There is a long history of drama and pantomime in Athboy dating all the way back to the 1930s. The writer of this article isn’t quite qualified to tell you the entire story of Athboy’s relationship with the stage – but – as Athboy 100 continues to gather more and more documents and photographs (and even postcards) we have also managed to unearth this programme from Collier, the Robber a pantomime produced in 1945.
What do we know about the pantomime?
Well, according to the programme:
“Collier, the famous Meath Highwayman who lived in the days before the Beveridge Plan exercises his art and lofty motive of benefiting the oppressed poor at the expense of the idle rich, as personified by Lord and Lady de Freeze. His son, Rupert, is in love with Violetta but Violetta’s mother, Mrs. Do Little, refuses to consent to the marriage. She has even sought the aid of the Witch of Ward to prevent that happy outcome.
Lady de Freeze, smarting under the professional and unwelcome attentions of Collier, proposes to have him made a T.D. and thereby legalize his activities. Hearing of the frustration of the two young lovers she insists that Collier obtains the consent of the Dame, Mrs. Do Little. In this Collier ultimately succeeds but only at the Black Market price of marrying the Dame himself. So, fortunately, all ends on a happy note despite the helpful aid (or so they said) of Tweedledum and Tweedledee, two highly intelligent and expensively educated young men the (or so we say) [SIC]”
The front and back page of the programme featuring the main cast and an add for Gorman’s grocer.
The Collier of the shows title was an actual person named Michael Collier who was born in Louth in 1780. The real life Collier stalked the highways of North County Dublin and the surrounding areas. Collier, in this production who was “projected into modern times” according to the Meath Chronicle and turned into a political “pirate” was played by John Farrell. The complete cast was as follows:
Collier (a highwayman) – John Farrell
Mrs. Do Little (the Dame) – Mr. Michael Dunn
Rupert (the Principal Boy) – Mrs. K. Smith
Violetta (the Principal Girl) – Miss Annie Martin
Lord de Freeze – Mr. John Ennis
Lady de Freeze – Mrs. M. Tennaty
Tweedledee – Mr. M. Coleman
Tweedledum – Mr. T. Mahon
Highwaymen, Villagers, Servants, &c… &c…
Piano: Mrs. E. Keating
Violins: Miss Dodo Conlon, Mr. P.J Ryan
Cello: Mrs. B. Newman.
The shows run was mentioned in an article in the 4th January 1945 edition of The Meath Chronicle. Collier, the Robber was described as “an outstanding example of the talent which abides the town”. It is from the Chronicle we learn that it was written locally with music by PJ Ryan. Apparently, it was quite the success as the attendances were overflowing! So additional performances were added for the following weekend.
The children’s song and dance routine featuring Miss Peggy Carroll and John McCann are picked out as one of the highlights of the show.
“All artists rise to the occasion in magnificent fashion.”
Perhaps the most unusual element of the production is the name of the producer who was someone going under the name of “Hexagon”. Whoever Hexagon was they are given lavish praise by the author of this article.
To do justice to “Hexagon” the producer of the pantomime, is impossible. The generous manner in which the entertainment is being patronized is, we feel sure, sufficient justice for “him”.
It sounds like Collier, the Robber was a rip-roaring success worthy of gracing any stage. But one question remains – who was this mysterious figure producing plays in Athboy in the 1940s? Perhaps that is a mystery lost to time but if you know the answer please do get in touch with us!
Thanks to Noleen Quinn for supplying us with the programme for Collier, The Robber.