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RTE Introduces Love Story series with Ballroom Romance

Edited from RTE Press Release from Katie Lincoln, RTE

RTE Television 1: September 14th @ 7:30 p.m.

Before Internet dating and text flirting, Ireland's courting-to-marriage ritual had a stricter etiquette. From dancehalls to amateur dramatics, An Oige to Macra Na Feirme, "respectable" romances usually blossomed under the watchful eye of the local parish priest...though you might get away with a sneaky snog on the way home!

"Love born in an earlier era" is the subject of RTE Television's Archive Unit's new six part series, Love Story. The series traces stories of love that have endured the test of time, social change, and an evolving Irish society, back in the days when a "date" meant going to the hop or the pictures.

After parental approval and a respectable courtship which could last years, the typical wedding would be at 8:00 a.m. with the bride wearing her best suit. The honeymoon might be spent touring Naas; the starter home could be a room with no furniture; and young fathers would be shocked at the idea of being present at the birth of a child.

The series will air for six consecutive Wednesday evenings from the 14th of September through to the 19th of October at 7:30 p.m. on RTE 1. The programmes blend RTE archival footage with couples' recollections of their first meetings, courtship, marriage, and lives together since. Still very much in love, the couples' banter bounces off each other as they relate stories of romance, tough times, a different morality and their secrets for keeping the magic alive.

The first program is called "Are You Dancing," and features three couples that met in the heyday of the ballrooms in the 1950's and 60's. Despite the parish priest patrolling the dance floor to put a decent distance between amorous couples that were dancing too close together, the dancehall was the place for young love in the 1950's. Although the couples met in different places, their stories are remarkably similar as they convey the innocence of the era.  

"It was men on the one side and woman on the other, " remembers Christy Perle. "We has a great view of the good looking ones down the hall."

The real action, though, was on the way home. Noeleen, now Christy's wife of 50 years, wasn't sure if Christy was the one to escort her. "I asked him where his friend was," Nancy laughs, "and he said he was at another dance in Trim, and Christy had a motorcycle, so I asked him if he would take me to the other dance. He said No!" That walk home--the first of many--sorted our her hesitations.

Not that much could happen. "You left the girl home to the door, you didn't normally go into the house," Joe Beausang recollects of a more innocent age. "The temptation was there if you were in the house on your own and you may end up bringing the relationship further than you intended. And that was frowned upon."

Sex before marriage was a "mortaller" in the sin scale according to Nancy, who found out to her horror that sex could remain a sin after marriage. "If you had sex and you practised contraception, it was against your religion," she says. Which meant regular trips to confession.

The series provides an interesting look into a by gone era that last throughout the period we call the "showband era." If you met the love of your life in a ballroom, jiving to the strains of Big Tom, close dancing to the crooning of Dickie Rock, or "hucklebucking" to Brendan Bowyer and the Royal, you will enjoy this trip down memory lane. Although most of the footage used of the dancehalls was shot in the early sixties (vs. the 1950's), the show has done a great job capturing the innocence of the era through the recollections of the couples involved.     


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In Loving Memory of Grant Gallagher: Sept. 21, 1990 - Nov. 18, 2006