last updated 19 May 2006
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Set Dancing News

Old news and reviews - Volume 9 - 2001

Copyright © 2011 Bill Lynch
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).

A birthday cake for the tenth anniversary barn dance at Michael Murphy's cowshed dance hall in Watergrasshill, Co Cork.

Around the world in eighty days

Greetings, everyone! I'm announcing details of my attempts to break that famous record of "around the world in eighty days". Using "planes, trains and automobiles" I have visited many locations and danced many sets since my last report.

I began my journey in Ireland, against all the odds and restrictions of the foot and mouth scare. I pointed my compass south and arrived in Abbeyfeale, Co Limerick. The chosen venue was closed but thanks to the very hard work of the committee a new venue was found in 'jig time'. The phrase "they brought the house down" fitted the situation at the Saturday night céilí in the Rathkeale House Hotel when we danced with such enthusiasm that a piece of plaster fell from the céilíng! The Abbey Céilí Band played their hearts out as usual. Perhaps the 'jump' in the third figure of the Clare Lancers was to blame for the structural damage. I have a soft spot in my heart for the music of Donie Nolan and Taylor's Cross who brought the weekend to a close on Sunday afternoon. Donie usually finishes with a song and sends us home in a calm, relaxed fashion. Another perfect gentleman of the céilí band scene.

St Patrick's night again I found myself in Munster but this time in Watergrasshill, Co Cork. Again we danced to Taylor's Cross in the by now famous barn. Thanks again Michael Murphy for your hearty welcome accompanied by tea and brown bread on arrival.

Summer arrived, as did the May bank holiday weekend. I stayed local as I needed to refuel for the next leg of my journey. That Friday I witnessed the event of the year as Micheál Lalor wedded his beautiful bride Magalie. Congratulations Micheál for the wonderful night with a line up of no less that three bands. Best wishes to both of you for the future.

Micheál's success on the European scene led me to expand my horizons and I found myself in Blankenheim, Germany. There I conducted a workshop for Kasia Jankowska and friends. Having experienced this fairy tale village last December at the dawn of the new millennium it was especially enjoyable to view it at almost mid-summer in bright sunshine and warm temperatures. The weekend was like one big family celebration as we spent our days and nights dancing, singing, playing music and learning together, and of course eating and drinking of the very best. Thanks to Kasia and to the staff for caring for us so well and to Áine, Helen, Olive, John F, Val, John and Chris for their help and support. The highlight of the weekend for me was during the céilí on Saturday night when in the social waltz, everyone in the room, including teenagers and young children were on the floor dancing in one big circle of friends. This is what celebrating life is all about.

Back down the autobahn at a speed that doesn't register on speedometers and I found myself at an open air afternoon ceili in Edenderry, Co Offaly, to celebrate fifty years of Comhaltas, organised by Sean Norman and his committee. It's always a pleasure to meet Sean with his broad smile, great humour, lively music and lilting. On this occasion there were three bands supplying the music during the evening, Esker Riada, Four Provinces and of course Sean's own band. For the final session of reels we had all three together. The lift and joy in the music was superb. Continued success to you and your bands, Sean.

A set was danced near Connie Ryan's grave during the Connie Ryan Gathering in Clonoulty. Driving to Clonoulty, Co Tipperary, to partake in the Connie Ryan memorial weekend is like going to my second home to meet friends, old and new, in the family of set dancers. Sadly Connie is missing from the family chain but as they say, "Connie will never be dead while P J his brother is alive." His voice, facial expression, the look in his eyes, his jokes and fun, and of course his welcome are as close to Connie as we can ever hope to get. The music with Ard Erin, Matt Cunningham and Glenside was as usual top class with dancing and spirit to match. Pat Murphy and Betty McCoy, with the help of Christy and Noreen Wade, introduced the Ballagh Half Set on Saturday afternoon. This little gem is a healthy mixture of the Cashel and the traditional Ballycommon. With a struggle I arrived at Pádraig and Roisín McEneaney's workshop on Sunday morning, and I was delighted to dance the Mayo Set, which came to Pádraig from contacts in Cleveland. It was an ideal choice for a group of tired but willing dancers. There is always something special about the memorial Mass and the visit to Connie's grave. While local dancers danced the first figure of the Cashel Set to Michael Tubridy's music it was as if Connie's eyes were glued on the dancers from his gravestone and I think his smile became broader as the dancing progressed. Enough reminiscing! We'll keep the flag flying for as long as possible.

The next time I stepped in the car I found myself back in Watergrasshill. On this occasion we had a Mass and a céilí in the barn to celebrate a decade of dancing in that location. Matt and Ita Cunningham accompanied the choir. It was an extra treat to listen to and appreciate this aspect of their music. Dancers who had gone to their eternal reward were named and remembered in prayer. We danced, as the celebrant recommended, until the small hours with Matt providing excellent dance music as always.

Gaining air miles all the time I again headed for the continent but this time to Amsterdam. Kitty, Olive, Colm, John, Sean, Val, John F, Bill, Chris and myself landed on Thursday June 21st to a workshop hosted by the McSweeney Dancers. We had a day of sightseeing on Friday - dare I say some of the group were more adventurous than others - before getting down to business. After Martin Kaal's words of welcome and a song, Pat Murphy got proceedings underway with the Ballycroy Set. From the very moment I stepped into the DOC Theatre I knew that the dancing was coming from the heart and soul of everyone there. It is a marvellous and indescribable feeling when dancers from the Netherlands, Germany, France and Switzerland come to give you a hug of welcome. Right through the weekend the dancing was tremendous. Pat taught sets that I hadn't danced in quite a while including the Valentia Right and Left, Tory Island Lancers and Connemara Jig. It was a great surprise when our hosts presented the Amsterdam Set to us. This piece left me breathless but I will leave it to Pat to give you the details when he shares it with us at a workshop here at home. Sincere congratulations are due to the McSweeney Dancers for the dedication and commitment. A local céilí band played for the two céilithe. I enjoyed their tuneful hearty music and they enjoyed our dancing too. A special word of thanks to Nel and Martin for sharing their home with us and for looking after us so well in every way for the weekend.

The McSweeney Dancers from Amsterdam devised and performed the Amsterdam Set during their weekend. It was an ambitious set in three figures for six couples, with highly inventive moves. By the way, it's no wonder the Dutch are such good dancers when they all use pedal power to get around the city! I have never seen so many push bikes together in one place.

Back home to base to refuel and off I set the short distance to Rahan, Co Offaly. Their celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of Comhaltas was hugely enjoyable. Our céilí bands included Matt Cunningham, Glenside and Davey Joe and Carousel. The workshop was conducted by Eileen O'Doherty. How proud they all were to launch their Ballycommon Set (Co Offaly this time). Each figure is named - The Wheel, Up and Down the Banks, Under the Bridges and Open the Lock, Rescue the Ladies, and the swing was entitled The Bunch of Rags. The set is one long figure danced to reels and as the names suggest it had its origins in the area close to the local canal. I commend Rahan Comhaltas for the way they integrate their local young people into the step, set dancing and music scene. This is done in a gentle, non-competitive way where everyone's contribution is appreciated and they are learning to spend their time constructively. Mass was celebrated by Father James McKiernan, who himself enjoys a few sets. The theme of the Mass was "Let there be love shared among us," and just like at home there was a 'cuppa' for everyone after Mass. In fact the kettle was never off the boil as refreshments were always available. At one stage on Saturday night during the céilí I saw a group of people, including young children, dancing around the kitchen - and minding the dresser! The man keeping a smile on our faces with his humour and jokes was Joe Monaghan. I thank them for their warm welcome and wish them well for the rest of the year.

Having been introduced to travel by water on the canals in Amsterdam I jumped at the opportunity to embark on the MV Goldsmith Cruiser to sail on Lough Ree in the company of Martin Newton and his dancers from Durrow, Co Offaly. While on board we danced the Cashel, Corofin Plain, and Plain sets with Tom Shine coordinating the music. It's ideal for dancing with a boarded floor downstairs and also lots of room in the fresh air. It is a new challenge to swing properly while swaying with the waves! We had food in the Shamrock Lodge Hotel and then danced back on dry land to Davy Joe and Carousel. This lively three-piece band has a repertoire to suit all occasions - a healthy mixture of sets, waltzes and a quickstep thrown in for good measure.

At present I am at base refuelling. I have passport in my pocket, life jacket in the bag, bicycle on the roof rack, dancing shoes polished, prepared for whatever the next trip brings. I hope we all enjoy every moment and continue to break down borders and broaden our horizons through set dancing, for a long time to come.

Maureen Culleton, Ballyfin, Co Laois

That bit different from usual

Amsterdam feels a bit like home to me because I once lived there for a year, long before I ever saw a set. On a visit last year I had such a good time dancing at the monthly session in Mulligan's Pub that I never hesitated about returning in June for a full weekend of dancing. There was everything you'd want in a weekend - enjoyable workshops with Pat Murphy, a band of local musicians as good as you'd find in Ireland, keen and considerate dancers, excellent organisation which made everyone feel welcome - plus a few noteworthy touches never seen anywhere else!

Just to be sure I wouldn't be late and, God forbid, miss a set, I went out with a borrowed street map on Friday afternoon to locate the venue. I wandered the busy street by a canal and was nearly ready to turn back when I saw a tiny awning over a single door labelled DOC Theater. On my return that night I stepped inside to a pleasant bar on the street and behind it a comfortable hall of just the right size. The venue is operated by and for deaf people, so we had to be clear and precise in ordering drinks.

People filtered in slowly from all around Ireland and Europe, and festivities began with a heartfelt welcome and song from Martin Kaal, one of the organisers. Pat Murphy brought everyone onto the floor with the Ballycroy Set from Mayo. His teaching is always clear and precise, especially so here when half the dancers spoke English as a second language, but communication was never a problem among the participants. There was a break after Pat's workshop when we got a fill of some cakes, tarts and cookies - delicious food was in good supply all weekend without any extra charge. The elevated atmosphere persisted as we continued dancing to recordings till late - the perspiration was mighty!

On a bright morning we stepped back into the dark hall for more dancing with Pat when he taught the Labasheeda and Valentia Right and Left sets. Lunch took place in the bar with piles of filled rolls, buckets of soup and plates of fruit available for everyone, again with no charge. After lunch most of us kept dancing, but some dancers couldn't resist the city outside and visited the nearby market. By the end of the afternoon they returned to show off their purchases and we showed off the South Sligo Lancers we'd just learned.

The band was raring to go when I arrived in good time for the Saturday night ceili. The music during the sound check sounded great and when dancing began it proved to be perfection. There were four or five fiddles, a box, banjo and piano sounding well-rehearsed, light and lively, all at the right speed. The members were Irish, Dutch, and even South African, all resident in Amsterdam. There was some concern about whether they'd have enough polkas for a polka set, but the polkas were just as good as their reels, jigs and hornpipes and we never ran short of music!

The highlight of the night came during the pause. Some sean nós steps were danced by Aidan Vaughan to great acclaim, followed by an energetic and flamboyant Elvis-style brush dance from Jim Monaghan. Then everyone present was fortunate enough to witness the debut performance of the Amsterdam Set danced by the local MacSweeney Set Dancers, the group which organised the weekend. Six couples came onto the floor together in one large set - an ingenious idea which permitted some fascinating and inventive moves never seen in four-couple sets. Pieces were taken from the Lancers, Newport, Aran and other sets, with line-ups at six different angles, three little Christmases at once, ladies chains sprouting all over the place, high-gates in every direction, and a jumbo-sized big Christmas. There was never a dull moment during the three figures - everyone danced all the time. The set was devised by Phillip Pinkse and Carola Arndt who wanted a set that bit different from usual, like most everything else in Amsterdam. Pat Murphy recorded the dance so I hope we see the Amsterdam Set soon at a workshop.

The beautiful summer weather continued on Sunday when many of the dancers met for a city walk. Pat taught another couple of sets, the Tory Island Lancers and the Souris Set from Prince Edward Island, which we danced to some exciting and energising music from Cape Breton. The local band was back again after that with more fabulous dancing and buckets more perspiration! When the dancing ended Martin Kaal said a few final words of thanks and everyone joined him for a song.

After all the goodbyes, spirits were still high and those who could make it agreed to a final meeting in Mulligan's Pub. There was some doubt about whether there would be a session - the musicians were said to be too tired after two ceilis. Nevertheless they showed up and played with undiminished enthusiasm for three or four hours. We were still keen to dance a set, but there was only room for a couple of solo dances from Aidan Vaughan and Martina who worked behind the bar. The consensus on Amsterdam was unanimous - a brilliant city and a brilliant weekend of dancing.

Bill Lynch

Previously unpublished.

Two weeks in July

Some of your editor's summer dance experiences for 2001 are collected here for those who may be interested.

Friday 29 June, Abbeyfeale, Co Limerick

On my arrival at the dance at the Railway Bar, I was given the standard west Limerick welcome of a luscious kiss and warm hug - not only do they love set dancing here, but they genuinely love set dancers. The weekend was dedicated to the dances of County Mayo and a busload of sixty Mayo dancers was expected. We were wondering how they would fit onto the small floor which was already filled. Tim Joe Riordan provided more of his perfect dance music, accompanied by Mort Kelleher. When the Mayo crowd finally arrived the floor became even more filled but the dancing was great. There were some entertaining solos during the break, including two brush dances done in the modern and old styles, and some humorous steps by John Joe Geraghty from Newport, who has a kind of exaggerated approach to sean nós which brought laughs and cheers from everyone.

Saturday 30 June, Abbeyfeale

Six ladies from Mayo demonstrate the Polly Glide with Mickey Kelly at a workshop in Abbeyfeale. John Joe was back today with Mickey Kelly to share the teaching of some Mayo sets. We had the Bruca, Cuilmore and Ballycastle, each one with something different and unique - one thing all the Mayo sets seem to share. In the last half hour Mickey quickly went over some two-hand dances - the Sweetheart Waltz, the Military Two-step, and something called the Polly Glide. It was like a solo dance, simple and repetitive which looked elegant when danced by a line of dancers. Heather Breeze played for the ceili that night, and I danced the night away in top form. In a break we saw a demonstration of the Newport Set by eight Mayo kids. Mickey told us they dance it exactly as it should be, and indeed they were an example to us all.

Sunday 1 July, Abbeyfeale, Kerry and Kilfenora, Co Clare

A dance on the street in Abbeyfeale with music by Pat Friel. The big adventure this morning was the mystery tour. We were told to be at the square in town no later than 10.30 because the bus would set off then. This being Ireland, there was no sign of a bus for nearly an hour, but in the meantime, this being west Limerick, we danced a few figures of some sets on the street with music by Pat Friel of Heather Breeze. When the bus arrived after collecting all the Mayo folk from their B&Bs, we followed it to A Day in the Bog, a tourist centre set in the middle of a Kerry bog. There we admired the bog, visited the farm animals and enjoyed a show outdoors in the blazing sun. There was a lot of good-natured heckling between the performers and audience, plus the inevitable set, danced this time on gravel, not a surface I can give my highest recommendation.

Back in Abbeyfeale we had one last ceili on the fine floor in the Convent Hall, and Heather Breeze sounded better than ever. There was some creative kissing in the Lancers - one of the kissing sisters danced opposite me and not only did lips touch every time we advanced and retired, we even managed to kiss every time we passed each other in the grand chain of the last figure.

I was very content when I left Abbeyfeale, but by the time I got to Kilfenora I was ready for more dancing. Doubling has become more popular in Vaughan's lately, especially in the jig figure of the Caledonian, where, with the right partner and opposite couple, we can double around the house seven times - excessive, I realise, but exhilarating.

Monday 2 July, Ballaghadereen, Co Roscommon

Left this afternoon for the Douglas Hyde Summer School in Ballaghadereen. Went into town looking for action and only found a session. Met Padraig McEneany and Mary Conboy - had a drink and heard a bit of music but there's no ceili till Wednesday.

Tuesday 3 July, Ballaghadereen and Ballintogher, Co Sligo

The former railway station which housed the set dancing class in Ballaghadereen. Went to Padraig's set dancing class this morning. Wasn't sure I was at the right place when I followed signs to a hall which looked rather derelict. Inside though there was a fine spacious floor and I'm told that the building was once the railway station. There were only ten of us dancing, plus Pádraig and the man who collected the money. Pádraig taught the Ballycommon and Glencar polka sets with the same care and enjoyment as if there were twenty sets. They were nearly all beginners, and everyone was eager to learn.

Last night Mary Conboy reminded us of her monthly summer dance session tonight in Ballintogher, Co Sligo, and Pádraig kindly took me out there. We met Mary at her house and there was no trouble finding the venue from there - it was the pub next door, Moran's, just five paces away, though when we left we took the scenic route around to the back door. Only tourists use the front door, I was told. A gaggle of ladies on their night out had taken over a few tables, and Pádraig and I joined them. Mary straight away started carrying away tables and chairs to make space and soon we were dancing. Everyone was jolly and having fun as we danced a few old favourites. I forget what set I was dancing when my opposite lady blurted out, "I can't stand all this eye contact!"

Wednesday 4 July, Ballaghadereen

Went back to Pádraig's class this morning and decided to stay on for tonight's ceili with the Davey Ceili Band. The ceili was transferred from the railway station hall to a pub disCo in town. When I arrived, the band was ready to go and so were the dancers, but there were only six of us. Miraculously a couple of New Yorkers, Donna and Steve, wandered in just when we needed them most and John Davey got the show on the road. Even though we were the only set, we made our own atmosphere and had a great time with the help of the brilliant music. More people trickled in for a second set and there was even a third at the end. Just goes to show you can have a lovely night even with a small crowd.

Thursday 5 July, Kilfenora

Back home in Kilfenora the Barn was full of dancers from Canada and Australia on their way to Miltown and loads of happy spectators from everywhere. Halfway through the ceili I was pleasantly surprised to see Pádraig McEneany arriving from Ballaghadereen with Mary Conboy and friends. Don't some people do a lot of travelling to ceilis!

Friday 6 July, Miltown Malbay, Co Clare

Welcome to Miltown! The first ceili of the summer school season got underway tonight with the Four Courts inspiring everyone to great energy and enjoyment. The Armada's new hall is a pleasant place to dance. The enlarged dance floor is augmented by the old boards from previous years laid on carpet, and there was plenty of space tonight. The place was full of Canadians, Australians and Yanks from New York and Los Angeles. Everyone's pleased that the summer school is holding classes at the Armada this year.

Saturday 7 July, Miltown Malbay

The appeal of the Armada was clear during the afternoon dance with Michael Sexton - the sea glistens through all the large windows around the hall. I was forever watching the waves while dancing. Beautiful dancers all around - the standard is always improving and there's no shortage of friends and partners. The batterers raised little clouds of dust as they danced.

Arrived late to the evening ceili at the Armada with the Abbey Ceili Band and found the Lancers already underway. Took a few photos and decided to head off to the first ceili at the Mill when the Cashel was called. I got caught by a kissing sister from Abbeyfeale and was easily persuaded to do a set. Danced a couple more sets after that, the floor getting progressively more crowded each time. Absented myself unnoticed during the break and made it to the Mill Theatre with the Kilfenora Ceili Band. It was spacious and peaceful by comparison and with just as many friends and partners.

Sunday 8 July, Miltown Malbay and Ennis

Went out this afternoon for the memorial at Willie Clancy's grave - very well attended with plenty of music and songs. Went down to the Mill afterward where Esker Riada played some exciting, quick music. Afterward I had an hour to wait before dinner so sat in the car working on my computer. A passing dancer spotted me and asked if she could pay her subscription renewal. I was happy to oblige and logged the transaction electronically - no messy bits of paper this time.

Went to Ennis tonight for an evening with the Tulla Ceili Band and a party of Japanese dancers. The fellow who does a perfect Aidan Vaughan sean nós routine was dancing as I arrived - Aidan watched with approval. The Japanese dancers are young, talented and are impressively eager to learn.

Monday 9 July, Miltown Malbay

The Easy Reel taught by Celine Tubridy at St Joseph's GAA Club, Miltown Malbay. I decided to try the traditional step dancing class. The beginners are taught by Celine Tubridy and she showed us the Easy Reel. Forty dancers arrived in her tiny classroom - a changing room at the Miltown GAA pitch with six sheets of board screwed onto the concrete floor. That worked well for dancing, but there were too many to fit at once so Celine split the group in two with half sitting and half dancing. Very few were Irish - Europeans, Americans, and most impressive were six Japanese girls who were hardly beginners at all. They had learnt a few dances entirely from a book and tape and this was their first time learning them live. They danced one for us and Celine said they did very well and made only a few minor mistakes. Even if it was the Easy Reel we were doing I found it frustrating and confounding but decided I'd come back for more.

When I came to pay my admission at the Armada this afternoon, the lady at the desk spotted my summer school badge and gave me a two pound reduction! A nice bonus of the summer school classes taking place here. The Glenside Ceili Band was playing this afternoon, following a notable performance here last night that left everyone in awe of them. They were brilliant this time, too. There was an amazing demonstration of approval between figures of the Plain Set when a huge, totally spontaneous cheer and round of applause stopped the dancing. Usually dancers have to be urged by the MC to demonstrate their appreciation of the music - today the music alone brought it out of us.

I danced to the Four Courts tonight in the Mill and enjoyed it very much. At the end of the night my Plain Set partner demonstrated what she called the "Canadian shimmy" in the last figure. This occurred when the four ladies advance and retire - she advanced in, quickly wiggled her shoulders and then retired. I gave it a try myself but I don't have shoulders that move like that. I'll leave it to the ladies.

Tuesday 10 July, Miltown Malbay

It's tough being a beginner again but I think I detected a slight bit of progress in my step dancing this morning - I can now do my threes correctly about half the time. We finished the Easy Reel and someone made a crack about me having to dance on stage in the recital on Thursday - no way José!

I'm just after a night of pure bliss with the Tulla Ceili Band. Usually when a ceili is over I like to think back on which was my best set of the night, but I couldn't do that tonight - every set was the best set! There was a surprise in the Cashel Set, however - the polkas were played at a speed that even Johnny Reidy would be proud of! Slow polkas used to be common enough with Clare bands, and most of them go faster when playing the Cashel. Now even the Tulla are doing it and I was very pleased to see it! Perhaps their secret weapon was Aidan Vaughan, who substituted for the regular drummer Michael Flanagan for this set. Near the close Harry Hughes, the summer school organiser, spoke movingly about the Tulla and it's music and paid tribute to P J Hayes, the band's leader who died in May, and Francie Donnellan, the fiddle player who died last year. Martin Hayes played a few beautiful tunes and Aidan Vaughan got up to dance a step with everyone crowded around the stage.

Wednesday 11 July, Miltown Malbay

Today Celine reviewed the Easy Reel which I'm nowhere close to mastering yet, and then moved on to teach the Job of Journeywork. I didn't fancy failing to master a second dance so slipped away in the break. Stopped in at the sean nós class taught by Mick Mulkerrin and Mairéad Casey - well attended with plenty of space in the Mill. Everyone was practicing together a while, then divided up with Mick playing box for the more advanced dancers and Mairéad reviewing steps with beginners.

I attended the afternoon lecture in the Community Hall which was an extended tribute to Johnny O'Leary. Musicians, dancers and singers came along to praise him and his music and give a tune or song. Muiris Ó Rocháin of the summer school presented him a large gift wrapped in Christmas paper. Johnny himself watched it all with a smile, and played a few tunes at the end. The afternoon closed after nearly three hours with some tunes from a stage full of musicians. A few dancers ran up to the front to do the Sliabh Luachra and had to urge on one last couple to join in.

The Templehouse Ceili Band brought along a few new faces to the ceili tonight and we had plenty of lively music and dance.

Thursday 12 July, Connemara and Miltown

I went out to Connemara to meet Séamus Ó Méalóid and take photos and only made it to Miltown late in the afternoon when I had an hour in the Armada with the Glenside.

I didn't think history would repeat itself, but the Tulla Ceili Band were as good tonight as they were on Tuesday, and the crowd seemed slightly bigger. The music was so beautiful that at one point I was overtaken by a feeling as though I was in love! I had one most memorable set this time - the Cashel. Again Aidan Vaughan urged the band on with his drumming and it might have been even quicker than on Tuesday. The hornpipe figure was easily the fastest I've ever danced to any band and I was in heaven! It was a rare treat, transformed by the music into something new and different. My particularly energetic partner and I got on like a house on fire! At the end of the night Martin Hayes was again encouraged to play a few solos and several dancers came up to dance - Aidan, Paddy Neylon, Mick and Mairead, and Pádraic Ó hOibicín. Martin even did an encore before the band finished up with the Plain Set.

Friday 13 July, Miltown Malbay

The Armada's large windows were just as good for looking in as they were for looking out. I visited the two summer school classes held in the Armada this morning on a beautiful summer's day. Paddy Neylon, Mary Clancy and Geraldine Connolly were looking after twelve sets of beginners in the main hall where they were dancing the Caledonian. Paddy and Carolyn Hanafin were looking after a similar number of sets in the Lower Deck, a smaller space. We were dancing the South Kerry and my set was one of two dancing on carpet. Students and teachers showed spirit and enthusiasm and had a good time. We appreciated the seaside setting, especially during breaks when everyone basked outdoors.

Came to the Armada again this afternoon for the best ceili I've had there so far this week. Michael Sexton played some stunning music, the weather was spectacular and the glistening sea constantly caught my eye while dancing.

I decided I'd start off at the Quilty Tavern tonight where Michael Sexton was playing again. Quilty was full of dancers I hadn't seen anywhere else! I danced a few sets there and just when big crowds started pouring in, I thought I'd pop over to see Shaskeen at the Mill. When I arrived I thought they sounded in good form. Eileen O'Doherty was here to call and she gave us some unusual sets, such as the Borlin, Connemara Jig and Clare Orange and Green, which were very welcome indeed. Before tonight I haven't noticed calling at any ceili.

Saturday 14 July, Ballycommon, Co Tipperary, and Miltown Malbay

Two years ago at a ceili in Tubbercurry during the South Sligo Summer School I was tipped off that a dancer from New York, Brendan Tunney, was going to propose marriage to his girlfriend Mary Flannery before all the assembled dancers. I was ready with the camera and later published a picture of the proposal. Today I attended the couple's wedding in Ballycommon, Co Tipperary. Some Yanks and Canadians escaped Miltown for the day, and after the wedding and lovely meal we made our farewells to get back in time for the final ceili at the Mill.

Five couples danced the Mazurka during a rake of reels in the Mill at the final Saturday night ceili. The Kilfenora Ceili Band played tonight and while the bodies may have been weakening after a heavy week of dancing, everyone's spirits were still flying! I met Paddy Hanafin who introduced me to a Japanese couple who were now called Sean and Mairéad. They were getting on so well in the dancing class that Paddy decided Irish names were appropriate. I danced with one partner who came to the Mill on a break from the big concert in the Community Hall. She was going back after a set or two as she didn't want to miss Martin Hayes' performance. I spotted a large group of youths coming in and wondered what they were up to. They were inexperienced but keen and well-behaved dancers. Some of them formed a set and tried to imitate everyone else and had good, chaotic fun. Eileen O'Doherty was calling again and I was delighted she did the Caragh Lake Jig Set, an old favourite which was all the rage a few years ago but is rarely done these days. When the night ended there were lots of goodbyes, kisses, hugs and photos. Where else but Miltown can you mix with people from all over the world in close, friendly contact without any regard to background or even language? We had a good week.

Sunday 15 July, Miltown Malbay and Tubbercurry, Co Sligo

A glorious day! I stopped at the Armada for the farewell ceili, and made my farewells early as I decided to head up to Tubbercurry for the night. I couldn't attend the South Sligo Summer School for a full week but didn't want to miss the opening ceili. Arrived in Tubber in time for the welcoming speeches and had a fill of tea and sandwiches afterward. There were plenty of faces from Miltown and plenty more I hadn't seen for a while. The dancing started with just three sets and the hall was comfortably filled by the end of the night. Matt Cunningham played and both the band and the dancers were full of enjoyment. Matt's daughter Ita played a fiddle solo and it was remarkable to hear such powerful music coming from such a slender young woman.

Went home satisfied with my summer dancing and looking forward to more next month!

Bill Lynch

Set dancing down under

In Sydney on Wednesday nights at the Harp Bar, Tempe, you can dwindle away the hours doing a step dancing class, followed by a set dancing class and then a session. Standing at the bar one Wednesday night in November 2000, my friend Geri and I simultaneously turned to each other and said, "Isn't that Ciarán Condron?" The dancing and session draws a diverse crowd, but not usually as far as from Dublin. Like most young Irish, Ciarán and his friend Diarmuid Keeling, also from Dublin, came to Australia on a working holiday visa. After having just arrived from a few months of work and travel in New Zealand, Sydney was the first place they encountered set dancing down under. Ciarán's first night in the Harp didn't involve much dancing due to what could almost be described as third degree burns received from sunbaking on Coogee Beach.

Over the next six months, Ciarán attended the various classes in Sydney and gave two superb workshops. The first in January 2001, he taught the Williamstown, Kildownet and Killyon sets. The second in May 2001, we covered the Mayo Lancers, Cuilmore and Inis Oírr sets. By Australian standards both workshops were well attended with five to six sets, covering a wide age group of dancers with varying levels of experience. Not only were there dancers from Sydney, but also mad-to-dance attendees from the Central Coast and Newcastle groups.

Ciarán went through some of the steps for the sets before volunteering a set of initially reluctant dancers to demonstrate. For most, the sets were totally foreign, but Ciarán's clear and precise instructions ensured everyone looked like naturals. As usual there was much banter and humour and a fantastic day of dancing was had by all.

The Harp hosts monthly ceilis on the last Friday of each month with music from local outfit, the Fifth Element. There's a great atmosphere at the ceilis. Set are not called (although you might hear someone yelling out guidance in their set) and each set would typically dance something different. The musicians play lively non-stop brackets where often you'll cover a couple of sets.

Ciarán's workshops were held in conjunction with or around the ceilis and proved to be highly successful. Ciarán also gave a workshop in Melbourne. Sydney has had few visiting set dancing teachers so I'm sure had he been here longer more workshops would have been requested. Our last workshop was in November 1999, we were fortunate to have Patrick O'Dea teaching some sets and steps.

For anyone visiting Sydney, do not fear that your set dancing will suffer. There is a flourishing set dancing scene here with a very energetic and committed group of people. Various classes across Sydney are held including Mondays at the Gaelic Club, Tuesdays at Yagoona Boys Scout Hall and Coronation Hall, Newtown, Wednesdays at the Harp Bar, Tempe, and Thursdays at Arncliffe Girl Guide Hall. Monthly ceilis are held the last Friday of the month at the Harp. You'll also find sets mustered up at some of the Sunday afternoon sessions at pubs such as the Harp or the Shannon. You might even recognise a face or two such as Margaret and Bill Winnett who travel to Ireland annually for various summer schools and dancing. Most certainly you'll meet and make many new friends. Our thanks to Ciarán and Diarmuid for the sets, steps unique style and craic they brought whilst in Sydney. Hopefully they'll return soon, perhaps with an entourage in tow.

Siobhan Bogue, Sydney, Australia

Ciarán Condron and attendees at his workshop in Sydney in May 2001. Thanks to Siobhan for the photo.

To Portmagee from Corsica

On the weekend of the 20th of April we were privileged to teach our local set, the Portmagee Mezerts, to a group of dancers from Corsica led by their French tour guide, Didier Matherat - also a great dancer. Give us another brush dance, Didier!

The scene in Corsica on St Patrick's night 2001. Thanks to Pádraig McEneaney for the photo. Tutti in Piazza is the name of the group. It all started in Corsica in 1980 when a few friends who played music together heard that the people used to dance a quadrille about fifty years ago. From the older people they researched five figures. They added some other figures inspired by dances from Ireland, Quebec and the USA. The interest grew and there are now over 100 members in seven clubs around Corsica, where they hold workshops and participate in other cultural events. Irish musicians Paddy and Seamus Glackin, Sean Potts, Michael O'Donoghue have played at the festivals as well as the Táin Ceili Band. Pádraig and Roisín McEneany and Didier Matherat and Christine Droillard have given set dancing workshops for them in Corsica.

I really enjoyed teaching them the Mezerts with a team of local dancers, but it was also great to see them dance their own quadrille in the Bridge Bar on Friday and Saturday nights. Some of the figures are similar to our sets but the whole dance would be danced through without a break and a leader would call out the figures he wants danced. Fair play to Jean-Baptist - he called the figures while dancing in the set! They joined in some of our own sets, the South Kerry, the Plain, etc, and of course did a perfect Portmagee Mezerts. On Saturday night we had a hilarious dinner with them in the Moorings Restaurant, Didier doing a grand job as translator much to the amusement of other diners.

Sunday morning we sadly had to say goodbye - but if you think that was the end, you're wrong! A week later a parcel arrived full of Corsican goodies! Salami, goats cheese, etc. Thank you to all our new Corsican friends and come back to Portmagee very soon.

Julian Stracey, Portmagee, Co Kerry

Cape May remembers Connie

Each October for the past fourteen years, hundreds of set dancers have descended on the Victorian village of Cape May, on the south New Jersey shore, for what has come to be known as the Connie Ryan Memorial Set Dance Weekend. If you live anywhere from Washington to Maine, and you dance the sets, chances are you've been to Cape May. And if you haven't been yet, you're planning to go. All of this is testimony to the enigmatic pull of a seashore village in autumn, and the indomitable spirit of one man, Connie Ryan.

Pádraig and Roisín McEneany demonstrate a set at the 1999 Cape May weekend. Ironically, Connie Ryan himself was not even present at the first incarnation of the event that has come to bear his name. The first Cape May Set Dance Weekend took place in 1988 as the brainchild of a small but fanatic three-year-old group of Irish music and dancing enthusiasts who had organized themselves in the American capital as the Greater Washington Ceili Club. From the beginning the GWCC's mission was more than dance. They strove to promote and encourage Irish and traditional music and dance in an area without the strong Irish communities that can be found in Boston, New York or Chicago.

Barely months after the club was chartered, it found itself charged with the task of producing the Glen Echo Irish Festival, which had been held for a decade in Glen Echo National Park just outside Washington. About that time, Paul Keating, a New York stalwart of Comhaltas Ceoltori Eireann, was attempting to put together a small tour to bring Joe and Siobhan O'Donovan of Cork over to America. To make a long story short, they were the hit of the 1986 Glen Echo Irish Festival, performing old hornpipe steps for the large and appreciative crowd, and leading them in workshops where they taught the old country sets. The festival culminated with a giant ceili in Glen Echo's Spanish Ballroom, and to this day Joe O'Donovan still speaks in marvel of the sight of so many people out dancing the sets on that large floor.

Around that same time, Diana and Ron Jensen, a Washington psychologist and her husband, had encountered Connie Ryan as he taught set dancing to the attendees of the Merriman Summer School in Clare. They were immediately caught up in his enthusiasm for teaching and propagating the sets. Diana vowed to keep in touch, and so when Connie Ryan brought a troupe of 57 musicians and dancers to America in the spring of 1988, the Glen Echo Irish Festival was the first stop on their tour. The sight of five full sets of dancers precisely battering their way through all manner of Clare and Kerry sets was enough to convince the Washington crowd that there was a lot more to this dancing than just making their way through the figures, as they had been merrily doing. Clearly, a major style infusion from Ireland was needed.

Diana Jensen stepped up with an idea. She had discovered the charming beach town of Cape May, and thought it would be a marvelous venue for an intense weekend of study and fun on the dance floor. To keep costs down, the first weekend in October was chosen, just after the end of the high season, and a century-old hotel called Congress Hall was booked as the venue. Celtic Thunder, a Washington-based ceili band, was booked to provide the music. The choice of dancing master came down to a toss-up between the O'Donovans and Connie Ryan, and since Connie had just been over the previous summer, Joe and Siobhan got the nod. And so it was that Joe O'Donovan's 70th birthday on October 2nd 1988 was celebrated in Cape May, New Jersey. To hedge the bets a bit, the event was advertised in New York as well, and about half the crowd of 100 came from there to augment the Washington presence. The first Cape May weekend was a smashing success. The weather was lovely and sunny - a pattern which has, for the most part, held through the years. Most importantly, the dancers, musicians and dance teachers were left wanting more. There was no question that the GWCC would produce the event again the next year, and Connie Ryan got the nod to preside at the second Cape May weekend in the fall of 1989.

The crowd of dancers at the 1999 Cape May weekend. Photographs by Kevin Grant. Backed by an awesome phalanx of musicians, Connie drew an ever-growing crowd of increasingly skilled set dancers to Cape May each year. Bigger venues in the town were found to house the participants and accommodate the scheduled events, which invariably consisted of a Friday evening welcome ceili, followed by Saturday morning and afternoon dance workshops with the master, a late afternoon concert, and a "mighty" ceili on Saturday night. Workshops would be scheduled on Sunday morning as well, although many participants, tired from their late night revels, preferred to sleep in. God forbid, though, that they should encounter Connie Ryan before sneaking out of town later in the day. A man of unflagging energy, even during his last Cape May appearance in 1996, Connie would have been there on the dot of the hour to teach and would have spotted any who were too tired to come learn from him.

After Connie died in May 1997, Mick Mulkerrin responded to the call to teach in Cape May, striving to fulfil Connie's request to "make sure the Yanks keep dancing." On a beautiful sunny Saturday in early October 1998, two young protégés of Connie Ryan, Pádraig and Roisín McEneany, led a hall filled with over thirty sets of enthusiastic dancers. The second annual Connie Ryan Memorial Set Dance Weekend was a joyous celebration of the undying spirit of the man who, probably more than any other, is responsible for the current wave of interest in Irish set dancing in America. This year the event is planned for September 28th, 29th and 30th, and Pádraig and Roisín are scheduled to return for their fourth year.

John Kerr

A tribute to Gerald Durnin

Gerald Durnin at Castletown, Co Laois, in May 2001.
Friday 22nd June was a very sad day in Ederney, Co Fermanagh, when the body of young Gerald Durnin, the accordion player with the Emerald Ceili Band, was laid to rest.

Gerald was born in America in 1983 and came to Ederney, native home of his father, with his parents and sister Janette at Christmas in 1986. He began his music career along with Janette when he was six years old under the tuition of Sean Nugent in Ederney. During his young career he won many All-Ireland medals, both in solo and group competitions. He appeared both on the radio and television. Gerald's preferred instrument was the button accordion but he also played the drums and achieved a merit in Grade 5 drums with the Rock School accredited by Trinity College London.

Gerald joined the Emerald Ceili Band, along with his sister Janette, in 1998. The band itself has gone from strength to strength and is now recognised as one of the top bands playing for set dancing in Ireland today. This summer they were booked to play at five ceilis during the Willie Clancy week, no mean achievement for such a young band. Once a month four members of the band, Paul, Cora, Gerald RIP and Janette played for the Sunday afternoon ceilis in the Carlton Hotel, Belleek in Co Fermanagh, and what wonderful music they played! I write on behalf of all the set dancers in Fermanagh when I say we were all devastated at Gerald's untimely death as we regarded the Emerald as 'our very own band'.

Not only was Gerald an outstanding musician but he was also an outstanding student. He was on his way to sit his last A level exam in St Michael's College, Enniskillen, when he was tragically killed. He had already sat three other A levels. His subjects were Physics, Chemistry, Maths and Further Maths. At GCSE O level he attained seven A*s and two As and the second highest overall mark in Technology in Northern Ireland.

We pray that some time in the not too distant future Paul will have the strength, along with the other members of the band, to get together again and continue to keep the Emerald on the road. We know this will not be easy.

To Bridie, a good set dance follower, and Gerry, Gerald's mum and dad, and Janette his sister, on behalf of all the set dancing community I extend deepest sympathy and pray you get the strength to carry the burden of his loss. Gerald was a wonderful son, brother and student, but we, the set dancers, will always remember him as a wonderful member of the Emerald Ceili Band.

Sheila Gormley, Irvinestown, Co Fermanagh

Down from the mountain

Stirred to the right

I'm not so sure if it was such a good idea to go to the local hurling final before the ceili in Boxibelteeley the other evening. I knew there would be skin and hair flying so I tried not to get too het up by the whole fiasco. There were the usual shouts of 'Kill him! Kill him!' when set dancers like 'Hacket man' was doing a solo run into the Ballygogooley goal. "Mark him! Keep on him!" I shouted, only to be greeted with "They are not able!" A few more serious scuffles later with Ballygogooley two points behind and hurling out of their skins, 'Bullet head' got the sliother. There he was zipping up the sideline like a dancer flying through the Borlin Jenny who doesn't know the set at all. Suddenly a spectator smoking a pipe well into his seventies jumps onto him knocking the ball off the hurley. Everybody joined in immediately and was at it hammer and tongs so I made off with the last few choc ices. This massive boxing match would have fitted very well into the series What Happened Next? on the BBC where the sporty panel have to guess just that. I doubt if they would have guessed right in this case.

There were still some scores to settle at the ceili later as we danced a lively Newport. I accidentally hopped on a guys toe.

"Sorry for jumping on your toe."

"No problem!" he replied.

"Agh! you didn't jump half hard enough!" said my dancing partner.

Then I saw my Indian acquaintance Mehuleen (a great guzzler) downing a pint of the black stuff. "Shifting tonight, Mehuleen?"

"No, but I'll shift whatever you've got in that glass!" he shouted. He was only joking as I was only drinking the still Ballygogowny. They were completely sold out of the sparkling. However I knew I'd get my sparkling bit out on the dance floor and was relieved that I wouldn't have any competition from Mehuleen. I spotted Luasianna standing very seductively by the Gents and thought maybe tonight's the night! It was the first time I didn't have to twist her arm to get a dance. Later we go back to her place and then suddenly she comes out with "I'm very hungry!" I knew there was something else. She had been too agreeable. All she wanted was a cook. Everything else was as she usually puts it, "Out of the question!" I had a few queries before I poured the tea.

"How many spoons of sugar?" I'd forgotten again.

"Is it a mug or a cup?" she asked.

"A mug! Very muggy eh?"

"Yea, a lot of mugs at ceili too!" she said.

"Three if it's a mug?"

"Yes! Yes!" she replied. I put four in to see if she'll notice.

Luckily I had pocketed three sandwiches from the ceili which came in very handy. The tea had to be always stirred to the right for Luasianna. I know this is very pernickety but anything to keep her happy. We talked about how desperate things are at the dancing and the 'night starvation'. I didn't mean the food and she stared hard at me. At last I thought this is it. Then I remembered somebody telling me she sleeps with her eyes open. It was time I thought I made my escape when suddenly the phone rang. It was Glipper who was making his way home from a ceili that had been cancelled. We met for a late pint and afterwards talked outside the pub.

"You're a nice fella," he said.

"Yea, how do you mean?" I asked.

"Well, you bring me into a pub and buy me a pint," he said.

"Not a big deal is it?"

"By Jez! If you didn't you'd lying there on the flat of your back on that footpath!"

"Okay, okay, Glipper, it's a terrible pity you weren't around for that hurling match earlier!"


Copyright © 2001 O F Hughes

Letters and emails

The two most horrible looking women I've met

A few strange faces from the fancy dress competition at the Fleadh España in Ibiza in April 2001. Photos by Phyllis Brosnan. A few strange faces from the fancy dress competition at the Fleadh España in Ibiza in April 2001. Photos by Phyllis Brosnan. A few strange faces from the fancy dress competition at the Fleadh España in Ibiza in April 2001. Photos by Phyllis Brosnan.
Dear Bill

After our wonderful week of set dancing in Ibiza of course we have the wonderful photos to prove it. Enclosed is a brilliant photo above of, left to right, Hughie Clancy and Willie Purcell, "the two most horrible looking women I've met," and Dan Flannery. Willie and Dan being "newlyweds running in," of course in fancy dress.

A great week had by all. God bless.

Phyllis Brosnan, South Harrow, Middlesex, England

A miserable old git

Dear Bill

I write as having been one of the "most critical", "hard to please" and a "miserable old git" regarding Fleadh España 2000.

I would like now to congratulate everyone concerned for the wonderful time enjoyed by so many during the recent Fleadh Ibiza 2001. Having been to Spain on the three other occasions, this trip was by far the most enjoyable.

I would like to thank everyone including the travel agents, coach crews, organisers, our wonderful musicians who played so brilliantly, workshop instructors, set callers and the contestants who took part in the fancy dress competition - they were really a sight to behold. I must also thank the extremely patient and courteous hotel staff who apart from looking after us very well, sometimes took part in our daft antics, an experience they seemed to enjoy very much and of course all the lovely people I came in contact with.

I would like to give a special mention to Mickey Kelly who put so much effort into organising the very enjoyable and hilarious boat race, also of course the workshops and his wonderful two-hand dances.

Thanks again to everyone for a fantastic week and hope to see you all and do it all again next year.

Jim Filgate, Perivale, Middlesex, England

Little did we know

Dear Bill

All the set dancers from the Midlands were shocked and deeply saddened on hearing of the tragic and untimely death of young Gerald Durnin.

Gerald was the accordion player with the "Electric Emerald Ceili Band" and his passing left us devastated. We had only heard and danced to the Emerald in a packed Dunderry Hall on the Saturday night before his accident. Little did we know it was the last time we would ever talk to or hear Gerald playing again.

To his parents, sister Janette, and the other members of the Emerald, Paul, Cora, Michael and P J, we extend our deepest sympathy.

Michael and Patricia Finn, Mullingar, Co Westmeath

Thanks to everyone

Dear Bill,

This is just a few words on behalf of the Connie Ryan Gathering committee to say thanks to everyone who in any way helped to make the third gathering a success. To all the musicians who played beautiful music at the ceilithe, namely the Ard Erin, Matt Cunningham, the Glenside and Danny Webster, well done.

Thanks to the MC Michael Loughnane and to Jim Doyle who assisted Michael on Sunday. The workshops over the weekend were very enjoyable and for these, we thank Pat Murphy, Betty McCoy, and Pádraig and Roisín McEneany. To all those that helped at Connie's mass on Sunday with singing and music, thanks very much.

Last but most important thanks to all the set dancers from all over who make the céilithe so enjoyable. We look forward to seeing you all on the 7th, 8th and 9th June 2002.

Best wishes,

Billy Maher, Clonoulty, Co Tipperary

Japan was very interesting

Hi Bill

I was at two ceilis in Tokyo at the eighth floor of the Sun Plaza, Nakano. At the second they specialised in the Ballyvourney Jig Set. It was good fun and the full works with a map of Ireland to explain the exact location, etc. My battering was complimented but I was asked to ameliorate in case I'd frighten off newcomers.

Japan was very interesting in general, with the buzz of city life in Tokyo putting London in the shade - crazy busy and built up! I recommend Japan even to the tight-fisted unless you are serious about your hotels - hostel/motelish was costing about £16 to £35 Sterling a night. The main trick is to get a rail pass.

See you at a ceili real soon!

Paddy Coffey, Essex, England

Sailed across Dingle Bay

Musicians marching to Portmagee after sailing from Dingle during the set dancing weekend in May 2001.
Dear Bill

This year they came by land, sea and air! Séamus Tansey, Ned O'Shea and friends sailed across Dingle Bay to join the music session at the Portmagee dance workshop in May. They were met on the quay by local musicians and walked down the village playing! We would like to thank them and all our loyal supporters who helped to make it a great weekend.

Gerard Kennedy, Portmagee, Co Kerry

A thank you note

Dear Bill

Through your Set Dancing News we would like to thank set dancers for coming to our wedding ceili and for their generosity and friendliness.

Micheál and Magalie Lalor, Doon, Raheen, Mountrath, Co Laois

Patrick O'Dea's other talent

Just thought I would let you know in case you wanted to spread the word of Patrick O'Dea's other talent - identifying baby gender in utero. I was about five months pregnant when he stayed with us for a workshop and did some sort of old wives tale thing with his ring and was positive I was having a boy. The next week we went in for an ultrasound and the technician was absolutely positive I was having a girl. Thinking that American medicine was never wrong, I bought lots of girl stuff and had it all ready when on July sixth, we received the surprise that we had a boy. We named him Patrick Joseph O'Grady-Graham which is Patrick O'Dea's first and middle name but he is actually named after both his grandfathers.

Kathleen O'Grady-Graham, Seattle, Washington

Many congratulations to Kathleen and Michael on the new baby!

International connection

Dear Bill

I've enjoyed the Set Dancing News immensely. I've been dancing sets about 1½ years now and look forward to my Monday and Wednesday classes with Anne McCallum of Windsor, Ontario, Canada, just across the river from Detroit.

The Set Dancing News has a great format - the international connection, photos, stories and the future dates for ceilis, programs, workshops, etc. I know you work very hard at it and the Detroit, Toledo (Ohio) and Windsor dancers appreciate it! Thank you!


Linda Wearn, Detroit, Michigan

An extra measure of celebration

Everyone sang Auld Lang Syne in honour of the wedding of Michéal and Magalie at the celebrations in the Community Centre, Castletown, Co Laois.
A good weekend is always guaranteed at the May bank holiday festival in Castletown, Co Laois, with excellent organisation, the best ceili bands, dancers from around the world and perfect weather. This year an extra measure of celebration was expected because the weekend was starting off with a marriage - Micheál Lalor, dancer, organiser, MC and bachelor farmer, was getting married to a set dancer from France, Magalie Bouillet. The result was the best Castletown weekend yet!

I left at an early hour on Friday afternoon to avoid the bank holiday traffic and learned on arrival that the wedding ceremony was still taking place! I rushed over with camera to find myself the sole paparazzo waiting on the pavement for the bride and groom to emerge. I was soon invited into the church where there was a small crowd of Irish and French relatives and a few early arrivals for the dancing, but I still didn't see the happy couple because they were away signing the register. When they emerged I felt right at home with all the other paparazzi bursting flashbulbs at the beaming newlyweds and their happy families. They were soon driven off to a garden for more photos and for a celebratory meal.

Two of the groom's nieces joined in the dancing in Castletown. Later there was some discussion about when the dancing would begin that night. Set Dancing News reported 8pm, invitations said 8.30, and the printed weekend programme showed 9. By about half past nine a good crowd had appeared in the Community Centre but there were still no organisers to start the show. Fortunately Michael Sexton and band took it upon themselves to begin and the eager dancers took to the floor. Then while we were getting ready for the third set, all attention was drawn to the door as Micheál and Magalie finally arrived. The band started playing a rousing Congratulations sung by Dave Culligan and there was a lot of handshaking, hugs and kisses. The newlyweds led a waltz and the rest of the room joined in too.

The hall was decorated in pink and white bunting and balloons - even the basketball hoops were in disguise - and the crowd of well-dressed well-wishers comfortably filled the room. Dancing continued all evening with three bands in succession, and each of them played a waltz in honour of Micheál and Magalie. The organisers had wisely provided two stages so that the next band could be set up and ready to go as soon as the other band finished, minimising waiting and maximising dancing. A local rock and roll band followed Michael Sexton for an hour, and then Matt Cunningham was ready to go. We stopped dancing briefly for a demonstration by three brightly dressed girls from a local step dancing school - the leader of the school was responsible for teaching Micheál to dance and she was thanked with a kiss from him. Magalie had a special moment when she tossed her bouquet to a group of single women to decide which of them will be the next to get married. One particularly keen lady caught it and is hoping for a wedding at next year's festival.

This twelve-year-old lad impressed everyone with his mature handling of the banjo when he played in a break. Saturday's workshop came around all too quickly after the late night, especially for those attending the session in the Pastoral Centre where many of the participants stayed. The organisers take great care with the floor in the Community Centre, washing, sweeping and hoovering it, and among those out cleaning the floor bright and early was Micheál himself - the show must go on, even after the wedding night. Around twelve sets joined Pat Murphy for a pleasant day of workshops, which included the Bruca Set, Aherlow Set and the Set of Erin. Esker Riada, playing as strongly as ever, gave us a great ceili on Saturday night. Cleverly, there was tea, sandwiches and cake during the ceili, and the band took a half hour break, but the dancing never stopped at all! Tea was available for an hour in a side room, and local musicians took over from Esker Riada for a couple of sets, so I never stopped dancing. I'd rather dance than eat, but most dancers took a break and had a good fill. Luckily the leftovers ended up in the Pastoral Centre so I managed a snack when the dancing was done.

After two late nights and some beautiful summery days, only the hardiest of dancers made it to Sunday morning's workshop - even so there were about eight sets learning the Loughgraney Set. The afternoon ceili was slightly delayed after the Emerald Ceili Band's long journey to Castletown, which was hardly noticed at all by those enjoying a singing session in the Pastoral Centre. The organisers had another bright idea this weekend - they placed their outdoor dance floor just outside the back door to the hall. We could either dance in the sun and fresh air, or in the shade with hundreds of overheated dancers. The Emerald and the huge crowd were both electric and everyone enjoyed the afternoon, which climaxed with their trademark non-stop Plain Set, including the jig.

No, it's not Spain - it's Co Laois on May bank holiday Monday at the Half-Door Club festival! The crowd at the Abbey Ceili Band that night was just as big and electric and the dancing was superb. There was some excellent music when the band took a break - one of the local musicians filling in was an twelve-year-old lad and a stunning banjo player. He played a couple of solos to great acclaim. There was another break near the end when the fellow organisers of the Half-Door Club presented Micheál Lalor a hand-made clock as thanks for his many years of service to set dancing. There were also breaks in the dancing during the day when there was a moment of silence for P J Hayes of the Tulla Ceili Band, and another for the mother of Lena Williams of Nenagh. After a highly satisfying day of dancing the crowd didn't want to go home so the late night session was huge. Unfortunately all the tea leftovers had been consumed when I went looking for them!

Pat Murphy's last workshop on the bank holiday Monday included the Souri Set from Canada - a pleasant change of style and music. After that huge numbers of dancers converged on the village of Coolrain where the outdoor dance floor was set up beside Sheeran's Pub. The Glenside Ceili Band is the perfect band for an open air ceili. The large crowd filled the floor to capacity and overflow sets were dancing on the road and gravel. It was my fourth time dancing here and every year the weather has been warm, dry and sunny. I heard it was the same in the previous years as well. The weekend was a brilliant send off for a newly married couple which left the rest of us feeling great too.

Congratulations Magalie and Micheál!

Bill Lynch

Brother Hermes O'Connor, a De La Salle brother living in Castletown, makes a video recording each year at the Half-Door Club's May bank holiday festival. His videos of this year and previous years are available at £5 (European TV only - not for North America). Contact Brother Hermes on 0502 32359, or write to him at De La Salle, Castletown, Portlaoise, Co Laois.

Medication for set dancers

Patrick O'Dea dispensing his set dancing medication at a workshop in Stow, Ohio. Photo by Lenette Taylor.
We have the set dancer's disease at our house in Ohio. Symptoms include a aching to be with others on a dance floor, a hunger for lively Irish music, a fever to have the entire body moving with the rhythms of the music. The affliction often includes a craving to attend workshops to learn more about the root cause(s) of the disease.

In early April, dancers were treated by 'Doctor' Patrick O'Dea as he traveled to northeast Ohio. Workshops were held at St Clarence Church in west Cleveland and in our home in Stow. (To help fight the disease, we built a dance floor in our basement which will accommodate four or five sets of patients.)

Dancers from several afflicted communities traveled to the hospital and were treated with doses of the Clare Orange and Green. Though quite therapeutic, it was apparent a complete cure for the disease was not delivered by Doctor O'Dea. Patients fortunately will have an opportunity to attend group sessions and use the medicine left by Doctor O'Dea.

The disease is apparently quite contagious but is most certainly not life-threatening. Doctor O'Dea made a similar housecall in Ohio last spring to treat the malady. He then presented doses of Armagh Lancers, Waterford Jig, Clare Lancers and Balliniscarty Half. Patients were heard joyfully extolling the treatment. Plans were made to attend the next local group session. Hopefully the set dancer's disease will continue to spread!

Larry and Lenette Taylor, Stow, Ohio

Fleadh España in Ibiza

No, it's not Ireland, it's Ibiza! These are a few of the lucky refugees from a cooler and cloudier island. Thanks to Joan Pollard Carew for the photo.
Hundreds of dancers from all over the world descended on San Antonio in the western Mediterranean to awake it from its winter slumber. The charming accommodation and hospitality of the Seaview Country Club, our base for the week, made this dancing holiday a real gem.

The Glenside Ceili Band, the Dave Family Band and Seamus Shannon and P J Murrihy all travelled over with the Irish crew. These three very talented bands kept us on our toes morning, noon and night and in some instances almost the round of the clock.

The holiday kicked off with the Davey Family playing for an informal ceili on Sunday night. Some of our Manchester and London friends were late in arriving but the rest of the party tapped out every set on the tiled floor.

Afternoons were busy with workshops by Frank and Bobbie Keenan who tutored us on numerous sets, including the Monaghan and Williamstown. Mickey Kelly, the gentle giant from County Mayo, taught us the wonderful Bruca set and some two-hand dances including the Pride of Erin Waltz. Mr Thurles Man himself, Michael Loughnane, also tutored the group on the Aherlow set.

A unique experience indeed by the poolside as we danced and tanned, in bikini and sarong in the glorious twenty degrees plus on this small but beautiful island of the Balearics.

In the late evening sun as temperatures began to drop we all made haste to shower and change for dinner. All meals were buffet style with a fantastic selection of hot and cold dishes to appeal to even the most discerning appetite.

The Glenside Ceili Band and the Davey Family Ceili Band played sets every night. Frank Keenan did a tremendous job as master of ceremonies ably assisted by Mick Doyle from Galmoy, Mayo's Mickey Kelly and Michael Loughnane all the way from Thurles.

Some of the Kerry sets proved to be a bit demanding on the memory for the author of this piece and her companions, Dave and Win. The question of the square in the South Kerry gave way to a difference of opinion, but in the end we all had a great laugh, surely the most important ingredient in any holiday.

Late afternoons and late nights were a real treat with Seamus Shannon and P J Murrihy, sometimes accompanied by T J on fiddle. They played quickstep, tango, waltz and even the jive, rock and roll and the twist. Seamus, I believe you could make that squeezebox of yours talk.

Some people knew when to retire but others more energetic boogied into the following day in the disco hall.

We didn't have Riverdance but we did have music in the pool when T J rowed out an airbed and serenaded us all with his fiddle playing as he paddled his legs in perfect time in a pre-dinner show.

Irish culture featured strongly during the week as one could hear the culpa focal as Gaeilge almost every day and of course we were all enthralled by Mick and Kay Doyle and friend from Galmoy as they danced the Slate Quarry Lancers Set, all rigged out in period costume, caipín and all.

Our holiday group aptly name Enjoy Travel ensured we did enjoy every minute of the holiday as their representatives and guides were always on hand to help and advise us.

With various trips available to us it would be impossible if not remiss of us not to visit other parts of this beautiful Mediterranean coastline, such as the caves of St Miguel or walk the cobbled streets and do some shopping, or cruise across to the breathtaking Formentera sister island of Ibiza, with its picturesque beauty spots and long sandy beaches.

The grand finale was on Saturday night with the fancy dress and waltzing competition. Congratulations to my old friends Michael and Delores Murphy for winning the waltzing competition - well deserved, as we all enjoyed watching you all week with your graceful dancing.

I was delighted to be re-acquainted with friends Eileen and Sean, Elizabeth, Bernard, Pat, Kate and Dave and privileged to meet new friends Peter, Tony, Keith, James and Nancy. Bournemouth, Worthing, Manchester, London, Long Island and Ireland, you were well represented by your friendly and talented ambassadors.

The mantra of all who went on this trip is - sun, sand, sea, sets, Ibiza here we come 2002.

Joan Pollard Carew, Thurles, Co Tipperary

Joe lives on in local set

Gerard Kennedy with the late Joe Lynch of Valentia Island. Joe will be remembered for his help in reviving the Valentia Right and Left Set, which is often danced at the regular Sunday night ceilis at Gerard's Bridge Bar in Portmagee. Photo by Beryl Stracey.

I came into the bar looking forward to a night's set dancing. Somebody told me, "Joe Lynch the dancer is dead!"

Joe was 87 years old. He died peacefully in bed in his own home on Valentia Island on Sunday 18th March.

Joe was very much loved and respected in Valentia and Portmagee but he meant something very special to all who were interested in music and dancing.

Joe was born in Tennis, Valentia Island, Kerry, in 1914. Like all the old dancers he learned the set in the home. It was John Shea who taught him the Valentia Right and Left in the house of Denis O'Neill. The Right and Left would always be danced in the hall on the island every Sunday night and Joe said it was last danced during the war years then for some reason it faded out.

In 1989 Joe gave the set to Larry Lynch who published it in his wonderful book, Set Dances of Ireland. Larry would bring a crowd of dancers to the area most years and he would always meet up with Joe.

In 1992 Muiris O'Brien, with Joe's help, revived the set at the Portmagee dance workshop. Since then it is danced regularly in south Kerry and beyond. A great treat for me was to dance across from Joe. And he was very particular about how we danced his set. I can see Joe in suit, gansey and cap, cool as a breeze, a long finger pointing the way in the cross over!

It was a cold March day when we assembled in Chapeltown Church to say goodbye to Joe. Bernie Moran played lovely slow airs on the accordion and struck up a Kerry polka as we left the church. We stood outside talking of Joe. How he had been active and interested up until recently. Someone had seen him at a football match and I remembered him calling us over to the car at the Valentia Regatta. Annie Lynch said only recently he was talking about the style of the old dancers.

Joe, you gave us the Valentia Right and Left and much much more. You will live on as long as we dance sets in South Kerry.

Beryl Stracey, Portmagee, Co Kerry

An Easter dancing journey

Your editor is forever making pilgrimages around Ireland to dance sets. Around Easter he made a grand tour to several places he's never danced before. He hopes you'll enjoy the following record of his experiences.

Fun at the Wednesday night ceili at the Grand Hotel, Killarney. 11 April 2001, Killarney, Co Kerry

I've heard occasional reports of wild dancing on Wednesday nights in the Grand Hotel in Killarney so was glad to finally check it out for myself. When I arrived just before ten o'clock there were two bouncers guarding the door - the first time I've seen this at a ceili. I asked them where to go and was directed into a long, crowded bar full of American tourists. At the back a band had set up instruments and nearby sat Johnny Reidy, so I waited and wondered how we'd fit a ceili into this small space and big crowd. I then noticed that people were going through doors at the back and spotted the reassuringly familiar sight of a woman at a table collecting admissions. I paid my pound and went through to the little hall. My shoes were quite attracted to the clean, comfortable floor and tried it out several times before the dancing began.

Johnny Reidy and his band (box, banjo and piano) probably play the fastest music in Munster and perhaps the whole of Ireland. They began with the Cashel Set, which when played at Kerry speed is an entirely different experience - I was exhilarated! The crowd was small at first, but eventually the floor filled with six or seven sets and all the space around was crammed with spectators. We danced two or three reel sets, played at a steadier pace suitable even for Clare dancers, and in between there were a few waltzes sung by the keyboard player. The regulars here were loyal to Johnny and very proud of his music, and rightly so.

There was a break in the dancing when a solo dancer did a bit of Michael Flatley for the appreciative crowd. The last set was a high-speed Sliabh Luachra and as soon as it finished Johnny immediately changed to a rake of reels for the Connemara. Then suddenly at the stroke of midnight, he stopped playing, the lights went out and with a few words from a DJ a disco took over the hall. No chance to cool down and chat after all the exciting dancing and even collecting together my belongings was difficult in the dark. The bar outside was even more crowded now with a rock band playing so I made my escape.

The resident pig at the Rambling House takes some cake from Michael Fleming. 13 April 2001, Boherbue, Co Cork

Set Dancing News was blank on Good Friday with no ceilis listed anywhere, but I was fortunate to learn in Killarney that there'd be dancing in the Rambling House. This is a cosy little dance hall converted from an old farmhouse without losing any of its rural character. It's hidden away down a long, potholed lane miles from any neighbours. They have ceilis Wednesday night, and also every Good Friday. The proprietor, Michael Fleming, was on duty in the car park greeting visitors and ensuring we parked in the right places. In the house the early arrivals were seated around the fire and the later ones were scattered around the rest of the room. Tim Joe Riordan provided more fast polkas, though at the slightly more relaxed Sliabh Luachra pace. He was without his lovely wife Anne on keyboard - replacing her was the nearly as lovely Mort Kelleher. They played the best Shoe the Donkey I ever danced! At the tea break everyone crowded into the little kitchen beside the hall. Michael invited the dancers to visit the folk park exhibition in the farm buildings around the house, and two of the residents of the folk park, a dog and huge black pig, were invited into the hall to meet everyone. The pig came in for a big piece of fruit cake and then left. Everyone else, including visitors from far and wide, stayed to the end and had a brilliant night.

14 April 2001, Enniscrone, Co Sligo

I drove into Enniscrone, a lovely little sea resort, and was amazed by the huge number of cars parked in the street. It would be a night to remember if they were all at the ceili but it was Holy Saturday and everyone was at Mass. There's a ceili here every year on this day. A small crowd in the hotel ballroom waited patiently for Mass to end so the music could begin - the church is next door and music might cause a disturbance. When the all-clear was given Matt Cunningham started playing for three sets while more dancers rambled in from Mass and further afield throughout the night, some even coming from the North and Dublin. The spacious long ballroom had a well-kept floor, which together with the great music made for a delightful night of dancing. During a waltz I spotted an elderly man on the floor, and he later told me he'd been dancing for seventy years. I thought he must have started nearly in infancy, but he proudly revealed he was a very youthful 91.

15 April 2001, Rathallen, Co Roscommon

My first time at the Four Provinces, but it's a place I've heard spoken of many times. Mort Kelleher was kind enough to remind me of today's ceili when I saw him in the Rambling House. He was here to play with his wife and five offspring. The Four Ps is a large pub in a quiet location on a crossroads south of Boyle. The hall is a perfect place for a pleasant Sunday afternoon ceili, with bright windows, a high ceiling and plenty of seating. You don't have to go far for a drink as there's a bar on each side of the room. The floor holds around eight sets, and boards were laid on carpet to accommodate two more.

Mort and family brought their fast Cork polkas up north to an appreciative crowd who danced with energy and enjoyment. The band was more like an orchestra with three fiddles and often three accordions playing together, and they even played a classical piece for the waltz. The highlight of the afternoon came when we watched a couple of exciting figures of the Roscommon Lancers danced by the All-Ireland winning Elphin Set Dancers, who are competing again after two year's break.

There was a revelation when we were dancing the Corofin Plain. Suddenly all around me in the body of the final polka figure everyone in the room started shouting together. It was the elusive 'polka shout' I heard quietly at ceilis down in Cork, which I once described as "rare and beautiful". Today it burst out of everyone, including myself for the first time, and we were shouting it at the top of our voices. That made the ceili for me.

Seamus Butler organises these ceilis for charity every month, except summer, and he told me this was his 114th. Over the years he has raised many thousands of pounds. With a fine location, great music and eager crowd he'll surely continue for many years to come.

The Sixteen-hand Reel danced at Sonna Hall, Co Westmeath. 15 April 2001, Sonna, Co Westmeath

I thought my Easter Sunday dancing would end at the Four Provinces, but I was lucky enough to learn of a dance tonight in Sonna Hall. I drove straight there determined not to get lost this time as I did on my first visit last year. I got there at ten o'clock without a hitch and was the first customer in the door. You can find it on the road between Mullingar and Ballynacarrigy (R393) - it jumped out at me because it was all lit up tonight.

Everyone was in a relaxed, festive dancing mood. Even the parish priest was in attendance, not dancing, but passing out chocolate Easter eggs. Carousel is the local three-piece band led by Davy Joe Fallon on box and they played lovely, lively music. Waltzes were sung by both Kathleen Cahill on piano and Johnny Corrigan the drummer. We danced some of the usual sets, plus a High Cauled Cap, and then three sets did the Sixteen-hand Reel, my first time seeing it danced in Ireland. I danced it often in London, though tonight I was caught without a partner so watched from the sidelines. There was more polka shouting in the last figure of the Corofin - shouting is generally strong out this way and very much adds to the pleasure of dancing.

19 April 2001, Bohernabreena, Dublin 24

I may have found Sonna Hall last Sunday without getting lost, but on the way to my first visit to St Anne's GAA Club I took several wrong turns. I happened across another GAA club in the same vicinity - they were very helpful and gave me directions, but once in St Anne's I got the distinct impression that the two clubs were deadly rivals. Getting lost isn't so bad - I saw some parts of the world I would have missed otherwise and now the correct way there is permanently imprinted on my brain. At least I hope so!

There's popular monthly dancing in St Anne's, but tonight's ceili was a special annual event for a Belarus charity. Three visitors from Belarus were warmly welcomed, and over £500 was raised which was to be used to purchase washing machines for an orphanage. Sean Norman supplied superb music, sounding better than ever thanks to the good acoustics in the comfortable hall. The dancing was lively, just as I like it - Sean's reels were probably a tad faster than even Johnny Reidy's heard in Killarney.

The high gates of the Portmagee Mezerts led to amusement in St Michael's, Dublin. 20 April 2001, Glasnevin, Dublin 9

No getting lost tonight - I arrived at St Michael's School Hall in good time for the ceili. I told one partner it was my first time here and she asked if I'd made a wish. Apparently whenever I'm in some place I've never been before I get to make a wish. If only I'd known that sooner I'd have had plenty of wishes this month!

They dance at St Michael's every month and tonight there was a good lively dancing to Carousel, who played marvellous reels and an unusual collection of polkas. We did the Portmagee Mezerks, quite a rare set to dance at a ceili, called by Mary Murphy. While I'd danced it before, I don't think I ever had as much fun at it as I did tonight.

There was a surprise in a figure in the last set when my partner went away while the sides were dancing and came back with an apple in her mouth. She munched away at it when we resumed the set and I did my best to lead round, house, double, etc, with an apple in the way. I had a sneaking suspicion that she wasn't devoting her full concentration to dancing.

An electric night in Dunderry with the Glenside Ceili Band. 21 April 2001, Dunderry, Co Meath

It was my first time to the monthly ceili in Dunderry, and I came straight to the hall once I arrived in the village. I did have a bit of bother finding the right road to take from Trim, the next town, because there were no signs for Dunderry to be seen. I suspected the villagers must have removed them all to try to keep the ceili-goers out.

The crowd was small when the Glenside Ceili Band began to play, so it seemed as if the signpost tactic had worked well, but people found their way in continuously during the first half of the ceili and the hall filled with twenty sets. I was pleased to see a large number of youngsters taking part and they appeared to have a positive influence on everyone as even the older folks behaved like kids. Everyone enjoyed themselves to the maximum, especially after the tea break when the atmosphere suddenly went electric. I happened to be dancing with one of the tea ladies then and had to ask what they'd put in the tea to cause such excitement. It was one of the most vocal crowds I've seen with the whole room doing the 'polka shout' together in the last figure of the Corofin, and shouting at every other opportunity as well. A memorable night - a large part of the credit was due to the Glenside and their superb music.

Durrow Hall, Co Offaly, on a Sunday afternoon in April. 21 April 2001, Durrow, Co Offaly

A beautiful afternoon and a lovely spot for a ceili on the road from Kinnegad to Tullamore. Durrow Hall is a former National School standing between the church and cemetery. More music by Carousel and eight or ten sets out for a good time in the cosy hall. There was great fun on the floor - I observed all sorts of creative and entertaining variations in the sets, especially the Lancers. At one point there were four ladies and five gents dancing together as if it was perfectly normal to do so. Occasionally a couple from one set would join another set to house or lead around and return to place just at the right moment. I get the impression that as far as dancing is concerned, they're mad in the Midlands, and I feel right at home with them.

The hall is lit by several tall sash windows and during the Connemara Set I was distracted by the view outside - a shining rainbow had appeared beside the church which I watched throughout the set. It's not often that you can dance in sight of a rainbow!

Bill Lynch

A tip from your editor: Set Dancing News doesn't have it all - when travelling ask locals where to go dancing and check local papers.

A successful year in Los Angeles

The 2001 St Patrick's Day parade on the streets of downtown Los Angeles. Photo by Michael Breen.

In July 2000 I founded Los Angeles Irish Set Dancers and within one week we received a call inviting us to perform for delegates to the Democratic National Convention including elected officials and members of the Kennedy family. In July 2001 members of the group will travel to Ireland to attend the Willie Clancy Summer School in Miltown Malbay and a special welcome ceili in Derradda, County Mayo. We are delighted to be celebrating our first anniversary at the festival and I am especially excited about our group dancing the Derradda Set in my home place, the village of Derradda. We've come a long way in just one year and have had a lot of fun.

In the late 70s my mother Cecily Breen and other members of the local community started ceilis in the old Derradda school house and brought in the older generation to revive the Derradda Set. It was a lot of fun and the ceilis continue to this day. My mother receives letters from all over the world from visitors saying that the Derradda ceili was the highlight of their trip to Ireland.

When I moved to southern California in 1989 I met and joined up with a ceili dance group, mostly to make friends. There was no set dancing in LA at that time. Quite a few people knew I did set dancing back home and were always asking me to start up a group. They wanted to enjoy Irish dance as a social activity, without the competition aspect of ceili dancing here in LA. In February 2000 I attended a concert by the Chieftains and they had four people perform a half-set. It was refreshing to see it, as we had been bombarded with Riverdance - style performances over the years. That night I decided to start a set dancing group.

In the following months I found a location to hold our classes and did a lot of advertising for a start date of July 10th. I had been out of set dancing for over ten years so had a lot of study and refreshing to do! In June I attended a workshop by Patrick O'Dea in Redlands. I heard about the Willie Clancy week and realized I would be in Ireland when it was on. I had a fantastic time! I vowed I would attend it every year from then on and thought about how wonderful it would be to have a group come from Los Angeles. Little did I know I would have a group of my own dancers back with me this year.

Our regular Los Angeles Ceili has proved a great success, due mainly to the support and wonderful music of the Ceili House Band. I try to run our ceilis based on the Derradda ceilis. I begin with a one-hour set-dancing workshop and then call the set and ceili dances to live music. There is usually a 'step about' for the many talented step dancers in attendance and occasional performances by visiting musicians and singers. And like any good Irish ceili there is a cup of tea and delicious treats, generously donated by the group's culinary experts! We are currently reviving the Los Angeles Set that was danced at ceilis here many years ago. It is said to have been first danced around the time of the First World War and has not been danced regularly since the late 1950s. We are working with some of the older generation who actually danced the set. The Los Angeles Irish Set Dancers 'premiered' one figure of the LA Set on St Patrick's Day night.

It has been an exciting year. We have an enthusiastic fun group and are delighted with what we have accomplished in such a short time. We are proud to be promoting Irish culture and especially Irish set dancing in southern California. I would like to thank my family and friends in Ireland and the US for their encouragement and support, especially Bill Lynch, Patrick O'Dea, Margaret Joyce and Mary Hughes in Mayo, Anna Cahill and Rose Hickey in Cork, and most of all the wonderful members of the Los Angeles Irish Set Dancers.

Michael Breen, Los Angeles, California

Glandore Set Dancers

Everything from a goat to the bathroom sink was auctioned in Glandore. Photo by Janet Robertson.

In this very beautiful village in west Cork, set dancing is very much alive. Twice a week people meet to dance a wide variety of sets and have a fun social evening.

A few years ago, we decided to sponsor one charity and chose Marymount Hospice. Every month we hold a raffle for scratch cards and the profit goes into an account which is closed at the end of March and we start all over again.

In February we held a coffee morning and 'auction'. Small stalls were set up and coffee is served all day. About 1pm an 'auctioneer' arrived and it all started. Wonderful bargains could be bought, from wine to woollies. The oddest item this year was a goat who wasn't too happy about being inside the Glandore Inn and put under the hammer - nevertheless he made £50. The total for the day was £1,983.

The following week we had a ceili and music was supplied by the brilliant North Cregg. A 'scattering' seisún was held in the bar the next day for those who had the stamina to keep going and sweet music was played by North Cregg and visiting musicians from far and wide. Another £200 was added to the funds.

St Patrick's day was another good excuse to dance and party. A guest appearance from 'St Patrick' who this year was accompanied by a very lively donkey but unfortunately had a kidney infection on the night, hence a few pools of water on the floor. [A donkey costume was made for the occasion and the couple inside were armed with a squeeze - bottle of water.]

A group of 'elderly' citizens from Connemara called in to dance their local set. However it was so hot that they had to remove sweaters, wellies, shawls, etc, and revealed that they weren't so elderly or infirm as we first thought. The Marymount Hospice fund swelled again. After this event we sent away a total of £2,700.

Long may the dancing continue, under the guidance of Gretta and Oliver McNulty. Our thanks also to Kieran O'Donoghue for the support and use of the Glandore Inn. I have enjoyed many happy hours dancing and made many very special friends. Thanks.

Janet Robertson, Ballydehob, Co Cork

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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