What we know as Salthill Park was originally a large field with a small lake. It was landscaped in 1907. In 1925 the Salthill Development Organisation (SDO ) asked the corporation to clean up a cesspool there, but that took some years. In 1924, three councillors, Mr Bailey, Eyre Square, Martin Cooke, and John Coogan, bought an aeroplane hangar for the urban council for £400. It had been used by the RAF in Oranmore and was re-erected it in the park. It was called the Pavilion Ballroom, but everyone knew it as ‘the Hangar’.
In the mid-forties the SDO rented it from the corporation and ran it for a number of years. In total the SDO paid rent of £5,112 to the corporation and handed over the profit it made of £10,579 9s 6d which was to be used solely in the development of Salthill. The principal aim was to clear the foreshore and create a strand, to erect a breakwater pier, and provide proper bathing facilities. The resident band in the Hangar at the time was run by Johnny Cox. They made up their own songs….
“Come and listen to the band
And you will help improve the strand,
Tread the light fantastic here
And you will make the foreshore clear,
Dancing feet can lend a hand
To treat us to a fine strand,
Dancing in the Salthill Pavilion
Makes the foreshore look a million,
Every half crown at the door
Is a rock off the shore,
Dance with Cox
And move the rocks.”
The SDO seems to have lost money in 1948/9, and after Seapoint opened it stopped renting the Hangar. It continued as a ballroom however, run by Tommy Nevin. Many big bands played there, and there was a céilí every Sunday night, when you would see several hundred bicycles parked outside as people came from many miles around. The Clipper Carlton were probably the first showband to play there and they were followed by hundreds of others. A lot of big acts graced the Hangar stage — Jim Reeves, Chubby Checker, Bill Haley, Johnny Cash, Horslips, Thin Lizzie, Rory Gallagher, etc. Planxty’s first gig was there as a support band for Donovan. The Beatles were lined up to play there (for £85 ), but between the time they were booked and the time they were to play, ‘Love Me Do’ hit the charts, and someone read the small print, and they never made it to Salthill.
There were occasional boxing tournaments held there, and during one university drama festival, UCD did a version of Oedipus Rex, adapted by Neil Jordan and directed by Jim Sheridan.
One of the main attractions was the “finest floor in Ireland specially laid for dancing”. It was beautifully sprung and certainly attracted the best dancers and jivers in town. It was a special place, full of nostalgia and romance and memories for many. It closed in 1974. If you want to know more about the Hangar, then tune into Jimmy’s Choice, Jim Higgins’ great programme on Galway Bay FM, next Sunday from 12 noon to 2pm.
The Galway City Museum is preparing for an exhibition of dancehalls and dancing in Galway, and is inviting you to help if you can. The museum will hold an open evening next Wednesday from 5.30pm and is asking the public to bring along objects or memorabilia relating to the Hangar and Seapoint in particular… think clothes, dancing shoes, musical instruments, photographs, ticket stubs, band posters, etc. They should be in reasonably good condition. The museum will retain these for two weeks during which time they will be assessed. Potential lenders will be contacted by February 18. They are asking for objects to be loaned (not donated ), an agreement will be drawn up with the lender, and objects will be returned after the exhibition. All of this came from an idea of Bernadette Divilly and it looks like being a very exciting show. So, please support it if you can.