There were a few venues in Camp Street where people gathered for entertainment and fellowship. One of these was the old boat house (where the Anglers Lodge is now, on the river bank). We gathered there as youngsters and spent many a summer evening on the grassy bank. Old and young came there for relaxation and as the adults chatted we collected the gray daub, or marl, from the bank and we made cups and saucers and plates and left them to dry on the rocks. They hardened like pottery and kept their shape and we played with them until the rain came and “melted” them down.
Then there was the Hibernian Hall opposite Mrs Coyne’s house. That was mainly for the upper classes and only men were allowed in. They paid an annual fee of about 30 shillings and they played snooker and billiards and cards there in the evenings. It was build and run by the Monahan brothers.
Further down the street there was a dance hall. It was a shed beside the house where John King was born and reared. (Today it is the hostel bike rental place.) It was called the Silver Slipper and John was the manager. Dances were held there only on St. Patrick’s night, St. Stephen’s night, Easter Sunday, and an occasional Sunday during the year. There was no dancing at all, of course, in Lent. The music was supplied free by the local musicians Teddy McGauley, Martin Joe Connor, Jackie Kinnevey, Paddy Gerrity and John Bartley. John Bartley (Walsh) was father of Bernie, grandfather of Gerald D’Arcy (who plays in the Corrib and the Lake), and great grandfather of Eanna D’Arcy, who was a budding musician on the tin whistle.
In the Silver Slipper we danced to Ceidhli music, waltzes, Siege of Ennis, barn dance one-step, and foxtrots. And we were strongly advised to keep our distance. There was no such thing as “belly dancing”. Lux flakes were scattered on the floor to make it slippy and easy for gliding and water was sprinkled to keep down the dust. There was no shouting on the way home. On the contrary, we crept along so neighbours wouldn’t hear us and we sneaked into our houses so our parents wouldn’t hear. One hazard was the bucket of fresh water inside the door of the house. If you tripped over that all hell broke loose.
The barracks Hall
The barracks Hall was another place of entertainment in the 20s and 30s. Travelling companies came to put on dramas and to show pictures. The parents of “Stephen Brennan” from Glenroe were regular performers. It was great value at sixpence in the old money. This was the winter entertainment and helped us through the dark days. In the summer Duff’s Circus came to Burns’ field where Cleggett’s house is now and a smaller section of it came to Tommy Molloy’s field in Camp Street. It cost 4p to get in.
John Finnerty’s cart shed
We had a Choral Society in Camp Street in John Finnerty’s cart shed. All the youngsters would collect there on a Sunday afternoon between 2 and 6. We’d sit on the cart and Kate Finnerty would lead us in songs like cockles and mussels, Skibbereen, and The Lakes of Coolfin, Ballyjamesduff and Sean O Farrell. Eventually John Finnerty would get tired of the choral performance and he’d get rid of us by throwing a couple of big stones on the tin roof. It sounded like thunder. We scattered like rabbits. But we were back again on the following Sunday.