8 April 2020 No Comments by The Northern Standard

If we can agree that the individual personality or even spirit shapes the community, society, country or even the world in which they live rather than the other way round Larry McCluskey, then, was a formidable force and influence not only on the community in which he lived but more generally on those who knew him even if only briefly.

As a school teacher he helped shape young minds. And prepare them in the best possible way through education to make their own unique contribution as adults to society and the world into which they would grow and live. However it was in retirement that he really demonstrated the value and contribution that someone at that time of life can still make to society. For him there was no exchanging of shoes or boots for a pair of slippers.

He loved cycling and had a great interest in education and sport. He served as CEO of Monaghan VEC and Chairman of Cootehill GAA. And of course he had a life long interest in the Arts particularly Theatre and Drama. His strong personality in this sphere, I think without exaggeration, can be compared to other great local artists such as the poet Patrick Kavanagh, playwrights Tom Macintyre and his great hero Brian Friel.

As part of our cultural heritage the influence of Drama and Theatre on the process of human development is evident from Classical times to Shakespeare to Yeats and Maud Gonne and the foundation of The Abbey. Because of the public display of the emotions and feelings of the characters drama in performance has a powerful influence on the audience. Larry was deeply conscious of this. And no doubt this characteristic of the genre influenced his interest in this form of artistic creation.

He was responsible for staging and directing many productions of Friel through his involvement with the Cootehill drama group Aisteoiri Muinchille.

Friel, he told me, was his favourite playwright. There were many reasons why. But he said in particular he was interested in the themes and issues of Friel’s work which challenged established social values. “Friel’s plays are courageous and were ahead of their time,” he said “they challenge established and oppressive institutionalised values that had awful consequences for the lives of people in rural Ireland of the 1940s and 50s”.

From chatting to him it was clear that Friel’s plays echoed his own progressive vision for society. His staging of Friel’s works with Aisteoiri Muinchille was in his own way a labour of revival as he reintroduced these plays to a whole new generation of people in the twenty first century. His interest in Drama was not merely an abstract aesthetic or some form of escapism but rather a service in the interest of the individual. And anything that can contribute positively to the lives and imagination of people is in its way revolutionary.

In a production of Friel’s Winners which he directed the theme song was “Remember Me” by Gavin James. Surely it is fair to think that everywhere and anywhere armature drama is performed somebody somewhere will be inspired consciously or otherwise by the same values that inspired Larry McCluskey in his passion for drama and the stage. His sense of place and understanding of its people is well summed up in the words of the Medieval Franciscan poet and mystic Jacopone echoing those of St Augustine: “Set this love of mine in order, O Thou who lovest me.”

And now, the curtain has come down, the stage is dark, but no doubt, the light has come on somewhere else, and another curtain has just been raised.

Thomas Fitzsimons
Curkish Bailieborough



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