Saturday, August 20, 2016


Here at Nell’s Farm House Heritage Week is our favourite week of the year.   With the help of our family, friends and neighbours we try to come up with an original and hopefully an enjoyable event. In previous years we have been very fortunate to win awards for our efforts. In 2014, our traditional Irish wake won the overall award for the most interactive event during heritage week having been a finalist in 2013.

This year we are recreating ‘DANCING AT THE CROSSROADS’.  The crossroads dance was a type of social event popular in Ireland up to the mid-20th century, in which people would congregate at the large cleared space of a crossroads to dance. In contrast to the later ceili styles, crossroad dances were generally set dancing or solo dancing. These dances were usually held on Sunday evenings in summer when young people would gather at cross-roads.  The music was often performed by a fiddler seated on a three legged stool with his upturned hat beside him for a collection.  The fiddler began with a lively reel but he had to play it several times before dancers joined in.  The young men were reluctant to begin the dance but after some encouragement from the fiddler, the sets of eight filled up the dancing area.    People danced on specially erected timber platforms and enjoyed the open air, scenery, meeting friends, making new ones and enjoying the music.

The crossroads dance declined in popularity in the mid-20th century, due to rural depopulation, musical recordings, and pressure of the Catholic clergy. They had been campaigning for years claiming that house dancing led to sin and corruption.  Priests patrolled the ditches keeping an eye out for any courting couple who might be having a few quiet minutes together! So here now was a chance for the government to bring in legislation and tax the profits of regulated dance halls. This resulted in the Public Dance Halls Act of 1935 which restricted all dancing to licensed establishments. In the early 1930s the wooden platforms at crossroads became the focus of standoffs and faction fights between Fianna Fail and the Blue Shirts with some destroyed by arson.  The phrase "comely maidens dancing at the crossroads", a misquotation attributed  to Eamon De Valera's 1943 St Patricks Day radio broadcast has become shorthand for a maudlin yearning for a vanished Irish rural idyll.

Our event will recreate the crossroads dancing on a platform that was popular in Ireland long ago.  There will be music, dancing and storytelling and audience participation is encouraged.  Dressing in the style of the 1930’s is welcome, but is optional.  Light refreshments will be served.  The Child of Prague has been put on overtime for the next seven days in the hope of getting a dry evening for the event.

Nell’s Farm House, Feddens, Rathgormack, Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Waterford 
Saturday 27th August, 2015, 8pm – 10.30pm
Admission: Adults €10 Children €5.      
Full details 086 2206007 / 087 6803522

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