Ballypatrick in the Rare Ould Times
Ballypatrick in the Rare Ould Times
Growing up in Ballypatrick in the early 1950’s was a privilege. After a quiet time following the war, this village was about to explode into life. The transformation from sleepy rural village to hive of activity was a joy to behold.
The Glue Pot
At the cross roads in the village we had the “glue pot”, the local village public house. It was given this nickname because once you entered you found it very hard to come back out. This little bar brought great enjoyment to all. One of its famous clients was The Clancy Brothers, the famous ballad group.
They used to come out to the village to meet Gerry Donovan. Gerry was a local farmer and bachelor, a self-educated man. Gerry had a great collection of old Irish ballads which he passed onto the brothers. As a thank you the brothers would come out to the village and take Gerry to the pub. They would have a great time and would finish up outside the pub after closing time where they would sing some famous songs for the lovely ladies dressed in the best of attire. The eyes of all the lads would be active at the sight of the miniskirts worn by these ladies.
Monday was always a great day when the farmers would be coming back from the creamery and would call in for a drink most of the time. The horses would have to make they own way home as their owners would be unable to leave the craic inside in the pub.
The Ballypatrick Marquee
In the late 1940’s platform dancing was very popular in many county villages. Ballypatrick was no exception. Dancing took place in the football field, music was played by Jack Brennan and Mick Cooney. There were great times had by all.
Jimmy Gibbs, the local publican who had erected the platform, felt it was time to move on from platform dancing. In the early 1950s ballrooms were beginning to flourish all over the country. He felt it was time for a change. As a result, in the early 1950s he erected a marquee which was to prove a great success for the best part of 25 years.
On the opening night of the marquee music was played by the Riverside Boy Band. It went from strength to strength and eager dancers came from all parts of Tipperary, Waterford and Kilkenny. Buses travelled to the marquee, beginning their trip in Urlingford and travelling through all the villages on the way to Ballypatrick. Some famous nights were had by all. Some danced all night and even missed their trip home. As a result they had to book into the five star hotel next door in Jimmy´s hay barn! No electric blanket was provided.
One of the great nights at the marquee was a victory dance for Tom Larkin who was a member of the Tipperary All Ireland final hurling team in 1958. Another good night took place with the famous Royal Show Band in 1959 in aid of Ballypatrick Tennis Club. The band at that time was just about to hit big time. We had visits from John McEvoy, Gallowglass Ceili Band, Black Aces, The Monarchs, The Premier Ace, The Davit brothers, the Cawleys and numerous others. The largest crowd ever at a dance in the marquee was in May one year which attracted a gathering of 1500 people. A huge amount of folk for a small country village.
The dances took place on Tuesday and Sundays nights. As a result there was never a dull moment in the village. On one occasion in early August a ceili band came down from County Armagh. They arrived in the village on a Monday to fulfil their booking as they thought. But on arrival they were to learn that their booking was for the following night. Luckily enough they had no booking on the Tuesday night and they remained in Ballypatrick. They drank and played music in the pub (free of charge). On Tuesday they fulfilled their duties in the marquee and after the dance they returned back up to Armagh. The marquee brought great fun and entertainment to the village and those days will always be treasured.
The Handball Alley
First on the horizon was the handball alley. Work on this site began in the 1930’s but due to a number of disagreements it was not completed until 1956. The building was completed on a voluntary basis and it was a credit to all involved. The alley was officially opened by Joe Bergin (President) and Joe Lynch secretary of Irish handball club and was blessed by Fr Power in 1956.
The alley hosted many All Ireland Finals and the cream of the country came to the little village at the foot of Slievenamon. People will always remember the great games between John Ryan (Wexford) and Mick “the stick” Griffin in the All Ireland semi’s and final. This alley is one of the finest alleys in the country and holds the record for the largest attendance at an All-Ireland Final.
The alley witnessed such greats as Paddy Hickey (Tipperary), Jimmy O’Brien, Paddy Downey (Kerry), also the likes of Pat Kirby (Clare), Joey Maher (Louth), Tony and Noel Ryan (Ballypatrick) and Tom McGarry from Limerick. Tom was a great Limerick hurler. Jimmy Doyle describes Tom in his book as “the best back he had come up against in his career”.
Ballypatrick was one of the finest creameries in the country and one of the wealthiest. It had over 200 suppliers. It ran a successful store which catered for all the requirements of the local joiners. It also managed a coal yard. It was proficiently run by Michal Butler and later by Joe Moran.
Joe was managing the business when South Tipperary Farmers’ Cooperative was formed in the early 1970s. Joe was not keen on the creamery joining this new business. He felt Ballypatrick Creamery was well able to function on its own as it was financially rich.
This was not to happen. It commenced business with South Tipperary Farmers Coop. In its good days it employed up to 10 people and brought up to 200 people into the village in the mornings which benefited all the local businesses. This is now all gone as the Creamery is now closed and looks desolate. What a pity.
The tractor was about to take the place of the horse in the late 1940s. One local farmer had the vision and the expertise to avail of this change. Eddie O’Reilly bought his tractor in the1940s. This was to be a huge success as time moved on. Eddie had one tractor moving onto seven or eight plus ploughs and mowing bars. He was also employing up to seven or eight people at the time. He was a great organiser and he was very successful. He saw the day of the mill was coming to an end and as a result he purchased a combine harvester which was one of the first in the Munster region. Eddie ran the firm right up to the early 1960s. Tony and Eddie managed the business for several more years.
The Ballypatrick Tennis Club
On a fine afternoon in early summer of 1951, Mr Ryan who worked for Michael Power came into the alley field. He cut a small section of the field. Later on that evening a small group of people led by Mr Michael Butler started on the layout of the tennis court. This was to be the start of a long successful club. On completing the layout of the tennis court the first game of tennis was played. The players who took part in that first Ballypatrick tennis match were Michael Butler Kieran White, Nellie White (Nee Gibbs) and Joan O’Gorman. From that humble beginning, the club was established. It has brought joy and entertainment to the “little village”.
One court became three courts in the alley field. The club developed there for many years before purchasing its own land from Avonmore across the road. The club has now three lovely tennis courts and two squash courts plus it’s very own clubhouse. The club is now one of the best rural clubs in the country. It has won national awards from the Irish Tennis Council at Fitzwilliam.
In its time the club has travelled all over Tipperary, Kilkenny, and Waterford taking part in friendlies and tournaments as well as organising their own club ones. The people who walked into the alley field on that early summer’s afternoon have left a wonderful amenity as a legacy. It has helped the young boys and girls in the locality to mature into well rounded adults through the lessons of participation in sport.
In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, Ballypatrick had its own football field as well as a handball alley and tennis court. Numerous games were played in Ballypatrick field where the famous marquee was later situated. Games were played there until Kilsheelan Club field was opened in the1950’s. Ballypatrick was one of the top sporting locations in the country at the time.
A village with a population of around 50 people boasted a famous handball alley, a beautiful tennis court and a fine football pitch. It proved the strength of the local community and the power of the “little village”.
The Post Office
Also during those years we had the local post office, the Venture. It was ran by Gus O’Reilly and Mrs O’Reilly. It was a lovely shop to call into. The craic was great. Gus was a very witty person and Mrs O’Reilly was quiet and attentive. They ran a lovely business where everybody was welcome. The craic was mighty as everything was discussed from weddings, funerals and courting couples to politics. It was run in the later years by their daughter Lily. It is now closed. This is a sad loss to the village.
The village businesses
Ballypatrick was blessed with a butchers shop which was run and owned by Bill Walsh, from Toor who operated the business for many years before he emigrated to Australia where he became a successful businessman. He was a well known lover of greyhounds.
The local tailor was Benny Gibbs, a quiet man, who was excellent at his trade with many of the locals wearing his suits, coats, trousers which were tailored to the highest standards.
Mickey Maher was the local cobbler, another fine craftsman who ensured all the locals had the finest of footwear.
The village was full of craftmens and industry making it a self sufficient, vibrant and a prosperous village.
The Social Scene
On the social scene a number of other events took place during the year with one of the most popular in August being “Race Slievenamon”, a four and a half mile race to the top of the mountain from Ballypatrick. The average winning time was 40 minutes with competitors from all over Ireland.
The race was followed by the Maid of Slievenamon in the Marquee an evening full of pageantry, dancing, music and celebration of the autumn harvest and the days festivities.
Another event was the bicycle race which was organised by Bill Hyland from Clonmel, who was Chief of the BLE in the county. A day of hard racing lead into an evening of quenching the thirst and dancing in the marquee.