JUNE 3rd, 1968: FOR MUCH of the 20th century the Catholic church kept a close eye on dance-halls and what might be going on in them, or, perhaps more importantly, around them.
Its strictures sometimes included the types of music and dancing that should be allowed and the days and times at which dance-halls should operate.
Although they had no force in law, these instructions were generally obeyed by dance-hall owners in most parts of the country.
In 1968, one of the country’s most conservative and feared bishops, Michael Browne of Galway, finally gave way on one of his dancing strictures as a report on this date indicated.
BISHOP REMOVES BAN ON SATURDAY NIGHT DANCING AFTER 31 YEARS
The Most Rev Dr Michael Browne, Bishop of Galway, has decided to lift a 31-year-old Saturday night dancing ban in his diocese as the lesser of two evils – and come into line with the rest of the country. The Bishop had ruled that dance-halls and ballrooms should remain closed on Saturday nights because it might interfere with religious observance on Sundays.
Now Dr Browne, who was consecrated in 1937, has decided that this might result in teenagers frequenting bars in his diocese, which has a population of about 56,000. He will now allow Saturday night opening for the 20 dance-halls in his diocese which stretches from Galway city to Ennistymon in north Clare. However, the Bishop has made one condition – that all dance-halls and hotel ballrooms be closed at 12 o’clock midnight.
Dr Browne says in a statement: “The purpose of this rule was to enable our Catholic people to observe the Eucharistic fast and to receive Holy Communion on Sunday morning.
“The Eucharistic fast then began at midnight and to stay up late at dances on Saturday night, especially if it became a habit, would prevent many people from receiving Communion on Sunday morning.
“The purpose of the rule was, therefore, deeply religious and in this spirit it was faithfully observed by the people and by dance-hall proprietors.
“I wish to express my sincere thanks to them for this local observance which has been most faithfully kept all the years since I became Bishop.” The statement continues: “Recently there have been important changes in the law of Eucharistic fast and the hours of Sunday Mass which have led me to reconsider the necessity of his rule.
“The Eucharistic fast has been reduced to one hour before Communion, so that very many now receive at the last Masses. On many Sundays there are evening Masses.
“Further, it has been represented to me that the absence of dancing on Saturday night has resulted in many young people frequenting public houses who would otherwise prefer to avail of dancing. This is particularly true in the summer months when there are so many visitors in this diocese.”
The statement concluded: I have, therefore, decided to withdraw the diocesan rule against dancing on Saturday night, but I request most earnestly that dances should cease at midnight, and I ask all dance-hall and hotel proprietors to observe the closing-hour strictly – and by the hour is meant 12 o’clock midnight, new time.”
A dance-hall owner said: “We agree with Dr Browne’s decision and the reason behind it. The ban was not in keeping with the spirit of the times. There is also the point that as Galway was what I believe to be the last diocese with this ban, this led to teenagers travelling long distances to dances – and perhaps drinking.”