First Encounters: Ger Gallagher and Anne Raleigh

‘We’re naturally each other’s first port of call’

 Childhood friends Ger Gallagher and Anne Raleigh. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Childhood friends Ger Gallagher and Anne Raleigh. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Ger Gallagher is a novelist and playwright whose play, ‘Weighing In’, has been staged all around Dublin since its first performance a year ago and soon goes on tour around the country. She and Anne Raleigh have just opened The Dolmen theatre in Cornelscourt, Dublin 18. Originally from Cabinteely, she lives there with her husband Paul and daughters Jessie (21) and Eve (19)

Anne and I met on my first day in school, in St Brigid’s in Foxrock – I was put sitting beside Anne, who showed me around, introduced me to other girls. We’ve been friends since: we both have lots of other friends but we’re naturally each other’s first port of call. We have that strong bond going back to childhood.

I was away for a year of secondary school when I was 13, when my father moved to Bahrain for work. I really didn’t like it there. I lived for Anne’s letters, my only contact with home. My sister and I came home and stayed with a neighbour. Anne and I went to the Ursulines, which became Cabinteely Community School. We were very similar as children and teenagers – unfortunately, I could have done with a sensible friend!

Neither of us had any desire to go to university after school and were dying to get out and start living. I got a job in Mirror Mirror [clothes shop] on St Stephen’s Green, later worked for a property developer, then went to the Gaiety School of Acting and worked in theatre for a while. Anne went travelling after school and I was tempted to go, but my father was terminally ill and I didn’t want to leave home. Later, we both married – I was Anne’s bridesmaid in the summer of 1991.

Even though Anne and I were terrible students, we read huge amounts from a very early age and we swap books all the time. But it wasn’t until I broke my wrist and couldn’t drive for six weeks that I began writing. I had an idea for a book, so I started writing and just couldn’t stop. Anne was the first person I gave my manuscript to. I signed a three-book deal with Poolbeg in 2005.

I’m very pleasantly surprised at the success of Weighing In, my first play to be staged. Dieting has become a national obsession; Weighing In takes a comic look at this.

Anne and I talked about doing something together over the years, and were really impressed with The Viking in Clontarf – it’s a theatre over a pub there. We decided we’d open a theatre. The Magic Carpet pub in Cornelscourt was on board from the get-go. The venture is a test of friendship, but I wouldn’t have set it up with anyone else. Anne is an incredibly loyal person, doesn’t get het up about things the way I do. We complement each other well. I nursed my mother through cancer a few years ago and Anne was very supportive. She’s the first person I’d talk to about anything.

Anne Raleigh worked in the hospitality business for most of her career and is an Amatsu physical therapist. She is the co-founder of a neighbourhood theatre, The Dolmen, over the Magic Carpet pub in Cornelscourt, Dublin. Originally from Cabinteely, she lives there with her children Simon (30), Megan (21), Mark (16) and Holly (14)

We were seven when we met. Ger had just moved into the area, started school in the middle of the year. I was minding her – and I haven’t stopped since. She lived just around the corner from me. We were two little tomboys, loved roller skating and bikes.

We were fairly wild as teenagers – there was a lot of sneaking out, a lot of babysitting when we weren’t babysitting, a lot of changing into disco gear down the laneway. We had great fun.

I went to Spain with another friend of ours after school, hung out there for a while, came home and worked two jobs – a restaurant at night and an office job in the day – to save to go back. Later I did a secretarial course and since then I’ve worked between the hospitality business – restaurants mainly– and in offices.

After coming home, I had a child with my then partner. When I split up from him, Ger and I shared a house for a while in Rathmines; my son, Simon, was about four then. I was in my early 20s and a lot of growing up was done. All my friends were very supportive and Ger was just brilliant, she’s always been there for me.

I met my now ex-husband, Robert, and got married a year before Ger. My eldest girl and Ger’s are very close in age – there’s just a couple of weeks between them. We were both living back in Cabinteely by then and when the kids were little, we shared bringing the kids to swimming and so on.

I didn’t know about Ger’s writing, but she was always fantastic with observation, very witty, very good with words so when she said she’d written a book, I wasn’t that surprised. When she gave me the manuscript of her first, I liked it, thank God. And Weighing In spoke to me.

We’re hoping to increase the footfall to the Magic Carpet pub: people around here have a soft spot for the “Maj” . Bringing theatre to the local community is just fantastic. There’s been lots of goodwill from the theatrical community, we wouldn’t have been able to do this without them. I’m loving it, enjoying meeting all these fabulous people who are coming out, giving us their time. Through all my life, Ger has had the incredible knack of knowing what I need at the right time. She’s the most generous person I know.

The Dolmen Theatre in Cornelscourt opened on January 12th with No Smoke Without Fire starring Love/Hate’s Mary Murray. Weighing In by Ger Gallagher opens on January 26th, and 44 Seville Place by Peter Sheridan on February 9th.

dolmentheatre.ie

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