Sunday 18 August 2019

Frank Coughlan: 'Our rocking history turns to rubble'

'I don't know what this new apartment block is going to be called, but the developer could do a lot worse than restore its original moniker, the Arcadia'. Photo: Getty
'I don't know what this new apartment block is going to be called, but the developer could do a lot worse than restore its original moniker, the Arcadia'. Photo: Getty
Frank Coughlan

Frank Coughlan

I won't be sorry to see that decrepit old cash 'n' carry warehouse come tumbling down. Shabby, forlorn and nothing more than a receptacle for fast food detritus, the site has been a blight on my neck of the woods for more years than I care to remember.

Sitting directly opposite Bray's railway station, itself a sturdy mid-19th century Victorian building deserving of a better neighbour, it is currently being demolished to be replaced by a smart new development.

Glenveagh Homes is about to build 72 apartments on the site and there are also separate, but simultaneous, plans to create a public plaza in the approach to this busy Dart station.

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All in all, only good. More than that, long overdue. The scandal is that one of the focal points of the seaside town was allowed to wallow in such dereliction for so long.

But while I look forward to its imminent reduction to dust and rubble with some satisfaction, this eyesore has a history worth remembering - and even honouring.

For those of a certain vintage, this dirty old shell is still fondly remembered as a ballroom of romance, a famous dancehall which attracted not only local teddy boys and bobby socks but drew thousands out to north Co Wicklow from Dublin too.

In the 1950s the evening Dance Excursion to the Arcadia, with all-in tickets for train and entrance, was available at stations on the Harcourt Street route until that line closed at the end of the decade.

From the World War I right through to end of the 1960s, the venue played host to all the big bands, then the best showbands and later still some of the world's most legendary rock acts.

As many as 4,000 punters poured through the doors on a busy night. Invariably, they were sent home sweatin'.

Is it any wonder? Among the legends who wowed them were the Everly Brothers, The Who, The Hollies, The Kinks and Roy Orbison. Imagine.

The Arcadia just about saw out the 1960s, by which time its best days were truly behind it anyway. The doors were finally bolted after a fire in 1969, though the venue re-invented itself as The Fillmore West Club in the early 1970s.

That didn't last. A few decades in the dull but steady business of fork-lifts and pallets were to follow.

I don't know what this new apartment block is going to be called, but the developer could do a lot worse than restore its original moniker, the Arcadia.

A discreet little plaque somewhere about the main entrance, name-checking the greats who made the place hop, would be a classy touch too.

Something like "The Big O played here". How cool would that be?

The old roof might be about to crash down and the bricks and mortar cave in, but memories are made of sterner stuff.

Butt out! Litter is the fag end of two bad habits

Smokers get a bad rap. The nasty habit, one I managed to resist, has virtually been criminalised.

Even asking for a pack of 20 in the corner shop has become a ritual of shame.

Worse is witnessing rejected addicts huddled together in doorways desperately gasping on the dregs of their must-have fix.

In weaker moments, I feel a fleeting tinge of sympathy. Then I see their fag ends strewn everywhere and the smoke clears from my eyes.

It seems butts make up half of all litter and smokers, most anyway, don't seem to give a puff.

Smoulder like a gorse fire if you wish, because stupidity is a personal choice. But using our streets as litter bins only proves that one filthy habit begets another.

Butt out please.

Irish Independent

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