The World of Leisure

Leisure activities began to play a more important role in life for both rich and poor at the beginning of the twentieth century. One of the most popular forms of entertainment in the urban environment was the vaudeville show, which included a huge variety of acts usually about ten with singers, dancers, comics, jugglers, mimes, clowns and acrobats. There were also even more exotic acts such as those described as "coon" (i.e. with the performer's face covered with blacking), entertainers, magicians, hypnotists, and male and female impersonators. All levels of society attended the vaudeville performances and they were a rich source of popular songs.

In addition to music halls, Dublin had a fair share of venues where light operas were performed. The Lily of Killarney, The Bohemian Girl and The Daughter of the Regiment were performed both by native and visiting companies. Some of the most famous names in the world of music and the theatre visited Dublin: Sarah Bernhardt visited in July 1904. Within the domestic milieu, singing was a popular past-time, as demonstrated in the Usher's Island drawing-room of Joyce's story The Dead. Amateurs also often appeared at the concerts in such places as the Antient Concert Rooms in Pearse Street or at the frequent bazaars, which were mainly organised to raise money for charity. Joyce appeared at the Antient Concert Rooms with the celebrated John Mc Cormack in 1904, where he sang "Down by the Salley Gardens." He uses the setting for "A Mother" one of his more acidic stories in Dubliners. Music was also made available to the public through the concerts on the bandstands at Dalkey, Blackrock and on Mount Merrion strand.

Aside from the music hall, leisure tended to be segregated along class lines. For the aristocracy, sport in Ireland included the traditional sports of horse-racing and hunting and this element of social Irish life had its zenith at the Horse Show Week in late August in Dublin. The male students at colleges and private schools generally played cricket and rugby, while girls played tennis. Both sexes were madly into cycling, both as a sport and as a way of transport around the countryside. The formation of the Gaelic Athletic League had resulted in the spread of clubs for Gaelic Football and Hurling all over the country. Soccer was considered an "English" game but was still enthusiastically played by many.

Holidays were rare for most Irish people. For many people such as farmers, they did not figure at all as part of the yearly round. Family visits were made, although these tended to be for a specific purpose for example, a young sister might visit her older sibling at the birth of a child in order to help her out. For most Dublin workers, the summer holiday constituted no more than a day trip to Bray or Howth. The upper middle-classes, on the other hand, might go to the hotels in Bundoran and Killarney which advertised themselves in the Irish Times, while the very rich made their way to a Spa town such as Harrogate or even onto the continent.

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