Extract from A Study of Ballaghaderreen Feb/Mar, 1977 by E.Kelly, N.Flannery, L.Noone

The following recollection of a number of people to whom we spoke may help to paint an overall picture of the development of entertainment over the fifty year period, 1925-75. ‘’In the early days of the century the boys of the town would have an occasional collection for a football. More often there ball was a rag one which they kicked around the streets. They played many games, marbles or jackstones, hopscotch or rolling the hoops (this later became known as relies) and it was not unusual for them to roll the hoop as far as ‘’The Councillors’’ (The McDermott’s, Coolavin), a distance of four miles away. It would appear that these different forms of activity had their own season’s in which they were indulged in. Now and again an American visitor would take a gramophone home and it would be placed in the window sill and all the neighbours would gather around to be entertained. Rambling or ceilidhing was the order of the night. Some houses were more favoured than others, probably because they were hospitable and did not mind sharing their hearth. This was where they whiled away the hours now spent in front of the television. Card playing, swapping news, telling stories or engaging in good natured banter or planning tricks to be played on selected victims, and if the victims retaliated or pursued it only added to the fun.
Dances were of the country house variety. There was always some excuse for holding one, an immigrant coming or going, a marriage, after the harvest was gathered. The news was always passed by bush telegraph. One crowd of young men branded together and called themselves the ‘’Curlew Gang’’. When a member of the gang heard the cry of the curlew he responded and all would meet at the Square. From there to walk, often four or five miles, for a dance. Dancing every week or sometimes twice weekly was not the order of the day, as it became later in the century. A big dance like ‘’The Directors’’ in Swinford or the ‘’Christmas Dance’’ in Frenchpark was among the highlights of the season. Dancing in Lent and Advent was unheard of and indeed forbidden by the bishop until quite recently. There was very little summer dancing with the exception of Easter and August Holidays.
The ‘’Western People’’ in 1930 reported that ‘’Foxtrots and Fidgets were gone, the old time waltz is being revived and even the Lancers save for in some remote areas where the education of dancing folk has been more or less neglected.’’
The September 1st, 1934 issue of the ‘’Roscommon Herald’’ carried the following advertisement: ‘’Show dance in St. Mary’s Hall, om Tuesday, 11th September, music by Stephen Garvey, admission 3/9 including tax. Supper extra. Dancing 10 p.m.’’
St. Brigid’s Hall, a wing to St. Mary’s suffered fire damage in 1969, after which the old goods store (which was attached to the now defunct railway station) was purchased and converted into a dance hall, cum cinema, cum play house. It was called the Royal Oak. After some time the cinema operation ceased and recently the premises was rented to Mr. Joe O’Neill, Glenamaddy, who changed the name to the Midnight Club. Top bands are engaged and pack the hall beyond capacity at £1.00 per head, dances finish at 2 a.m., but never start until after the pubs close.
Pubs have changed their image too, to singing lounges. They have popular groups in to entertain their customers, who sometimes, pay a cover charge for the big groups. For those who prefer the bar as opposed to the Lounge the image has changed also, from the pub where working man went for his occasional pint of stout and stood around the counter in the sawdust or sat on forms, to the ‘lounger’ bar, where they sit around tables and pay a little extra to the singing pub where for the first time it was accepted that ladies could accompany their husbands or boyfriends. This was an easy progression to groups of young adults and often teenagers under 18 years to patronise the pub. Now the latest is the pool table in every pub, so now the boys and girls who would chase the hoop to Coolavin (had they been teenagers in 1900) chase coloured balls around a pool table with a cue at 10p a game and this during lunch break or while they await the free school bus. The children going to school now seem to have plenty of money for pool, cigarettes, and chips. They would laugh if they were told that a penny (an old one) on Sunday was the highlight of the week in the 1920’s, as told to us by one lady we interviewed. In the 50’s her own children were delighted to run to St. Mary’s Hall clutching a sixpenny bit for the matinee and maybe a penny ‘’gobstopper’’ from Baby Denby’s.