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Storybox: Licence to Dance

Explore your Archive


As part of the “Explore Your Archive Campaign”, run by the Archives and Records Association (UK and Ireland) to raise awareness of archives, Waterford City & County Archive would like to invite you to explore the “Licence to Dance” exhibition in Waterford. Explore this ‘Virtual Storybox’ and get ready to put on your dancing shoes. You can find out more about the “Explore Your Archive Campaign” at or

The Public Dance Halls Act, 1935 introduced the requirement to obtain a licence for public dances through the District Courts. Dance Halls had to be inspected by the local authority and the facilities declared adequate for use as a public dance hall. The system of Dance Hall Licences provides a rich archive of the dance halls in County Waterford in files WCC/GNA/301 and 302 and provide us with the means to explore our dancing days.


The Dance Hall Licence could also proscribe just who could attend the dances. In this licence for the Ballindud Dance Hall issued on 8th September 1939 the applicant had to agree to the

“…exclusion of dancing during the Lenten period, dancing confined to residents within a radius of three miles, and not to include residents of the Borough of Waterford”.


In addition to the Public Dance Halls Licence dances were also subject to the Performing Rights Licence. The music at Dance Halls had to be licenced by the Performing Right Society who collected fees on behalf of the composers and authors of songs. Dungarvan Town Hall operated under this licence and as a result the Archive has a playlist of songs played. Pop on your dancing shoes and get dancing to the music of 1954.

At an inspection in 1938 the Dungarvan Town Hall was reported to have “Unsuitable Sanitary Arrangements”. The Town Hall was re-designed in 1951 to improve these arrangements and offered improved facilities for dancers, reducing the size of the bar to provide a larger supper room and room for ices. Dances were held by organisations, such as, the Local Defence Forces, Abbeyside Club, Parish Club, Blazers Club, GAA and the Dramatic Club.

Not all dances were in Dance Halls. Dances were also held at the crossroads. In Kilmacomma the platform at the crossroads was moved into a shed after the Summer and the enterprising locals were still dancing away the Winter months and charging in 2d or 3d a dance in 1934 until the local Garda Superintendent Sean O’Fiodhabhair put a stop to their dancing feet. To be on the safe side on 9th September 1953 a licence was sought for the registration of a dancing platform at Kildermody Cross, Kilmeaden and although he stated “I am not aware that “Dancing Platforms” come under the Public Dance Halls Act, 1935″ Miceal Ua Fearghail, Medical Officer, was happy to grant this licence.

People did not take kindly to attempts to limit their dancing. The Leamybrien Local Security Force and Local Defence Force wrote in 1941 in response to a complaint from a Mr. J. Comerford, Kilrossanty about the hall at Leamybrien to suggest that

“…if “Mr. J. Comerford, Kilrossanty” has any complaints to make, legitimate or otherwise, that he should be man enough to make them in his own name, but we suppose this could hardly be expected of him in view of the fact that he is not man enough to have joined either the L.S.F. or L.D.F.”

Attempts to limit the number of attendees at the Ocean View Hotel, Clonea to 500 and to 110 at Ring Hall were labelled absurd in the Dungarvan Leader of 29th September 1951.


Dance Halls were inspected throughout County Waterford under the Public Dance Halls Act, 1935. The Atlantic Dance Hall was just one of five venues in Tramore in 1938. Portlaw had two venues in Foley’s Dance Hall and the Lecture Hall of Portlaw Tanneries. In 1938 27 venues were inspected for the Dance Hall Licence in County Waterford.

In 1958, the Chief Fire Officer inspected 21 Dance Halls and informed the Council that the Happydrome in Lismore was not applying for an annual licence that year. The Fire Officers and Medical Officers were kept very busy checking venues throughout the County but not nearly as busy as the dancers they licenced to dance.