Friday, September 3, 1993

Moonbeam Entertainments

A bundle of old programmes and play bills recently acquired from an Auctioneer in an adjoining town has proved to be a treasure trove of times past in Athy. The theatrical ephemera related to a local group calling themselves Moonbeam Entertainment which trod the boards in Athy in the early 1920's.

The oldest poster was for an entertainment in the Town Hall, Athy on Thursday, the 5th of May, 1921. The group which was then named the Moonbeams were to change it’s name later to Moonbeam Entertainment. The 1921 show had the unusual starting time of 6.00 p.m. with the doors opening at 5.30 p.m. Frieda Browne was the Musical Director and the admission prices were 2/4 reserved seats and 1/3 unreserved. Tickets were available from H. K. Toomey of 21 Emily Square who was one of the local Solicitors.

The earliest programme was for the show put on by Moonbeam Entertainment in the Town Hall on Friday, the 24th of February, 1922. Starting with a sketch titled "The Bathroom Door" the players included Mr. & Mrs. Painting, Ms. Hosie, Ms. McElwee, Ms. Cecil and Ms. Toomey. Herbert Painting was the Vice-Principal of the local Technical School and was one of the tenants appointed by the local Council to its first housing scheme at St. Michael's. He is often mistakenly credited with designing the badge for the newly established Garda Siochana but in fact his involvement related to the making of a mould for the casting of the badge at Duthie Larges.

Returning to the Moonbeam's it would appear from the names with which I am familiar that they were a local Church of Ireland group. The programmes of entertainment for which I have copies up to the 8th of May, 1924 always follow a somewhat familiar pattern. The opening sketch followed by a chorus, a duet and what was described as a "vocal fox trot". Songs were an important part of the show occasionally interspersed with cello solos or a Musical Monologue.

New members of the Moonbeams for a show on the 15th of December, 1922 in the Town Hall were Mr. Youell, Captain Hosie and R. H. Fry. Mr. Youell was involved in the provision of a private electricity supply in parts of Athy during the early 1920's. He operated a turbine in Garter Lane which was eventually subsumed into the E.S.B. system. Captain Hosey was to establish the I.V.I. Foundry in the 1930's which Foundry was to be the mainstay of Industrial Employment in the town for upwards of 50 years.

An interesting programme for Wednesday, 4th April, 1923 indicates that the show was put on by the Moonbeams in the Technical School. The school first established in 1901 was located in Stanhope Place in the premises adjoining the Catholic Young Men's Society's building. Both buildings were demolished in 1964 to make way for the new St. Michael's Parish Church.

The last two programmes to hand were for shows in the Comrades Hall on the 6th of December, 1923 and the 8th of May, 1924. Captain's Strudwicke and Mr. Telford had joined the group in 1923 as had Ms. May Molyneux. The Comrades Hall located in St. John's Hall on the site of the present Scouts Hall den had been built by the British Legion for soldiers who returned from the first World War.

The bundle of programmes and posters are all that remain of Moonbeam Entertainment. Perhaps there is someone out there who remembers those players of seventy years ago and their light hearted theatrical contributions on the stages of the Town Hall, the Technical School and the Comrades Hall.

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