Noel Finan realised that young people coming to Salthill wanted something more than the salt air and to be clean. He sold the family pub (now Killorans) to raise funds, and borrowed heavily to build a first class ballroom and restaurant. The restaurant was 4,000 square feet and could seat 350 diners. The ballroom had a floor area of 5,200 square feet, and was laid with a specially sprung maple floor capable of accommodating over 2,000 dancers. It also had a balcony from which one could spot talent.
Seapoint was built in 13 months by 30 men working for McNallys. They had to be very careful to work with the tide, so they built a breakwater around the perimeter. The foundations were critical as the building was very high, one of the most imposing in the west. Young Salthill fellas probably drove the workmen mad as they paddled lumps of wood around inside the foundations when the tide was in.
It is fair to say that Seapoint dragged Salthill into the 20th century. It attracted terrific big bands in the 50’s ..... Des Fretwell, Joe Loss, Victor Sylvester, The Dutch Swing College Band, Vera Lynn, Winifred Atwell and many more. These in turn attracted huge crowds, and then came the showband phenomenon, bands like The Capitol, The Royal, The Miami, The Big 8, The Clipper Carlton. The first time the Clancy Brothers played there was probably the busiest ever. Later on came groups like The Boomtown rats, U2, Bagatelle and Horslips. It was a place of great fun, romance, energy , excitement and dreams .
Central to its success was Noel Finan who was only 29 years old when it opened. He had vision, courage, was always courteous, a superb organiser with very high standards who did a lot of work behind the scenes for Galway charities. He had many interests but nothing was more important to him than his family.
He always had a wonderful relationship with his staff, and our photograph today shows him with some of them in 1960. In the front row, left to right are; Mike Sullivan, Mrs. Mullins, Mrs. Burke, Colette Heaney, Ailish Burke, Anne Keeling, Peggy Mullins, May Kenna & Mary Theresa Nugent. Second row; Paddy Chef, Doreen Silke, Mary McMahon, Maura O’Donoghue, Mary Gleeson, Noel Finan, Mrs. Hanlon, E. Hanlon, Mary Bolger and Tommy who was the second chef. Included at the back are Michael Collins, Mary Collins, Mrs. Joyce, Tommy Callaghan, Pádraic St. George, Frank Heaney, Nelly Grealish, Mary Moyles, Seán Callaghan Chick Gillen, Donal Morris, Frank Duffy, Gabriel Duffy, Carmel McCormack, Johnny Buckley, Noel Folan, Joe Coyne, Christy St. George, Mrs. Feeney.
If some of you rockers and rollers and jivers would like to relive those halcyon nights, then you should get tickets for “The Swinging Sixties Showband Show” which takes place in Seapoint on Wednesday next, April 6th. There is a terrific line-up of musicians (and a mineral bar) to entertain you, and it is all being organised to buy vital equipment for the stroke unit in University College Hospital. Tickets are 25 euro and are selling fast. They will not be available on the door but can be purchased from Des Kavanagh Electrical, Salthill P.O., Seapoint, Jaycee, John Mclaughlin chemist or by calling 091 865 357 or checking on www.swingingsixtiesshowbandshow.com. Galway City Museum are organising an exhibition later in the summer based on Seapoint and the Hangar, so if you have any items that might interest them, contact Brendan McGowan in the Museum.
Finally, if you would like to hear more about Seapoint and the music scene in Galway, tune in to Jimmy Higgins’ evocative radio programme on Galway Bay FM on Sunday next at 12 noon.
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