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Richard Lynch, I Love Limerick sat down for an exclusive interview with legendary comedian Paschal O'Grady about his success during the 1950s to the 1970s as one half of famous Limerick comic duo Tom & Paschal. Picture: Olena Oleksienko/ilovelimerick Richard Lynch, I Love Limerick sat down for an exclusive interview with legendary comedian Paschal O'Grady about his success during the 1950s to the 1970s as one half of famous Limerick comic duo Tom & Paschal. Picture: Olena Oleksienko/ilovelimerick

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WATCH Paschal O’Grady celebrates the enduring legacy of Limerick comedy legends Tom and Paschal

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Richard Lynch, I Love Limerick sat down for an exclusive interview with legendary comedian Paschal O’Grady about his success during the 1950s to the 1970s as one half of famous Limerick comic duo Tom & Paschal. Picture: Olena Oleksienko/ilovelimerick

Paschal O’Grady speaks with I Love Limerick reflecting on the enduring legacy of Limerick comedy legends Tom and Paschal

Richard Lynch, I Love Limerick sat down for an exclusive interview with legendary comedian Paschal O'Grady about his success during the 1950s to the 1970s as one half of famous Limerick comic duo Tom & Paschal. Picture: Olena Oleksienko/ilovelimerick
Eukaria, Paschal’s daughter, Richard Lynch, I Love Limerick, Paschal O’Grady, and his wife Marie. Picture: Olena Oleksienko/ilovelimerick

The enduring friendship between Limerick’s Paschal O’Grady and Tom O’Donnell blossomed into a comedic partnership known as ‘Tom and Paschal’ that spanned almost five decades and was a journey of laughter and success as they became legends in Limerick, Ireland, and beyond.

Paschal met his future comedy partner when he joined the Boy Scouts. Tom was his Scout Master, and the two initially joined forces in the world of theatre when Tom began setting up plays in St John’s Pavillion; setting the stage for the legendary comedy duo. Slowly but surely, their local popularity soared to national and even international heights, solidifying their status as a dynamic comedy pair.

Paschal told Richard Lynch of I Love Limerick the story of how the two came to work together, saying, “In the scouts, we used to do what they call an indoor rally and then you have the outdoor rally, which was all running and racing, but they had entertainment in the indoor rally. And Tom picked me out, and I was chosen to act in this play called ‘The Stolen Prince’ and I came out very well in that. “Tom had a dance, and fair dues Tom was a great organiser, he had great ideas, and he got this idea of a dance, we performed in St. Michael’s and one night, Tom called me out for a funny Christmas parade. We were all dressed up as various people and he raised quite a bit of money. Then he raised more money, and then to get the dance going.”


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Paschal explained the dance became so popular that people would be locked out if they hadn’t arrived on time, saying Tom “had this thing for getting things going”. From there Paschal said he was chosen to play a comedic part in a pantomime organised by Tom which lasted for three years before “Tom decided we should do our own show and we called it ‘Christmas Crackers’.

‘Tom & Paschal’s Christmas Crackers’ became a festive tradition that started in the Mechanic’s Institute. The ‘Christmas Crackers’ eventually made its way to Jack Bourke’s City Theatre taking to the stage for incredible six-week runs. The duo broke the national scene on New Year’s Eve 1961 when they made their RTÉ debut, becoming the first comedic act to perform on the station. Tom and Paschal appeared on that very first night in a show called Céad Míle Fáilte. This was followed in 1965 by regular performances in a Country and Western show, Jamboree, which featured artistes like Maisie McDaniel.

Their much-loved brand of slapstick humour and sketches captured the hearts of viewers across the nation. One of their iconic sketches involved the portrayal of two endearing characters, Kathleen and Noreen, or as they say in their Limerick brogue, “Kattie and Nonie”, two elderly women from Limerick. The characters were created on a whim as one of their shows in the Mechanic’s Hall ended earlier than expected and the two grabbed the women’s clothing and a pram showing their true comedic genius. The simplicity and relatability of these characters endeared them to audiences, both in Ireland and abroad.

Speaking about the impact TV had on their career, Paschal reflected, “Well, it did a lot. It did a lot. But I think we missed a lot of opportunities, we should have pushed it more. We travelled on our success rather than our potential. I still maintain we were the Morecambe and Wise of Ireland, if we had pushed it.”  

Paschal O’Grady had the honour of playing Carnegie Hall as one half of famous Limerick comic duo Tom & Paschal. Picture: Olena Oleksienko/ilovelimerick

The 1960s saw many more milestones for Tom and Paschal, with the two accomplishing what many only dream of, playing venues like the Royal Albert Hall in London, topping the bill for seven nights at The Theatre Royal in Dublin in 1962 and playing Carnegie Hall, not once but twice.

The first time the Limerick men took to the stage of Carnegie Hall, New York, they played on St. Patrick’s Day after renowned promoter Bill Fuller, invited the two to perform in front of thousands, including many Irish expats and these performances were met with acclaim.

“I don’t know, I just went out and did it,” said Paschal saying playing one stage is like playing another, he continued, “I enjoyed it, like, that’s it. Yeah, it didn’t hit me and peculiarly enough, one of the reasons that we got to Carnegie Hall was because Shannon Airport became the first duty-free airport you know.” Despite the calling of New York and fame in the United States, the duo remained true to their roots, honouring local commitments, shows, events, and fundraisers. Their dedication to the local community was exemplified by performing at a parish council event in West Clare after the incredible Carnegie Hall performance.

Paschal said playing in Ireland, “was important to us” and that “there are only a few Carnegie Halls.” He explained as comedy moved on into the 1980s the work dried up and he had “a few jobs” on the side which were paying well for the time noting he drove for Easons saying, “I was actually doing better working for Eason sthan show business at this stage.”

He looks back on the golden years full of pride, nostalgia and love and shares some advice to people saying, “Don’t change, for Christ’s sake, don’t change. I mean be human and just do what you feel like doing so long as you’re not injuring anybody or hurting anybody. Everyone should be who they want to be.”

Find out more about Tom & Paschal
Read more Limerick Comedy stories

Richard is a presenter, producer, songwriter and actor. He was named the Limerick Person of the Year (2011) and won an online award at the Metro Éireann Media and Multicultural Awards (2011) for promoting multi-culturalism online. Richard says that the ilovelimerick.com concept is very much a community driven project that aims to document life in Limerick. So, that in 20 years time people can look back and remember the events that were making the headlines.