As a child growing up in Co. Waterford, a trip to Tramore was one of the most exciting things to do with your day. Frittering your 2p and 5p coins away on the slot machines in Freddie’s, eating chips from the Beach Grill on the promenade, playing crazy golf and trying to win a hideous and probably flammable teddy in one of the many fairground stands made for tremendous family fun.
However, in 1992 an entirely new dimension was added to the seaside landscape of Tramore. Built for a rumoured cost of 4.5 million old pounds, Celtworld was the newest, shiniest and most exciting thing to happen to the Déise county since Val Doonican. It was created by a group called Vectovision (possibly the most gloriously Nineties-tech name for a company ever) and was an indoor attraction that had all the latest technology. Boasting holograms, lasers (wow!) and even COMPUTER GRAPHICS, which, looking back, doesn’t really mean anything and is quite vague indeed, the high-tech nature of Celtworld was more than enough to sufficiently boost excitement levels at the time. If 8-year-old me from then could see an iPad now she’d probably pass out.
Encased in a gleaming white purpose-built Art Deco structure, Celtworld was a wild, interactive ride through Irish myths and legends. By wild I mean it had the largest revolving theatre in Europe (YEAH! Take that, Euro-jerks!), which spun slowly from one tale to the next, each one brought to life through a mix of screen graphics, moving artwork and animatronic figures whilst we sat agog in 3D glasses. The fact that all of this went down in 1992 means that there is absolutely shag all about it online, so all I have to go on are my hazy memories and a scanned magazine article with a decent amount of photos which is wonderfully optimistic about the whole endeavour (courtesy of Fústar, our glorious leader).
My strongest memory from the Celtworld experience was being utterly terrified by a giant scary eyeball that emerged from the ceiling and fixed the audience with an unblinking death stare. It turns out that this was part of the tale of Lugh fighting against Balor of the Evil Eye. The scanned magazine article also reminded me of another distressing memory from the snazzy journey through mythology, where during the tale of Cú Chulainn, the warrior is transformed into a monstrous version of himself by the frenzy of battle, which rose up from the ground in front of the screen and menacingly loomed over the squealing children in the audience. The lousy fecker.
After the excitement of the theatre section, we were then moved along to the Otherworld, which was a large room with different interactive sections, interspersed with Ogham stones and questions about the stories we had just been told. There was a big tree in the middle that had severed heads dangling from the branches, I remember that if you walked right up to it, the heads (or a staff member hiding with a microphone somewhere) would start talking and say things like “Will you scratch my nose?” which was HILARIOUS at the time. There was also a toadstool you could sit on and have fairy wings light up behind you, to make you one of the sídhe. Somewhere at home there’s a picture of me sitting on that very toadstool, which I’m now determined to dig out of the dusty photo albums, if only to see if it still looks as magical as I remember. Somehow I doubt that it does.
Celtworld closed in 1995 after racking up massive losses, which contrasts pretty sharply with the upbeat and positive tone of the magazine article. It brightly declared that “we have just witnessed the way tourism is going”, “the Celtworlds of this world are the future” and predicted similar attractions opening all over England. Although they couldn’t have been wider off the mark, I remember my brother and I feverishly discussing what our favourite bits of the flashy experience were on the car journey home, having had another brilliant day out in Tramore.
(by Kitty Catastrophe)