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Those were the days ……by Tony (Socks) Byrne


The photograph of Galbraiths reunion in the Whitworth Hall reminded me of various other functions which I attended in the 40’s and 50’s with my next-door neighbour and friend, Brendan Kerr. Both of us grew up in Hardmans Gardens, and  we eagerly looked forward to the Saturday matinee held every week. At that time, we always referred to the Whitworth as the Town Hall.


Admission to the matinee in those days was 2d. to the auditorium, and 6d. on the balcony. Needless to say, due to financial circumstances at that time, the kids in the auditorium never viewed a film from the balcony. The usherette on the balcony was a Ms. Angela Clarke.


One particular film which we attended at an evening performance, was a film called “The Champ” with Jackie Cooper and Wallace Beary. This was a weepie and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when the show was over.


Throughout the years we also attended boxing tournaments when local amateur boxers like Oliver Mullen, Richard Skelly, B Lambe, and Oliver Walker took on boxers from clubs all over Ireland and from the army. Another notable character that appeared in the Whitworth was Jack Doyle, a boxing champion, and his wife “Movita” who was a film star. Jack was known as the “Gorgeous Gael”.


Through the years, various fund raising activities were held such as concerts, factory reunions and auctions. The late Jimmy Robinson ran an auction every year for a local charity.


All concerts held throughout the year featured the late Joe (Tec) Caffrey, Pat (Sculler) Leech and Jimmy Fagan. This trio of comedians was so popular that no concert could be run without them.


A skating matinee was held every Sunday afternoon, and this was organised by the late John McGrane. We tried this skating out but I’m afraid we were  dismal failures! We found the skates at that time too heavy unlike the present-day skates, which are much lighter.


The popular hypnotist Paul Goldin’s first ever show in Ireland was in fact held in the Whitworth Hall. We tried to gain admission several times but had to give up due to the huge crowds trying to get in. His shows were transferred to the Gate Cinema, which had a 1000 seating capacity, and within a week all disgruntled patrons were catered for. Paul appeared again in the hall in the 80’s where he still sold out to capacity crowds and where he had his subjects search the town for several days looking for lost leprechauns.


The hall was booked solid every Saint Patrick’s night by the Gaelic League for a ceili and old-time dance. This also attracted huge crowds and was always well supported. Music was by Reggie Payne and Peter Delaney of the Boyne Ceili Band.


As the years rolled by, we started to attend the Saturday night hops, which were run by Saint Mary’s handball club, with dancing from 8 until 12 and admission was 2 shillings! Drogheda at that time had an abundance of dance bands such as Joe Leech and the Silver Seven, The Kay Martin Dance Band, Brian Cassidy (The Serenaders), Pat Heeney (The Heartbeats), Brendan Munster (The Adelphi), The Pat Jackson Orchestra and Peter Donnelly (Flying Carlton).


The caretakers of the hall were the McGrath family, who lived in the basement portion of the hall. Members of the bands were always welcome down for tea and sandwiches during the dances.


Regrettably the main hall was closed in the 60’s when cracks appeared in the ornate ceiling and with this in mind, insurance became a problem. The Whitworth was under the control of a committee who ran the affairs of the hall over many years in an efficient and competent manner.


Finally, the Harbour Board dismantled the fine Whitworth monument, which stood for years on the North Quay, and after years of speculation as to what became of it, new information has come to hand that it lies buried in a yard at Newtownstalaban, just outside Drogheda.


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