The Coliseum Cinema
(seating capacity 750), which was built on Ryan's Coal yard, opened
it's doors for the first time to
the picture-going public on Friday 19th September 1941. It was
Carlow's second operating Cinema. The Ritz had opened in June
1938, replacing Frank Slater's, "Palace Cinema", which was
completely gutted by fire on St. Stephens night in 1937. (Frank
Slater was my grandmother's brother). The original directors
were Messrs. J. L. Kelly and Joe Egan of Portlaoise, and Fred McElwee of the Station Road, and Fred Pollard of Kilkenny Road,
Carlow. The Cinema which was considered one of the most
modern in Ireland was erected by Mr. P. J. Matthews, Building
Contractor from Portlaoise, the architect was Thomas Burke also
from Portlaoise. The artistic decorations were carried out by P.
J. McGrath of Publicity Art Services Ltd., Dublin. The cinema
was fitted out with the latest Western Electric Projector and W.
E. Mirrophonic sound system.
Foot note to
in the hope it would help those
coming to Carlow and perhaps avoid disappointment!
The lights on
wall with red bulbs we know now they are called "up lighters" or
"wall washers". Well I was told years ago that the shell shaped
shades of these were made locally by taking off the top of one
of the council water fountains (the "yokes" that replaced the
long handled spring water pumps.) and making a mould from which
the semicircular shades were produced. There was one outside Rossiter's shop,
number 85, on
A publicity handout
stated "the film story will be heard with extraordinary clarity
in every part of the house." The projectionist was John
Fitzpatrick aided by Robert Fleming and Seamus Sheehan, others
employed were May Bonney, Masie Byrne, Sheila Carter, Emily
English and Harry Hogan. The opening film was "Batchelor
Mother", featuring Ginger Rogers and David Niven. The prices of
admission were 1/4 (one shilling and four pence), 1/ = (one
shilling) , and 4d (four pence) for the pit. Booking for the
opening night was at Miss McElwees 16 Dublin Street. The 6.45
and 9 p.m. houses were booked out and the management ran an
extra house at 11.30 p.m.
The programme for the
week included George Formby in "No Limit", Claude Rains in "The
Invisible Man", Charles Laughton and Boris Karloff in "Old Dark
Horse", and Zazu Pitts and Anna Neagle in "No No Nanette". On
the opening night of the new Coliseum Cinema the Ritz Super
Cinema featured Marlene Dietrich and John Wayne in "Bijou of the
South Seas", claiming "if you thought she was dynamite in Destry,
wait until you see her now".
A few weeks after
opening the Coliseum featured a live show with Edgar Benyon's
"Great Krazy Mystery Night", a billboard outside proclaimed "£10
prizes - £10 value, everyone joins in and anyone can win a
prize. Just bring along any small article in your pockets and
see the result. Dozens of splendid prizes".
The second live show at
the Coliseum was "The amazing Benyon (Edgar again?) who will
hypnotise Ladies and Gentlemen from the audience".
My own memories of
the "Col" are of a man wearing a soft hat, I think he had one
arm ? (Harry Hogan) who with the aid of a powerful voice and a
colourful flow of language succeeded in keeping us quiet during
"the talking bits". It was possible to sneak out to the yard at
the back of the screen, where many of the lads were disappointed
to find that there were not scores of Cowboys and Indians on
horses waiting to ride across the screen or perhaps relieved to
find that the "Thunder and Lighting" of a Frankenstein film was
replaced by calm daylight in the yard.
It was here that I
first became acquainted with Cowboys such as Roy Rogers , Gene
Autry, Walter Brennan , Gabby Hayes, and my two favourites
Smiley Burnette and Gary Cooper, we also enjoyed Mother Reilly,
Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. Majorrie Main in "Ma and Pa
Kettle", and everyone's favourite Laural and Hardy, the "serial"
every Sunday, and guaranteed to send everyone under the seats
was Boris Karloff, and another favourite of mine the harmless
Lon Chaney Jnr. (I won't even mention Peter Lorre). But I was
very nearly being banned for life from the" Col" when one
Sunday, as an innocent 7 or 8 year old, I asked the nice
middle-aged lady in the "ticket box" (May Bonney), "why do they
call you hatchet face?", by the look on her face I knew I was in
trouble, (a look that also confirmed why she might be so
called). I was barred and told "never to darken the door again".
Barred I remained until I discovered that I could get a friend
to buy a ticket for me and then I could slip under the ticket
box window and race down the long hall to the double doors of
the Pit where the ticket collector stood, (many years later when
I got to know May we often laughed over this incident).
Later years, Jack Doyle
and Movita appeared live in the Coliseum, so too did Din Joe, he
who gave the Irish nation " step dancing" live on the Radio.
("Lift the latch and step right in", was his introduction).
In later years the
Coliseum was acquired by Tommy Heavey of Heavey Brothers, Fruit
Importers before passing to the present owners Mr. Leo Ward and
Before proceeding further up Tullow Street I
would like to relate a little of the local happenings in and
around September 1941 glimpsed from the Nationalist newspaper
Outbreaks of Foot and
Mouth Disease in Carlow and indeed in the rest of the County
resulted in numerous dances and public gatherings being
cancelled, for fear of spreading the disease. Not all of the
social events of 1941 were cancelled however and among the
dances held were – The Carlow Number 1 Group Local Defence
Force, - Courtown Camp Re-Union Dance which was held in the
Ritz Ballroom. Music was provided by Wally Hall and his
Dublin Band – "brother of Henry Hall of the B.B.C. Admission
2/6 (two shillings and sixpence).
Henry Hall & the
BBC Dance Orchestra
The Irish National
Forresters Dance in the Ritz with music by Toby Bannan and his Band
with special attraction "an Electric Guitar", dancing 9 p.m to 3
Carlow Rowing Club Annual
Dance in the Ritz, Music by Leo O'Connor's Band.
Carlow Workman's Club –
Ceilidhe and Dance in the Ritz, music by Carlovian Dance Band,
admission 1/=. (one shilling).
Carlow Swimming Club Dance
with Ralph Sylvester's band also in the Ritz.
Harry Bailey visited the
Ritz Cinema looking for new vocal talent. Locals were invited to
perform and if suitable would be introduced into Variety.
In the Town Hall a film was
screened "The Way to the Cross", it was claimed to be the only sound
film of the life of Our Lord. It was stated that "the film had
packed the Albert Hall in London for three months and had
been viewed and blessed by Cardinal Mac Rory".
The Local Defence Force
"fell in" at the Fair Green and was inspected by area officer Capt.
The Irish Press Shield was
presented to assistant group leader M. J. Doyle.
On the 7th September 1941
Bishop Keogh speaking at First Mass referred to the evil influences
which had crept into the amusements of the public, particularly at
local dances, he called attention to the unchristian conduct and
scenes of rowdiness and unseemly behaviour which was manifested
inside and outside dance halls. He cautioned his congregation to
beware of the influences and avoid the evils of excessive drinking
with particular emphasis on the harm it wrought in the case of the
youth of the country.
The following week the
Urban Council debated if it would in future make the Town Hall
available for dancing to the general public. It was noted that,
"people coming from dances kick up a most infernal row. They
shout and sing. Motor horns are blown and male and female
shrieks reminiscent of the forest life of an African jungle
shatter the silence of our sleeping town". It was demanded that
some action be taken to penalise them for their outrages.
On a lighter note for
September 1941 Carlow had a personal visit from Louis D'Alton.
(Louis was married to Carlow born Annie Mulhall, later famous as
'Minnie' of the television show the Riordans.) Louis presented
his Abbey Theatre Plays in the Town Hall for four nights.
Carlow Swimming Club
held their "Club Gala" on the Barrow track, adm. 6d. (six pence
Ladies and Gents Open
Handicap, Senior and Junior Diving with special attraction 'The
Great Marvello, and her assistant". Spectators were not admitted
on the Graiguecullen Bank of the river owing to the foot and
Another swimming event
was Carlow's inter club challenge with the Army team in the new
swimming pool on the Curragh. The Carlow team was (senior) John
Harding, J. Doran, D. Doran, P.J.Harte, J.J. O'Neill, J.A.
O'Neill (junior) Sean O'Neill, J. Dempsey, S. Corcoran, and J.
Donoghue, other promising exponents in the Carlow Swimming Club
were Mr. T. Corcoran, Misses R. Brannigan, D. Rafferty, B.
Keating, and O. Keating.
On the G.A.A. front the
question on everyone's lips was would Carlow beat Dublin in the
Leinster Senior Football Final at Dr. Cullen Park. Would Carlow
win their first Leinster title? Carlow had qualified when they
beat Wexford in a third replay at Croke Park, of particular note
for that match was a 78-year-old Carlovian who cycled to Croke
Park and back, (no it wasn't Jimmy Doogue he used to walk).
The Carlow team was
trained by J. Dundon of Dublin Street, but 1941 was not their
year, they went under to Dublin. One of the reasons put forward
for their loss was the fact that the team had endured a three
months forced absence from the game because of the foot and
mouth outbreak. However it was noted "the Carlow representatives
need not be down hearted as they have good material and youth on
their side and are a force to be reckoned with".
St Fiacc's School
Graiguecullen was blessed by Bishop Keogh among those present
were Fr. O'Haire P.P.
Source: Michael Purcell c2008
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