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Michael’s dream of playing Da finally comes true after 40 years



Date Published: 28-Mar-2012

For almost 40 years Michael Rooney has had a dream. The avid drama fan has longed to perform the role of Da in Hugh Leonard’s classic play of the same name, since he first saw it as a 21-year-old in 1973.


Now, after a lot of hard work and persistence, and huge personal investment, it’s finally about to happen for the retired Guinness employee.

Michael will take to the stage of the Town Hall Theatre from April 10-14 in Leonard’s semi-autobiographical play, which is set in Dublin and based on the relationship between adopted son Charlie and the Da of the title.

“When I saw it performed by the Guinness Players in 1973, I knew I wanted to play the old fella but I was too young at the time,” explains Michael, who retains an unmistakable Dublin accent despite living in Galway for the past 30 years.

He was a member of the Guinness Players as a young Guinness employee, but as he was promoted through the ranks, he moved first to Cork and then Galway City where he and his Cavan-born wife, Ann reared their three children.

Michael became involved the Knocknacarra based amateur drama company KATS, which was founded by the late Paddy Henry. Directed by Paddy, he won best actor in the 2003 All-Ireland Amateur Drama finals playing Tajamoura in Roshomon.

Michael retired from Guinness 10 years ago and since then trained as an official tour guide and a bus driver, which has offered a perfect outlet for his storytelling talents. But his dream of playing Da still lingered.

Last June, he decided the time had come for him to take on the challenge.

“I didn’t want to be sitting in a nursing home wondering if I could have been a contender!”

He is very clear about what attracted him to the part of Da.

“I see something of my own father in him. My father was 53 when he died of cancer and he was loved by my pals at a time when fathers were strict. I also see a lot of my uncles in him.

“But it’s the innocence of the poor man as well,” he continues, “and the frustration he brings out in Charlie, his son. Why is such a simple man so happy with his lot?”

We all have parents and, for that reason, everybody can relate to Da, says Michael.

“It’s a play for everyone and it wasn’t for nothing it won a Tony on Broadway,” he observes.


Da is currently being staged in Dublin by the Gate Theatre in a professional production.

There hasn’t been an amateur staging of the play in Galway for many years, so last year Michael decided the time had come.

Although he had appeared in many productions through the years, he had never worked on the administrative side of theatre, and he laughs at how little he knew of what’s involved in staging a play.

He approached the manager of the city’s Town Hall Theatre, Michael Diskin in July to book the venue.

“He asked me if I had got the rights for Da,” he says, referring to the performance rights – no company, amateur or professional, is entitled to perform a play without securing these.

Michael Rooney had no idea what was involved, but guided by Mike Diskin he rang the Drama League of Ireland, the body representing amateur drama groups around the country.

“They told me the amateur rights had been withdrawn until further notice by the writer’s agent.”

He learned that Druid Theatre, meanwhile, had bought the rights to perform it professionally.

Michael Rooney acted swiftly. From his days with Guinness, when that company sponsored the Galway Arts Festival, he knew the Festival’s former manager, Fergal McGrath, who had also served as general manager of Druid.

Through Fergal, he contacted Druid, only to learn that the company had passed on the professional rights for Da to Dublin’s Gate Theatre.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Galway have lot to ponder in poor show



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013




GALWAY’S first serious examination of the 2013 season rather disturbingly ended with a rating well below the 40% pass mark at the idyllic, if rather Siberian, seaside setting of Enniscrone on Sunday last.

The defeat cost Galway a place in the FBD League Final against Leitrim and also put a fair dent on their confidence shield for the bigger tests that lie ahead in February.

There was no fluke element in this success by an understrength Sligo side and by the time Leitrim referee, Frank Flynn, sounded the final whistle, there wasn’t a perished soul in the crowd of about 500 who could question the justice of the outcome.

It is only pre-season and last Sunday’s blast of dry polar winds did remind everyone that this is far from summer football, but make no mistake about it, the match did lay down some very worrying markers for Galway following a couple of victories over below par third level college teams.

Galway did start the game quite positively, leading by four points at the end of a first quarter when they missed as much more, but when Sligo stepped up the tempo of the game in the 10 minutes before half-time, the maroon resistance crumbled with frightening rapidity.

Some of the statistics of the match make for grim perusal. Over the course of the hour, Galway only scored two points from play and they went through a 52 minute period of the match, without raising a white flag – admittedly a late rally did bring them close to a draw but that would have been very rough justice on Sligo.

Sligo were backable at 9/4 coming into this match, the odds being stretched with the ‘missing list’ on Kevin Walsh’s team sheet – Adrian Marren, Stephen Coen, Tony Taylor, Ross Donovan, David Kelly, David Maye, Johnny Davey and Eamon O’Hara, were all marked absent for a variety of reasons.

Walsh has his Sligo side well schooled in the high intensity, close quarters type of football, and the harder Galway tried to go through the short game channels, the more the home side bottled them up.

Galway badly needed to find some variety in their attacking strategy and maybe there is a lot to be said for the traditional Meath style of giving long, quick ball to a full forward line with a big target man on the edge of the square – given Paul Conroy’s prowess close to goal last season, maybe it is time to ‘settle’ on a few basics.

Defensively, Galway were reasonably solid with Gary Sice at centre back probably their best player – he was one of the few men in maroon to deliver decent long ball deep into the attacking zone – while Finian Hanley, Conor Costello and Gary O’Donnell also kept things tight.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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