Louis The Man

“None could fault his personal integrity, his concern for the welfare of associates and employees and a shared loyalty that connected him with the leading people in Irish life and entertainment.”

Typically dressed in a dark blue business suit, puffing on a cigar, Mr. Louis, aka T.R. Royle, loved his work. “I must like to do what I’m doing, otherwise I wouldn’t do it.” His working days were crowded, often running to 18 hours. They generally began at 9.30 a.m. in his tidy, red-carpeted office, off a narrow passage high up in Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre.

Behind a large old-fashioned wooden desk, opposite shelves of books about theatre and opera, he would first deal with the mail. “It’s heavy.  I’m on a lot of boards.” Then came the show. “As well as the show that’s on, we’re always preparing for the next one, planning rehearsals, scenery. There are a hundred people who want to know something every day. I leave the office at 5.30 pm and come back at 8.00 or 9.00 pm for the show… when a job is done, it’s done and we’re looking to the next one. In this business, there are no hours. Time is your biggest enemy.”

He seldom took long holidays. “Three days at a time is the best I can manage and, for these long weekends, I get as much kick out of County Kerry as I would out of the Riviera.” No matter how late his day ends, however, “I always read for an hour in bed at night. I like a good fiction story, as well as anything historical. The history of the world for the past 25 years fascinates me — especially the Hitler saga. I’m amazed how it could all happen. We must be all mad and getting madder.”

While his first love was the theatre, he was also a great film enthusiast. “I see the previews privately, in the morning or early afternoon.” He also enjoyed golf, antiques (he collected china and glass), smoking large cigars and driving his Bentley. These, however, were his sole ostentations. He was charismatic, but quiet and modest. He believed in publicity, but not for himself. He knew the greats of show business, but took equal interest in the wearing properties of cinema and theatre seat materials.

Maureen Potter, Louis and Ettie: on the stage of The Royale on its closing night

Despite his success, Louis always belonged to his family. His 34-year marriage to Ettie ended only with his death. Although not the eldest son, he inherited his father’s mantle and became the family’s unofficial head after Maurice’s death in 1952. Remarked one of his sisters when he turned up to help her out with a crisis: “It was like my father walking in.” He was a devoted brother and an affectionate uncle. The seats in the Gaiety’s directors’ box, were never sold, always kept available for his brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews.