Devotees of dancing gather in Glenamaddy

If you’re a fan of the foxtrot, great at the gavotte or just a whiz at the waltzes then you’ll be interested in the resurgence in dancing which is currently taking place in Glenamaddy.   Glenamaddy has a long, long history when it comes to dancing. Many people will remember boarding buses or overloaded cars for Quinn’s or the Sound of Music in former decades (indeed some of us even remember the long walk home). However, this latest twist to the history of dancing in ‘Glan’ has come about thanks to a Mayo native who retired to live in the Kilkerrin area in recent years. For the past five months, ballroom dancing buffs from all over the West of Ireland have been converging on the Oakland Hotel in Glenamaddy for a Sunday afternoon tea dance. Changes to socialising patterns and strict enforcement of drink-driving laws resulted in a huge drop in the number of dances being held in the West of Ireland in recent years. Pubs found it no longer worthwhile to pay a band as numbers of pub-goers dwindled and dance devotees found themselves without a venue to enjoy their favourite pursuit. In many parts of Ireland, afternoon tea dances proved the answer, allowing people to congregate on Sunday afternoons, enjoy the dancing and drive home afterwards. A native of Mayo Abbey, Peter Joyce lived in Galway for 29 years. Four years ago his wife died from cancer at the age of 52. He recalls, ‘She spent a lot of time in the hospice. I felt at some stage that I would love to put something back, but I found it very difficult. ‘I suffered a lot with depression and I was out of sorts and Christmas was a very bad time for me, I didn’t go out of the house for six weeks. Then, last August I moved to Kilkerrin and started doing a computer course in Glenamaddy. My teacher was Eileen Costello and I told her about the idea for a tea dance. There are tea dances in Durrow and other places in Ireland, but there is no tea dance in the west. She said ‘why don’t you go into the Oakland Hotel and meet Michelle?” (Michelle Collins, nee Raftery, is a daughter of owner Tommy Raftery). ‘I met Michelle and she said ‘no problem’ and gave the hotel free of charge. We have a break at 4.30 pm each Sunday and we have tea, coffee and sweet cake. Recently, for Father’s Day, she gave us chips, sausages and nuggets as a treat. ‘We recently formed a committee and Della Dolan, a hairdresser from Tuam, joined. She’s brilliant, doing all the paperwork,’ commented Peter.  Since the tea dances got off the ground in February, a huge amount of money has been raised for a variety of worthwhile causes. In the early stages, one charity benefited from a month’s tea dances, but that has now been cut down to two weeks, such is the volume of good causes seeking to benefit from the dances. The dances in February were run in aid of Galway Hospice and raised €2,000. In March, the Alzheimers Foundation in Ballindine was the beneficiary and €2,000 has been presented to that organisation. In April, the money raised went to Sr. Avril, Chaplain in NUI Galway, and a group of 20 students from the college who travelled to Ghana during the summer as part of the Habitat for Humanity project. The €2,000 raised for that charity was used to build houses in Ghana. In May, two charities each benefitted from two dances and both a Belarussian children’s project and the National Council of the Blind of Ireland received €1,000. The charities to benefit from the dances in June were Kilkerrin NS and the couple from Glasgow who were attacked while on holiday in Co. Louth recently. ‘When they get their health back we hope to bring them to the West of Ireland and let them enjoy themselves. It would be a nice gesture that they would be able to spend some time here.’ The numbers attending the Sunday afternoon tea dances range from 80 to 120, while the age group is from 20 to 90. ‘We recently had a dancing teacher here from Tyrone, an 82-year-old ballroom dancing teacher,’ recalls Peter. ‘It’s for everybody. People are coming from a 70-mile radius, from Carlow, Offaly, Clare, Donegal and all over the West of Ireland. It’s all word of mouth, the Four Roads to Glenamaddy. People can have a meal there and there’s dancing from 3 pm to 6 pm and we have a cup of tea at half-four.’ Men are especially welcome at the dances. ‘We are short a few fellas, because the girls don’t get enough of dancing!’ said Peter. If you’re a dancing enthusiast, get yourself along to the tea dance. For further information contact Peter Joyce on (086) 8574944.