Declan Mangan: 'I don’t know if I’m the oldest but I’m definitely the prettiest' after 53 years in Panto

He’s been listening to the old refrain, “He’s behind you” for more than half a century.
Declan Mangan: 'I don’t know if I’m the oldest but I’m definitely the prettiest' after 53 years in Panto

Declan Mangan has been the man — albeit in drag — behind the annual Killorglin pantomime for a record 53 years.

And although he doesn’t claim the title of being Ireland’s longest serving panto dame, he’s not aware of anyone else who’s been doing it for quite as long.

“I don’t know if I’m the oldest — there could be someone up in Donegal I don’t know about — but I’m definitely the prettiest,” says Declan with pride.

“If there is anyone older, they must be fairly haggard at this stage.”

Declan was only 14 when he first joined the panto in 1958, when he played the witch in Snow White and the Seven Cromane Men.

Now, he as he turns 72, he writes, directs, and produces the annual panto. This year’s effort, he says, is a collaboration between himself and Puccini.

In the summer, when he’s not involved in panto, he’s busy as the manager of the Puck Fair.

Back in 1958, he recalls it was his father who gave him the nudge to put his name forward.

Declan Mangan with co-stars Jack Healy and Michaela O Sullivan
Declan Mangan with co-stars Jack Healy and Michaela O Sullivan

He returned the following year to star in Ali Baba and two years later for Simple Simon in 1961 before the pantomime became an annual fixture in 1965.

“I tend to stick very much to the traditional tale. As long as you have a strong storyline the gags can be fitted in along the way,” he reveals.

“We had difficulty getting a magic carpet but we got some help from the Dáil. They were throwing out their old carpets recently.”

The only person with a record almost as long as his is Declan’s wife Anne, who looks after the costumes.

This year’s panto, Ma Dame Butterfly, will run in the CYMS in Killorglin from Saturday until January 24 and the proceeds go to St Joseph’s Nursing Home. The show will then go to the INEC, Killarney, on January 31.

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