By Brian Gabriel
For some years prior to 1931, the Temperance Hall (also known as the T.A. Hall or Total Abstinence Hall) at Shane Lower, Blarney was closed and in general dis-use, being used only occasionally by travelling show people, while the young men and women of Blarney village had to travel to other centres for amusement. It was difficult for any one group to procure the hall for social use, so a group of young local men had explorative meetings with the Trustees, who were anxious that the hall be used for the benefit of the entire community, with a view to setting up a body which would take over the running of the hall for the Social and Educational Welfare of the people of Blarney and District.
At a meeting on the 22nd December 1931, Mr. David Ross P.C., from Tweedmount, who was a Trustee, announced that he and the other Trustees of the Temperance Hall had applied for a licence to hold 4 All Night Dances in the Hall during the year. Mr. Ross told the meeting that it was necessary to have a Committee appointed provisionally to support the application. Officers of the committees of the following clubs were at this meeting; The Hunt Club, The Hurling Club, Athletic Club, Coursing Club, and the Farmer’s Union but for some unknown reason the representatives from the The Blarney Band did not attend even though they had been invited. They met again in the hall on 29th December 1931 where it was agreed that “the Representatives of the Clubs present should constitute the Committee and Officers for the year”.
The clubs present at this meeting were: The Hunt Club, The Hurling Club, The Coursing Club, The Athletic Club, The Field Committee and The Farmer’s Union. From this gathering, a committee of eleven, known as the Recreation Committee, plus two others provisionally, were elected and became “Custodians of the Temperance Hall”. It was to be a non-sectarian and non-denominational social club which would be worked for the benefit of the people of the District. The first officers elected were as follows: Hon. President & Chairman-Patrick O’Leary, Vice Chairman-Jeremiah Desmond, Hon. Treasurer-Daniel Lenihan, Hon. Auditors-John O’Leary N.T., and Eugene Horgan, Hon. Secretary-Tim O’Halloran. The committee consisted of John Tucker, Ed Lynch, P O’Sullivan, Sean Lynch, and Patrick O’Sullivan with Timothy Spillane and D. Hayes elected provisionally.
A rent of one pound per year was payable to the Landlord, Sir George Colthurst, who promptly returned same to the Hall’s funds in the form of a subscription. The profits made from the running of dances and other functions, after expenses, were to be pooled and divided among those Clubs which were involved in the running of the Hall at this time. The committee were to be also responsible for the payment of the Poor Rates and Water Rates when they arose. A Deputation was organised to meet with the then P.P. of Blarney, Rev. Father William Browne, who served the parish between 1930 and 1937.
He met the deputation and stated he had no objection to the granting of a licence providing the following conditions were strictly adhered to.
- No Press advertising for the weekly dances.
- No undesirable persons to be admitted to the dances.
- No Intoxicating Liquor or Spirits allowed on the premises at dances and no persons under the Influence of Drink to be admitted.
- No Parking of Cars (Motor or Otherwise) in the vicinity of Hall during the Dances.
The Licence was granted, to be renewed annually at a fee of one pound, and the first dance of 1932 was held on the 10th January. Seventy-one and a half couples, who paid sixpence each for the privilege, attended it. Non-patrons of the hall were to be charged one shilling admission from February. Minerals were charged at sixpence each and a total profit of 49 shillings was made, which was considered very satisfactory. Dances were normally held at this time every Wednesday and Sunday nights with a three-piece local band, led by Violinist, Joseph Goggin, a Pianist, and a Drummer, costing one pound per night.
The piano was on permanent hire from Piggott’s music shop, Cork but the other musicians had to supply their own instruments. The band and M.C. were not to be entitled to free refreshments during the night. Later in the year, the committee decided the drums should be dispensed with and the price of the band reduced to twelve shillings. Dance times were 7.30 to 10.30 p.m. for normal dances but all-night dances usually started at 10 p.m. and lasted until 6 a.m. the following morning. If there was a death in the village on the day of a dance and the committee received reasonable notice, that was before 1.00 p.m., the dance would be cancelled, otherwise it went ahead as advertised.
Matt O’Halloran was appointed caretaker of the Hall at this time for the princely salary of 5 shillings per week, excluding dances for which he would be paid extra, usually 1 shilling and 5 pence. His functions included the opening of the Hall each evening at 6.45 p.m. if the weather was fine, reporting any disturbances to the Committee, cleaning and general duties. He was also responsible for the closing of the Hall exactly on time each evening while a member of the committee had to be present during opening times to supervise. The opening and closing hours were very strictly enforced by the Committee and any infringement of the regulations was severely frowned upon and “severe and drastic action” would be taken with the caretaker. The Hall was also to be closed during evening Devotions in the local church.
But already problems were starting for the caretaker with unruly behaviour from the patrons, consisting of playing cards being removed from the packs and not being replaced during the playing of “110”. This meant new packs had to be bought thereby stretching the budget of the hall. Cards then had to be counted before and after each game to ensure none were missing. Shouting or creating noise in any way was frowned upon and on several occasions the caretaker was called before the committee for not reporting same. During inclement weather, the Hall was allowed open in the afternoons between 3 and 5.30 p.m. but no lights to be lit during daylight hours. It must have been fairly cold sitting in this hall which had no heating of any sort during the winter months of 1931/32. By mid-March, the caretaker was instructed to keep the hall closed during the day as the weather was getting fine and the evenings longer.
For insurance purposes in 1932, the value of the Hall, which had no heating system of any kind, was quoted at £400. This figure included the Building, Fittings and Fixtures and Furniture. Fire Insurance cost 5 shillings per annum. By 1936, the value of the Hall was still being quoted the same but the cost of Insurance had risen to two pounds two shillings payable to Celtic Insurance Company.
Also in January of 1932, Mahony’s of Blarney, presented the Hall with Tables, Chairs, Lamps, Forms, which were long wooden seats or benches without backs, and a Bagatelle Table at no cost whatsoever. Incidentally, the game of Bagatelle was a pub game of skill closely related to the game of Billiards. It seems a shade ironic to have introduced the game to a Temperance Hall. The Bagatelle table was eventually sold off at an auction in September 1939 to the highest bidder at two shillings and sixpence but unfortunately the name of the purchaser is not known.
The Hall was opened to the General Public on the 15th January 1932 and initially on each Friday night, The Echo, Independent and Daily Sketch newspapers were provided for reading: The weekly charge for persons attending the Hall was: unemployed and under 18’s, one penny. The average weekly membership was fifty persons. Even at this low rate, by June 1932 the subscription book was in arrears and the committee decided to enforce a “name and shame” policy on those members who were not paid up. The names to be displayed in the Hall and the de-faulters to be refused admission until all arrears were cleared. This apparently had the desired effect as in a very short time the subscription book was once again in the black.
From September 1933, all prospective members had to fill in an application form, with an entrance fee of six pence, for membership which was then vetted by the committee so, hopefully but not always, eliminating all undesirables. On acceptance, the sixpence was credited to the member’s weekly fee. Card games such as “110” or Whist and ball games like Bagatelle and Billiards were a major source of enjoyment as was the board-game Draughts. A local Irish teacher, Mr. T. McKernan, who gave his services voluntarily to encourage the use of the native tongue held Irish classes one night in the week. The room was also provided free of charge by the Committee, but unfortunately the class never got the kind of support it deserved and eventually closed down. Mr. Joseph Goggin also gave violin lessons for two hours each Saturday but these were also eventually dis-continued due to lack of pupils.