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Abymill 30th Anniversary celebrated with a gathering of friends

November 8, 2018

On Saturday, May 26, 2018, Abymill Theatre celebrated its thirtieth anniversary, and to mark the occasion, a special gathering was held in McCarthy’s Bar on the following Thursday night, May 31, where all involved in any way came along and celebrate this milestone with the Abymill Board members.

A large number of locals associated with the Abymill, Fethard Players and Hogan Musical Society, gathered informally to reminisce over the past three decades of theatrical life in Fethard. The evening was enhanced with a presentation of photographs of the Abymill renovation work which started in 1985, followed by images from past productions, plays and fundraising events throughout the past 30 years.

Tasty finger foods were served to all present, followed by Marian Gilpin, chairperson of Fethard Players, thanking Austin O’Flynn for his foresight in pursuing the Abymill project and inviting him to cut the Abymill’s ‘30th Anniversary Birthday Cake’.

Many of the original Abymill Board of Management were present to join in the celebration and those who had passed on, well remembered and appreciated. 

Background

The 150-year-old Fethard mill which ceased operation in 1936 was reopened as a theatre on Thursday, May 26, 1988. Located beside the Augustinian Abbey and known as Coffey's Mill, it stood empty and derelict for many years. It was built in 1791 and reconstructed in 1847 by a Mr Richard Harvey. The mill passed to the Coffey family early in the century and gave employment to about 14 people. It was used to grind corn but also included a creamery, bakery and shop, which sold everything from groceries to hardware.

The idea of having a permanent theatre in Fethard was first discussed in 1983. Premises considered at that time were, Holy Trinity Church of Ireland and the Town Hall. Work commenced in the Town Hall (then closed due to fire regulations) with the installation of fire escapes etc. After being allowed to reopen, various organisations started using the hall again, so it was decided to look further afield. Pauline Coffey in Burke Street was then approached about acquiring the old corn mill. Her generosity resulted in the formation of a special committee, known as the Mill Restoration Committee. The committee elected at a public meeting consisted of: Austin O'Flynn (chairman), Gemma Kenny (secretary), Agnes Evans (treasurer), Joe Kenny (pro), Jimmy O'Shea, Marian Mulligan, Billy McLellan, Carmel Rice, Billy Kenny, Michael McCarthy, Jimmy Connolly, Fr. Ormond OSA, Noelle O'Dwyer and Jimmy McInerney.

In May 1983 the dilapidated mill was handed over to the committee and by September, local voluntary workers had the building cleaned out. In January 1985, the first of the 80 young people on an ANCO Youth Training Programme started work under foreman Tom Burke. Work continued at a steady pace under Tom’s expert direction and in July 1987, the Mill Project was the joint winner in the South Tipperary Community Endeavour Award sponsored by The Nationalist and the Trustee Saving Bank.

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