Bonniconlon’s Ballroom Boom

 In Music & Dancing

Martin Judge built The Grove in 1950 and the first dance was on the 20th May 1951, with Jack Ruane and His Band and the admission was 5s. Martin Judge bought the site for The Grove from the Loftus family who had a house there in earlier years. The sale was completed in 1952.

There were dances held there in the 1950’s and in the autumn of 1961 The Grove was closed for renovations the final autumn dance was held on the 29th October 1961 with the Rhythm Aces Show band and was re-opened on 22 February 1962 with dancing to the Des Fretwell Show Band. The occasion of the first anniversary dance was marked by a feature in The Western People of the 15th February 1963, outlining the history of The Grove from 1951 to 1961 and its ups and downs in the mid-fifties. There was a picture in the paper of the show committee and adverts from all the various business concerns in Bonniconlon and Ballina, and the show band there that night was Bobby McCaffery.

The Show bands of the day came there during the 1960’s and Big Tom and The Mainliners were there in November 1967, and the show band scene was gradually replaced by the country and Irish scene in the 1970’s and the line-up of acts appearing there for Summer Festival of 1977 in late July and early August reflected this type of music.  Houston Wells was there in early 1967 also.

1972 and 1982 were notable years because Father Michael Cleary, the singing priest, was there those years and as the by-line in The Western told, it was a night of fun for all ages as he sang and told jokes. The hall was also a venue for plays when the dramatic society was in full flow and for fund raisers for the GAA, NFA, BDA and the schools in the locality. In more recent times table quizzes and fashion shows were held there. Meetings for community development and boxing tournaments also took place, and back in 1963 Garda John McGrath organised a badminton club for the youth of the area.  After Canon James Henry’s passing in 1978 there was an auction of his effects in the Grove Ballroom.  The place was used as a community centre before the building of the O’ Hara Grove Complex in April 1983.  It was also used as an exhibition venue for the annual Agricultural Show.

The cost of the first dance as stated earlier was 5s and this increased in the 1960’s to 6s and 7s6d and the bus from Ballina via the surrounding areas of Attymass and Castleconnor cost 2s and later 2s6d, the old half-crown. Needless to say, the major annual dance was the one for the Show on Thursday and later Bank Holiday Monday in August. .

Over the years The Grove has been the exhibition area for the Show and also a number of dances are held there each year including the Show Dance, well known groups were Robert Mizzell and The Country Kings, and Keith MacDonald and the Show Band Show. Back in the early nineties, you had Declan Nerney, Brian Coll, Mick Flavin and Margo.

In 2000, the hall was renovated and a plaque was erected to the memory of the first owner Martin Judge and to all members of the Show Committee for their work in keeping The Grove going. The Managers of The Grove in the 1960’s were Paddy Moran and the late John James Greavy, and of course the late Michael Kelly and Martin Mullen will be always associated with The Grove.  Martin Judge with an address at Drumsheen Townland died in 1982.

When dancing first started, the hours were 8 – 12 and then they went on to 9 – 2am for the Show Bands. There was a major concert held there in February 1967, of ballad groups and traditional musicians and singers that reflected the popularity of the music at the time.

Other halls in the area were The Laurel in Bofield and The Emerald in Carra; the Laurel was opened in December 1938 and The Emerald in 1947/48. There were smaller halls in the village and outlaying townlands before this, in the 1920’s – 1940’s.

Goodwins Hall Ellaghbeg

There have been some interesting findings about Goodwin’s Hall in the Western People for the 1930’s and the 1940’s and 1950’s from 1931 to 1952 based on the source material that I unearthed today.

An article in the western people of the 1st October 1932 described Goodwin’s Hall as a mountain dance hall.  John Goodwin was running the hall at the time.  There was dancing there in 1931.  The guards came to the hall on a poteen raid but they did not some too often to the hall. There is reference to the dance in the hall on the 10th March 1932 and it was said that there were 100 people at the dance and they were shouting and disorderly.  The guards were not happy with the dancing hours and they should be restricted. 

The judge granted the licence in October 1932 subject to dancing ending at 11am.  It would appear that there had been a complaint made to the Guards that poteen had been served at the dance or that people had consumed poteen before coming to dance there and therefore there was an objection to the licence being granted for the 1932 – 33 season but the licence was granted and dancing went ahead for that year..

There was a dance held there in August 1947 and the address given is Kilgarvin rather than Ellaghbeg and it was 1/ to get in.  The music was provided by Sarsfields dance band.  Willie Goodwin John’s son was running the hall during the 1940’s and early 1950’s when the hall closed c. 1952.

A licence was granted for John Goodwin on the 3rd August 1935 and PJ Mulligan who owned the Estonia was his legal representative. The licence was granted for the following year on the 4th August 1936 the application notice was on the date and the 22nd September 1936 was the date that the hearing for the licence would be held in Ballina District Court.

The premises was located or situated in the townland of Ellaghbeg in the parish of Bonniconlon in the District of Ballina Court in the DED of Sallymount.  Some of the final applications for a public hall licence under the 1935 Act were made on the 18th September 1951 and on the 16th September 1952 these would have been the final years of the dancing in Goodwin’s Hall based on the facts to hand at the moment the years of dancing were from September 1931 to September 1953 in the shadows of the Ox Mountains.

Carra Halls

There were dances held in Higgins’s Hall Carra Bonniconlon since 1926 and into the 1930’s where one William Higgins applied for an extension to his hall in 1932 and there is a reference to a dance in the hall in 1934 also.

Ads do not appear for the hall until the mid to late 1940’s with a dance being held on the 13th February 1949 with the admission being 2/ and the band was Joe O’ Hora’s band from Ballina and there was a dance held there on the 11th April 1948 with the Western Star Band and the admission was 2/ also.  On the 16th November 1947 there was an All – Night Dance with the Tommie Jordan Band and his five piece dance band at that with the admission being 1/6 and the dancing commenced at 9pm.  There were lots of dances held there during the year 1947 and this was the year when the name the Emerald was given to the Hall and there are ads for a Waltzing competition and Old-time waltz competition was held in the Older Carra Hall on the 11th June 1944 and the Bonniconlon Dramatic Society featured at a Dance and Variety Concert for March the 10th 1946.  There was another concert advertised for the 4th December 1955 commencing at 8pm with the admission being 2/6 and 2/ and the proceeds were in aid of Bonniconlon GAA.

The Emerald Ballroom opened on the 15th April 1951 with the re-opening of the new modern version of what had been the earlier Carra Hall.  The owner of the Emerald was one Martin Higgins. The band that played there that night was Mattie McDonagh’s Railway tavern Orchestra from Manulla.  One of the last dances advertised there was on the 20th April 1958 and this was with Bobby McCaffrey and His Popular Orchestra.  There were numerous spot and novelty dances and admission was 4/- with dancing from 9pm to 2am.  This may well have been the last dance in the hall if we are to go by the advertisements.  There are a good few ads for the Emerald Ballroom in the early to mid-1950’s but not too many after that.  There was a dance held in the Emerald in September 1951 and another in early July 1953 with Bobbie McCaffrey’s dance band and the admission was 2/6 and there was dancing from 9pm to midnight. Another dance was held in the Emerald on the 10th January 1954 again it was the Bobbie McCaffrey Dance band and the admission was a half crown or 2/6.the Castleconnor Sports and Feis dance was held there in the Emerald in July 1955.  Another dance was held in the Emerald Ballroom CArra on Sunday Night 27th September 1953 with music from the Michael Tuffy dance Band with the admission for 2/6 and there was dancing from 8 to Midnight.

There was an ad in the paper for the letting of the Hall in 1959 and later for its sale in early July 1959 and then there was another ad for its sale in 1964 on the 7th March 1964 and the hall closed in 1971 and it was put up for sale in 1989 and that was the end of the hall.  It still stands there today is used as a storage area.

The Laurel Ballroom Bofield

This ballroom was one of the many halls dotted around the county Mayo in rural areas when there was a much larger population in the countryside and people were very fond of dancing and had danced in the house and at the crossroads also in the case of the area here Bofield Hall or the Bofield Gaelic Club Room that first opened on the 17th March 1928. The Bofield ballroom was sold in March 1942 by Johnny Mulherin of Attymass and it had been rented for 3/2 per annum on an acre of land.  It measured 65 feet by 25 and had a corrugated iron roof with stone and mortar on the walls.  There were lavatories and cloakrooms and a supper room in the hall.

The Laurel opened on the 25th December 1938.  Jerry Corcoran played there with his five piece band and it was 2s to get in and dances would be held there for the next fourteen years.  The dancing was from 8 -12 in accordance with the regulations pertaining to granting a licence for dancing in  Public places first enacted in 1935 by the Government to regularise the dancing industry.

Dances were held there during the 1940’s and during the harsh years of World War two or the Emergency as it was called, and there was an Old Time Waltzing competition held there in 1942 and during those years.  There was a two act comedy and variety concert held in the Laurel in early June 1945 and it was 2s to get in and there was a dance after the concert.  These concerts were held during Lent and indeed regularly during the year to raise funds for parish associations and projects with a dance held after the concert – these concerts were called variety concerts and there was a play staged by the local drama group or else by a vising group.

The Laurel Ballroom was located in Carracrom at Bofield Cross. Dances were held on the Sunday night and generally ran from 8pm to 12am and there were all – night dances that ran from 9pm to 2am.  The Laurel was owned by the Loftus family who lived in a cottage at Bofield Cross just across the road from where the Ballroom was located.  Both James Loftus and his sons were talented musicians and they played under the name The Humming Bird.  They formed the band in the early 1950’s and played in the hall.

It proved a popular dance venue with buses bringing crowds from surrounding areas.  Bands from Castlebar also played there.  When funds were needed for the restoration of the curates residence in Bonniconlon in the early 1950’s a concert was held in the ballroom.  The entertainment consisted of music, song dance and drama.  There was a dancing troupe from Ballina while the Bonniconlon Dramatic society performed After Hours and Swan Song which were both well received.  Along with the Old Time waltzing competition the variety concert was held regularly in the Laurel to raise funds for different associations in the parish and the general area.  Ballina Boxing club held a boxing tournament in the Laurel in February 1942 and it was very successful according the report in the Western People.

The Hall closed in the early 1950’s around 1955 and was demolished in 1990.  The bands that played in the Grove included Jerry Corcoran, Tommy Jordan, Jimmy McCaffery and Dick Prendergast and other bands in Ballina that played there were The Danny Hill Orchestra, The Mocking Bird and Jimmy Jordan a 5 – piece all girls’ band also played there a few times they were the Tina O’ Malley band and coming near the end of the dance hall  years the Loftus family formed a four piece dance band consisting of the Loftus Brothers and their cousin they had the accordion, the fiddle and drums.  The hall could hold 400 – 450 persons on a good night and it is believed that it closed in the early 1950’s and this is shown by the fact that there were dances held there in September 1952 and there was a concert held there in the late 1950’s also but no ceilis were held there it was all ballroom dancing with the fox trot, quick step and old time waltz..

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