By Jimmy Rhatigan
FOR OVER 100 years a local community centre has been a parish Hall Of Fame.
Now it is set to become even more famous as what might be termed a social revolution is in full swing in a bid to fully cherish the young, young at heart and all in between.
Aptly named the St Canice’s Neighbourhood Age Friendly Hall, once the local Boys’ Club, in a region that sits proudly under the umbrella of The Butts, the venue is the hub on which the wheel of a vibrant and close-knit fraternity spins comfortably.
A glorious history is its foundation, an ambitious development programme its public sitting-room for future generations.
Plan is that it will be a home from home for seniors so that our elderly, particularly those who live alone, will continue to enjoy a social life into their twilight years.
Those who make the plans can never be accused of being old fashioned as the hall will also cater for the very very young, teens, twenty somethings, to those who may one day get a letter of congratulations and birthday cheque from whoever will be President of Ireland.
Word drama was slipped into local dictionary
On Wednesday, the hall was alive for a Tea Dance with music by the inimitable Seán Shortis, was a dancing delight for circa 70 lively souls, from their 50s up to the vivacious Pat Shortis, a sprightly 96.
A fox trot, a waltz, a tango, you name it, and those who once tripped the light fantastic in the oft lamented Mayfair Ballroom were happy to roll back the years.
The Mayfair was our Ballroom of Romance in the showband era.
The seniors journeyed down memory lane and loved every minute of it, including the mandatory cuppa.
The dance was the final of a winter season, the seventh in a series and while dancing will now give way to beaches and banter, a super new series will again beckon.
Tributes were paid to local woman May Feehan who died aged 94 and was buried on Thursday.
She was a much loved lady, popular at dances and bingo for God only knows how long. Rest in peace good friend was the message from soul mates.
Ambition is to upgrade a hall which has stood the test of time but is now in need of a once over, a project that will make the venue fit and proper for friends and neighbours who may be home alone but will never be on their own in a caring community.
A grant of €45,000 is to be applied for under a Kilkenny County Council Cultural Scheme to add facilities to add lighting and sound to a mobile stage.
A hall team led by Jenny Cooke, ably assisted by ALONE staff Eleanor Doyle and Mary Colclough did a super job for Tea Dances.
Aim is to bring back amateur theatre to a parish once the artistic home of the Don Bosco Players, local thespians who slipped the word drama into the parish dictionary.
Champions like the late Jack Lanigan, Josie Dwan, Jimmy Haide, Jim Dunphy, and a then very young Michael Kelly and Brendan Corcoran sprang to mind from an era when the stage curtain was probably borrowed from a family home.
Today the hall hosts dancing, bingo, a men’s group, bowls, a new Irish Community, the Indian Christian Community, a United Nations offshoot perhaps.
It will shortly play host to an international food festival where immigrants will cook and share native dishes, part of an integration programme involving children and parents, including prayer groups and bible study students.
“Plan is to make our parish centre the most energetic in the South East. With a little help from our friends it will be warm and welcoming, thanks to the support of our County Council, ALONE and the HSE,” Fr McGrath Centre Director of Services, Stephen Murphy told The Reporter.
The hall is under the wing of the Fr McGrath Centre, a seat of education, culture, childcare, multicultural events, after school studies and homework clubs that honour the memory of the late Fr Michael McGrath, a powerful man of the cloth in a an ever proud parish.