Saturday 25 May 2019

Funny how? Smiles from the dark side of the revolution...

'The 10 Dark Secrets of 1916' holds up some long-held 'truths' about the Rising to closer scrutiny - with a razor-sharp tongue firmly in cheek. Graham Clifford speaks to the versatile Paddy Cullivan about bringing his unique creation to The Centenary Conversations

Paddy Cullivan
Paddy Cullivan

History may be written by the victors but Paddy Cullivan doesn't buy it… at least not all of it. For him the birth of the 'Republic' is riddled with inconsistencies and myth.

And, as part of the Centenary Conversations Fringe, he'll pose some quandaries for audience members at Galway's Town Hall Theatre enticing them to question long-held beliefs about what really happened in 1916 and in the bloody war years afterwards. Along the way he'll invoke copious amounts of head-scratching and giggles. 

Romanticism makes way for pragmatism and careful analysis with Paddy's unique brand of humour and story-telling genius thrown in for good measure. 

The 10 Dark Secrets of 1916 is a unique offering devised and presented by Paddy who's made his name as a comic writer (Callan's Kicks on RTÉ Radio 1), a performing comedian and satirist, opinion columnist, host and TV contributor. He's also, of course, the lead singer of The Late Late Show House Band - the Camembert Quartet.  

"I came up with the idea for the 10 Dark Secrets when I was looking back at the remarkable reign of Michael Collins following the Treaty. In effect, he ran the Free State single-handedly for a period. He was President of the Provisional Government, Commander in Chief of the Free State Army and Minister for Finance all at the one time. He ran the show. But it was clear that internally there was a vicous power struggle going on and Collins lost two of those posts in the months before he died at Béal na Bláth," says Paddy. 

He adds: "And so I have to ask did this internal power struggle, and the fact that Collins was secretly in correspondence with the IRA and probably in Cork to make peace with his natural ally De Valera, contribute to his death? Some will call it conspiracy theory but it made no sense for Collins to be where he was that day, 30 men went in, 29 walked out of there and Collins was the only one killed, doesn't that seem odd?" 

Paddy Cullivan performs ‘The 10 Dark Secrets of 1916’ at Galway’s Town Hall Theatre on Thursday.
Paddy Cullivan performs ‘The 10 Dark Secrets of 1916’ at Galway’s Town Hall Theatre on Thursday.

This and other 'dark secrets' are exposed by Cullivan in his 90-minute show - "I tell the audience it's a bit like The Late Late Show - it starts off great but goes on way too long! No seriously, it's been sold out everywhere it's gone so far and I know will go down especially well in Galway." 

In terms of 1916 specifically Cullivan asks the audience to take a step back to the Bachelor's Walk Massacre of July 1914 when three civilians were shot dead and 32 were seriously wounded by the Liffey after they challenged Major Alfred Haig and his 180-strong battalion - the Kings Own Scottish Borderers - who were returning to their barracks. The forces opened fire, the result was horrific. 

"It feels like this was wiped from history. People were rebelling but we're told of this romantic Poet's revolution in 1916 where the Irish challenged British rule in an unprecedented strike - often we even overlook the Howth gun running and minimise the turbulence of the 1913 Lock Out. So, in the 10 darkest 1916 secrets I paint a wider, more accurate picture of resistance at the time, giving it a context many people are unaware of," says Cullivan. 

Satire, song and imagery play a big part in this 'audio-visual spectacular' which focuses on the key points in Irish history from 1912 to 1932.   

"I try to make it visually stimulating for the audience and we feature over 300 images throughout the show - some of them rarely seen before. It's tongue-in-cheek throughout and laced with humour but at the same time I'd like if the audience left thinking that they must read and investigate further for themselves," explains Paddy.  

Further reading, indeed, into people like a certain William E. Wylie. General Maxwell's key prosecutor, Wylie's work led to as many as 90 rebels being sentenced to death. Ultimately 15 men were shot. 

The 10 Dark Secrets of 1916, by Paddy Cullivan.
The 10 Dark Secrets of 1916, by Paddy Cullivan.

Cullivan tells me: "Only in Ireland could a man who had such a devastating impact in 1916 end up in one of the highest positions in the Free State afterwards. In essence he was promoted 'out of the way' - we've a great habit of doing that in Ireland. He became a Judge on the Free State bench until 1936. Always be wary of people like Wylie who may be labelled 'a safe pair of hands'. They're the worst. Irish Water anybody…?" 

The 10 Dark Secrets of 1916 will play at Galway's Town Hall Theatre on Thursday, November 10th where Cullivan will also ask why 280,000 women were denied a vote in the vital Treaty Election of 1922, why the Civil War got its name when really it was a Counter-Revolution and why the car in which Michael Collins travelled when he was shot was rapidly shipped out of Ireland within weeks of his killing.  

Ten Dark Secrets of 1916, Thursday November 10, 8.30pm-9.45pm, Town Hall Theatre Studio, €12/€10

Irish Independent

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