A favourite moment from a long history of attending the Abbey Theatre
After hearing of the Abbey fire my brother Donal, now 15, and on school holidays, took off on the bus because he wanted/needed to be there. Ray McAnally & Co. (who he had met before the fire and been given a rare backstage tour by), took this youngster to their hearts. He might just have been a nuisance, but they found a job for him. They were plagued with sightseers and obviously not wanting a 15 year old to be involved in the more dangerous work of searching the rubble for memorabilia, they asked him to be ‘doorman’. He wasn’t to let anyone in that he didn’t know. Young as he was and because he knew every member of the Company by sight, he was effective in the role. That is until an elderly bald man with glasses arrived. Donal politely said he was sorry, he couldn’t let him in. The gentleman then said “But I am the Managing Director”. So Ernest Blythe met Donal and was allowed through to the burnt remains of his theatre.
This ‘searching the ruins’ went on for some weeks while the company performed – on the first nights – in the Peacock. After that in the Rupert Guinness Hall and then subsequently found a semi-permanent home in the Queen’s Theatre, Pearse Street.
Donal’s initial fraught meeting with Ernest Blythe left no ill effects and he got a letter of thanks for his help, in due course, enclosing a cheque for £2 – a lot of money for a 15 year old at that time. Copy of letter below.