Callum McGuire told David Hennessy about Red Fox Theatre’s Catch of the Day, a story that features the Queen, Eamon De Valera, some nuns and a fish.
Red Fox Theatre are currently touring the UK with their Dingle- inspired play, Catch of the Day.
Described as ‘a raucous and little-bit-political play with a lot of heart, a lot of laughs’, Catch of the Day is based on an unbelievable true story.
The play tells the story of an incredible day in 1966 when a very rare and valuable sturgeon fish was caught in Dingle.
One had not been caught in 400 years and has not been caught in Dingle since that day.
But a young boy who didn’t understand the occasion threw the fish, and the fortune it was worth, back into the sea much to the horror of the whole town.
Callum McGuire, who is a producer with Red Fox Theatre as well as one of the show’s creators and an actor in the show, told The Irish World: “It’s a cracking little story.
“I couldn’t believe I had never heard this story before.
“Back in 1966 in Dingle, they caught a sturgeon, the fish you get caviar from.
“It’s a really rare fish in Irish waters. One hadn’t been caught in 400 years. One hasn’t been caught since.
“The fish is caught and everyone’s really excited and everyone’s on the pier.
“There’s a wee little lad called John Brosnan, who has jumped down inside the boat and the whole town is saying, ‘Pop it over, toss it over’.
“And he picks it up and he throws it over back into the sea.
“He gets mixed up because everyone is saying, ‘Throw it over the side’.
“He throws it back in the sea. Half the town chase after him, and the other half try and chase after this fish which is worth about €4,000 in today’s money.”
Believe it or not, the story then takes something of a political turn.
“And it turns out as well to be a royal fish which means if one is caught in Irish waters, it has to be given to the Queen of England.
“Of course, that’s not an option.
“The people of the town hatch a plan to send to Eamon De Valera as sort of two fingers up to the Queen really.
“Somehow they had a contact for De Valera in the town. They call him up and he said, ‘Thanks very much but could you please give it to the poor Clare nuns in Kenmare’.
“The nuns were expecting this fish but of course, it’s been thrown back into the sea. There is no fish.
“However, late that day, another boat comes in with an even bigger sturgeon.
“One hadn’t been caught in 400 years and one hasn’t been caught since but on one day in Dingle in 1966, they caught two.
“The fishermen are like, ‘This is the answer to our prayers. We can just send this fish to the nuns’.
“However, for political reasons, because he was incarcerated by De Valera, the skipper of the second boat obviously doesn’t want to give the fish to Eamon De Valera.
“He decides to send the fish off to London to sell for the highest price.
“The story goes that the fish did go to London. Someone did buy it but then the person who bought it gave it to the Queen of England.
“So it’s just a fantastic story.
“As miraculous as it, it’s a true story. And it’s beautiful.”
Callum’s family come from Kerry, and the play aims to educate the audience about Anglo-Irish relations and history.
“It’s been great for explaining Anglo- Irish relations.
“We use it as a vessel to educate our audiences on Anglo-Irish relations because people in Ireland would be aware but English audiences don’t necessarily know.
“A lot of people have come up to us saying, ‘I had no idea’, and that they want to educate themselves more from watching the show.
“It is a very fun night out and halfway through, we sort of pull the rug out from underneath and we do a breakdown of Irish history to the tune of American Pie.
“So it’s an upbeat tempo, but very serious subject.
“This company sells itself as children’s theatre for adults.
“It’s not forcing it down someone’s throat. It’s just explaining it.”
During the show, the actors often break character and speak directly to the audience. They have been described as reminiscent of Monty Python and Horrible Histories.
Since its launch in 2018, Catch of the Day has had an award-nominated run at Edinburgh Fringe and critically acclaimed shows in London and Oxford.
It has also had a sell-out Irish tour,
But it is probably when it returned to Dingle that the shows were most poignant as the story was developed with the community of Dingle’s support and the testimony of those who still remember the famous day in the town’s history.
“We managed to take it back to Dingle back in 2019.
“It was one of the most special performances we’ve ever done in our careers because it was just so important for the town.
“And I think what’s been lovely about doing the project is that we felt so involved in the community of Dingle.
“The guys in Kerry had a say in how the show is made.
“We’re constantly changing the show. Someone will come up to us, ‘Oh, this person was a bit more like this’.
“Or, ‘Here’s a detail of what it was like in the town at the time’.
“So it was been lovely that they felt personally invested in it as well.
“It’s their story. It’s not our story,”
Callum admits it was nerve racking to bring the play back to Dingle but has been overwhelmed to see the town take it to their hearts.
“They were so lovely and so welcoming and they embraced the show so much.
“One of the wives, Maureen Walsh, came to see the show.
“Joe Walsh, who is one of the main characters, has been gone for quite a few years now.
“She was saying it brought him back to life for her.
“It was brilliant and it was everything he was like, she was saying.
“That was, I think, unbelievable.
“And it showed us actually how important it was to tell this story and for more people to hear about it.”
The play would have to return to Dingle again for a longer run due to high demand.
“What was fantastic was that people would come and see the show and then the next day you see them again but they’re bringing their kids saying, ‘This is important. It’s important that the kids see this’.
“There was a guy who drove all the way down from Tralee, just dropped off his kids and was like, ‘They need to watch this show. I watched it last night. I’ll be back to pick them up in an hour’.
“It was fantastic.
“It’s everything we wanted it to be.”
Red Fox is touring the UK until 30 October.
It is at Garage in Norwich on 13 October, The Maltings in Wells Next the Sea on 14 October, Norden Farm in Maidenhead on 15 October, St Andrew’s Arts Centre in Gravesend on 16 October, The Hawth in Crawley on 20 October, Glassbox in Gillingham on 21 October, Gulbenkian in Canterbury on 23 October, Ventnor Exchange, Isle of Wight on 28 October and Theatres, Worthing on 30 October.
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