Author finds locations of 17th century stages
by MARY MAGEE
Jim McDowell with a copy his book 'Beyond
THE MYSTERY of exactly where a theatre was
situated in Lisburn in the 1770s may finally have been solved by
a local writer.
Jim McDowell was researching his book 'Beyond
the Footlights', a history of Belfast music halls and early
theatre, when he came across references in newspapers to a
theatre in Lisburn in the late 18th century.
And his efforts to track down the site in the
city have now yielded not one, but two possibilities.
Jim now feels one may have been located where
the Hertford Arms stands today in Market Square while there
could have been another in Bow Street.
Jim contacted the Star last year to see if
anyone could help him in his research. He was particularly keen
to know if anyone had any information about a production of
Richard III which was staged in Lisburn in November 1775. Now,
thanks to a local historian, he has discovered a book As I Roved
Out' by Cathal O'Byrne which refers to Lisburn as 'Linsely
Garvin - the 'Gamesters Mount or 'Fort of the Gamblers'. The
book, first published in 1946, began as a series of articles and
refers to Lisburn as being an area with just 800 homes and a
population of just 4,800.
In one of the articles it mentions a threatre in
"Across the Square yonder at the corner
John McComb's Inn the Hertford Arms once stood on the site
of the Northern Bank, and in a great hayloft at the rear of
the hotel performances were given in the older days by the
strolling players who visited the town."
Again in another article it refers to Bow
Lane (now Bow Street) at the back of Johnsons public house
where another theatre stood. "In the winter of 1804 there
came one Robert Owenson an actor his real name as Mal Owen
and his company."