01 Jul 2022

Interview with Thom McGinty, the Diceman

Gerry Moran recalls an encounter with the King of Grafton Street

Gerry Moran

Gerry Moran

This year is the 25th anniversary of the death of Thom McGinty, the Diceman, who died at the untimely age of 43.
Thom was renowned on the streets of Dublin in the ’80s and early ’90s for his outrageous costumes and poses. He was also a regular visitor to Kilkenny when Arts Week came around.
I got to know Thom over the years and interviewed him in 1990 for KCR’s Arts Show which I presented at the time.
Gerry Moran: Thom, you’re very welcome to Kilkenny. Can I ask, what you’re doing here?
Thom McGinty: Oh, we’re down here trying to terrify some of the population. I’ve been roaming around the last two days dressed as Dracula within Kilkenny and some of the places round about like Ballyragget and Thomastown.
GM: How did this performing all start for you, Thom?
TM: Well it started by accident really.
I trained in more normal aspects of theatre but when I moved over to this country I was very broke.
I thought well I’m going to have to go out there and busk but I couldn’t play an instrument and I couldn’t sing, but I knew I could give people something to look at so I stood in the Dandelion Market with my hand out literally and when people threw me money I’d thank them with a wink. I was dressed as a bizarre sort of clown and it took off from there, the public liked it and the monies were sufficient for a livelihood so this developed on from there.
GM: Is this your livelihood now? Going to festivals and standing on the street scarifying people or whatever?
TM: Well, it’s a full time occupation, yeah, but the main line of work is creating and performing, vigils for commercial promotions.
You could be working for Baileys or you could be dressed as a tube of toothpaste, the likes of Dracula, which we have down in Kilkenny and the Mona Lisa are mainly festival characters and are purely entertainment.
GM: What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you doing this?
TM: There have, at times, been all sorts of awful things but I don’t think it’s possible to say what the worst was, I mean people have tried to set me on fire, they’ve stuck different things into me, they’ve tried to stub out cigarettes on the back of my neck…..
GM: Are you serious?
TM: Oh yeah. It isn’t always malicious, people are forever prodding you, there’s a natural desire to move you because of the degree of stillness.
I used to think that people were trying to trip me up but when I acquired a minder he told me that the crowd was so close at times that they’d trip over my legs, so the minder was essential. People would start with something light and if it wasn’t stopped they’d move on to more difficult stuff.
GM: What about the man behind the costume? Who is the real Thom McGinty?
TM: Well, I’d like to think I’m different from Dracula (laughs). My work is very much a part of my life - the real me is, I don’t know, I don’t drink so much these days but I could have described myself a few years ago as a drunken, Scottish, baldy headed bowsie (laughs) ah, that could be one description of me, but the work is literally what my life revolves around.
GM: How long more can you do it?
TM: I don’t really know the answer to that but the disciplines of the act, the stillness and things like that, I do think it’s an act that you could do until you are 70 or 80.
GM: So you have two more years left?
TM: (Laughs) I hope there’s a few more than that.
GM: Where next, Tom?
TM: We’re off to the Rose of Tralee which is madness altogether. I used to hear stories about The Rose of Tralee and I thought they’re exaggerating, but you can either see it as absolute insanity or a kinda gigantic bacchanalia. I’ve treated it as a bacchanalia.

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