THE HALL IN GARRYHILL
Almost every area in rural Ireland had an F.C.A. (Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúl), branch in the late 40’s and early 50’s and on its formation in 1946 a platoon in Garryhill found itself with 27 volunteers. Most areas had a proper hall for their headquarters but in Garryhill there was no barrack square, no hall, no desks or blackboards, no rifle rests and no place where the pennant could be planted. But in the true spirit of the new born ‘Fórsa’ the Garryhill boys were determined to become soldiers no matter what obstacles might be in the way. First they drilled on the roadside and used one another’s houses for instruction on wet nights and planned and plotted until a site was acquired and an old Army hut erected. £200 was needed to fit it out. A fundraising campaign was launched under Lieutenant O’ Rourke and athletic functions, dances and whist drives were run until the £200 was found and finally they built a hall at night voluntarily, after they had completed their ordinary work in the day – mostly in the fields. In a 1950 edition of ‘Flash’ a newspaper of the force, there was a description of the Hall as follows: ‘the hall had a dance floor fit for a ballerina, a stage, electric light and heating accommodation fitted, sanitary equipment, rifle racks and rests, a place which the entire village was proud to call their own’.
The hall was officially opened on Sunday October 22nd 1950 when pipe bands marched through Garryhill, when a Military style Guard of Honour was formed, and when a Monsignor blessed the hall ad prayed that all those who might ever train therein would come safe through battles and through wars and be always worthy of Garryhill. The platoon was very competitive and even before the Hall was built the Garryhill soldiers were outshooting every other platoon in the Battalion and got more bulls-eyes than any other in Laois or Carlow and the Command Tug o’ War trophy went home to Garryhill in ’48 ’49 and ’50. According to the ‘Irish Independent’ dated, Monday March 30th 1953 and the ‘Irish Press’ of the same date a total of 36 teams contested the Eastern Command F.C.A. Minature shooting championships at Cathal Brugha Barracks which was won by the Bagenalstown Battalion with P. O’Rourke and D Moore from the Garryhill platoon on the team.
BALLROOM OF ROMANCE
Garryhill Hall was demolished in January 1999 and with it went one of the great bastions of romance in Co. Carlow during the 60’s and. Many friendships, courtships and marriages had its origins within its walls. Mick Donohoe ran a competition at one time for a new Morris Minor car at one of the dances and it was won by John Fitzgerald, Raheenwood, A “Tramps Ball” one Easter Monday night cost 5 shillings to get in. Some of the bands that played in Garryhill were: The Roulettes, The Indians, The Voxenaires, The Barrow Boys, the Gallowgalass Céilí Band, The Blue Diamonds and individual performers included Bridie Gallagher, Maisie McDaniel and Joe Lynch (now Dinny of Glenroe.) For many boys and girls it was their first introduction to dancing. The dances would start at 9 o’clock and by 9.30 p.m. the hall would be full to capacity. There were 220 dozen bottles of minerals consumed in the one night – this was at a time when it was fashionable to drink minerals rather than alcohol.
The Hall actually dated from the 1930’s
and was training ground for the local F.C.A. becoming a dancing venue in
the 1960’s. In the early 1990’s it was used as a temporary Church during the
renovations to Drumphea Church. As the Hall had become dangerous and was prone
to vandalism the committee sold the area of land on which it was built and the
money was given to the local schools and charity. Sadly all that remains now are
just the memories of a true “Ballroom of Romance”