last updated 19 May 2006
Set Dancing News home page: www.setdancingnews.net

Set Dancing News

Old news and reviews - Volume 32

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

Letters and emails

California dancing

Dear Bill,

Thanks to Set Dancing News I had a great holiday in Los Angeles and San Francisco. In LA on the Sunday night I met some great people at Moose Lodge, 1901 West Burbank Boulevard, Burbank. They made me very welcome and invited me to join the music session on my accordion. On the Monday I met the set dancers and had a great night learning new dances. I was invited to a wedding reception where the set dancers were doing the straw boys. They managed to get me a hat to join them. My thanks to all these lovely people, especially Michael Breen, the set teacher who made the LA stop special. Then on to the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe to San Francisco to find some more set dancing at the Plough and Stars Pub, 116 Clement Street at Second Avenue. Had a great night dancing and new friends made. Thanks to all concerned. They made my trip a trip never to be forgotten.

Again thanks to Set Dancing News.

From,

Brendan Collis, Wolverhampton, England

Australians visit Manchester

Dear Bill,

A few weeks ago we received a call from a delightful young couple, Kirsty and Richard Greenwood from Melbourne, Australia, who were visiting relatives in Clayton-Le-Moor, Lancashire. Kirsty and Richard found our number in the Set Dancing News and were enquiring about set dancing classes in the area. Consequently we had the pleasure of their company for two nights at the Sean Dempsey Set Dance Club in Manchester. They said they very much enjoyed their time with us and we thoroughly enjoyed having them and hope they will join us again in the future.

Thanks for the wonderful service you give us through the Set Dancing News.

Jo and Colman Murtagh, Manchester, England

That element called style

Dear Mr Editor,

Sincere thanks are due to Mr Fitzpatrick for opening a debate and to your other correspondents for taking up the running - eventually. Let's hope the debate develops into a broad and sensible assessment of set dancing today.

Of course we all agree about the need for and the absence of variety in ceili programmes. I cannot personally comment on the programmes or agendas of the Willie Clancy Summer School since I have not been a pupil nor a patron there for some time. I will readily accept that the Miltown phenomenon has been a potent force for good in the set dancing world up to about 1990. Once the driving force became nakedly commercial and tourism-driven, the result, at least from the point of view of set dancing style, became markedly negative and downhill. Quality was sacrificed to quantity and the notion of being able to become a set dancer in a week took firm root. Having been to "Willie Week" became a sort of accreditation, a sort of "driver's licence" and "graduates" in their tens of thousands have since arrived in classes all over the world. There are very many teachers who would verify that these in many cases made less than ideal pupils and made less than ideal progress thereafter.

Your correspondents very rightly bemoan the narrow core of sets being danced. In the normal course of events this should result in the core sets being danced remarkably well. Unfortunately in my opinion this is not so. The general standard of dancing seems to me to be nowhere near what one might reasonably expect considering the vast amount of time, energy, effort, not to mention finance, expended on it over the past 25 years in the form of classes, ceilis, workshops and weekends. I would like to see this debated too.

You see, the late, great and much lamented Connie Ryan taught set dancing as well as sets. So too did the great Joe O'Donovan, who is thankfully still with us, though now retired. I personally witnessed the late James Keane struggle from his chair beside me and hobble onto the floor to tell members of a set in front of him to "Stop raising dust." This was at one of the early weekends in Labasheeda. I was privileged to have an extended conversation with James at that time on the subject of dancing style. While he agreed it was great to see people dancing, he was very disappointed with the dancing style he saw that night. Style was seen as important then. It still is today.

Every set has three elements: footwork, figure work and that elusive though crucial element called style. This in my humble opinion is where we have fallen down badly. A whole generation has been sold short. Lets face it - have you ever seen any part of a workshop devoted to set dancing style? And how much is devoted to footwork? In short the tuition part of what is normally advertised as a set dancing workshop frequently boils down to no more than seven or eight hours of figure dancing!

Today the view from the sideline at any set ceili will show up a motley selection of actions and movements which indicate a very mixed ancestry. One has little difficulty in identifying the influence of, for instance, the foxtrot, rock 'n' roll, the Highland, Scotch ballet, Riverdance, disco dance, Gaelic League, Gaelic Football, rugby, "shake o' the ass," etc. Have you seen the cow dance, the dog dance, the ruck, the line-out or the loose maul? Can you identify the turkey step, goose step, crocodile step or the flailing octopus? Yes they are all there, in a hall near you, right now, and of course they shouldn't be. Perhaps you have been too busy to see. Take a break, preferably on the balcony, next chance you get. You might be surprised how many you can identify.

In case you may be tempted to think that I'm joking I hasten to emphasise that I most certainly am not. But in spite of all that I believe all is not lost - at least not yet. While you are on the balcony pan your eyes around camera-like on the dancing in progress. Chances are you will spot some, often older, dancers who catch your eye. These may look as if they are on an energy-saving mission. They seem as if they are almost part of the floor; they gracefully flit through their movements; they glide; they flow; they maintain their full height and upright stance; they have no false starts, late arrivals, over runs or "albatross landings" and they never miss appointments!

You pull your partner's arm and say, "Look at yer man (or yer wan) at tops in the second set - gee he she has a lovely style."

You watch together for a little while. You notice he has an invariably discreet but impeccably timed punctuation to his eight or sixteen-bar routines; his swings are fast and pivotal, balanced, smooth, tight, upright, full-frontal-with a soft or hard landing in precise position. After swings, doubles, homes or houses he is invariably on the correct foot and first away in the next movement.

His doubles are precise and seemingly effortless - close, balanced, upright and accident free, with precision of time and place to start and finish! And all this he achieves without any hint of military style drill.

I could go on but I fear there are too many out there who do not want to know.

I feel very strongly that this lady or gent (or lady and gent) should have a preservation order placed on them and we should then appoint them to the position of Chief Instructor of Set Dancing Style with a remit to concentrate for some time on the urgently needed rescue of set dancing style from imminent oblivion. We could then concentrate on this for some time and forget about figure work for a while. We are already badly overloaded with figures and are suffering from severe indigestion! There is much more to be debated but perhaps I've raised enough of hares for now.

Yours gratefully,

Brian Keyes, Suncroft, Co Kildare

More enjoyment to the band

Dear Bill,

In response to the many letters you have received from Timmy and Fergus and others regarding a lack of variety of sets at ceilis, I must say that I agree whole heartedly with their sentiments.

Speaking as a musician, can I suggest that for dancers, the absence of new sets at ceilis must be similar to the absence of new tunes for musicians - boring! Of course all of this has a double-effect, because new tunes and arrangements from the stage always gets a great reaction from dancers and similarly when a new or less well-known set is danced, it gives more enjoyment to the band involved, resulting in a better atmosphere.

This lack of variety is all the more apparent for me considering I have recorded music for sixty sets, and although all of them have been taught at workshops and classes, my regret is that many of them are never danced at ceilis.

I notice that one form of variety is already in motion and I'm referring to the two-hand and ceili dances, particularly the two-hands. Most set dancers are now dancing two-hands at the ceilis which is fantastic, a lovely break between sets and great fun. I think this is a big plus for the future of our ceilis.

In your last issue, Mr Timmy Woulfe made a very important statement when referring to our set dancing as part of our cultural heritage. I commend all our ceili organizers and teachers for their huge input, and maybe if each area or county agreed on introducing a particular new set twice a year, it might work. Would it? I think so. If organized this way, the dancers going to their regular ceilis would be aware of the new set introduced, would not be taken by surprise, and would learn the set very quickly!

Now when all this is solved, the next item on the agenda is getting more youth involved. I feel this is a far greater problem, harder to resolve, and also exists in England and the USA. However, I must say personally that the whole ceili thing is great. I enjoy them and the fact that variety at ceilis is up for discussion shows a great interest and proves the great progress made in learning sets over the years.

I can tell you that when I started my own band in 1972 there was no variety problem with sets!

I wish set dancers everywhere a happy, healthy and peaceful 2006.

Matt Cunningham, Headford, Co Galway

Lovely, subtle variations

Dear Bill Lynch,

Fergus Fitzpatrick from Belfast bemoans the lack of variety of sets at many festivals and asks for comments on his views as to the future of set dancing. The pleasure of set dancing surely comes from tapping it out in time to good music in any set for which the dancers know the movements for each figure and are able to keep their proper place within the group. If there are any problems with set dancing at the present time, lack of variety is not one of them. In Pat Murphy's two books alone there are no less than 120 different sets. It is most unfair to criticize the musicians when they select a dozen or so sets from that list for the evening's enjoyment. They usually select those sets which they believe to be most popular in the district they are visiting. In some cases they will be given an outline brief from the organisers of the event who will be familiar with the preferred sets in the locality. Moreover, at most functions there is always the opportunity for visitors to make requests for their favourite sets from the floor.

Most of us are aware that many parishes in Ireland had their own favourite sets and danced them repeatedly without any hint of boredom. Many of the outstanding dancers of the past were content to learn four or five sets and danced them so often that they developed such a style that they appeared to dance effortlessly. Remember the story of Paddy King from Co Clare (Set Dancing News, April-May 2005) who danced fourteen Caledonians and nineteen Plain sets in the course of one night and never complained of boredom or lack of variety.

One of the dangers that some of us see affecting the future of good set dancing is that a large number of people are taking part in too many different sets, dancing them all in the same style with the same steps and without observing the traditional niceties that were part of the originals. So many times we see the Connemara Reel Set danced without the correct steps or even to an incorrect routine. Observe the dancers doing the Clare Lancers and see that many fail to double the last two bars in the house around at the end of each figure; or when doing the big Christmas see the men do a star instead of opposites taking handshake hold. Bowing of the head at appropriate places in the sets seems to be forgotten completely by some dancers. If the lovely, subtle variations that distinguish one set from another are not to be lost, then dancing teachers must play a part in helping to keep set dancers on the right track. In addition to the foregoing there is also the situation where dancers jump about in the sets using steps that really belong to the pure ceili dance routines and they do not seem to know there is a difference.

The current craze for very fast music also tends to destroy the style of most sets. A highly respected dancing master, Joe O'Donovan of Cork, always preached the virtue of proper tempo for set dancing and railed against playing the music too fast which meant the dancers were racing through the figures and chasing the music at the expense of the steps and good timing. He maintained that in house dances of long ago the men would keep their jackets and caps on while dancing through the night without using a drop of sweat. They could do this because they took it nice and easy, keeping perfect time to the moderate music. Similarly Dan Furey was of the opinion that many dancers were not using the proper steps for the sets and some musicians did not understand that certain tunes were not suitable for graceful dancing.

Ideally, music for set dancing is never highly ornamented. Good dancing music is not fast, it has an elusive quality that some call "lift" and others call "execution." Such lift transforms an ordinary tune into something you feel you just have to dance to, and this brings about that special link between the musician and the dancers.

Teachers need to know and explain to the learners the finer points of difference between one set and another. They should know whether traditionally the set was danced sedately or with vigour. Learners with step dancing experience will usually become good set dancers because they understand the music, but teachers must explain to them early on the difference in style and footwork between Irish sets, Irish ceili and Irish step dancing. For example, when I was learning to dance, our teacher insisted that when dancing around in our home ground each couple should use up no more space than if they were dancing on a dustbin lid!

Most good dancers would agree that the traditional sets are worth preserving and should be passed on to the next generation. So the future of set dancing rests equally with the dancers themselves, their teachers and the musicians. Fortunately there are now a number of good videos available showing many sets danced correctly. Serious dancing teachers and their dancers will no doubt enjoy dancing them in the way they should be danced.

Gearoid MacDomhnaill, Wellington, Shropshire, England

Grace's thank you note

Dear Bill,

We wish to sincerely thank both individuals and clubs in the set dancing scene from all over Ireland and beyond for their cards and beautiful gifts to us on the birth of our daughter.

It would be impossible to thank everyone individually so hence we herein acknowledge our appreciation.

She is now over three months old and is doing great.

Anne and Tim Joe O'Riordan, Clondrohid, Macroom, Co Cork

Sameness is deadening

Dear Bill,

I have followed with interest the correspondence regarding the lack of variety in set dances commonly danced at ceilis. The general consensus would seem to be that, A, this is a problem, and B, the solution to this problem lies in the introduction of new sets to the mix. In my opinion neither of these views is valid. First, let us take the perceived need for variety and innovation. The imperative toward originality and innovation in mainstream art is very much a modern trend. Most contemporary artists are terrified of not being original to the extreme extent that they will not produce anything unless originality can be guaranteed. On the other hand, whether the result is good or bad seems of much lesser importance.

With traditional art, and both set dancing and Irish traditional music are traditional arts, change is evolutionary and organic and is not a burning necessity. It happens over time in a natural way. Many traditional musicians, singers and dancers pass on the tradition to the next generation in very much the same state that they themselves received it, with perhaps minor modifications due to the imposition of their own personal style on the performance and perhaps also some small input in terms of zeitgeist. If we look at set dancing in its natural rural milieu, we can see that the issues that seem to be exercising the readers of Set Dancing News are not relevant at all. In Sliabh Luachra for instance, a night's dancing may consist of the local polka set danced through twice, maybe even three times, together with the local jig set (the Jenny Ling) danced once, plus a few old-time waltzes and a song, and that's it. This performance will be repeated week after week, by the same musicians and the same dancers without any talk of boredom or the need for novelty. This model repeats itself in the case of the Caledonian set in County Clare, or the West Kerry set in Corcha Dhuibhne, and so on.

Having seen that the issue of variety and change is not a major concern in traditional rural set dancing, we are faced with the reality that the perceived need for innovation is very much a phenomenon of the set dancing revival. The reason is quite clear: set dancers participating in the revival are driven by the same considerations that condition the tastes and artistic behaviour of modern urban society in the realms of popular music and dance, cinema and the visual arts and fashion - a relentless, self-conscious and insatiable need for new stimulation and change. Unfortunately, insatiability is very much the key characteristic of this psychological outlook and as in all other areas of human culture it rapidly becomes a bottomless pit. In the case of the current debate, no sooner would a raft of new sets be introduced to the ceili scene, but they would start to become stale and hackneyed in the minds of dancers and within a few months there would be renewed outcry demanding yet newer sets. I would find it hard to see any benefit to set dancing or indeed any long term future in travelling that particular road. It is interesting to note that a similar parallel debate has been taking place for quite some time, in the closely allied world of Irish traditional music, between traditionalists and innovators.

Having argued against the idea that set dancing can be spiced up by the addition of rediscovered sets or the latest offerings from the dancing masters' workshops, I feel that there is an aspect set dancing where variety could be introduced with real benefit. Sameness is a deadening characteristic of both the music and dancing at many ceilis. Anyone who has had the pleasure of dancing the West Kerry set to the playing of Pádraig Ó Sé or Breandán Begley, or Connemara sets to the playing of Johnny Phádraig Pheter Ó Conghaile or P J Hernon, or the Caledonian to the playing of the Four Courts Ceili Band, or the Slieve Luachra Set to the playing of the late Johnny O'Leary, in their native places and with local dancers will realise that what passes for these sets at organised ceilis is often a travesty.

The same homogenisation is also plainly evident among the dancers. The vast majority of ceili going dancers dance every set with the same style of footwork and movement. One size fits all. This is not intended as criticism of dancers. In most cases the average ceili dancer is unaware of the history, background and development of sets in the local areas where these sets evolved or of the different dialectical variations in the dance styles or the music that accompanies them. It is not their fault that they see the repertoire of set dances merely as different sequences of movements around the set with no underlying cultural or geographic context.

A huge improvement in this state of affairs could be achieved if the organisers of ceilis were to theme their events. For instance, a Clare sets or a Cork-Kerry evening, with bands selected to provide the relevant authentic music and a lead-in to the event in the form of tuition in the dancing of the sets in the traditional style and perhaps some insight into the music and history of the area, with perhaps even an outing. Such an approach would certainly add interest and variety to the dancing of sets at organised ceilis in a way that the addition of meaningless and out of context new sets never will, and could also foster a productive relationship between the local owners of the sets and the enthusiasts who dance them in places outside their native habitat. Professor Brian Ó Cuív, when discussing the future of Irish language dialects, suggested that a pragmatic solution to the maintenance of local dialects in spoken Irish might be for the major regional cities and towns to adopt the dialect of their nearest Gaeltacht. Perhaps a similar initiative in set dancing would ensure the excitement and authenticity that we all want and put an end to the present seven set trick, or any future variation of it, that currently dominates the ceilis.

Muiris DeBuitléir, Glasnevin, Dublin 9

Inside and outside dancers

Bill,

I was asked to teach set dancing during an Irish week [Celtic Adventures for Kids] at the Elms College, Chicopee, Massachusetts, last July to young children ages 7 to 13. Afterwards I took eight of the best dancers and gave them twice weekly sessions in the Connemara and the North Kerry. They danced at four festivals and at the Eastern States Exposition, an annual fair in September. I got the idea from looking at the cover of June-July Set Dancing News.

I teach adults in Springfield, Mass, in the summer time and down here in Naples, Florida, October through April 1st. I found teaching the youngsters was a lot easier than the adults. I came up with a number of teaching methods that work for young and old. The eight girls that I took from the Elms College Irish week did not dance the man's side or woman's side. What I had was an inside dancer (man's) and outside dancer (woman's). They were known as inside and outside, that way you are not asking a young girl to dance the man's side. It's starting to work now with the adults.

I use a two foot by two foot square table to teach the North Kerry body. Each side represents a side of the set. They have to be going in to every side of the table, in, out, turn. Bill, it works for young and old. I designed a method to teach young and old how to swing in a half hour lesson like they did it all their lives.

Bill, here is a picture above of the next generation set dancers. By the way they are flat out good. They have roots from the Blaskets to Galway to Derry, Mayo, etc. Both they and their parents and grandparents would love to see the next generation of set dancers pictured in Set Dancing News. Oh, by the way that gentleman in the glasses behind the set is myself.

Hoping to see you some place, sometime. All the best with your bible to set dancing. Safe travel.

Sincerely,

Jim O'Toole, Naples, Florida

25 photos of the Plain Set

A chara,

Several letters in the December 2005-January 2006 edition of Set Dancing News were of great interest to me. The general complaint is lack of variety in our set dancing. I whole-heartedly support the sentiments expressed and have been complaining about this for some time without any success. Nenagh in Tipperary is the only place where we get some variety. In some places there is no caller, in others we are told that the band will call the sets.

It should be pointed out that the dancers have a say as they are the ones who are paying the price and they should call the tune (dance). Could we have a night's set dancing without any one of the following - the Sliabh Luachra, Plain, Connemara, Caledonian, Cashel Hop, Clare Lancers? Indeed in the present copy of Set Dancing News there are 25 photographs of the Plain Set being danced. For those of us who travel many miles and spend many evenings from one end of the year to the other it's not good enough. It's not just a recipe for boredom - it's a slow death.

Dermot Roche, Harperstown, Taghmon, Co Wexford

An idea to settle this debate

Bill,

I travel to many dancing festivals and ceilis. Like most of my dancing friends I am disappointed with the selection of sets being danced. I have nothing against Clare sets and I love every one of them. I think however that we should have more variety. When I travel to the different counties of Ireland I would love to dance the sets of that area. At most festivals we are privileged to have wonderful dancing masters giving workshops. It is a pity that only occasionally do we dance any of the sets from the workshop during the ceilis of that same festival. These dance masters must feel some frustration.

The Nenagh ceilis and their January festival are some of the few exceptions to this. I was thrilled with the selection of sets danced all over the festival weekend on January 6th, 7th and 8th.

I have an idea that might settle this debate. If the organisers of dancing weekends and festivals put together a questionnaire to their patrons along the lines of, "Are you happy with the selections of sets being danced at our ceilis?" and a reasonable space for any comments. Perhaps you might take up the challenge of publishing a questionnaire in your magazine also. I believe it behoves the festival organisers to conduct this survey.

Just my thoughts, Bill.

Many thanks,

Joan Pollard Carew, Thurles, Co Tipperary

Anyone making such a questionnaire would be most welcome to share the results with readers of Set Dancing News.

Malahide's double donation

Bill,

The Slievenamon Committee would like to thank everyone who supported the workshop in Malahide. Once again it was a great success. We have on your behalf donated €2800 to Our Lady's Hospice, Harold's Cross, Dublin 6, and €2800 to cancer care and research at St Vincent's University Hospital, Elm Park, Dublin 4. Next year's workshop will be held on 12th, 13th and 14th January 2007.

Thanks,

Ann Grant, Foxrock, Co Dublin


News

Three more tempting new DVDs

There's a recent abundance of dance DVDs, with three new ones this time.

A couple of young teachers, Maldon Meehan from Portland, Oregon, and Ronan Regan from Galway, have produced a new instructional DVD called Dance Sean-Nós. Maldon has been teaching sets and steps for years in the States and is now based in Ireland, while Ronan has recently teamed up with her to teach weekly classes in Limerick and Galway. The new disk is a response to requests by their students for something to help them practice at home, and it does the job very well.

A dozen different steps are all taught in the same way with Maldon and Ronan taking turns. The step is first danced at normal speed, then it's slowly broken down and repeated several times. New pieces are added and practiced until the step is complete, and then it's practiced slowly to music. Finally it's danced once again to music at full speed. All the slow step practice shows Maldon or Ronan from behind and from the knee down so you can clearly see what to do and follow the steps easily. The teaching style is relaxed and effective.

Inishbofin melodeon player Johnny O'Halloran plays the music, and he's so good you won't mind that he repeats the same tune for each step. The presentation is clean and simple, with just the musician and teacher on screen for the demonstrations and two legs in jeans for the practice. It was filmed in Galway at Árus na nGael and there's a final session scene in the Crane Bar, for a total of eighty minutes.

Get in touch with Maldon and Ronan to obtain a copy of the DVD. Samples are available for viewing on the web at www.hoilands.com/seannos.htm.

Benny O'Carroll is a Kerry guitarist whose latest recording, Dance it Yourself, is an ambitious double-disk package with a CD and DVD. Fourteen tracks of traditional music and songs are included on both disks, but there's a bonus on the DVD - 45 minutes of dance instruction by Timmy McCarthy. In it, he teaches the Ballyvourney Reel Set, the Two-hand Hornpipe, the Ballyvourney Fling, the Peeler and the Goat, Shoe the Donkey and the Doirinn Álain Jig, a circle dance.

The dances are easy and clearly explained by Timmy, but what makes the DVD unusual is that most of the dancers on it are complete beginners. They make the mistakes that all of us made when we were starting out and Timmy handles them without a bother. The DVD makes for entertaining viewing for experienced dancers and will give encouragement to new dancers.

The DVD is nicely presented in wide screen format and features optional audio commentary in five languages. In the English commentary, Timmy provides additional information about the dances and movements, and the others give explanations in French, Italian, Spanish and German.

Look for Dance it Yourself in shops in Ireland or order it from Benny. His website is www.bennyocarroll.com.

The RTÉ television series Come West Along the Road presents fascinating old film and video of traditional music and dance. The series has been on the air since 1994 and has unearthed a wealth of priceless footage. A selection of material was first released on VHS at that time, and now a new DVD is available by the same name.

The DVD plays for nearly 2½ hours and presents 47 different tracks. Most are purely music, but the fraction of them featuring dancing is pure gold. Donncha Ó Muíneacháin, as a young lad in 1972, dances a two-hand slip jig with impeccable skill, pure delight and perfect timing with his partner Celine Hession. Dan O'Connell shows up in one track from 1977 with his dancers from Knocknagree, Co Cork, and gives a mighty, vigorous performance in a figure of the Jenny Ling, revealing that lepping about isn't only for youngsters. Dan Furey dances a few solo steps in 1979 disguised as a wren boy. Also appearing are two tracks of Clare dancers with the Tulla Ceili Band from '63 and '74, a hall full of ceili dancers and performances by step dancers John Cullinane and Peggy Carty.

Come West Along the Road is available in shops in Ireland, from the RTÉ web site and other web sites; search for it in Google.

Strawboys take note

Last year, an Irish web site giving wedding advice, www.weddingsonline.ie, published a request for help from someone wishing to have strawboys attend her wedding in Westmeath. One of the web site's wedding experts answered the query by advising the person to contact the offices of Set Dancing News. Ever since this appeared, your editor receives occasional strawboy requests which are sometimes difficult to answer because there's not a lot of information available on the subject.

To improve the situation, I thought I'd create a directory of strawboys for the Set Dancing News web site. Any strawboy groups willing to perform at weddings are requested to send me their details, including phone number and email address (if any), and eventually I'll list the info on a web page available for all to see. There's no charge; this is a public service to strawboys, prospective newlyweds and myself.

Bill Lynch

Hot St Stephen's ceili in Currow

Monthly ceilis in the Ballygarry House Hotel, Tralee, Co Kerry, will come to end in May. Organiser Mary Philpott has been holding St Stephen's Day ceilis there for ten years, and the monthly series of ceilis has been there for seven years. Now she is hoping to find a new venue in the area to continue the popular ceilis. Meanwhile the dancing continues every month through May - see the listings for dates and bands.

The St Stephen's Day ceili held in the Ballygarry House Hotel has become a traditional feature of the holiday season for set dancers. This year unfortunately the hotel was unavailable and the dancing moved to the community hall down the road in the village of Currow, where there was an added bit of excitement.

In preparing the hall for the ceili, Mary Philpott placed scented candles in the toilets to increase the holiday cheer. During the second set people detected smoke and when the set was finished the hall was evacuated and fire brigade summoned. Dancers moved out into the street where they waited and chatted for about twenty minutes without any sign of panic.

The smoke came from the gents' loo where towels had come in contact with the candle and started smouldering. Fire damage was minimal and there was no danger, but a lot of smoke was created. Once the fire was extinguished and hall cleared of smoke, the dancers returned to the hall and Tim Joe O'Riordan and Mort Kelleher continued like clockwork. The fire brigade arrived during the set and inspected the scene of the blaze without interrupting the dancing.

An eyewitness reported that the atmosphere in the hall was tremendously improved by the excitement, and that it was one of the best ceilis she ever attended. However, this would not be the recommended approach for livening up a ceili!


Sets sought for Oireachtas competition

Oireachtas na Bealtaine is a weekend of competitions based in the Brandon Hotel, Tralee, Co Kerry, 11-14 May 2006. The organisers are seeking sets to enter the set dancing competition on Saturday, 13 May. A prize of €1000 is offered to the winning set. For more information Máirín Nic Dhonnchadha.

Upcoming Hell for Leather shows

Hell for Leather, the show featuring 190 Clare kids dancing sets and battering together, has three performances coming up soon. On Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday, 13 and 15 April, they're appearing in Glór in Ennis, Co Clare. Make bookings soon to be sure of a seat. These dates also see the launch of the newest DVD of the show. On 22 July the troupe make what is billed as their farewell performance in The Helix, Dublin. For further information please contact John Fennell.

Small ads

If you're going to Ibiza in April and have a single room for the first week of the holiday which you wouldn't mind sharing, please contact Rosie Beatty (091 842580) who is looking for a room for her friend.

Cynthia Neale is offering her New Hampshire home for rent for the month of July. It is in a small town within an hour of Boston, mountains and sea and has large room suitable for dancing.


Fleadh Portugal 2005

The second Fleadh in the Algarve on the south coast of Portugal took place from the 6th to the 20th October. In all approximately 1800 patrons enjoyed this wonderful festival. Last year the festival was for one week, but by popular demand organisers Enjoy Travel decided on a two-week festival this year. Hundreds of festival-goers stayed on for the second week with hundreds more joining them. Our base again this year was the magnificent four-star Montechoro Hotel in the popular resort of Albufiera. This prestigious hotel boasts great function rooms. The tenth floor had a wooden floor for set dancing, specially erected for the occasion.

Most holidaymakers arrived on Thursday evening, 6th October. After checking in, showering and changing we had dinner and gathered ourselves for the first ceili of the festival. By the time I arrived on the tenth floor Johnny Reidy was in full swing with approximately forty sets on the floor. As usual Johnny was in fine form and the dancing was mega. The ceili finished at 12.30am and dancers took the express lift or walked down to the ground floor ballroom to dance into the small hours of the morning.

Friday morning with blazing sunshine everyone relaxed by the pool. Most had attended 10am mass on the tenth floor. The morning got underway with Irene and Tom and we all enjoyed dancing waltzes, quicksteps and a few jives. At 12.30pm, as patrons enjoyed glasses of port and orange juice, Gerry Flynn of Enjoy Travel welcomed everyone and briefed us on the programme and the artists for the coming week. When the welcome meeting was over we resumed dancing and P J Murrihy and Seamus Shannon came on stage. This gifted twosome played a set of reels and five sets hastily collected themselves and danced a mighty Connemara Set. This was our first set outdoors in 25 degrees and sunshine. The music and dancing continued by the pool until 6pm when dancers retired to freshen up for dinner.

Set dancers thronged to the tenth floor at 9pm. We were treated to two bands. Heather Breeze was first on stage and Mickey Kelly was in fine form as MC. At 11pm the Glenside took the stage and dancing continued. The beautiful wooden floor echoed the delight of the set dancers. Everyone was in holiday mood, the music was magic and the fifty sets rose to the occasion. Set dancing was interspersed with waltzes and the High-Cauled Cap. Sinéad Bray treated us to her fantastic sean nós dancing. The tone was set for the remainder of the festival.

Saturday morning at 11am just after Mass we had our first set dance workshop by the pool with Frank and Bobby Keenan. We danced the Killyon Set from Co Offaly, a very good set for a beginner's class. We had fifteen sets enjoying it in the glorious sunshine. Frank and Bobby took time to explain steps and moves and as usual showed their expertise and patience with beginners. We danced the set through and finished the session with the Connemara Set. Frank and Bobby announced that they would be delighted to give extra time and tuition during the festival to any dancer who asked them.

The afternoon continued with modern dancing by the pool, music tutorials by the tennis courts, ballroom dance classes in the ballroom and a mega ceili upstairs on the tenth floor. Johnny Reidy was back on stage and Timmy Woulfe was our MC. Twenty sets had left the sunshine behind as we started with the Sliabh Luacra Set. Timmy included my favourite set, the Labasheeda. Numbers grew on the floor and all thoughts of sunshine left our minds as we danced the afternoon away to the magic of the one and only Johnny Reidy Ceili Band.

Saturday night we had Frank Keenan as MC and the first band on stage was the wonderful Mayo band Heather Breeze. We started the ceili with the Kilfenora Set. Frank included in his list of sets the Killyon which he had taught that morning. Sean Bourke, the drummer with Heather Breeze, fulfilled the wishes of Jimmy Kane, the drummer with Johnny Carroll and the Enjoy Travel Band, by letting him take over his drums for three sets. Jimmy always wished to play with a ceili band. Sean set a precedent as Aidan Flood of the Glenside also granted Jimmy his wish and stepped down for a couple of sets and let him take over. The set dancers were charmed. Many of the set dancers had befriended Jimmy, as he was a constant visitor at all the ceilis during the festival.

We had forty sets on the floor to begin with and as the night progressed the numbers grew to 45. The men of Longford, the Glenside Ceili Band, took over for the second half of the ceili and energies seemed to grow as we danced until 1am. Then everyone scattered to pursue his or her own late night entertainment or retire to bed.

Sunday morning the weather took a sudden change and rain spilled on Portuguese soil. Nothing could dampen the enthusiasm of the dancers. The entire programme was changed to indoors. Mass was held at 10am in the ballroom and the set dancing workshop was upstairs on the tenth floor. Mickey Kelly was in his usual great form, full of enthusiasm and raring to get started. Mickey started with the beautiful Southern Rose Waltz and then he moved on to the little gem from Co Mayo called the Shramore Set. There are some similarities with the Derrada set. Mickey told us that he danced this set many years ago at a wedding with the great Connie Ryan. The set had not been danced for about forty years before that. Mickey spoke of his friendship with Connie Ryan and remarked on the debt that we all owed to Connie for reviving set dancing and for instilling in all of us his love of this very important facet of our culture. Lunch eaten and freshened up set dancers converged on the tenth floor again for the afternoon ceili. With the wonderful music of the Glenside on stage and Mickey Kelly as MC the afternoon was a dream. We danced the Castle Set, Caledonian, Plain and of course the Shramore Set. The rain outside threw a mist over Albufeira but the enthusiasm of the dancers continued.

After dinner and relaxing or a spot of ballroom dancing, set dancers once more gathered for the night ceili. We had the magical Johnny Reidy on stage and our MC was Frank Keenan. The ceili started with the Kilfenora Set then the Ballyvourney. Frank invited Timmy Woulfe on stage to call a few sets. Dancers were delighted when he choose the Claddagh and Mazurka sets. Some people had a bit of bother with the gates in the Mazurka's third figure, but as usual Timmy did a brilliant job at calling. We danced an exuberant Sliabh Luacra. Eddie Lee, Johnny's pianist, sang some fantastic songs in quickstep time and everyone stepped it out in style. You could see the pupils of Michael Beehan's ballroom classes dancing with that extra bit of panache. Afterward dancers made their way to Mick Mackey's sessions; a few more hours of singing, music, storytelling and smutty yarns were guaranteed.

Monday morning sunshine was peeping from behind the clouds. Mickey Kelly was back at the helm for the workshop on the Fermanagh Set. It's good to dance sets that have some unusual moves as it keeps dancers thinking. Monday afternoon we were back on the tenth floor for our ceili with Heather Breeze on stage and Mickey as MC. Of course he included the Fermanagh Set and a few two-hand dances. The ceili concluded with thirty sets still in fine fettle dancing a mighty Plain Set.

Monday night at 9pm sharp dancers with bottles of water and shoes shining gathered once again for the night ceili. The Glenside Ceili band was on stage and Frank Keenan was our MC. We started with the Connemara, then the South Galway and West Kerry. Frank invited me on stage to call the Ballyduff Set, my favourite polka set. I first saw this set danced in the Community Hall in Clonoulty by Tom Hyland and his dancers from the Ballyduff area in Co Waterford during the Connie Ryan Gathering in 2003. This set is distinguished by a batter down polka step and a wonderful liveliness to all the figures.

Clouds threatened more showers on Tuesday morning and the area by the pool was wet, so Frank Keenan decided to have the set dancing workshop upstairs on the tenth floor. Twenty sets gathered after Mass. Frank taught the Cuchulainn Set from the Cooley Peninsula of Co Louth. After the workshop Frank invited Syl Bell, Timmy Woulfe and Mick Doyle to join him in demonstrating Clare battering steps. While dancers ate lunch by the pool seisiún musicians Mick Mackey and Sean Gilsenen were joined by Pat Friel from Heather Breeze. This threesome played reels, jigs and some haunting melodies. What a beautiful way to relax at lunchtime before resuming dancing for the afternoon ceili.

Upstairs once more the afternoon ceili got underway with Johnny Reidy providing the electrifying music and Mickey Kelly as MC. We danced a wonderful North Kerry Set and all the usual sets finishing with a Connemara. Mickey got Johnny Reidy to play a selection of quicksteps and waltzes by special request.

I spoke to Johnny after the ceili and asked him about the young lady playing the fiddle in the band. He said Martina O'Neill who usually plays with them could not accompany them to the festival and he introduced me to the lovely young lady who had taken her place, Irene Guckian. This gifted lady and accomplished musician from Co Longford is a member of a traditional group who perform under the name of Crossing the Shannon.

Tuesday night's ceili got underway at 9pm with Heather Breeze on stage. The ceili started with a few waltzes, then as more set dancers arrived we had our usual enthusiastic ceili. We danced the Sweetheart Waltz to the haunting tune of the Spinning Wheel. Then Liam Grealis, the violin player with Heather Breeze, played the Coolin, that beautiful slow air that pulls at your heartstrings and brings tears to your eyes.

We were then entertained for twenty minutes by a group of traditional folk dancers from Albufiera. The group totalled thirty, which included ten children. Their display was colourful and interesting and their dancing was awesome. Dancers resumed set dancing, finishing with the Plain Set, then everyone scattered to the seisiún or late night lounge for Seamus and P J. Wednesday morning the weather was still inclement so all activities were indoors. After Mass Mickey Kelly held his set dancing workshop on the tenth floor. He decided to do the Roscahill Set from Co Galway and then went on to his very popular two-hand dances. He did the Sweetheart Waltz, taking time to give individual tuition where needed. Mickey invited Mick and Kay Doyle from Galmoy in Co Kilkenny to demonstrate the Fermanagh Highland.

Wednesday afternoon was given over to the very popular talent show which had to be held indoors. Participants and spectators gathered eagerly for an afternoon of fun and entertainment. No one was disappointed. The usual high standard of talent was evident as participants sang, danced and told stories and yarns.

While we were waiting for the result from the judges, we had a special treat. A handsome young man named Paul Lestrange from Manchester did a fabulous impersonation of Elvis Presley. I have always been a big fan of the King of Rock and Roll and I have seen many artists trying to impersonate him but Paul gets full marks from me. He is a member of the Enjoy Travel engineering and sound team and no stranger to the stage. He has been performing for the past fifteen years near his home in Manchester and further afield.

The jury was in and Peter Rooney was announced the winner. His rendition of that beautiful Isla Grant number Mother had many people in tears. Peter from Co Carlow is one of the stalwarts of the seisiún and we are sure to get a song from him every night. He received a holiday voucher and a special scroll of achievement as his prize.

Wednesday night was the grand finale for the first week of the festival. The ceili started with Heather Breeze on stage, then the Glenside took over followed by Johnny Reidy and then all three bands went on stage. The music of all three was so magical that no one wanted to dance we just stood in awe, almost in a trance at the way all three bands gelled together. Some dancers tore into a Connemara Set while the rest of us enjoyed the special occasion and drank in the magical reels dished out. This was the most spellbinding ten minutes of the festival for me.

Downstairs, modern dancers were having their grand finale and the fancy dress parade also took place, which was won by Seamus O'Dwyer from Derby in England. The night finished and the first week of the festival came to a close with the grand draw for a cruise for two, which was won by Therese Gibbons from Crossmolina, Co Mayo. On Thursday as the first week's holidaymakers gathered for home, the foyer was alive with music from the seisiún musicians. Before getting on the coach Mick and Kay Doyle and friends danced a Castle Set to the sounds of Danny Webster on his beloved accordion accompanied by Geraldine McGlynn on the fiddle.

Holidaymakers arriving for the second week and those lucky enough to stay for two weeks were entertained at the pool by numerous artists, including Patrick Feeney, Curtis Magee, Pat Jordan and Dermot Hegarty.

Thursday night our ceili started at 9.30pm with Danny Webster and Mickey Kelly. We first danced the Connemara and then all the usual sets including a few waltzes. Mickey invited me on stage to call the Ballyduff Set. Numbers had dropped considerably as some set dancers had gone home and those who remained were taking it easy or doing a bit of modern dancing. We had ten sets on the floor and the craic was mighty with Mickey in fine form and a big charming smile keeping everyone going.

Friday morning Gerry Flynn welcomed the new arrivals and briefed us on the programme and artists for the second week. Holidaymakers relaxed in the sunshine, which had come back out to greet everyone.

Mickey Kelly held his set dancing workshop by the pool. We danced the East Galway Set which Mickey learned from Connie Ryan at a Malahide workshop. I was delighted to see twelve sets on the floor.

The afternoon was free for set dancers to pursue any activity they wished. Most danced outdoors in the sunshine to the numerous artists; others took advantage of Michael Beehan's ballroom classes and Geraldine and Jimmy's music tutorials. At 9.30pm on the tenth floor set dancers gathered to dance the night away to the music of Mort Kelleher's Ceili Band. We danced the East Galway, Derrada, Newport and finished with the Plain Set.

Saturday after Mass nine sets gathered by the pool for our set dance workshop on the Ballycommon Set with Frank and Bobby Keenan. All the dancers, particularly those only beginning to dance, praised the tutors and accomplished dancers for their instruction and patience.

The night ceili began at 9.30pm again with Mort Kelleher's band. We started with the Corofin and also danced the West Kerry and Ballycommon. Mort Kelleher was unable to travel with his band because of work commitments, instead we had Liam Healy on keyboard. Liam is from Macroom, Co Cork, and plays occasionally with Mort's son Ken in Ballyvourney. Again as dancers left the ceili I spoke with many who had only recently begun set dancing and were delighted with their night's dancing. They were loud in their praise of the tutors and the way the festival was organised. Sunday morning with Mass over dancers gathered outside by the pool for Mickey Kelly's two-hand workshop. When he finished Irene and Tom took the stage. Everyone was having a great time.

At 2pm Gerry Flynn interrupted the proceedings to announce the sudden death of Jimmy Kane, the drummer with the Enjoy Travel Band. All entertainment was cancelled for the remainder of the afternoon as a mark of respect. The Irish flag was flown at half-mast in the hotel grounds. An air of sadness and disbelief and hush filled the complex. Artists, musicians and friends of Jimmy stuggled to come to terms with the devastating news. Gerry called a special meeting of all musicians and it was decided to return to the scheduled programme after dinner that night.

Danny Webster played for our ceili on the tenth floor and Mickey Kelly was our MC. It was difficult for those who knew Jimmy to continue on but professionalism will always shine through regardless of tragedies like this. There was a sense of relief when the entertainment finished. Mick Mackey's seisiún was a bit subdued.

A special Requiem Mass for Jimmy Kane was celebrated at 10am Monday morning. Musicians and artists gathered on stage behind the altar. Many of them sang appropriate pieces during the Mass and played solos. The choir and readers were brilliant. Even though it was such a sad occasion it seemed more like a celebration of Jimmy's life as a musician.

Dermot Hegarty said the following words in tribute to Jimmy- "[He was] born in Glasgow some 54 years ago and retired to Galway, where the hills and the sea captured his wild Celtic spirit. Jim was a Scot with an uncanny way of sensing if any of his fellow musicians were in trouble. He had the perception to sit with them, to listen to their troubles and at the end that person would walk away knowing that he had spoken to a man of exceptional understanding. . . . As a human being, Jim in a short time with our company was exceptional. He will be deeply missed for his talent as a musician and his wonderful warmth and personality."

The Mass concluded with singers and musicians performing that wonderful song Flower of Scotland. The morning set dance workshop was held upstairs on the tenth floor after Mass was over. There was an innate sense of sadness in the air. As nine sets gathered Frank and Bobby Keenan did the Ballyvourney Reel Set. It's a great set for beginners, as the steps are consistent right through the set. Frank and Bobby spent a lot of time with beginners going through steps and long after the workshop forty dancers stayed back for more tuition. Frank and Bobby and Mickey Kelly are very generous with their time and patience with beginners.

Dancers spent the afternoon shopping, ballroom dancing or relaxing in the leisure centre. The weather had once more taken a turn for the worse with showers.

Danny Webster played for the Monday night ceili with Frank Keenan as MC. Some dancers joined Mick Mackey and friends for the seisiún and others danced to P J Murrihy and Seamus Shannon-we could be sure of a set with these two musicians.

Tuesday morning Mickey Kelly taught the Newport Set as we had nine sets with a good number of beginners. Mickey went over every move with meticulous detail. The afternoon sunshine obliged us once more and we all had a chance to dance outside to the beautiful singing of Nicky Kealy.

Upstairs after dinner our night ceili got underway with the Mort Kelleher Ceili Band on stage and Mickey Kelly calling. Of course we danced the wonderful Newport Set. With the ceili over dancers scattered to their preferred venues to while away another few hours.

Wednesday morning Frank and Bobby Keenan held their final workshop of the festival with nine sets on the floor dancing the Cuchulainn Set. At 3pm we had our talent show by the pool. We basked in the sunshine and were entertained and amused by the large numbers who took part. Like last week, while we were waiting for the results of the talent show, we enjoyed our wonderful Elvis impersonation act. Paul Lestrange looked even more credible in the brilliant sunshine. We could have ogled him all day and listened to him forever, but the judges made their decision and Tommy Whittle from Co Wicklow scooped the prize for his rhyme and wit. He dances sets with his wife Birdie who is also a brilliant entertainer. The couple especially love the Connemara Set. Tommy was presented with his voucher and a special scroll.

Mort Kelleher's band was all set and ready to go at 9.30pm. The music and dancing was magic. MC Frank Keenan included the Cuchulainn Set. Meanwhile the fancy dress parade was taking place down in the ballroom and I raced down to meet the winner. Dressed as a Portuguese woman, Sean Galligan from Co Cavan won the prize. The ceili finished with the Plain Set to rapturous applause for all the ceili bands and teachers.

At the 1am grand prize draw, Beatrice Ruddy from Co Cavan became the lucky winner of a cruise in September 2006. She is an avid set dancer, a frequent visitor to these festivals and teaches set dancing at home in Crosskeys, Co Cavan. The grand finale then ensued with all musicians and artists on stage.

Thursday morning the dining hall was much quieter. Still there was a good crowd around and everyone was sad that the festival was over but yet delighted with all the entertainment. As holidaymakers gathered in the foyer awaiting their coaches, Geraldine McGlynn and Jimmy McLoughlin played for set dancers and a party atmosphere ensued. When it was time for Geraldine and Jimmy to pack away their instruments, we waltzed, quickstepped and sauntered to CDs. Michael Behan was on hand to give some final tuition and reminders of steps.

Another Fleadh Portugal had come to an end. As usual, the Enjoy Travel group had given us an unforgettable holiday. The venue was spectacular, the food brilliant, the bands and artists superb. If you have never been at one of these festivals and you like dancing and music then you have not lived at all. Thank you Gerry Flynn and team and congratulations on another expertly organised festival. Roll on Fleadh Portugal 2006.

Joan Pollard Carew


The Ardara style of dancing

Ardara is a picturesque little town surrounded by some of Donegal's most beautiful countryside. Mountains, glens, islands, beaches, lakes, waterfalls and bogs are in easy reach. Always busy with traffic, the town has two main streets of shops and houses-one descends from a great height, while the other is perfectly level. Where the streets meet at right angles they form a little square called The Diamond and here stands the Nesbitt Arms Hotel, the headquarters of a weekend of dancing from the 7th to the 9th of October.

What appears as a quaint, old fashioned and modest guesthouse from the street is actually a large modern hotel with fifty rooms. I arrived just as a large group of fifty on tour from Philadelphia was checking in for the weekend. Fortunately they hadn't taken all the rooms so I quickly checked in and claimed my bed.

This was the third annual Ardara Traditional Dancing Weekend, which attracted me for its varied programme of set, ceili and two-hand dancing, and for the chance to visit Donegal and Ardara. The first of Friday's two events was a ceili at 9pm in the Central Bar, an anonymous pub without a sign on its façade and with a tidy little lounge at the back. A nice crowd had formed by the time the dancing was due to begin, but the only ones missing were the musicians. By about 9.20 the visiting Philadelphians became restless enough to ask their own musicians to play for us. Muriel Prickett, a dancer from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, was first to the rescue with her piano accordion. She played a few reels for the Two-Hand Reel and for the Connemara Set and was soon joined by four more musicians who were part of her tour. While everyone was in full flight, the local musicians arrived and after the set had finished they took over. Art McNally and the Gallagher Sisters played lovely music on banjo, fiddle and piano for ceili and set dancing, but soon it was time for the barn dance. Around 11pm people began drifting over to the hotel ballroom where Cascade, a duo on box and piano, were on stage. It was strictly two-hands and ballroom dancing here, exactly what the locals love and there were plenty of them enjoying it here tonight.

Three all-day workshops on Saturday gave us a choice of sets, ceili and two-hands. I began with Marie Garrity's workshop in the Central Bar where fifteen couples were eager to learn two-hand dancing. She began with the Highland and worked her way through a long list of dances. After lunch I trekked high up the hill to the Methodist Hall where Clement Gallagher was teaching ceili dances. He had already taught the Eight-Hand Jig and continued with the Gates of Derry, one that I'd never seen before. It's one of those remarkably complicated ceili dances that is definitely not for beginners. One of the moves Clement called the 'telescope' where the four couples in a line, gents facing ladies, sidestep past their neighbours and finish up two stops down the line having visited every station on the way. We then had to repeat it to attempt to get back to place. You're guaranteed to get lost in this one!

I slipped away to Sheila Gormley's set dancing workshop in the hotel for the rest of the afternoon. She had done the Corofin Plain and Donegal sets previously and just started the Fermanagh when I arrived. Before long there was a commotion when a team of Americans creating a programme for US cable TV arrived. Several of them joined the sets to be filmed dancing with us. This continued in the Monaghan Set afterward and they even had Sheila record some promotional bits for the programme while the rest of us danced behind her. Sheila was doubly delighted with the successful workshop and her few minutes of TV fame.

The High-Cauled Cap was underway by 9.30pm with nine sets on the floor at the ceili in the hotel ballroom. There were only five sets up for the second dance, the Cashel Set, clearly showing the preferences of the local dancers. The Emerald Ceili Band played a mixture of sets, ceili and waltzes during the night so everyone had a chance at their favourite. For the first time I even had a go at the Slosh, a kind of a line dance, and found it easy to get the hang of it. The night seemed to end too soon, but a full three and half hours always seems too short when you're having a good night. Luckily there was more dancing at that late hour in the Central Bar where the barn dance was still underway with a two-piece band called Sprig of Heather. When I arrived the band was taking their break and a capacity crowd was buzzing with conversation. The dancing resumed with a performance of the brush dance by a couple and then everyone packed the floor for the Siege of Ennis. I'm sure the dancing continued well into the small hours, but by then I was fast asleep.

One workshop in the hotel on Sunday morning covered all the varieties of dance, with Clement's hour of ceili and barn dancing covering the Eight-Hand Jig plus the Donegal Mazurka and a few other two-hands. Sheila showed us another northern set, the Armagh, in the second hour and there was great fun in dancing it. Some were so confused about their lefts and rights that Sheila wanted a black marker to label our hands, and she even threatened to label the gents and ladies!

The weekend of dancing finished in the hotel ballroom at a barn dance with music by Country Traditions, who are favourites of the local dancers. The few times I've seen them in the past they were a duo on box and guitar, but today they brought along a pianist to turn them into a three-piece band. There wasn't a set to be danced all afternoon, and I was getting so used to the mix of two-hands, waltzes, quicksteps, jives and foxtrots that I didn't mind in the least. I noticed one dance I didn't recognise and learned it was actually the White Heather Foxtrot danced to polkas, something they're fond of doing here. The local ladies were friendly, welcoming and happy to dance with a stranger who was a bit clumsy at some of the dances. After one two-hand dance, my partner said to me, "Now you go back to Kilfenora and tell them you were dancing with an eighty-year-old lady!" May Kearney was a fine example of how dancing keeps you young, as she never stopped all weekend and was up for every dance.

They always seem to do things a bit different in Donegal, and that's one of the things I like about the place. Ardara's weekend of traditional dancing had plenty of what the locals like about their dancing and they supported the events in large numbers. Dancers from outside the county found plenty of sets to keep them happy, plus the challenge and joy of dancing in the Donegal style.

Bill Lynch


Lucky in Listowel

October is one of the busiest months in the set dancing calendar with full three-day weekends of dancing in at least seven different locations in Ireland. One of the most anticipated weekends was the Stepping It Out Weekend in Listowel, Co Kerry, on the 14th to the 16th. I headed down to Kerry without any accommodation booked and was lucky enough to find a bed in what has become my regular home away from home in Tarbert, about ten miles away. I knew from previous years' experience that there was no point in looking for B&B in Listowel; every one of them would already be filled with dancers!

Listowel is a bustling country town which hasn't lost its traditional character. There are plenty of shops, restaurants, pubs and most of the other essentials of life. The weekend was based in the Listowel Arms Hotel, which stands in a corner of the vast town square, inconspicuous in the middle of a terrace of Georgian houses. Inside, the hotel appears spacious and elegant, with a long, wide ballroom and a timber floor that reaches all the way to the four walls.

Close to forty dancers showed up early on Friday to take part in a brush dance workshop offered by Ciara Gill, a talented young dancer from west London, and Michael O'Rourke, one of the weekend's organisers. Ciara was on the Comhaltas tour of Ireland and took a day off from performing to come to Listowel. She travelled down from Co Armagh and returned to the tour in Co Mayo the next day. Michael started the tuition with an advance and retire step. Ciara said it was her first time teaching, but she came across like an experienced pro when she showed a battering step. Her instructions were clear and precise, explaining not only how to move the feet, but also when to shift weight. She made certain that everyone had the step, practicing it around the floor in front of everyone. After the basics, everyone took up brushes (there seemed to be exactly the right number available) to learn the moves. It didn't take long to get through the entire dance and there were smiles of satisfaction all 'round at the end. A few dozen brush dancers make for an unforgettable spectacle, but the real treat was when Ciara and Michael performed the dance together.

Meanwhile the Glenside Ceili Band had arrived and started setting up their equipment as soon as the workshop was over. They had only arrived home from a week in Portugal at 3am in the morning, but once the music began there wasn't the least little sign of any fatigue. If anything, the holiday must have been good for them because they were as lively as ever. The sets alternated between reels and polkas, a commendable practice which continued at all four of the weekend's ceilis. We got the three plain sets (Plain, Corofin and Kilfenora) out of the way at the first ceili, and were treated to the Sliabh Luachra Set, which was danced at every ceili. And all the ceilis followed the same pattern of eight sets with a break between the fourth and fifth ones, which made it a bit easier to keep track of the dances. While tea wasn't served in the ballroom during the break, it was available elsewhere in the hotel for €2.50 including cake. We paused in the second half for another performance of Ciara's and Michael's brush dance, but when he came out, rather than a brush, Michael carried a cake to celebrate Ciara's birthday. Once Happy Birthday was sung and the candles were extinguished, out came the brush for another fantastic performance.

The real beauty of the hotel's ballroom was revealed in the full light of day at the Saturday morning workshop. A wall of windows at the far end of the ballroom gave a perfect view of the Feale River in all its glory, rushing past the rear of the hotel. Beyond was the green expanse of Listowel Racecourse. Ten or twelve sets of dancers enjoyed Pat Murphy's workshop on the Clare Orange and Green and Armagh sets, though some were distracted by the wildlife in the river during the breaks in the dancing; leaping salmon, a heron standing on one leg and even an otter were spotted.

They always manage to squeeze an extra ceili into the programme on Saturday afternoon in Listowel, and thanks to the mesmerising music and presence of Johnny Reidy, it was as good as any held during prime time on Saturday night. Johnny's popularity was plain for all to see, as the floor roared their approval after the first figure of the first set and then at regular intervals all afternoon. There was a break for a display of modern step dancing by a seven-year-old girl who beamed with delight as she lepped around the floor in her curls and embroidery. The joy of the afternoon was universal, shared by everyone. I often marvel at how lucky we are as set dancers to experience such enormous pleasure so regularly.

Our luck continued at the ceili that night with the Emerald Ceili Band. There was a fine crowd of around 400 in the ballroom, which was spacious enough to handle all the sets without crowding. The heat was intense near the band but there was relief at the opposite end of the hall where every one of the windows was open to let the cool air in. The sets were sensibly chosen, with just a single Plain Set at the end and special bonuses in the form of the Clare Orange and Green, called by Pat Murphy, and the Borlin Polka Set, one of my all-time favourites. There was an extended break for solo dancing in the second half where several of the young dancers showed their fancy steps, finishing with another double brush dance by Michael O'Rourke, this time with Mary Philpott, his sister.

The atmosphere was relaxed enough on Sunday morning that Pat Murphy was open to suggestions for the sets he would teach in his workshop. When he met a man from Newmarket, Co Cork, he decided to show us the two Newmarket sets, the Plain and the Meserts. They made a lovely morning of dancing, after which Mary Philpott spoke for all of us when she thanked Pat for his help in making the weekend so enjoyable.

Matt Cunningham arrived to set up his equipment for the afternoon ceili shortly before the end of the workshop, and there was barely time for lunch before dancing began again. We'd already had three brilliant ceilis and that's usually enough for any weekend, but the Cunningham magic took over the ballroom and gave us one final ceili that almost made us forget all that had gone before. Every set was better than the one before it so we had a terrific finale to the weekend. There were solo steps by Brian Gerrity, a step dancer from Kildare enjoying his first set dancing weekend, and by Aidan Vaughan, who sat behind his drums during the rest of the ceili. Just before the last dance Matt responded to a request for a tin whistle solo by playing both Róisín Dubh and Boolavogue. The weekend ended with a blast of excitement and a rake of reels so there was complete contentment all around.

Visitors had travelled from near and far to join the fun in Listowel, including many from England and a few from Italy and Germany. But it doesn't matter where you come from, what language you speak, what you do for a living, or what you believe in-as long as you get up on the floor and enjoy dancing you're accepted by everyone else. And at a great weekend like the one in Listowel you're guaranteed to enjoy yourself.

Bill Lynch


Pat's Down Under tour, part 2

In the last issue we read about Pat Murphy's summer tour to New Zealand and to Port Fairy and Geelong in Australia. In these two articles we read about his further adventures in Melbourne and Sydney.

We have just wished bon voyage to Pat Murphy after his week here in Melbourne and what a week it was! Pat had a few friends who followed him here from Nenagh, none other than Dan and Mary Morrissey and Tom and Deirdre Ryan. The week started off on the Wednesday night, 10th August, with a visit by Dan, Mary, Tom and Deirdre to the Melbourne branch of Comhaltas where we danced some of the two-hand dances Pat had taught us at Port Fairy the weekend before, Waltz of the Bells, etc, and of course a few sets.

Next up was the session at the Corkman Pub on Thursday night, where the great accordion player Joe Fitzgerald lent his box to Pat for a few tunes. There is no need to tell you Pat was in his element. When word got around that Pat was a great box player, as well as a great dancer, he was given the loan of a box for the rest of his stay in Melbourne by Paddy O'Neill, president of Comhaltas.

I should mention here that Pat and his friends did the tourist rounds during the day and didn't spend all their time in the pubs. Friday night saw us all at the Celtic Club for another session, this time with Paddy Fitzgerald (Joe's brother) and of course the music was great as usual-Pat joined in as well. We were able to dance some of our favourite sets this time, like the Clare Lancers, Newmarket Meserts, Plain Set and the Cashel Set. It wasn't a late night, as two busy days were ahead of us.

The big day was here at last-our first workshop in Melbourne with Pat Murphy. All the planning and organising over the last twelve months was geared to these two days. Some of us knew what to expect, as we had been to some of his workshops in Ireland and knew a great weekend was in store for everyone. We had people from all over Victoria, Canberra and Sydney here for the weekend, plus our visitors from Nenagh. Pat started off on Saturday morning with the Limerick Orange and Green and the rest of the day we went through the Loughgraney Half-Set, Jenny Lind Set, Inis Oírr Set and some of his two-hand dances. We had a fantastic day and we were still full of energy and looking forward to the ceili Saturday night. We had a great band for the night, some of the best musicians in Melbourne and the music was enhanced by their new member, Pat Murphy. I think it was the first time Pat has ever played in a ceili band, if I'm wrong he'll let me know, but I'm sure it was one of the highlights for Pat. We danced not only all our favourite sets but waltzes, Pride of Erin, Two-Hand Jig, Stack of Barley and everyone went home happy, tired and ready for another day.

On Sunday morning, some were more ready than others but that didn't stop us from turning up for another great day of dancing. Pat started off the morning with the Fintown Set, then the Drumgarriff Half-Set and we finished the morning with the Claddagh Set. I should say that we did stop for morning tea, lunch and dinner between the workshops and the dances! Sunday afternoon we were back for another ceili, this time with a group of musicians from Geelong known as Finn McCool. We danced the afternoon away with the Kilfenora Set, Claddagh Set, Loughgraney Half-Set, Newmarket Meserts, Plain Set and the Cashel Set for our Nenagh friends. I forgot to tell you, Pat was invited again to play with the musicians, only this time he was blessed among women-the band is all girls and he loved every minute of it. We finished up the day at the Quiet Man Pub for a lovely meal and their Sunday night session with Billy Moran, another session Pat was happy to join in on. A few of us that had a bit of energy left and the feet not too sore got up for a set.

I really don't know where we got the energy from but we were back in the Quiet Man on Monday night for our regular set dance class and Pat, Dan, Mary, Tom and Deirdre joined us, as it was their last night in Melbourne. We wanted to give them a fair dinkum Melbourne farewell and if the singing, dancing and storytelling was anything to go by, they enjoyed themselves. We sent Pat off to Sydney, the last leg of his Australia tour, a happy man.

I hate to tell you this in Ireland but Pat had such a fantastic time here in Australia that he is strongly considering immigrating here. Ah! We can only dream. A big hearty thanks to Pat for a fantastic, fabulous, absolutely great week and we are starting the campaign now to bring him back.

Marie Brouder, Melbourne

After much planning it was finally time for Sydney to host Pat Murphy. After picking Pat up from the airport we had a drive to Cronulla Beach, one of the loveliest beaches south of Sydney, and had lunch overlooking it. That night we asked Pat to come along to our Wednesday night set dancing class run by my niece Alarna Fitzpatrick and myself. Pat kindly agreed to teach the Fermanagh Quadrilles and Loughgraney sets.

Thursday was given over to sightseeing and accompanied by my sister Marie we joined in a tour of the historical Rocks area in Sydney, our first European settlement. A group of dancers enjoyed an evening meal at the scenic Bondi Icebergs Club and a leisurely walk along Bondi Beach. Friday, Pat, Martin Folan, Liz Carter and myself joined up for a Sydney Harbour Bridge climb, more sightseeing in the city followed by a dinner cruise on Sydney Harbour and surrounding areas accompanied by a party of dancers.

Up bright and early and down to the Harp Pub where Pat held workshops on Saturday and Sunday. The sets taught were the Doire Cholmcille, Dromgarriff, Lorrha-Aglish, Claddagh, Set of Erin, Fintown, Ballyduff and the first figure from the Souris Set. Although set dancing is comparatively small in Australia, it is compensated by the enthusiasm of its dancers as shown by the number of people who travelled great distances to attend the workshops, some from Interstate and many parts of New South Wales, all eager to meet Pat and learn new dances.

Pat's teaching was a delight with his clear, calm and gentle voice and he kept up the entertainment with many quips and jokes. Nothing was a trouble to Pat and his kindness and generosity in sharing his many gifts endeared him to us all. An absolutely brilliant weekend was had with everyone hoping Pat will make the trip to Australia again.

A ceili was held on Saturday night with music by the talented Aisling Gael. The 'blood was up' and everyone was raring to go with dances such as the Kilfenora Plain, Sliabh gCua, Connemara, Cashel and we finished off the evening with our all-time favourites, the Plain and Ballyvourney sets. During the evening, there was an exhibition of swing dancing by Garry Hill and Jacqui McKinn, brush dancing with John Cassidy visiting from Clare and our own Paul Breen (originally from Kilkenny), and a stepabout with anyone who wanted to strut their stuff. A session followed the ceili into the wee small hours of the morning.

Over the years we have been most fortunate here in Sydney and particularly at the Harp Pub to have people such as Patrick O'Dea, Ciaran Condron, Diarmaid Keeling, Gerard Gunn, Lorna Grennan and now John Cassidy who have all conducted workshops and we are indeed most honoured in knowing these friendly and generous people.

Trish McGrath, Sydney, Australia


The road to Roundwood

Roundwood, Co Wicklow, is Ireland's second highest village (780 ft, 238 m), though among set dancers it's most famous as a little hotspot of set dancing in the Wicklow Mountains. Every Thursday night there's a ceili in Kavanagh's Vartry Lounge with music by the Brian Ború Ceili Band, members of the Fodhla Ceili Band and other musicians. In addition to organising larger ceilis in local halls, the Roundwood Set Dancers hold an annual workshop which I attended on Saturday October 22nd.

On Saturday morning, before I ever reached Roundwood, I encountered a very pleasant surprise-the newly completed M50 motorway. Travelling to Wicklow has never been so easy. The new road links traffic from Dublin and the rest of the country directly to the main N11 road heading south, bypassing the frustrating and impenetrable maze of local roads that served as my excuse to avoid coming here. Now the county has been opened up to me!

With the easier than expected journey, I arrived early at the GAA Community Centre and was welcomed by organiser Marie McNally, who promptly offered tea and homemade cakes. Teacher Frank Keenan and his wife Bobbie were next in the hall, followed by a trickle of dancers. Suddenly the place filled when a coachload from Frank's class in Kildare arrived and soon the workshop was underway.

Frank first had us all practice the basic polka step in a large circle around the hall and then warmed us up with the Ballyvourney Reel Set, which is both easy and fun. The Cuchulainn Set from Co Louth was covered next, one which he has popularised at his workshops on holidays to Ibiza and Portugal. Frank must be one of set dancing's most relaxed teachers and makes sure the dancing proceeds at a leisurely pace. We practiced each figure at least twice, but before repeating one, he kept talking for a minute or two to give us a chance to recover our breath. While calling the moves Frank counted out the threes for us and even lilted a quiet little drumbeat. I was impressed with how he was able to teach and call with his eyes closed!

After lunch, Sinéad Bray from Dunderry, Co Meath, took charge of the workshop to teach sean nós dancing to forty people who were keen to learn her steps. She was probably the youngest dancer in the hall but her dancing skill is something that all ages admire. Her teaching makes sean nós easy to learn with a selection of steps that most dancers could pick up with no trouble. She assembled them into a routine that everyone had great fun performing. Whenever she performed the steps herself at speed, it was plain to see that most of us have a long way to go to dance as naturally as she does.

Frank Keenan returned at the end of the afternoon to teach us the Killyon Set, one that I hadn't done for a while. I particularly enjoyed the clever fourth figure which has an unusual line up. Feeling even more relaxed after his long lunch, Frank invited Betty McCoy out to dance some sean nós steps. She seemed reluctant at first but gave an impressive performance that I look forward to seeing repeated in future. For another bit of entertainment, Frank asked a non-dancing gent who came along on the coach from Kildare, Jack Golden, to sing for us. Jack gave us one song in his powerful voice and then did an encore for good measure.

Roundwood's GAA Community Centre is a spacious sports hall which the organisers had carefully divided in two sections for the day. A tea room was set up in the top third and the ceili that night fitted nicely into the rest with plenty of space for tables on both sides. The Davey Ceili Band were set up and ready to go at the appointed hour of 9.30pm with the Connemara Set. Frank Keenan called a varied selection of sets for the night, with guest callers Angela Bernard who called the Derradda and Ann O'Donnell who called the Cashel. During the well-organised tea break we were instructed to follow a one-way system in one side of the tea room and out the other. In the second half, Sinéad Bray did more of her sean nós, as did Donal Morrissey from Birr, Co Offaly, and Jack Golden also sang a couple more songs. The best performance of the night was given by the Davey Ceili Band, who kept us going with their joyous music for the best part of four hours.

There was so much dancing at the Roundwood one-day workshop that I felt as if I had been dancing for a full weekend. It was my first time there in five or six years and now that it's become so easy to get to I hope to get back more often!

Bill Lynch


At full throttle in Belcarra

A story given by a local man in the Belcarra village goes something like this: While struggling with broken down machinery on farms in the past, many a Mayoman could be heard to exclaim when the old engine leapt into life, "Now we're sucking diesel!" This colorful expression is used by the farming community in Mayo to denote "full steam ahead" or "at full throttle"-a good way to describe the set dancing scene in Belcarra.

The diesel in this case comes in the form of Maureen Cunningham who on October 18th 1990 with tutors Mickey Kelly and Maureen Halpin, started to gather people of Belcarra and surrounding areas in the old Community Centre for dancing enjoyment and great craic! Fifteen years later they are still in full swing. The old centre is refurbished and a wonderful kitchen was added. The lovely maple floor and plush surroundings of the new Belcarra Community Centre make it an ideal venue for dancing.

Belcarra is a picturesque village, population 100 and growing fast, situated in south Mayo, 8km south of the town of Castlebar. It was called Ballycarra until 1970 when its name was changed to the present one. The village, which has on more than a dozen occasions received the honour of a Tidy Town award, nestles cosily beneath a grassy drumlin, alongside the restful waters of the Manulla River, a meandering tributary of the Moy. During the summer months, tourists flock to the village to enjoy its campsites, horse-drawn caravan holiday centre and the warmth and hospitality of the locals in the pubs. The village boasts three shops, a butcher, post office, two pubs, a beautiful cut-stone church, a three-teacher National School, a tennis and basketball court, a sports centre and a large community centre.

I asked two lovely young school girls of Belcarra what was most interesting to them about their village and they both agreed the Eviction Cottage! This cottage housed a family of twelve, James and Mary Walsh and their ten children. When they could no longer pay the rent, their landlord, Colonel Cuff, evicted the lot of them. They had nowhere to live so all their neighbours came together and within one day built a cottage for them across the road. While the ruins of that cottage are still visible, the Eviction Cottage to be seen today is a replica. The girls also informed me that Belcarra used to be the capital of Mayo because the high courts were held in Belcarra and the mail coaches stopped there. Also very important was that St Patrick walked through Belcarra on his way through Ballintober Abbey, Aughagower and then to Croagh Patrick.

For us today, one of the enjoyable times in Belcarra is on Thursday evenings at 9pm when Mickey Kelly, Maureen Halpin and Maureen Cunningham open the doors of the Community Centre and we continue to learn new sets and two-hand dances. The opening of the fifteenth year began on September 29th. We enjoyed learning the Kilfenora and Claddagh sets. The cupán tae and goodies give us a chance to have a chat and catch up on some of the latest news.

The most recent ceili was held at the Community Centre on October 1st with the music starting on time and the wave of set dancers building up. By the second set the hall was packed with tapping feet, laughter and the high quality music of the Heather Breeze Ceili Band from Westport. Two ceilis are held each year in Belcarra, one in October at the start of the dancing season and one in April before suspending classes for the summer. This evening we danced through the Derrada, Corofin Plain, Kilfenora, Newport, and Plain sets. When it was time for tea we all joined in a moment of silence to remember Marie Beirne, an avid set dancer who lost her battle with cancer recently. Tea, sandwiches and wonderful desserts were served and the chatter and laughter was joy to my ears. We gathered back on the floor for the Ballyvourney Jig, some waltzes and quick steps and then the Claddagh Set. Mickey Kelly was there this night fresh out of the hospital-not dancing mind you - so he called the Claddagh Set to thunderous applause. We closed with the Connemara Set and then the very beautiful national anthem of Ireland.

Well, another ceili has come to an end but the door of the Belcarra Community Centre is never closed to set dancers, so the next time you are in the fair village of Belcarra you are invited to "Lift the latch, open the door, step right in and take the floor" and to quote a local gentleman, "Beidh fíor - chaoin fáilte romhat."

Don't give up!

It's very early Sunday morning and I've just returned from a wonderful ceili in my village of Belcarra. Not feeling tired enough to go to sleep, I decided to check out what is available for more dancing later on in the day. (Next to my relationship with God, set dancing has become the most important thing in my life for mental and physical health!) My trusty rusty list tells me that there is a ceili in Kilcoona in Headford and Matt Cunningham is playing. So it's up for Mass in the morning and off to Kilcoona. The weather is lovely and I think, "This won't be a bad ride at all." The sun is shining and I enjoy the awesome beauty of this countryside as I drive the ¾ hour ride to Kilcoona. Someone had mentioned a shorter way to go, so, before I pass the shortcut, I decide to ask directions. This sweet voiced woman directs me back a little way and off to the right and on and on and on! I go through fields, bog roads, etc. I finally arrive at my destination, thank God! But - where is everybody? The village looks like a ghost town! I stopped to ask a lad where the ceili is. His response was, "Gee, I'm sorry there is no ceili in this village today. We only have one once a year and it's in May." I had timed everything perfectly so that I would be there for the first set; now I definitely wouldn't be at the dance on time! My heart sank as I asked the name of the town - "This is Kilconley." The lovely sweet voiced woman had directed me to the wrong place! My next decision: would I drive home to Belcarra or forge onward? My response was what any died-in-the-wool set dancer would do. I pressed on!

I arrived in Kilcoona about 45 minutes late to the warm smile of Matt, the band and many others and a big "Aw" as Matt told everyone of my misguided directions. But salvation comes in many forms as one of the sets wasn't full I stepped in for figure three of the Kilfenora - Ah! Home at last!

This special little community is right in Matt Cunningham's back yard. The Kilcoona Social Committee is chaired by Matt. I spoke with Lourda, one of the committee members and a warm and genuine woman, about the ceilis. She informed me that the money raised from the ceilis is used for running the hall, building maintenance and insurance. She spoke of a new extension that was built for children with part of the money plus some grant money and told of plans to build a day care centre for the elderly.

One of the noticeably special things about organizers in the set dancing community is their caring nature, which in my estimation seems to have no bounds. It's not just about self-gratification and the joy of the dance, but many times seems to consider the wider community. There is a wonderful appreciation of both the young and the old. At this particular ceili, there was a lovely woman celebrating her birthday this very day and she was 95 years young! Delia Kelly from Killraney, Moycullen, Co Galway, was here with her daughter Nora Audley.

In typical Matt Cunningham form, the music was lively and well performed. Sets we enjoyed were the Corofin Plain, Newport, Kilfenora, Cashel, Plain, Ballyvourney Jig and Connemara. For a change of pace we did some old-time waltzes, the Barn Dance, the Stack of Barley and Shoe the Donkey, although I was surprised to see that the Shoe the Donkey didn't have many takers. With the hospitality typical of Ireland, tea and delicious goodies were served.

Alas, the ending time comes too soon! It is 6.30 and all stand for the national anthem. We say our thank-yous and goodbyes and head off for home. The trip home is so much easier without taking the scenic route and I am the wiser about getting directions before venturing out. The moral of this story is watch out for sweet voiced women giving directions, and don't give up! I encourage our readers to enjoy the music and hospitality of the Kilcoona Social Committee at one of their five ceilis per year while knowing that the money raised is helping both the young and the old in that area.

Gemma Burke Bourré, Belcarra, Co Mayo


Articles continue in Old News Volume 31.

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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