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.