For one night only, the industrial hall in Clonakilty will open it’s doors for all dance lovers

The Industrial Hall Clonakilty – the “Dancing Mecca of West Cork – Where love stories began” will throw open its doors for a Charity Dance on Saturday, 14th October with music by The Paul Kelly & Band and supported by Ger Deasy in aid of Community Air Ambulance, Ray Hayes Rehabitation Fund and the local Youth Club. Dancing from 10.00 pm to 1.30 am. Admission €20 and tickets will be available at the door.

Now that Bluett Photographer is putting up some photos taken in the Industrial Hall in Clonakilty back in the 60s and 70s, it is time to revisit the old haunt, where you met the mother or father of your children or was that someone else, I see in the photograph.

In the 1960s and 70s, love stories began in the marvellous dance halls in West Cork, there was the Industrial Hall in Clonakilty, the Lilac in Enniskeane, the Boys Club in Bantry, Crowley’s Hall Union Hall and we won’t forget the marquees at the Festivals of West Cork and Festival of the Carberies with the poles in the centre of the dance floor and the sided tied down by rope on the outside with little or no toilet facilities.

These were wonderful places – full of hopes and dreams, full of music and song, full of youth and vitality, noise and energy. And if you didn’t meet your dream boat tonight, there was always next week.  Anticipation and hope lit up the dull days in between.

Clonakilty with it’s crystal ball shining on the beautiful dance floor, girls on the left hand side under the arch and the men on the right. When the band took to the stage at midnight there was a dash across the floor and this is where many a romance began.

Girls and boys, from all over the country, came here to dance the night away. In the 1960s they waltzed and fox-trotted to the big bands of Maurice Mulcahy and Mick Delahunty. In the lat 60s & 70s they jived, huckle-bucked and twisted to the fabulous music of all the fantastic show bands.

Your first dance, it might have taken you two hours to pluck up the courage to ask a girl to dance, but after that, the anticipation and excitement of walking into the dance hall was unequalled, Would our Mr or Ms Wonderful be there? Would we shift? The lyrics of the love songs promised us that a partner in life was the answer to everything.’ They told us that ‘You are nobody ‘til somebody loves you.’ And once we met the man or woman of your dreams we knew we would ‘live happily ever after’ – for hadn’t all The Fairy Tales told us so.

We set off to the dance hall every weekend, hungry for excitement. The girls headed straight for the Ladies Coakroom where they removed their headscarfs and coats, someone of them would have cycled in from the country, backcombed their hair and applied their ‘battle red’ lipstick.

The men wore full dark suits would head for the gent’s coakroom took out the black comb and parted the hair. Some men, in the 1950s, were known to rub goose grease onto their hair in order to style it. Later in the night this melted under the bright lights of the dance hall and it ran down their facesl

It certainly was the place to meet the girls, who used to stand in a group, known at the time rudely as the ‘cattle market’ waiting to be asked to dance. Cars were scarce back then, so many took the chance of a dance in order to get a spin home. With this chance of a dance came the chance of romance, 3 songs which was the normal set would end with the words “next dance” on many an occasion this would prove to be the start or the finish of what was, or could have been the romantic story.

Typical conversation

Will you stay on”

Would you like an orange”

Dance”, “No thank you”

Clonakilty’s Industrial Hall was built in 1913, and took it’s name as it was built as an exhibition hall to house the home industries, which were a major feature of the Agricultural shows of that era.  The hall was officially opened in 1913 by Mrs Bence Jones, wife of the then president of Clonakilty Agricultural Show, Mr Reginald Bence Jones, Lisselane, Clonakilty.

Back then in the early 70s dancing was Thursday Night in Clonakilty, Friday Night in Innishannon and Sunday was the Lilac Ballroom in Enniskeane.  In the mid 80’s, Innishannon closed it’s doors on Friday Nights, so Clonakilty took over the Friday slot and continued right up to the early 80s. The dances were run by the combined clubs of Clonakilty Agricultural Show Society,  Clonakilty Macra na Feirme, Ardfield and Rathbarry Macra na Feirme, Kilbree Tug-o-War, and St Mary’s PPU. 

Many of us, now in our 50’s can remember the Show Dance with Gina, Dale and the Champions, but it’s history goes back even further, back to our father’s and mother’s time and for some maybe their grandparents when there was a dance on show night, which was the second Wednesday in July. On the following Sunday night, there would be a scrap dance, where the left overs from the show would be consumed.  Lucky enough, there was no HSE Regulations in place then.

Maurice McCarthy, a well know historian in Clonakilty, tells the story of his uncle who was a bachelor and creamery manager in Clonakilty at the time of the scrap dances. His uncle was encouraged by the farmer suppliers to go to the show dance which he did. The following day, the suppliers were curious how he got on and this was his reply

Those that were available were unsuitable and those that were suitable were unavailable”.  That’s romance for you!

Teenage discos have come and gone in various other venues, but great credit must go to the members of Clonakilty Agricultural Show and the promotors of the Boiler who have been putting on monthly events for over 25 years.  When asked what is the secret, they say “We are all parents ourselves and we are only interested in the welfare of the younger generation, making sure that the young people can enjoy themselves, experience discos and live entertainment in a safe environment”, the discos are not for self gain, any profits go back to finance the running of Clonakilty Agricultural Show and the upkeep of the Hall and grounds”.

People can often be cynical about the Boiler when they see the young people going in with their mod clothes, but this is no different to our time, after all the mini skirt and the hot pant’s were the fashion of the 70’s.

Gone are the singles and LPs of the 1960’s and 1970’s, and so are the CDs from the 1990s and 2000’s, the sounds are now loaded down from the clouds.  Who would have thought that we had so much music in the clouds and the Industrial Hall, now known as the Boiler continues to make love stories.

Glancing through the list of names, it is amazing how many bands that played the Industrial Hall you have forgotten, there was Big Tom, Joe Dolan, Brendan O’Brien, Brendan Boyer, Margo, Derek Dean, Gene Stuart, Larry Cunningham, Roly Daniels, Dermot Hegarty, Dickie Rock, Maurice Mulcahy Orchestra, Red Hurley, The Indians, Eurovision winners Johnny Logan, Linda Martin and Sean Dunphy, Paul Little, Gina, Dale Haze, Jimmy and Tommy Swarbiggs, Johnny McEvoy, D J Curtin, Des Wilson, Samba, Jim Tobin, Brendan Shine, Jimmy Rohan and his Orchestra, Hugo Duncan, Susan McCann, Jessie, Smoke, Mike Swan and the Memories, Brendan Quinn, Sheeba – Maxi Dick and Twink, Danny Doyle, Geraldine Braddigan, Sandy Kelly, John Glenn, Denis Allen, Shaun O’Dowd, Tommy Drennan, Tarzan and the Monkeys, Art Supple, Bill Ryan and Buckshot, Des Lee, Juli and Starband, The Kaye Twins, The Farmers Showband, Jim Cantwell Big Band, Jack Ruane Orchestra, Geraldine Brannigan wife of Phil Coulter, Doc Carroll and the Royal Blues, Magic, Teddy Palmer and the Rumbleweeds, Tony Stevens, Michael O’Callaghan Big Band, Ray Lynhan, Chair O’Dorherty and his Dazzle Band, Joanne and Tequilla Sunrise, Dermot O’Brien,  Donal Ring, Johnny Regan and the Tumbleweeds, Tween, Aslan, Wolfe Tones, The Dubliners, Liam O’Reilly and Baggatelle, Paddy O’Brien, well know Cork bands Joe Mac and the Dixies, Big Stevie Lynch, and Stage 2, the list is endless and two most famous bands The Waterboys and Boyzone. I’m sure I’ve omitted a few but I hope these will bring back some memories to you all.

Few dance halls have lasted the test of time, and the Industrial Hall is still turning out romance over 100 years later

So all roads lead to the Industrial Hall, Clonakilty on Saturday, 14th October for 3 great charities. See you all there.