Stories of love and loss in Limerick's ballrooms of romance

Tales from Limerick’s golden era of showbands in new book

Norma Prendiville

Reporter:

Norma Prendiville

Stories of love and loss in Limerick's ballrooms of romance

The glory days of Limerick's Oyster ballroom are remembered in a new book and below, owner Pakie Hayes with with band leader Donie Collins on the opening night in 1958

HAVE you a tale to tell from the glory days of the showbands? If so, write it down fast and get it off to authors and editors PJ Cunningham and Dr Joe Kearney by the end of the month.

The duo are keen to include stories from Limerick’s ballrooms of romance in their upcoming anthology, From the Candy Store to the Galtymore which they hope to publish later this year.

The book aims to chronicle a very unique time in rural and urban Ireland; the golden era of the showbands when every parish held dances and every weekend saw young men and women cycling, walking and driving en masse to local dance-halls and ones further away.

It was a time, the co-editors point out, which saw the blossoming of thousands of romances and they are keen to capture some of those stories.

“What we want are the stories of romance, of chance meetings or tales that are funny and maybe even mischievous,” said PJ Cunningham, the author of several previous books including The Long Acre and The Lie of the Land.  

“All human life gathered for the weekly dances in what was a cultural shift away from the more formal céilís which held sway up until then,” he said.

“The showband dances were modern and slightly more brash occasions than the country had been used to but, if anything, the number of stories of love and loss, rows and ructions, fun and games, grew in the new environment.”

“We are seeking particular stories rather than people just remembering the night that Joe Dolan, Brendan Bowyer or Dickie Rock played their local hall,” PJ continued.“Ideally there should be a bit of tension or drama, humour, love or loss involved in what people send in to us.

“With 200 or 300 bands traversing the country every weekend, and dancehalls sprouting up all over the place, everyone has a favourite story from that era.”

But it’s not just Limerick dance-halls that the co-editors are interested in. They also want to hear from Limerick people who attended dances in London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester or wherever large groups of Irish emigrants congregated.

Dr Joe Kearney recalls vividly the influence Irish showbands had on him and lads like him working in London.

“In the sixties, many of us spent our time in poor accommodation in Cricklewood, Kilburn, Manchester or Liverpool,” said Joe. “We lived for the visits of the Irish showbands to provide a flavour of the life we had left behind and an escape from the humdrum of ordinary living.

“The Galtymore, The 32 Club, The Gresham and the Hibernian in London were meccas for us. They were packed to the rafters every time the showbands came to town.”

Both men have invited Limerick Leader readers to submit stories  to ballpointpress1@gmail.com before June 30.