The Breffni Centre, Dromahair
The recently announced news that landmark buildings on Dromahair's Main Street are to be demolished and a new library constructed has been greeted enthusiastically and widely by people with Dromahair connections.
Leitrim Library Service has applied for planning permission for the works. The online architectural plans and impact statements were placed online by Leitrim County Council and people are amazed by the vision motivating the project.
At the same time, many individuals of different generations remember happy times in McCarrick’s Hall, later known as the Breiffne Centre, and from the 1970s until its closure about twenty years ago as Patton’s Hall.
It was, from the 1930s, the central point of entertainment and culture for Dromahair and surrounding parishes and townlands.
In 1932, MacDonald’s Trade Directory listed Kate E McCarrick as the proprietor of a shop and bar with a hall at the rear. The hall sometimes served as a local court, but varied events also took place there.
Kate married Bill Patton from Sligo. A skilled joiner who made kitchen cabinets, Bill Patton was well liked by those who trained with him in his workshop or who helped with the grocery and bar.
Under Bill’s supervision the hall became known as the Breiffne Centre. Dances, sales of work and school concerts were popular occasions. One woman remembers attending Irish dancing lessons given by a local schoolmaster and watching cowboy films at the Breiffne in the 1940s.
In the 1950s until the early 60s the Breiffne Centre used electricity supplied by Paul Jeiter’s private hydro-power scheme beside the River Bonet.
Mr Jeiter, an engineer and hotelier, owned the celebrated Abbey Hotel, an attractive building now sadly empty since 2009.
Films were shown on a screen by a 16mm film projector in the days before television. Shows had to begin at 8pm. If a film ran after 11pm, there was fading light and irritating flickering because the Abbey Hotel reduced power supply then.
Around 1970, Raymond Patton and his brother Dermot took charge of the business. Raymond arranged a complete revamp of the hall and the licensed premises (the grocery had closed).
In the 1980s Raymond opened an adjoining Bord Faillte-approved small hotel with function room. The hall was known as Patton’s Hall and hosted an impressive diversity of public events catering to the tastes of different age groups.
Here is an incomplete list of events held in Patton’s Hall: dances, dancing classes, school concerts, other fundraising concerts, amateur drama productions, card drives organised by the GAA, badminton, bingo nights, Santa Claus visits and film shows.
The GAA promoted cultural events as part of the Scór na n-Óg programme. Some people remember the kind efforts of the late Joe Torsney to promote and encourage young people in Scór.
In the active badminton club Raymond Patton (known as Rammy on account of his prowess) was a difficult player to beat at the game.
I bought a house in the village in 1985 and remember charity auctions – I still have a wardrobe bought for £5.
A Christmas school concert organised by local school principal Stacia Carre was especially moving.
In 1998, Killargue local historian Padraig Cullen gave a learned public talk about the 1798 rebellion.
A talk by the army Chief of Staff about Irish peacekeeping under the UN flag was given in memory of the late schoolmaster, Paddy Downey, who had served in military intelligence during the period 1939-45 and was also active in the FCA local defence group.
Public meetings were sometimes held to discuss local and county issues.
The dances at Patton’s Hall are especially remembered in Dromahair. Some dancers met their future spouses at these.
A partial list of stars who performed on the stage in the hall includes: Big Tom, Larry Cunningham, Brian Coll, Johnny McEvoy, Martin Cuff, John Glynn, Trudi Lalor. Jimmy Buckley, John Hogan and of course the local band Rockbeat.
Youth clubs in the district had their summer “hops” from the 1960s onwards. Somebody remembers the singing American cowboy Roy Rogers performing in Patton's, but he wasn’t accompanied by his faithful horse Trigger.
Events at Patton's/The Breiffne Centre were often motivated by the need to fundraise.
Church restoration, the promotion of sport and youth clubs, the Society of St Vincent de Paul, hospice support, third world emergency relief and several other concerns were among beneficiaries. Religious events also happened.
Patton’s Hall/Breiffne Centre will be remembered as a vital part of the Dromahair heritage.
Garreth Byrne belongs to Dromahair Heritage Group and also serves on the committee of Dromahair Development Association - Tidy Towns. He writes here in a personal capacity.