This weekend marks an renewal of an old tradition, the Senior Citizens party.
I recall many years back the parties going on in the Reading Room and as youngsters we passed by and could hear the voices and the music and do our best to avoid the cars abandoned on the roadside in the dark. Cars drew up all the time, disembarking patrons to the event and when in full swing more cars drew up, this time filled with steaming pots, boiled potatoes & veg, roast turkey, hams and side dishes. All the food was prepared in local homes and was delivered piping hot and ready to serve. The beer and spirits had been stacked up earlier in the day, and I believe little of it had to be bought as the two pubs in the village went out of their way to provide the liquid refreshments.
|Pattie Ferguson reprises here role at the party, with the Thursday Club
in Reading Room in the early 2000’s – following much improvements.
Photo via Bridget Power
The hustle and bustle and organisation must have been tremendous as, in those days, the Reading Room was a much more basic building. A small porch at the upperside was the access point. The double doors that are there at present marked the entry to the main hall which as now could be divided into two, and a curtain at the rear screened off the stage. No space then for a kitchen, which would come in time, much less for a toilet, which from a present perspective, must be a bit shocking to realise.
According to details in the 2009 book, Cheekpoint & Faithlegg Through the Ages, the origins of the party were thus “The present Cheekpoint and
Faithlegg Community Association evolved from a small group of people who got
together in 1977 in order, we understand, to organise an annual
dinner-dance. At that time the local
population was much smaller than at present, the postman (Martin Nugent) delivered
mail by push bike from Half-way-house Post Office to less than two hundred
homes. The initial ad hoc committee
comprised of amongst others Gerry Boland, Kay Boland (Doherty at the time),
Patty Ferguson, Tommy and Theresa Wheeler, Helen Barry and Kathleen
MacCarthy. The “Residents Association”
were formally established in 1978 with the assistance of Tommy Sullivan and Fr
Michael Dee and adopted the aim of promoting and fostering a community spirit
among the people of the area
for all ages, from infant’s class at school to those collecting the old age
pension at Wheeler’s Shop at the Crossroads. Someone came up with the idea of
organising get-togethers in the form of an annual party at Christmas for the
children and one for elders during that bleak period between January and March.”
It was a few years later that I got my first “taste” of the party, which at that point had moved to the school. Then I was a volunteer member of the local Civil Defence and it was part of our duty to be mobilised into action on the night. Either Gerry Boland or Neil Elliott would drive the ancient ambulance on the night and we would wind our way around the village and off the roads in Faithlegg to collect anyone without a lift. The collection was usually a sober affair, serious chat about the weather, the menu, little snippets of news, the drop home was an all together more fun affair and as a teen I got great mileage out of it.
|Diners sitting to their dinner
Photo via Bridget Power
The school provided great comfort in the extra space and convenience of a toilet for patrons. The dance space was probably half as much again. Music was provided from amongst the locality also, Jim Duffin would be eager to perform, but it was Peter Hanlon and band who provided the main act. Singers were much in demand, and it must have been a minefield to Peter to keep the show on the road, and ensure the regular tenors or sopranos got their five minutes of fame. A few years back we pulled together a short video of the events with photographs supplied by Damien McLellan, Tommy Sullivan and Bridget Power.
|Peter and band entertaining the crowd
Photo via Bridget Power
Although we were there to work, and did so including serving, clearing and directing people around the building, we were also there to have a bit of craic. The big draw of the night was a chance to maybe sip a beer. The older men were always encouraging. Tom Ferguson, Ned Hefferenan and Jimmy O Dea amongst others. As a teen, prior to going out to a pub, it was often the first time I heard great yarns, similar to the one I retold about my father at this years heritage week event.
There was also dancing to be done, and the women on the night danced with the men, with each other and if need be with us, the helpers. This of course was a cause of mortification, but you were told to grin and bear it, and indeed you did.
Although very simple affairs, ran for very little cost and with a maximum of community goodwill the old time Christmas parties were a great affair. Hopefully this years event will match those of the past, either way, we wish all those who are organising and all those who go along, a great night.