Wednesday, October 02, 2019


Conor Doyle
Click on any image for a larger version

This was not the first time I've been to Conor Doyle's event remembering the Theatre Royal, but it was the most emotional by far. Even Conor, who has taken this event all over the place, regularly choked up during the night.

I first came across it as a lunchtime talk in City Hall in 2012. Then in 2016 it had developed into a Royal Concert with live singers and an expanded visual archive.

But this night (30/9/2019) was special - an invited audience, all of whom had family connections of some sort with the Royal, be it with the dancers (Royalettes), performers, staff or management.

I was there with Paddy Medlar, my mother's cousin, who married Royalette Connie Connell, and Colette Medlar, daughter of Royalette Phyllis Conroy who married Paddy's brother. You can check out the dancing ladies here.

The night was introduced by Dermot Lacy who, while from a post-Royal generation, was well aware of the theatre's place in the hearts of those who went before him. It also helped that he had been a former Lord Mayor himself and was on home ground, so to speak.

The old Royal building was demolished when the theatre closed down on 30 June 1962, and a horrible plastic structure sprung up in its place. That, in turn, is now to be demolished and apartments built on the site. Dermot reminded us that this presented an opportunity for a permanent memorial to the Royal.

The idea would be to name an internal passageway something like Theatre Royal Way. This idea has been agreed by Dublin City Council but the last word lies with the Board of Works who own the site. The audience were exhorted to email the OPW Minister of State, Kevin "Boxer" Moran, calling on him to step up to the plate in this matter.

Why not respond to the call yourself - Kevin can be emailed at or you can find him on Twitter (@kevinboxermoran) or on Facebook

Conor had packed the Oak Room on a filthy wet night. Clearly, those invited were motivated to make the effort come Hell or High Water. Some came from as far away as Australia, in town specifically to attend this event.

This is Dominique Glyde. She writes under the pen Cleo Glyde. But thats not why she's famous tonight. Her grandmother is former Royalette Pansy Lawless (m. Bourke). Dominique's mother Helen, also in the audience, is a cousin of Conor's father, Chick Doyle.

Helen and Chick emigrated to Australia in the 1950s. Helen stayed, which is why Dominique and her mother came all the way from Australia for this event. Chick returned to Ireland which is why there is an event to come to (not forgetting Conor's trojan work, of course).

Dominique recounted stories from Pansy and from her mother, who in her youth used to hang about in the Royal dressing rooms.

Amanda Bolderson is a great grandniece of Jimmy Campbell's.

She told us about some of Jimmy's early life, including his career as a concert violinist in the UK before he assembled his own orchestra at the Royal.

Jimmy was the conductor of a 25 piece handpicked Royal orchestra. He was onstage on both the opening (23 September 1935) and closing (30 June 1962) nights.

Amanda flew in from the UK for the event.

Gerry Noonan

Kathleen Noonan

Pauline Cooper

Our three musicians really made the night with live theatre which encouraged the audience to join in. They also morphed into some character parts.

"Gene Autry"

"Judy Garland"

"Biddy Mulligan"

"Peggy Dell"

I've concentrated on the live performances, but Conor has assembled a huge and evergrowing archive on the Theatre Royal and he showed many video/movie clips of onstage performances and interviews with personalities associated with the Royal. These also resonated with this particular audience.

Conor's presentation was punctuated with interrruptions as he not only identified the onscreen performers referred to above, but every so often, he pounced on a member of the audience as their relative appeared on screen. "That's your Mam". "That's your Dad". Pure theatre.

Conor is always conscious of the "presence" of his uncle, Jimmy O'Dea, on whom he's done a separate talk.

Jimmy did not perform as such on the closing night, but Conor showed a clip of him speaking from the stage after the final performance. Jimmy was sad at the end of the Royal but he was convinced that live theatre would live on.

He'd be more than proud of the show Conor put on, of its distinguished audience and of its location in the residence of Dublin's first citizen.

Click here if you want to see a few more photos.

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