Few places within the parish of Killoe hold the sense of nostalgia for the days of old quite like Esker Hall. In its day, this rural location provided a school, a cinema, a dance hall and a theatre all in one. It was once a place of music, song and dance, of travelling entertainment from film to circus acts; of meetings and political action and debate.
Hedge schools were no longer common in Ireland by the time Esker School was opened in 1869 under the recognition of the National Board of Educaction. It was a place of learning for boys and girls from the locally for the first forty six years of its existence. When it closed in 1914, pupils moved to nearby Soran or Ennybegs.
The venue at Esker passed to the trust of the parish, and a stage and kitchen were added in time for a grand opening of the Killoe Temperance Hall on June 11, 1915. In the years that passed over the next three-quarters of a century, the Hall provided a focus and centre for the social and cultural life of this rural parish.
Even before that opening night in 1915, Esker Hall was a place of entertainment as well as learning - the Killoe Brass Band was based there and held their annual concert and variety show. The Spinners and Weavers used it as their base and in the troubled times after 1916, the local Volunteers met and carried out their drills there, and were addressed by leading political figures like Countess Markiewicz, General Seán MacEoin and Sean Connolly. The Black and Tans attempted to burn the Hall in 1921, but it survived the wars of the early twenties and was soon re-established as a thriving centre for the local community.
During and after the 1950s, the Hall was one of the most important local venues for dances, a travelling cinema, local amateur drama, entertainment acts, wren day celebrations, election polling and GAA meetings. It was also a place for Muintir na Tírre rallies (Canon Hayes addressed a gathering here) and a base for the Killoe Show. For many years, it drew the crowds from far and wide and provided an invaluable place of belonging and entertainment for the people of a rural parish.
However, time and progress wait for no man, woman or place. By the early 1980s, the building was no longer in use and hed fallen into disrepair. In 1987, a new community centre was constructed on the site of the old school in Enybegs.
Local people remember Esker Hal with great fondness as a hub of culture, entertainment and community in rural Ireland of the past.
In 2015, the derelict remains of Esker Hall were reduced for conservation & its surrounds were landscaped. The engraved stone is a window sill from the Hall. The project was funded by Ennybegs Community Centre, Killoe Parish, Cill Eo Yew Tree Players, Killoe Pioneer Total Abstinence Association, Cullyfad Community Groups, Killoe Young Emmets GFC, Longford County Council & private donations.
Esker Hall Centenary Commemoration Project
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