Long before “Strictly Come Dancing”, the “X Factor” and “Celebrity Jigs and Reels” one of the “must go” venues for lovers of both dance and romance in the North West of Ireland was the famous Rainbow Ballroom, known to all as the ‘Ballroom of Romance’ in Glenfarne
Earlier this week Independent MEP Marian Harkin described as a “real boost for the region” the announcement that nearly half a million euro in funding has been agreed for redeveloping the famous venue which was a magnet for many Donegal dancers over the years.
The famous Rainbow Ballroom is situated at a crossroads in the townland of Brockagh lower along the main Enniskillen to Sligo Road and was built by John McGivern in early 1934.
It was then known as McGivern’s Dance Hall, although locally it was referred to as the “Nissan Hut”, as its galvanised iron construction was reminiscent of the British Army huts of the same name. The very first function held there consisted of a variety concert, followed by the first dance in the new hall with music provided by the local Glenfarne Dance Band.
Dances were regularly held on Sunday nights and often on week nights and it went from strength to strength over the next two decades and in 1952 John McGivern decided to extend it.
The renovations were completed in 1954 and saw John McGivern rename the dance hall as the Rainbow Ballroom of Romance, the title it holds to this day. The inception of this name came from John’s introduction at dances of the “romantic interlude”, a fifteen minute period where he would join the band on stage dressed in a black suit, white shirt and black bow tie, to sing romantic songs. In between verses of these songs John would ask the dancing couples to get to know each other (if they had not done so already) by shaking hands, exchanging greetings, etc.
Also during the “romantic interlude” the hall lights would be dimmed and the men folk would be encouraged to take their lady friends to the bar for a cup of tea or a mineral (no alcohol in those days) before the end of the dance. It is believed that a lot of happy marriages resulted from such meetings, hence the addition of “The Ballroom of Romance” to the name of the hall.
MEP Harkin noted that “having worked with the Glenfarne Community Development Trust as well as the European Commission, I am truly delighted to see this project come to fruition”.
“This is a genuine community success story,” she said, noting that “Glenfarne Development took out a twenty year lease on the Rainbow in 2004 and its members have since worked tirelessly to devise a very ambitious refurbishment plan”.
The plans for The Rainbow include an archive incorporating a museum of Showband memorabilia, a Tourism Information Centre and a fully functional community centre catering for young and old.
“This has real potential to be a significant tourist attraction in the region, and it would be brilliant if the Rainbow could be ready in time to play some part in The Gathering 2013,” Harkin said.
“The Rainbow has a claim to be the genuine and original Ballroom of Romance, not only in Ireland, but also in the world,” the Independent MEP added, concluding that “I am very pleased to see European funding working for Irish citizens at the local level.”