A Taghmon Dinner Dance In 1910


Nuala Carroll

Sometimes when out walking or driving I meet a cyclist travelling around the countryside, smiling and as free as a bird. Such a sight often tempts me to buy a bicycle. It has not happened yet but on reading the following article, which appeared in The Free Press on Saturday, February 12th 1910, the temptation to get in the saddle is growing. If cycling became a pastime for today's 'couch potatoes' they too might see the day when a notice appears in the local newspaper describing 'The recent dance held by Taghmon Cycling Club'. It would, no doubt, be held in our recently refurbished Community Centre of which we are so justly proud. So what about it ladies and gentlemen? Now, glance over the following and picture the ladies and gentlemen cycling happily along the leafy roads of Clover Valley, Trinity, and Harristown enjoying the splendour and breathing the fresh air of our picturesque townlands.

The article is masterful in its use of the English language and puts much of what passes for writing today in the shade. Although there is no definite proof as to the name of the writer, it is quite evident that it was written by the Taghmon correspondent for The Free Press (and sometimes 'The People') at that time. His name was Mike Martin and he was the son of William and Elizabeth Martin of Taghmon. His sister was Polly Martin who ran a pub in Joseph St., and his brother was Billy Martin who played football for the Trinity Stars. Mike married Rob Brereton's sister and among his sons were Bobby (Tiger) and Billy Martin. His daughter, Betty, married Jimmy Booth of Adamstown. In the 1911 Census of Ireland his occupation is given as journalist. He later joined the British Army and became Lance Corporal M. J. Martin, of the 3rd Battalion Royal Irish Regiment during World War 1. Mike certainly had a gift for words and the Taghmon Notes in The Free Press (and sometimes The People) during the first half of the twentieth century are liberally sprinkled with his wonderful rhythmic prose. Indeed, Mike Martin deserves an article all to himself, both for the quality of his writing and for his campaigns on behalf of the Taghmon area . I have no doubt that such an article will soon be written.

The initial attempt of the promoters of the Taghmon Cycle Club Dance, more than justified the success foreshadowed for it. It can only be described as a brilliant success in every sense of the word. The dance was held at Hilburn House, on Wednesday 2nd inst, kindly lent for the momentous occasion by Mr. James Gore. In its palmy days when the 19th century was still in its teens, and when its style of architecture was still the vogue, the good, bad and old days of Levers and Lovers, reckless foxhunting squires and generous and ungenerous landlords, the mansion may have been the theatre of many a gay festivity. Rubicund pot-bellied squires, familiar figures of another day, men who quaffed the flowing bowl well into the wee small hours and awoke under the table without a trace of headache, men who lived lavishly and in the midst of their ebullitions of extravagance scorned to pay honest debts and led the bailiff many a merry chase, these may have guided mistress so-and-so in bustle and hoops over the polished floor through the mazes of many a Sir Roger de Coverley, and in the intervals thrown epigrammatic shafts at her, that drew from the prim maiden a quick smile and quicker repartee. But not since those early days, when still in its pristine glory, has that old mansion of Hilburn awakened to such joyous echoes of music and laughter as rang through its lofty rooms on Wednesday night and swept its wide, many angled corridors, to become lost upon the stillness of the night air. Supposing you stood looking on at the gay and festive throng that filled the ballroom. Here was youth and beauty, life and warmth a tout ensemble, that at once pleased and appealed to your artistic sense. Overall is that air of delicious abandon - Bohemianism - that strikes forcibly the elemental in your nature. The strong glare of the light plays in ripping waves upon the animated scene searching out the darker shadows; adding strength to the higher lights of subject as a whole. The beaux esprits are here, this humour not uncouth but gay rollicking, light hearted Irish fun, to which the very perceptible touch of the brogue lent an additional charm. The scene was like one transported from the Arabian Nights, a veritable fairyland peopled by real moving figures, the more sober garments of the gentlemen in strong contrast to the clinging diaphanous draperies of the ladies. The latter with their partners moved over the floor, swaying now in rhythmic grace through the mazes of a dreamy waltz and again stepping lightly as only an Irish colleen can, and in perfect time, to the music of a jig or reel. Watching, one saw the spirit which seemed to animate all in the joyous throng, and reflected that such nights of laughter and freedom from care come but too rarely to relieve the monotonous routine of country life. More than a special word of praise is due to the committee of the Cycling Club who organized the dance viz: Messrs F. Ward, B. Larkin, N. Moore, G. Crosbie, M. Kelly, and J.O'Brien. On these gentlemen, of course, devolved all responsibility, and when the fact that they were mere novices at the work is realised, the successful outcome of their endeavours is all the more surprising. They spared no pains to make the event an artistic and social triumph and the general consensus of opinion of those who attended the dance is that they well succeeded in so doing. Through their unremitting labours the ball - for ball it was in every sense of the word - was brought to a successful issue. The committee was also responsible for the decorations of the ballroom, and in this particular respect they showed considerable artistic skill and ingenuity. On the walls were beautifully arranged displays of evergreens, shading the lamps and causing the light to fall in a softened glow over the room. Suspended from the ceiling and crossing and recrossing each other were exquisite designs in floral bunting that charmed and captivated the artistic eye. The catering was in the hands of Messrs T. Ryan and M. Kelly, Taghmon, who gave general and entire satisfaction. Dancing commenced at 8 o'clock and lasted without cessation until 7 a.m. Prior to their departure, Mr. T Ryan, Hon Sec of the Cycling Club, addressed those who took part in the night's dancing, and in a pretty little speech thanked them on behalf of the club, more especially the ladies, for attending. He also alluded to Mr. Gore's generosity and kindness in allowing them the use of such a magnificent room in which to hold their dance, and trusted it would now be made an annual event.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS AND REFERENCES

  1. See The Charge of the Light Brigade by Des Waters in this journal.