Nan Denning was born in Castlebar during 1934. Her father was Jack Denning, her mother Mary, she was granddaughter of Andrew Bathgate. She was always a Singer! The story of her singing career began as she walked age fourteen years old along Mc Hale Road while she sang in a world of her own! She was overheard by Tony O’Grady, Manulla he enquired if Nan would sing in his band that comprised of John Lally (Saxophone) Toddy Buckley and Gerald Ralph (Drums), with Tony himself on accordion. Nan was married to Mick Monaghan for over 57 years they lived at St. Bridget’s Crescent, Castlebar. They had one daughter plus one son.
Nan’s first gig was at Eclipse Ballroom in Ballyhaunis with her opening number “Buttons and Bows.” She performed in a band called “Nan and the Jets” also with Brose Walsh Band. From there began a long talented career that brought Nan from dance halls to a Castlebar Pantomime stage. Nan stepped in at short notice when the lead Singer was ill to another band where she met Mick Monaghan, (Drummer). Nan Monaghan composed “My Home Town Castlebar” for the Castlebar International Song Contest during 1961.
Nan was involved with many organizations in Castlebar town especially as a presenter on Castlebar Community Radio weekly, CRC – fm (Monday to Wednesday slots.) She was a committee member for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, in fact on many occasions acted as an adjudicator. She was described as “The Queen of Castlebar without the Crown.”
Nan’s pantomime life began when she joined her sisters, Angela and Irene during the 1960’s on stage. She was a tireless, committed committee member of Castlebar pantomime committee, whether on collection duties, obtaining sponsorship or adjudicating at auditions. Nan Monaghan looked after all the little children within the ranks of pantomime during rehearsals plus at all performances. She offered encouragement and praise until her reluctant retirement in 2009. Nan called herself “The Elder Lemon” but to committee, cast and crew she was always the “Queen of Panto.” Nan is synonymous with Pantomime her famous “Sit back, relax, enjoy Castlebar’s Production of…”will always resound within the Royal Theatre of Castlebar for all who had the pleasure to have known her.
Unfortunately Nan died after an illness at Abbey Breaffy Nursing Home, Castlebar during 2011.
In the Connacht Telegraph edition of 24th September 2019 by Jaybee’s Corner, page 34; Nan is mentioned as a‘songwriter, a lady with a wonderful voice & a personality to match.’
Tom Gillispie in the Connacht Telegraph issue of 6th October 2019 page 34. in his Memories of Castlebar Song Contest stated that ‘Fifteen songs qualified for the first Contest, with many local singers performing including sisters Nan Monaghan & Angela Denning’. The Prize Winners Concert was staged on Thursday night with Compare Des Keogh. Guest artists included Nan Monaghan.
Was very fortunate to have been a friend of Nan during the happy Panto days both in Town Hall plus Royal Theatre. She provided wonderful constructive advice during auditions, rehearsals plus actual performances. She ensured all young cast members overcame their nervousness on the first night of Production!
Nan was an extremely kind person, who loved her family, all people especially the young generation of her hometown.
Tom Gillespie in his article ‘The Country Town’ in The Connaught Telegraph of 14th April 2020 (page 51) has a photo of Nan singing in the T. F. Hotel during the 1960’s era of Bands playing in Mayo.
In The Connaught Telegraph issue dated 5th May 2020 (page 51): Deidre Kelly mentioned that P. J. Hennelly managed Nan Monaghan and the Jets who played with great success on the ‘relief’ circuit in Mayo.
Nan Monaghan was mentioned by Johnny Mee in his article ‘Auld Stock’in the Connaught Telegraph newspaper of 1st September 2020 on page 21 as ‘Nan was the star of many Pantomimes in Castlebar also a leading dance band vocalist’
Karen Conway, 14th February 2011
Mayo News, 15th February 2011