Gavan was joined by Historian and host of the Three Castles Burning Podcast Donal Fallon to discuss the Monaghan Asylum Opera this week.
In recent weeks, an Opera has taken to the stage of the Abbey Theatre, telling the unlikely story of an Asylum in Monaghan which was taken over by its staff - who proclaimed a Soviet. The hospital still exists in Monaghan today - but the event, mostly forgotten until brought back to the stage, was international news in its day.
They are exciting times in the Abbey Theatre - with some new faces, like Executive Director Mark O’Brien, brought in from the thriving Axis Theatre in Ballymun. The reopening of our theatres in recent times - like the return of live music - brought a degree of normality into our lives, of course time will tell how much of that remains, but a return of bums to seats in the National Theatre lifted spirits.
And amidst the programming of recent weeks was Elsewhere, which told the story of the so-called ‘Monaghan Soviet’ - predating the more famous takeover of Limerick City, what occurred in Monaghan in late January 1919 was the first significant such event in Ireland - and, as we will hear today, it was news internationally, with plenty of exaggerated headlines on the other side of the Atlantic.
Against the backdrop of world events, words can enter popular usage. Depressingly,Merriam-Webster gave the 2020 word of the year to 'Pandemic', as did dictionary.com.
But, in the world of late 1917, 1918 and onwards, one of the words that had entered mainstream consciousness - and which was bandied about on all sides - was Soviet. As a noun, it means “an elected local, district, or national council in the former Soviet Union.” Some in the press spoke with fear of the idea of ‘Soviets’ emerging amongst disgruntled workers, but others used the word positively - from the Labour Party to the unions.