Limerick Chronicle files: Adare captivates Charlie Chaplin on Irish visit

Sharon Slater, Limerick Chronicle Historian


Sharon Slater, Limerick Chronicle Historian

Charlie Chaplin and his wife Oona admiring the thatched cottages of Adare in April 1962

Charlie Chaplin and his wife Oona admiring the thatched cottages of Adare in April 1962

ADARE has always been a favourite spot for tourists to Limerick. The story of the visit in 1961 of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III of Monaco to Adare was shared in the May 5, 2018 issue of the Limerick Chronicle Saturday.

Another star of the silver screen, Charlie Chaplin, visited the village a few months later. The Chronicle of April 14, 1962, reported, “well-known former film comedian, Charlie Chaplin, and his wife Oona, overnighted in the Dunraven Arms Hotel, Adare”.

The couple were on their way to Waterville, Co. Kerry, where they intended spending a fishing holiday.

While staying in Adare, Chaplin decided to take a walk through the village where he was “besieged by the village children as he strolled along the street. He signed autographs and joked with them.”

He also enjoyed rambling “through Lord Adare’s demesnes”.

The following morning the Leader photographer caught up with them and snapped a few pictures of the couple admiring the thatched cottages of Adare prior to their leaving for Waterville.

Although Chaplin starred in his first film in 1914, he managed to star in 31 films that year alone. By September 1915, his fame was so noted in Limerick that Leonard Neville played the role of the actor in a concert at the Rink Palace, Clontarf Place.

On October 13, 1915, the Leader reported on “a great Charlie Chaplin competition” which was taking place over the previous days in the Rink Palace. The prize was to be awarded that Saturday October 16. In January 1916, once again Chaplin was being impersonated on the Limerick stage, this time by Will Merritt in the Theatre Royal, Henry Street.

This visit in 1962 was not Chaplin’s first or last visit through Limerick from Shannon Airport to Kerry. He was a repeat visitor to Waterville. A Leader reporter met them at Shannon Airport on March 27, 1970; the reporter discovered that this was Chaplin’s eleventh trip to Ireland.

During this trip, he was also scouting for a suitable location for his movie “The Freak” staring his daughter Victoria. Although this film began production in 1969, it was not completed at the time of Chaplin’s death in 1977.

While in Waterville, the Chaplin family would stay in the Butler Arms Hotel, who erected a statue in honour of the comedian on the grounds of the hotel. Walt Disney recommended the hotel to Chaplin.

When he first arrived at the hotel without reservations in the height of tourist season in 1959, they were turned away briefly at the door. Once it was discovered who the visitor was the owner of the hotel followed them at high speed down the road and ensured that the family would have a room for not only that night but for over the next decade.

Charlie Chaplin was born in to a show business family in London on April 16, 1889. His father was a vocalist and actor, his mother was an actress and singer. By the time Chaplin was ten his father had died and his mother had passed away, leaving Charlie and his brother Sydney to fend for themselves.

Chaplin followed in his parents footsteps joining a vaudeville group, Fred Karno Repertoire Company, who he accompanied to the United States in 1910.

He was an overnight success. The troop returned to the United States for a repeat performance in 1912. After his contract expired in November 1913, he was signed with the Keystone Film Company. Although he did not make his first appearance in a moving picture until the following year.

Chaplin was married four times and had eleven children. His first wife Mildred Harris was a fellow actor she was only 17 when she married the 29-year-old Chaplin. Following their divorce Harris had an affair with the future King Edward VIII. His second wife Lita Grey began working with Chaplin when she was 12.

They were married in 1924, when she was 16 and already pregnant and he was 35. They divorced three years later. His third wife Paulette Goddard starred with him in Modern Times in 1936. They secretly married that same year, she was 26 and he was 47. They separated four years later.

His fourth wife Oona O’Neil was the daughter of American playwright Eugene O’Neill. Chaplin was 54 when they married in 1943 and she was only 18. The couple remained married until his death.