Athy, for so long now without a theatre space, was at one time the centre of a strong musical and theatrical tradition. The Athy Social Club players of the ‘40’s and ‘50’s were one of the finest amateur dramatic groups in this region. Their period of excellence extended for a decade or two but alas did not survive long beyond the swinging sixties. The earliest musical society, also based in Athy, came into being sometime in the late 1930’s and enjoyed its heyday in the 1940’s. It was succeeded after a break of a few years by another musical society which in turn died off after a short while. The third and most recent musical revival ended a few years ago when lack of interest and support led to the effective demise of the Athy Musical and Dramatic Society.
It’s rather a pity, with the recent growth in the town’s population, that efforts are not being made to renew Athy’s musical and theatrical tradition. No doubt the task of doing so is rendered so much more difficult by the absence of a local theatre and Arts Centre, but despite the resource deficiency hopefully the revival of interest in the theatre can be encouraged in other ways.Looking through some photos during the week I came on a large number of them showing the casts of plays and shows which were once put on in the town. The first of those shows a line up of seven local men dressed and blackened up as minstrels in the 1945 musical ‘White Bread and Apple Sauce’ which was put on in the Town Hall. The performers from left to right were:- Kevin Meany, Mick Kelly, Barney Davis, Peter McNulty, Tim White, Gerry Flynn and Jim Dargan. What great troubadours they must have been.
The second photo shows members of the Social Club Players who were cast members of the play ‘The Righteous are Bold’ with the Fr. Matthew Cup won by them in the Drama Feis Dublin. A few weeks ago I showed a photo of another Social Club cast which won the same cup in April 1958. Common to both photos are Tommy Walsh, Ken Reynolds, Jo Lawler and Joe Martin and the photo now reproduced I believe dates from the late 1940’s. The cast includes at the back from left to right :- Pat Mulhall, Tommy Walsh, Ken Reynolds, Liam Ryan, Tadhg Brennan, and in the front D.S. Walsh, Freddie Moore, May Fenelon, Jo Lawler, Claire Moore, Maureen Walsh and Joe Martin.
I wonder if we could ever hope to revive the stage traditions of the past which were once such an important part of the social fabric of our town. The task of doing so would, I believe, be all the easier if we could again have a dedicated theatre space in Athy.