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Eileen Pagett and Betty O’Brien honoured for 50 years of selfless service to Wexford Festival Opera

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On Thursday evening in Clayton Whites Hotel the Wexford Festival Opera Volunteers had a special event for Betty O'Brien and Eileen Paget both have served fifty years as volunteers with Wexford Festival Opera. Dr Mary Kelly Chairperson Wexford Festivan Opera presented flowers to Eileen Paget

On Thursday evening in Clayton Whites Hotel the Wexford Festival Opera Volunteers had a special event for Betty O'Brien and Eileen Paget both have served fifty years as volunteers with Wexford Festival Opera. Dr Mary Kelly Chairperson Wexford Festivan Opera presented flowers to Eileen Paget

On Thursday evening in Clayton Whites Hotel the Wexford Festival Opera Volunteers had a special event for Betty O'Brien and Eileen Paget both have served fifty years as volunteers with Wexford Festival Opera. The Volunteer Liaison Group Ted Howlin, Eleanor White, David Maguire, Edel Fitzmaurice and Nicky Kehoe

On Thursday evening in Clayton Whites Hotel the Wexford Festival Opera Volunteers had a special event for Betty O'Brien and Eileen Paget both have served fifty years as volunteers with Wexford Festival Opera. The Volunteer Liaison Group Ted Howlin, Eleanor White, David Maguire, Edel Fitzmaurice and Nicky Kehoe

On Thursday evening in Clayton Whites Hotel the Wexford Festival Opera Volunteers had a special event for Betty O'Brien and Eileen Paget both have served fifty years as volunteers with Wexford Festival Opera. Susan O'Neill, Margot Gaul, Mary Fox and Margo Coombe.

On Thursday evening in Clayton Whites Hotel the Wexford Festival Opera Volunteers had a special event for Betty O'Brien and Eileen Paget both have served fifty years as volunteers with Wexford Festival Opera. Susan O'Neill, Margot Gaul, Mary Fox and Margo Coombe.

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On Thursday evening in Clayton Whites Hotel the Wexford Festival Opera Volunteers had a special event for Betty O'Brien and Eileen Paget both have served fifty years as volunteers with Wexford Festival Opera. Dr Mary Kelly Chairperson Wexford Festivan Opera presented flowers to Eileen Paget

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The work, dedication and commitment of two of the Wexford Festival Opera’s most loyal volunteers has been recognised at the group’s annual barbecue. Held at Clayton Whites, this was the first time since 2019 that this special group of volunteers had come together in person and there was a surprise in store for one of those in attendance.

With over 50 years service under her belt, Eileen Pagett has been an integral part of the volunteering effort at the festival since the late 60s, and, in a surprise announcement, she was honoured at the barbecue by chair of the Volunteers Liaison Group, Eleanor Modler, who presented her with a bouquet of flowers. Eileen’s fellow volunteer Betty O’Brien was also due to be honoured on the night but had been unable to attend due to a hospital visit.  

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“The evening went well and we had very good feedback volunteers were delighted to meet up and there was a very good atmosphere,” said Eleanor. “Being a Festival volunteer requires dedication .versatility and a continued commitment to the continued development of Wexford Festival Opera. Both of these ladies have this in spades. Volunteering for them and for all our volunteers is enjoyable, rewarding and great fun.”

Eileen first began volunteering with Wexford Festival Opera in 1969 for the operas Louisa Miller and l’infidelta Delusa when she the wardrobe team. “I jumped at the opportunity as I had always had a great love of music and had attended many opera dress rehearsals as a young teenager,” she recalls. “I also loved clothes and fabrics and enjoyed making my own clothes so I was absolutely delighted when I went along to see Dorrie Pettit, the wardrobe mistress at the time and she accepted me.

"I loved the work and it was an absolute privilege to be assisting the very creative and inspirational Dorrie. I learned so much from her. I thought I knew everything about sewing until I encountered Dorrie. We were a very enthusiastic team and often worked long hours, sometimes until midnight and often spent our lunchtime there if something urgent needed doing.”

In addition to volunteering, Eileen contributed to the festival on stage and eventually joined the chorus singing in the infamous La Vestale when the stage was inadvertently washed because it was found to be sticky when in fact it was meant to be so that the cast wouldn’t fall into the orchestra pit. 

“From there I joined Wexford Festival Singers and was there for the best part of 40 years when we sang many beautiful concerts in a packed Rowe Street Church during the festival,” says Eileen. “One of the highlights of singing with WFS was singing Brahms Requiem in the first cross border concert with the Belfast Philharmonic Choir and they returning to sing it with us in Rowe Street Church.”

Betty began her lengthy volunteering career in 1968 and her first task, which she has never forgot, was cutting out and sewing the patches on the costumes for one of the principals and the dancers. She was also one of Dorrie’s girls; at that time there were 40 to 50 volunteers who worked backstage and in wardrobe

where they were assigned to either a soloist or chorus member and had to have costume changes ready as required. Wardrobe volunteers were often used for walk on parts and on many occasions, she was one of the ladies in waiting.

She joined the Festival Chorus and sang with them for 14 years, one of the highlights a trip to London to sing in the Wexford production of La Staniera in 1987. Unlike most volunteers Betty worked as an employee for Wexford Festival Opera as friends coordinator for a period of four years. She has also helped out voluntarily in the office in the old Theatre Royal during busy periods.

“I thoroughly enjoy being a volunteer, the friendships I have made, and the experiences I have had, I’m looking forward to Festival 2022,” Betty said.


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