Destroyed Oyster Ballroom site will rise up from ashes

Donal O’Regan

Reporter:

Donal O’Regan

Defiant: Bernard Keogh, of Furniture Man in Dromkeen
THE FURNITURE Man store that was located in the former Oyster Ballroom – burnt to the ground at the weekend – was back open for business this week thanks to the son of the man who built the iconic dance hall.

THE FURNITURE Man store that was located in the former Oyster Ballroom – burnt to the ground at the weekend – was back open for business this week thanks to the son of the man who built the iconic dance hall.

Neilus Hayes, son of the late Packie, has given Bernard Keogh the use of a shop across the road from the famous venue in Dromkeen. An estimated €500,000 worth of stock was destroyed in the building that thousands packed in the Sixties to see the likes of Brendan Bowyer, Jim Reeves and Dickie Rock. Many met their future husband or bride in the Oyster.

Mr Keogh was “devastated” after seeing the business he built up with his brother, John, go up in flames – but is already planning for the future, and says the site of the Oyster Ballroom will rise from the ashes.

“I reopened on Monday, thanks to Neilus. We are open for business. We are not operating, obviously, on the same scale but we are open. It is not a ‘hope’ that we will rebuild, we will rebuild and most likely erect a plaque to show that it was the original place of the Oyster Ballroom. My target is next May or June,” said Mr Keogh, who is a father of five from Galway.

“We are overwhelmed and greatly heartened by the kindness of well-wishers, The amount of people that are coming to me saying, “Our parents met there” has been incredible.

“On Sunday I’d say I got more hugs and handshakes than I did on the day I got married. Just five minutes ago a delivery came down from a company in Dundalk and the chap driving the truck said his mother is from Rathkeale. He asked could he take a few photographs because his parents had met here,” said Mr Keogh, who “celebrated” his 40th birthday on Monday. Dozens have driven to Dromkeen to see the ruin that firefighters from two counties battled for hours. Forensic analysis was carried out and Mr Keogh said gardai have “completely ruled out foul play, arson or anything like that”.

“It was an electrical fault in a store that was full of flat pack wardrobes and chests of drawers but, look, we will plough on. Failure is not an option. I slept for a couple of hours last night [Monday]. I am lucky enough I can put things into boxes in my own mind and try not to get too down on it,” said Mr Keogh, who was anxious to open so quickly due to outstanding orders.

“There are probably 100 to 150 people out there with deposits on stuff,” he said.

As the business was growing, a certain amount of stock stored in containers is on sale in the new premises and Mr Keogh say goods can be ordered from catalogues.

“Instead of having 20 pieces of every range, going forward we will have one or two. It is quite small [premises] but it will get us through and we look forward to 2016,” said Mr Keogh.

In an interview with the Limerick Leader, Brendan Bowyer said the Oyster Ballroom may be gone but the memories will live forever.

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