Taken from the "Fireside Miscellany: A Collection of Irish Memories, Meanderings and History" - a St. Valentine's Day love story from a by-gone era at the Maple Ballroom, in County Monaghan.
In 1971, the famed “Maple Ballroom” in Rockcorry, County Monaghan was an ordinary sort of nondescript rectangular hall. A mineral bar stood at one side, the band played in the other, and a crowd of skittish hopefuls waited their turn to be ‘danced’ in between.
Then gents lines the length of one wall while the ladies were bunched together on the opposite side, looking at each other, rather than across the floor towards their potential dancing partner, giving the impression that they were not in the slightest bit interested in the proceedings.
The men, on the other hand, couldn’t wait for the whistle to blow, in the form of Big Tom announcing, “Your next dance please”.
While the ladies stood their ground, the men made a mad dash in wave formation towards their spotted targets. But the movement didn’t always work to plan, as the strength of the swirling tsunami often took on a life of its own and pushed the willing suitor off course and out of reach of their intended.
Positioning yourself in the waiting front row was a slight help but it did not guarantee a successful landing. Sometimes, after good strategic planning when you did ride the waves to bring you face to face with your selected beauty, it was very humiliating to get a refusal. The crossing back, empty-handed, over that bouncy maple floor was a long and deflating journey. A customary retort to such a refusal was “why didn’t you take your knitting with you”. However, God loves a trier, and in my case, I had my eye on my Cinderella for some time and wasn’t going to let the night pass without making my case.
I noticed that she danced every dance, usually with someone different, but though late in the night, all hope wasn’t gone. The trick now was to watch and be in the appropriate position when the dance stopped so I wouldn’t have to wade my way through at the next start.
My plan worked to perfection and better still I was rewarded with a smiling “yes” from my chosen beauty. When “your next dance please” was called again I asked if she would waltz the floor with me again and she smiled another yes.
Luckily that was the last dance of the night, so despite all the waiting I had made my strike exactly at the right time. As it happened, she lived at home on a road back towards Monaghan town. This presented an ideal opportunity to offer her a lift home, which happily she accepted.
I remember it being a very bright moonlit night and fortunately so, as in my excitement, when I started the car, I couldn’t find the switch to turn on the lights. They were different times then; night traffic was a rarity in that quiet countryside, and I drove homeward slowly by the light of the harvest moon. Luckily within the first mile and after I regained control of my nerves, I found the switch to illuminate my car lights.
In all the flurry I forgot to ask my new companion’s name, address or where she worked, and so after parting I wondered if I would ever manage to contact her again. But fate and determination decided that we did meet again and did marry a few years later. But that story, Dear Reader, is for another day.”
* In its cache of short stories, “Fireside Miscellany: A Collection of Irish Memories, Meanderings and History”, takes the reader from the era of the horse and cart, up to the present day. Some of these musings bring the former farming ways back to life, calling back to mind the habits of bygone days while others depict a formerly troubled North of Ireland.
The nostalgia takes the reader on a history trip around Ireland from Derry to Rostrevor, Waterford to Roscommon. Extending from a quiet corner of Co Monaghan to Kilowen, Co Down, from Newcastle to Letterfrack and back again. The Scottish village of Glencoe, the tragic annihilation of the McDonald Clan there, and the heroic deeds of the daring Flora McDonald also finds mention, while stories of other notable people, characters and special places are also embedded within its covers.
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