Thursday 8 August 2013


Lean Beginnings ...

Following his departure from the bank, when TP bravely struck out on his mission to become a professional actor, he made the most of the friendships he'd found when cosying up to the city's actors in their favoured watering holes.

Milo O'Shea, in particular, had taken a liking to TP and made possible his introduction to the tiny Pike Theatre. 

He had also become friendly with Godfrey Quigley who invited him to join the Globe Theatre Company which resided in a mini-theatre (not much bigger than The Pike) above the Gas Company showrooms in Dun Laoighaire; and he had also made his radio debut in the famous sponsored drama, The Kennedys of Castleross also directed by Quiqley.

A dream full of holes ...

However, financially, TP's great dream was full of holes, especially as the Globe was run on a profit-share basis based on lean box-office takings.

All in all, a year after having quit the bank he was bringing in no more than a quarter of his previous salary. "I was down to two pounds a week which was exactly my rent, so I had nothing to eat and I couldn't approach people at home for money," TP would recall.

It was at this stage that our hero conspired to get himself into the Abbey Theatre Company (Ireland's national theatre) and calling on his family's political connections he gained an
Ernest Blythe
interview with the Abbey's managing director, Ernest Blythe.

Political Connections ...

"I made a 'b' line for the Abbey and I used my political connections because I had an uncle who had been in the first government and I went to see Richard Mulchahy [Dail Minister] who knew my uncle and, one way or another, I got an interview with Blythe."

Blythe's first verdict was not encouraging: "Aghh!  Your Irish is bloody awful [Abbey players were required to be fluent speakers of gaelic] ... and your nose is a bit too long!" But then he cast TP a glimmer of hope, "I suppose we could take you on for the Christmas show and see how you get on."

TP on trial while rehearsing for the 1954 pantomime.
Well, TP made his entrances and exits alright and managed not to bump into the furniture, but at the end of the show's run that was that.  Some weeks on though, and having returned to his idle state, there come a fortuitous phone call.

Are you doing anything?

"I was lying in the flat thinking 'oh God, what now?' when the phone rang and the landlady called out and said, 'you're wanted on the phone'. It was Sean Mooney, the stage manager at the Abbey.  

'Are you doing anything?',  he snapped.  'Well no' I said.

'Get a taxi down here right away.  Ronnie Walsh hasn't turned up'.

That night, after the briefest walk-through of the part, TP went on for the missing actor and the start of what would be a eight-year stay with the Abbey Theatre.

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