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Jiving in the aisles of the old Ritz cinema

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Jiving in the aisles of the old Ritz cinema thumbnailThe old Ritz cinema in Armagh

CRITICS of Armagh sometimes claim the city has little life or buzz but that was certainly not always the case.

Back in the swinging 60's it was the hub of the universe with its factories and shops and places of entertainment, such as the old City Hall.

The town also had three cinemas, commonly known as 'picture houses'.There was the Cosy in Russell Street of Jim McGee fame, now the Armagh Credit Union offices, the City Cinema in Market Street, which was run by the Kelly family and later became the Foresters' Club, and just across the way was the most famous of all, the Ritz.

The Ritz, part of the ABC group opened in the late 30's and was in business for sixty odd years.

Perched on the top right hand corner of Market Square, where the new Market Place Theatre now stands, in close proximity were the old outdated underground public toilets with its iron railings, long since demolished.

The Ritz was by far the most popular of the three cinemas, though it must be said that all three had their patrons and gave employment to many local people.

In the Ritz foyer, sweets, soft drinks and pop corn were sold and the walls were suitably adorned with the stars of the big screen.

In the 60's the old Ritz was something special as Cathal McSherry, who worked there as a projectionist recalls in his most enjoyable book 'A Different Wavelength' Those were the days of Miss Margaret Ross, who ran the show. One of the old stock, she was a strict disciplinarian but a real lady, a highly respected and much admired manageress, who had the trust and loyalty of her staff.

The Ritz with its balcony and plush red carpets was kept spotlessly clean, its staff immaculately dressed. It was Armagh's own little palace.

The Saturday morning matinee for children, known as 'The Minors' was hugely popular attracting scores of youngsters. It was their weekend treat.

Another big draw were the Elvis Presley films when the 'full house' signs had to go up. The queues would have stretched from the front door of the Ritz down past Moore and Robinson's public house (The Steps), Vincie Vallely's barber's shop, around Zwecker's Corner and half way down English Street.

This was also the era of rock 'n roll and Presley fans needed little encouragement to get out onto the cinema aisles and jive away to their hearts content.

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