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A trip ‘down memory lane’ for Camlough man features in national magazine

May 13, 2019

The nostalgic musings of well-known Camlough personality and GAA broadcaster Damian McCullough achieved national fame recently, when his story was published in one of the country’s most popular magazines, ‘Ireland’s Own’.

The weekly magazine features lightweight content and traditional stories from across the country and Damian’s article entitled ‘The Hop’, is a reflection of life in the ‘70s and his recollection of many of the local personalities in his home village of Camlough.

An active member and former player of Carrickcruppen GFC, Damian composed the piece to feature as part of the club’s 75th anniversary celebrations and he is delighted his work has made it to the pages of the iconic ‘Ireland’s Own’ magazine, an achievement The Examiner is happy to duplicate.

‘The Hop’

Liverpool had the Cavern Club. In London, the Irish had Cricklewood. Camlough had “The Hop.” Yes, indeed that was what it was known back in the early 70s. The young people of Camlough were like those from all over the country. They wanted to be able to socialize and dancing was the way. The Troubles were very much to the fore with the British Army and the police forever stopping and searching. And yet, we didn’t really take much notice of them. We were all at that age when as young teenagers we were looking for some place to go. 

Carrickcruppen were quick to spot an opening and a need. The Carrickcruppen GAA club, like all others, needed money “to keep the lights on.” The legend that was Johnny Cromie thought that a “Hop” would be a great way to make a little money and of course take the teenage kids off the streets. 

The Old School in Camlough was where it all started. ‘Cruppen had moved its youth activities from the Hibs’ Hall to Camlough Old School.

The foresight of the Committee, and especially that of visionaries Johnny Cromie and Harry Shields led them to respond to the local needs. They knew instinctively what was needed. They could help the club, keep the youth out of harm’s way and provide an outlet that we, the young people of the time, would never forget. 

 The first Sunday night of the Official Opening of the Hop didn’t really happen. For some reason or other, the group which was booked just didn’t turn up. You must remember that back then a lot of local bands were making inroads on the music scene. So it made sense to have one of the prominent groups to open the Hop.

As we paid our 30p entrance, the hall was filling up with all the young “dudes.” Sure we thought we were the lads. We all hung around the hall checking out the “talent.” But as the night went on there was no sign of the band. Of course the wise men such as Johnny and Harry had already banked the money. Nobody was getting any money back. We all stood about wondering what was going to happen. Johnny disappeared for 10 minutes and arrived back with his bingo mike and a record player along with a few records. We all looked on wondering what was going on. Up on the stage, a table was placed in the middle with the record player hooked up and the records ready to spin.   

He hooked his mike and speakers up to the record player ready to boom out. We all decided: “What the heck. We were here, there were girls too, so we would make the best of the opportunities”. We got a little nudge from Harry and Johnny. They called us to the stage. They knew us since we were underage footballers, and told us to get out there and start dancing. What could we do but dance? 

So you can visualise it: a hall full of young people making the best of something new. That was the very first Sunday night Hop in Camlough. 

Over the years (it was probably not that many) it was the place where a lot of young Camlough teenagers had their first kiss. As they say: what happened back in the day stays back in the day. No one will ever say who kissed whom. But for many that’s where romance began.

Of course, back in those days there was no such thing as a taxi. So you had to walk to the Hop from Bessbrook and Newry. But then ‘Cruppen had their club bus and of course Johnny was the driver.  So to get the teenage kids to Camlough from more distant parts, the bus was the way. It carried us all to the Hop and then home from the Hop. I am certain parents were delighted with the ‘Cruppen bus. They knew that their children would be safe.  This was also very important to the club.

As time went on the Hop took off with spectacular success. It helped the club coffers and was often packed to the rafters. I remember when red bulbs were fitted. You never went out to dance with full lights on, so someone came up with the idea of the red bulbs. Once the band was ready the lights went off except for the red bulbs. That was the sign to ‘hit the floor’. Romantic couples met for the first time on the dance floor and danced until the last song. 

 A group called Penny Lane (I think I remember correctly) from Bessbrook were a favourite. They had a girl as the lead singer. We thought they were brilliant. Then we had Bobby and the Brook Boys another big favourite, who belted out the hits of the day. But to us the big one was the legendary Newry group The Whiskey. The first night they played at the Hop the place went wild. I think the band members were Gerry, lead vocals, Paul the drummer and Chris on bass.  Cosy Powell was big on Top of the Pops around that time. But we had Paul from the Whiskey who always hammered out Cosy Powell’s hits live on stage in Camlough. Sure we thought there was no place better!

Then the age of Disco hit the Camlough Hop. The resident DJ was Sean Murphy from HMC II. You might know him better as the man on the Council tractor who cut the grass and football fields of south Armagh. But Sean had all the latest hits to spin at the Hop. It was the first time we had seen real disco lights. The age of the red bulbs were over. Some songs and groups come to mind: Mott The Hoople, American Pie, Dancing on a Saturday Night. Mud, Roy Wood and so on. Those far off days in Camlough at the Carrickcruppen Hop were special for the youth of the area. To the great men, who came up with the idea of a Hop we are forever grateful. And the bond with ‘Cruppen is still strong, as we still run a disco for our local youth. I wonder if they will have similar fond memories in years to come as I have of years gone by?  

Damian McCullough

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