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Dancing feet in the Hangar

by Tom Kenny

Early in 1922, the urban council decided to purchase the hangar and some of the huts at Oranmore Airfield which had been used by the RAF there. The price was £400. Willie Joe Simon’s tender for their removal and re-erection of was accepted. Following the assembly of the Hangar in Salthill Park, a council meeting was held there and decided that ‘a dancing floor in timber be laid down’. They also recommended that one of the sheds purchased in Oranmore ‘be erected adjoining the Hangar to be used as a kitchen and supper room’. Three councillors, John Coogan, Mr Bailey, and Martin Cooke supported the sale, other councillors said it would become a ‘white elephant’. They were wrong.

It is estimated the corporation took in some £80,000 in rent over the years, Thomas O’Toole being one of those who leased it in the early days. It was called the Pavilion Ballroom but was only known as The Hangar.

In the early part of the last century, the Salthill Development Organisation was set up to raise funds to help the corporation clear the foreshore to create a strand, to erect a breakwater pier, and to provide proper bathing facilities in the area. In the early 1940s, they leased out the Hangar and ran it as a ballroom. When Seapoint opened, they gave up the lease but in the time they had it, they paid rent of £5,112 to the corporation and handed over £10,579.9.6 profit they had made. All of this money was to be invested in improvements in Salthill, and thanks in a major way goes to those visionary people, there was some serious development in the area and we have a lot more beach than was there in the 1940s.

The resident bandleader at the time was Johnny Cox, and the band included Dan Burroughs on drums, Paddy Tier on piano, Billy Davis on trumpet, Vic Burgoyne on clarinet, and Eddie Reynolds on saxophone. Doris Wilson, Marie Lydon, and Peggy Folan were the vocalists. They made up their own songs ….This one entitled 'Dancing Feet’: “Come and listen to the band / And you will help improve the strand / Tread the light fantastic here / And you will make the foreshore clear / Dancing feet can lend a hand / to treat us to a fine strand / Dancing in the Salthill Pavilion / Makes the foreshore look a million / Every half crown at the door / is a rock off the shore / Dance with Cox / And move the rocks”.

We included these words in an Old Galway column over 10 years ago and, remarkably, a few weeks ago, we had a letter from Mr Al Guest in the Isle of Man saying he had a record of the song. So he very kindly sent it to us, an old 78. These delicate brittle records have long since gone out of date, but with the help of Pat Cantwell and Liam McFarlane, we now have it on tape. You will have a chance to hear it if you listen in to ‘Jimmy’s Jukebox' on Galway Bay FM next Sunday, that wonderful programme of vintage and nostalgic recordings that goes out every Sunday morning from 9am to 12 noon. It is compiled and compered by Jimmy Higgins and is always worth listening to. And if the programme revives memories for you of the showband era, then we recommend you go to your local library and borrow a copy of Jimmy’s book Are Ye the Band? an evocative and often hilarious account of life on the road during those halcyon days.

Our sincere thanks to Al Guest for reviving all these memories. Finally, I hope you all got the joke that was last week’s column.