I started my stage career when an Irish teacher came to Asdee one time. I was going to school there and he did a play in Irish and I had a part in it. I remember that play because the character I was playing had a boyfriend and my brother Joe was the boyfriend! That was a bit awkward! We took the play to Listowel where other groups were performing. I had no trouble with the Irish because my mother was a native Irish speaker from Donegal. In fact she went to America when she was young and she had very little English. We used to go to Donegal and we got used to the Irish there. Even now I can understand the Irish news on the television. My father came from Kilmorna in Duagh.
Fr Neilly O’Keeffe, my brother, started the drama with Bryan McMahon in Listowel, going around collecting all the old stories and folklore. I have all his material and I would be grateful if someone could do something with it.
I started on the stage as an adult when there was a play being done for charity her in Ballybunion. Hennessy who was doing a part and she had to have her appendix out so my brother Joe, God rest him now, started at me to do the part. That day this travelling woman came in. She was used to coming in and she sat on a chair inside the door. I was standing on a chair hanging a curtain for the opening of the play. My opening line was “Blast ye, stay where I put ye!”
She went back to another house and said to the woman of the house “That poor woman! To think that poor woman has to speak to her family like that!” She thought I was giving out to my family!
So I came back that night and did my part on the stage here and that was the beginning of my acting career.
I remember one play we did in particular called “The Righteous Are Bold”. I was playing the part of a woman who came back from England and was possessed by the Devil! I was speaking foreign languages and was in a bad way! Part of my role was to break statues on stage when I was in a frenzy. The play was popular and went on for a good number of nights and I had what statues there were in Listowel broke! I used have to have to break them and dance on them. At the end of the play a priest came and exorcised me! In fact I was going out with Timmy at the time and we did a few performances in Lisselton as his father was involved there. His father was wondering what his son was doing going out with a girl who was playing a part like that!
Years later, Fr Neilly took me to the same play in Dublin and it was useless! A lot of it was done out of sight backstage.
Fr Neilly wrote a play for us then and we got to the All Ireland final and we won that. That was in 1959 and I was pregnant when I was doing it!
I had a connection with the Shannonside Annual in the 1950s because Fr Neilly started that and I was the secretary. Johnny McCabe from Ballylongford was one of the people involved. There is a picture of me over in Gortaglanna in one edition of the Annual. People used to send in articles at the time and Fr Neilly went out and interviewed people. Liam de Brún was one of the contributors.
They were great days.