Wednesday, 17th January 2018
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A story by a Waterford native features prominently in a new book recalling the halcyon days of the showband era which was launched this month.

'From The Candy Store to the Galtymore' chronicles the late 1950s to the 1970s in rural and urban Ireland through the stories of the young men and women who went to their local Ballroom of Romance each weekend.

The book echoes an era of social and cultural uprising in Ireland as the country began dancing the weekends away to the sounds of showbands in newly-built ballrooms.

It was the time of Larry Cunningham, Joe Dolan, Brendan Bowyer, Dickie Rock and Butch Moore and wherever they played, the crowds followed.

Joan Griffin, nee Aulsberry, a native of Ballyduff, Kilmeadan, writes about her time in London as a young mother and how she would go to dances sometime – not to remember but to forget.

Her hard times changed when she met her second husband and their love story unfolds over the decades, finally leading to their happy return to Waterford where she celebrated her 86th birthday in June.

Waterford native Brendan Bowyer is shown to have a big heart in the collection.

While driving through Kildare, he met a young boy John O'Brien who writes an endearing piece on the day when Brendan's big Mercedes stopped to give him a lift home from school.

There was a denouement later when his parents allowed him – at 14 years – to attend a dance the next time the great Hucklebucker played in the vicinity.

Queen of Country & Irish Margo O'Donnell, writes a harrowing account of how she met a down-and-out in London and became great friends with him as he battled against drink before his death.

It is a story of sadness but full also of pride in how he turned his life around to die a proud man.

Co-editors Dr Joe Kearney and PJ Cunningham trawled the country over the past year to bring Ireland's showband stories together in one book.

In all, there are 70 contributions contained in this social and cultural review of the time. "From The Candy Store To The Galtymore" is a collection with twists in every turn – stories of romance, of chance meetings and tales that are funny and maybe even mischievous," said Dr Joe, a native of Callan, Co Kilkenny.

"All human life gathered for the weekly dances in what was a cultural shift away from the more formal céilís which held sway up until then.

"The showband dances were modern and slightly more brash occasions than the country had been used to but, if anything, the number of stories of love and loss, rows and ructions, fun and games grew in the new environment.

"The book looks at this era from left of centre and collects the forgotten, overlooked or rarely-told stories of that time."

The sources are mainly ordinary folk with some interesting insights from singers, musicians and band managers as well.

Now available all over the country and is published by Ballpoint Press (?14.99).

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