Next weekend, August 3-5, the small but mighty community of Aughnasheelin celebrate the centenary of their hall. For 100 years the community hall has been the centre of Aughnasheelin Parish, a place to celebrate and commiserate, to mark new events and changes while also reflecting on the great history of the past.
Built in 1912 as a Temperance Hall, it was constructed as a place for the whole community to gather and to unite. 100 years later the Hall Committee are inviting all Aughnasheelin natives and friends to the parish for a weekend of celebration and to launch a book on the history of the renowned hall.
The weekend gets underway next Friday, August 3 with at 7pm con-celebrated mass. This will be followed by a lecture from the author of the special Aughnasheelin Hall history book by Fr Liam Kelly.
Fr Kelly is a much respected historian in the area who has written and collaborated on a number of history books about Co Leitrim. The 100 year history of the book documents the hall from the very first stone laid, to present day. It includes a number of old photos and memorabilia from down through the years.
On Saturday, August 4 John Feely, Chairman of the Historical Society will launch the Aughnasheelin Archives book and Brendan Harvey will give a talk on the origins of the Aughnasheelin community.
Sunday night, August 5 Aughnasheelin Hall will re-enact the famous bazzars which were held in the hall from as far back as 1929. There will be prizes galore for the all family and entertainment will be provided by All Ireland Scor Winning Ballad Group and Aisling Sammon All Ireland Solo Singing Champion 2012. The Ward Sisters, All Ireland Fleadh Cheoil Champions will also be on show to perform their talents.
Aughnasheelin Hall was built as a Temperance Hall, not a parochial hall which were more frequent in the county at that time. It was set up by a group of local trustees who formed the local committee. The Temperance movement was a campaign urging reduced or prohibited use of alcohol consumption among young men. The money to build the hall was raised locally and a contractor John Conefrey from Aughavas was employed along with the help from local volunteers. The hall was opened on December 27, 1912.
The committee running the hall, was a very distinguished group within the community. A position on the committee was inherited from father to son. Many of the current committee can trace their place on the group back to their fathers and grandfathers from 1912.
The hall was mainly used as a location for meetings, political events and non alcoholic dances. There was a period of trouble for the hall from the 1930s-1950s. The hall was boycotted following political differences. But by 1951 these had been resolved and the hall re-united the community, providing a location for every local event.
The hall will be remembered by many as a very popular dance venue. There were regular Sunday night dancing, ceili and country bands. Some of the most memorable nights included Silver Star and Malachy Sweeney Ceili Band, as well as The Grafter Showband and local musicians. A young Larry Cunningham played in Aughnasheelin Hall before he recorded Lovely Leitrim and went on to have a famous singing career.
The 1960s were marked by the huge annual bazzars. These bazzars were used as fundraisers for the restoration of the church. The bazzar was a big social event on the local calendar.
Aughnasheelin Hall has been a important centre for every local organisation in the area. The GAA, ICA, Drama Societies, Scór, FCA, Foroige, Macra na Ferime and Bingo groups have all used it’s facilities.
Over three years ago the local playgroup moved in to the hall and has been providing childcare services for local families from a new extension at the rear. Active Age now also enjoy the fine facilities of the hall.
Aughnasheelin is a parish choc-a-block with young talent and down through the years the hall has been the centre for rehearsals of Scór acts, dance, music, song and drama. It currently hosts dance and music classes for children.
The hall is equipped with a hydraulic stage and is used for school concerts and other celebratory events, including welcome home events for local award winners. The hall is also used in times of local deaths, women from the community come together to provide refreshments for those who have travelled to funerals and removals.
The hall was renovated in 1984 and 2000, this celebratory weekend is grant aided by the Natural Rural Development Programme and Leitrim Development Group.
Like other rural communities within Leitrim and around the country, Aughnasheelin has been a victim of the recessionary times, they have lost their Post Office, their curate priest and have been ravaged by emigration. The presence and continuance of Aughnasheelin Hall has never been so important. It is a place where the whole community can unite, it is a symbol of identity and a pride of place.
The committee would like to welcome everyone to their weekend celebrations in Aughnasheelin next weekend, come to relive old memories and help make new ones.