Drama without the politics!

I must explain at the beginning of this column that I am compiling it before the Dáil meets on Wednesday, April 6. So I have no idea of what the outcome of that day will be but hopefully next week we will talk about it. I regret that my column must be in before the outcome of that Dáil meeting can be told. Let’s hope they come to some conclusion.

I was listening to Deputy Anne Rabbitte from Portumna in East Galway on the Marian Finucane radio show on Sunday last. She exuded such common sense and such downright practicality that I felt like cheering every time she spoke. After all she was one of the woman candidates that I visited twice before the Election campaign – once for a coffee morning and then again on a sort of advice/counselling session. She was a marvellous worker and in the end it all paid off for her.

I don’t think I told the column readers beforehand about a new adventure in my life. Well it’s not exactly new – it’s almost 12 months old now. Let me explain. About this time last year a researcher from The Pat Kenny Show telephoned me one day to ask if I would be interested in doing a monthly book club show with Pat Kenny. The other members were to be Brian Kennedy, the singer and Katherine Lynch, the actress. We were to review a book separately at home and then come together on the last Thursday of each month with Pat Kenny, who also would have read the book.

Now this has turned out to be a marvellous adventure for me and one I am really enjoying. When you come to my age in life you feel your friends are the people you have known all your life and you are very satisfied with that. However, I never knew what enjoyment I would get from this book review club.

Brian Kennedy, as well as being a wonderful singer, is also a really nice guy. Equally so Katherine Lynch, who is very talented and until I met her I did not know she was the grand-niece of Patrick Kavanagh, the poet.

The three of us look forward to our monthly meeting together. We natter and talk before we go into Pat Kenny and having done so altogether then we natter and talk when it is over. My fellow readers are really good company and I am enjoying the reading of a new book every month. Of course there is nothing I enjoy more than gabbing and talking.

The new book is usually one that has been promoted through Eason booksellers in Ireland and is always being reviewed in publications such as The Irish Times and Irish Independent on Saturdays.

It is really quite amazing the way the three of us get on so well together. Of course books are a great link between people, promoting friendship. I always think the greatest gift a fairy godmother could give a child at his/her christening would be the love of books. Armed with such a love you will be ready for anything that life will throw at you, good or bad news. After all, you are never alone when you have a good book.

The point I am making in telling you this entire story is you should never close your mind to new adventures or new friendships. They are always there to be enjoyed and to be treasured and so it is with Katherine Lynch, Brian Kennedy, and myself. Long may it last! At least it gets my mind off politics for a while.

My son, Councillor Aengus O’Rourke, is running for the Seanad on the Industrial and Commercial Panel. He has been nominated by the Chambers of Commerce of Ireland. As you may or may not know, this running for the Seanad is quite a lengthy process, touring and hoping to meet all of the councillors of your own party in Ireland and hopefully of course some Independents as well who may be inclined to your way of thinking.

Of course every mother thinks her duck is a swan and so it is with Aengus. I know readers will understand that feeling. He is working very hard and we are sitting at home with fingers crossed and hoping for the best result for him.

All over the country the amateur drama groups are revving themselves up and getting ready to go to their qualifying round. If they come through this then they come to Athlone to the All Ireland Amateur Drama Festival.

I can remember so well the setting up of the All Ireland Drama Festival in Athlone. Three men got together – P.J. Lenihan (my father ), Alfie Faulkner, and Brendan O’Brien. Between them they conceived the idea of having Athlone as the centre for the All Ireland Drama Festival. It is a truly great idea and it has flourished over all those years in between.

In the beginning my father was able to offer the Sportex Hall for free and that is where many a rural group trod the boards and won their awards. It graduated from there to the Dean Crowe Hall, which is now their spiritual and theatrical home. For 10 days to two weeks every year in early May, Athlone becomes the drama mecca for enthusiasts among the groups and for the Athlone people who flock to the theatre every night to get their fix of first-class local drama translated to quality status, as they would have come through the earlier rounds and now arrive in Athlone for the finals.

There are people I know who go religiously every night and for whom the drama finals are a marked event in their calendar each year. Early adjudicators were people like Lennox Robinson, Barry Cassin (father of Anne Cassin of Nationwide ), and Gabriel Fallon. Over the years we have had a great plethora of adjudicators all with their own idiosyncrasies but all giving great judgements each night after the plays and providing the chat and the gossip for the remainder of the festival period.

Athlone is very proud to be the go-to town for the All Ireland Drama Festival. We are all aware of the great sponsorship which RTÉ continue to give to this fine festival. Long may it continue.

Back to the politics next week. In the meantime, go safely.

Slán go fóill, Mary O’Rourke

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