The Grove Ballroom Bonniconlon a step back in Time with James Reddiough
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.
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 August Bank Holiday Monday.
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.
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.