Remembering Foggy Spelman

Paschal Spelman may have been given that name at birth, but to the many thousands of people (especially old Galwegians ) he entertained down the years, he was simply known as ‘Foggy’.

He was born in New Road, one of eight children, went to the Bish, worked for a time at the paint counter in Naughton’s and later for a while in Dublin. In 1956 he was persuaded by fellow entertainer Dermot Murray to come back to Galway and form the successful insurance brokerage Murray and Spelman. They were known in the business as ‘D’ and ‘P’.

His stage career began in 1945 when he appeared in a school play called Macalla in An Taibhdhearc where he had the audience in stitches. His natural ability as a comedian won him a talent competition in the Savoy when he was only 15 years of age, and the following year he joined CHEC Productions, also known as The Columban Hall Entertainment Committee or The Crazy Gang. They were Jimmy Walshe, Archie Barnett, Charlie Donoghue, and Sonny McLoughlin. They produced regular variety shows and revues, mostly for local charities. Together they had a lot of experience on stage and provided the ideal training ground for young Foggy.

He soon teamed up with Tom ‘Mossy’ Murphy, the son of Guard Murphy from Newcastle. Mossy was 6’5” and Foggy grew up to be 5’6”, and together they were an outstanding comedy duo in Galway. They produced their own revue every year with titles like Spring Whoopee and Foggie’s Follies, and wrote most of their own material, all good clean innocent fun. Sixty years later, people still remember some of their sketches such as the ‘Ballydehockey’ football team and the ’Ballydehockey’ Garda station; Foggy singing hilarious songs like ‘Corny the Cowboy from Claddagh’, ‘She had a mouth as big as Galway Bay’, or ‘Watch your step if she comes from Bohermore’; the Irish dance he did with Mossy where Foggy appeared festooned with tin lids (representing dancing medals ) and he an Mossy would ‘dance’ with Mossy throwing his leg over his partner and eventually carrying him offstage in his arms.

They appeared in the Town Hall and the Savoy, but they will always be associated with the Columban Hall. They played to packed houses and gave a platform to many Galway talents like tenor Ned Joyce; sopranos Marie Geraghty and Mary Angela Coyne; Vinny Lyons the illusionist; boy soprano Dick Byrne; and Pat Margetts who used to play tunes like ‘Home on the Range’ on a series of crystal glasses filled with various amounts of water.

Mossy eventually moved to Dublin and Paschal/Foggy subsequently starred in countless charity concerts, often with Dermot Murray; He was involved with the ‘Tops of the Town’, became the MC and funnyman for the Irish Cabaret in the Great Southern for many years, was entertainments director at the Oyster Festival as well as appearing on many stages throughout the country and on TV. Despite his vast experience, he was always nervous before a show, but that helped him to perform to very high standards.

He was ‘aul shtock’, a mild mannered, modest, self-effacing, gentleman (especially when he was selling you insurance ) whose soulmate was his wife Bríd. He adored his family and he in turn was loved by them and just about everyone else who met him or saw him on stage. Sadly, he passed away recently. We are all diminished by his passing. Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís.

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