Omagh Town Hall was a mecca of entertainment throughout the 1900s until its closure just over two decades ago.
Knocked down to construct the Strule Arts Centre in 1997, the venue had played a vital part in the town since it first opening in 1915.
In efforts to document the history of this important building, the local council is calling on people to share any memories or artefacts of Omagh Town Hall at a reminiscence session next week.
Omagh Town Hall first opened its doors on September 29, 1915. The ticket prices for the opening concert were two shillings, one and six, and one shilling.
To mark the closure of the building in 1997, Omagh literary giant Benedict Kiely wrote a personal article for the UH, recalled with fondness of the venue and his part as “one of the Wise Guys from the East” in a stage performance of ‘The Coming of the Magi’. He also reminisced over the many performers and artistes who visited the town in the earlier part of the 1900s.
In the 40s and 50s it welcomed visiting troupes and productions from such luminaries as Anew McMaster, his brother-in-law, actor writer and impresario Michael MacLiammoir and Jimmy O’Dea. In later years it played host to productions of the internationally acclaimed Field Day Theatre including their production of Brian Friel’s ‘Making History’ with a cast which featured Stephen Rea and Niall Toibin.
However, some of the greatest nights in the Town Hall came from ‘home’ productions. It was home to Omagh Players for nearly 60 years under the direction of the likes of Frank Nugent, Paddy Bogues Senior, Paddy Laird and more latterly Kate Hinds.
Omagh Players provided many great nights of theatre performing plays from a diverse range of authors from O’Casey to Keane. There were also many pantomimes, musicals and revues in the course of the life of the venue.
Events such as a now famous Variety Concert on March 5, 1969 featured the Moore family, Kerrigan School of Dancing, Paddy Philips, Tommy Strain and the Sweeney Brothers. All names synonymous with music and entertainment in Omagh for over half a century since.
It was also home to West Tyrone Feis for many years.
The last play performed in the famous stage was ‘The Factory Girls’ by Frank McGuinness, directed by Orlaigh Bann and presented by Omagh Players in May 1997. It would be a full decade later that the Strule Arts Centre would open, bringing theatre to this central area of the town once more.
As well as a mecca of entertainment, Omagh Town Hall was for many years the seat of local government in the area, with Omagh District Council meeting their for the last time in the council chamber on May 6, 1997 under the chairmanship of the late Cllr Seamus Shields. It was also served as the branch library and rates office.
The Town Hall was however not immune from the troubles and the facade was destroyed by a bomb in December 1974, wrecking the administrative offices of the District Council.
Share your memories and artefacts of Omagh Town Hall
Fermanagh and Omagh District Council has organised a reminiscence session which will take place in the Strule Arts Centre from 11am to 1pm on Monday, February 4.
The reminiscence session will be an opportunity to explore memories of the Town Hall from 1915 to 1997. Members of the public are also invited to bring along old photographs, programmes, quotes, audio and video clips.
It is anticipated that any items donated will assist in the development of an exhibition on the Town Hall at the Rooftop Museum located within the Strule Arts Centre and online.
This represents the first steps towards a museum collection for Omagh and the surrounding areas.