The complex known locally as simply “The Hall” has had a long and varied history that has seen it placed at the centre of the community of Newmarket-on-Fergus since 1840 and has seen may key moments in the life of our parish.
The local Temperance movement founded nationally by father Theobald Matthew identified that in order to counter the effects of “The Demon Drink” an alternative needed to be provided. From this group the idea was born of providing a community facility to meet the educational, social and leisure needs of the people of Tradraigh or Newmarket-on-Fergus and to act as an outlet other than the drinking houses. From this idea a sub group was formed to develop and run this facility. This group was the first body to hold the title of hall committee, making the hall committee one of oldest bodies or groups in the area. The hall committee put much work into locating a suitable site for the centre and financing the project before the centre itself began life.
The centre was started on the 25th March 1840 with the laying of the foundation stone by Edward O’Brien, a son of the then Lord Inchiquin who was one of the centre’s main benefactors allowing the community to rent the site on which was built the original part of the complex, The Temperance Hall. This name was locally shorted to simply The Hall, a name that some local people still apply to the whole complex. The building of the complex was also made possible by funds received from the Fitzgerald family of Carrigoran House.
The centre opened as a Temperance Hall and was a two story building in what is now know as the small hall. This building had a lecture hall and a stage area which was home to many dances and concerts. It also had a meeting room and reading room. Indeed, a regular column in the Limerick Leader called Clare Searchlights carried many articles of the activities of the Hall down through the years.
An article of December 5th 1931 gave a description of the history of the complex and how it was first erected by the voluntary labour and subscriptions of the people of Tradraigh, the article continues to discuss some of the great meetings held in the complex such as the visit of Michael Davitt who along with Charles Stewart Parnell set up the land league in the 1880’s. In addition the complex was the venue for many of the political meetings such as those organised by T.D. Sullivan which selected candidates to run for election to the House of Commons parliamentary elections under the nationalist banner.
Other events of more local interest was the foundation of the Local GAA club which took place in the meeting room and lecture room in the old Temperance Hall.
After some time the national school board secured the use of the complex for the holding of classes. Boys and girls were separated with either gender been accommodated on one or other of the two floors. The hall remained as the local school until the early 1900’s when a new school was built and was opened on the 15th December 1907. The hall was subsequently reopened as the parish hall.
There were many events arranged including lectures by such leaders of the nation as Eamonn DeValera and others.
In 1931 there was an addition of an open air 40 by 60 handball court and viewing area. Once again the Limerick leader in November 21st 1931 gave a lengthy article on the complex. At the time a number of competitions were held in the newly opened handball alley. Teams from all over Clare, Limerick and Tipperary were present and the leader reports that “all alike pronounced it one of the best institutions of its kind existing in Munster”.
During the 1930’s the Hall was still a two story premises which served as a “club premises for all activities in the area”. The upper floor was a spacious room used as a concert hall. Indeed much praise is given to the local amateur theatrical group who on March 8th 1930 staged a locally
written play to “a bumper house filled to the doors”. The concert hall also held recitals by the Newmarket Brass and Reed Band. Exhibitions of physical drills were given by the Newmarket Physical Culture class under the training of Mr. P. Keane.
The centre has held many lectures such as one by Rev. M. Quinn of St. Flannan's on the world famous Bavarian Passion Plays which still run to this day. The Hall has held many dances under the management of the Hall committee and the chairmanship of Fr. G. Clune, Curate of Newmarket.
Education of the people of Newmarket was also not forgotten especially technical education. For 6 months up to November 1931 Mr. J.J. Murphy carried out training in the craft of woodwork and the following 6 months a Miss Russell carried out a course in cookery & dressmaking.
The parish hall remained in operation until the 1940’s when the department of Defence rented the complex as a barracks for the Local Defence Force during “THE EMERGENCY”. After the emergency the centre once again returned to civilian use. However it remained a base for the FCA and was used as a training venue by the reserve defence forces up until 2006. During 1966 the centre underwent a major regeneration and started to accommodate sports events as well as films joining the already listed lectures and other activities.
However, with the growth of the population base and the demand for leisure activities especially sports events and dances the hall soon became too small to accommodate.
The community centre committee in the late 1970’s began planning to grow the centre with the building of the main hall complex to the rear of the existing Temperance hall which became known locally as the small hall.
The centre saw the addition of a new indoor sports hall and stage area known as the main hall. In 1980/81 work progressed onwards with the construction of a new indoor 40 by 20 handball court as well as a squash court on the site of the original 60 by 40 court. Under the chairmanship of Father Tuohy the work progressed and this development also allowed for the redevelopment of the original hall into meeting rooms as well as a smaller hall for smaller groups that the main hall proved too large for.
At this stage the centre also provided accommodation for the local doctor, community playschool and credit union to mention a but a few.
Around this time the parish was reduced in size with Shannon becoming a parish in its own right, as well as Newmarket parish building a new church, the present church.
Once again the cost of developing the centre was met by local volunteers giving freely of their skills as well as hosting an Annual Festival. On October 5th 1988 the community centre held its first weekly game of bingo. This has risen to be the main fundraiser of the centre since then and has largely funded the operations of the complex. Bingo continues today and regularly attracts large numbers of patrons from as far afield as Kilrush in the west and Limerick city in the south.
The new millennium brought new challenges for the hall. It was proposed to redevelop it for the new family centre but eventually this was found to be impractical as the complex could not cater for all that was proposed as well as what it was already supporting. The family centre was developed on a green field site near the local library.
This allowed the centre to begin renovations and by 2004 the main hall had been renovated and reroofed and new lighting and electrics installed. This followed on in 2008 with a new heating system.
However the most fundamental change in this period was the legal structure of the complex. After a public meeting on the 1st April 2000, based on legal advice, the community centre decided that the legal structure of the community centre needed to be put on a more solid footing. Work commenced on this project and after applying for and receiving charitable status from the revenue commissioners, the centre was transferred to a Company limited by Guarantee.
This transfer completed on October 21st 2002 and the centre named Newmarket-on-Fergus Community Centre Ltd.
Since 1840 the old building has grown and developed to meet the needs of Newmarket-on-Fergus and its people. Aided down through the years by so many who gave their time, effort and dedication. It continues its mission, to some its sports, others meetings, others education and training, but to all it’s simply “the hall”. Long may she continue….
Author: Pat Carrig
Join us on Facebook
Tel: +35387 776 1882