FEATURE

The history of the Premier Hall in Thurles

Tom Gleeson

Reporter:

Tom Gleeson

Email:

news@tipperarylive.ie

The history of the Premier Hall in Thurles

The official opening of The Premier Hall in Thurles took place on Thursday, May 29, 1964 with a variety concert compared by the comedian Pascal Spellman.

The Premier Hall was built by Christy Foyle, Slievenamon Road Thurles with plumbing completed by Tom Mason, Friar Street and the electrical work by Joe O’Brien, Cathedral Street.

On Friday, May 30, 1964 Bingo transferred from the Confraternity Hall where it had started in October 1961. Prize money on the night was £100 and a double book cost 5/- (five shillings).

The first dance was held on Whit Sunday, May 31 with dancing to the music of Maurice Mulcahy. Dancing lasted from 9pm to 1am and admission was 10/- (ten shillings).

On the Whit Monday, The College Boys from Belfast played in The Premier and the admission was 6/- (six shillings).

The manager of the hall at that time was Sean Fitzgibbon with Bill Crowley acting as booking manager and Joe Ring and Willie Ryan as caretakers. Other managers of the hall since it opened are Billy Crowley, Pascal O’Sullivan, Fr. O’Toole, Fr. Walton, Fr. Hayes, Fr. Walsh and Fr. O’Connell.

The Premier Hall and the Confraternity Hall are both owned by the Catholic Church.
Dancing was very popular in 1964 and thousands of people were attending dances everywhere. Dancing was from 9pm to 1am and minerals were the only drinks available at those dances.

Dancing in The Premier took place every Sunday night with occasional weeknights organised as well.

Other dance halls in the area included The Las Vegas (Templemore), The Arcadia (Cahir), The County Ballroom (Cashel) and

The Oyster Ballroom (Dromkeen). During the Summer months marquees were erected in Shinrone, Dromineer and Templemore however during Lent and for the two weeks mission the hall was closed for dancing.

There was however the Drama Festival, bingo and the opera.

Some of the most popular bands to play in The Premier were Brendan Boyer & The Royal Showband, Butch Moore & The Capitol, Dickie Rock & The Miami, Eileen Reed & The Cadets, Dermot O’Brien & The Clubmen, Gina & Dale Haze & The Champions, The Nevada, Brendan Shine, The Mighty Avons, Maurice Mulcahy Orchestra, Johnny McEvoy, Sean Dunphy & The Hoedowners, Doc Carroll & The Royal Blues, Joe Dolan & the Drifters, Brendan O’Brien & The Dixielanders, Mick Delahunty & His Orchestra and The Big 8.

The stage also welcomed many local bands including Tweed, The Cossacks, The Modernaires, Jack Hanley and of course Spider Maguire who played relief band for many of the top bands coming to the Premier.

The largest crowd ever in the Premier was for Larry Cunningham & The Mighty Avons and that was on the first Sunday night after Lent.

Many famous artists also graced the stage of The Premier down the years including Lonnie Donegan, The Swinging Blue Jeans, Brian Poole & The Tremeloes, Maureen Potter, Masie McDaniels, Gay Byrne, Val Doonican, The Wolfe Tones, Phil Coulter, Christy Moore, Johnny Carroll, Louise Morrissey, Tommy Fleming and Pat Short.

In the late 70’s and early 80’s the Showband Era was coming to an end. Dancers started coming in later, bands started playing from 11pm to 1pm and the attendance at those dances started to decline.

The pub scene was gradually taking over and the young people started going to the pubs and the discos.

From 1982 fewer and fewer dances were being organised.

One of the most memorable events took place when the All Ireland hurling final was held in Thurles in 1984. On the Friday night prior to the All Ireland RTE held a live concert in The Premier compared by Liam O’Murchu.

Artists on the night were Frank Patterson, Paddy Reilly, The Fury Brothers & Davy Arthur, The Morrisseys and Larry Cunningham.

The match analysis was broadcast from The Premier live on Sunday evening at 7pm and this was followed by dancing to Gina, Dale Haze & The Champions. Admission to that dance was £4.

This was the last of the big dances in the Premier.

However as the dancehall days came to an end, the Premier Hall continues to be the location for many community events and shows with bingo running every Wednesday night at 8.30pm.

Thurles Musical Society, Phoenix Productions, local school musicals, The Showstoppers and others continuing to use the hall for numerous concerts and special events throughout the year.