Let’s have your story from the days of the dance halls and the cinemas
Craigavon Borough Museum Services are hosting an exciting cinematic, dancing, literary, musical and theatrical exhibition over the winter and would love to hear from local residents who have any memories, photographs and objects, which could feature in the display.
Taking place from November 16 to February 28, 2013, the exhibition is sure to bring back warm memories for many locals of the days of cinemas, dance halls and theatres, which reached their height of popularity in the 1950s and 1960s.
Portadown was, for those with a long memory, a great centre of entertainment with three cinemas, as many dance halls, and a plethora of theatre groups, although the theatre is still alive and well in the hands of groups like The Gateway and the Phoenix (juniors and seniors).
The town boasted three cinemas at one stage - the Regal in Bridge Street, The Savoy (Catch) in Edward Street and the Picture House (Somerson’s) also in Bridge Street. And when they all closed the Portadown Cinema at St Mary’s Hall kept the silver screen alive until it, too, went blank.
The Catch was the first of the three main cinemas to close, destroyed by fire in the early 1960s and now party of Sprott’s Bacon Factory. The Regal followed suit in 1971, with Somerson’s the last of the trio to succumb. The photos of the heady days of film premieres at the Regal were supplied from retired photographer Jim Lyttle’s website, when stars of the day like Ronald Shiner, Noel Purcell and Carole Lesley attended the launch of films like ‘Mandy’, about a deaf child, and the comedy ‘Watch Your Stern’.
Jim recalled that he took the pictures at the Regal, at the time he worked for Carleton Studios in Carleton Street (owned by the Anderson family) after which he branched out on his own. He was working for the Portadown Times those Regal nights, and recalled that two employees of the Regal locked themselves in the box office with a few bottles of aqua vitae and wouldn’t come out! But those premieres really put Portadown on the cinema map in Northern Ireland and the town was buzzing with anticipation - the cinemas also produced none other than Alexander Walker, one of the world’s foremost film critics, who recalled there was a different film on every night of the week, with the three cinemas and each showing two or three films over the six days. (Sunday opening was well into the future).
Dance halls also proliferated, with the main one the Savoy in West Street (Albert Wilson and the Nighlites were the resident band), and the light fantastic was also tripped at the Boathouse (occasionally over-zealous patrons would end up in the Bann), Carleton Street Orange Hall and the Seagoe Hotel, where - during the big band era - things really swung.
The Catholic Dramatic Society brought great honour to the town in those days, and veteran Thespian Harry Foy has often recalled they cleaned up not only in the local and Belfast scene but in the all-Ireland stage. And the comprehensive Portadown Music festival - covering a wide range of music and arts - is a real asset to the borough.
In Lurgan there were two cinemas which were the focal point of many a Saturday night out. Dance Halls such as the Castle Lane Ballroom and later the Calypso Ballroom (which replaced Fosters Cinema), played host to showbands such as the Troubadours and were packed to the rafters every weekend. In addition, groups, such as the Lurgan Choral Society, Lurgan Play Actors and of course the acclaimed Lurgan Operatic Society entertained the public with highly polished productions held at the Town Hall before packed houses.
All of this and more will feature in the exhibition, but the organisers would also like to include residents’ favourite memories of the activities, groups and people that have entertained in Lurgan and over the years. So please contact the Museum on (028) 3834 1635 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Portadown
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 11 C
Wind Speed: 12 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: South east