Appeal to revive historic Savoy Cinema organ

AN appeal went out yesterday for a combined Cork/Limerick effort to revive a major part of Cork’s entertainment heritage on the banks of the Shannon.

The huge organ which stood in the Savoy Cinema on Cork’s Patrick Street is now reposing in full grandeur in the University of Limerick Concert Hall, ready to take centre stage again at music events.

But since it was reconstructed in the UL Concert Hall some years ago it has remained mostly unused and is now unplayable and requires a huge overhaul.

Kinsale organist Vincent McCarthy helped restore the great Compton organ after it was taken out of the Savoy in Cork.

Mr McCarthy, who is the organist at St John the Baptist Church in Kinsale, said: “I went up to UL last October and it was unplayable. All it needs is to bring a Compton engineer from Britain for two days to get it going and we could have tremendous times ahead at UL Concert Hall with choirs from Cork and Limerick. We want to push this from the Cork end and all it needs is for somebody at UL to take responsibility for it.”

The story of its journey from the banks of the Lee to the shores of the Shannon reads like a novel.

When the Savoy opened in 1932, it was the most luxurious of all Cork cinemas and had by far the greatest spectator capacity, with seats for almost 2,250 patrons.

Pre-screening singalong shows proved popular with Sunday night audiences. Fred Bridgeman played the organ, which rose dramatically from the floor. The audience sang to the music as the words were displayed on glass plates painted by artist Gladys Leach.

The development of television and a decline in attendances at cinemas hastened the closure of the Savoy Cinema. The departure of Fred signalled the end of the era of the cinema organ and the grand sing-a-long shows. In July 1973, the Savoy cinema closed. The Savoy centre, incorporating a shopping mall and a concert hall, opened in 1977.

All the artefacts were sold except the mighty organ. As it took up so much space – it has 1,200 pipes – very few places could accommodate it.

Russell Wynn, who had bought Kilbrittain Castle acquired the Compton and was aiming to install it in the castle. But he died when his aeroplane crashed near Carrigaline.

The then president of UL, Dr Edward Walsh heard about the organ from Mr McCarthy.

Dr Walsh said: “It is a remarkable asset to UL and Limerick.”


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