This is your life: The story of Sonny and Mary in Dunmanway

A lifetime of memories is contained in a new book by Sandra Maybury, documenting the lives of her parents, Sonny and Mary, reveals AISLING MEATH
This is your life: The story of Sonny and Mary in Dunmanway

Sonny and Mary Maybury on their wedding day

IN 1986, the popular RTÉ afternoon programme Live At Three was broadcast live from the town of Dunmanway.

The presenter, the late Derek Davis, described it as “a small town with a big hotel.”.

The ‘ big hotel’ he was referring to was The Parkway, from where the programme was being broadcast, and Derek was making reference to the big reputation the hotel had garnered for hospitality.

When the Maybury family first opened the hotel, the youngest of their five children, their daughter Sandra, was just four weeks old.

Sandra, who now runs a public relations company, Maybury Marketing, recently published a heartwarming book called Spins, recalling the life and times of her parents, and describing how they started out from humble beginnings to become successful entrepreneurs who provided lots of employment in Dunmanway.

“There was great money in chips,” remarked her dad Sonny, remembering the days when, as well as running his haulage company, and local dances, another enterprise, Sonny’s Mobile Grill, contributed to his amassing enough money to buy the premises formerly known as The Bostonian Bar.

Along with his creative and hard-working wife Mary, they went on to transform it into The Parkway Hotel.

As well as documenting the fascinating story of her parents lives, Sandra’s book also serves as a slice of local history. The stories within conjure up another era, going back to a time when showbands toured rural towns, and summer dances were held on open air platforms such as The Red Fort, run by Sonny and his pal Miah Duggan.

Many well known performers made their way to Dunmanway, including the legendary Clancy brothers, but famous or not, all were welcomed by the hospitable Mayburys.

Brendan Shine, who had a big hit with Do You Want Your Old Lobby Washed Down, remains a close friend of the family.

He said: “The first time I met Sonny and Mary was in the 1970s when I played the local hall St Patrick’s in Dunmanway. Before the gig we were invited to their house across the road and I couldn’t get over the welcome. We were given a full meal. It looked like all the neighbours were in to help.”

Sonny Maybury with his dog Pal, who sadly passed away recently
Sonny Maybury with his dog Pal, who sadly passed away recently

In August, 1977, the dance hall at the Parkway was officially opened by TV personality Mike Murphy just in time for the local Ballabuidhe festival, and it was later extended in 1985.

When she first got the idea to write the book, Sandra put out a call on social media inviting people who knew her parents to come forward.

“ My parents are widely connected, so I knew that there were stories about them outside of the family. The response I got was unreal!

“People messaged me, strangers rang me, people stopped me on the street and in the supermarket when I was doing my shopping.

“I would like to say a big thank-you to everyone who contributed to the book.”

Many of the staff who had worked in The Parkway contributed memories of their time at the hotel, and many also attended the recent book launch.

The warmth and esteem for Sonny and Mary was palpable. There were many stories exchanged about their great generosity and the craic which they had around the pink formica table in the hotel kitchen.

Staff members who had passed on were recalled in both the book and at the launch, such as Sandra’s godmother Mag Mc Cull.

Sonny, now 87, is known as a plucky entrepreneur, but Mary has a remarkable business acumen too.

‘”People tend to think of my father as being the entrepreneur, but my mother is an entrepreneur too, having set up and run several businesses of her own,” said Sandra. “She has been running The Hat Shop, a hat hire business in Dunmanway, for over 30 years now.

“There were times in the last few years when we automatically thought the timing was right for Mam to retire.

“The Covid pandemic would certainly have been a great opportunity to bow out, but no, Mam, at the age of 81, has no intention of retiring any time soon. She loves getting out and about and meeting people,” Sandra said.

Daniel O’Donnell sang many a song in The Parkway, and has fond memories of the hotel. He recorded a warm greeting via Facebook video, saying he regretted that he could not attend the book launch in person.

In Spins, O’Donnell says: “When I first started my career, I always enjoyed my trips to play The Parkway hotel in Dunmanway.

“In a way, it was like going to visit friends. Once the soundcheck was done, I would head for the kitchen where we would sit around the big table. Sonny and Mary never left anyone hungry.”

Sonny and Mary Maybury with grandchildren and great grandchildren
Sonny and Mary Maybury with grandchildren and great grandchildren

Sandra enjoyed delving into her family history.

“I’ve learnt so much about my family while researching this book, that, without these conversations, I would have never known. I would really encourage everyone to talk to their elders.

“Life is busy, and we can easily get swept away in it all, don’t wait until it’s too late.

“For me, my parents are my biggest inspiration, both in life and in business.”

Spins: The Life And Times Of Sonny and Mary Maybury, by Sandra Maybury, is available to purchase in the following outlets:

Kerrs Bookshop Clonakilty/ Supervalu Dunmanway/ Gala Dunmanway/ Bandon Books Plus/ The Parkway Hotel/ Deals 4 You Dunmanway MayburyMarketing

All profits from book sales go to the Irish Community Air Ambulance.

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