The Country House dances recalled by James Reddiough A Step back in Time
The country house dances were once an important part of the social calendar of the rural parts around and indeed in Ballina. They were called balls and they were held to celebrate special events in the life of the people and they were held mainly in the winter but in the summer too. They were held in the kitchen or main living room of the house at a time when there were two to three rooms in house and of course refreshments were served in what was commonly called the room above.
The country house dances were a popular form of entertainment in years gone by and the people at that time made their own entertainment in their own locales at a time when there was little in the way of the world’s goods but they knew how to have a good time.
There were three rooms in the houses at that time and the dance or ball was held in the main living room and the tea and food was served in the upper room. The people of the house would employ musicians and they would buy in food and drink ham, bread and tomatoes and jam and they would serve this to the dancers present. They would have whiskey and porter too in an eighteen or nine barrel that would do for the night and they were long all night dances in those days with people often not getting home until the wee small hours of the morning – these events were popular in the 1920’s into the 1950’s before the advent of the ballroom boom of the 1960’s and the show band era.
People in the surrounding areas would be invited to the ball and they would pay a token charge to cover the cost of the food and drink and then there would be guest too from England or America and they would be the focus of attention at the ball. Sometimes the fiddlers and the accordion players would be there playing for the people until the early hours and the music was once heard by a man in the hills looking after lambs by the water’s edge. People danced a set or half set and the old time waltz too at these country house dances.
The dances would go on all night and the young revellers would often not get home until 5o clock and they would walk if they had a short distance to come or else if they had a few miles to cover they would cycle or come by horse and trap depending on their level of affluence. They had a good night and celebrated the sense of occasion that surrounded the house dances. They existed from the 1920’s until the 1950’s and early 1960’s by which time the larger dance halls and ballrooms took over and young people travelled longer distances by car to entertainment venues in the villages and larger towns to hear the modern pop stars of the day and enjoy a drink in comfortable ambiences.
But the dance will never be forgotten by those people now in their later years and how much fun and pleasure there was in attending the country house dances. They were an important date in the social diary of the village.