A view of Old Newry (Courtesy of Micheal Canavan)

As part of its current Performing Arts Project, funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund and administered by the Museums’ Association, Newry and Mourne Museum will be holding two film screenings about aspects of old Newry.

Both films were produced by the late Sean Canavan who rescued the film footage when local cinemas were closing down. In a labour of love, he transferred over 40,000 individual frames from 35mm film.

The screenings are also scheduled to coincide with Newry’s City of Merchants festival, which will take place throughout the city from Friday 29 September to Sunday 1 October. The festival will be a family fun weekend celebrating Newry’s historic trade, mercantile and cultural heritage.

The first film, ‘Looking Back at Old Newry’, will be screened on Wednesday 27 September at 7pm. It starts in the 1920s and opens with footage taken inside the Central Laundry on Monaghan Street. Long-time laundry worker, Eileen D’Arcy from Drumalane Park gives an interview discussing details of the working hours and wages.

There will then be an opportunity to see the Holy Family Confraternity Parade around the town and up Hill Street in 1924, a sports day in Our Ladies School on Canal Street and a very young Arthur Burns doing Irish dancing. Later, Arthur is interviewed at one of his dancing classes.

Sean Canavan was a noted performer in Newry and had also a keen interest in producing films related to his beloved hometown. He is pictured here on the left with Charlie Smyth. Together they were involved in pantomimes at Newry Town Hall. (Courtesy of Charlie Smyth).

The 1920s section of the film closes with an outing to Cranfield. The film will then move onto the 1930s and 1940s and into colour, showing the town during the Second World War. Finally, it will show the festivals of the 1960s and 1970s including Civic Week and the Canal Festival.

The second film will be screened on Wednesday 4 October at 7pm. Produced by Sean Canavan in the early 1980s, it will focus on the history of local dramatics. Providing a unique history of drama and the musical scene in Newry, the film includes interviews with several stalwarts from Newry Musical and Orchestral Society and Newpoint Players.

The cast of Showboat (Courtesy of Micheal Canavan).

These include Paddy O’Hanlon, the original ‘Mikado’ in Newry Musical and Orchestral Society’s first production in 1946, and Nancy Murphy, an early leading lady who was on a visit home in Newry from America. Some of the interviews featured were carried out in the subjects’ own homes, while others were recorded in Sean’s house in Drumalane. The interviews are of a very relaxed style as Sean knew all of them and had performed on stage with them in many productions.

The cast of My Fair Lady (Courtesy of Micheal Canavan).

After the screening of each film there will be an opportunity to reminisce and recall past times.

Pre-booking is essential and it costs £3 to attend each screening, which includes light refreshments. To book, please email Robert Whan on robert.whan@nmandd.org or call 028 3031 3173 / 3182.

A young Arthur Burns, who will feature in the first film screening (Newry and Mourne Museum Collection)