The Oyster Ballroom in Dromkeen was completely destroyed in a fire in the early hours of last Sunday. While the building had long been used as a furniture store until last weekend’s blaze, for many the venue will forever be associated with dances dating back to 1958.
Acts ranging from Joe Dolan to Thin Lizzy played the Oyster Ballroom. On August 30, however, Brendan Bowyer, who also graced its stage, will lead a tribute to the venue in nearby Cappamore.
“There were always a number of buses from Limerick, as the city slickers came out the country to meet the local girls,” Mr Bowyer said.
“I was shocked and saddened to learn of the fire as we were there for a photo shoot to promote the Cappamore concert only last week.
“We had some great nights in the ballroom with crowds of over 3,000 people coming from far and wide. It’s so sad to see it gone now,” he said.
Proclaimed as the ‘largest ballroom in the South’ in a special feature in a local paper to announce its opening on Wednesday, November 19, 1958, the Oyster subsequently changed its dances to Sunday night.
One of the most famous nights witnessed at the old venue was when a capacity crowd packed the hall for a glimpse of American country crooner Jim Reeves, who played the Oyster Ballroom in the summer of 1963, one year before he died when his private airplane crashed in Tennessee.
“Dancing fans travelled from a radius of 30 miles and more to see all the big bands in Dromkeen,” said John Barrett, promoter of the Cappamore event.
Eight fire units fought the blaze at the Furniture Man store in the former showband venue last Sunday, and an estimated €500,000 of stock was destroyed.
‘Rolling Back The Dromkeen Years’ with Brendan Bowyer will take place on Sunday week at Cappamore Community Centre.