Thurles Bingo to Mark Golden Jubilee

By Noel Dundon

By Noel Dundon

The Golden Jubilee celebrations of bingo in Thurles parish take place on Wednesday next October 5th in a Monster Bingo night commencing at 8:30pm.

With 4,000 Euro of prize money up for grabs, but at the same entry price as usual, the organisers are expecting a very large attendance to help fete one of the longest running games in The Cathedral Town.

All the funds raised from bingo in Thurles go towards the parish and the Wednesday night trip to the Premier is part and parcel of life for the many people who make the journey, many by bus, to hear their numbers called. But, did you know that bingo was not always held on Wednesday nights in Thurles?

When it was started originally in the Confraternity Hall back in 1961 by a committee of eight including, Fr Bergin ADM; Willie Flynn, Liberty Square; Sylvie Butler, Kavanagh Place; Martin T Butler, Kavanagh Place; Billy Crowley, Matthew Avenue; Sean Fitzgibbon, Mitchel Street; Sean McCarthy, Castle Avenue; and Joe Burke, Croke Street, bingo used to take place on Friday evenings. And, the Confraternity Hall would be packed to the door with players looking to make a few bob for the weekend dances.

Despite the passing of time, the desire to win a few bob has not changed, and though the currency has evolved on a number of occasions, those in attendance still play in the hope of getting that ‘Check’ call from their own books.

Of course bingo is much more than just a chance to win a few Euro. It is a social outing for everyone and while many will play bingo three or four times a week in different locations, there is nothing quite like playing it in your home parish for the people of Thurles. The same faces keep coming week after week and people even get attached to the same seats and spots in the hall. There is always great banter and chat about. But, once the balls start rolling, the serious business begins and it’s eyes down until the full house is achieved.

There have been many bingo callers down through the years with the likes of Sean Fitzgibbon, Billy Crowley, Paddy Gleeson, Pascal O’Sullivan, Charlie Maher, Paul Galvin and Martin Taylor all doing the needful. At present, those involved in the bingo set-up include Charlie Maher – current caretaker of the hall, Paul Galvin, Norma Galvin, Padraig Galvin, Martin Taylor, Andy Doran, Billy Crowley, Eddie Ryan and Kathleen Buckley. This group of people have continued the great traditions established by those who went before them and have ensured that bingo in Thurles remains strong and a great social outlet for people.

When the Premier Hall was built in 1964 by Mr Christy Foyle, The Mall, Thurles, assisted by Tom Mason (plumber), Friar Street, and John O’Brien (electrical), Cathedral Street, bingo moved from next door to the bigger hall. The Premier opened on Thursday May 14th with a special cabaret concert hosted by Mr Pascal Spellman. On the following night bingo started in the Premier and two nights later on the Sunday, the first dance took place with Maurice Mulcahy Showband entertaining the masses. Whit Monday saw the famous College Boys from Belfast pack the place out and since then most of the big names on the circuit have played in The Premier Hall including Joe Dolan, Dickie Rock, Brendan Boyer, Big Tom, Gina Dale Hayes and the Champions, and many many more.

Billy Crowley, who has been there since the start, has seen them all and he recalls the many great nights held in The Premier. “There have been some fantastic nights there and we packed the place out on more occasions than I care to remember. There was always a fantastic atmosphere and the big names love to play there as well,” Billy told The Tipperary Star as he recalled with great fondness a number of gigs played by Gay Byrne, of The Late Late Show fame.

He recalls in particular the Centenary All-Ireland in 1984 – the final was held in Semple Stadium in recognition of Thurles being the birthplace of the GAA. Gina Dale Hayes and the Champions played over that weekend to a packed hall, and on the Friday night, a special live show was filmed by RTE from the Premier which had the likes of Frank Patterson, Paddy Reilly, The Furey Brothers and Davy Arthur, the Morrisseys, Larry Cunningham and Donncha O’Dualinn to mention just a few. Then, on the Sunday night RTE also filmed live from the Premier, the Sunday Game with special match analysis and discussion, hosted by Michael Lester.

Through the years The Premier Hall has been managed by the likes of Sean Fitzgibbon, Pascal O’Sullivan, Billy Crowley, Fr Francis O’Toole, Fr James Walton, Fr Martin Hayes, Fr Joe Walshe and Fr Tomas O’Connell while Caretakers included Willie Ryan, Abbey Road; Joe Ring, Liberty Square; Tom Scanlon, Hall Street; and the present incumbent, Charlie Maher.

Anyone from outside the town of Thurles who has cause to visit the Premier Hall all say the same thing – how lucky the parish is to have such a wonderful facility. It has hosted so many events and memorable evenings down through the years that it would be impossible to mention them all. It has played home to many organisations who have used the facilities and has seen top class entertainment from many local groups including Thurles Musical Society which switched to the Premier from Delahunty’s Cinema, back in 1965 – they have been there ever since.

The Premier is a wonderful community facility and the staging of bingo each Wednesday evening is crucial to it’s wellbeing. Did you know that in years gone by, bingo was suspended for the duration Lent? This meant that Shrove Tuesday and Easter Sunday’s would be massive nights in the Premier in years gone by. And, if there happened to be a Mission on in the town, bingo was also suspended – different times indeed.

“We are looking forward to a great night on Wednesday next and it will be great to see all those faces coming back again. Of course we’d love to see anyone who has been a player here for many decades, but we’d also love to see new people coming through. When I think of all those who played here religiously over the years – many of them gone to God now..... The age profile of those who play would older, but there are a few younger players as well and that’s great see,” said Billy who is thrilled to say that The Premier Hall is in fine fettle at the present time. The Confraternity Hall is not in such good condition but it is hoped to engage in an up-grade of that famous old Thurles venue soon.

So, mark the date in your diary – October 5th, The Premier Hall, for a Golden Jubilee Monster Bingo. Who knows – it could be your big chance to bag the big one.

See you there.