While Albert was gregarious, revelling in the company of
show business personalities and media figures, his brother
Jim disliked personal attention and stayed out of the
limelight. "He wanted to have the name of being a hard man
to deal with, but underneath he was very kind but didn't
want anybody to know about it," said an old friend.
Born on a small farm on the borders of Longford, Roscommon
and Leitrim, Jim Reynolds served his time as a carpenter
after finishing in the Technical School in Longford. He
emigrated to Canada and later Australia, and returned to
Ireland with savings of £5,000.
Along with his brother
Albert, who was then working as a clerk with CIE and running
'carnival dances' in his spare time, the Reynolds brothers
built a ballroom on family lands adjoining the village of
Rooskey. The opening of The Cloudland in 1959 was perfect
timing, as showbands like The Clipper Carlton, The Drifters
and The Mighty Avons were drawing thousands of dancers each
week to the ballrooms springing up around the country.
Jim was the builder and Albert looked after management and
The Roseland in Moat; The Fairyland (hard to
believe now) in Roscommon; The Lakeland (later Horizon) in
Mullingar; The Dreamland, Athy; The Jetland, Limerick, and
many others that quickly followed were consolidated into an
empire that gave them not only control of the ballrooms but
leverage to bring in international acts like Roy Orbison,
Johnny Cash, Acker Bilk, Jim Reeves and others to play
alongside homegrown talent.
Jim even bought a turntable for locomotives from CIE and
used it in one of the ballrooms so that when one act
finished the next would suddenly appear on stage ready to
launch into their set.
Together they bought The Longford
Arms Hotel in the town's Main Street in 1961. "In 1969, my
brother and I had a number of differences about where the
business should go," Albert Reynolds would later say. "He
wanted to stay in the ballroom business and expand, I was
convinced changes were coming and it was not worth the
investment... I wanted out and resigned, I was ready to move
on to something new."
However, the break was less than cordial and some of the
showbands they did business with got caught in the crossfire
Albert Reynolds made a second fortune in the
pet food business before concentrating on politics. During
his first successful campaign for the Dail in 1977, Jim
supported one of Albert's opponents, Independent TD Joe
Sheridan, who was also successfully elected for the
Meanwhile, Jim Reynolds made The Longford Arms Hotel one of
the most successful hotels in the midlands. It was later
discovered when the Court Services went to renovate the
imposing courthouse, which was next door to the hotel, that
he had colonised part of the disused basement and built a
block of toilets there.
In the ballroom business, he was
well-know for buying sites or property to prevent
competition. He purchased The Fountain Blue, a motel on the
road into Longford and later closed it down, as he did with
the Annaly Hotel in the town's Main Street, when they
threatened his core business.
Jim Reynolds died at his home in Longford at the age of 85,
last Sunday, the day after his wife Anne passed away. They
were buried together last Wednesday after Requiem Mass in St
Mel's Cathedral. The couple are survived by daughters Angela
and Orlagh, and sons John and James.