“O’Rourke Glynn’s Corner” was a well known landmark until recent years. Newcomers to the town probably never heard of the place or if they did remain blissfully unaware of it’s location. However, they can take consolation from the knowledge that not many of the locals would be able to pinpoint the location of other once well known landmarks such as “Nouds Corner” or “Glespen’s Coach Works”. Many of us will remember Ernest O’Rourke Glynn who died in 1976 as a man big of stature with a voice reminiscent of a Shakespearean actor. The eldest son of Nicholas and Florence O’Rourke Glynn who came to Athy in 1916 Ernest had a presence and a majestic voice which instantly suggested a theatrical background.
His maternal grandparents who had no previous theatrical experience purchased in 1896 “Peppers Ghost” a touring show which had been travelling throughout Ireland and England for the previous 20 years. A report in the Leinster Leader of 7th March, 1896 gave an account of the show’s performance in the Town Hall, Athy. The variety entertainment included songs, feats, ventriloquism and spectroscopic scenes.
The new owners, the Reid Metcalfes, employed a young Irish man, Nicholas O’Rourke Glynn, as manager of the touring company and he was in time to marry their daughter Florence. Still touring with “Peppers Ghost” in 1916 the company came to Athy for six weeks during the lenten period. Rebellion in Dublin and unrest throughout the country prompted Nicholas and Florence O’Rourke Glynn to stay in Athy and in time they acquired the Corner House at the junction of Duke Street and Woodstock Street.
Opening the “Theatrical Stores and Scenic Studios” as well as a photographic studio the business flourished and their eldest son, Ernest, was to be joined by a sister Florence, brother Nicholas and a younger sister Peggy. The theatrical stores supplied costumes for amateur and professional groups throughout Ireland. The wicker baskets lined with jute in which the costumes were stored and transported were a familiar sight as they came and went through the local railway station.
A trained artist Nicholas O’Rourke Glynn painted scenery to order and his scenic studios located in the Corner House was a wonderland of paint and colour where snow scenes shared space with forest glades and interior scenes of palatial palaces.
As a commercial photographer he was employed by owners of the local big houses to record and photograph all the great occasions. The Weldons of Kilmoroney and the Geoghegans of Bert House were to possess many fine examples of Nicholas O’Rourke Glynn’s early photographic work.
With his previous theatrical experience Nicholas O’Rourke Glynn became very involved in theatre in Athy. He produced many shows in the Town Hall and was instrumental in holding a Gaelic League Concert in Athy every St. Patrick’s night for many years. One of the pioneers of cinematography in Ireland he put on magic lantern shows in Athy’s Town Hall in the early years and later still film shows long before Athy had it’s own cinema.
Nicholas, born in 1864, made his last stage appearance in George Du Maurier’s play “Trilby” in 1937 in a role which required him to die on stage. Exactly one year later and at precisely the time of his stage death, he was to pass away at 73 years of age. His wife, Florence, who was considerably younger, died 4 years later at the age of 48.