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Billa O'Connell's memories of Cork

Billa O'ConnellFor over 60 years Billa O’Connell has been entertaining crowds in Cork city and county.  This page will display scripts composed by Billa over many years, which give his insight into different aspects of Cork’s social history.

Billa O’Connell was born on 25 December 1929, the youngest of six children,  to William and Julia O’Connell of the Lough, Cork city. Billa is synonymous with pantomime in Cork and first appearance goes back to 1947 in the Fr Leary Hall on Bandon Road. Ancient Order of Hibrnians Hall on Morrison’s Island was also a venue which bore witness to Billa in pantomines for many years.

His career ambition was to perform in Cork Opera House. The chance came in 1955 but was scuppered by the fire which destroyed the Opera House in the same year. Two decades later Billa would become a regular feature on the Opera House stage in the annual Summer Revels shows. Accompanied by other well known names of Cork musical theatre including Michael Twomey, Frank Duggan, Paddy Comerford, Dick Healy, Marie Twomey, David McInerney and many more, the Revels Billa O'Connell Summer Revels '90shows proved hugely successful running for twenty-one years. Pictured to the left is an image from Billa performing in the 1990 Summer Revels show. Billa also become a regular feature in the Opera House pantomime over the years.

‌Away from the stage, Billa spent thirty years working as a sales rep for Beamish and Crawford. He entertained the crowds of Cork for every All Ireland homecoming over the past thirty years and has been an entertainment manager for acts including Joseph Locke, Eamon Kelly and Dermot O’Brien.

Billa’s contribution to the cultural life of Cork has not gone unrecognised. In 1996 he was conferred with an honorary MA from University College Cork and in June 2013 he was honoured with the Freedom of Cork city.

Billa O'Connell donated his set of monolgues to Cork City Libraries in May 2012. Below one can explore his memories of life in Cork and of a significant event in the city's recent history.

                                                               Select links below to view monologues

                   The Blind Boy                                                                              The Burning of the Opera House
                   Down Memory Lane                                                                      The Hooley in Ballyphehane
                   Oh, What Will Become Of Us                                                         St Patrick's Night in Heaven

Opera House Fire 1955
The burning of the Opera House in 1955, an event recalled by Billa O'Connell in his monolgues above