THE theatrical community in Cork said farewell to a gifted playwright and performer this week.
Charlie Conway, one of the founders of the Pyke Theatre in Ballincollig, passed away peacefully at home, aged 77.
Mr Conway was born in Ovens and was a motor mechanic by trade. After working in garages he went on to open his own business in Ballincollig, Coolroe Motors.
But despite the demands of being a business owner, his friend Jimmy Healy said he was always involved in performance of one sort or another.
“He always had a grá for the stage,” Mr Healy said.
“He had being doing pantomime in Ballincollig for several years before he went into doing one-act plays.
“Then around 1996/7 the Pyke Theatre was founded by Charlie and a few other like-minded people.”
For Mr Conway, theatre was always to be inclusive and he encouraged the social side of things.
“He was very much a man for community and involved as many local people as possible. One of the things he decided to have was a social night on the second Tuesday of the month. It is still going to this day.
“He always encouraged young and not so young to follow their dream and to believe ‘I can and I will’.”
Tom Doherty, former editor of the Muskerry Leader, said Mr Conway was a ‘colourful character’ who would be sorely missed: “He really was instrumental to the theatre community in the area.”
Mr Healy paid tribute to Mr Conway’s skill in putting together a performance.
“I always found it easy to approach him he gave advice and encouragement to all. He was a brilliant actor, producer and director and had great vision as to how a play would pan out on stage.
“I myself have been on stage in many of his productions and I can say it has always been a joy to do so.”
This view was echoed by amateur drama group Gunpowder Productions, who said: “It is with great sadness that we learned of the death of Charlie Conway of the Pyke Theatre Group.
“Charlie’s passion for drama was an inspiration to the Gunpowder gang, we looked forward to the Ballincollig drama festival every year. And for many of us it was our first time treading the boards.
“Charlie’s creativity and inclusivity was inspiring: he loved theatre and created a space for the arts in Ballincollig. As a writer, director and true showman he shared his talents. We will miss Charlie’s generous spirit and sense of fun.”
The sense of fun also came out on social occasions: “He was always there to get the show on the road. He would be first to say ‘I haven’t a note in my head’, but by God, could he get a session going!”
Mr Conway’s talents were not limited to performance, he was also a prolific writer.
Mr Healy said: “This man was gifted with a talent to write. He wrote poems, stories, two books and numerous plays — most of which have been performed on stage here in Ballincollig over the past twenty years.”
After many years in business Mr Conway eventually retired and moved to Shanagarry where he continued to be involved in fundraising for various events and groups. His creativity never left him, in recent years he wrote and published When Barriers Are Down, a collection of stories and monologues from his childhood.
Throughout his life, while busy with the arts and his business, Mr Conway’s life was centred around his family, with wife Benny (Abina) and their three children.
“First and foremost, Charlie was a son, a brother, a wonderful loving husband, father,and grandfather,” Mr Healy said.
He added: “Charlie you have graced many a stage, but now you are on the greatest stage where the curtain will never close. You will be greatly missed by your wonderful wife Benny and family, your wide circle of friends in drama and in life.”