The Central Ballroom, Ballybunion
In 1954/55 Matt O’Sullivan returned from England to Ballybunion and he bought the Central Hotel. He had a vision and that vision was a ballroom, so he proceeded to build a ballroom where the Golf Hotel now stands. Before this was built dancing took place at the Pavillion/Ballerina occupied now by an amusement centre.
The Central Ballroom in Ballybunion was opened on the 29th of June 1956. The opening of this establishment was the main topic of conversation by the people of North Kerry and West Limerick. I believe that there was a little bit of opposition from an English band, namely Pete Roxburgh’s, but the opening went ahead and the ballroom was opened on the said date by Pete Roxburgh and guest, singing celebrity Joseph Locke. The scenes on the night were covered by the Kerryman and it estimated that 10,000 people turned up on the night.
Pete Roxburgh played for some time during that summer but the band broke up. This proved to be a godsend for the Maurice Mulcahy band from Michelstown and they made their first appearance in the Central on Saturday night the 8th September. The band then got a three-month stint in the following years starting in June and finishing the week of the Listowel races. This continued until the mid-1970s. Maurice Mulachy and his band stayed in Ballybunion for the duration of the summer. Their families also stayed. Their signature tunes were “From a Jack to a King” “Falling in love” and “Magic Moments”.
The cost of a season ticket was three pounds and ten shillings. These tickets did not cover you on a benefit night when you had to pay. Dancing was for three nights a week in the month of June and seven nights during July and August. In July, a bus-load of women would arrive to Ballybunion and the local men would dance the summer away with them.
In 1968 Matt O’Sullivan’s son, Kenneth, acquired the Central and he built a new ballroom at the back of the existing one and had the hotel demolished. This new ballroom was opened in 1968. The late Bill Fitzgerald was working at the ticket office and he estimated that approximately 3,000 patrons passed through the door some nights. There was no alcohol served in the Central, just a mineral-bar. The most popular mineral sold was “Pep Apple Juice”. This was made in Brosna. The takings from the mineral-bar paid for the running expenses of the hall. The order of romance was a few dances, an offer of a mineral and sometimes a coffee and a Club Milk at Danna’s, then on to the Castle Green for that moonlight walk and a glimpse of heaven, if one was lucky enough!
The door manager was for a time was Victor Rattory, while The Ball Connor, Jack Savage, and John Rohan also worked there. Jet Costello was the floor maintenance man. His duty was to keep the floors polished.
The Central Ballroom has become part of Ballybunion folklore. Even as the people who danced there grow older, the photographs and accounts like these will keep the folklore alive for future generations.