by George Hand & Carmel Power
(Skerries Historical Society Meeting – May 2015)

What stranger to Skerries, looking at Floraville today, would guess that this verdant haven of peace and tranquility could have had such a boisterous back story? To get the facts you needed to hear Carmel Power and George Hand’s talk at the May meeting of Skerries Historical Society in Keane’s Bus Bar. Then again, anyone who spent any time in Skerries during the fifties and sixties seems to have passed through the doors of the house that once stood next to the Church on Strand Street.

Floraville wasn’t just any house though it had been home to a few families over the years. The last family to own it were the Hacketts who, like so many Skerries families in the thirties and forties, moved into an outhouse in the garden every summer in order to let the main house to such luminaries as Cecil Sheridan, the music hall star, who came to Skerries to perform in the Tower Ballroom. The Hacketts eventually decided to call a halt to their annual pilgrimage to the bottom of the garden and sold the house to a Parish committee for the princely sum of £1,200 – which was indeed princely in 1949.

The ‘Floraville’ committee was composed of ten men with a passion for bettering Skerries and had been convened with a grand plan in view – to build a Parish Hall worthy of the growing town of Skerries. And they set to fundraising with tremendous energy. If you were keen on cards you could attend the whist drives in Floraville – or Pongo (now known as Bingo!) might be your entertainment of choice. Perhaps the Wheel of Fortune might take your fancy during the summer months.

Those who liked to exercise their powers of persuasion could take the floor at the Debating Society meetings. Before the Skerries Harps got their own clubhouse, Floraville was their home. And the ICA ladies also met there twice a month. Then there were First Communion and Confirmation breakfasts not to mention the birthday parties. May Dillon taught Irish Dancing there and, of course, there was the other sort of dancing…

In 1960 Floraville became home to a weekly record ‘hop’. Every Saturday night the teenagers and twenty-somethings would arrive up to the annexe (built in the Floraville garden) and dance to records from 8 o’clock until 11. In the middle of the evening the record player got a rest and there would be a half hour of live music. This is where The Graduates started out. George told many anecdotes about the early days of The Graduates but it seems he is not a man to blow his own trumpet – I had to do my own research later to find out that Tony and The Graduates had four top ten hits!

Report by Oona Roycroft