Ballybunion was the place to be in 1960s – and it still is for many of us
Family Fortunes: Year after year, you would meet the same people taking their holidays and great friendships would be struck up
Nora Murphy (1923-2013) on the beach at Ballybunion in 1966.
Ballybunion in north Kerry was where many farming families from north Cork and west Limerick went for their summer seaside holidays in the 1960s. Fathers usually had to stay at home to milk the cows and save the hay, so it was usually mothers and children who stayed over in Ballybunion.
In our case, Nora Murphy was our mother and she loved Ballybunion as much as we did. Our annual ritual involved bringing all our own food to one of the many guesthouses in “BallyB”, as it was affectionately called. The landlady and her staff then prepared and delivered our own food to our table during the week.
Dry days in Ballybunion revolved around morning and afternoon trips to the beach, punctuated by trips uptown by the children to Mike’s gift shop. Adults enjoyed Collin’s or Daly’s seaweed baths.
Wet days in BallyB were still quite enjoyable for children, who usually purchased water pistols and made sure that their guesthouse was properly saturated. Mrs Houlihan was the name of our landlady and after a number of years you were treated like one of the family.
Year after year, you would meet the same people taking their holidays and great friendships would be struck up. These were the days when the famous Kerry playwright John B Keane was becoming a household name and my mother would often advise us that he was on the beach with his wife and children. We all knew he was a special person.
Nights were spent at Bert Patterson’s “fit up” marquee, watching a variety programme followed by a two- or three-act play. Plays were usually tragic, like ‘The Colleen Bawn’. Amusement arcades along the main street sprung up, as slot machines came to Ballybunion in the very early 1960s.
August 15th was the big night in Ballybunion and the two big ballrooms in the town – the Central (later the Golf Hotel) and Horan’s – would be packed until the doors were locked. The Central had a first-floor balcony and I recall one memorable night looking at a crowd of Cork and Kerry young men dangerously abseiling up the balcony, such was their enthusiasm for dancing.
We were in Ballybunion for the moon landing in 1969 and what excitement it created in my 15-year-old mind. Ever since I started working on my first metal ‘Meccano’ set, which we received from my Auntie Birdie, I was interested in everything scientific and mechanical. The moon landing was the most awesome scientific achievement as far as I was concerned then and still is to this day.
Yes, Ballybunion was the place to be in the 1960s and maybe it still is for many of us.