“If the walls could talk” there’d be some stories to tell.
Portlaoise Macra will celebrate its 60th anniversary on the 8th of December by opening the doors of the newly refurbished hall that was first built in 1955. There will no doubt be lots of memories on the night between old and new members.
When encouraging new members to join Macra the 6 key areas of the organisation are often rattled off – agriculture, public speaking, travel, performing arts, sports and community involvement. In its 60 years Portlaoise Macra has seen it all and its members will tell you that there’s a lot more than 6 key areas to the varying Macra events all year round.
When that new member joins they might start by going to a somewhat civilised meeting in the hall but once you enter your first public speaking competition it’s not long until your bringing a crowd of supporters to follow you in Miss Blue Jeans, Mr. Personality or trying to reverse a roller hooked to a Massey Ferguson around a series of straw made obstacles and fencing posts at the Tullamore Show.
Perhaps the variety and team spirit was what first encouraged the founding members of Portlaoise Macra to set up a club. It was Frank O’Sullivan who first wrote to young farmers and arranged a meeting for the 16th of June in 1952. This meeting took place in the vocational school and was chaired by PD Brickley following this Philip Duff became president, Dick Greene Chairperson and Frank O’Sullivan secretary.
Sixty years later John Delaney sits in the top chair beside his now fiancée, Fiona Rice, who is the present secretary. Yes, Macra is known for its match making powers and many happy marriages began on the steps of Dreamland Dance Hall, as the Macra hall was sometimes known. Portlaoise were one of the few clubs in the country to have a hall and it was a huge asset to have somewhere to host major national events, such as the national convention in October 1955, the year the hall was first built, and the national executive meeting this year in October 2012. It is now one of the few Macra Hall’s remaining in the country and following the refurbishment will be hosting more and more events and available for local groups to use.
The Hall was built thanks to the commitment of the club’s members who subscribed to the project to raise funds and was opened on the 15th of August 1955 when the clubs membership stood at an amazing 95 affiliations. An extension was built in 1956 and in 1969 a function was held at which investments made towards the hall development were paid back in full.
The club has always been a strong one and has two national presidents to its name. Hugh Ryan was elected in 1960 while Michael Gowing donned the chain in 2009. The year following, 2010, saw Portlaoise Macra win Club of the Year, which was an outstanding achievement for all involved.
Away from the hard work and experience of running the club, county and national organisation members have always been busy competing at football, bowling, welding, debating, farm skills, stock judging and much more. Moira Hargroves was crowned Queen of the Land in the 1970’s and Eilish Conroy took home The Blue Jean Country Queen title in the 1990’s.
The club’s 60th anniversary on Saturday the 8th of December is set to be another exciting night on the club’s social scene. Proceedings will begin with a blessing of the newly refurbished hall, followed by music and dance with “Top Note” and a chance to catch up with Macra members old and new. Tickets are available from any current Portlaoise Macra members of by calling 087-4179327.