It’s the end of an era as Regal Lodge is reduced to rubble
It was truly the end of an era on the New Line Road last week as, after decades of music and entertainment, the Regal Lodge pub was demolished.
The pub was an iconic venue in Wexford during the 1970s and 1980s, with many local bands treading the boards in it, as well as bigger names from the country and the cabaret scene. Since its closure over ten years ago, the building had fallen into delapidation and was lamented as an eyesore. It was purchased in recent years by former county hurler and All Star full back Darragh Ryan who has been granted planning permission for a house on the site.
Last Tuesday, diggers moved into the site and began to dismantle the last vestiges of the building which, like a reflection of how the entertainment industry had developed, had started out as a small pub, was turned into a larger venue by the Redmond Brothers, was reinvented in the subsequent years and, eventually, shut its doors for good in the mid-noughties.
One man who remembers the venue in its hayday is Liam O'Leary who not only acted as manager for local band Kinsella Country, but also ran cabaret events in the venue, bringing in big names like Brendan Shine and Tommy Drennan, among others, throughout the 1970s.
'It was the top place at the time, one of the venues that really kicked off the cabaret scene and it was a forerunner to the bigger clubs and function rooms you have now.'
He said that numerous bands had played at the venue, remarking that he was more into the country scene at the time, though he did delve into disco when that came on the scene in 1980 and the town venues started to prosper.
'In the 1970s, if there was a big band on the circuit, The Regal Lodge got them. It was a top class venue; it had the a dance floor, it had seating, it developed all the time. But when disco came in, venues in town started to pop up and that hit the Regal as people either stayed or started going to town.'
Local musician Nick Kinsella started playing in the Regal Lodge in either the late 1960s or early 1970s.
'It was a unique venue that was ahead of its time. It was kind of fashioned on the style of an American roadhouse; the Redmond brothers had been out in Canada for a few years so I presume it was inspired by that. It was certainly, at the time, the finest venue I played in, outside of some of the places we played in England.'
Nick said that the audiences in the venue were attentive and appreicative of the music, hanging around to talk to the band afterwards, a reaction he attributes to it being the first venue of its kind in the locality.
'You play lots of venues and some you never want to go back to but for those of us who played in The Regal at that time, we all found it to be special place. I always said, when I saw it closing up for good, that it was a place I would miss.'
For Nick, it wasn't just a venue for music-playing but also for a special family occasion - his 25th wedding anniversary.
'The crowd would have gone down a lot in it at that stage. People stopped coming out from town but I think a lot of people missed it. It was a nice place to go to in the evenings, it had a great view out across the countryside.'
Nick Furlong was another local musician who played in the venue, along with Joe Monahan, his brother Noel, Jim Carthy and his newphew Francis.
'It was an unbelievable place. It was packed every night you went into it and no matter what you went to, you were always guaranteed a good night in it.'
He remembers the venue being set up around the end of the showband era and added that, for local bands, it was a big coup to get to play in it. Nick is one artist who has the distinction of playing the venue over a number of decades, including shortly before it closed for good.
'It's the end of an era but time moves on. I played in it for the last owners and it was a pale shadow of what it had been when I first played in it.'
Over the years, plenty of big bands played in the venue, from the country and cabaret stars of the 1970s, through various bands in the 1980s and beyond. In its last incarnations, bands like the Saw Doctors, Bagatelle and Paddy Casey were once on the ticket.
Local playwright Billy Roche remembers seeing Planxty in the venue in the early 1970s, saying it was a classic line-up as it coincided with the time that Christy Moore was leaving the band and Paul Brady was coming into it - both musicians played on the night.
'It was a place where anything could happen and any type of singer or performer would appear.'
He added: 'It marked a time of social change in the country; the big, barren dance halls were going out of fashion in favour of these big lounges that were comfortable; the Redmonds recognised that and did a wonderful job with The Regal Lodge. It was reflective of social change at the time and, I suppose, its demise was reflective of society changing again, and moving into town centres.'