Source: Athenry Fás Teamwork Scheme 1991-1993
Team Leader; Mrs. Marie fahy
Scheme Sponsor: Athenry Project Society
The Athenry Town Hall, Clarke Street, Athenry, licenced for the showing of Films and Public Dancing, was built by the late Richard Murphy, Clarke Street, Athenry in the year 1907. lt was owned and managed by him up to the time of his death in 1945. After his death the Hall was run by his widow, Norah, and very young family, Patsy, Marjorie, Joan and Richard. It continued to be run by them up to the time of the sale of the hall in 1976 to Athenry Community Council.
I.R.B. and the Volunteers
In the early years Richard gave the Hall free of charge to the I.R.B. and the Volunteers, as he was a member of the I.R.B. They carried out an intensive training course there under Liam Mellows. A rifle-range was set up in the yard.
During the following years the local Drama Group staged very successful plays such as “The White Boys”, “Calm Bawn”, “The Eloquent Dempsey”-those are some of the very early plays.
Later on the Athenry Drama Group staged prize winning plays: “The Righteous are Bold”, “She Stoops to Conquer”, “Sive”‘, “The Father”, “The Importance of being Earnest”. They staged plays at least three times in the year and were always looked forward to by the public as they always gave of their best.
Touring Dramatic Companies
The local people always looked forward to the touring companies as Athenry always got the best of the touring companies and they played to packed houses. The following are the names of some of those companies: Carrickfords, Louis Dalton, Mark Wynne, Harry Bailey, Andrew. McMaster, Boyer Westwood Opera Company, Hal Roach and Brendan Smith.
Andrew McMaster performed such plays as The Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, Macbeth, As You like It. When young people saw plays as these, they were quite familiar with them when they had to study them at school.
During the early days a bell man used to go around the town, ringing the bell and announcing the name of the play or concert to be performed on that night.
Dances were always a great sociable occasion and they were held regularly in the hall. The Dancing Licence would have to be renewed every year. Under the Licencing Laws there were strict conditions and restrictions such as no intoxicating liquors were allowed to be sold in the hall during the time of dances or films. No person was permitted to enter while in a state of intoxication. No persons under the age of 18 years was permitted to the long dances. Most of the Clubs in the town such as The Golf Club, Dramatic Club, Hunt Club ran dances during the years. Most of those Clubs provided supper during the Dances and supper was included in the price of admission.
Dances were not allowed during Lent so Concerts and Variety Shows were staged each week and they were a great treat for young and old.
Some of the bands that played in the Hall were: Stephen Garvey, Donie Collins, Tony Chambers (Ballroon of Romance), Gay Mclntyre, Johnny Flynn, Ollie Maloney, Premier Aces which included Johnny Carroll now famous for his records “Golden Trumpet”, Flying Carolton and Mick Delahuntey.
Local Bands that played there were: The Swingtime Aces Showband, V.I.P Showband and Curran Brothers Band, Newcastle, Athenry.
There were at least two broadcasts from the Hall which was relayed on Radio Eireann: When the Army was based in Dunsandle they broadcast a very enjoyable concert with some outstanding artists. The local Young Farmers broadcast a quiz.
In the early 1930s a Badminton Club was formed and they had many enjoyable evenings in the Hall playing in competition with visiting teams.
Again in 1970 Badminton was the order of the day. They had one of the best teams in the county and won many trophies. It proved a very enjoyable pastime playing and practising in the Hall.
Around the 1950s a Choral Society was formed and they performed in the Hall three very successful Operas: H.M.S. Pinefore, Mikado, The Gondoliers. These operas were magnificently produced by the late Joseph Mahon B.F. and Josephine Curran, L.L.C.M. who later became his wife. All the artists were local people.
Films were shown in the Hall since the early 1930s. There was always a matinee on Sundays for the children. They enjoyed such films as Snow White”, Laurel and Hardy films. Flight of the Doves was filmed in Athenry and the Quiet Man.
Admission to matinees was 4p. Admission to night films was 1/-, 1/6, 2/2 including taxes. During this time very few people had televisions, so the films proved entertainment for young and old.