Bingo hits the half century
IT WAS a case of eyes down and looking for around 500 people at Ballymitty Community Hall at the weekend for a bingo session to celebrate the 50th anniversary of probably the longest running bingo in the country.
The session took the form of a drive-in with players sitting in their cars so the smokers could relax with a cigarette or two when things got tense.
Years ago, the numbers playing would have filled the 'very small parish' hall, the drive-in aspect allowed the bingo sessions t0 expand for little cost.
However, since the smoking ban came into force, the numbers attending the sessions have increased hugely.
The count at Sunday's sessions in fact saw 100 people in the hall and 110 cars, each containing four people.
'It took off big time when the smoking ban came into force,' said a parish committee member.
She said that when the bingo began at Ballymitty, prizes ranged from pigs and duck eggs to bicycle pumps and polish.
In a nod to past, boxes of Vim and steel wool were among the prizes handed out on Sunday, along with €1,600 in prize money, which included a €300 jackpot.
The event raised €4,000 which will go towards the refurbishment of the parish hall.
And in a grand gesture, longtime caller Frank Codd was presented with a modern, computerised machine to replace the old faithful he has used for a past number of years.
A feature of the parish bingo sessions is that you didn't have to attend to hear the numbers called, with Frank's voice booming over the speakers 'which could be heard all over the parish'.
'Visitors to the parish on a Monday night would often ask what the sound was,' said the committee member.
Among those attending Sunday's drive in were a few people who had attended the first sessions 50 years ago when prizes would literally have been in pennies.
'We were delighted with the way it went, the weather was brilliant and it was absolutely fabulous.'