The Sacred Dance of the Irish Circus: Rural Ireland and Traveling Shows and Showpeople, 1922 -1972


O'hAodha, Michael and Tony McCarthy


Ph.D, D/History, University of Limerick

A visual history of the Traveling circuses and shows that traveled the roads of Ireland between the 1920s and the arrival of television in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Professor OhAodha (pron: Oh-Hay) estimates there were more than 140 of these shows including circus shows, magic shows, revues, “fit-ups” traveling theatres who traveled Ireland during the period – and the 1940s was their zenith – partly because many performers from other countries (especially via Britain) moved to Ireland to avoid persecution (this includes continental showmen as well as Jews and Roma trying to scratch a living as roaming entertainers and performers). Because of the Emergency in Eire (1939-1945) these groups remained independent of the commercialization of the music halls, theatres and cinemas in Britain and the “end-of-pier” traditions since many newer forms of entertainment and communication were hindered by wartime isolation,poverty and lack of new product ---especially Hollywood and British films in neutral Southern Ireland--- since films, as opposed live entertainment and plays, were subject to rigorous censorship and along with long delays before release.

This is a completely new area in contemporary Irish Studies. Professor OhAodha points out that little has been written about the history of circus in Ireland and there no visual culture books relating to this subject – and so the photos and the cultural history of the traveling circuses and roadside acts in rural Ireland open a new discussion of rural Ireland in the Free State, DeValera, wartime and immediate postwar years.

Michael OhAodha, a champion of the Irish Language and the West of Ireland, is the author of more than forty book and is a senior faculty member at the University of Limerick.

Irish Studies, Cultural and Performance Studies, 20th century Ireland, Irish History, Connaught, 20th century,Gaeltacht
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Cloth: 978-1-936320-34-9
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