I suppose you could say I have had something of a charmed life in many ways, and added to all that magic, I met, and later married, the love of my life at a party on a night in the very last week of our final term at our different colleges, but the same university. For me, at that meeting, all the bells in the world rang and the ground shook under my feet – or my legs were wobbling so much it just felt as though the ground was shaking.
We had known each other only three weeks when he proposed; later claiming during his bridegroom’s speech, ‘There was little else to do sitting in a car in a thunderstorm on top of the Brecon Beacons in west Wales…’ I accepted and we married some three months later in December 1956 and I was able to join him and live in one of the most magical places on earth.
Paul had already moved to Ireland in September 1956 and begun studying medicine at Dublin’s Royal College of Surgeons. Being an enthusiastic fan of Dylan Thomas’s work since my introduction to it by my brilliant English teacher while still a sixth form student at my Welsh grammar school; and seeing the proposed production being advertised in a Dublin newspaper, I phoned the producer offering my help with accent and pronunciation.
During my years at college, I had completed a Speech and Drama course, obtaining a distinction for my final performance: part of which included reciting a piece of Thomas’s poetry, And Death Shall Have No Dominion, so I felt I might be of use. The producer accepted my offer when I gave him this bit of background information and a few days later I found myself working with an Irish all-star cast which included, among many others, Dermot Tuohy and Anna Manahan with Barry Cassin acting as The Narrator and directing in a production that was going to be staged at the world-famous Gate Theatre.
Within days I was being offered the speaking role of Mae Rose Cottage; the actress playing the part having withdrawn. To be participating in the production was a heady experience, but being asked to take a speaking role on the stage where so many famous names had appeared was tantamount to Cinderella finding her fairy godmother and going to the ball; for this twenty-two year old the opportunity was not one to turn down. The production was a great success. The press cuttings; kept and carefully stored, together with a copy of the programme and all the photo-call photographs are my remaining proof that it all really happened. It ran for six weeks to packed houses; four more than scheduled, but eventually the final curtain came down because another production, in the way of all such famous theatres, had been booked long before and was due to go on the same stage.
The photographs were all taken by my late husband; always a keen amateur photographer, to save costs. Remember, this was 1956; long before the boom and bust days of the Celtic Tiger were in anyone’s thoughts, so the production had to take place on a boot-string, with many of the cast, like me, doing it for nothing but love of theatre – and Dylan Thomas; something that cannot be overlooked in his centenary year – which happens to coincide with the start of that war to end all wars.