Our current Irish Centre is 21 Years old this month. In this article, however, I am looking back to when the ‘Old Irish Centre’ at Mount Pleasant was 25 years old and there was produced for the occasion a commemorative 25 years’ anniversary brochure (priced £1.50). I give you just a taste of what was going on then, and what had happened in the first quarter century of the Old Irish Centre.
The first picture shows the front of the Centre, the Wellington rooms. You will note that the people visiting would not appear to be Irish. They look suspiciously like English gentlemen. The building was however named after an Irishman, the Duke of Wellington, who spent his early years in Dublin and Meath.
Inside the cover was a message from the Taoiseach Charles Haughey and, more importantly, from the Chairman of the Centre, the great fiddle player, Sean MacNamara. The latter paid tribute to the people who had made it all possible: ‘The dreams and ambitions of the group of people who worked so hard in the 60s to establish a Centre, have been realized and exceeded beyond measure in this fine building, and in all the activities and great events that have taken place in the first twenty five years of its existence.’
The brochure was the work of the ‘Silver Jubilee Brochure Committee’ which included M Bolger, T Walsh, S Foley, F Veltom and R Wilkie. The first main item was the story of the Centre with pictures such as Bridie Ryan and the new shop which was opened in 1986 by Kevin Rush from the Irish Embassy; the mass for St Patrick’s day concelebrated by Bishop Kevin O’ Connor and eight Irish priests; and a picture of something we don’t have these days, the Irish Centre choir with Joe McNally and Peg Atkins.
Canon Michael O’Connor gave a full page account of the formal opening on 1 February 1965, St Brigid’s day, marked by a dinner where the menu was Scampi, Turtle soup, and Duckling orange Bavarois. In declaring the Centre open Mr Frank Aitken of the Irish government said of the Centre: ‘It is the most beautiful I have seen anywhere.’