St. Patrick’s Hall, Dungannon 1906-2012 RIP
After 106 years of providing a marvellous and invaluable facility for the parisioners of Dungannon, many people will be shocked and disappointed to learn that St.Patrick’s Hall will finally shut its doors for good at the turn of the year. Problems with an entertainment licence led to the snooker room not opening during the past seventeen months, but now the entire building is to close.
As one would imagine with a building of its age, some repairs are needed - at an estimated £33,000, but the reason being given for its demise is the upkeep, which has been costing the parish about around £20,000 per annum.
Following the loss a decade ago of the CIYMS club facilities at Victoria Road and the departure a couple of years ago of the INF club in Lower Scotch Street, this will mean that the town of Dungannon - which produced professional players Patrick Wallace, Barry McNamee and Rory Mallon - is without snooker facilities for the first time in a century.
Did it have to be this way? I’m afraid I don’t believe so. And, regrettably, a lot of time and effort by a small but very eager concerned group of like-minded folk proved in vain when we went to a meeting with the parish finance committee.
We had attended an initial meeting a couple of months previously to ascertain the situation - and left that optimistic, and indeed confident, that we could sort out all the issues and get the balls rattling the backs of the pockets again for the start of the new league season.
Having met with council officials regarding the licence requirements and procedure, as well as avenues of securing funding, we had meetings with a councillor and spoken to various others about methods of raising the necessary finance - through grants and lottery funding - to get the snooker facility back in the frame.
We were more than hopeful as we arrived for our meeting. Alas, we quickly discovered that it was actually the AGM of the finance committee and there was a large agenda. At 8.10pm, we were told that because of the amount of business to be addressed, they would give us until 8.30pm.
As we began to make our pitch for the resumption of the snooker facility, the chairman stopped us in our tracks and stated that they had already taken a decision to close the hall - and it was a unanimous decision.
To say that we were gobsmacked honestly doesn’t do it justice. After weeks of researching, we had come armed with information about how the snooker aspect of the club could be restored at no cost to the parish, be self-financing and perhaps soon be profit-making, whilst we also harboured great hopes that a major lottery grant could be secured for restructuring the whole building.
But the chairman nailed the latter on the head by saying they had been seeking a lottery grant for years, to no avail. The parish is understandably struggling to cope with debt, not least because of the refurbishment of St.Patrick’s Church at a reported cost in excess of £3million.
The bottom line was that St.Patrick’s Hall, which we were told was close to being sold four years ago, is doomed and our hopes and aspirations dashed, our attempt to revive the fortunes of the snooker section dead in the water, our endeavour is this respect a waste of time, energy and cost.
One member of our group put forward the notion that it might be possible to open a premises elsewhere as St.Patrick’s Snooker Club, the committee generously agreeing to make the tables available for our use free of charge. But that is a forlorn hope which, hindsight suggests, is probably not practical.
The snooker men are not the only ones to lose the use of a building which has such tremendous affection from the older generations.
Those who presently use the Union Place venue have already been advised that the will need to find alternative accommodation.
Times are tough everywhere and it’s understandable and acceptable that costs are kept to a minimum, but we were convinced the retention of the hall would not have been a drain on resources and may even have become profit-making.
As shown below, times were hard when the parish provided the facility more than a century ago. If the building is left idle, the chances are that vandalism will possibly pose problems which will cost a lot more money to sort out than it would have taken to keep it open.
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Weather for Dungannon
Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 7 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 17 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 7 C to 15 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: North