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George Kerins - A Life in Theatre Management

By Des Kerins

 

George Kerins in 1947 - Courtesy Des Kerins.My father George Kerins was born at the beginning of the 20th century in Dublin. He grew up in an area that today we would classify as a poor area. Of course in those days George and his brothers and sisters didn't know that they were poor. In 1916 he left school at 14 years of age and went to work immediately as a pageboy in the Queen's Theatre in Dublin. This came about because his father Patrick worked in the Queens as a painter.

Right - George Kerins in 1947 - Courtesy Des Kerins.

While his formal education would today be considered to be somewhat inadequate George was a clever young man and settled into the life of "Show Business" very easily. The smell of the crowd and the roar of the grease paint got to him right from the start and he grew into working life with enthusiasm. By the time he was 25 years old he was Bar Manager in the Queens with 3 Bars under his management.

In the past the Queens had changed ownership many times so it is no surprise that the pattern continued into the 1920's and 30's. In January 1928 Bourke & Wilde Ltd took over the lease from Bertram Productions. PJ Bourke had been in the theatrical costume business for many years and so it seemed a logical step to actually become an Impresario with his own theatre.

 

George Kerins' employment as Chief Usher at the Capitol Theatre, Dublin - Courtesy Des Kerins.This business venture lasted for about 4 years and in 1932 Bourke & Wilde went in to liquidation and closed the theatre. On February 6th 1932 George was told by the liquidators that "they were dispensing with his services" with immediate effect. He was instructed in writing to hand over his theatre keys and was paid the grand total of £3: 4: 2 in lieu of notice. It is interesting to note that the character reference given to him on February 25th 1932 and signed by Lorcan Bourke says the reason for his dismissal is due to "slackness of trade". This is the same Lorcan whose daughter, Grainne, married Eamonn Andrews many years later. It is noted that by now George had a thorough knowledge of book-keeping and also of front-of-house management.

Left - George Kerins' employment as Chief Usher at the Capitol Theatre, Dublin - Courtesy Des Kerins.

George was never idle for long and so he took up employment as an usher in the Capitol Theatre in Dublin. On September 6th 1932 he was promoted to Chief Usher and was handed his instructions, which make interesting reading in this day and age (See Right.) Some time after that appointment George was transferred to work back-stage as assistant stage manager. This job lasted until June 24th 1934 when once again he was let go from his employment. Since George had married Sarah Harmon in June 1933 it was a difficult time to be out of work and when I was born in May 1934 it was imperative that he get work. Almost immediately George left Dublin and went to Liverpool where he got a job in the Paramount Theatre on London Road.

 

A letter of reference for George Kerins from Thomas A Lloyd, the manager of the Paramount Theatre, Liverpool in 1934 - Courtesy Des Kerins.Despite being in Liverpool he kept an eye on what was happening in Dublin and in December 1934 he applied to Associated Picture Houses Ltd for the position of Manager of the Tivoli Cinema which was newly-built and was about to open for business. The Tivoli had 1700 seats and was the 3rd largest cinema in Dublin at the time.

George came home to Dublin and worked in the Tivoli for 6 years and during that period he also managed for the same company another cinema situated about one mile away named The Lyric. In 1940 he was transferred to the Royal Cinema located in Bray Co Wicklow.

Right - A letter of reference for George Kerins from Thomas A Lloyd, the manager of the Paramount Theatre, Liverpool in 1934 - Courtesy Des Kerins.

In July 1944 APH sold the company to the Rank Company which in Ireland was known as Odeon [Ireland] Ltd. George was transferred to the Regent Cinema [520 seats] in Blackrock Co Dublin. His time in Bray and Blackrock during the 2nd World War was difficult for him as with serious restrictions on public transport George was forced to cycle 40 miles each day to attend work. At that time he had only a half-day off each week. Despite the difficulties George never complained. In the early 1950's he was transferred to The Fairview Grand Cinema [1000 seats] in the Dublin suburb of Fairview. From December 1934 when he returned from Liverpool to his retirement in 1967 George worked only as a Cinema Manager.

He loved his work and dedicated himself to his Theatre/Cinema and also to his staff. He died in September 1973 due to a stroke.

Above text on George Kerins was kindly written for inclusion on this site in 2009 by his son Des Kerins, whose Uncle, Harry Kerins, worked as an usher at the Savoy Cinema for many years, his Uncle Peter Kerins worked in the third Theatre Royal, Dublin , and his mother and her aunt both worked at the Tivoli, Dublin in the 1920's. Des has also very kindly contributed a great deal of information and many images for inclusion on the Dublin pages of this site.

 

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