LARC are passionate about bringing the Town Hall to life once again in Loughrea and believe this iconic building can be placed at the heart of Loughrea’s cultural and economic life for generations to come. The group are hosting a Who Wants to be a Thousandaire event on May 12th 2018 in Loughrea Hotel & Spa. We are inviting you to help restore this iconic and historical building and support this wonderful cause. Ads are €200 or please give whatever you can to our iFund page
For further details contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Historic (and derelict) Building – Loughrea Town Hall
By Anna Cronin
Situated on the south side of Loughrea, the Town Hall still stands intact, the dimensions still undisturbed, the integrity of the building still present. Climb the grand staircase and enter the ball-room. The ornate mirror which graced the ballroom is now in pieces, the grand piano is no longer resident there. The maple floor stands still, the walls, housing only the ghosts of the past. The grand staircase opens out to Barrack Street, so named because of the Barracks which housed the soldiers of the British Empire before Ireland became a republic. That Barracks became The Temperance Hall, so named, to fight intemperance, to fight the dreaded drink.
Exit the door, Barrack Street and walk towards the corner of Church Street/Barrack Street. Climb the steps and enter. The box office still remains, and to the left, enter the picture hall and the slanting floor. Here the dreams of the children of the 20th century were nurtured, here the deprivations of the first half of the 20th century were forgotten, even if only for two to three hours. Here, for 4p Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger and Tonto, Alan Ladd, brought us to the plains of the Wild West in America. We shouted warnings when the Indians were coming and Pakie shone the torch telling us to be quiet or we would be put out. No one ever was. Our hearts broke for Buffalo Bill when he was outnumbered and died a heroes’ death. Flash Gordon brought us to outer space long before man walked on the moon. We held our breath when the Titanic continued to sail steadfastly forward, oblivious to the ice-berg which was on course to destroy the “unsinkable ship” and had to hide our tears as the orchestra played Nearer my God to Thee. And we were introduced to Racism, without even being aware of such a word, in Showboat. Our horizons were without boundaries, and the world was out there waiting for us.
And so we left the cinema those Sunday evenings, walking the streets with a renewed energy and freedom, singing “When I’m calling you, ou ou ou, ou ou ou, “ and someone somewhere “I will answer you ou ou ou ou ou” Howard Keel and Ann Blyth. Each year we had the pantomime; Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Sinbad, Ali Baba and the forty thieves and as one local remarked in jest “they had no difficulty in casting that!” The past now comes alive and we see Joy Lally, so elegant as the prince-charming, Imelda Wall as the beautiful princess, Ciss Moynihan as the fairy god-mother. Then we had the stalwarts: Michael Reilly, Tommy Lally, Maxie, Peter Murphy, Michael Connaghton and Bertie Kelly to name but a few. A story which has lost nothing in the telling is of Bertie. The pantomime was Dick Whittington and Bertie was the Mayor. Michael Fahy returned home one night after practice and discussed the problem of Bertie forgetting his lines. But he was satisfied that they had found a solution. Bertie was given a prop which would solve the problem, namely a staff, prompters would be in the wings on both sides of the stage and whenever Bertie felt he needed a prompt he was to move to the side and bang his staff on the stage. So far, so good. But three teenagers were listening, namely John Cronin, Kieran Fahy and Vin Fahy. And they placed themselves in the front seats. Whenever Bertie banged the stage the boys cheered loudly for Bertie, Bertie banged again and the boys cheered even louder. And so it went on. Mr. Fahy realised his mistake, too late.
We faced the world of the fifties in a town which had so few cars that one could almost crawl unscathed across the Main Street. We witnessed school friends “taking the boat” who, having left school after Primary Cert. at the age of fourteen, could not get employment and so had to emigrate. And they returned at Christmas, looking ever so smart, wearing make-up, gloves and a handbag. Only our mothers and grannies had handbags then. Christmas was made magical by the shop which stood where now the Allied Irish Bank is, the window which created a world of wonder. That family are all gone but those of us who were witness to it, remember.
The Town Hall served many different sectors in Loughrea. It had an interesting history. Lord Laselles bequeathed the Hall to the town and people bought shares. But before that it had been a linen hall, and the upper storey was built at a later stage. Note the cut stone in the lower half of the building while the upper is “dash”. The dimensions of the windows are in perfect symmetry with the building. Our Town Hall was indeed not just a building to be proud off, it was loved for the joy and escapism which it afforded us all.
Today it stands, blindly, windows blocked with chipboard, floors littered with rubbish, back entrance almost completely blocked with bushes, and an annex which had been added to the original building at a later stage, rotting and threatening the integrity of the original structure. It has been witness to much, to the suffering of the people of Loughrea and the outlying areas in the Famine of 1845 and the building of the Workhouse. The Carmelites returned to their calling as Contempletives, the Mercy Sisters arrived, hence St. Raphael’s and St. Ita’s, then St. Brendan’s cathedral at the turn of the 19th/20th century, the De la Salle in Piggot Street (no longer in existence) and Barrack Street. And the Town Hall still stands, a monument to times past.
This building needs not just money, it needs love, it needs to be cherished so that it in turn will continue to serve the changing needs of a community which is now diverse, which is expanding. The children and we, still need beauty, still need our space which history bequeathed to us. Let us not be found wanting.
LARC, Loughrea Arts Recreation and Culture, a committee totally devoted to bringing the Town Hall into the 21st century, to creating a hub which will enrich the lives of the present generations. We are now fund-raising as we have been informed continuously over the years by Galway County Council that without money we have no voice. To you out there we are asking for help. We are a totally apolitical group, committed to answering a huge need in our town. And so please help us to realise a dream which has been fermenting for many years, make a child laugh, make a child happy because there is still need in Loughrea, have no illusions about that.
We are a private limited company, adhering to all the rules and requirements. There is total transparency and accountability. The committee are all voluntary and consists of people from the business world, the arts, and the world of education. Our motives are honourable. We believe in this project with a passion. The renewal of Loughrea Town Hall, though battered and broken, is a noble and a worthy cause.