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Sample piece from Lifetimes - Folklore from Kerry By


John Joe Kavanagh's father, Sean, owned a shop and a dance hall in the village of Boolteens - 'the Mall' as it is known - between Castlemaine and Inch. "In those days it was all day-dancing, you would get in for tuppence, there was nothing after dark, night-time dancing came many years later. We had to supply the music ourselves, there was no such thing as hiring bands, we had a melodeon, drums, and then different musicians came from around the parish to play a few 'sets' and waltzes and that kind of stuff. Ours was the first dance hall in the County Kerry would you believe. There used be a big crowd gathered around half-past-two on a Sunday, then doors would open at three o'clock and we'd finish at six. It was built in 1918, and they used also hold Sinn Fêin courts here, and festivals with singing and dancing; it was even used as a school for a time while they were repairing the old Castledrum School behind."

"Even on Christmas Day there was a dance and we couldn't eat our own dinner then until after six when everyone was gone home. In 1939, we built a new building here and that is the present day John Joe Kavanagh Insurance office now. There was another dance hall back the road, Michael O'Brien's, Bay View, and we were both doing very well until the Oscar Ballroom in Castlemaine opened and that closed the two of us down."

"The Mall was a very industrious village in those days. I remember there used be a big mill up the road there - by where Gabriel Foley's house is now - and it was driven by water from the pond field, and we owned that field. I think the mill was belonged to Boyle's as far as I know. It was used to crush oats and maize. Then there was a lime kiln located down below the forge and they used bring the lime from the quarry in big blocks and put it into the Kilbane and burn it below there. It was then spread out on the fields afterwards as a fertiliser."

"That time, going back along the road here everyone spoke Irish; you didn't have to go back west to Dingle to hear it. My father was an Irish teacher, an scalard bhocht they used call him, which means the poor scholar. He taught in Abbeydorney after the war, because Irish was banned up until then. Before that he taught in different schools 'on the quiet'. My father had only one hand, I don't know what happened to the other one, I think it was blood poisoning or something like that, but they had to cut it off anyway; he was above in the Mater Hospital for weeks trying to save it but it didn't do. The time of the war he was teaching in Dublin and had property there as well, but it was bombed in the early '40s and he lost three of his houses. He died then in 1943 you see, and got nothing for the houses or land or anything, everything was lost, no one to fight for it, a different world now but that time 'the vultures' got in and took it all."

"My mother told us once about the time that the Black and Tans were to burn the Mall where we are living here now, everyone was waiting for their arrival, all the women and the children left their houses to find safer grounds, but my mother stayed God rest her, and a few others but most of them went. The 'Tans' planned to burn it down as far as Dowd's - that's where Timmy Connor is living now - apparently, but they never came that night anyway, thank God, only getting as far as Batty Sheehan's. Whatever happened to make them turn back no one really knows, but it was shortly after the ambush on the Milltown Road -the Ballymacandy ambush they called it."

"But life is good now; I still do a bit of work here with my Insurance Company, with my family and my wife Margaret."

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