The usher in the Backstage Theatre in Longford checked our tickets, and then started walking. And kept walking. I was about to ask if it was a sponsored walk, when he finally stopped…at the very front row.
And so it was that Fiona and I found ourselves sitting in the front row last Friday night. The only people in the front row, too. If it was a comedian that was due on stage, I think I’d have done a runner.
In fact we had received tickets (as a present) for the Fishamble production of ‘Haughey/Gregory’, currently on a nationwide tour.
Written by Colin Murphy and directed by Conall Morrison, Haughey/Gregory is based on the famous deal made between Independent TD Tony Gregory and Charles Haughey in 1982, when Gregory surprisingly won a Dáil seat – and found himself holding the balance of power.
The play was very entertaining…a terrific and original production. The excellent five-strong cast played multiple roles, including as Haughey, Gregory, Garret Fitzgerald, Bertie Ahern, George Colley, Des O’Malley, PJ Mara and Des Traynor.
Morgan C Jones was superb as Haughey, and there were fine performances from Ruairí Heading, Janet Moran, Michael Glenn Murphy and Jonathan White.
The audience was taken on a nostalgic trip back into the 1980s for a political drama which was laced with lots of humour (and a great soundtrack of hit songs from that era).
The cast received a deserved standing ovation. I think many readers would enjoy this play. (Haughey/Gregory is actually on stage in the Town Hall Theatre, Galway tonight, Thursday, May 9th at 8 pm, and in Limerick on Friday night; details from www.fishamble.com).
And we survived the front row – bar the odd stare from Haughey.
Nice walk, pity about the litter louts
Being a paid-up member of the ‘Fair Weather Walkers’ Club, I only resumed walking last weekend, now that the sun was making a welcome visit.
Reports that the ‘old bog road’ behind our house had been given a great facelift by the Council proved to be accurate. There was a time when taking a walk there was like re-enacting a scene from an old Tarzan movie – but now the briars and bushes and overhanging branches have all been cleared.
It’s a lovely walk and a reminder of the beauty of nature…every few steps I took were to the backdrop of creatures rustling in hedges or drains, and birds singing from above. Four cows stared at the human invader of the afternoon’s tranquillity.
The only negative aspect of an enjoyable excursion by this fair weather walker came when I emerged on to the main Athlone-Roscommon. I noticed two black bags full of rubbish, abandoned in a drain (on the main road). I have often come across illegal dumping on our local ‘side roads’…this was even more audacious.
Sunday was a beautiful day. The birds were singing, lambs were playing in the field, our beautiful rural county was looking its finest. What a pity that there are still idiots in our midst who continue to deface the countryside with their shameful activity.
Everyone loves Trump
So finally, a man called Trump who, while strutting across the world stage, does it by uniting instead of dividing. Playing some mesmerising snooker as he defeated the great John Higgins in the final at the Crucible, Judd Trump is a truly worthy world snooker champion… an Alex Higgins for the 21st century!
It was easy to be in awe of Eugene…
They will lay a great man to rest in Longford today.
He was a man of many talents. I knew him as a newspaper man…and had a special fondness for him because he gave me my ‘start’ in journalism.
As long-time Editor of the Longford Leader, and contributor to numerous national publications, Eugene McGee was a true newspaper man – and a great one.
He was fiercely loyal to the great traditions of local papers. He knew what this business was all about and cared passionately for it. He had the skills to realise his vision, to see things done as he felt they should be done.
How McGee wanted things done was…the right way. Done in a way that was true to truth, true to rural Ireland, true to ordinary people and proper values, true to his paper’s readers…while being suitably suspicious of any individual or group not having such a sense of fairness as their primary motivation. McGee was a proper newspaper man, not like many of the imposters who bought their way into the newspaper industry in latter years.
I’m one of many journalists around Ireland who are thinking this week…‘I’m indebted to McGee’. In 1986, I was the Longford Leader’s humble Rooskey notes correspondent. From behind the bar counter (where I worked) I persistently dispatched sample articles and letters to Eugene McGee, hoping for a break.
Eventually, an appointment. I sat on one side of his desk, and he sat on the other. He said very little, and I said less. He was himself, and I was intimidated. But then Eugene McGee – in his no frills, no-nonsense manner – offered me a job in the Leader newsroom.
Not that he seemed entirely sure that he was making the right call. Having complimented my writing, and possibly fearing an unnecessary release of praise, he suddenly checked himself and returned to gruff mode: “Lots of people want to be writers, but nobody seems to want to be a reporter!”
So, that was it. In my early 20s, I was moving into the world of journalism. I was in awe of Eugene McGee, and in truth I never stopped being in awe of him.
Some people just command respect and loyalty, make you want to please them. That’s how it was with McGee. I saw him up close and personal for about three years. It was some experience, an education, watching this quite unique man quietly and brilliantly inspire those around him.
After a period in Longford, I moved to the Cavan Leader, also run by McGee, and where Ciaran Mullooly was his Deputy Editor.
McGee was as gruff or blunt or shy or non-communicative as people say, but we got used to it. And behind it all, he had a very good sense of humour, a mischevious and quick wit, and a humbling sense of fairness. And he was the consummate local newspaper journalist/editor. The best in the business. Most of what we now know, we learnt from him. That must be the case, because any journalist who worked for ‘McGee’ all those years ago still remembers, still traces so much back to him and his ways.
Eugene, who sadly passed away last Sunday, leaves a truly remarkable legacy. Loving family man. Pioneering All-Ireland winning manager (with many more GAA achievements too). Brilliant journalist, editor and pundit. Champion of rural Ireland. Wonderfully passionate Longfordian. Honest man, dripping in integrity and decency. True one-off.
1982 and all that. The stuff of legend. He is part of GAA folklore. He will be remembered too as a real newspaperman, in the great tradition of real newspaper people. As a man who inspired a lot more than he probably realised. I was in awe of him then, and pretty much still am. May he rest in peace.