Kathleen Lyons, a member of the Moonlight Players remembers JG O'Reilly around 1957
The Moonlight Players, Castletara
I can’t claim to have been a member of the first Moonlight Players, Castletara – however I can say that I was a member of the last Moonlight Players. I am not sure exactly when the first group was formed as I was too young. However, I know they existed and that some of their members were: Sean Boylan, Mary Boylan, James Clarke, Francie Kelly and I am not sure if Joe Reilly was a member then. However, around 1965 I remember a meeting being called in the School in Castletara to discuss the possibility of reforming the group once again. I was then 18 years old living at home and working in the civil service in Cavan County Council. At the time I did not have a car and my social life was fairly non-existent. Anyway, I decided to go along to this meeting and see what it was all about. About 12 of us turned up at the meeting – a man called Joe Reilly (whom I did not know at the time) attended and he spoke to us and he told us that he had written a play and would like to stage it and that he was looking for a cast. I must say that at that time the idea of acting in a Play amused me and I think the feeling was the same with the others who attended the meeting. I am sure that Joe sensed this himself but he talked to us and assured us that this was something he wanted to do and that it would be fun. He asked us would we like to read the first act of the play and then come back again to another meeting in a weeks time and see how we felt about it. We did this and as they say the rest is history. Some of the names who were in the group were: Brian & Tom Boylan, Hughie & Kathleen Newman, Sean & Bernadette Dunne; John Joe & Kathleen Lyons; Kathleen Gorman, Mary Rooney, Tommie & Kathleen Coyle, Michael Burke. It is probably very hard for young people to day to understand that Ireland, and particularly rural Ireland in the mid 1960’s was a very different place nor it is to day. Very few families had a car and the common mode of transport was a bicycle if you were lucky enough to own one. Children walked to school as there were no school buses; those who had jobs in the local towns cycled to work. Not very many people in the neighbourhood had a car except perhaps the local teacher, doctor and the priest and a few others who had jobs. However, I remember that Joe had a car at that time. No house had a telephone and I am not talking about mobile phones (they had not been heard of in Ireland) Only a small handful of houses had a Television and indeed some houses had not got electricity. The social life of the community revolved around the local hall and the Cinema in the nearest town. Therefore, unless you had a bicycle you did not get to the cinema. You can imagine then how attractive the idea of staging a play was for a group of young people.
When we did agree to go ahead we met twice a week in a small room at the back of the local shop. Joe allocated us our parts and then we had to learn our lines after which Joe put us through our paces and tried his best to show us how to “become the character” in the play. I must say we had lots of laughs and fun as we went through this process and I am sure there were many nights when Joe must have felt like walking out but he stuck with us. Then when we were ready we got bookings and headed out to perform on the stages of all the local halls during the seven weeks of Lent ( when there were no dances). We would pack ourselves into two or three cars and travel all around Cavan on Friday nights and Sunday nights and I must say that I have many happy memories of these times. The halls would be full of people as this was entertainment brought to them in their local community and they could walk to the hall and home afterwards. I know that Joe enjoyed every minute of this time also as Joe also took parts in the plays himself and was never happier nor when he was on stage. Joe even encouraged us to enter Drama Festivals in the Town Hall in Cavan town and of course we had to “up our performances” on those occasions. I don’t think we enjoyed them as much as performing in the local halls as we felt more pressure in the Town Hall. At the end of the show/play the local committee would make us tea and sandwiches and cakes and they would also pay us a “fee”. We saved up this money and at the end of the season we would treat ourselves to a weekend away either in Bundoran, Co. Donegal or in Warrenpoint, Co. Down usually the bank holiday weekend in August. Those were also very enjoyable times and I have many happy memories. After we finished our season in 1969 Joe told us that he was emigrating to Liverpool and we were all very sad to see himself, his wife Agnes and his lovely young family leave. We knew that Joe hoped to make a better life for himself and his family. I also have happy memories of calling to Joe’s house in Drumcrave as I used help him type out copies of the play as there were no photocopiers back then. I got to know Agnes and the children very well. I have lovely memories of the Triplets Dermott, Niall and Joe as being three lively boys full of devilment and excitement and always asking questions and of the other five children as being lovely and part of a large happy family. I remember too after the family left Drumcrave and went off to Liverpool passing the house and feeling sad and wondering how you were all getting on in your new life. Sadly, I was not aware that Joe & Agnes had returned to live in Ireland and was not aware of his whereabouts until I heard the news of his death. I will always treasure my memories of Joe and of the happy times we all enjoyed in his company.