Marie O’Donovan in action as Leeside legend Katty Barry at the Cork Arts Theatre.

'She'd find a way, so she would!'

Many of us look for signs, something to reassure us to keep us going, and for Leeside playwright Marion Wyatt, the sign came in the form of a newspaper cutting of Cork legend Katty Barry inexplicably falling to the floor during dark and challenging times.

“It startled me,” explains Marion. “So, I took a deep breath. My eyes came to rest on a Post-It above my desk that read, ‘I haven't come this far, to only come this far’.”

Marion’s latest play 'Katty Barry, Queen of the Coal Quay' was a week into rehearsals when Covid struck and put a halt to proceedings.

The date of the premiere was then moved to December for ten sold out performances at the Cork Arts Theatre, however, Covid struck again and all but ended any hope of the play seeing the light of day.

“Three days into rehearsals and we had to stop. Covid again! Emotionally and financially drained we were now in a dark place and realised too that theatres would be dark places for the foreseeable future.”

Katty, who passed away in 1982, was a well-known figure on Leeside and ran a popular food house on D’Alton’s Avenue off the Coal Quay until it was closed in the late '60s. She illegally served alcohol there despite having no licence to do so!

“She was a force to be reckoned with, tenacious and bold. I had to persevere and find a means to celebrate Katty Barry, honour my commitment to her family, and provide an opportunity for actors to work. I though, ‘what would Katty do? She'd find a way, so she would!’” says Marion.

After her play was shut down for the second time, Marion spoke with the artistic director of the Cork Arts Theatre Dolores Mannion and devised a plan to go ahead with the play within the Government Covid restrictions.

“Directing the play, as in staging the production, within social distancing rules, holding rehearsals and meetings over Zoom, was challenging, but it was interesting to explore alternative ways of directing, collaborating, and creating.

“We circumvented several obstacles and ran the risk of financial loss, but we finished what we set out to do: celebrate the legend that was Katty Barry, Queen of The Coal Quay,” adds Marion.

‘Katty Barry, Queen of the Coal Quay’ will be streamed online from 12-14 February. Tickets are €15.

For more information and to book tickets, visit