The Reading Rooms Cheekpoint


Pat Murphy of the Green always told me that according to Aggie Power of Daisy Bank House (Susan Jacobs Grandmother) the Reading Room was built in 1895, the year a horse called The Wild Man of Borneo won the Grand National. Mrs Adelaide Blake, (originally Adelaide Power - Faithlegg House), who then resided at Fairy Mount had it built as a free library for the people of the area. I always wondered what it would have looked like in this era, with the pot bellied stove sitting in the middle of the floor and people sitting around in it reading a paper or a book or playing cards and chatting. 

At some point in my teens I read D.H Lawrence's Sons and Lovers.  In the story the central character, Paul Morel, struggled to move away from his working class mining roots in Wales through, in part, his visits to the mining unions sponsored Reading Rooms.  In it were stocked lines of books and a supply of current newspapers, that the miners and their families could be better informed and have broader horizons.  Had this been Adelaide's intention?
 
The Reading Room has always been a feature in our lives in Cheekpoint.  For social, health, community matters and education, it has played a continuous role.  For some it was probably a tentative role, an occasional visit but to me it was always central, important and respected.
Jim Duffin playing "the Box" 1990's
Photo credit Bridgid Power

One of my earliest memories was queuing to attend a sale of work coming up to Christmas time.  Doors opening, we rushed in to buy a comic, book or some toy or other. Home baking was also part of the day and if lucky we might get to share with others in a bag of homemade buns or biscuits and a fizzy lemonade.  Whatever few bob we had would be quickly spent, but I could always rely on my Grandmother for an extra dig out.

At the end of the day we might pick up some pieces that no one else would buy, as the place was cleaned up and I recall Martin Nugent (and later Jim Duffin) burning some magazines and other odds and ends outside by the back door.  In those days a tall hedge blocked the "Hall" as we sometimes called it, from the road and all around was a mixture of grass and mud.

The Hall in the past was a simple affair.  No toilet, a small porch, the large room that could be divided in two by sliding doors and the stage area and back door which was an addition in the early 1950's.  Tommy Sullivan's father Chris had taken on the job, with the help of local volunteers.  The Hall had been originally made of a timber framework with corrugated iron walls and roof and internally was panelled by wooden lathes.  The "insulation" was horsehair and there was many the night that we huddled around an old Superser gas heater trying to keep warm.

Sunday morning social gathering 1940's
The stage at the rear of the hall was used for concerts and as a musical stage and in our own times as the space where the DJ's of the youth club discos spun their vinyl discs.  Principal DJ was Philip Duffin and deputy was Michael "bugsy" Moran.  Philip preferred disco, Bugsy was rock and it was always a bone of contention.  I can still remember Bugsy stripping wires with his teeth in an effort to add an extra speaker to "burst some eardrums".  My first and last appearance on the stage was a mid 70's concert where I performed "Little Boy Blue", not my finest hour!

Ray McGrath regales the villagers at a recent Heritage week event

There was also a brown wardrobe which gave the hall its other function this was the Dispensary.  I'm a little in the dark about the origins of it, but in our day it was where you went on a Tuesday to see the doctor and the wardrobe was unlocked and swung back to reveal an array of medications, timber spatulas for depressing your toung and worst of all - syringes.  At some point in the 1980's the wardrobe disappeared and locally it was known that there was some issues about medications being stored in "inappropriate places"  It was only a few years back in Dungarvan that a local man told me how he and friends used to travel around the rural dispensaries in a search for drugs, he joked about how easy it was to break into these cabinets and to both medicate yourself and provide an income boost from supplying others! 

John Jacob entertaining the Thursday Club 1990's
Photo Credit; Bridgid Power

I've written before about how important it was as a venue for civil defence.  But it was also a space for community meetings and social gatherings for young and old.  It was the need to improve conditions for all members of the community that spurred voluntary efforts in the 1980's and many years after to improve the hall to the standards it is at now.  Details of those many volunteers were captured in a 2009 publication "Cheekpoint & Faithlegg; Through the Ages" via the Development Group


My Aunts Margaret O Leary and Ellen Doherty (RIP) at last years craft fair
photo credit Becky Cunningham - Cheekpoint FB page


I've often heard remarks about the Hall being unfit for modern purposes.  And to be honest, it probably is a bit modest compared to some of the venues that are on offer in the area and that citizens might be used to availing of.  But for me the Reading Room is a special place, filled with memories, fulfilling a modest useful purpose and a testament to the vision and probably the hopes for the community of Adelaide Power. Ar dheis Dé a anam Adelaide


I publish a blog each Friday.  If you like this piece or have an interest in the local history or maritime heritage of Waterford harbour and environs you can email me at russianside@gmail.com to receive the blog every week.

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Comments

  1. A delight to read Andrew and great to see the picture of Ray in his element.

    Calvin Manning, Newfoundland, Canada

    ReplyDelete
  2. Lovely to hear from you again Calvin, hope all is well with you and yours, yes Ray is certainly in his element when communicating to a group, or indeed to anyone, a wonderful skill he has. Kind regards, Andrew

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