Thursday, February 13, 2003

Photograph of Cast of second production of 'Dick Whittington' - 1950s


Another Athy Musical Show photograph this week.  Those pictured are members of what appears to be a second and later production of Dick Whittington, the show which was first put on in the Town Hall in 1947.  I recognise many of the faces in the photograph and guess that the show was put on sometime towards the end of the 1950’s.  Let me hear from you if you remember the show in question or if you can put names to those captured on film all those years ago.

Next week I plan to return to the photograph which featured in Eye on the Past No. 516.  It was of a school trip to Independent House Dublin in 1959 and I have got many replies to my offer of a book prize for the first person who correctly identified the 59 or so souls pictured on that day.  More about that next week.  In the meantime I have run out of photographs of Athy Musical Shows of the past and if there is anyone out there who has any other photographs of the shows of past years, I would welcome the opportunity of featuring them in future articles.

Harking back to the old ballads of Athy which I mentioned some weeks ago a former neighbour wrote to me about the legendary Barney Davis.  Barney it was who composed “Doctor Don Roderick de Vere” and also “The Girls from the Pea Factory”  and was one of the principals in many of the musicals of the 1940’s and earlier.  In the photograph shown two weeks ago of the 1947 Dick Whittington Show Barney was photographed fourth from the left in the front row holding his cat suit.  He was the cat in the 1947 show and I see that a well known present day resident of William Street played the same part in the later production which is the subject of this weeks photograph.  Barney Davis by all accounts was a most popular fellow and usually brought the house down with his ability to walk on his hands while playing the role of Dick Whittington’s cat.

My correspondent referred to a man whom he regarded as Athy’s rhymer supreme.  He was known to all and sundry in Athy as Archie Sullivan who although born in Dublin he lived in Athy from the early 1930’s.  A cobbler by trade Archie was the author of many local ballads composed to record events and individuals which for one reason or another caught the public imagination.  I rely entirely on my friend’s recall of Archie’s ballads as I have never previously come across them.  Who remembers “O’Hara’s Goose” which told the story of Barney O’Hara’s prize of a goose won at a card game which turned out to be a swan!  The bird still posing as a “goose” was offered as a prize in a series of card games which were played out in local pubs before it eventually passed to an unsuspecting winner.  Another ballad attributed to Archie Sullivan told of the characters working in the asbestos factory in the 1950’s.  It was called “The lads from the Asbestos”.   The affairs of the local Urban District Council in the aftermath of World War II provided Archie with background for another ballad in which a central role was played by the legendary Tom Carbery of St. Martin’s Terrace.

I don’t have the words of any of Archie Sullivan’s ballads, but hopefully some of my readers can recall them and so help record for evermore the work of a man described as the rhymer supreme of Athy.

Many thanks to those who contacted me in response to the request for information regarding the relations of Robert Foster and Stephen Leonard.  As a result of your help I have been able to answer in some considerable detail the queries which emanated from two English readers.

In the meantime keep sending in any information or material you might wish to share with other readers of this column regarding the musical shows of the 1940’s and 1950’s.

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