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Premier Ballroom Thurles – 50th Anniversary

Premier-BallroomThomas Gleeson Reports on The Premier Hall, Thurles, Co Tipperary.

Over the past 50 years ‘The Premier Ballroom‘ in Thurles has provided Tipperary people with the very best of entertainment in the form of dancing (in particular the show band era), variety shows, musicals, drama, comedy and of course on every Wednesday night there’s Bingo.  For a number of years the Miss Macra finals took place in ‘The Premier’ and drew large crowds to the town for the Miss Macra parade and dance.

(Click on Image left for larger magnification.)

The Premier Ballroom will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of its opening on Sunday the 18th of May, with an anniversary dance in the ballroom.   The dance will be from 8.30pm to 1.00am with music by ‘Finbarr Dennehy’ (8.30pm to 10.30pm) and ‘Mike Denver’ (10.45pm to 1.00am).   Tickets at €15 each are currently on sale and can be purchased at The Premier Box Office from 11.00am to 12.00noon on any Wednesday or Friday over the next couple of weeks.   The booking contact number is (Mobile) 087-9732837 or e-mail dancingforpleasure@eircom.net.

The balcony, with seating for 170, will be open for anyone who wishes to relax, just listen to the music and watch the dancing.  There will also be seating downstairs for over 300.  A large crowd is expected and you are advised to come early.  The doors will open at 7.45pm and there will be no admission after 12.00mdt.

History of The Premier Ballroom Thurles, Co Tipperary.

The building of The Premier Ballroom was completed in May 1964 at a cost of £40,000.   The handball alley, which was on the site at that time, had to be knocked down to make room for the building and part of the old dance hall (The Confraternity Hall latter once Thurles Jail) was incorporated into the new building e.g. the ladies toilets and the mineral bar.   The main contractor was the late Mr Christy Foyle (Formally of Slievenamon Road, Thurles,).   The plumbing was completed by the late Mr Tom Mason (Formally of Friar Street, Thurles,) and the electrical work was completed by the late Mr Joe O’Brien (formally of Cathedral Street, Thurles,).

The official opening of The Premier Hall in Thurles took place on Thursday 14th May 1964 with a variety concert, compared by the comedian Pascal Spellman.     On Friday of that same week the Bingo transferred from The Confraternity Hall where it had started in October 1961.   Prize money on the night was £100 and a double book cost 5/-  (25 cents).  The first dance was held on Whit Sunday, May 17th 1964, with dancing to the music of ‘Maurice Mulcahy.’   Dancing was from 9.00pm to 1.00am and admission was 10/- (50 cents).   The queue on that night reached from The Premier down to Molloy’s corner in Liberty Square, now the AIB Bank.  On that same Whit Monday, May 18th 1964, ‘The College Boys’ from Belfast played in The Premier and the admission was 6/-. The manager of the hall at that time was Sean Fitzgibbon.   The booking manager was Billy Crowley, who was also responsible for booking the bands, and the caretakers were Joe Ring and Willie Ryan. Thanks to Sean’s management skills and Billy’s booking of the top bands, the hall soon became the premier dance hall in the county.

There were also many volunteers who helped out, both at the dances and at bingo.   In 1977 Delahunty’s Cinema closed and the hall purchased many of their seats, which are still in use to this very day.  The other managers of the hall since it opened were Billy Crowley and Pascal O’Sullivan, Fr. O’Toole, Fr. Walton, Fr. Hayes, Fr. J. Walsh and Fr. O’Connell.  The current manager is Fr. Lanigan-Ryan and the booking manager is Mr Charlie Maher.

Dancing was very popular (a national past-time) in 1964 and thousands of people were attending dances at the various venues throughout the country.    Many of the couples who are now in their 60’s, 70’s or 80’s, will have first met at one of those dances.    Dancing was from 9.00pm to 1.00am and minerals were the only drinks made available at the majority of the dances.   Dancing in The Premier was every Sunday night and occasionally on week nights, including race days.   Other popular dance halls in the area included The Las Vegas (Templemore), The Arcadia (Cahir), The County Ballroom (Cashel) and The Oyster Ballroom (Dromkeen). The usual admission price was 6/- .  During the Summer months dance marquees were erected in Shinrone, Dromineer, Templemore etc. During Lent, and for the 2 weeks of the Mission, the Premier Hall was closed for dancing but remained open for Bingo, Drama, Musicals and Concerts.

Popular Artists & Bands of the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s

Some of the most popular bands to play in The Premier were:- Brendan Boyer & The Royal Showband, Butch Moore & The Capitol, Dickie Rock & The Miami, Eileen Reed & The Cadets, Dermot O’Brien & The Clubmen, Gina & Dale Haze & The Champions, The Nevada, Brendan Shine, The Mighty Avons, Maurice Mulcahy, Johnny McEvoy, Sean Dunphy & The Hoedowners, Doc Carroll & The Royal Blues, Joe Dolan & the Drifters,  Brendan O’Brien & The Dixielanders, Mick Delahunty, The Big 8, Tommy Drennan, The Graduates, The College Men, etc. etc.

Some of the local bands included Tweed, The Cossacks, The Modernaires, Jack Hanley and of course Spider Maguire who played relief band for many of the top bands coming to the Premier.  The largest crowd ever in The Premier was for ‘Larry Cunningham & The Mighty Avons,’ and that was on a first Sunday night after Lent.  Both The Premier and The Confraternity halls had to be used for that dance.  Both halls also had to be used whenever The Big 8 came to town.
Some famous artists appearing in The Premier were:-  The late Frank Thornton, Lonnie Donegan (admission 7/6), The Swinging Blue Jeans, Brian Poole & The Tremeloes, the late Maureen Potter, Masie McDaniels, Gay Byrne, Val Doonican, The Wolfe Tones, Phil Coulter, Christy Moore, Johnny Carroll, Louise Morrissey, The Radio Eireann Light Orchestra, Tommy Fleming, Pat Shortt and Eurovision winners Bucks Fizz, Johnny Logan and Linda Martin.

For a number of years The Premier Hall hosted qualifying rounds for the Irish entry to the Miss World competition, the final of which was then held in Rumours Nightclub in Dublin.   During the 60’s and 70’s many International Stars appeared in ballrooms throughout the country e.g. Jim Reeves, Hank Locklin, Adam Faith, Acker Bilk, Helen Shapiro, The Victor Silvester Orchestra, The Bachelors, Millie, The Clancy Brothers and many more too numerous to mention.   The price of entry (in the 60’s) to see those international stars was usually 6/- or 7/6 and for your money you also got one of the Irish Show-bands on the same night.

In the late 70’s and early 80’s the Showband Era was coming to an end.  Dancers started coming in later, the main bands started playing from 11.00pm to 1.00am (instead of from 9pm to 1am), with a local relief band playing from 9.00pm to 11.00pm.    Attendance at those dances soon started to decline.   The pub scene was gradually taking over and the young people started going to the pubs and the discos.   From 1982 fewer and fewer dances were being organised.

The All Ireland hurling final was held in Thurles in 1984.   On the Friday night prior to the All Ireland RTE held a live concert in The Premier which was compared by Liam O’Murchu.   Artists on the night were Frank Patterson, Paddy Reilly, The Fury Brothers & Davy Arthur, The Morrisseys and Larry Cunningham.   The match analysis was broadcast from The Premier live on Sunday evening at 7.00pm and this was followed by dancing to Gina, Dale Haze & The Champions.   Admission to that dance was £4.   This was the last of the big dances in the Premier.

The Premier Hall, Thurles, Today.

‘The Club for Dancing,’ which was founded in 1971, still hold regular dances in The Premier Ballroom, which is considered to have one of the best dance floors in the country.   Dancing is every second Sunday night from 9.00pm to 12.00mdt, with an average attendance of 160 and an admission charge of €8.   Lessons in social dancing also take place in The Premier Hall twice a year (one session in Feb./March and again in Sept./Oct.)   These two six week courses costs a total of just €20 for each six week course.  This is the 20th year of such lessons.  (For further information on these contact Tom Gleeson at 087-9732837.)

Bingo continues in the hall every Wednesday night at 8.30pm.   Thurles Musical Society has produced a variety of excellent musicals in The Premier for over 40 years.     Phoenix Productions, founded in 1998, have held some of their best musicals in The Premier and some of the local schools also hold their school musicals there, with continued great success. The current licensed capacity of the hall is 1,000.

The current manager of the Premier Hall is Fr. Lanigan-Ryan.   For bookings contact Charlie Maher (booking manager) Tel: 0504-21938.

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7 comments to Premier Ballroom Thurles – 50th Anniversary

  • Michael

    Those were the GOOD old days, the like never to be seen again and also the people of that time.

  • Pat

    Those were the days my friends. Happy times and I met some cracking girls, Spider McQuire and some fab Bands. Great Craic….

  • Paul Barry

    I have great memories of the Premier hall. I remember going to many sale of works as a young fella.
    The many shows, reunions, (Durlas Óg being the most recent.)
    My dad was involved in the early days and met my Mam there at a dance.
    Congrats on the 50th anniversary milestone and thanks for the memories.

  • Martin Shanahan

    Many Congratulations to all associated with the Premier over the last 50 yrs both living and departed. The holding of all the various events, dancing, concerts, sales of work, drama productions, musical society productions etc, etc, enriched all our lives. Charlie you are and will always be a legend associated with the Premier.

  • Alan Leen

    I was there on the opening night, I just can’t believe 50 years have gone bye. Full credit to all the staff and management that it has outlived all the other dance venues and long may it continue…..

  • Pat

    Hi Alan Leen, I’d say Teddy was with you. (RIP) Competition was high back then.

  • Marian walsh

    Those were the good old days when bands such as Larry Cunningham R.I.P. Margo etc played there.
    Marian Walsh.

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