World premiere of Great Famine poem in Athlone Little Theatre

Members of Athlone Little Theatre will take to the boards on Saturday, June 25, to present a staged reading of a new epic poem 'An Gorta Mór Bis', based on the Great Famine, the work written by a fourth generation Irish American Thomas Milan, a retired NATO official living in Paris.

Tom’s great grandparents emigrated from Limerick at the height of the Famine and settled in upstate New York before moving to the Mid-West in the mid-1850s. Inspired by accounts handed down by his relatives, Tom undertook extensive research of the subject which involved readings of books and articles relating to the Famine.

One particular resource was a collection of poems written at the time and published under the title 'The Hungry Voice' by Christopher Morash. The result is an in-depth account of the cause and consequences of the darkest years in Ireland’s history.

This unique staged reading is directed by Joe MacCarrick, and features Billy Nott, Olive Martin, Pat Canty, Saoirse Mulvihill, Brian Toolan and Joe Steiner along with Glasson piper Liam Winnett.

“Tom Milan discovered us through contact with Tom McGuire, former Head of RTÉ Radio One. The poem was presented to us last winter with a view to producing an audio recording with dramatic vocal effect, but with Covid-19 interruptions, we didn’t get into our stride until a number of weeks ago.

“Tom expressed an interest in coming to meet us in Athlone, so we decided to present a staged reading of the poem for him. The reading will be accompanied by images and music reflective of the time,” Joe MacCarrick, enthused.

The production will be staged in Athlone Little Theatre, St Mary’s Place at 8pm on Saturday, June 25 and admission is free. However, as this is a once-off production, a high demand for seats is expected. Booking is through the theatre website at or at “We are very privileged to be the first in the world to stage this poem and to have the author present is a rare honour. The presentation will take about 50 minutes and Tom will address the audience afterwards which will give an added appreciation of the work. It will be a really special occasion,” Joe concluded.


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