Once Upon A Time...
In 1921, Mr and Mrs WJ Hawkins (Snr) owned a small general store in Islandmagee - The Gobbins Stores.
It was here that the soon-to-be famous Rinkha home-made ice cream recipe was conceived. In those days wooden churns were used and turned by hand - and it was very hard work!
WJ Snr was a progressive man and in 1935 he also decided to build a dancehall - an ambitious project in an area as sparsely populated as Islandmagee! He even provided a substantial car park, despite the fact there were very few cars around back then. Quite a few eyebrows were raised among the local population - some people even questioned his sanity!
Undeterred WJ Snr asked the local community to help name this new Islandmagee landmark and the choice was made when historian Dixon Donaldson suggested...
'The Rinkha' - an Irish interpretation meaning place of dance/place of mirth.
With the second generation family member Billy Hawkins taking an active role in the business, a small shop was established at the front of the The Rinkha dancehall, as well as a café upstairs.
Ice cream production was also moved from the Gobbins stores to the new premises at the Rinkha – and it’s still the same great family recipe Rinkha Ice Cream, in a variety of flavours, that you enjoy today!
During the Second World War, American GIs were stationed at nearby Red Hall en route to Europe. While they completed their training, they joined dances at The Rinkha, and on occasion, even hired the dancehall out to run their own Dances.
Mr Hawkins still has the dusty sign that proclaims ‘No Jitterbugging’….a reminder of that racy dance, popular in the US at the time, which left the local girls dizzy and the local boys bemused.
The dances ran successfully for many years, until around the time of The Beatles era, when the show band scene began to change and The Rinkha Dancehall (as with many other dancehalls around the time), closed for dancing in the 1960s.
Many long and happy marriages were the result of a first encounter on the The Rinkha dancefloor!
The dances eventually came to an end but The Rinkha continued to be used for many other community needs, as it always had.
It fulfilled the role of a leisure centre (badminton & table tennis), a community centre, a concert venue (hosting such names as the late, great, James Young) and providing a meeting place for organisations such as the local conservation society, Islandmagee football club post-game teas and we even hosted a wedding reception for a well known local couple, who still reside in Islandmagee to this day!
Eventually, the dancehall was given over to sales with Billy and Molly Hawkins introducing a wide range of products, while still running The
Gobbins Stores and manufacturing ice cream. In the early 1970s the family chose to close The Gobbins Stores and incorporated it into The Rinkha.
During the late 1970s, and now in the care of the third generation, William Hawkins decided to expand the toy department and built this up to be one of the most well-known and loved toy stores in the area – maintaining the fun-loving aspect of the Rinkha.
All that dancing and the passage of time was beginning to take its toll on the structure of the Rinkha, and in 2006 major renovations were carried out, ushering in the next exciting chapter.
The Rinkha continues to move with the times and provide for the
community. We continue to keep the kids happy with our large toy department and the adults with all the groceries you could need, hardware for many jobs and one of William’s youngest son, Ross, has taken up the ice-cream mantle, producing new and exciting flavours (all made fresh on the premises) while remaining true to the four-generations-old, top secret recipe.
We hope to see you instore at The Rinkha, Islandmagee, very soon!