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A history of Birr Theatre & Arts Centre (part 2)

Following on from last week's installments of Patt Grogan's history of Oxmatown Hall. We hear of our home's opening night on january 15th 1889.

A night of wonder for the community with 150 people trying to force their way into the already full house!

Second installment "A great opening night and a poem!"

The official opening occurred on January 15‘ 1889 to a packed hall. The Kings County Chronicle (17/1/1889) gives a lengthy report of the opening night with a sketch of the building. A description of the outside it goes on to state ‘Coming to the interior on entering the vestibule, there is on either side an anteroom which will be utilised as cloak rooms, that to the east being used for ladies and the opposite which is at the staircase to the gallery for gentlemen. Both rooms being provided with fire grates.

One glance reveals that Oxmantown Hall is longer and wider than other all in the town and should accommodate 400 easily without the stage or platform which latter equals in area half half the body of the hall and is double that of the gallery over the entrance doorway. Again we are delighted to discover that there are no draughts a circumstance that people never fully appreciate until they have been condemned to sit in the now obsolete John’s Hall.'

By 8.15 on opening night the hall was completely filled some 150 who had no tickets having forced the cash into the door-keeper’s hands and themselves Ito the porch; and soon the walking space on each side was full, every foot. Just at the above hour the footlights were raised and Mr Toler R. Garvey came in front of the drop curtain and in observance of a good old custom read in a clear voice this prologue written by himself:

Welcome kind friends, thrice welcome one and all,

To this new building, our long wished for new hall,

We trust it meets with your approval —

Nay that you will even condescend to say

Your expectations have been far surpassed,

And your desires have been attained at last,

In seeing his new structure stand,

In fair proportions on a site so grand,

Amidst the tall ancestral elms who shade,

A boulevard of Oxmantown Mall have made,

Where many a swain did tale of love impart

And never sweet receive, responsive to his heart.

May we not give a word of praise to those,

Who laboured unselfishly first to close,

All obstacles overcame, all obstacles defied,

Here in our town a long felt want supplied

To Lord of manor, who with generous hand,

Set all in motion and then chose a band,

Of zealous workers who all but swore

They’d see a hall erected ere their toils were o’er.

Such is its story from henceforth may it be

The scene of many a tale of high moulded obivalry:

To all who listen here from time to time,

May words of truth and eloquence anbline

May science, art and music here sublime,

To elevate the taste, disclosing a fresh mind

Of knowledge and of joy, in happy combination

To all who here assemble — Be this its destination.

When the cheering had subsided, the curtain rose on a charming little one act drama entitled “Barbara”.’ The reporter states, of the play, “The plot was as pathetic as it was pretty”. The Chronicle report also states that the Earl and Countess brought a party of Friends from the Castle one of whom starred in the evening’s comedy “Cool as a Cucumber”.

See you soon for the third installment of our story...

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Aug 10, 2023

Well done Pat. Interesting and entertaining read.

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