We now turn to some of the stories that Patricia McSorley and Patricia Hackett heard from others in the Eskra community when they were collecting the accounts and as Mrs. McSorley stated in her book, these stories form a part of the great oral tradition and folklore of Ireland.
Eskra is a small rural district of about twenty-five townlands in the old plantation manors of Cecil and Kllyfaddy, about sixteen kilometers south-east of Omagh, Co. Tyrone, and is situated in the northern end of the Clogher Valley.Dances in the 20s and 30s were an important thing to the citizens of Eskra.
“There were some quare [sic] dances in the hall beside Marlows. I heard my mother talking about Maggie Tighe, Mrs. Monaghan (Fintona), Rose Doyle, the Corrigans and B. Hagan. They’d have the flour bags bleached white and ready for the dance for maybe three weeks before it. These bags were to be used as tea towels, dishcloths and to cover the sandwiches and cake. Ah, dear! There’s not one of them left now. The people, nor the flour bags!
“They’d come on bikes and they’d be lined round Marlow’s house in heaps. The ladies would go into Marlow’s to do themselves up.
“Packie Brannigan supplied the music most of the time and is recalled that Maggie ‘Toy’ and Joe Gormley were two exceptionally good step dancers. If it happened that there was no one at the dance who could supply instrumental music, it was all right, since there were plenty of great lilters and they’d all lilt together.
“When the ladies were taking their tea ‘in the room’, the men danced ‘The Clap Dance” to the music of The Soldier’s Joy. The women made the tea and you’d be invited down to the room, or parlour, but the men got no tea. You see, they wouldn’t have enough to go round. I heard about dances where the men went outside and took out the cake out through the window on a pitchfork or sally rod! They would make scallops, then they’d reach in and take out the buns or cake.
“There was a great wee dance called ‘The Royal Charlie’. It was much the same as ‘The Waves of Tory’ which we still see occasionally.
“Tommy Mullin remembers house dances in Lurganglare. ‘Well, the neighbours would just gather in and I’d play the fiddle. There would be a dozen or more. They’d come to your house a]the night and you’d go to their house the next night. Of course, the boys would follow the houses where they knew the good looking girls were! It was all the sport you had.’
“There’d be an odd big Social Event in Newtownsaville School. It was usually organized by Joe Hackett. Joe would be round on the grocery cart you see, and he would sell the tickets. If he knew any good dancing girls he’d give them preferential treatment. I don’t think he even charged them for the tickets.
“For us boys, it was two bob. Times you’d have it and times you wouldn’t. Then there were the sixpenny dances. They were in the local schools – Arogan, Glencull, Altamuskin and Fintona. These dances were good but it was hard to get the money to go to them.”
NOTE: When I met Maggie ‘Toy’ in 1982, she was 92 years young. She and I conversed for over an hour. To this day I can remember that gracious lady and can believe that she was a great Step Dancer. If I had asked her at that time, she probably could have done the steps as well as any person - half her age.
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