last updated 19 May 2006
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Set Dancing News

Old news and reviews - Volume 4 - 1999

Copyright © 2011 Bill Lynch
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Contents:
There's more to read in the collections of old news and reviews, volumes 11997-1998, 2, 31998-1999, 41999, 51999-2000, 6, 72000, 8, 9, 102001, 112001-2002, 12, 13, 14, 152002, 162002-2003, 17, 18, 192003, 202003-2004, 21, 22, 23, 24, 252004, 262004-2005, 27, 28, 29, 30, 312005, 322005-2006, 33, 34, 35, 36, 372006, 38, 392006-2007, 40, 41, 42, 432007, 442007-2008, 442007-2008, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 502008, 512008-2009, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 572009, 582009-2010, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 652010, 662010–2011, 67, 68, 69, 70, 712011, 722011–2012, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 782012, 792012-2013, 80, 81, 82, 832013, 842013-2014 (Index).

Dancing up a storm with Connie and Betty

In stark contrast to the Washington Festival [reported earlier], the Connie Ryan Memorial Set Dancing Weekend, October 1-3, in Cape May was blessed with great weather which made this already beautiful seaside town even nicer. In fact, on Sunday, there was fierce competition between the beach and the dancing for everyone's attention.

There was a very good turnout for the set classes, and the room was filled. Pádraig McEneany, assisted by his wife Roisín, proved to be the master teacher that he is. He taught quite a number of sets, some with tricky footwork, and he got us through them all with no problems and we danced them at the ceili in the evening. For the last set, Pádraig did the Borlin Jenny, a reel set, and of course, everyone is always eager to dance reels. Part of the thrill is watching Pádraig's amazing footwork and technique. You will probably never be able to dance that well, and you can't even figure out what he is doing or how he does it, but it is always a pleasure to watch Pádraig dance.

More than any other place, Cape May still retains a strong connection with Connie Ryan. A lot of the people who attended Connie's workshops still show up at Cape May, even if they don't regularly attend ceilis all year. Even some of the Irish dancers who used to dance with Connie come over. This year we had 'the Marys' (Mary Conboyand Mary McGowan). When you see them with Pádraig and Roisín, you can't help but remember them dancing up a storm with Connie and Betty. And Pádraig often refers to 'the way Connie did it' when explaining and demonstrating a set. Connie used no volunteers to demo sets. You were drafted. You couldn't hide. He would call your name out. Then the pressure was on, because you knew he would catch all your mistakes. But you (as well as the audience) always had a good time.

The ceilis were very good, and the music was great. Felix Dolan was back in action with Brian Conway, John Nolan, and Jerry O'Sullivan. Their music was a joy to dance to. The Blackthorn Stick Ceili Band led by Philippe Varlet surprised everyone with the Derrada Set, and we had a great time trying to remember it even if we all did it differently.

The Avondale 'fringe festival' was in full swing this year. Joe Hussey, a Cape May regular, books a bunch of rooms at the Avondale Hotel and fills them with dancers and musicians. There are seisuns on Joe's porch (and food in his room), and it has become a popular hangout for dancers and musicians. It's also a good place to look if you can't find someone.

Cape May is the only dance weekend in the US that is on a level with workshops in Ireland, and it is reminiscent of the weekend workshops Connie Ryan used to run. Although the ability of the dancers are mixed, the level of the dances are high, and you can really learn something here, both dances and footwork. If any new dances make it onto the ceili programs, they are almost always taught at Cape May. This is what happened after Connie Ryan taught the Connemara, Newport, and Caragh Lake sets.

For us, what is special about Cape May is that it brings back so many memories of Connie Ryan. Steve and I were fortunate to drive Connie down to Cape May for a number of years. Usually, there was someone else getting a ride as well: Micheal Lalor, Noel Cotter, Colm Treanor, or Betty McCoy. It was a mighty ride. Especially the one with Betty.

We would always stop at a rest stop on the highway for a bite. One year, we walked into Burger King and met Marie Dillon from New York who gave Connie such an enthusiastic greeting that they did a few steps and attracted everyone's attention. The following year we pulled up in front of the Inn at Cape May, and Marie happened to be standing there. Connie got out of the car, and the first thing he said was, 'Why weren't you at Burger King?'

Arriving in Cape May was always exciting, no matter how tired we were. People would run up to us and ask, 'Where's Connie? Did you bring Connie?' When Connie walked in, he was surrounded by people who wanted to talk to him. But Connie always took care of us by making sure he got a parking pass for 'his car.'

The week after Cape May was as hectic as the weekend when Connie was around. He would travel to Boston for a Monday night workshop (and give the NY crowd a rest). Then he would be back in NY for a workshop, squeeze in a workshop in Philadelphia or Baltimore, and end up in NY again. On Saturday, Owen Laydenwould run a great workshop and ceili down at Monmouth Beach, New Jersey. This was another one of those venues where we would say we should check out the beach. But we never got there. Connie kept us too busy. The workshop was a last chance to catch a set that was done at Cape May, although Connie always added a different set everywhere he went. Owen always had great music for the ceili, such as Brian Conway, Billy McComiskey, and John Nolan. There was great atmosphere at that ceili with Connie calling the sets and acting as MC. No one could enthuse a crowd like Connie. Everyone wanted to either dance with Connie or dance in his set. The last dance was always the Plain Set, and it was wild. Connie would stop before the last figure to thank everyone and have everyone cheer the musicians on even more. The ceili always ended on a great note.

When the ceili was over, it still wasn't over. We would go the local sports bar that was invaded by set dancers on this one night every year. Finally, Connie would head off to the convent 'to sleep with the nuns.' Sister Frances, a set dancer from Roscommon, always had a room ready for Connie along with a big breakfast in the morning before he left for home.

We always think of these stories at Cape May. It's great to see that the spirit of Connie Ryan lives on there.

Donna Bauer and Steve Casey


Everyone was charged with the music

It was the night of the decisive game of the World Series. The Yankees were playing the Atlanta Braves in the Bronx. Yet on the same night Terry Moylan gave a set dance workshop to the music of Johnny O'Leary to a packed house at Ireland House in Greenwich Village. If that doesn't say Irish music and dance is alive and well in NY, I don't know what does.

Ireland House is affiliated with New York University, one of the most prestigious universities in the US, and was established as an academic center focusing on Irish studies. It is housed in a beautiful renovated Georgian building in Washington Square, Greenwich Village, and it frequently sponsors lectures and talks by well-known Irish writers and politicians. This was the first time they sponsored an evening of Irish music and dance. It seems students and members expressed an interest and Steve happened to call at the right time with the right people. So on October 27 they rolled up the Oriental rugs, cleared away the chairs and prepared for a lively evening. And that's what Terry and Johnny gave them. We would never have believed you could fit five sets on the floor there, but we did. That was not counting the people on the sidelines ready to jump in and the musicians and others who came to hear Johnny play.

Terry did the Kenmare Polka Set which was a joy to dance to Johnny's music, especially the slides on the highly polished floor. This was a good choice because the crowd was very mixed-members who attend the lectures and were looking for chairs, NYU students who think Irish dance has something to do with wearing headbands, and of course the 'regulars' who want the ultimate set dance experience. Even Pádraig O'Cearuil, the Irish language instructor, joined in. This set had something for everyone. It began with a body of 'four shoves'-this was quite exciting at times. Some people got that and others got it even more, but we managed. There was a great atmosphere at the place and everyone was charged with the music. At the end of the evening no one even asked who won the World Series.

We were fortunately to have Terry Moylan for that evening. Terry has played a significant role in set dancing in the US. It was his book, Irish Dancing, (we all called it 'the Blue Book') that provided the dance instructions to keep the sets going. Back in the early days of set dancing over here, you had to go to Ireland to learn the sets. We only had occasional visits from Irish dance masters (thanks to Paul Keating), and no one gave out handouts at that time. But we had the Blue Book, and you would see it at ceilis and dance classes, because that's how we learned the dances. Terry's book guided us in dancing as well as teaching the Plain, Cashel, Sliabh Luachra, Caledonian, Mazurka Sets which form the core of the ceilis we do today. It was a nice touch that the man who helped us start the dancing got to inaugurate the floors at Ireland House.

Donna Bauer and Steve Casey


Set dancing in Boston . . . and a bit beyond

Fleadh or no fleadh, there's lots of great dancing in Boston, as Claudia Nichols describes in this guide to the classes and ceilis in the city.


I'm still new to set dancing - I only began last January. With my first class I was thrown into the fray, bumbling and bungling my way around the dance floor, swinging my way into total disorientation, not knowing a reel from a jig. My partners and set mates were very patient. I kept coming back for more, determined to dance well enough to really enjoy it. Then I discovered ceilis. By August I felt competent enough so I began to venture forth in search of more dancing in the Boston area. What a grand time I'm having!

Autumn's arrival brings the return of the regular classes and ceilis. In any given week you find several opportunities for either one or both. This article is limited to the classes and ceilis I attended during the month of October. It is representative, though not exhaustive.


Ger Cooney helps beginners in her class at the Burren Pub, Somerville. On Monday nights from 8 to 10 pm, the back room of the Burren Irish Pub and Restaurant comes alive with Ger Cooney's set dance class. The pub is in Davis Square, Somerville, a short subway ride from downtown Boston. Ger, a native of Galway, studied step dance as a child. In 1979 she went to a set dance workshop led by Joe and Siobhan O'Donovan, and then to every workshop she could thereafter. Ger has been teaching set dance since she came to Boston five years ago, beginning at McGann's Pub, and has taught at the Burren since its opening in 1996.

We have a very energetic class with as much laughter as there is dancing. The class ranges in age from 20 to 70, with most of the students in their twenties and thirties. We mix the beginners with the experienced dancers. Usually, we review sets learned previously and introduce new ones. We spent two weeks learning the Williamstown set, but also reviewed the South Galway and others.

Women never wait to be asked to dance at the Burren. Because there is often a shortage of men, we scramble to find partners. Those who lag behind often find themselves looking for another woman to dance with, one who will agree to 'be the boy.'

Two hours of dancing simply isn't enough for some of us, so after class we dance out front in the bar when the seisiún begins at 10 pm. This presents us with the unique opportunity to dance to fine music while simultaneously dodging furniture, an occasional drunk and ignorant university students who haplessly wander into the middle of our set. Thus far there have been no major casualties.

Ger occasionally invites guest teachers to lead workshops. She also keeps us well informed of special events, out-of-town workshops and ceilis, great concerts, and anything she thinks we might be interested in. Some of the students have known each other and Ger for several years. We don't just dance together. We're friends having barbeques, supporting one another's fundraising for charities, sharing rides to ceilis, and more.


We have a choice of two set dance classes in the Boston area on Monday nights. Paddy Noonan teaches at the Olde Irish Alehouse in Dedham, about twelve miles southwest of Boston, from 7.30 to 10 pm. This is not so much a class as an evening of called sets. Paddy leads the group in the familiar sets, but also does some of the sets seldom danced at ceilis around here. Paddy draws on his knowledge from back home in west Cork. Our evening included the Skibbereen, the Borlin and the Baile Bhuirne Reel sets. The Alehouse dance floor is cosy, with room enough for two sets. However, almost everybody gets to dance all the time. With few pauses between the figures, we had a very full and enjoyable evening of dancing.

An unexpected challenge for the evening came from American baseball. With TV sets in several locations at the Alehouse, eyes were focused on the Boston Red Sox in their bid for the division championship. Even the dancers were watching the game. Naturally, what ensued were the occasional thuds as we bumped into one another or simply forgot to move. When the Red Sox are playing well, suddenly everybody's a fan. The score for the evening: good dancing and good baseball.


Comhaltas sponsors a class on Tuesday nights from 7.30 to 9.30 pm at the Canadian-American Hall in Watertown, two miles from Cambridge, and taught by Sally Harney from Donegal with a background in step dance. She teaches another class on Wednesday nights at Concannon's Village in Norwood. Her Tuesday class is divided in two groups. Beginners learn the basic dance steps downstairs with a pair of teachers. The more experienced students dance in the main room. Sally, a highly energetic teacher, buzzes about the room assisting sets with the unfamiliar figures of the Monaghan and the Clare Orange and Green. She makes sure that no one sits still for long. About halfway through the class the beginners join us, blending into a larger class for the Connemara which they've been learning downstairs. Afterward, we split into separate groups again for the remainder of the class. The system seems to work well.


Michael Collier shows steps to newcomers in his class at the Old Cambridge Baptist Church. The Old Cambridge Baptist Church in Harvard Square, Cambridge, another class just a short subway ride from Boston, has a wonderful room for music and dance. The acoustics are excellent for unamplified music and the dance floor is spacious, a smooth glide under the feet. On second Tuesdays of the month from 8 to 10:30 pm Michael Collier teaches Irish country dancing, which is mostly set dancing with other dances added from time to time.

Michael began set dancing in 1982 in his quest to learn more about Irish culture. He has been to the Willy Clancy Summer School many times and also studied with Larry Lynch in San Francisco for several years. Michael is very knowledgeable in the dances and their histories. He gauges his teaching to match the level of experience of the dancers. He tries to recruit new students from some of the contra dance groups, ever optimistic that they will see the light and convert. Ah, those contra dancers just don't know what they're missing!

Paul Mulvaney and musicians playing for Michael Collier's class in Harvard Square, Cambridge. This is the only set dance class in the Boston area with live music. And good music it is, too. Flutist Paul Mulvaney of the group Emerald City and friends do an excellent job of playing for dance students. One of their favorite refrains is 'Please, no more polkas!' although they will happily play any type of music requested.


On the first Sunday of the month the Comhaltas holds its monthly seisiún and ceili from 4 to 8:30 pm at the Canadian-American Hall in Watertown. Larry Reynolds is the Comhaltas chairperson and amiable bandleader. Prior to the 4 pm ceili the music students have their seisiún so music is in the air as the dancers arrive. These ceilis are well-attended with dancers and musicians packing the hall.


Margaret Greenway with the musicians at the Knights of Columbus Hall in West Roxbury - Joe Heeran, Margaret, John Whelan and Marie Riley. Margaret Greenway hosts her ceili on second Saturdays or Sundays - dates and times vary - at the Knights of Columbus Hall, in West Roxbury, eight miles southwest of Boston. Margaret grew up in Liverpool with parents from Dublin and Belfast. She comes from a family in which traditional Irish music and dance frequently filled the home. Ironically, when the music and dance began the children were sent off to bed. Then after years of taking her daughter to step classes, but not dancing herself, Margaret decided to try ceili dancing. A year later she took up set dancing. One thing led to another and Margaret now hosts a monthly ceili with professional musicians from around the Northeast. At the October gathering John Whelan and his band came up from New York. Their energetic and spirited playing brought even the most stubbornly sedentary to the dance floor.

Margaret is a wonderful hostess. She works hard to ensure that there's good music, tasty refreshments and a congenial atmosphere for dancing and socializing. And dance we did! Margaret's 'wish list' for the evening included at least a dozen sets, waltzes and ceili dances. We managed to dance almost every set on the list.


Hibernian Hall in Watertown, about a mile north of the Massachusetts Turnpike on Route 16, is the place to be on the third Sunday of the month when Ceol Traidisiunta na hÉireann holds its regular ceili from 4 to 8.30 pm. The club's purpose is to promote traditional Irish music and dance. They have music students, host a monthly ceili and play at some of the festivals in the area, especially at the Irish Festival held in June at Stonehill College. Button accordion player Frank Bane is host.

Frank told me that the club was started in 1978 by a well-known Boston-born musician named Billy Caples, an accomplished accordion player. 'Billy was truly a dedicated music teacher. He taught anyone - the talented and the extremely untalented. Billy taught all for a pittance and never made any money in his life despite his gifts and talents. At the same time, all his students grew to know and admire his love for traditional Irish music.'

In October we did a lovely mix of sets from different areas of Ireland and enjoyed an unexpected treat. Tom Hernon took a break from playing banjo to do a bit of sean nós dancing. Tom comes from the Aran Islands and is a fine dancer. It would be a real gift to have him teach, passing along the traditions to others.


Mary Ann and Tom Concannon, the hosts at Concannon's Village in Norwood. On the fourth Sunday of the month we head fifteen miles southwest of Boston to Concannon's Village Pub and Restaurant in Norwood, where Tom and Mary Ann Concannon host this ceili in the function room of their establishment from 4 to 8.30 pm. It's not unusual to find Tom tending bar while we dance. Some of the Comhaltas musicians provide the music. The room is large and the dance floor can easily accommodate six sets and more.


Cynthia and Tim Neale at their home in Hampstead, New Hampshire. Cynthia and Tim Neale host a ceili in their home in Hampstead, New Hampshire, on the last Saturday of the month. I must say that of all the regular ceilis I attend, this one is my favorite. The one hour drive each way is well worth the trip. When the musicians and dancers see the white sign with the green shamrock and 'ceili' painted on it hanging from a post, they've arrived at the Neales' 18th century farmhouse. As soon as we enter the house we're greeted with warm smile and delicious aromas coming from the kitchen. Everybody brings food, beverages and an eagerness to dance. Cynthia tells everyone to 'open doors and drawers and make yourself at home.'

Musicians begin their seisiún mid-afternoon, joining Tim Neale and daughter Hannah, both fiddle players, in the living room or enclosed porch. Depending on what music the musicians collectively know, the dancers may or may not have live music to dance to. At the October ceili we had both live and recorded music. The dancing starts around 7 pm in a lovely room with a fine floor and enough space to accommodate three sets. Cynthia's goal is to dance a dozen sets. Did we succeed? I don't know. I just dance - I don't count how many.

The dance card at Tim and Cynthia Neale's ceili. People filter in and out throughout the evening. It is typical to dance a set, then wander to the kitchen where yet another delectable dish has been set upon the table. We dance, laugh, chat and nosh our way through the evening, with a break for coffee, tea and dessert around 10 pm. Cynthia always bakes at least one exquisite goodie for dessert, something we all look forward to.

The dancing winds down sometime between midnight and 1 am, although the musicians will often play a little longer. Everybody pitches in with clean up. Folks gradually drift toward home as the hour gets late, but those of us who linger will sing songs, tell stories and jokes, and simply enjoy the pleasure of good company a little longer. There's nothing better than home hospitality and table fellowship to make a ceili a real celebration!

Claudia Nichols, Somerville, Massachusetts


Rules for Dancing

Boston travellers take note! The following rules were apparently in force there nearly 200 years ago. They were kindly supplied to Set Dancing News by Patricia Haisman of Lancashire. Our research department is still verifying their authenticity and deciphering the final sentence.
  1. Admittance 50 cents, refreshments included.
  2. The music to consist of a fiddle, a pipe and tabor, a hurdy gurdy (N.B. No chorus to be sung until dancing is over).
  3. No lady to dance in black stocking - nor must she have her elbows bare.
  4. Every lady to come with a clean linen handkerchief with her name marked.
  5. To prevent spitting, no gentleman to chew tobacco or smoke.
  6. No gentleman to dance in great coat unless his under one be torn.
  7. No lady to dress her hair with tallow candle, nor must she have a bunch of hair sticking up, top of her head.
  8. Leather small clothes except newly washed are forbidden - and to prevent tearing the planking, no gentleman to dance in nailed shoes or boots.
  9. No whispering to be allowed-if anyone shall be found to make insidious remarks about anyone's dancing, he or she shall be put out of the room.
  10. No scissors or gimlets are to be brought either by ladies or gentlemen unless their pockets are whole.
  11. No gentleman to appear with a cravat that has been worn for more than a week or a fortnight.
  12. Long beards are forbidden, as it would be very disagreeable if a gentleman should happen to put his cheek beside a lady's.
  13. Those ladies who have not white cotton stockings and black Morocco shoes will not be admitted under any pretence whatever. Two old ladies will be provided to examine all who enter.
  14. No lady must appear with a veil on even if it be turned aside, as the gentleman will not have an opportunity of looking at their faces distinct.
  15. No gentleman must squeeze his partner's hand, nor look earnestly upon her; and furthermore he must not even pick up her handkerchief; provided it were to fall - the first denotes he loves her - the second he wishes to kiss her, and the last that she makes a sign for both.
  16. For distinction sake, the master of the ceremonies is to wear a red coat, buff small clothes, black stockings, green shoes and a furtout. The word of command is tumble up ladies.

Boston Weekly Magazine
29 October 1803


Letters and emails

No notice of our concerns

Bill

I was just browsing your pages today and I notice all the usual 'big' weekends are there once again for next year, which is, of course, marvelous! I'll have to start planning our next trip! However, there is one venue I will be avoiding from now on and I'll tell you why.

While at an annual weekend workshop earlier this year (I won't mention any names except to say it has a very large attendance) I noticed all the Fire Exits were blocked by chairs, some with people sitting in them. Had we needed (God forbid) to use the emergency exits for any reason it would have been impossible! This happened on Friday, Saturday and Sunday! A few of us pointed out our concerns to the organisers on Saturday night. We thought the organisers might arrange somehow to keep these exits free but the following afternoon and night they were completely blocked again. The organisers, we understand and appreciate, were very busy but I'm afraid they took absolutely no notice of our concerns.

This for me put a damper on the weekend. Firstly because of the danger, and secondly because we were totally ignored by the organiser. Now I can't tell you how we felt to be ignored, especially after travelling so far etc. etc. So therefore I won't be visiting that venue in 2000 as I honestly wouldn't feel safe if the situation was the same.

(I must say that I saw this happening once before, a long time ago in Galway, but when the situation was brought to the organiser's attention it was swiftly rectified - which, in my opinion, is as it should be.)

I think this is really a serious matter especially in the popular venues which attract large crowds. Maybe you could mention it in the newsletter or the website as a word of warning to organisers? (Please don't mention my name if you do.)

Thanks Bill.

[name withheld by request]

Everyone was still talking

Dear Bill

Keep up the good work - look forward to each issue arriving.

Thanks for the coverage of Connie Ryan's (RIP) memorial as I was unable to be there. I visited the area (it's home to me) in August and everyone was still talking about the weekend.

Many thanks for Set Dancing News.

All the best,

Bridget Chambers, Wolverhampton

Well done lads!

All smiles in Dungarvan. Thanks to Helen Crotty for the photograph. Hello Bill

A fantastic weekend was held in the Clonea Hotel, Dungarvan, Co Waterford, on week ending 15th-17th October.

Pat Murphy himself was giving the workshops. He taught us some lovely sets including the Inis Oirr and Williamstown, to mention but a few.

Pat promises these can all be found in his new book, which he went on to tell us he has not found a title for (but Pat, you did get a very good suggestion from a very enthusiastic set dancer).

Saturday night we danced away to Taylors Cross, while our local lads provided music on Friday night and Sunday afternoon, known as An Sean Cupla. Well done lads! To everybody from Bantry to Bray, from Watergrasshill to Wexford, far and near, not forgetting Denise from England, you made it all possible. To Pat Murphy and our own teacher, John Creed, thank you for sharing this wonderful weekend with us.

Yours sincerely,

Helen Crotty, a committee member

The suggestions in Dungarvan must have been good as Pat has since chosen a title.

Doing them a favour

Bill

Came across this little ditty see below that Darina Moffett from Monaghan penned to-gether - it was one time I was giving out about dancing shoes with heavy soles on them. And the last two verses refer to my new microphone.

Mick Mulkerrin

The Dancing Shoe Brigade

The date and time was sorted for the workshop in the town
With scores of sets expected from the villages around.
They all had heard the Tutor was the finest there could be
So off they went to check him out - for curiosity.

The crowds then started landing, they came in and took their place.
Within seconds round the ballroom you could hardly see a face.
Their heads were stuck between their knees, they all were bent in two -
Each lacing, tying and buckling up their little dancing shoe!

The tutor took a look around, he'd danced through the land,
But never had he seen them till he came to Monaghan.
A bit like Henry Ford you'd say - they only came in black!
With each pair neatly fitted in a little plastic sack.

You'd really have to see them, they were really quite well made,
All neatly stitched and polished for the 'Dancing Shoe Brigade.'
Not everybody had them - I suppose just one in two.
Mulkerrin was thinking very hard - he knew what he would do. . . .

By lunchtime all were tired, and some even had sore feet.
When the teacher said to everyone, 'Go home to rest and eat.
So hurry off, now don't delay, we'll be dancing plenty more.'
And when the last had left the room he bolted up the door.

He had to work quite hastily, he knew it would take ages,
So firstly he decided that he'd check the Yellow Pages.
He found the number very fast and dialled it with speed.
He'd be doing them a favour, really - not a cruel deed.

The telephone was ringing, and with terror in his voice
He spoke quite softly to the girl - he knew he had no choice.
'I hope that you can help me, "lass," I need a skip to hire.
I'm in the hotel down the street - it's Mick Mulkerrin, Esquire!'

He put the handpiece back in place, commenced the evil chore
And made a leather mountain in the middle of the floor.
He searched beneath 100 chairs to check there were no more,
when he heard the rigid lorry pulling up outside the door.

He rubbed his hands together when they'd finished up the load,
Then checked his watched and told them that they'd better hit the road.
He went outside to pay them, and to each man he paid cash
Then shouted, 'Thanks a million lads, you'll really have to dash.'

The women all came back from lunch, sat down to put them on.
A shriek was heard from down the hall, 'Help! Help! My shoes are gone.
O Holy God, what will I do - the whole day now seemed tainted.'
Those were the last words that she spoke, then to the floor she fainted.

He looked with great astonishment at how the place was shaken
And wondered (with the rest of them) at how the shoes were taken.
He sympathised with anyone whose shoes had been nicked.
He had such sorrow in his voice - he knew that no one clicked.

'I'm very sorry ladies at this awful robbery.
This kind of act, sincerely, is a dreadful tragedy.
I ask you not to panic though, I'll give you all a treat -
Turn left outside the hotel door to the shoe shop down the street.

'I'd like if you would come with me - I'll buy you all new shoes
With leather soles and uppers, that should chase away those blues!'
So everybody left the hall and headed to the shop.
Those lovely shoes were perfect if you cared to skip or hop.

Everyone got fitted out, with a smile upon their face,
They went back to the workshop and they danced around the place.
He said they all looked prettier when dancing jigs and reels.
It was worth the work to dump their brógs, and get looking at their heels!

He was showing them a fancy step - he clutched to 'it' with pride.
I suppose the length and width of it was difficult to hide.
He tried to hold it in his hand to show toe, heel and bang,
He'd get someone to hold it - they all seemed an honest gang.

He scanned around the room a while to find an honest face.
It wasn't everyone he'd trust, you know - well, just in case.
It really was extraordinary, 'cos as a general rule,
At workshops or at ceilis he'd let no one hold his 'tool'!

Darina Moffett, Monaghan, April 1998


A month of festivals

The Irish summer is paradise for dancers. The summer schools in July may be the highlight of the year for many, but the excitement continues into August with many excellent festivals. Your itinerant editor traced an erratic path around the country to visit a few of them and provides the following reports.

Feakle

The Feakle festival, 5-9 August, has a great reputation among musicians and appears to be second in Clare only to the Willie Clancy Summer School. It's certainly a very popular festival - I hadn't seen anything like the crowds in the street, the heaving pubs and the traffic gridlock since I was last in Miltown. You'd never expect to find so many Yanks, Europeans and Japanese in such a tiny, out of the way village, but Feakle handled them all very well and supplied buckets of good music.

I arrived on Friday night to sample some dancing in the pubs before attending the festival ceili in the hall, but first pub was so good I never made it anywhere else. Michael Sexton was in Bohan's pub where the dancers were jammed onto a tiny floor hemmed in by spectators, but the music was brilliant and atmosphere irresistible. I went back for more the next night, but managed to tear myself away this time to the hall and the Four Courts. The music was just as good and the spacious comfort very welcome but I wish I could have brought along some of the buzz from the pub.

On Sunday afternoon there was outdoor dancing at Pepper's Bar with Bobby Gardiner and the Lahawns - my first time dancing to either and I found them both excellent. I heard there was great dancing to the Lahawns in one of the pubs on the previous nights. Later I went to the hall for the Tulla Ceili Band where the floor was filled with dancers and the seats were filled with music lovers. Very few ceili bands can attract as many non-dancers as the Tulla, but I can never understand how you can stay seated when they're playing!

Killanena and Kilmeena

Just up the road in the mountains there was a new festival in Killanena on the next weekend, 13-15 August. A marquee was landed beside a village pub on a freshly levelled site for the Merriman Set Dancing Weekend, which of course is not to be confused with the Merriman Summer School see below. At the opening ceremony (which occurred after midnight in the middle of the ceili) I learned that the poet Brian Merriman came from Killanena.

Even if the opening ceremony was a good three hours late, the Tulla Ceili Band was set up in time to start the dancing at a reasonable hour. Spectators and dancers arrived in healthy numbers, the band played their very danceable music, and the marquee worked well. Someday a genius will invent a temporary dance floor that is smooth, free of joints, level and well-sprung, but three out of four wasn't bad.

The area's local set emerged from a fifteen year hibernation during the weekend - the Loughgraney Half Set. It was danced in competition back in the eighties but not since then until this weekend. Ciaran Condron taught it in a workshop on Saturday along with several other new sets in his broad repertoire.

Unfortunately I didn't get to dance the Loughgraney set myself as I left to go up to Co Mayo. Saturday night I found myself in a hall in Kilmeena, a tiny place between Westport and Newport I was only able to find in the darkness with the help of a local lad who was navigating for me. The Glenside Ceili Band were playing that night and there was energetic music and dancing with a full hall on the go until the small hours.

Meanwhile back in Killanena the Four Courts were augmented by players destined to compete in the All-Ireland Fleadh, and there were good reports of the music and crowds. I reappeared there on Sunday afternoon for another ceili with the Glenside Ceili Band. They excelled themselves, closing a successful weekend which will be repeated next year.

Fermoy

The next weekend, 20-21 August, I was in the town of Fermoy, Co Cork, for the Feile. Matt Cunningham's music on Friday night brought cheers from a full crowd in the ballroom of the Grand Hotel overlooking the Blackwater River. The next morning Paddy Hanafin taught a workshop, but he had to leave on personal business after the first set. Three teachers attending the workshop, William Hammond, Ollie Griffin and Olive Lynch, took over for Paddy until he returned in the afternoon. Four different teachers gave great variety to the day. Michael Sexton filled the ballroom on Saturday night and the dancers couldn't get enough.

Nenagh

There was one ceili at the Aonach Paddy O'Brien festival in Nenagh, Co Tipperary, and I was there, Sunday 22 August. The music was by the Ard Erin Ceili Band, the majority of whom were also members of the All-Ireland winning Bridge Ceili Band. We love the Bridge band in London where we regularly dance and lilt along to tapes made up from their recordings. There was beautiful music that night in Nenagh, with some lovely waltzes and singing between the sets.

Tralee

There was good news and bad news at the Rose of Tralee festival on Monday 23 August. This was the Irish night and Michael Sexton and his band were the first of several traditional groups to play outdoors on the street. Unfortunately, the organisers put on a noisy rock band for the first hour which disappointed the traditional music lovers and drove us elsewhere, leaving a handful of onlookers in the empty square. When Michael Sexton was finally allowed on stage there was only enough time to play for the Connemara set before he had to leave. In that short time the square became filled with people. The band moved on to a ceili in the Ballyroe Hotel which totally erased any disappointment felt on the streets of Tralee. The band were brilliant and together we gave a worthy send-off to the hall and floor, which is soon to be rebuilt.

Lisdoonvarna

Meanwhile the Merriman Summer School was in progress in Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare, 21-27 August. There were nightly ceilis in the Royal Spa which were well attended and full of life. The music by the Four Courts was greatly appreciated by all the visitors and locals who danced together like old friends. I attended one of the week's workshops with Johnny Morrissey and Betty McCoy which was highly enjoyable, held in a modern, light and comfortable hall at the Spa Wells, just next to the sulphur baths. Everyone was in great form and we had a fun afternoon.

Enniscorthy

If you like hill walking as well as set dancing then the Fleadh Cheoil 1999 in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, would have been your paradise. The picturesque old town is well supplied with hills, but unfortunately all the dancing venues were situated in the far flung corners of the town and I spent much of my time climbing up and down to get to them. I liked the lovely square in the middle of the town which was full of musicians and well-behaved spectators when I arrived on Friday .

The main dancing venue is the Dome, a long spacious marquee with enough space to hold 100 sets in reasonable comfort. Sean Norman played there Friday night and kept everyone dancing happily, despite the rough, slanted floor. While dancing a figure we tended to slip to the back of the marquee, so between figures the whole crowd could be seen moving together back to their original places. Sean's box playing is some of the liveliest in set dancing, and when he lilts along with the music the excitement is tremendous.

The outdoor ceili on Saturday afternoon was running half an hour late when it started, due to a missing stage. The Emerald Ceili Band set up on folding chairs beside the dance platform and it was more enjoyable this way for both dancers and musicians than if the stage was in place. There was a problem with electricity too, as the music went silent after only the second figure and there was a long wait while a better supply was found. The Emerald Ceili Band was new to most of us and they made a highly favourable impression. They're based in Tyrone and very young - most of them appear to be teenagers. The music is full of youthful vitality and will be a very welcome addition to the set dancing scene. For the last dance of the afternoon they played a remarkable non-stop Plain Set. They played continuous reels for the first four figures, and then to my great surprise, they immediately started playing jigs without any gap at all! They returned to reels for the last figure in the same way. It's nice to have such a pleasant, unexpected surprise in the middle of a Plain Set. Full marks to a highly recommended band!

That night in the Dome a capacity crowd had the pleasure of dancing to the Fodhla Ceili Band from Dublin. The floor may have been rough, but the dimensions of the hall make it one of the few places where you can practice long distance waltzing. I found that my partner and I were able to make exactly one trip around the hall to each of the band's waltzes. When the music stopped we were back where we started, and it happened again after the next two! If the long distance waltz was an Olympic event I'd certainly try my best to join the team.

On Sunday I missed the afternoon outdoor dancing, but heard that there was a good ceili with the Ceoltoiri Port Lairge, a gang of musicians from Waterford. When I came back that night for the final ceili in the Dome, the ceili band competition was running so late in the same venue that there was plenty of time to visit the Emerald Ceili Band. They were playing for a mixed ceili in a school hall. There were plenty of lively sets, plus waltzes, ceili and two-hand dances too. Everyone enjoyed the music, and the band was just as impressive on their second hearing.

Matt Cunningham began in the Dome after midnight, around two hours late, but he made up for lost time by playing sets one after the other. He delighted everyone with his music so much that we couldn't stop after the last dance. Matt kindly gave us one more last dance and was rewarded with a huge cheer at the end from a roomful of happy, thankful dancers.

Labasheeda

The Dan Furey Weekend, 4-6 September, was an enjoyable and well organised weekend in Labasheeda, Co Clare, a peaceful village overlooking the Shannon. Visitors came from England, America and even Australia and Japan for the excellent music and dancing. Esker Riada on Friday night and Taylors Cross and Michael Sexton on Sunday all produced excellent music at every ceili, but the stars of the weekend by universal acclaim were the Abbey Ceili Band, who gave us all some of the best dancing we've ever had in a flawless evening on Saturday night.

On Saturday, John Fennell's set dancing workshop concentrated on some of the old Clare sets which are rarely seen by most set dancers, the Round the House Caledonian where all four couples dance the figures at the same time, and the Plain Set danced to polkas, the predecessor to the most popular set in set dancing. Mary Clancy continued in the afternoon with the Mazurka, a lovely set not often danced in its home county. James Keane and Celine Tubridy taught traditional step dancing to people who had come a long way to learn from two knowledgeable dancers. Celine's beginners class had the pleasure of dancing in the sun beside the Shannon.

Following a visit to Dan Furey's grave after Mass on Sunday, we went to his old cottage to dance a few figures of the Caledonian on the flags where many generations have danced before us. The group then moved on to a unique dancing venue - Battery Castle, which was built to guard the Shannon against Napoleon. After admiring the river views from the roof and hearing a historical talk, we danced a couple of sets to some music played by local children. The floor's not bad for a 200 year old fortified castle!

And so my summer ended with the last dance that night in Labasheeda.

Bill Lynch


Study holiday with a difference

July 1999 in Keadue, Co Roscommon - we decided to try our feet at set dancing at the O'Carolan Summer School and booked in to a brilliant B&B for the week. We set off, rather nervously, with only a bit of Scottish country dancing experience, to St Ronan's Hall, to find out what lay in store for our 1960s Flower Power bodies. We were greeted by our tutors, Pádraig and Roisín McEneany, and to start with everyone was given instructions on basic footwork. The first day we mastered the Derrada Set and felt pleased to be able to dance it through and for some to remember it, though it had only three figures. The next day we were taught a bit of battering for the Labasheeda Set. Richard's X-ray comes through on Friday. Wednesday we tried the Durrow Threshing Set which represents what you used to find in the corn stack in the farmyard. Most of us ended up, flopped out, gasping for air. The set had some lovely figures in it but concentration was needed all the time. The next day Pádraig taught the Paris Set, and finally we finished with the Connemara Jig Set, all hugs and turns.

We enjoyed the dancing so much that we spent the evenings in the Harp and Shamrock where we could practise what we had learnt with a couple of pints. We had a brilliant time and made some good friends. The weather in Ireland was fantastic and a great week ended with a concert by Cathy Jordan and her band, Dervish. Thanks to Pádraig and Roisín for their encouragement and sense of humour. We're planning the next trip now - maybe Priddy, Paris, Treviso . . . .

Judy and Richard Weyman, York, UK


'Don't anyone ever talk to me about the rain in Ireland!'

We decided to take the risk and go to the Washington Irish Festival, September 4-5 in Gaithersburg, Maryland, despite the chance of encountering Hurricane Dennis. After all, what's a little rain compared to dancing to Beginish, Moving Cloud, and the Pride of NY Ceili Band (the magic combination of Joanie Madden, Brian Conway, Billy McComiskey, and Brendan Dolan). Not to mention dance workshops with Pat Murphy and Paddy Neylon as well as many other musicians, step dancers, and singers. This was just too good to miss. Besides we had just returned from Ireland so we were used to carrying rain-jackets everywhere we went.

It started raining in New Jersey (which is a long way from Washington), and by the time we reached Washington, the rain was so heavy that news broadcasts were giving instructions to head for high ground in case of flooding. They also said the Washington Irish Festival was going strong, and someone commented that after all what's an Irish festival without a little Irish weather. So we kept going and we were glad we did even though we didn't have wellies. Despite the rain, you could hear great music coming from the festival tents, and the dance hall was large and dry. The heavy rain continued on Sunday, and there were little rivers and giant puddles separating the festival tents to the delight of children and dogs.

We went to an excellent sean-nos song performance that included Brendan Begley and Paddy Neylon (and we only thought he was a great dancer!). Before Brendan began to sing he said, 'Don't anyone ever talk to me about the rain in Ireland!' On Saturday, Pat Murphy did set workshops and Paddy Neylon did a sean nós step workshop. There was also a set workshop on Sunday and ceilis on both evenings. And there was so much other wonderful music, singing, and dancing going on, it was hard to decide what to do.

The after-hours seisuns at the Hilton Hotel amounted to a mini-festival with sets being danced in the lobby and the pubs. We were at a great seisun where Brendan Begley was playing and singing. At one point, Brendan thought a change of pace was needed, so he called out to Paddy Neylon to do some steps. Paddy said he couldn't dance on the carpet. Brendan suggesting he dance on the table. When Paddy laughed and said no, Brendan ran over and dragged him up. Paddy later told us the only reason he jumped onto the table was to avoid a kick of encouragement from Brendan. The table was maybe three feet square and very unsteady on the carpet, especially with Paddy dancing on top. No one bothered to remove the papers and cigarettes from the table, although two musicians were trying to steady the table with their feet. While Brendan played the box, Paddy did a number of exciting steps in his inimitable style and then jumped off the table to the cheers of the crowd. It was a spectacular performance. We can't wait to see what will happen next year.

Donna Bauer and Steve Casey, New York


Renewed approval for a wider variety of dances

Dublin set dancing teachers met for the second time this year in a continued effort to broaden the base of dances included at ceilithe around the city.

It was agreed that the concept of dancing a wider variety of dances was well received not only in Dublin but around the country and further afield with many favourable comments from some dance bands.

The January report published in the February-March issue of Set Dancing News mentioned a core of eight dances which were known to most dancers. Put to the test most people were able to name them. For the record these eight were: the Caledonian, Plain, Connemara, Corofin, Mazurka, Castle and Newport Sets. Depending on the dancers on a particular evening at a particular venue the following dances were categorised as being well known: the Derradda, the Ballyvourney Jig as well as the Caidhp (the High Cauled Cap).

At the meeting on September 6th last it was decided that the Labasheeda and West Kerry Sets were relatively well known and were duly added to the core group of sets.

The group decided to concentrate on the Connemara Jig, the Clare Orange and Green and the Durrow Threshing Sets as well as the Eight-Hand Jig.

The following dances were added to the list for particular attention during the coming months: the Fermanagh Set, the Rosscahill Set and the South Sligo Lancers Set as well as the Sweets of May.

Another meeting is planned for December. Your comments and views are very welcome.

Eileen O'Doherty


Travel notes

The Fleadh España began with a crazy idea about dancing in fine weather, but it was a good enough idea to attract hundreds of dancers to the Costa Brava for two years in a row. There's an even better idea for next year-the organisers are taking dancers to the USA for a week of dancing in a grand old hotel in downtown Boston, Massachusetts. Everyone will have the convenience of dancing and lodging in the same location, as well as easy access to one of America's most civilised big cities. The hotel ballroom is very well appointed with crystal chandeliers and enough space for 2000 dancers.

The Fleadh is importing its own ceili bands into Boston, including Michael Sexton, Matt Cunningham and the Davey Family, plus Seamus Shannon and P J Murrihy, for the very best in music. There will be nightly ceilis, workshops, sessions, day trips and much more. In addition, some of the city's Irish pubs will participate in the festivities. The organisers are Gerry Flynn of Enjoy Travel and Sean Dempsey, the set dancing teacher from Manchester, and the local coordinators include Danny Lynch, Mickey Kelly and Michael Sexton, so contact one of them for full information. See also the advertisement on page 2.


Keen fans of Matt Cunningham will notice his absence for a week in October, unless they are fortunate enough to be sailing with him on a cruise to the Greek islands, 7-16 October, organised by Noel Henry Tours. Matt is in the States in April at the Boston Fleadh, back there again in May for his annual tour, then off in July on his annual tour of England, and back there again in October 2000 for the Manchester International Set Dancing Festival. Keep reading Set Dancing News for details of Matt's travels.
There's another ceili band taking an island cruise-Michael Sexton and company are on a luxury liner sailing from Fort Lauderdale in Florida to the Bahamas, Grand Cayman, Mexico and the Florida Keys, 12-19 February 2000. Michael will play for set dancing ceili and other Irish artistes will be on board for alternative entertainment. Contact Gertrude Byrne Promotions for information.

Michael's foreign travel programme is expanding-he's in Slough, Berkshire, in November, at the Boston Fleadh and at the Grand Nevele Hotel in the Catskills next year.


A planned set dancing tour to New Zealand for March 2000 has been cancelled. The organisers were unable to reach their target of a hundred participants even after extending the deadline by three weeks, so had to forfeit hotel and airline reservations. All deposits were returned in full. The organisers recognise that the high cost of the tour was a major stumbling block for most set dancers. Contact Tom McNamara for further information.

Down from the mountain

The Get Married Man

I had an unusual conversation at a Fleadh. It was an enchanted evening in Enniscorthy as I saw a stranger across the crowded dome. Unfortunately for me it was the 'get married man.' I hear from my friends that he operates at ceilis everywhere. He doesn't mind which set is on, if he can't dance it he will sit down on the sideline beside some poor unsuspecting set dancer. This is where he is at his worst.

'On your own again and you came all the way from Gurtabubbleen for the Fleadh!' he says.

'I did, sure it's only down the road,' I reply not making much of the mileage I'd driven.

'And are you a married man?' he asks.

'No,' I reply. (Just as soon as I've said this I realised my big mistake, I shouldn't have told him the truth.)

He then looks at me as if I'm a prime target with that knowing smile as if he knows all about me. He nods to a friend of mine out on the dance floor and I wonder have they been talking.

'So is everything working okay?' he asks.

'Yip, you mean upstairs or downstairs, I'm not so sure what's working and what's not working at this stage,' I reply half jokingly.

If I pretend not to know what's working or not working, how is he supposed to know? The downstairs department or the below the belt as they say at some ceilis is paramount. If things aren't working there, then it's curtains. Most people wouldn't take this view, but just to make things less clear slip him a note with 'No more Viagra please' in block capitals.

'Sex isn't the same at fifty as it is at twenty,' he continues slowly looking sidewards at me.

'You don't say, I wouldn't know, I'm only here for the dancing,' I reply.

'Oh! that's what they all say I don't believe you. What age are you?'

'Age is only a figure!' I reply.

'Speaking of figures, that's not a bad one out there in that set, what do you think?' he asks.

I would have to agree with him for once, but he really embarrasses me by pointing to her wagging his finger. She looks over as if I've made some rare criticism or joke about her.

'He's interested,' I shout.

'Oh yea? Do you know what he can do?' she says.

I needn't enquire about that as there are a few things I would like to do to him myself.

'She's nice, a good job, not too bossy, why don't you?' he asks.

'Why don't I what?'

'Negotiate! Isn't it time you got your BTN,' he says.

'My better than nothing? I take it you are married yourself,' I say.

'Actually, I'm not.'

'I would never have known,' I say.

I walk to the end of the Dome where I ask Brenda for a dance.

'The one after the next,' she says.

I know that's if I'm lucky. She is the kind of girl you have to book three ceilis in advance. I see another guy sitting down looking at his foot, which is out of action due to an accident. At least I'm not the most frustrated person in the Dome. Then a sense of relief comes over me when I see the 'get married man' making his exit. Just before he goes out, he approaches a quiet couple in the corner and shouts-

'Get married!'

'Definitely we will, keep on going, that's right, that's the direction, keep going!'

Highstepper


A little bit of Ireland in South London

Mick Mulkerrin with Mairéad Casey braved the heat wave on September 9 and 10 to put us through our paces St Cyprian's Club in Brockley, South London. Mick was most relaxed and for this writer his laconic but witty delivery was both helpful and entertaining. Mick brings a breath of fresh air to the discussion about battering and its over-use while at the same time he allows those capable of stepping a practical insight into the learning process. Having Mairéad there was a bonus for the ladies as she visibly demonstrates a style of stepping that is not only precise and impressively percussive but is elegantly feminine.

The weather provided tropical heat with towels very much in evidence, tending both to the watery jewels on bald heads and mopping up the drips from chins and noses alike. Fortunately St Cyprian's not only has an exceptional floor that is an absolute delight to glide across, but they also have a series of fans attached to every wall support that spray cold air around and reduce the feeling of heat.

It can be so enlightening discussing the problems of overheating. One male dancer admitted to changing his shirt every set while another charming and elegant lady confided that she often buys two tee shirts, or more, of the same type and colour so when she changes them no one is aware. This weekend the ceili was a five tee shirt dance and the only colour she could field that many shirts in was black! And one vivacious lady, in a not overly long garment, actually admitted to leaving off certain items of what some of us would consider essential underwear, in the pursuit of comfort. Now that sounds like a good survey to conduct!

Even though the temperature inside was pleasantly lower than outside we were drawn to soak up a little sun in the lunch hour and many of us found our way across the busy high road to a haven of peace-in the now disused cemetery! This intermittent stream of promenaders relaxed among the mature cypress and oak, an overgrown wilderness in the middle of a city, walking along winding, dappled, sun-soaked paths stopping occasionally to discuss the dancing as if it was something we did everyday. Mostly we kept asking ourselves why we were dancing and putting ourselves through such torture, on such a beautiful day. Of course if you are a dancer you know the answer to that question. It was still a magical last summer day before the cold of Autumn set in, with a touch of the surreal among the headstones!

This was a most pleasant weekend and not just because the venue is a well appointed one but because things like inexpensive food and drink were always available, including bowls of strawberries and cream for those who could not resist. All kept going with a very cheerful group of volunteers who sacrificed some of their dancing for the rest of us. The band this time was the Ivy Leaf Ceili band from Birmingham and everyone, without exception, was impressed with their professionalism. They were a little bit of Ireland in South London. If you closed your eyes in a christmas, as I caught Mick doing once, it was a wonderfully evocative sound and you could imagine yourself back in Clare at a summer school. The band's attention to getting the PA absolutely right for the room was much appreciated as was the beautiful flow of interwoven sound at a level that still allowed communication among the audience. Terry and Anne O'Donnell and their hard working team are to be congratulated on a really well organised weekend and for making us all feel part of a family both welcomed and cherished.

Diana Jewitt, Camden, London


Letters and emails

That's what life is all about

Dear Bill

I teach set dancing for the past fifteen years and my husband is Paddy Treacy, the well known flute player from Galway. He comes from Cappatagle, a few miles west of Ballinasloe. A lot of good musicians came from there. When Paddy moved to Dublin he went to the Pipers Club in Thomas Street where he met Leo Rowsome, Willie Clancy, Bobby Casey, Séan Seery, Kathleen Harrington, Sonny Brogan, John Joe Gannon, Paddy O'Brien and lots more.

He joined the Kincora Ceili Band and J J Gannon and Bobby Casey. They played all over the country and would be away every Sunday night. During this period he played in the Oireachtas flute competition representing the Pipers Club. He got first three times and in 1956 he won the Oireachtas Gold Medal receiving full marks which meant he couldn't enter any more. He won first in the first and second Fleadhs. He gave up playing with the Kincora as we had been married by then and had a young family and Paddy didn't want to be away from home.

A few years later Paddy O'Brien returned from America and started the Lough Gowna Ceili Band so Paddy was asked to join. They broadcast regularly and played in the Oireachtas band competition and won three times. About fifteen years ago he started the Sheelin Ceili Band with Seamus Meehan, Phil McMahon, F De Bruen and A Vaughan, Paddy playing the C melody sax as well as the flute. He packed up the band a year ago and just plays for set dancers in the Merchant Bar every Wednesday. He has been there for the past eleven years. You might think that was near the end of the music. No way, we have an open house with every flute player in Dublin coming to play music. Great fun, lovely friends and that's what life is all about. Of course Paddy being from Galway he has been set dancing since he was a kid and enjoys coming to my classes and ceili with me. We have a wonderful life and wonderful friends thanks to Paddy's music and being involved in set dancing. I am enclosing a photo of Paddy taken last Christmas. Hope you find this of some interest.

Yours sincerely,

Kaye Treacy, Terenure, Dublin

Received with enthusiasm on every occasion

Hi Bill

More power to you! Your mag goes from strength to strength-compulsive reading and attractively produced, and, no thanks, I don't need a favour from you!

I've been pushed into this struggle with my word processor by the letter in your last issue from John Key, enquiring about portable dance platforms. My partner, Janet Blyth, besides dancing the sets also dances with an English clog stepping side, the Ridgeway Revellers, and they have a portable floor which has given them excellent service for the best part of ten years.

The floor is made up of interlocking plywood panels, each 3' 11 7/8" (1216mm) × 2' 7 3/4" (805mm) × 1 1/4" (32mm) and weighing approximately 21 lbs. These are securely held in place with a ratchet-tightened safety strap and provide an easily levelled, stable dancing platform which also produces good sound.

They are made by Graham Colyer of Rose Cottage, Barrington, Ilminster, Somerset, TA19 0JB, telephone 01460 53007 and he will finish the panels with a durable sealed surface or provide them unfinished for home completion, but be warned, quality and safety cost money.

On another of John Key's points, I also feel rather strongly that in England we, as a cultural group, do tend to keep ourselves to ourselves, and no harm there is in that at all. But, in order to let my local 'host community' know what we get up to, I have formed a demonstration team which we call an Capall Bán Set Dancers and we have taken part in a charity festival, have danced with Morris sides on a couple of occasions and, most recently, with the Ridgeway Revellers to entertain the visiting public at Blenheim Palace. We have been received with enthusiasm on every occasion and I feel that, in some small way, we manage to project a positive image our culture to th0se that know little of it. I have had to turn down several invitation due to a shortage of dancers and musicians and would welcome enquiries from anyone within striking distance of West Berkshire who would be interested in joining us. The dancers would need to have an interest in stepping as I am currently teaching Mick Mulkerrin's Steps for Sets (being a great admirer of Mick's style of dancing) from his video of the same name. Musicians are as scarce as hen's teeth in this part of the world so I'd be delighted if any were to show interest.

Yours sincerely,

Joe O'Hara, Hungerford, Berkshire

Joe published the Set Dancing Newsletter for five years before handing it over to me two years ago, for which I am very thankful. He teaches sets in Hungerford and Basingstoke. Thanks for the kind words, Joe.


Get well soon!

Best wishes for a speedy recovery to Sean Dempsey, who has been taken ill and is receiving treatment in hospital. Sean from Manchester is well known as a tireless teacher and organiser. He's the fellow responsible for the Manchester International Set Dancing Festival, 22-24 October, and promises to be there as usual to call the sets at the ceilis with Michael Sexton.

Peter Jackson at Camden Irish Centre last April Peter Jackson is recovering well in hospital after suffering a heart attack. Peter dances regularly in London and is an annual visitor to Miltown Malbay in July. He was stricken while attending the weekly ceili at Quex Road, Kilburn, and was ably assisted by two nurses who were also dancing there. Best wishes to Peter for a quick return to the dance floor.


Set Dancing News (the website) has moved!

Following the recent removal of the Set Dancing News offices to Kilfenora, Co Clare, you'll notice that the website has moved to a new, more memorable address -

www.setdancingnews.net

This space has been very kindly supplied by my good friends Liz Mattijsen and Wendy van Dijk. Already there have been reports of improved service so I hope you'll find it easier to access the News now.

Bill Lynch


My summer school diary

This year's Willie Clancy and South Sligo summer schools were better than ever - excellent workshops, fabulous ceilis, superb music - truly the best dancing of the year. As a report on the two weeks, I offer the following illustrated diary.

Your editor

Tuesday 29 June

Went to Miltown to drop off posters and magazines, full of excitement and expectation for the big week. The place was buzzing already - last minute decorating, phones being installed, lots of people about.

Friday 2 July

In Miltown again - left posters in shops and the Mill Theatre. Met three dancers from Australia on the street.

Went to the first ceili at the Armada with the Four Courts. Mid way through staff set up tables in the extension and in walked Michael and Betty Sexton and family. Announcing a waltz the band revealed that today was Michael's sixtieth birthday to great applause. Michael and Betty took the floor and danced beautifully, then the rest of the room joined them. Michael was surprised by a party in the Armada's restaurant. Betty had put a false provisional booking for the band in his diary to keep him free for the night.

Saturday 3 July

Loaded up the car and went to my holiday house in Mullagh, my home away from home for the past seven years.

The Kilfenora Ceili Band opened the ceilis in the Mill Theatre with their great music. All the Clare bands have sped up their polkas for the Cashel set, even the Kilfenora! Had some great doubles with ladies from London and Canada.

Sunday 4 July

Showers this morning but they held back for the memorial at Willie Clancy's grave. The heavens burst after that.

Went back to the Mill for the Abbey Ceili Band who were excellent - music with enthusiasm! Dancers were quiet until the Cashel set when there were great cheers. I was in ecstasy during the hornpipe of the Newport, and the Paris went like clockwork, except for the last figure which never seems to work satisfyingly. Did lots of doubling, especially in the Ballyvourney - told my partners I'm doing research for an article.

Monday 5 July

Summer arrived. I went to Larry Lynch's class at Spanish Point where the early arrivals caught the sun by the dunes.

The live music in Larry's workshops is a real treat. We danced his version of the Victora set. His teaching is minimal - he rarely calls during the dancing, leaving us to rely on our memory and neighbours in the set. By the end of the session we danced without help at all. He inspected our hand holds and steps and clearly demonstrated how to dance and how not to dance. Didn't double once in three hours.

Sat in on an hour of the fiddle recital, then left to dance with the Four Courts in the Mill. Experimented a bit with one-armed doubling which I saw some Limerick dancers do. My partner and I agreed there was more pleasure in being fully armed. Had an especially lively Lancers - before it started my partner asked whether I would be dancing flat or battering. I was never asked that before, but she's very well mannered. She needn't have bothered as it was the least traditional Lancers set in the hall - we set new speed records in the big Christmas. No shortage of doubles.

Tuesday 6 July

Showed up at Paddy and Carolyn Hanafin's class. Revived from the morning's lethargy by the West Kerry. Paddy taught battering steps for the Caledonian, ladies on one side, gents on the other. Paddy described one of the batters as like trying to wipe dog shit off your shoe. 'You do one, two, then three dog shits, heel, heel,' he explained. After battering we bounced around with the Black Valley Jig.

Back in Miltown I heard that Johnny O'Leary was in the Larks Nest. Wandered over - the place was full of dancers. Watched the Brooks Academicians dance the Sliabh Luachra.

When I arrived at the Mill Martin Hayes was playing to the empty hall. Gradually the members of the Tulla Ceili Band joined him and the room filled with sets. The magic music made better us dancers as we followed their superb lift. The music facilitated my doubling research. One partner said, 'Hold me tight, Billy,' whereas another preferred to lean back and let the air brush over her face.

During the last dance a lady from England in my set must have suddenly been struck by all the sweaty bodies in the hall and blurted out, 'This is so undignified!'

'To hell with dignity,' I heard myself say.

The dancing ended to loud cheers and long applause.

Wednesday 7 July

Called in to Paddy Neylon's class where he was teaching the Plain set to a keen group of beginners. They'd already spent two days on the Caledonian. Paddy gave lots of individual attention so I started helping out in the back of the room and had great fun.

Paddy took me along to the teachers room for the tea break. When I got back I was amused to see a Japanese girl teaching a Clare battering step to a French girl. Paddy and I demonstrated the figure in a half set and the class was impressed - 'Could we have some of that tea you were drinking?' one fellow asked.

Paddy asked if I'd dance on stage in the recital tomorrow night with a set from the class. I was pleased to be asked and happy to help.

Michael Tubridy gave a good lecture about James Keane and showed some fascinating videos. In one, James and Dan Furey danced a half set with two brushes.

Went to the Four Courts ceili in Quilty where I met friends and had a quiet night.

Thursday 8 July

Went to the Brooks Academy class where Eileen O'Doherty did the Valentia Right and Left. I like the way she had us change partners after every figure. Left early to meet up with Paddy Neylon to practice for tonight's recital.

Paddy asked me to choose a partner so I asked the Japanese girl I noticed yesterday, Sayaka, who was delighted. I was the only experienced dancer in the set - the others were complete beginners. We rehearsed the jig figure of the Caledonian with Sayaka and I as first tops. Tops managed the figure fine but sides had to practice several times to dance it correctly. I prompted them but Paddy kept quiet as he knew they'd learn better without calling - the Larry Lynch approach. Eventually it came right and we agreed to meet again to practice before the performance. At home I carefully polished my shoes - the last time I did this has escaped my memory.

We met as the recital was starting and rehearsed three times on the street. When our time was near we crowded into the little room beside the stage. Paddy lined us up in order with Sayaka and myself first. Joe O'Donovan then announced us - I don't recall the exact words he used but they included 'never danced sets before' and 'absolute beginners', and right on cue I appeared, followed by the rest of the set. There was a small roar of laughter and I wondered if I was recognised. Someone said that Betty McCoy fell off her chair laughing when I appeared - for her sake I hope this was an exaggeration. The jig figure went without a hitch and there was polite applause as we rushed off stage only to re-emerge in the hall to even more applause. As I walked out someone said, 'Not bad for a beginner.' This comment was repeated all night long.

The Tulla band repeated Tuesday's performance to an even bigger crowd. I had a dance with a lady from Nenagh and wondered if she's the one with electric legs that Michael Sexton mentioned in the last issue. She was well able to assist in my doubling research.

Friday 9 July

I decided to return to the Brooks Academy class again but was barred by Eileen O'Doherty. 'This is not a beginners class,' she said. They did the Lancers which was certainly too advanced for me at that early hour.

I called in to Aidan Vaughan's and to Mick Mulkerrin's classes, both concentrating on battering. Michael Boyle, an 86 year old fellow from Quilty, visited yesterday and today to show his steps. He danced a half set partnered with a lady from Quilty called Bernie. She demonstrated how local ladies dance the advance and retire - they neither dance forward nor backward, but slide in and out sideways.

I went to the Armada tonight - the first time I've attended a full evening there during the week, preferring to support the official summer school ceilis. The atmosphere is remarkable, so thick with potent excitement you could slice it. The venue was improved this year by the addition of an extension with room for fifteen sets. Windows on three sides facing the sea made it attractive, light and airy. I heard that the floor was laid three times to get it right and it was very comfortable. The Templehouse Ceili Band was superb, never playing better. The Four Courts were in a smaller adjacent hall which was also well attended. Even at the end after the music stopped the excitement continued. There's a buzz of conversation after any good ceili - here there was a roar from people in great spirits enjoying each other's company.

Saturday 10 July

Went back to Mick's class where another Quilty lady showed how they dance in West Clare. Mid morning all the dance classes convened in the Community Hall for dancing to music by Johnny O'Leary. Tribute was paid to Joe O'Donovan and he was invited to call a set of his choice, which was the Sliabh Luachra. Unfortunately I was actively engaged in my doubling research at this time in full view of Joe. In the hornpipe he urged us to 'Single it! Single it!' and to stop dancing during the change of partners. He halted the music and we started that figure over. I didn't dare double again until the last two bars of the last figure of the last set when I was dancing the back of the room.

The Kilfenora Ceili Band closed the summer school in the Mill. The crowd closely matched the nights when the Tulla played and a good time was had by all. Afterwards there were lots of goodbyes, hugs, kisses and photos as we parted for another year.

Sunday 11 July

Cleared out of Mullagh, unpacked and repacked in Kilfenora, then headed to Tubbercurry. Was welcomed at the B&B with a big kiss from the landlady. She visited Miltown yesterday and was not impressed. 'We get a better class of people in Tubbercurry,' I was told. Arrived at the official opening ceremony late enough to miss the speeches but in time for tea and sandwiches.

There was lively music for the opening ceili by the Glenside Ceili Band. Saw faces from Miltown, regulars from previous years and crowds of newcomers. A troupe of 35 Norwegian dancers arrived for the week, as well as a group from France. I enjoyed a few dances but was overtaken by exhaustion and went home to bed before the end. I don't recall the last time I did that - I'm always the last to leave!

Monday 12 July

Still feeling tired but enjoyed the workshop with Ciaran Condron and Betty McCoy. He taught the Black Valley Jig which I did last week. Paddy Hanafin danced it smoothly and Ciaran battered it.

Paddy Neylon was here for a series of afternoon battering workshops. His complicated footwork is a pleasure to watch and baffling to learn, but he broke down some steps for us to practice. I was spotted napping during the demonstrations.

We danced to tapes in Cawley's Hotel on a springy floor - very enjoyable. The Norwegians danced their own two-hand dances to some lovely gentle music.

Tuesday 13 July

Did the Inis Oirr set in the workshop, then helped demonstrate the Mayo Lancers watched by Mickey Kelly and Betty, who had some difficulty getting me to do the correct step in the fling. Ciaran showed the 'new' seventh figure which is similar to the polkas in the Newport and Derradda sets. You do the polka batter across and then to the left, following the shape of a banana - 'the banana batter,' Ciaran called it.

Paddy Neylon was back that afternoon and while I was there in body, my mind was back snoozing in the B&B.

I was in better form for Matt Cunningham's ceili that night. He played great dancing music and I was among the last to leave once again.

Wednesday 14 July

Ciaran taught the Borlin Jenny and Killyon sets to another full hall.

This afternoon, Michael Tubridy delivered a marvellous lecture on Connie Ryan. He uncovered some fascinating videos in his research on Connie's life and showed a selection to us. We saw Connie dancing, recording a dance (the Tubbercurry Lancers, in fact) and talking on chat shows and news items. It was a pleasure to hear him speaking passionately about dancing. In one interview he said he was always finding new sets 'to stay ahead of the competition.' Another excerpt showed him dancing a set to the RTÉ symphony orchestra. The final video was a long sequence made by RTÉ at his funeral and the sadness of his passing was with us again.

The Four Courts played tonight for their first time in Sligo. Once we warmed up there was a lively evening of great dancing. Joe Rynne, the band's spokesman-fiddler, said that now that they know what they were missing they want to come back again. At the end they announced the national anthem and then surprised us with a rake of reels.

Thursday 15 July

We had the Williamstown and Bruca sets in Ciaran's workshop, both revived this year. Haven't seen the Bruca before. It has a nice little fling where each lady dances around her partner and each gent in turn.

This afternoon Paddy Neylon showed the routine he does for his sean nós solos. He had us all doing a side step where we cross the feet in front and behind - that was easy and fun.

The Norwegians gave an excellent performance of their music and dance. They did short little two-hand and circle dances to their sweet music. You'd need to be a bit of an actor to dance Norwegian, judging from the expressive faces they made at each other. At the end they turned the tables and taught us their dances.

Swallows Tail played for the free ceili - no charge to summer school attendees. Never missed a set, having caught up on my sleep and energy. The band are popular local favourites and got a great cheer at the end.

Friday 16 July

Ciaran did the Fermanagh Quadrilles this morning, the only set this week that Connie Ryan taught. The Kildownet Half Set was great fun, particularly the second figure which is fast and full of interesting moves.

Today was our last go at Paddy Neylon's steps. I asked him where he got his steps and he told about the house dances he experienced from his early days and the many great dancers in North Clare. Being born into it he didn't have to pick up his steps at summer schools.

There were more than twenty sets in Ciaran's workshops through the week, so attendance was very good. The ceilis were full too, but not jammed and we could dance in comfort. Tonight Michael Sexton played for us.

Ciaran halted the ceili for a special announcement. He brought out Mary from Rochester, New York, and told her that a visitor in the hall had travelled a long way to deliver a special message. Up walked Brendan, her dancing and travelling partner who teaches sets back in Rochester. Suddenly he went down on his knee and asked her to marry him, and like a good TV presenter, Ciaran was on the ball with the microphone so we could hear every word. The microphone went over to Mary and there was hardly any hesitation when she accepted his proposal. Mary and Brendan were overjoyed, and we were delighted for them and roared our approval. Michael Sexton continued with a waltz and I tried to pretend that I just became engaged to my (already married) dance partner.

Saturday 17 July

We danced some of the week's sets. There were many thanks to Betty and Ciaran who handled the group very well.

Swallows Tail was back for the final ceili. There was a good crowd but it was comfortable in the hall. I danced every dance but the last, when I felt the cumulative effect of the short nights and long hours of dancing. In previous years, the last dance of my two weeks of summer schools was a special one of both joy and sadness at the impending return to reality. This year though, I was content to watch everyone else enjoying themselves, certain we'd be together again next year. Said my goodbyes - one of the last to leave.

Sunday 18 July

Departed Tubbercurry and returned to reality after a two week absence.

Bill Lynch

Note - the results of my investigations into the fine art of doubling will appear in a future edition of Set Dancing News magazine.


From Tromso to Tubber

From Tromso to Tubber
May seem a long way
But in musical terms
No distance we'd say!

From the cold lands of Norway
Came such warmth and such fun
How they danced . . . not just feet
With hearts, faces and bodies each one.

So proud of their costumes
So willing to share
Their legends, their laughter
A joy to witness, to be there.

They absorb our music
With grace and with style
On banjo or bodhran,
In sets or in song.

Other nations can show us
The worth of our culture,
They enhance and expand it
Long live Tromso and Tubber.

Kay O'Rourke, Celbridge, Co Kildare


Down from the mountain

Moonshine, security dogs and ceili

My other friend from Clare who is very secretive about her ceilis told me that she went to one of the Aran Island weekends. Which island she was on I will probably never know.

'Did it happen for you out there anyway?' I asked.

'That would be telling you.'

'You look happy-it must have been good, but how good was it?' I asked.

'Oh! That's an interesting question,' she replied.

Eventually we get talking about airport security on the island which is in the form of a very hairy Alsatian and a sleepy guy with a pipe stuck in his gob.

'That smelly animal wouldn't know good stuff from bad stuff,' she said.

'Do you mean you got straight through customs with a bottle of poteen?'

'Yes! That dog isn't up to much. Probably has too much shaggy dog business on, on that island to get a quiff of moonshine,' she replied.

'You reckon the dogs at Heathrow or O'Hare wouldn't have half as much going on in some departments.'

'That's for sure! By the way there was a lot of 'Down Boy! Down Boy!' that weekend, and it wasn't just the security dog being cautioned-do you get my drift?'

'I do, but let's keep ceili clean. I still say that airport isn't a patch on Knock International. Did you hear about that?' I asked.

'I didn't but I have a funny feeling you're going to tell me,' she said.

'It's the very dodgy air traffic control.'

'Oh yea?'

'I mean Jim Corry of the very famous P J Hernon and the Swallows Tail is up there in the control tower practicing on the keyboards between flights landing,' I said.

'Really?'

'One day just for the heck of it he didn't give the incoming flight any directions and kept on playing his musical instrument.'

'I see.'

'There was a shower of set dancers from Birmingham for the Tubbercurry festival and Jim thought it would be a nice gesture if they heard him playing the Sligo Lancers set as they landed.'

'Fair play to you, Jim!' she said.

'They heard the music okay but what they didn't bargain for was the massive bounce off the runway.'

'Typical!' she said.

'One of the set dancers described it as being like in a very fast swing with a mad dancer and then very suddenly being let loose in the general direction of the drummer, or in this particular case maybe it should be the keyboard player,' I said.

'Welcome to Knock International!'

I'm about to go on my way when I said to her that the Caledonian is a dainty set.

'Oh! That's the right thing to say to a Clare girl,' she replied.

Highstepper

Please note that our correspondent has an overactive imagination - Mr Corry is not an air traffic controller and no airborne set dancers have ever been endangered at Knock.


Energy of the dancers, enjoyment of dance

This year we decided to go to Gennetines specially for Irish set dancing. Once again we met the House Around group. We first met them in 1995 when they introduced us to the enjoyment of set dancing. So in 1996, we went to Miltown Malbay and had Connie Ryan and Betty McCoy as teachers. In 1998 during our honeymoon, we returned to Ireland for the Galway International in Salthill.

This year in Gennetines, we danced the Castle, Labasheeda, Borlin and Clare Lancers sets. The July heat was very heavy and it was funny to see gents dancing in shorts and black shoes. Some showers were very welcome to refresh the dancers.

Irish set dancing has a lot of success in Gennetines. Musicians and dancers were all very nice. During the workshop, every member of House Around minded one or more groups of dancers. Some of them, we are thinking of Sinéad, spoke French. Even if we are used to the terms, we appreciate this help-it is easier to understand and more comfortable to dance.

The evening show before the night dances was gorgeous - music and dance of course, plus songs, energy of the dancers, enjoyment of dance.

Thank you to David, Sinéad, Michael, Siobhan, Elvis and all the others - we don't remember the names. We want to continue Irish set dancing and so not to forget what we learned this year and the years before we will continue to join friends to dance in our dinning room. Waiting for our next workshop in Ireland in July 2000, maybe in Co Laois.

Stéphane Sergent and Sylviane Pinter


Letters and emails

Hard to explain

Dear Bill

Many thanks for the June-July edition of Set Dancing News. I can't remember when I has so-oo much pleasure reading an article as the one on Michael Sexton and his ceili bands. You captured his spirit so well in writing that piece. Michael is so good at expressing the whole atmosphere that I find hard to explain to the uninitiated. Congratulations and keep the good work up. Best of luck in your new location. I hope it works out well for you.

See you around.

Very best regards

Kate Lyons, Carrigrow, Glengarriff, Co Cork

One of Dan Furey's gang

Mr Lynch

Re subscription for Set Dancing News

It was my friend Margot Ferris who ordered and paid for the issues that I have had. She knew that I used to do set dancing years ago before I came over here and they brought me many happy memories of those days long before Miltown Malbay started up. I was one of Dan Furey's (RIP) gang who used to go set dancing at an old man's cottage on Sunday nights and at the village hall for ballroom dancing on special nights. They were happy times and Dan was a really nice chap - may heaven be good to him. In 1931 I came to London and that was the end of my set dancing. The Irish dances I went to with my sister did other Irish dances but not sets.

Now I'm nearly 84 and I still go dancing but more sedate-called 'sequence' dancing or old tyme which I have learned over the years. Some are rather complicated. Once I month I go to the nearest Irish Centre for a tea dance for pensioners and we do the Siege of Ennis. My English friends were surprised to see me wheeling around like a teenager. Anyway it's nice to know that set dancing is so popular again in Ireland and long may it last. Also it's nice to know that Dan became famous and that there is a memorial for him every year.

I told Margot not to order any more S D News as I have a house full of magazines and papers that I never get to read, as my eyes get tired. So I hope you will understand. All good wishes and keep dancing till you drop.

Yours sincerely,

Anne Riddlesden (née McMahon), London

Serious question marks

Bill, a chara,

Enclosed please find a photo of some 'distinguished' guests at Sean's 21st birthday party on April 24th. I hope it will print OK. They dressed elegantly to dance the gallop of the Plain, which might I add took on a whole new meaning, and was followed by the last figure where there were serious question marks over who should advance first. The night, which continued until 8am the following morning, was a resounding success. To everyone who came and danced their hearts out to the music of the mighty Glenside C B a sincere thank you. It was a marvellous and memorable occasion.

Thank you

Maureen Culleton, Camcloon, Ballyfin, Portlaoise, Co Laois

Mobile dance boards

Dear Bill

Congratulations on your move to Ireland but I hope we'll see you over here occasionally. Thanks for the mention in the News. We're still meeting every fortnight on Fridays and have two sets and a few more-or-less live musicians. Seemingly we have most of the nurses from the local hospital so the humour can be a bit basic! Must tell you a little story - one evening, 10.30, we were just finishing with the Clare Lancers and I felt a terrible sting under my armpit. Now I know that the queen bee stings her mate to death after the act but I would hardly put the Clare Lancers in that category. Anyway I opened my shirt and out flew a giant-sized hornet, whereupon all these ladies, so-say dedicated to the care of the elderly and infirm rushed out the door and up the local pub. So much for the Hippocratic oath or whatever it is they sign up to!

Quick point maybe of interest - as you know I'm no expert and can have frequent complete blanks of memory during a set. Not only can I forget the figure, I can forget which set I'm doing! So I made some tapes with music on one stereo track and the calling on the other. In this way I can adjust the volume of the calling (down to zero if necessary) and am free to enjoy the dancing. Having done it once we can then usually do the whole thing through to live music.

Really what I'm writing about, Bill, is to ask your readers for some advice on some mobile dance-boards. I've felt for some time that we ought to be less insular and to spread the dancing out a bit just as Morris men do, (sorry I'll wash my mouth out) and lo and behold, on page 15 of your magazine here we have it. In order to judge the size required I marked out two eight foot squares in the tallet (Dorset for loft). Just about possible but if they are end to end (ie 8'×16') the two sets can collide. I see the one on page 15 looks like six pieces of 6'×4' arrange as a twelve foot square which gives more room. The only thing is what happens when two sets combine as in the Lancers?

Can any of your readers help me? How are the boards joined? What is the material and how thick?

Thanks for the magazine, Bill, it's great and I look forward to it immensely. Sorry I haven't an email address - we're still using candles here.

Sincerely,

John Key, Puncknowle, Dorchester, Dorset


There's more to read in the collections of old news and reviews, volumes 11997-1998, 2, 31998-1999, 41999, 51999-2000, 6, 72000, 8, 9, 102001, 112001-2002, 12, 13, 14, 152002, 162002-2003, 17, 18, 192003, 202003-2004, 21, 22, 23, 24, 252004, 262004-2005, 27, 28, 29, 30, 312005, 322005-2006, 33, 34, 35, 36, 372006, 38, 392006-2007, 40, 41, 42, 432007, 442007-2008, 442007-2008, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 502008, 512008-2009, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 572009, 582009-2010, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 652010, 662010–2011, 67, 68, 69, 70, 712011, 722011–2012, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 782012, 792012-2013, 80, 81, 82, 832013, 842013-2014 (Index).

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Bill Lynch   Set Dancing News, Kilfenora, Co Clare, Ireland
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