It was one of the great stories from the showband era, a talking point in every dance hall west of the Shannon: the night the devil appeared in Tooreen dance hall. That infamous night, June 6, 1958, is the subject of a new drama-documentary, ‘Diabhal ag an Damhsa’, to be aired on TG4 Christmas Night at 9.55pm.
Purportedly, on that chilly starlit night, a tall brooding stranger entered Tooreen dance hall, a whiff of danger emanating from him. With the girls lined up on one side of the hall and the boys on the other, it wasn’t long before his prowling eyes caught the attention of young Bridget O’Flynn.
When the couple took to the dance floor, heads turned. Tooreen – where cheek-to-cheek dancing was banned by the priests (it was run by the legendary Fr James Horan of Knock Airport fame) – had never witnessed this kind of lustful dancing before.
While others had to make do with crossbars on bicycles, the impious stranger had a chauffeur pull up outside the hall just as he and Bridget exited. As she was about to sit into the back seat, however, she had ‘a diabolical apparition’ and managed to escape the horny devil’s grasp.
The stranger fled as quickly as he had arrived, leaving behind a distressed young maiden, a number of startled eye-witnesses – and a dance hall with a new reputation for hell-raising.
Of course, Tooreen Hall’s fame spread far and wide as a result, and the event did little to dampen its popularity. The place was thronged the following week with punters hoping to catch a glimpse of the devil’s libidinous dance…