We clear up a Cork cinema mystery... in our Throwback Thursday

In the ‘50s, kids watching cowboy films in the ‘Assems’ used to shout ‘Georgie, remove the bodies!’ What was the origin of the chant? JO KERRIGAN finds out
We clear up a Cork cinema mystery... in our Throwback Thursday

PICTURE PALACE: The old Assembly Rooms cinema - known colloquially as ‘The Assems’ - in South Mall, Cork city, in 1967.

YOU may recall that we had great discussions on this page some time back about the great days of cinema-going in Cork, and particularly the Assembly Rooms, where a certain usher called ‘Georgie’ ruled with a rod of iron.

It became the custom, during a good cowboy film, where baddies were being shot without compunction, and corpses littered the film set, for all the small boys in the audience to shout as one, “Georgie, remove the bodies!”

Every man who was young in the 1950s and frequented that iconic building on the South Mall, will surely remember the chant. It was part of the show.

But who was Georgie?

Well, we heard the other day from Mick Tobin, who describes himself as a long, long time expat from Cork (32 years now, and living in Adelaide, Australia).

“I came across your article and felt I should write to reveal that ‘Georgie’ was my wife’s grandmother’s brother!” said Mick.

“I only found this out after we were married. As a 13 year old, we (the boys) used to go to the Assem’s on Sunday, and the ‘craic’ during the cowboy films, with everyone shouting ‘Bring out/pick up the body, Georgie’, are folklore gems.”

Well, of course, we had to write back to him immediately (isn’t email great, you can get in touch with someone at the other side of the world instantly, without having to wait) to demand more detail on this folk hero’s life. Which, bless him, Mick swiftly supplied.

HIGH ART: A sculpture on the wall of the former
HIGH ART: A sculpture on the wall of the former

“His surname was O’Sullivan, and he lived on the southside (we think Ballyphehane). He was married to Dotie Brown and had three or four children.

“It gets more interesting, in that my wife’s grandma, Edith Rafferty, is actually Georgie’s half sister!”

Now how the heck could that be?

“Well, Edith’s mum was married (wait for it) three times. She was married in Portsmouth, UK, to her first husband, which is where Edith was born. He died, and she came back to Cork with Edith, and later married a Mr O’Sullivan, and had a baby whom she named Georgie (unforgettable to my generation ). Georgie also had a brother, Paddy, who lived in Dublin.”

Now there is some nice detailed material for a few of you genealogical experts to get your teeth into.

Who else can claim blood ties to the famous Georgie? And thank-you so much Mick, for sorting that out. It’s as good as the time we managed to reveal that the story of ‘jam jars for cinema tickets’ at the Lido was in fact entirely true!

Mick Tobin had more to add.

“I also came across another article (I will have to read your Thursday column regularly now) that your dad is the one and only Joey Kerrigan. He taught me in the Technical school on Parnell place in 1962/63 ( I think).

“He presented me with a book about New Zealand after I won a spelling competition in school. I read that book many times, and we actually visited New Zealand in 2011 (we left just two days before the major earthquake there, phew!).

“I treasured that book for about 40 years, but we moved house 20 years ago, and I never saw it again. But I never will forget Joey. A bit eccentric, perhaps, but what a dad/teacher/friend to have had. Keep up your good work! Corcaigh Abú,”

And other schooldays are not forgotten this week either. That great picture we ran last week of the North Mon confirmation class of 1968, not only supplied by Fintan Bloss, but amazingly, with the name of every single one of the boys therein neatly listed, drew comments from far and wide.

Countless readers have pored over that to see if they or a relative might be mentioned. Here are just two who saw with surprise and delight images of their childhood selves.

Donal Crowley wrote to say he was one of the Mon boys in that class. (That would put him in the third row, sixth from the left?).

“I would like to send my regards and thanks to Fintan Bloss for his submission with all our names remembered,” he says.

Donal also asked for contact details for his old friend, or failing that, to pass on his good wishes to Fintan. Well, we’ve sorted that for you right away, Donal, and here’s hoping you get the time to swap many old stories of schooldays. Don’t forget to share any new ones with us!

“Keep up the good work,” ends Donal.

Well, we will do that, for you and for everybody else who enjoys reading Throwback Thursday.

Robert Stephens also experienced great pleasure in reading that North Mon article.

“In particular the naming of all the boys, through Fintan Bloss. Fair dues to him for remembering all those boys! I’m the lad on the left hand side, fourth row.”

While we are remembering our childhood days, Robert goes on to say, he himself has actually written a book of poetry all about his memories of growing up in Cork.

“It’s called Covid Memories, and it was written during the lockdown, when we were out of work for the best part of a year and a half due to the nature of the industry we work in.

“While free of all the stresses and long hours working, I found lots of spare time which allowed me to write this book.”

All proceeds, he says, went to Penny Dinners for the Christmas period. Well done you, Robert.

We wonder how many other creative projects stemmed from these strange past two years. Rest assured that we are getting hold of a copy of his book and will share his memories with you right away.

Two boys in short trousers skating on The Lough, Cork, in December, 1937. The issue of when a boy progressed to long trousers is brought up again this week in Throwback Thursday
Two boys in short trousers skating on The Lough, Cork, in December, 1937. The issue of when a boy progressed to long trousers is brought up again this week in Throwback Thursday

Frank Desmond emailed to say it was funny that we should mention short pants and the age boys stop wearing them.

“Somewhere in the Evening Echo archives from back in what must be 1969, there is a picture of me (maybe even taken by Mike English, also mentioned in your page) as a spectator at some school sports event.

Why I particularly remember that picture is that one of my classmates saw it and thought it was HILARIOUS. He said people our age, now ‘grown up’, should obviously NOT wear short pants any more. Until he said that I had no such ideas about pants and their length.

“I did not actually think about ‘converting’ to long pants but I probably did do that anyway in time.”

Tom Jones writes to comment further on Dermot Knowles’ memories of being taught by the Christian Brothers.

“I honestly accept his analogy of a good, solid education provided by the efforts of the brothers in the era we speak of, all things considered.”

Tom questions, however, the idea that having it “bate into us” was accepted with resignation. Surely some must have rebelled?

Well, this writer certainly knows personally of one promising student who left Christians and took to the Tech, simply because he considered that the constant beatings were unnecessary and unjustified. There are probably many more whose academic possibilities were crushed by what was in some cases a savage regime.

Tom agrees with Dermot that some brothers could impart instruction and knowledge with solid, engaging techniques, while others could not. But, he says, on the fun side of memories, he enjoyed Mr Knowles’ memories of that mug of sugar-laden cocoa and a creamy currant bun distributed in his school the South Mon.

“I guess Blarney Street School had a smaller quota of sugar allowed,” he adds.

“Yes, we had a tin ponny of cocoa and a bun with icing of sorts on top. But I would have to employ Sherlock Holmes to find the currant in any bun I ever received in school!

“Nevertheless it was greatly appreciated, especially on a cold winter’s morn’.”

Winter in 1950s Ireland, he recalls vividly, “had a cold dampness that draped over you like a shroud, and penetrated not only your spirit but your very soul. Simply put, it could certainly do the job on a brass monkey!”

Tom was unaware of a qualification factor for this morning treat. “If there was, it certainly sounds Dickensian to me personally.”

Well, Tom, it was probably a practical and generous solution to the unavoidable fact that some poorer children came to school with very little or no breakfast, and the bun and cocoa went some way towards keeping their young bodies and souls together.

Regarding the apparent hypocrisy of the Brothers’ posture on foreign games, Tom comments that, to his recollection, the bastion of rugby lay firmly within the august institutions of Pres and Christians.

“The maxim, so we’re told, is that ‘rugby is a ruffian’s sport played by educated gentlemen’. Perhaps Dermot, being a soccer fan, can offer the countervailing part of that quotation?”

Well, Mr Knowles, over to you. Keep the soccer flag flying!

In Tom Jones’ time at Blarney Street School C.B.S in the 1950s and early 1960s, basketball, then played in the open concrete schoolyard, was there for all pupils to participate in.

“After all, what, if anything, would be grazed knees or elbows, yeah, sometimes even bloody noses, compared to the Clash of the Ash in the aspirations of the athletic youth of Ireland? (Comely ladies dancing at the crossroads would come later.)

“Indeed, many from that outset went on to represent Ireland at international level, one of whom was a friend of mine, Andrew Hoolihan. He played centre, I believe, representing Ireland on many occasions.”

Keep sending us your wonderful memories. And ladies, that means you as well as the boys of yesteryear. We get far more correspondence from the male half of the population. Now why is that?

Remedy it at once, girls of the 1950s and 60s! Email jokerrigan1@gmail.com or leave a comment on our Facebook page: (https://www.facebook.com/echolivecork)

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