Profile of a Limerick Showman

Joe Malone

Joe Malone

A proud ‘soda cake’, Joe Malone was born in Thomondgate and spent his youth around the Island Field, now known as St. Mary’s Park.

‘’It was here in St. Mary’s Parish that I first started to sing. Every night a crowed of us would gather at one of the local street corners to sing in harmony. Musical talent was in abundance in the area.’’

One of Joe’s first jobs was as a pageboy in the Savoy Theatre, Bedford Row. The year was1949, post Second World War, and Joe who was not yet 14 years old, began a career which was to influence the reminder of his life.

‘’My love for the cinema began, a love which has continued to this day,’’ said Joe, who admits to still being a cinema addict when as a Pageboy I watched three films every day except Sundays when all cinemas remained closed.

‘’As a cinema employee I also had free entry to all other cinemas in town.’’

Joe’s family were also involved in the cinema as several of his brothers worked as Pageboys in the Savoy.

This period could be regarded as a boom time for entertainment in Limerick city with ten cinemas in the town catering for audiences of 7,500 every night. ‘’Such was the popularity of the cinema in that area that many of these theatres recorded full houses regularly.’’

Joe recalls the Tivoli and the Thomand Cinemas- the famous ‘bug houses’ as they were known- which were the haunts of the real cinemagoer.

‘’The pattern was, Thomand on a Monday night, and the Tivoli on a Tuesday night, and this was a lifetime tradition.’’ A sure sign that all the popular cinemas were full when you would see the discerning cinema goer heading downtown towards the Tivoli or the Thomand.’’

Admission was cheap- four old pence and seven old pence and some people went twicw a day.

‘’The movie world of our era was based on fantasy. We went for entertainment and we believed everything we saw without question.

‘’It was taken in poor taste if you mentioned the films of Charlie Chaplin or the Marx brothers as your favourites as they were regarded then as ‘B’ type films- they were the ordinary persons’ heroes. Today they are regarded as first class films.’’

Joe is totally against violence in the movie world. ‘’It is difficult to come to grips with the amount of violence that is portrayed today. In the early days the cinema was fantasy, purely a means of escape and entertainment. With the introduction of violence in the movie world everything changed.’’

Live theatre was also featured regularly at the Savoy where Joe assisted many of the all-time greats including Jimmy O’ Dea, Maureen Potter, Josef Locke and Eamonn Andrews. These were known as the Cine-Variety days. Cinemas were heavily taxed and the more live shows presented, the less tax the cinema had to pay.

Seeing these live shows imbued Joe with a flair and a great love for the theatre.

After leaving the Savoy, Joe went to work in Ranks where he helped to form the Shannon Mills Male Voice Choir. Soon after their formation the choir performed on RTE radio in a programme titled, ‘’Beginners Please.’’

The choir also performed at the Savoy with the No. 1 Army Band and with famous continental soprano, Madame Elaix Paix.

Joe was also a member of the Augustinian Choir under Fr. Oliver O’ Brien.

After his vast experience with these choirs, Joe decided to have his voice trained. His teachers included Mrs. Baker, O’ Connell Street; Eithne Pearse Troy, Michael O’ Higgins and Anne Marie O’ Sullivan who were based in Dublin.

Later he went on to win a gold medal at the All Ireland Feis Ceol, a silver medal at the Sligo Feis and the Sligo Cup for Operatic Singing. Joe also won the Todd Cup for German Lieder at Feile Luimni.

Television was his next big step with regular features on the Joe Linnane and Brendan O’ Reilly show. Joe also featured with the Limerick Singers who recorded their own programme from Cork which ran for six weeks on Radio Eireann. He toured Germany with the Limerick Singers.

In the late1970s, Joe was featured in a film with Makem and Clancy at Bunratty Castle which has been shown all over the world.

He regularly produced shows at the Belltable Arts Centre, Limerick and describes the Belltable as the last grip we have on live theatre here in Limerick. ‘’If the Belltable were to close, Limerick would die as a theatre city forever.’’

Joe feels that if we are to capture the interest of the young people theatrically and then develop this interest we must do so while they are still at school.

‘’Theatre must be portrayed as lively and exciting and The Belltable must be commended for their selection of plays . Also they are not adverse to giving local playwrights a chance. This modern theatre should interest all young people.’’

St. John’s Temperance, St. Michael’s Temperance, the College Players, the mechanic’s and the Rural Drama Players were the natural haunts of the theatre fans in the area.

Many well known opera companies visited the Limerick area on a regular basis. Joe attributes these visits as a mark of our quick recovery foodwise after the Second World War- this prompted the companies to visit here in preference to other European countries.

‘’Mac Liammoir and Hilton Edwards were regular to the area. However, their favourite place was the Colisseum.’’

Joe, famed also as a well known publican from 1971 to 1982, at his premises in Denmark Street, simply known as ‘Joe Malone’s.’ ‘’The pub was closely associated with traditional music in Limerick and many poetry readings were also held here.’’

Visitors to the region always included Joe Malone’s in their itinerary as did the All Blacks rugby team in 1979.

‘’Michael McNamara of RTE 2 fame began here with his first interview.’’

Joe has contributed several articles to the Limerick Journal including one titled, ‘’The Leaving of Thomondgate.’’

A keen gardener, Joe now devotes much of his time to this favourite hobby – reading.

”I am at present reading the short stories of Harry Secombe and J.B Keane’s short stories are among my favourites.”

Joe loves the entertainment business and for him it’s not a business but a deep and affectionate interest, which visibly comes from the heart.

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