'Many a big dance' - Edenderry Youth Club set for November Reunion

Memories rediscovered for one night only

Edenderry is set for a night of reminiscence in November as the heady days of Rag Weeks, Kings and Queens and 'many a big dance' are retold and remembered.

The Edenderry Youth Club Reunion event takes place on November 18 at Edenderry GAA, where Parish Priest Fr PJ McEvoy tells us, 'many a big dance' was held over the years.

The Edenderry Youth Club's famous Rag Week will take centre stage, a festival which ran for 15 years from the early 1970s until 1985.

On November 18, video clips, photographs and memorabilia will be on display thanks to a project spearheaded by former members and Parish Priest, PJ McEvoy, who was an integral part of the social fabric of the town at that time.

From musicals to parades, every facet of these glorious days will feature on November 18. The night will start with a drinks reception at 7.30pm, followed by a buffet meal. Some of the former stars of Youth Club productions will bring back some of the memories with performances from the likes of Grease, Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and Jesus Christ Superstar. 

After the meal, the premiere of a video compilation entitled, 'The Glory Years of the Youth Club' will be screened, including the Rag Week films from 1974 to 1983, featuring many familiar faces. This video collection has been re-mastered onto DVDs which will be on sale on the night. A disco will follow with hits from the 60s, 70s and 80s, featuring the famous 'Tweeo Leo' DJs, Greg Traynor and William Lee, from Youth Club nights of the past. 

The Youth Club was more than a social hub in the 70s and 80s in Edenderry; they staged sell-out musicals for 5-6 nights a year, sometimes ran two or three different events per night, dances for the young and old, and raised thousands for Concern and its aid work in Africa with annual 48-hour fasts. It was perhaps the most active youth club in the country.

The heartbeat of the club was every Friday night at St. Joseph's Hall in Edenderry, where young people gathered for fun, games and music. They chatted, danced, laughed, bought records and created happy memories that are still treasured to this day.

At significant times of the year, the 'big dance' was held. £1 in on the door, a live band, mineral bar and dancing till late; these dances were famous, spawning the careers of many local musicians, as well as bringing in out of town bands like 'Rafferty' in 1977. 

Without doubt, the highlight of the year for the EYC was 'Rag Week,' the memories of which will take centre stage on November 18. It all began as a weekend event in 1971 under the guidance of Paul Wyer. By 1974, an idea first sown after a Ladies GAA match on the school field in Gilroy Avenue, had turned into a week-long affair.

By 1977, the schedule was jam-packed with everything from swimming races at the local pool, fencing exhibitions, treasure hunts, barge trips, music and live RTE ads and broadcasts. The annual Rag Week parade of floats and the ultimate crowning of the Rag King and Queen, are famous to this day. 

In 1983, the EYC won RTE's 'Top Club' quiz programme with a team made up of Padraig O'Hannelly, Michael Nolan, Fiona Delamere and Paul O'Driscoll. There is no question that Edenderry was indeed a 'top club,' a testament to community spirit and hard work by young people to make things happen. 

One of the key members at the time, Brendan Fanning, who is once again involved in this reunion, wrote about the Youth Club in 1990, outlining what it meant to him.

"It certainly does feel like yesterday," he remarked at that time, something many people would still attest to, even if it is 2017. "The EYC was indeed a very important part of our lives at the time. It's only when one gets a bit older that the importance of having somewhere constructive to channel your teenage energy becomes very obvious to you," he added.

"It was the most important social outlet for all teenagers between the ages of 13 and 18," Brendan said. "It provided us with countless hours of entertainment." Indeed, Brendan also found his wife, Aileen Farrell, through the youth club as the pair became Rag King and Queen in 1978 and later married.

There was something magical about the Edenderry Youth Club, and people of that era, or just those looking for a good night of fun and good humour, can relive it all on November 18. 

The Edenderry Youth Club Reunion event takes place on Saturday, November 18, kicking off a 7.30pm. Tickets cost €20 and can be sourced through Brendan Fanning, Eugene Byrne Auctioneers on JKL Street or Edenderry Parish Centre by calling 046-973 3311.

Do you remember all the Rag King and Queens from over the years? Here's a reminder:

1971 - John Wyer and Bernadette Hickey

1972 - Seanie Burke and Vera Glennon

1973 - Paul McGuinness and Ann Fanning

1974 - Tony Farrell and Frances McGuire

1975 - Greg Traynor and Laura Cummins

1976 - Kieran Doyle and Mary Rennicks

1977 - Peter O'Neill and Sheila O'Callaghan

1978 - Brendan Fanning and Aileen Farrell

1979 - Michael Judge and Cora Finnegan

1980 - Olly Leonard and Gemma Denehan

1982 - Star Cummins and Mag Kenny

1983 - Ciaran O'Connell and Majella Cox

1984 - David Kane and Geraldine Kelly

1985 - David Quinn and Pam McCreanor 

If you have a story for us, sports news, an event happening in your area, or if you want to submit pictures or videos, contact the Offaly Express team via email to justin.kelly@iconicnews.ie, or through our Facebook.

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