Wexford People

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Curtain comes down on panto in Dún Mhuire for last time


Wexford Pantomime Society’s production of ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ in progress in Dun Mhuire Theatre, the theatre’s last ever panto

Wexford Pantomime Society’s production of ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ in progress in Dun Mhuire Theatre, the theatre’s last ever panto

Wexford Pantomime Society’s production of ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ in progress in Dun Mhuire Theatre, the theatre’s last ever panto

The doors have closed permanently at Wexford's Dun Mhuire Theatre on South Main Street following the last ever pantomime production in the premises.

The iconic building, which was a major entertainment venue in its heyday, is to be taken over by Wexford County Council and demolished to make way for an urban regeneration project.

The Parish Hall, as it was known, opened 60 years ago and Wexford Pantomime Society staged its first panto there in 1968, continuing with annual shows for over 50 years.

A rising debt on the premises, which has fallen into disrepair, and declining audiences are the reasons behind the decision to close.

The Pantomime Society's 2020 production of 'Jack and the Beanstalk' was a huge success, drawing large crowds to Dun Mhuire last week for the final time.

It was a nostalgic occasion for the members as they bid farewell to the premises that was originally built from parish fundraising donations and cost £50,000. The next pantomime will be staged in the National Opera House.

Sean Kinsella of Wexford Community Services Council, who has volunteered in the Dun Mhuire sweet shop for the past 60 years, and was behind the counter again last week, said it is definitely the end of an era.

'The Panto Society have been very faithful to Dun Mhuire and they feel they have had a home there and now it is being closed,' he said.

'They have been a wonderful addition to the parish and the community, putting on shows year after year and providing young people with education and training in the performing arts.

'If all the volunteers in our community decided to stop volunteering, it would be a very dismal place.'

Sean was involved in fundraising to construct Dun Mhuire Hall on the site of what was a Legion of Mary premises and, back then, there was nothing like it anywhere in the south east.

He has great memories of the opening night when there was a performance by the Artane Boys Band and two 'wonderful' singers, Michael Murphy and Veronica Dunne, with a concert by the parish choir of Rowe Street and Bride Street.

During the showband era, people flocked to the hall for dances, with live music by big bands such as the Royal Showband, Capitol Showband, Dickie Rock and Mick Delahunty.

'It was a hive of activity, a big attraction. The hotels hadn't expanded their services at that stage,' said Sean, who served minerals, chocolate and crisps in the shop several nights a week on occasions.

'We had big name performers such as Roy Orbison, Nana Mouskouri, the Clancy Brothers and Val Doonican.

'Then you had the Drama Festival every year and the Tops of the Town, which were very popular for many years, and Cor Eile school concerts, not to mention the Bingo which was like the religion of the place.

'I think it holds lovely memories for a lot of people. A lot of people met their future wives and husbands there.'

Sean said he had no difficulty in volunteering his time for the benefit of the parish and there were many others like him including one of the driving forces - the late Matt Murphy, along with Fr Ned Murphy, Fr Harry Sinnott, Tony Cranitch, Maureen Hayes, Anna Drury, Paddy and Tom Parle, Seamus Kinsella (Sean's brother), Johnny Hore, Tony O'Sullivan, Bobby Roche, Paddy Lacey, Margaret Kelly, Johnny Myrtle and his wife Eileen, Mrs Traynor, Eileen Bright, Ciss Hayes, Mrs Gathering, Nellie Rossiter, May Buckland, Anna Barragry, Rita Rossiter, Tony Walsh, Sean Kehoe and his wife Rose, Ella Conlon, Nancy Sinnott, Owen Walsh, Dan Cronin, Tom Byrne, Wally and Tom Cleary, Dom Sinnott, Joan Armstrong, Gerry Callaghan, Breda Kehoe, Peter Dempsey and Betty Butler.

Another shop volunteer is Sarah Doyle, while the caretaker is Rickie Tyrrell.

Commenting on the closure, Sean said: 'There was a bit of debt creeping up. The bingo wasn't being supported as well as it used to. We needed new blood as well.

'I think we can feel proud that we did something that was needed to be done and we kept it going for 60 years. There should be no regrets,' he said.

Wexford People