One of the pieces included in Dr. Des Marnane’s recent publication, The First Hundred: Talks on Tipperary’s History, has the shortest of titles ‘Sex in Cashel’.
According to the author sex was a problem in Cashel in 1936, according to the Parish Priest, Dean Innocent Ryan, who was a native of Aherlow “In July 1936, Dean Ryan wrote to the Chairman of Cashel UDC, and I quote: ‘The obligation of my position as pastor of souls in Cashel, compels me to inform you officially that the letting of our City Hall for bi-weekly dances has become and is, a serious and urgent source of moral danger and corruption to our young folk.” The Dean went on to request that a special meeting of the UDC be called at which he could put his case in person.
After a bit of the usual shuffling of responsibility, it was accepted that the hall and its use was the council’s responsibility. The Dean did not hold back, saying: “this Hall has become a centre of immorality and a source of pestilence to religion and country.”
The Dean’s objections were two-fold, based on morality and culture – evidence of “filthy foreign dances” sneaking into the country and corrupting innocent citizens. The story, according to Dr. Marnane, continues: “Dean Ryan saw a plot by agents of sin and change. During the previous winter, the Hall was used for weekly céili dances, or more precisely, practice sessions for Irish dancing and as the parish priest saw the matter, since then, these weekly dances had become just that, regular dances. “Now we find that instead of this practice dance, it has diverted into an ordinary practice dance. People are gathered in here from all parts of the country and there is no attempt now made to cater for the training of youngsters to dance Irish dances. It has become a regular dance on Friday and Sunday nights – without any supervision and without any provision for the teaching of Irish dancing.” What brought matters to a head and led to the council being summoned to a special meeting was explained: “When passing up the Main Street last evening I heard a great deal of hullabulloo going on in the upper portion of the City Hall. I went in to see how matters stood. The place was packed. I must say that the class of dance being indulged in was most objectionable. There was nothing Irish about it.” The Dean told the people to go home. Most did but there was a row with the organisers of the dance and Ryan took it amiss to have his authority questioned. Dean Innocent Ryan was a powerful man at that time and none of the politicians had the nerve to say nay to their spiritual leader.