Liam Coffey: Films, comics & singers.

LIAM COFFEY’S MEMORIES: films, comics and singers.

The Sunday matinee, in the Odeon Cinema opposite the Town Hall, introduced us to a world of wonders which filled our imaginations in a way no other form of media could ever hope to. We were transported to the Teepees of the American Plains Indians and we rode with them to bring down the mighty Bison with deadly bows and arrows. We rode with Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers and Gene Autry to capture the Outlaws and we accompanied them as they sang cowboy songs around the campfire. We travelled the universe with Flash Gordon in his spaceship as we conquered everything in our path and we laughed until tears came down our cheeks at the antics of Shemp, Larry & Mo, Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers, Charlie Chaplin and so on. We all fell madly for Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and we followed the Yellow Brick Road all the way home.The pictures caused endless debates on who was the funniest, the best of the cowboys, and did Tarzan (Johnny Weismuller) really talk to the animals and rule the jungle? The general consensus was that he really did.

Comics like the Beano, the Dandy, the Hotspur, the Rover and the Eagle were issued weekly and were second only in popularity to the cinema. Most families bought one comic, and as everyone knew who bought what it was possible to keep up with each issue. For example, if the Noone’s bought the Dandy, the Doody’s the Beano, the Dolan’s the Hotspur and so on, as soon as they had their own they swapped with the neighbours and shared accordingly. Our generation were doubly lucky because we all got to know our big screen heroes and all the comic strip heroes who brought great colour into our lives. In addition, we were probably the first generation to have full access to the ‘wireless’ (radio) for by the 1940s practically every household had access to a radio.

From our earliest years, music played a very important part in our lives. There was music everywhere, in the schools, in the churches and in every home, pub and club in town. There were plenty of opportunities - school musicals, variety concerts, and the Pantomime Troupe, one of the oldest in the country, running since 1939. There were a surprising number of homes who boasted of a piano in the sitting-room. Violins were also very popular, closely followed by accordions and mouth organs. In our family, my grandfather, William Nolan, played the piano and organ as did his sister, Mary Grogan (nee Nolan). His nephew and niece, John and Peggy Grogan, did likewise. My mother and all her brothers were members of the Parish choir at some periods of their lives, as was my father. Art Nolan was the longest serving member of the family and sang in the Parish church almost till the day he died.


Liam Coffey. (C) 2009.