The Cheekpoint Disco

Few could imagine in this day and age, the joy of attending a disco in an old hall, with broken windows and a sagging floor with dodgy electrics and no toilet or running water.  But in rural Cheekpoint in the 1970’s every teenager from the village and for miles around looked forward to the Friday night diversion, with as much anticipation as the modern era attending electric picnic.  Put simply, there was little enough to do, and it was a major event in our lives.
Cheekpoint in the mid 1970s early 1980s, like so many rural villages, was not exactly places of major entertainment.  At home we had a black and white television set, upon which RTE 1 was the only station. We also had a radio set, a PYE valve radio, the same size as the TV.  This only received channels on the long wave or medium wave bands, and which was kept on RTE Radio 1, as moving it risked not being able to tune it in the next time my father needed to hear the news or forecast, or my mother to listen to Gay Byrne’s morning radio show. Around this time a newfangled tape recorder came into the house allowing you to tape, onto blank cassettes, your favourite music or new songs as they were played on radio or TV.  I remember the Eurovision being taped like this, and the rows that went on if anyone spoke as it picked up this also and could be heard for ever more.
Apart from going to mass, or joining up civil defence there was little else available to us in the village, except going for a walk.  A Friday night bus did leave the village for bingo, or the pictures, but we would not be found dead at bingo and of course we did not have the money for the movies. Dances were always popular in the village, as I previously recorded in my account of rowing to the dance. Peter Hanlon told me during the week that the first of several youth club committees met in 1964. Down the years these tended to stop and start as committees ran out of energy. But my generation was fortunate with a dynamic committee the highlight of this being the Friday night disco.
In an era of Saturday Night Fever, the iconic image of John Travolta strutting his stuff across a shiny glittering dance floor with walls of mirrors and ceilings of lights, the Reading Room was less than comparable.  And to many it derived a less than envious non de plume – the Hen House.  

But when needs must they say and in the Reading Room, the committee worked hard to make the place seem, if not plush, at least bearably ok. The dust was swept off the timber boarded floor, cobwebs removed from the walls and ceilings, leaks patched up and occasionally some decorations graced the walls. Charlie McCarthy donated a twin deck and some records, and I’m pretty sure he donated lights too. Who can forget Michael ‘Bugsey’ Moran deftly joining electrical wires together and trailing them along the walls in an effort to enhance and extend the second hand disco lights.  Or indeed his valiant efforts to find and repair the fault, after the power went out in the middle of a slow set, with little more than a pliers and a packet of matches for light. (Why did it always go out in a slow set I wonder?) 
Music selection was always a cause of contention.  The DJ’s “deck” was located on the stage at the back of the Hall, where they could see over the proceedings and take requests from the floor.  We had two DJ’s of note (that I can recall).  Philip Duffin was fond of softer music, and seemed to have a preference for disco and pop.  Personally I hated this.  Bugsey was into rock, louder was better, and he often arrived up with an extra speaker which he endevoured to add in to his ever increasing network of wires and cables strewn along the stage and over the walls.  The two lads vied for their space at the decks and both were always spruced up and looking the part.

Interruptions to the music were frequent.  Power cuts, scratched records, or someone jumping on the stage to ask for a specific request hitting the deck or the table it stood on.  Of course there was also the difficulties caused by foot stomping head bangers when Bugsy played Iron Maiden or Motor Head and the whole timber edifice shook like a leaf…good times

Boys tended to stay in the lower corner or along the outside wall.  The girls on the opposite.  The music started at eight in the evening, which was fine in the winter, but a bit odd in the summer, as light streamed in the windows. It wasn’t just locals either of course. Friends or relations or school mates were invited along, but this had to be passed by the committee.  In summer there would be holiday makers in the village, and these would be always welcomed.  Many was the young person who skipped out their bedroom window and I can recall one or two incidents with my father standing outside waiting for a young sister of mine to wander out.  There was only one door then, so no escape.

Youth Club 1985, just as the disco’s were finished but many here would have attended
Bk Row: Owen Power, Pat O Neill, Michael Duffin, meself, William Doherty, Patricia Doherty, Cormac Power, Maurice Doherty, Dennis Doherty, Matthew Doherty, Timmy Murphy and John Rodgers.
2nd row: Bronagh Doherty, Eily Bible, Marie Doherty, Julie Ann Doherty, Claire Moran, Jennifer Doherty, Dettie Doherty, Eileen Doherty, Michael ‘Bugsy’ Moran
seated in front row: Maurice ‘Mossy’ Moran (RIP), Michelle Barry, Annette Sullivan, Jacinta Doherty, Breda Duffin, Maria O Leary, Patricia O Leary, Elaine Doherty, Jean Foley, Deena Bible, Aideen Sullivan.
Kneeling: Paul Duffin, Michael ‘Spud’ Murphy, Malachy Doherty, Kevin Sullivan and Dylan Bible

In time the disco fell out of favour and a new youth club committee went in a new direction with activity based evenings and although different it was equally as good.  But deep down I think anyone who remembered the evenings of loud music, flashing lights and sweaty teenage bodies dancing together on an old wooden floor, could not but miss the buzz.

This Saturday night (7th October, 8pm) the Development Group will hold a “Hen House Reunion” with all profits going towards running costs of the Reading Room.  €5 on the door, disco and BBQ food.  And some speculation that Bugsy may play a set on the decks…I’ll be first on the floor for that.

Many thanks to Kay Boland nee Doherty and Peter Hanlon for their help in this piece

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