian Friel classic “The Loves of Cass Maguire”. It wasn’t long before I found my way into the local drama group and under Margaret’s wonderful direction I worked my way through many roles (big and small) in pays such as “The Black Stranger”, “Gaslight”, “A Crucial Week in the Life of a Grocer’s Assistant”, “The Wood of the Whispering” and “I do Not Like thee Dr. Fell” – to name but a few.
In the mid eighties the drama group began to die out and although there were a couple of productions (“The Year of the Hiker” and “Strike Happy”) the impetus seemed to have gone. Dunmore Choir which, under the baton of Mrs Una Mooney had developed quite a reputation, took to the stage with a series of revues called "Showtimes". These consisted of choral extracts from popular musicals interspersed with comedy sketches and one act dramas. Margaret Walsh was the producer for these presentations and I was drafted in to organise the interval entertainment. These were wonderful shows featuring elaborate sets for choruses from Oliver, South Pacific, Oklahoma etc. etc..... The sets were magically changed during the intervals while we (the drama people) presented front-of-stage sketches such as The Swallow Tailed Coat, A Pound on Demand, On the Outside, Dead but He won't Lie Down or monologues such as The Cremation of Sam Magee (Tommie Keenan), With 'er 'ead Tucked Underneath 'er Arm (Peter McConville), or The Ballad of Peter Gilligan (Brian O'Malley). We also did some comic interludes such as The Ancient Irish Custom of "Hah-hooing" (Micheal O'Liodean and Yours truly!), Goodness Gracious Me (Peter McConville and Claire Finnegan) or Old Man River (Stan Freeberg Version!). These are only a few of the very wonderful memories I have from those magical years of Showtime.
So successful were these Showtimes that a head of steam built up to put on a full musical. Although much talked of, it was only when Joan Macdonnell came back to Dunmore that the idea really took flight. Joan and Margaret took on the mammoth task of producing a musical and of course wild horses wouldn’t have kept me off the stage even though I couldn’t hold a note to save my life! A few non singing roles followed in “Calamity Jane”, “South Pacific”, “Oklahoma” and “Fiddler on the Roof” but I still retained the urge to get back to straight drama.
"The Year of the Hiker" - 1985.
Michael Walsh, Marie Mannion, Mary Glynn, Tommie Keenan, Margaret Walsh (RIP), John Morris, Charlie Kelly.