Tributes paid to legend of theatre Michael Twomey

Cha and Miah legend Frank Duggan has paid an emotional tribute to his friend and comedy partner of 44 years, Michael Twomey, who has died.

Mr Twomey, who first trod the boards of Cork Opera House at the age of 11 and who acted, wrote, directed, and produced over a remarkable theatre career spanning six decades, died in Bon Secours Hospital in Cork yesterday following a short illness. He was 84.

Mr Duggan, who played the gormless Cha alongside Mr Twomey’s know-it-all coat- and cap-wearing Miah, said Cork and Irish theatre has lost a legend.

“I am devastated. It’s the end of an era,” he said.

“He was a remarkable talent, with an incredible ability to hone comedy, to timeframe a joke.

“We were just two old guys solving the world’s problems. Cha was a bit of an eejit but Miah knew everything, even though half the time he was talking through his hat, but I didn’t have the wit to know the difference. We just had that ability to be able to spark off one another.

“And the Cork accent, the butt of jokes around the country, was an incredible asset to us.

“But there was an incredible depth to his abilities. He was also a writer, a director, a producer, and an adjudicator. He had a tremendous sense of the theatre. He was a perfectionist and a great friend, and he will be missed.”

Mr Duggan said among the highlights of their career together was receiving a Jacobs Award for comedy in the late 1970s, and being conferred with the Freedom of Cork in 2013.

After years of acting, Cha and Miah were ‘born’ in 1969 when RTÉ broadcaster Bill O’Herlihy was doing a voxpop on the dangers of smoking. Mr Twomey donned an old coat and hat for a skit interview, and coughed profusely as he explained how smoking 80 cigarettes a day had no effect on him whatsoever.

When Frank Hall asked Mr Twomey to do a slot on his Newsbeat show, Mr Duggan was drafted in to play Cha and a legend was born.

They became household names through their weekly slot on Hall’s Pictorial Weekly until 1982, making their last appearance as the comedy duo in 2012.

The chairman of the board of the Everyman Theatre, Denis McSweeney, said Cork and Ireland have lost a cultural giant.

“For over 70 years, Michael ‘bestrode the stage like a colossus’,” he said.

“He was the most valued elder statesmen for those of us privileged to serve with him on the board of the Everyman Palace, always guiding, sometimes goading us in the optimal direction.”

Lord Mayor Cllr Tony Fitzgerald described Mr Twomey as a legend of theatre, while former lord mayor Cllr John Buttimer — who conferred the Freedom of the City on Mr Twomey, Mr Duggan, and Billa O’Connell in 2013, in recognition of their lifetime contribution to theatre, arts, drama, and song — said he was honoured to have been able to recognise Mr Twomey during his lifetime.

Mr Twomey is survived by his wife, Marie, and their children, Sharon, Laura, and Des. Funeral Mass will be held in St Michael’s Church, Blackrock, at 1pm tomorrow with cremation afterwards at the Island Crematorium, Ringaskiddy.


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