Muinter na Tire in practice and concrete –

Muinter na Tire in practice and concrete –
The building of the Canon Hayes Memorial Hall in Effin 1955- 1959’

The above quote comes from an photographic scrapbook kept by Canon Gerard Wall whose first raised the idea of building a parish hall in Effin at the first annual general meeting of the local Muintir na Tire (MNT) in 1950 . This idea was to grow into a solid functional memorial with the involvement of the entire parish, young and old. Effin is a rural parish located between the towns of Charleville in north Cork and Kilmallock in south Limerick and Ireland in the 1950’s was rife with unemployment and emigration and choice in rural Ireland was the boat or the farm. Canon Hayes who was founder of MNT believed Ireland was losing its sense of community and that the best part of entertainment was meeting the neighbour’s and parish unity was being forgotten. In 1937 “Muinter na Tire” (MNT) a guilds or councils in rural parishes in Ireland was formed by him to stop the vanishing Irish from rural Ireland. Rural communities were still recovering from the bitter and community destroying civil war in the 1920’s. MNT was a persistent and lone voice in the world of Irish Community Development. Between 1937 and 1958 there was a high number of active guilds around the axis of Tipperary, Cork and Limerick, and the Garrienderk and Effin MNT Guild was one of these. In 1958 MNT commissioned a social and economic survey of county Limerick and Effin was included in this extensive survey of rural parishes in Limerick which resulting in the publication of the Limerick Rural Survey (LRS) 1958 – 1964. The growth in the economy in the late 1950’s after was accompanied by a big expansion in social spending which meant that women now had money to socialise and be independent. The Irish Country Women’s Association (ICA) was also helping women to campaign for better facilities and realised that rural water and electrification were essential in rural areas. Russell highlighted the importance of women in rural Ireland by claiming that ‘we cannot build up a rural civilisation in Ireland without the aid of Irish Women’.

Dancing became an important social outlet for young men and women in the 1950’s with many Ballrooms opening up around Ireland under the patronage of the Catholic Church, with profits going to fund the church, there were approximately over 1,100 dancehalls, 1,640 total bands in existence in Ireland between the 1950 and 1970’s. Boys and girls of all backgrounds and ages would dance together, even an elderly bachelor would have no problem getting a dance partner if he was a good dancer Many new ballrooms were quickly built by entrepreneurs and local communities to meet the increased need of the dancing public. The halls were custom built for dancing and usually included a few bathrooms, a cloak room, and a mineral bar. There was little seating, other than a row of benches around the perimeter of the dance floor. Some included an upstairs balcony area where weary dancers could catch their breath. Halls were often built “in the middle of nowhere,” drawing patrons from towns and villages for miles around. However the onset of extended opening hours and Discos heralded the end of many of the Dance Halls.
Fortunately many primary sources remain in researching the building of the hall in Effin, Canon Ger Walls’s scrapbook containing photographs, newspaper cuttings, and poetry of the construction of the hall form 1955 to 1958 is an important record of that time. The souvenir brochure from the official opening night on 23 March 1959 provide useful details of the committee, builders, architects, engineers and organisations involved in the project. Two of the original committee members, Willie Mortell and Alice McCarthy were interviewed on their memories of the building of the hall and the parish at the time. Many local poems were written about the guild at the time praising their efforts and work. MNT head office in Tipperary fortunately has a large collection of material related to all local guilds and correspondence and annual reports submitted by guilds. A local man kept a diary listing all the dances he went to which includes the venues from Effin to Dublin, the showbands and admission costs.

The Effin and Garrienderk Muintir na Tire guild was formed in Effin on 18 March 1949 at a meeting chaired by Fr. James Moloney. Everyone in the parish automatically became a member of the guild and their main objectives were electricity, improve roads, water pumps, improve graveyards and other infrastructure. The first registered Secretary was Owen O’Brien. The guilds first AGM in 1950 in the Mill Hall the old Cleeves creamery building and at the time the only large meeting place for the parishioners. Canon Gerard Wall had by now been appointed curate in the parish and was to play in important role as chairperson of the guild and in photographing and documenting the progress in the building of the parish hall in his green scrapbook. Bertie Prendergast took over position as secretary until 1959 after which James O’Riordan remained until 1997. The Guild submitted sporadic annual reports which were published in the Rural Ireland annual yearbooks and registration fees to the Muintir na Tire office from 1949 to 1987. In 1951 the following report shows a record of events and progress of the guild after two years in existence.

‘…Site for hall obtained, yearly rent £1. Progress slow in matter of erecting hall. Due to representations made to local authority and government, £4,000 spent on parish roads during the year; Great hopes of water supply for school, parish pumps repaired and streams and rivers cleaned. Manure distributor on hire to members. Card Drives, lectures, excursion. Preliminary work done for Parish Plan. Unsuccessful in obtaining rural electrification; awaiting grant for repairs to graveyard.’

In subsequent reports submitted between 1952 and 1955 shows that the guild had been canvassing for rural electrification, maintaining the graveyards in Effin and Kilquane, continued representations to Limerick county council regards roads and water supplies.. It was hoped that these improvements would help rural decline in the parish and improve facilities but the population of the parish continued to drop.
1949     1951     1956    1961
Male         659      629       593      537
Female     611       561        518     485
Total       1270     1190      1111    1022
Figure 1 Population of Effin 1949 – 1961- Source CSO

The guild also held many social events like ‘45’ card drives , jumble sales, annual dinner dances, pilgrimages to Knock and excursions to seaside all which were all documented in the Rural Ireland reports to MNT. Similar reports were being submitted by other guilds around Ireland. There were no reports submitted between 1956 and 1958 from the Effin and Garrienderk guild at this stage as work had begun on financing and building the hall. In 1960 the guild pledged support for the Limerick University Project . The Rev. J. Moloney, P.P claimed in a newspaper report in 1956 that the guild hoped that the building of the hall would brighten rural life and stem emigration which was having a severe strain on the population of about one thousand. A poem called ‘Effin Muintir na Tire Guild’

‘Oh! Why not come to Effin,
And visit the old school,
Where members of the local guild
Meet weekly as a rule,
Many things have been accomplished
By this very active band

Just peep into the graveyards
They’re the neatest in the land
You can travel now in comfort
Along softly surfaced roads
While night presents no terrors
Where “Electric” brightly grows.’.

This poem shows that the work the guild was doing was improving conditions in the parish and inspiring poetry to mark their progress.

A site for the hall near the church was purchased from John O’Donnell, Post Office, Effin in 1955. Plans for the site and building were drawn up by Mr. Thomas McMahon, B. Arch. In May 1955 the first work began on fencing off the site with poles for scaffolding and fencing bought at an auction at Thomastown, Kilfinane. By June 1955 the committee built a storage shed on site for materials and equipment. It is evident from Fr Ger Walls photographs in his album that a number of locals had got behind the building of the hall. The committee reported in November 1955 that seven hundred pounds had been raised for the Hall Fund and the men had worked in groups according to townlands to make four thousand concrete blocks by hand. They agreed to suspend outdoor labour work for the winter months and concentrate on fundraising until work would commence again on 1 February 1956. It is noted that the committee had got a lot of support from Limerick county council and in improving local infrastructure. Electricity was provided on the site in 1956 and Alice recalls when electricity came into their home a man working for them would shave every night as he now had light, and they saw things they never saw before and they had infrared heating lights for bonhams.

The first sod on the site was turned on 23 April 1956 and the projects engineer Terence McMahon marked out the foundations which were dug out manually by local volunteers. One hundred volunteers gathered on the morning of 8 May 1956 to see the blessing of the site by Rev G Wall, chairman, that day was to be the first day nearly one hundred parishioners gave up a days work to work together laying the foundations. Canon Ger Wall took a large number of photographs of this day showing men, women and children working together.

Foundation Stone in Effin
Laying the Foundation stone in for New Hall

Illustration 1. Photograph of Canon Hayes laying the foundation stone on 15th May 1956 . From Canon Ger Wall, The Golden Book, 1955 – 1956, Effin and Garrienderk Guild, Muintir na Tire Parish Hall, (Private Collection, name with author) pg. 5

On the 15 May 1956 was the day the foundation stone which was made from gravel collected from the four corners of the parish as a symbol of parish unity was to be laid by Canon Hayes. Canon Ger Wall recorded it his album as the ‘Day of Days’, a fleet of forty motor cars escorted Canon Hayes from the town of Kilmallock to the hall site where he was greeted with school children waving Irish flags and was given a guard of honour with shovels by the local GAA club and members of the guild. The national and local press were present there to report the mementos day in parish history and record on Canon Hayes speeches. He paid tribute to the community spirit, ‘In laying the foundation stone of this Muintir na Tire Hall in Effin, I have the honour and privilege of paying tribute to the community spirit that made this work possible’. He said Effin was a ‘shining light not only to Limerick but to the whole country. The story of your hall is one of unity and effort. It is a magnificent gesture and will serve your lectures, meetings, dances etc., In it you will meet on the level – ‘tis for the people’. It is evident from reading some of his speech that day that he took advantage of the press present to preach MNT philosophy in relation to vocational order and ending class warfare and a spiritual way of life. Unfortunately he was not to be alive to see the finished hall as he died on 30th January 1957 and it was the only ceremony of this type performed by him. A poem which was written ten weeks after laying the foundation stone demonstrates that the guild were in need of financial help to finish the building.

‘Ten weeks have scarcely passed since then,
But lo! observe the change,
The walls they stand completed,
Eager hands did this arrange.

But alas! My story saddens,
It’s not hard to find the proof,
The Guild it needs on thousand pounds
To erect a proper roof‘

From May to September1956 the walls of the building began to rise with the help of six local voluntary workers from the various townlands who would turn up each day working under the guidance of Mr. Joseph Costelloe who had been appointed as main contractor. During the month of October 1956 the roofing of the hall was completed, now that the building was water-tight work could begin on excavation of the internal floor, Bluett’s van which was nicknamed the ‘Ballyshonakin Bus’ collected men on route to the hall. On 30 November sixty voluntary workers turned up to put in the concrete floor. The hall was blessed on 13 December 1956 and held its first official function which was a jumble sale for much needed funds. During the summer of 1957 the hall was plastered inside and out by Mr. Downes from Kilfinane. Willie Mortell who was interviewed on 21 April 2011 was on the men’s committee and later to become caretaker of the hall recalls digging at seven foot deep pit for the septic tank with Tom Kennedy, Vice-Chairman and working with Mr. Maloney from Garrienderk in constructing the balcony in the hall. He recalls working on the site for two months as a volunteer but still referred to Fr. Ger Wall as his boss. The guild agreed to float a parish loan from the parishioners in January 1958 of about one thousand pounds to with an agreement to pay back all loans within two years. The loan was paid back by 1961. Near the opening night there was a push on finish the building and to finance the flooring and fixtures and fittings. A local poet called Cait Og wrote at the time:

‘we need seating to sit on,
and flooring to step on,
There are other things needed as well,
So come on one and all,
Support our fine call,
and hasten the night of the ‘the ball’

There was a hardwearing maple wood floor installed which came from McMahons in Limerick. On 23 March 1958 and the guild published a souvenir brochure for the official opening night containing some quotes from Canon Hayes speech on the 15 May 1956 and lists and thanks the members of the Parish Council, the Members of the Muintir na Tire Guild, the Ladies committee, and all involved in helping the building. A tape recording made of his speech on that date was played to those present, and the hall was to be officially named the Canon Hayes Memorial Hall as a monument to the man who inspired them on their journey and was to be the only hall named after him in Ireland. The Drama Society performed the play ‘The Marriage Plan’ at the official opening and this group performed other plays in the hall and in other parishes. The stage size was increased from initial plans to avail of funding from the Arts Council. On 2 November 1958 the local MNT guild hosted the Annual Convention of county Limerick MNT and Dr. Murphy Bishop of Limerick addressed the convention said ‘the splendid hall in Effin was excellent example of MNT co-operation.’

Maurice Mulcahy Dance in Effin

Illustration 2 – Photo of the first Dance in Canon Hayes Memorial Hall, 9 April 1958.
From Canon Ger Wall, The Golden Book, 1955 – 1956, Effin and Garrienderk Guild, Muintir na Tire Parish Hall, (Private Collection, name with author) p. 36

Maurice Mulcahy and his Orchestra was the first dance on 9 April 1958. Alice recalls the excitement as a young girl going to the first dance, it cost five schillings to get in and six pennies for to store your coat in the cloakroom. Dances were held every second wednesday night and dancing normally started at 9 o’clock. There was no favouritism to locals by the ticket sellers at the door and she recalls that her brother was not allowed in one night because he was short six pence. The ladies cloakroom was run by Maisie Cotter or Mary Ann Hayes and men’s cloak room was run by John Gilbert all proceeds handed up to the committee. Bertie Prendergast was hall manager travelled the country booking bands for the hall and over the years many famous bands played on the stage in Effin including the Dubliners on 19 July 1970.

Local women also played a role in assisting with the building of the hall, through fundraising and assisting with making teas on days when there was a large gathering of the parish. Alice McCarthy was interviewed on 14 April 2011 lived beside the hall and was on the ladies committee was around sixteen when construction of the hall was underway recalls her memories of that time. She attended some meetings of Muinter na Tire but claims that women did not have a major say in the running and planning of the hall and the men were ‘sort of dictators really’ and women’s main purpose was to make the teas for the men working on the site and to sell tickets for the raffle. The men would drive the ladies to the major hurling matches around to sell tickets the men wouldn’t be seen selling tickets. As young girls they were delighted to be off for the day and she recalls seeing Christy Ring and other famous hurlers at the time. They would sell the tickets and hand over every penny to the committee. Money was the main raffle prize. She said there was a great sense of pride, excitement and achievement in being involved in getting the hall built, as at that time there was nowhere else to go and nothing to do. The Ladies committee cooked and served dinners to the bands before they played and both bands and patrons were served tea and sandwiches this was very rare occurrence and Effin soon got a good name for this practice. She remembers Ciss Fitzgibbon was in charge of the mineral bar and making teas, there was no alcoholic drink at the time. She remembers going to dances and men and women on opposite sides of hall. If you had been seen drinking a mineral with a man then you were nearly married off the next day. She also took part in the plays with the Drama Society.

In conclusion, the community effort involved in building the hall in Effin in the 1950’s in a difficult social and economic period in rural Ireland was to have a lasting impact on the landscape and memories of the people in the parish. The hall is still a vibrant and important part of the parish today with many organisations both sporting to social still using the hall. In 1996 the Effin and Garrienderk Development Association was formed took over patronage of the hall from the aging MNT committee. The new committee affiliated to the MNT and have updated and manages the hall facilities. To commemorate the fifty years anniversary of the opening of the hall in 2008 they reproduced Canon Ger Walls photographs from his scrapbook identifying people in the photographs through public meetings. Canon Hayes dream was that ‘when all the people of a parish join hands and work together, there is no end to what they can do’, this dream was to become reality in Effin. Unfortunately literature and history about Canon Hayes and MNT fails to mention Effin and his involvement and how a parish came together to put into practice and concrete the ethos of MNT. This oversight should be noted and amended and the parish and people get just recognition for their foresight and courage in building and financing the Canon Hayes Memorial Hall in a time of social and economic change and strife.

————————————————————————–

References

[1] Canon Ger. Wall, The Golden Book, 1955 – 1956, Effin and Garrienderk Guild, Muintir na Tire Parish Hall, (Private Collection, name with author) p.2
[2] Vincent Power, Send ‘em Home Sweatin’, Dublin, Kildanore. 1990, p11
[3] Liam Maher. The mind of Canon Hayes, (S.P. Publications, 1965) p.45
[4] Mark Tierney, The Story of Muintir na Tire 1931- 2001 – the First Seventy Years, (Muintir na Tire Publications, 2004) p.8
[5] Eoin Devereux, The Lonely Forrow: Muintir Na Tire and Irish Community Development 1931-1991 (Community Development Journal Vol.28 No.1 January 1993), p.46
[6] Jeremiah Newman (ed.), The Limerick survey, 1958-1964, .(Tipperary,Muintir na Tire Rural Publications,1964).
[7] Goretti Horgan, Changing women’s lives in Ireland, International Socialism Journal, Issue 91 Summer 2001, http://pubs.socialistreviewindex.org.uk/isj91/horgan.htm (4 April 2011).
[8] George. W. Russell, ‘And see her Beauty Shining There – The Story of Irish Country Women’ in Pat Bolger (eds) Ideals of the New Rural Society (Irish Academic Press, 1986) p. 67
[9] Irish Showbands Website ( http://www.irish-showbands.com/ballrooms.htm) (6 May 2011)
[10] Jeremiah Newman (ed.), The Limerick survey, 1958-1964, .(Tipperary,Muintir na Tire Rural Publications,1964).p. 239
[11] Souvenir Brochure issued on the occasion of the Official Opening of the Canon Hayes Memorial Hall, March 23rd 1958 (Private Collection, name with author)
[12] Diary belonging to John Kelly, Effin, Dances from time to time starting 1964 – 1976 (Private Collection, name with author)
[13] Rural Ireland 1949, (Muinter na Tire Rural Publications 1949), p. 140
[14] Canon Ger Wall, The Golden Book, 1955 – 1956, Effin and Garrienderk Guild, Muintir na Tire Parish Hall, (Private Collection, name with author)
[15] Rural Ireland 1951, (Muinter na Tire Rural Publications 1951), p.102
[16] Rural Ireland 1960, (Muinter na Tire Rural Publications 1960), p.114
[17] Canon Ger Wall, The Golden Book, 1955 – 1956, Effin and Garrienderk Guild, Muintir na Tire Parish Hall, (Private Collection, name with author) pg. 10
[18] Canon Ger Wall, The Golden Book, 1955 – 1956, Effin and Garrienderk Guild, Muintir na Tire Parish Hall, (Private Collection, name with author) pg. 8
[19] Limerick Leader, 19 November 1955
[20] Interview with Alice McCarthy, 14 April 2011
[1] Canon Ger Wall, The Golden Book, 1955 – 1956, Effin and Garrienderk Guild, Muintir na Tire Parish Hall, (Private Collection, name with author) pg. 10-11
[21] Canon Ger Wall, The Golden Book, 1955 – 1956, Effin and Garrienderk Guild, Muintir na Tire Parish Hall, (Private Collection, name with author) pg. 18
[22] Souvenir Brochure issued on the occasion of the Official Opening of the Canon Hayes Memorial Hall, March 23rd 1958 (Private Collection, name with author)
[23] Canon Ger Wall, The Golden Book, 1955 – 1956, Effin and Garrienderk Guild, Muintir na Tire Parish Hall, (Private Collection, name with author) pg. 18
[24] Sunday Independent 23 March 1958
[25] Canon Ger Wall, The Golden Book, 1955 – 1956, Effin and Garrienderk Guild, Muintir na Tire Parish Hall, (Private Collection, name with author) pg. 8
[26] Interview with Willie Mortell , 21 April 2011
[27] Limerick Leader , January 1958
[28] Rural Ireland Reports 1961 (Muintir na Tire Publications, 1961), p. 98
[29] Canon Ger Wall, The Golden Book, 1955 – 1956, Effin and Garrienderk Guild, Muintir na Tire Parish Hall, (Private Collection, name with author) p. 25
[30] Souvenir Brochure issued on the occasion of the Official Opening of the Canon Hayes Memorial Hall, March 23rd 1958 (Private Collection, name with author)
[31] Sunday Independent 23 March 1958.
[32] Effin and Garrienderk Development Association, The history of the Canon Hayes Memorial Hall, Effin – celebrating 50 years of the hall, (Horizon Designs, Charleville 2008) p. 47
[33] Muintir na Tire, The Landmark, Official Organ of Muintir na Tire, No. 11, November 1958, p 3
[34] Diary belonging to John Kelly, Effin, Dances from time to time starting 1964 – 1976 (Private Collection, name with author)
[35] Effin and Garrienderk Development Association, The history of the Canon Hayes Memorial Hall, Effin – celebrating 50 years of the hall, (Horizon Designs, Charleville 2008)
[36] Canon Ger Wall, The Golden Book, 1955 – 1956, Effin and Garrienderk Guild, Muintir na Tire Parish Hall, (Private Collection, name with author) p. 2

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s