Do you remember the 'hops' in tennis pavillion?
A CAR park now stands where the old tennis pavilion used to be located in Castlebar. When we were growing up it was not for tennis we went to the hall but for the evening ‘hops’, writes Tom Gillespie.
These were supervised dances for young teenagers where the latest records were played on a record player located in the kitchen and relayed though loud speakers to the avid dancers in the hall.
The Beatles, The Dave Clarke Five, Herman’s Hermits, Cliff Richard and The Shadows, Roy Orbison, Elvis Presley, The Tornados, Gerry and The Pacemakers, The Searchers, Brian Pool and the Tremeloes, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, The Bachelors, Cilla Black, Peter and Gordon, The Animals, Manfred Mann, The Kinks, Sandie Shaw, The Rolling Stones, The Righteous Brothers, Tom Jones, The Seekers, The Hollies, the Walker Brothers, Spencer Davis Group, The Troggs, The Beach Boys, Procol Harum, Scott McKenzie and not forgetting Dave, Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich were some of the artists featured.
The teenagers would bring along their own records and proudly have them played for the hundred of so youngsters in attendance.
Only the older teenagers were allowed in the kitchen and participated in the selection of what would be played on the night. To be in this circle was vitally important as you could have the favourite record of someone you fancied played and be out on the floor in time to ask her to dance before the record went on the turntable.
Fr. Charles O’Malley oversaw the proceedings and ensured that couples did not get up to anything untoward, like dancing too close to each other or, God forbid, stealing a quick kiss.
The boys lined up at one end of the hall, the end closest to Pavilion Road, while the girls occupied the other end.
Each dance would consist of three records, or singles as they were called. When the first song began the boys approached the lines of young women and bravely asked them to dance.
Often, if you were not quick enough, the lady you fancied could already be on the dance floor, having been approached by a more nimble suitor.
There was no such thing then as dates. You went to the hop and took your chances. It was a game of cat and mouse if you wanted to get a court. This involved having the courage in the first place to ask a young lady outside. Such a move would have had to be done with strict precision to avoid Fr. O’Malley’s intervention.
The trick was to finish the dance and both pretend to go to the toilets, which were located just inside the main door, the gents on the left and ladies on the right. Successfully outside, you took the young lady to the side of the pavilion - the then entrance to Celtic Park – and, avoiding the drain on the left, you got a quick kiss and a cuddle before sneaking back unnoticed onto the dance floor.
It was all very innocent and on the walk home you had to be on the lookout for Fr. O’Malley’s car as he patrolled the streets in search of any potential courting couples.
We knew his routine and the routes he would take so we would hide until he passed and then proceed towards our homes. All the lads in our group from the Marian Row/St. Bridget’s Crescent area would walk all the girls home as far as the Newport Road.
As we got older we attended the Tuesday night ceili in the pavilion given by my late mother-in-law-to-be, Dot Redmond. She also held Irish dancing classes in the pavilion having started out many years earlier in the Foresters Hall which was in Market Square where the County Cleaners now stands.
Earlier on Tuesday evenings we had FCA training in the military barracks, which we attended in full FCA uniform and heavy boots together with your .303 rifle. We were in those days allowed bring the rifles home with us but we had no access to ammunition, thankfully.
Inside the tennis pavilion we lined all the rifles up against a wall and eagerly got into the swing of the ceili. The sound of our Fifth Motor Squadron’s heavy boots on the floor vibrated all the way down to the Mall and after two or three rounds of the ‘Walls of Limerick’, the heavy uniforms had us sweating. It was not a pretty sight.
On a Sunday afternoon The Leaders Showband - Jimmy Deacy on drums, Joe Bernie (saxophone), Bob Madden, guitar, Stephen and Paddy Jordan on guitar - practised in the pavilion.
Their manager was my colleague in The Connaught Telegraph, the late P.J. Hennelly. He later managed Nan (Monaghan) and The Jets who played relief band in all the surrounding dancehalls for all the big showbands of that era.
P.J., a native of Manulla, Castlebar, was advertising manager with The Connaught Telegraph and was president of Castlebar Chamber of Commerce for a period.
In August 2005 The Leaders reformed for a one-night-only reunion as part of the McHale Road 70th birthday celebrations.
The committee, under the chairmanship of Bridie O’Connor, Johnny Mee, PRO, and committee members Marie Brinklow, Kevin Guthrie, Margaret Deacy and Chris Kilcourse, organised a memorial weekend.
But getting back to the tennis pavilion, the premises was also used to accommodate the youth club, the ramblers club, jumble sales, pioneer socials, whist drives, sales of work, public meetings and, of course, the tennis club, along with all the other tennis activities.
Construction of the tennis pavilion was started in 1951 and completed in early 1952 and the building was demolished 60 years later, almost on the anniversary of when it first opened.
The main contractor was Tom McHugh of Newtown, father of the late Tony McHugh, and practically all the material used was sourced locally.