The performing careers of Dover, NH’s John Boyle, and Charles E. Cronin

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DOVER – There was a different kind of show presented at the Opera, an almost annual tradition which, after 1936, continued in the current auditorium of the Town Hall. It was the “Irish” show, sponsored by the Old Order Hibernian Female Auxiliaries. On January 11, 1926, for example, there was a performance of “Shamrock and Rose”, with almost full audiences, “one of the best ever staged at the city opera house”. One of the highlights was the performance of “My Wild Irish Rose” (a song still well known today) by John Boyle, and a featured solo by Thomas J. Brennan, who “was forced to respond to one of the warmest reminders of the evening. “

On March 17, 1927 (it was just St. Patrick’s Day) there was a production of a show with a different story, “My Irish Rose”, again starring John Boyle, and with names such as Thomas McKernan, Albert Keenan, Andrew Miniter (as the laziest man in County Kildare), Susan McKenna, Molly Boyle, Mary Lawless and James Quinn. And between Acts III and IV, a solo by Thomas Brennan, the same Thomas Brennan who, between last year’s show and this one, had also appeared in the Jewish minstrels show, “Levi’s Cabaret”. Its history is interesting.

He was born in Ireland in 1886 and came to Dover with his parents at the age of 6. After attending school, he worked as a stagehand for 20 years at Kidder Press on Broadway, before becoming an agent for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. His first appearance on stage was at the age of 9 and for the next 40 years he entertained local audiences, “noticed for answering every call, without any thought of compensation or professional earnings … he participated. to more charitable functions than any other individual in the history of Dover. “

He lived for a time at 8 Trakey St., but at the time of his sudden death at the age of 52, he and his family were residing at 7 Watson Lane. His death at the end of January 1938 made the front page of Foster’s, as well as posted notices for members of the Elks, Knights of Columbus and VFW to assemble in their meeting rooms to “proceed as a group.” the vigil held at Brennan’s home. (Although there have been funeral directors and “funeral homes,” it was common for the vigil, perhaps more with Irish families, to take place at the deceased’s home.) Very attended funerals took place. held at St. Mary’s Church on February 1st. (There is an interesting parallel here: Tommy Makem, also born in Ireland – and cousin of the Boyles – arrived in Dover some sixty years after Brennan and became an internationally renowned musician. He also worked for a time afterwards. his arrival at Kidder Press.)

The director of these two shows and a number of previous shows was Charles E. Cronin (the local newspaper reporting “Shamrock and Rose” reported that Cronin “had added new laurels.”) He is born in Dover in 1890, and as noted in his obituary at the age of 90, he was “formerly the coach and director of many local minstrel shows and plays sponsored by local charities”. That was a bit of an understatement, as Cronin, with no known musical or theatrical training, was responsible for dozens of productions, perhaps even until the 1960s. He attended St. Joseph’s Academy, Dover High School and Suffolk Law School, although he never practiced an active legal profession. He lived with his family at 31 Hanson St., never married, and for over 45 years was a low-key insurance salesman and real estate broker with an office in the Bracewell Block when it was a handsome building two-storey building from the 19th century. , where Earcraft is today.

Charlie, as everyone called him, was a Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus and an Exalted Ruler of the Elks. During the first administration of Mayor Clyde Keefe (1934-35). he was appointed to the post of overseer of the poor of Dover. But the newspaper also noted that he was known to have served for more than 25 years as a usher for Sunday services at St. Joseph’s Church. There was a time when attendance at church services was in fact to the point that an “usher” had to search the congregation for an empty seat or seats and gently motion for some people to slip further into the bench and do so. sign to those who were waiting to come forward for the empty space. The times have changed.

An interesting side aspect of the shows themselves were the commercials that appeared in the programs – a much more polished approach to advertising than we know today:

“You are always welcome to browse our displays without insisting on buying. Our products sell themselves” – Flowers Furniture Store, 5-7 Second Street.

“A call from you to our store will surely be APPRECIATED whether you buy from us or not” – HD Freeman, Footwear & Apparel, 448 Central Avenue.

“When your prescriptions are left with us for preparation, you can be confident in your competence” – Sherry’s Pharmacy, The Rexall Store, 4 Third St.

“Our reputation is built on QUALITY and HONEST BUSINESS”, – The Neighborhood Store, BD O’Kane, Prop., 46 New York Street.

“We aim to please everyone”, – Depot Square Fruit Store, 40 Third Street.

The programs also offered a choice of auto dealers: Studebakers at Mitchell Garage, Reo Cars at McShane Garage, and Essex and Hudson Motor Vehicles at New American Garage, 479 Central Avenue.

(A message to all the “old folks” in Dover who might have theater or music programs in an album: the library or the Woodman would like to have copies or make copies for the historical archives.)

Tony McManus is from Dover. He is a former administrator of the Woodman Institute and an amateur student of Dover’s past. He can be contacted at [email protected]


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