Saturday, May 18, 2019


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I have passed this shop many times on my way up, or is it down, Talbot St. from Connolly Station. I haven't really paid much attention to it as I don't have a current active interest in Irish dancing.

However, the other day I noticed this pair of shoes in the window and took a photo, as one does. Later I wondered what type of dancer would wear such shoes.

Today, when passing I decided to go in and ask, and that's how I met John McSweeney the proprietor.

John McSweeney

John told me that this type of shoe would be worn in sean nós dancing, at one end of the scale or in the highly choreographed Riverdance kind of show at the other, though in the latter case much of their sound is prerecorded.

Then we got to talking about the "uniforms". If you thought that the costumes of my youth were in any way elaborate you'd certainly get a shock today if you attended any of the many, and increasing?, competitions for young Irish dancers here or in the States.

Developments seem to have paralleled those from the plain bonny baby competitions of my youth to the young, and often scary, tots beauty contests of today.

John has photos of them all on his wall. He's only responsible for the shoes and all the dancers, irrespective of the flashiness of their costumes, need a good pair of shoes. Mind you, the marketeers are also busy in this area and many a good pair have been abandoned for the next flashier version on the market.

Among all the photos on the wall is an old monochrome of John's family with their medals dangling in front. God be with the days. I gather this is no longer the practice.

Anyway, back to the shoes that started all this off. John showed me shoes where the metal taps are replaced by nails, yes nails. These are hammered up individually into the shoe, presumably on an anvil!, and they certainly look impressive. I must take a photo of one next time I'm passing.

The sad news is that John is closing up shop soon. Customers are now buying on the internet or direct from the factory.

Another little haven in the centre city will soon be gone with the wind. I'm sure that John's remaining customers will miss the personal service and the chat and the reservoir of his customers through time will treasure the memory of this cultural oasis in the centre of the capital.

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