Music & Amusements Swords Dublin
The travelling circus was the favourite event of entertainment. Five or six different circuses would visit the town during
the summer months. Lloyds Circus, ]]aris Circus, Gennetts Circus, Pool L Bosco, Duffys Circus. These are all I can remember.
They stayed one night only. We would hear them come in the early hours of the morning.
The pictorial posters announcing their coming would be posted on walls and gates a few, weeks before their due date.
They usually came for Saturday. We kids would go to the field to help to put up the big tent, carrying small poles and pegs,
hoping to get a free ticket of admission, but when the show started our services were forgotten, and we had to pay our 2d.
admission to the matinee or 6d. for the night show. Most of us went in the daytime.
Then there were Fancy Fairs, Hobby Horses, Swing Boats, Shooting Gallery and Aunt Sally, etc. These stayed four
or five weeks, and the sound of the old steam organs filled the night air with the latest music hail airs. There were also
dramatic shows, melodramatic plays and sometimes a menagerie with cages of -gild animals - lions, tigers, bears, wolves and
ponies. The cages were in big vans and these were placed in a circle around the field and the audience was in the centre.
We had also local concerts in the schools and bazaars for building funds for the Church. The Protestant school had an
annual Jumble Sale which usually was held around Halloween and this was a very convenient time to buy old coats and tall hats
to cares-s up for Halloween.
Football Matches; Athletic Sports Meetings; Running; Cycling; Jumping and Wrestling; Strolling Musicians and Players.
singers, men and women, sometimes in pairs, but generally single, selling ballads for us. They usually had only one Or two
songs in their repertoire, and you could almost recognise them by their songs when they visited the house a second time after
an interval. Most of their voices were poor, but occasionally a good singer appeared.
Melodeon players were common, and some fiddle players. A very good violinist would come now and then. Then we had piano
organ grinders, usually with two men, they hired the organs in Dublin and pulled them all the way from the city. The organ
was really a piano on wheels worked with a cylinder covered with little pegs which plucked the strings. It could play ten
tunes. A dial at the side regulated changes in the tunes. The music was good and the tunes were topical music hall songs,
marches, some operatic bits, etc. The tunes varied with the tines. New tunes would come out each year.
One of the men sometimes played another instrument, usually a brass instrument, cornet or violin. They were very popular
as they were also in Dublin City. Some of these organs had a little cage on the upper side of them, with two budgies in it,
and in front of the cage was a long drawer with folded leaflets packed along it.
The organ grinder, for id., would give you yoar fortune, by taking one of the birds out of the cage on a stick, and the
bird would pick one of the leaflets out of the drawer. The leaflet described your future husband or wife. One lot for men,
and one lot for ladies. A A full fortune teller paragraph was printed on the leaflet, and sometimes it included a picture
of your future spouse.
Then we had the acrobats, step dancers and clowns, conjurers, medicine men (quack doctors). The acrobats were usually
circus performers out of work. The clowns were dressed in the usual baggy cotton blouse and trousers and pointed hat, with
their faces whitened with flour and their faces and noses streaked with powdered red brick - cheap make-up. The step dancers
usually were ladies and carried a square board to dance on. They wore a gypsy or spanish costume decorated with medallionsand
The clowns sang comic songs and had a patter of jokes, riddles and funny stories. Some used burn tow or hair, soaked
in paraffin oil, and then with a knife and fork, put
forkf ells into their mouths, to the astonishment of their audience,
and then they would take a mouthful of paraffin oil and blob, it through a forkfull of the burning tow and make a spectacular
of flame appear to come out of their mouths. We never knew how they didn't burn their mouths.
Other clowns stuck pins in various parts of their legs and arms and some of them were able to bend bars and lift weights
and do tumbling and acrobatic feats. An odd time a lady contortionist would appear with an assistant, and tie herself in knots
and double herself through an amazingly small ring. Then we had trios and quartets, usually good musicians. Violin, cello
and double bass.
Violin and harp, violin and cornet, two violins, violin and cello (Glynn Quartets) and the German bands, about eight
or nine musicians.
Lesser musicians, banjo's, tin whistles, flutes, all these tramped from Dublin, did the round of the
village and tramped off to the next village. Some of them would stay the night in the lodging houses in the village at 3d.
a night for bed and cooking facilities, supply your own food. Most of them tramped off to the workhouse, about eight miles
from Swords, at Balrothery, where they could get a night's lodging by doing a spot of work on the farm the next morning to
earn their keep.
There were three or four of these lodging houses in the town.
They displayed a notice board over the door, "Registered
IrDdgings". but I never heard whether they had to register with the Police or other authority. There were two in the Main
Street, Connors and O'Tooles. Connors kept their house very clean and whitewashed walls and painted woodwork. They were dealers
in coal and various _merchandise, and kept a car for hire, and sold milk. I don't know what the bedrooms were like., but the
tramps got good value at 3d. a night.
Among these strolling players and musicians, there were varying standards of musical ability. An odd time a good violinist
would come along, and the melodeon players and wind instruments were good. Once or twice a violinist and harpist came along.
There were special characters who came often. A tall blind man playing a melodeon with a small squat fellow playing a banjo,
always played "Hello Patsy Fagan", as his special number. The blind man always smiled when his partner sang the line "Devil
me Care". There was also an old woman on her own, who always sang "De you Remember Sweet Alice Ben Bolt", and she always came
on a wet day.
And there was the old red faced fiddler with a patched up fiddle who was nicknamed "Tun and a Half". He always wore a
hard hat. The men and boys used to tease him and he always said "You can kill me if you like, but don't break ny fiddle".
The d. ballad singers came selling their ballads at 2d, each, printed copies or sheets of paper of ballads about the latest
murder, the latest big race or some other striking event, the airs put to these songs were of their own make up and very much
alike for every ballad.
Throughout the year, there was never aday when
musician or performer did not appear on the street and some times if
one or two of the came at the same time wheather pairs or single Performerstime, whether they 1ou race first in the collection
of coins from h useseand passersoby.
When a woman accompanied a man, she took the hat off the mans head to Make the collection.