For some time the village of Ballinadee, which is nestled in the heart of the countryside between Kinsale and Bandon, has been witnessing its own decline. Community life there had dwindled ... until now.
The people of Ballinadee have decided to take action. At a meeting on March 16th last, they agreed to make the neglected community hall their first priority and breathe new life into it.
Usage of Ballinadee Hall had fallen off so much over the years that it stood as almost as an external representation of the decline of this small rural community.
A lot of people turned up for that community meeting and it was clear from the energy and the enthusiasm expressed that it would not be long before the hall would once again be an important focal point in village life.
Ballinadee Hall was built in the early 1950s – a time that was particularly tough for women living in rural areas. It was tough for a variety of reasons, such as the lack of household utilities and mobility, so when Muintir na Tire was established the people of Ballinadee wholeheartedly embraced it as a way of raising peoples’ living standards.
Muintir na Tire was a movement for improvement. Tom Hales, the War of Independence veteran and politician – was instrumental in setting up the group in Ballinadee and from the outset they were determined to provide the community with a hall – a place for communal and developmental meetings, as well as a place where they could socialise.
Members of the community contributed to the cost, thereby becoming shareholders in the building. Shareholders, or stakeholders, is a term that’s very much in vogue today as an indicator that people have a vested interest, and that is very much the case here.
Ballinadee Hall was built on the land of local farmer, Daniel McCarthy, and O’Brien Builders from Bandon were contracted to build it. From the very start the hall was a success.
It became a hive of activity; a place where regular meetings were held, as well as classes and, from time to time, dramatic productions. It is with a real sense of nostalgia that some older members of the community remembered the dancehall days, especially the ‘pioneer socials.’
But as people became more mobile they started to move further afield and travelled to nearby towns to frequent the bigger dance halls, such as Bandon Town Hall.
Ballinadee Hall was not, however, neglected. For a time, it became a focal point for the younger members of the community and served as a venue for basketball and badminton.
It was also used for Macra field days, and fashion shows, and concerts during the 1980s, but the real change – in society and the usage of the hall – came in the 1990s.
Over the last quarter of a century, the building has stood quietly, biding its time. But soon, very soon, it will once again be a safe space for the young, the old, and those in between.
On any given day, there is a school population of 144 pupils within sightline of the hall and an estimated 78 families passing through the village on a daily basis. The plan is that they will have no need to travel out to other towns because all the activities they could possibly require will be provided in the hall.
The reason the members of the community are doing this is because they know the village needs a focal point and the re-opening of the hall is the first step in getting the village up and running again.
Like the members of the community from the 1950s, they know that working together will promote positivity and create a happier community.
It will keep people wanting to live in Ballinadee, support long-standing businesses in the village, and maybe even create new services.
Despite being under-used for years, the actual building itself is in good repair. Nevertheless, funds will be needed for this reinvigoration programme.
A committee has been set up with Caroline Gallagher as chairperson, Stephen Harrington, as vice-chair, Edel Corcoran as secretary, Brendan O’Connell as treasurer and Gill Good and Yvonne Lynch as press officers.
Their first fundraising event will take place on Sunday, June 19th at 2pm. They have organised a 5k walk on a ring route that will start and end at Ballinadee Hall. There will be a community celebration too with teas and coffees and food and music and maybe even some dancing ... if anyone has the energy.