by ehistoryadmin on October 2, 2014

Christmas tree a novelty for Monasterevin school children

By Liam Kenny

The Christmas season is a time for celebrations of all kinds – office nights out, childrens’ parties, residents’ association dances, and annual balls and prizegivings. Christmas in Kildare a century ago featured a diverse and dynamic array of entertainments which were fully reported in the columns of the Kildare Observer.

One of the most eye-catching events was a Christmas tree party for some schoolchildren in Monasterevin. What makes the event interesting is that it hints at how novel the idea of a Christmas tree was in 1913; the decorated tree was a relatively new part of the Christmas panoply having been introduced into Victorian Britain just a few years previously.

The Kildare Observer report portrayed vividly the novelty value of the Christmas trees erected at a party in Monasterevin: “A splendid Xmas tree party was given to the children and parents of the No 2 National School Monasterevin by the Earl and Countess of Drogheda who lived in Moore Abbey.” The report continued by saying how the guests numbering over 100, arrived at 3.30pm, and were conducted to the upper schoolroom where a sumptuous feast was awaiting them. A number of the ladies and gentlemen of the parish of St John’s assisted at the several tables, which were groaning under the weight of the many and choice things provided to suit the tastes of the little ones, and saw to to it that all were looked after and that none were neglected.

When the good things provided had been ample justice to, the guests were escorted to the lower schoolroom where, on entering, the a splendid sight greeted everyone’s gaze. Here at the upper end of the spacious room were three beautiful Xmas trees of beautiful proportion brilliantly lighted with many and varied coloured candles, and weighted down with innumerable Christmas gifts of every conceivable description.

The Reverend George F. Graham, rector of St. John’s, addressing those present said they should all be be deeply grateful to the Earl and Countess of Drogheda for providing them with such a splendid treat (calls of “hear, hear” and cheers rang out for the Droghedas). The rector added that it was his pleasant duty to announce that prizes would be given to the children who gave the best attendance at Sunday school, choir practice and regular school attendance. He was glad a goodly number had won those prizes but even with these good results he hoped for better things in the following year, and that there would be more children who would obtain first prizes (more cheers).

After the distribution of the prizes the gifts from the Christmas trees were distributed. Gifts had been provided for every person (young and old) so that no one was neglected in this respect. The rector’s wife, Mrs Graham, then distributed the prizes to the several boys and girls and gave a kindly word of encouragement and praise to each recipient. Amidst the most enthusiastic and genuine fun the stripping of the Christmas tree began, every person present receiving a valuable gift. Afterwards followed singing by the school children, a number of very beautiful songs being rendered in a charming manner and reflecting great credit on the children’s teachers – Mr and Miss Neeley. All sorts of games and amusements were indulged in by the youngsters, much to the apparent delight of the their parents. A special feature of the evening’s entertainment was a splendid recital of gramophone selections, kindly provided by Mr William Lawlor, senior, for the amusement of the children. After all the little ones had been supplied with fruit and other good things, the enjoyable proceedings were brought to a close with ringing and enthusiastic cheers for the Earl and Countess of Drogheda, Rev. and Mrs Graham, and Mr and Miss Neeley (teachers).

For an older age group the December 1913 social scene was also thriving in Naas. The principal of the Technical School – then located in the Water Tower on the Fair Green – Mr J R Halsall, organised what was described as a “Social”. The venue was the celebrated ballroom of Naas Town Hall and some 120 patrons attended. Among those who contributed to the vocal side of the programme were Messrs. D O’Farrell, J.R.White and R.W. Carter. Mr Halsall and the ladies committee were congratulated for the arrangements of the dance with the Misses O’Gorman, Gogarty and Corcoran being prominent in proceedings. A Mr Syme lent a Ritz pathophone for the occasion and it was a source of considerable pleasure. The music supplied by Messrs Boushell’s string band of five instruments was excellent.

Newbridge too had its share of seasonal diversions and an advertisement called attention to “the St Conleth’s Young Men’s Society Dance.” The notice went on to say that the Newbridge CYMS intended to give a dance at Sheridan’s Concert Hall and a very capable committee headed by Mr James Murphy, President and Mr P Walshe, Honorary Secretary, had charge of the arrangements. However just in case this array of seasonal celebrations led people to get carried away a meeting of the Kill Branch of the Temperance Society was certain to bring would-be revellers down to earth. The report of the meeting on 16 December 1913 was preceded by a weather report noting that although the day and evening were wet, yet the attendance was good. An impressive address on the subject of temperance was given by Rev. A.E.Gick, Rector of Ballycommon. This was followed by a musical programme hosted by Mr Blacker. Adding to the entertainment were Miss Blacker, Miss Vigors, Miss Ruth Adams with a gramophone, Mr Goodman, and the school children under training of Mrs Vigors.

Leinster Leader 10 December 2013, Looking Back, Series no: 361

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