Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Ernest O'Rourke Glynn
When the Taaffe family moved from Castlecomer to Athy in 1945 the World War was nearing its end, while food restrictions and many other restrictions were still in place. Paper shortage gave us newspapers with lesser pages per issue than those available even during the economic war years of the 1930s. The war issue newspapers were also in short supply and the Athy newcomers found it extremely difficult to find a local newsagent able to fulfil the daily order for a national newspaper. This was a time when the sale of newspapers was strictly controlled, not only by the newspaper companies but also by the local newsagents. My father was fortunate to be favoured with Ernest O’Rourke Glynn’s willingness to sell him a daily Irish Independent. As I grew up, the Indo gave me my daily diet of Curly Wee, which was my favourite reading before I graduated in later years to the John D. Sheridan Saturday essay. I remember well the imposing figure of Ernest O’Rourke Glynn. The Glynn family which had an interesting theatrical background came to Athy at the start of 1916 with their travelling show ‘Peppers Ghost’. Ernest’s father, Nicholas, was an actor, writer and theatrical producer who married Florence, the daughter of the travelling show’s previous owners, the Reid Metcalfs. The intention was to put on the show during the lenten season in the local Town Hall. However, the Dublin insurrection and unrest throughout the rest of the country prompted Nicholas and Florence O’Rourke Glynn to settle in Athy. They acquired the Corner House at the junction of Duke Street and Woodstock Street and from then on the same corner premises became known as O’Rourke Glynn’s corner. The O’Rourke Glynns opened a theatrical store and scenic studio, as well as a photographic studio. Ernest, the eldest son, was joined by sisters Florence and Peggy and a younger brother, Nicholas. Ernest’s grandfather, also called Nicholas, had established a theatrical store in Dublin in 1868 and his company was responsible for bringing the brilliant violinist, Irene Vanburgh, to Ireland that same year. His son Nicholas, now living in Athy, became very involved in the local dramatic scene. He produced many shows in the Town Hall and organised Gaelic League concerts 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 the Town Hall and later films long before Athy’s first cinema opened in Offaly Street in 1926. A press report of the play ‘Robert O’Neill’ and a supporting variety programme put on in the Town Hall (year uncertain but maybe late 1930s or early 1940s) claimed that it was ‘one of the best ever produced in the town’. Locals involved included P.J. Kelly, Miss M. Ward, Ernest O’Rourke Glynn and three young Raffertys (Master A. and Misses V. and E. Can anyone identify the Raffertys?). The title roles in the play were taken by Ernest’s brother Nicholas and Miss J. Paisley. The Glynn and Paisley families were involved in the Paisley Glynn Cine-Variety Company which toured in the 1930s. The company show put on in Kildare cinema in 1936 was a typical Glynn Paisley event and included acrobats from Germany, a tenor late of the Turners opera company in England, a contortionist and Nicholas O’Rourke Senior reviving his leading role in George Du Maurier’s play ‘Trilby’. Ernest O’Rourke Glynn was also involved in some of the Athy Musical Society shows of the 1940s and from the late 1930s was the lead singer in the Ernie Glynn’s Cabaret Band. Bookings for the band were made through his father’s theatrical store in Athy. A press report of the time described the band as having made a name for itself far and wide and ‘is becoming more popular every day, it contains rhythm pep and swing’. The band members were described as ‘beautifully dressed in yellow tunics faced in red with pants to match’. Does anyone remember Ernie’s cabaret band? I came across some years ago reference to a record made by Ernest in the 1930s, but have never been able to source a copy. The Glynn theatrical stores operated not only out of Athy but also from an address at 126 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin. Advertisements indicate that costumes were available on hire for all plays, pantomines, grand opera and Gilbert & Sullivan, while scenery was built and painted to order. Ernest’s father Nicholas died in 1938 aged 73 years, while Ernest himself passed away in 1976. Several generations of the O’Rourke Glynn family made much valued contributions in their time to the cultural life of the town of Athy.