last updated 4 December 2007
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Set Dancing News

Old news and reviews—Volume 40

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

A big celebration for Mick Doyle

Mick Doyle was born in Rathpatrick, Crosspatrick, Co Kilkenny, in 1937, the youngest of five children. Music and dancing have been a large part of his life since childhood. House dances were prevalent when he was growing up. Local musicians gathered at different houses almost every night and played for dancers. Mick's father played the fiddle accompanied by his uncle on melodeon. Neighbours played the mandolin and the accordion. The chairs were moved back and they danced the Durrow Threshing Set, Slate Quarry Lancers and Cashel Set. Mick was quick to point out that only a few figures of a set were danced, then a break for some waltzes or foxtrots and back to finish the set. After the threshing, it was always a good time for all neighbours to gather and celebrate a good harvest and a good excuse to play music, dance, sing and spin yarns.

Mick left home and travelled to England to work. He quickly found his beloved dancing in the Irish Centre in London. He also met his lovely wife Kay, a Co Donegal lass. Together they made friends with dancers from Co Galway and soon they were dancing the Galway Reel Set and introduced the Galwegians to the Durrow and Slate Quarry and Cashel sets. Ceili dances were also very popular, like the Siege of Ennis, Walls of Limerick and Haymakers Jig. Social dances such as waltzes and quicksteps were interspersed throughout a night.

Mick and Kay married and returned to Ireland in 1964, having spent 11 years in England. They have five daughters. All their children learned step dancing from Laois dance teacher Maura Shanahan while their parents had to forsake their dancing for a time.

Kay started back to dancing with local musician and dance teacher Paddy Cooney. Mick soon joined his wife and they became familiar with other sets. They also danced with Stephen Conroy from Camross in Co Laois. Stephen was a well known member of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and took dancers and musicians to the USA for many years. The seed for competition was planted and the couple began dancing in competition in Durrow, Co Laois. Then dance master Michael Loughnane and other Thurles dancers formed Thurles Ceili and Set Dancing Club. Mick and Kay joined and their dancing diary grew to many nights a week. This talented couple have numerous accolades for set dancing including winning the Pan Celtic Festival in Galway and Tralee three times and the Galway International Set Dancing Festival in Ireland twice.

Long-time friends of Sean Dempsey, they travelled over to Manchester for his competition every year. Mick reminisced about one year they went over and were short a dancer. They asked Sean if he knew of anyone who would step in to fill the set and jested that Sean himself might be the one to oblige. He was overjoyed and said he had waited fourteen years for this opportunity and that it was a dream come true for him. With two nights practice Sean performed every step with the greatest of ease. Mick and Kay were part of Sean's team on the first ever Fleadh España, now Fleadh Ibiza. This wonderful festival was Sean's brainchild.

Mick started teaching dancing ten years ago in his own area of Galmoy, Co Kilkenny, where he now lives. His class is intimate with three to four sets. His attention to detail in the style, steps and timing, both as a dancer and teacher, are admirable. The local school invited him to teach set dancing, ceili dances and waltzing to pupils ranging in ages from four to twelve. The parents were delighted and the project was also a winner with the children. Mick and Kay are known to give private lessons in waltzing to young couples about to get married. They do this on their well-danced-on kitchen floor at home.

Mick and Kay were instrumental in reviving the Durrow Threshing Set as remembered by Jack Fitzpatrick from Durrow, Co Laois. Mick has a tape recording and notes of a jig played by local man Jack Drennan on his button accordion the likes of which no musician can match today. Travelling all the way up to Co Donegal in 2004 this dancing couple accompanied Pat Murphy to meet local dancers and record and dance the Fintown Set.

Mick celebrated his special birthday in February with a surprise ceili and party for family and hundreds of friends. The venue was the lovely Delaney's Bar between Urlingford and Freshford, Co Kilkenny. The music on the night was by Mr Accordion Man himself, Danny Webster, a long-time friend.

Mick and Kay Doyle are the epitome of all that is good in set dancing. Aside from being fun it is also an excellent activity for physical and mental fitness and one of the most sociable activities where age, class or education plays no part. At seventy years of age Mick Doyle is one of the most energetic and enthusiastic set dancers I am privileged to have as a friend.

Joan Pollard Carew

Thrilled and entranced

Dear Mr Lynch,

On St Patrick's Day this year we celebrated at our home in Newcastle, Australia, with a barbecue and dance party at Shamrock Hall, aka our double garage-see Set Dancing News June-July 2004 and December 2005-January 2006.

There were about 25 party-goers including our dance teachers, Arthur Kingsland and Julia Smith. Arthur called the sets.

We had a surprise appearance of Marieclaire de Wit-Beekmans later in the evening. Marieclaire teaches step dancing at Morisset, about an hour's drive from Newcastle. She kindly danced for us a soft and a hard shoe routine and thrilled and entranced us all.

Arthur teaches Tuesday nights. Any set dancers visiting Newcastle would be most welcome to attend. See contact details at the back of this magazine.

Kind regards,

Julia Regent, Charlestow, NSW, Australia

Break dancing in Ibiza

Hello Bill,

Thought you might like this one for the magazine.Bridget McLoughlin and Kathleen McGuinness enjoying a break at the fleadh in Ibiza centre. Both are from Surrey in the UK and fell in separate incidents and each broke an arm. They did not let it spoil their holiday-well they could always do the Breakaway Blues.

Best wishes,

Moira Dempsey, Surrey, England

Omagh charity presentation

Dear Bill,

Omagh Traditional Dancing Club held its annual charity ceili on 24th March in Dun Uladh Heritage Centre. As I mentioned in the last issue of Set Dancing News, monies donated from our January workshop weekend together with the proceeds of the charity ceili would be given to Care for Cancer. I am delighted to tell you that a cheque for £750 was presented by club members Donna Logue and Mary Ballesty to Andrew Campbell and Paul Cotton from the Omagh branch of Care for Cancer. Mary, who has undergone treatment for cancer, was accompanied to the ceili by her husband Noel, who admits not to be a set dancer. We hope to coax him to classes in September!

It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening with music provided by Copperplate Ceili Band. I would like to convey my thanks on behalf of Omagh Traditional Dancing Club to all our dancing friends who contributed so generously to the charity. The monies raised will go some way to help provide assistance to cancer patients in the Omagh area.

Thanks again,

Paul Cairns, Omagh Traditional Dancing Club

Portmagee helpers

Hi Bill,

The Portmagee workshop weekend was once again a great success. The numbers were up this year and great craic was had by all. Paddy and Séamus played in the bar for sets every night to the delight of locals and visitors alike. And Mort Kelleher's Band gave us great music for the céilí mór. Autumn Gold played brilliantly for sets on Sunday evening before we all relaxed with a cabaret from Harmonix.

We've had lots of congratulations and encouragement and I feel its time for me to express my thanks. The weekend couldn't exist without all the help I get so thanks to Betty McCoy for her tuition; to Josie O'Connor for her lovely two-hand dance workshop; to Julian Stracey for teaching the children-they gave us a lively demonstration of the South Kerry Set.

Thank you to all the gang who sold raffle tickets for me, to the girls on the door and those who made the tea. To all the musicians, singers and storytellers who joined us for the session and all the staff of the Moorings and Bridge Bar who looked after us so well but most of all I appreciate all the dancers who come from far and wide to enjoy our weekend. Where would we be without them? Thank you Patricia and Gerard Kennedy-I think we make a great team!

Not forgetting you, Bill, for including us in your calendar and doing such an attractive ad for us.

We will be there next year, please God, and hope to meet ye all again, old friends and new.

Beryl Stracey, Caherciveen, Co Kerry

Grateful thanks

Dear Bill,

We wish to express our grateful thanks to all of the late Donncha Ó Muíneacháin's friends throughout Ireland and the world who joined with us in celebrating his life during March 2007. Our ceili here in Portmarnock raised over €22,000 for St Francis Hospice, Raheny. Worldwide céilithe, music sessions and set dancing nights were organised from Ennis to Skerries, Mayo to Cork and Melbourne to Manchester. A fitting tribute to a unique Irish dancer, cultural ambassador and gentleman. Sólas na bhFlaitheas dó.

Le mór-bhuíochas,

Brian Doyle, Maire Uí Mhurchú, Margaret Campbell, Nuala Doyle, Lorcán Ó Murchú, Rhóda Uí Chonaire

Céline and Michael's DVD of step dances

Celine Tubridy has played an important part in the revival of the old-style of Irish step dancing, with the help of her husband, flute player Michael Tubridy. The couple collected a number of dances from Dan Furey and James Keane of Labasheeda, Co Clare, and passed them on to enthusiastic dancers in classes at the Willie Clancy Summer School and workshops all across Ireland and in France, Germany and Japan. Probably the most popular of these dances is the Priest and His Boots, which they successfully rescued from obscurity and taught to many hundreds of dancers.

Céline and Michael have produced a few teaching aids to help learn the dances. Their tape and CD, A Selection of Irish Traditional Step Dances, has music for nine dances, both at a slow pace with calling and at normal speed with music only. Michael's ingenious book of the same name has the nine dances written out in both words and notation. The clever system of notation is Michael's own invention, which for every step shows the rhythm and placement of each foot. The notation has been successfully used by dancers in Japan and Germany to learn dances without having seen them.

At long last, everyone can see Céline and Michael performing and teaching their old-style step dances. They have produced a DVD, Irish Traditional Step Dances, in which they dance these eight step dances-the Priest and His Boots, Hornpipe, Single Time, Easy Reel, Slip Jig, Job of Journeywork, Double Jig and St Patrick's Day. Like their CD, which provides the sound track for the video, the dances are performed at a slow tempo with calling and at normal speed without. The slow steps are shown close up from behind to make them easier to follow. Each individual step is also separately accessible for repetitive practice. The DVD was produced by Pat Murphy, who filmed it in Derradda Community Centre, Co Mayo, in March.

Irish Traditional Step Dances is available directly from Michael Tubridy, who still has copies of his earlier CD and book for sale.

A son for Tim Joe and Anne

Was it any wonder that Tim Joe O'Riordan was looking so happy left at a ceili in Ballydesmond, Co Kerry, on Good Friday night, April 6th? His lovely wife Anne was nowhere in sight, the equally lovely Mort Kelleher was substituting for her on piano and the smile never left Tim Joe's face. The reason for all the contentment? Anne had given birth just a few days earlier on April 2nd to young Gavin, the couple's first son and brother to big sister Grace. All are well at home in Clondrohid, Co Cork, and Anne is hoping to be back in her place on stage beside Tim Joe at ceilis before long. Many congratulations to the the O'Riordan family.


The day following their wedding, Paul Corrigan and Niamh Heery were celebrating with a ceili in the Kilbracken Arms Hotel, Carrigallen, Co Leitrim, The couple are from Killeshandra, Co Cavan, and are offered our best wishes and warmest congratulations. Photograph by Patsy Finn.

The heavenly Shindig

The Brandon Hotel in the heart of Tralee, Co Kerry, opened its doors on Friday January 19th to hundreds of dancers attending the Shindig Festival. The weekend began with the enthusiastic and energetic workshop in Clare battering steps given by the brilliant young expert Peter Hanrahan. I have been privileged to have seen this young man on several occasions and his attention to detail and sheer enjoyment of dancing always amaze me. Peter has a dynamic personality and always has a captive audience. His classes are like a breath of fresh air. This young man is a wonderful ambassador of dancing and his lovely County Clare.

The first ceili of the festival saw the Johnny Reidy Ceili Band on stage. The music was Johnny’s usual high and exuberant standard. We had a fantastic night’s dancing. Included in the long list of usual sets we danced a fabulous Sliabh Luachra. The dancers who had turned up retired in a lather of sweat and fulfilment. All guests in the hotel enjoyed complimentary tea, coffee and biscuits in the Princess Bar.

Saturday morning began with two workshops. Upstairs in the Parkview Room Peter Hanrahan continued his Clare battering steps workshop. The Great Hall hosted the set dancing workshop. Pat Murphy was in his usual brilliant form. The Fermanagh Quadrilles was first on his list. This is a simple set and the class, including some beginners, had no problem with any of the figures. The second set of the morning was the East Mayo Set. Pat paid tribute to Gráinne Kelly of Knock, Co Mayo, for sharing this set with him. He told us that Gráinne learned it from her mother Rose. I counted thirty sets on the floor all having a fantastic morning. I was told that Peter Hanrahan had a class of eighty.

After lunch in the Parkview Room the superb Connemara sean nós dance teacher Róisín Ní Mhainín taught a class packed with eager dancers. I remained downstairs in the Great Hall for the second of Pat Murphy’s workshops. We danced the Sliabh Fraoch Set which I was privileged to dance with Mike Mahony in Ibiza at Frank Keenan’s workshop. Pat thanked Frank for reviving this set and also thanked Mike for giving it to him. This set was danced in the Rockchapel area of Co Cork. The set has five figures, two polkas, two reels and a fling. The fourth figure is called Weave the Basket and the last figure is the Fairy Ring. Anyone who has danced this set will see why these names are so appropriate. Some of the moves have similarities to the beautiful Caragh Lake Jig Set and the Jenny Ling.

When Pat was satisfied that all the class were happy and confident dancing this set he changed to some two-hand dances. Firstly he taught the Millennium Barn Dance. Pat told us that Edie Bradley put this lovely dance together to commemorate the millennium. Pat concluded his afternoon class with the White Heather Foxtrot. As usual Pat’s instruction and attention to detail were superb.

Paddy and Carolyn Hanafin took over the workshop and taught a lovely Mid-Kerry Set. This set is danced to polkas and slides, and is danced in the Milltown and Killorglan areas of the Ring of Kerry. This is a nice lively fun set.

It was almost impossible to squeeze in to the pre-ceili session in the main bar, and dancers danced in the smallest of spaces to the fabulous music of Taylor’s Cross. At 10pm the Great Hall was packed with eager dancers who were thrilled when Taylor’s Cross made a guest appearance and played a to-die-for selection of polkas for the brilliant West Kerry Set. The super Swallow’s Tail Ceili Band came on stage and the ceili continued with all the usual sets right up to the break. To the joy of the large crowd Pat Murphy called the Sliabh Fraoch Set. Then the dancing continued with mostly reel sets except for the Cashel Set. The ceili finished at 1.45am approximately, but the dancers had lots more energy to dispose of. The crowd thronged upstairs to the Parkview Room to dance to the music of Andy O’Connell’s Jig Time Ceili Band. We danced a few waltzes, young and not so young jived and then we danced a few sets including the Sliabh Luachra and Ballyvourney Jig. We had some sean nós dancers including the Murphy sisters from Co Waterford. Most of us retired at 4am having spent all our energy.

Sunday morning at 10.30am Pat Murphy was back in the Great Hall where we danced the lovely Monaghan Set. Pat then changed to two-hand dances, first the Back-to-Back Hornpipe and finished with the Ruby Waltz.

When Róisín Ní Mhainín concluded her sean nós workshop in the Parkview Room, we were thrilled to take some lessons from her in the Great Hall. It was tremendous to see all the set dancers and Róisín and Peter’s pupils stepping it out. It was a real celebration of these talented tutors.

Sunday afternoon we had a crowded Great Hall and the fabulous music of the Glenside Ceili Band. All the usual sets were danced and everyone had a fantastic time. We had a bit of sean nós dancing including a few steps from James Hogan, the keyboard player with the Glenside. Tom Flood from the Glenside wished James well on forming his own band. James and Colin McGill from Co Offaly have joined forces and started their own band. Marie Griffin from Co Clare sang a few songs in waltz and quickstep time and everyone had a great afternoon dancing. The ceili concluded with brilliant reels for the Plain Set.

Most dancers who had availed of the weekend package in the hotel remained for the grand finale ceili on Sunday night. What a treat! With the magical Micheál Sexton and Pat Walsh we had an unforgettable night’s dancing. We danced the only Claddagh Set of the weekend with all the usual sets and when the magic duo played out the last minutes of the ceili with blissful reels, some of us danced the first four figures of the lovely Labasheeda Set. The ceili and the festival closed, dancers having had a super weekend of dancing and learning new sets and steps. Paddy and Carolyn Hanafin and their committee are to be commended on yet another heavenly experience of music and dancing in the Kingdom County.

Joan Pollard Carew

We had a lot of fun

Dear Mr Hanafin,

I’m Elena from Italy. I’m writing to thank you, your wife and all the organizers for the great weekend we had in Tralee. We had a lot of fun, the bands were awesome, the place was sparkling and beautiful, and the teachers were simply perfect. We really enjoyed the workshops, where we learned many new steps which now we’re bringing home to our friends. We knew how Pat Murphy teaches, and he was perfect as he always is, but what exceeded our expectations were the two young teachers. We found them very clear to understand, even if three of us couldn’t understand a word in English! As soon as they began to teach everybody knew exactly what to do and how to do it, it was absolutely great! Now we’re home we already miss all the friends we made there, the floor beating under our feet and the music filling our ears. A special thanks to you for being so kind and full of attention to us. We also want to apologize to everybody speaking to us we didn’t understand. I promise to improve my poor English for next time. The weekend has been so exciting we can’t wait to be again at the Shindig next year. Many kisses to you, your wife and all the people who danced with us during the weekend.

Elena Callegari, Bologna, Italy

Happy exhaustion in Aarburg

The set dancing workshop in Aarburg, Switzerland, from January 19th to 21st was a great success! About sixty enthusiastic set dancers from Ireland, England, Italy, Germany, Luxemburg, France and Switzerland of all experience levels came together to enjoy a superb dance floor experience in Europe. The concert hall of the Hotel Bären in Aarburg is little known outside this small circle of European dancers, but with its original sprung-wooden support structure and parquet, it makes for the most enjoyable dancing experience.

Once again the dancers were delighted to welcome Patrick O’Dea from Roscommon as dance teacher and bon vivant, who this time broadened our dancing horizons with, among others, the Glengarriff Reel Set, the Connemara Jig Set, the Televara Set, the Waltz Cotillion, and the High-Cauled Cap. As many as seven sets filled the room comfortably, and the superb dancing floor meant that we could dance longer before collapsing with happy exhaustion after the workshops and ceilis.

Musicians and singers from Thun, Bern and Zürich in the immediate area opened the weekend with a session in the hotel on Friday night, and concurrently we greeted old friends and got Patrick warmed up with a beginners’ workshop. On Saturday and Sunday morning there were workshops, where Patrick alternatively instructed, demonstrated and brought laughs with some of his old friends. The band Irish Connection played for the ceili on Saturday night.

The organizers, Corinne Thor and Andrea Bächtold, were very pleased and thanked everyone for coming. They invite everyone to come again next year on January 18th to 20th!

Tim Thor, Solothurn, Switzerland

Another few lines from Omagh

Funny how time flies when you are enjoying yourself. A whole year has whizzed past since the last Omagh weekend, and sadly the 2007 weekend, 26–28 January, has been and gone. And what a year it has been! I have been to so many céilithe from Miltown Malbay to Portrush to Longford to Kilcoo in the Mournes. I’m glad my wife is so forbearing!

Shortly after the big weekend there was a club meeting. I was sitting at the back speaking very quietly to someone when I heard a voice from the table at the top—”And of course we will need someone to write a piece on the weekend.” I slithered down in my seat but several heads had turned in my direction. Cornered, snookered, caught! Funny when you do something once you get stuck with it the next time round. Seem familiar to anyone out there?

Well, the Friday night was always just a small social thing in the Silver Birch Hotel where many of the visiting dancers stayed. Nothing huge, no big band, and not all sets either. Anyway, over the past couple of years we have had the local Copperplate Ceili Band playing there. But their reputation as a great band is now widespread, with the result that there was quite a crowd in the small room. The committee decided that this time there would be a small door charge, only £3, all going to a local charity. What a great night it was. Now, I did mention in my article last year that I had been up for a waltz and made a poor job of it? I have since been moved to attend evening ballroom classes in the local college, and can kind of pass myself, provided I have someone else driving. Yes, thank you Kathleen, Nuala and Fiona for making me look sort of competent on occasions. But again, come the quickstep, and all I could do was sit and watch some real experts twirl their way round the floor. Apparently there will be a bigger floor to twirl round next year, as the club has booked the main room in the hotel. Despite the size of the room, it was a warm, intimate and enjoyable way to start the weekend.

Saturday morning came and I headed off across town with my shoes and loaf of sandwiches to the Dun Uladh Heritage Centre. Pat Murphy, ever-popular, was doing his usual variety of unusual sets. I had my light-footed club partner, Noreen, for this session, very enjoyable. We did the South Sligo Lancers, East Mayo and the Sliabh Fraoch. I had done this one once before, at Carryduff, so this was a nice refresher, very much enjoyed by the large gathering. The excellent soup and sandwiches lunch in the side room and the bar was organised by club stalwart Frances McGlinchey. There was a fair crowd in for lunch so all the club members were beavering away ensuring everyone’s needs were catered for. Pat’s classes were a great success and I’m told that he’ll be back next year. Pat has been coming to Omagh for ten years, ever since the passing of Connie Ryan, whom I have only heard of. To mark this occasion Pat was presented with a memento by Jimmy Carrigan and Mickey McAleer.

That night we had the popular Swallow’s Tail Ceili Band to wow us along. Someone actually counted the sets. They never told me but twenty-odd and more I thought. They came in droves from Portrush, Mayo, Galway, Wexford, Sligo, Northumberland, Liverpool, Glasgow and Belfast, all parts. If the weekend gets any more popular we’re going to have to extend Dun Uladh! I found myself in the same set as Pat Murphy and Tony Ryan. I felt honoured! And something else novel—our class teacher Marie Garrity is usually our caller but this time she was referred to as MC. Why? Because there isn’t so much calling with her these days, as it can sometimes be a bit intrusive. I have to say I was glad she called the Caledonian as I was with a partner who was only into sets a couple of weeks. Must say I had an excellent night thanks to some great partners.

Sunday morning saw our own Marie Garrity taking the floor for two-hand classes. It was packed. Again I had a fine, light of foot friend as a partner. It was thoroughly enjoyable. A nice easy morning into which Marie packed a good few dances including the Millennium Barn Dance, White Heather Foxtrot, Spanish Jive (her own version), Charleston and the two-handed Palais (or Polly) Glide.

After lunch we had the farewell ceili with the Brian Ború Ceili Band. I had never heard them before, so I wondered what they would be like. First off was the Clare Lancers. They started the intro and I turned to my partner and said, “Aren’t they something else?” What drive and lift! Nuala and I were treated to a quick refresher on the quickstep by Larry and Kathleen so when the waltz came along, up we got. Not too dreadful. But when we tried the quickstep it was so-so until Larry and Kathleen came steaming through, turning and twirling like the experts they are. Nuala stopped and said “Will we just jive?” Keep going to the classes, Michael!

I thoroughly enjoyed the ceili except for an anxious moment after the break as I waited for Noreen for the Connemara. She was nowhere to be seen as the band struck up. Sweat and palpitations! But there she was, eventually, looking for me in that fairly big crowd. She arrived only a few seconds into the dance, and ran alongside to catch up as I led around, my hands out to the side holding fresh air.

“Where were you?” sez I.

“Clearing up after the tea,” sez she. There’s dedication for you. A great ceili, enjoyed by all. I was on a high and one friend, Áine, said she wouldn’t be coming down until Wednesday! Roll on 2008!

Michael Cooney, Omagh, Co Tyrone

Termonfeckin's great value

A group of energetic set dancers set off from the south to Termonfeckin on the 19th of January in high anticipation of a marvellous weekend and we were not disappointed. This was the fifth annual set dancing weekend organised by the Termonfeckin set dancers. It is truly a great weekend as everything is included in the booking—accommodation, food, classes, ceilis—and is great value.

Our group got there early afternoon and after registration had a nice welcoming cup of tea. High tea was at 5.30pm and most of the dancers from near and far had arrived by that time. The official opening at 7.30pm was by local councillor and chairman of the Vocational Education Committee Oliver Tully who said, “It is great to see the tradition of Irish culture continuing and to keep it going and enjoy it.” We then had a wine reception with storytelling, dancing and musicians young and old who played some fine lively tunes.

The Triskell Ceili Band played for the Friday ceili and the floor was full all night dancing the Kilfenora, Caledonian, Cashel, Clare Lancers, Plain, Fermanagh, Newport and Connemara sets. After breakfast on Saturday there was a choice of sean nós, traditional step dancing and set workshops. These were all very well attended. The set workshop with Pádraig and Róisín McEneany began with the Ballycommon Set and then the South Kerry. After lunch we had a new set, the Sliabh Fraoch, which we enjoyed immensely, and also the Monaghan Set.

Celine and Michael Tubridy did the Priest and his Boots and revised the Hornpipe, the Blackbird and St Patrick’s Day. When I called in the evening the Gabhairín Buí was being danced which looked very unusual. A huge crowd attended the sean nós class with Kathleen and Michael McGlynn who gave their time unstintingly and helped everyone as much as possible.

Lunch was at 1pm and tea at 6pm and both these meals were enjoyed heartily after all the dancing. The food all the weekend was superb and the accommodation was excellent. Mass was at 8pm in the local church and drives were arranged for all who needed them. All the dancers were warmly welcomed by the parish priest. The choir was heavenly.

Johnny Reidy played for the Saturday night ceili and kept us all on our toes—literally. Along with the usual sets, we had the Mazurka, Ballycommon and South Kerry, plus waltzes and quicksteps. Breakfast on Sunday was at 9am and we had a class after with Kathleen and Michael McGlynn in sean nós and two hand dances. After tea at 11am we had the session in the hall. This is unique to Termonfeckin and always most enjoyable. It was hosted by John McEvoy and there was no shortage of entertainers, storytellers, singers and musicians young and old.

Dinner was at 1pm and the final ceili at 2pm with the Davey Ceili Band who played great lively music and again the hall was full. Many of the usual sets were danced and we had the Cúchulainn Set which was called by Michael McGlynn. This is a lovely easy set which suited some tired feet.

The ceili finished at 5pm but our group had to leave a little earlier to start the long journey home. It really was a fantastic and unforgettable weekend in every way. Sheila and John McEvoy could not be more helpful to everybody. All in all a really great weekend and highly recommended to all.

Chris Gleeson, Kilfinane, Co Limerick

Under the green, white and red flag

Pat Murphy was invited for a workshop in Torino (Turin) in Italy on St Patrick’s Day weekend. We decided to travel by car from Bavaria down to the south to dance under the green, white and red Italian flag for Paddy’s Day. And what a drive it was! In marvellous weather we passed through Austria, Switzerland and finally Italy, crossing the alps at a height of 1700 meters and having a good look at the highest snow covered mountains all the time!

The ancient town of Torino greeted us with sunshine and twenty degrees. Dancing did not start until 2.30pm on St Patrick’s Day so we had the chance to join Flora Sarzotti, the weekend’s organizer, for a lovely tour of Torino, which was the administrative capital of Italy before Florence and finally Rome became capitals. Torino is as well the town where the Fiat cars are produced.

Pat Murphy started Saturday afternoon with the popular Sliabh Fraoch Set. We were about six sets on an Italian marble floor. Participants came from quite distant towns like Verona and nearer places like Milano, Varese and Torino itself.

Flora Sarzotti translated Pat’s instructions into Italian but after a very short while Pat gave most instructions in Italian himself. It was a pure pleasure listening to him say, “Tutti house, stella, uomo a sinistra, donna a dextra,” and much more. That was the way it sounded!

Later in the afternoon we continued with the Keadue Lancers . It took us some time to get into the unusual ‘jazzing’ around the house.

The music for the Saturday night ceili was provided by a Torino ceili band. Dancing to their lovely tunes we got through four sets and many two-hand dances before we finished at almost 1am that night. Dancing brought us all together in laughs and smiles, even when we did not have enough words for a conversation. It was mighty fun to dance with everybody in Torino!

Teaching the beautiful Armagh Set, Pat gave us a brilliant start on Sunday morning. Pat’s Italian was even better than the day before—he must have taken an overnight crash course! Before the lunch break we got through two figures of the Cúchulainn Set.

The workshop was scheduled to finish by 5pm but for us the time had come to say “Ciao” to all our friends from Torino because a long journey back over the mountains was before us. I am sure many of us will meet back in Ireland for more sets, laughs and hugs! Dancers surely appreciate that Pat Murphy and many other teachers take the effort to travel far to bring the pleasure of set dancing to so many countries.

Ciao bella Italia!

Andrea Forstner, Erlangen, Germany

First Step to the West

More like a leap to the west, the Step to the West weekend was the first of its kind in the luxurious Falls Hotel of Ennistymon, Co Clare, and opened with a session on Friday, January 26th, in the bar from 7 to 9pm. The crowd was brilliant as people gathered from all over Ireland and beyond to enjoy a weekend of excellent fare—music, food, accommodation, tuition, dancing and of course the great craic for which Ireland is noted.

The Falls Hotel exudes warmth and atmosphere and is a beautiful and distinctive building nestled in a wooded vale beside the tumbling water of the River Inagh. It is a Georgian-style building with large sash windows, fine panelling and rococo decoration throughout. Within its walls are concealed an eighteenth century mansion, a late medieval castle and a formidable history of four and a half centuries embracing clan and warfare, landlords and tenants, poets, dreamers and entrepreneurs. What a fitting place for this father and son team, Tom and Sean Longe to initiate what will be the first of many Step(s) to the West. The weekend was wonderfully orchestrated by these two gentlemen who informed me that the preparations were begun at the Willy Clancy weekend this past July.

When I arrived in the ballroom I found a permanent dance floor in the center surrounded by three more well built timber floors over the carpeting to accommodate the numbers of weekend warriors that would take to the floor. I thought this was a bit of overkill, but how wrong I was, as we needed surely every bit of added space. At 9.30pm the Swallow’s Tail Ceili Band was putting the finishing touches on their set-up and shortly thereafter I could almost hear someone saying, “Let the Games begin.” From there on it was non-stop for the rest of the weekend.

The incredible energy of the music and the dancers was like a pulsing heartbeat. The Clare Lancers Set began the dancing for the weekend and the Swallow’s Tail Ceili Band were in great form. Their music was full of light and spark and the beating of the feet made me feel the dancers were pulling their energy right out of the ground. Within the 28 sets on the floor there were a lot of young dancers who obviously enjoy using battering steps and then there were the seasoned gentle dancers, close to the floor. I must admit I find something very appealing in the gentle way of the past, close to the floor, nose to the grindstone, so solid you can count on them. And then the high flying youth! Life is wonderful, so many people, so many different types, so many different ways to travel through this life.

Following the Clare Lancers came the Connemara, Ballyvourney Jig and the Kilfenora sets. It is wonderful that there is constant chatter when the couples are not dancing. All types of dress are evident here, long skirts, short skirts, loose jeans, tight jeans, dresses and suits; there seems to be no particular dress code. A bit later I spoke with a young girl who looked exhausted sitting on the edge of the stage and asked her if she were finished dancing, “No, I danced all seven sets—I’m taking a break!”

“What’s the best thing for you tonight,” I asked.

“Anytime I’m out on the floor,” was her very quick reply.

Tea followed and then we were back for the Corofin Plain, the Cashel, the Caledonian and some more waltzes, and closed with the Plain Set. At the end of the night it was totally exciting to hear the thunderous applause given to the Swallow’s Tail Ceili Band and I noticed that people just stayed around not wanting to leave this room so full of energy and enjoyment.

Saturday morning the workshop with Gerard Butler began at 10.30am. There were nine full sets to begin, and I really thought after the hour, the dancing and the craic last evening, it was a large group of dancers, but by the time he had taught the first figure of the Atha Caoire Set, a new set from West Cork, there were twelve sets of serious dancers on the floor! This set was lovely and consisted of figures called the ring, slide, polka basket, diamond slide and hornpipe diamond.

Ger Butler is a wonderful instructor. He is very patient and certainly uses humor to fill out the difficult spaces in the learning process. I found him watching the sets intently; keeping the footwork tidy at all times is very important to his tuition. I noticed whether he is teaching or not his feet are going all the time, absolutely all the time! Following the Atha Caoire we did a two-hand dance called the Spanish Jive, a great dance full of life, and then he taught some sean nós steps. I loved the way Ger said about sean nós dancing, “From the head to the heart and the legs,” in other words, learn it, feel it, do it. It was then time to break for lunch as there would be another workshop at 2pm.

The lunch in the carvery was lovely and the view as delicious as the food. During this break I talked with five young women in for the weekend from Dublin who informed me they were here first for the craic and then “some sets.” So they’re not all hard core set dancers, I said to myself.

At 2pm it was time for more tuition. This time we worked on the Claddagh Set, North Roscommon Half-Set, Polly Glide (a two hand dance) and the Circle Waltz. During the break I chatted with Joe Mannix, one of the founding members of the Atha Caoire branch of Comhaltas dance group out of West Cork. The set taught in the morning by Ger Butler comes from their homeplace and Ger utilized them to show the different figures of the set. After two sessions with Gerard Butler I found him to be a man who pays great attention to detail. Though he is an excellent dancer himself, he hasn’t forgotten the need for the new dancers to learn a step at a time and if he sees they are having trouble he is right in there until it is worked out. If you have an opportunity to take tuition with him your time will be well spent.

Saturday evening started with a seisiún in the bar from 7 to 9pm with the ceili at half nine. The music for the ceili is none other than the Johnny Reidy Ceili Band. I hadn’t seen Johnny for a while, but he hasn’t slowed down one bit! The music was brilliant throughout the evening and the crowd really enjoyed him and freely showed their appreciation. At the beginning I counted 45 sets. I thought that was a lot but by the middle of the evening there were sixty sets on the floor! Now I understood the need for the floor expansion! Our first set was the Corofin Plain followed by the Connemara, Sliabh Luacra, a waltz, jive and quickstep with songs sung by Eddie Lee who had just launched a new CD on the Thursday evening. He sang Say You Love Me and My Darling Kathleen and did a wonderful job. He has a very enjoyable voice and the words were easily understood, a great commodity in this day and age. Following this was the Plain Set and then it was time for a cuppa.

Ever so quickly after the lovely tea break the Caledonian Set was followed by the Ballyvourney Jig Set and the Claddagh. I love the music as Johnny plays it for the Claddagh. There is one part, my favourite, where the music sounds like a buzz—the notes move up the scale, your feet are going a mile a minute and your blood is rising as well. It is a great feeling of energy with sound and movement all working as one. There is no way you can look sour when you are doing this kind of dancing. I was delighted to see Joe Rynne of the Four Courts Ceili Band with his wife Bridget having a wonderful time on the dance floor, laughing through the sets. I have to say he is as good a dancer as he is at playing the fiddle. I have never seen a little Christmas done so fast! I am sure due to the pace of Johnny’s music we fitted in at least two extra sets—he is mighty in clarity, brightness and definitely speed. And so as the night was drawing to a close, for some of us at least, the crowd thunderously applauded and vocally showed their appreciation for the Johnny Reidy Ceili Band. Only in Ireland will you hear the MC announcing the times for Masses in the local area before the national anthem. I just love it!

I really don’t know how long all the festivities went on that night, but I do know that the next day’s tuition started rather slowly with only four sets to begin. We warmed up with three figures of the Plain Set and within a half hour we had seventy people on the floor learning sean nós steps. Gerard then taught the Canadian Barn Dance, the Dinky One-Step and the Back-to-Back Hornpipe, with instructions to “mind your hands” when you go back to back! One of the ladies from Germany was celebrating a birthday so Ger used her to demonstrate each dance. The end of the tuition for the weekend was the Breakaway Blues with a little more sean nós dancing.

Sunday’s ceili was from 2 to 5 pm with the Four Courts Ceili Band. I definitely have a warm place in my heart for these wonderful musicians. The music was non-stop and excellent. It seemed as though a lot of people had to leave after the morning tuition and so we had 25 sets on the floor to start. The crowd gradually grew in size to 31 sets and I was happy for that as there was plenty of room to dance. The night before it got rather crowded at times so I enjoyed the freedom of movement on the floor. Along with some of the usual sets today we did the Labasheeda, another precious little set from Clare. A great sidelight of the afternoon was when a group of dancers had what I would call a “dance off”. Sinéad Bray, Siobhán Joy, Peter Hanrahan, Shane Mulcair, Shane Creed, John Cassidy, John Fennel, Donal and Ronan Morrissy, Pat Gleeson, Owen Marrinan, Colin Butler and Aidan Vaughan danced to the particularly well-played Peter Street, Lord Ramsey’s, Concertina Reel, Sally Gardens, Pinch of Snuff, Tamlin and Maid Behind the Bar. As each stepped up to dazzle us the shouts and applause got louder and louder.

There were seven others who travelled from Midleton, east Cork, and to quote one of the women “One of the most relaxed and most enjoyable weekends I’ve ever had” and then she proceeded to expound on the great instructive techniques of Gerard Butler, who, by the way, also acted as master of ceremonies for the festivities. When man of the hour Sean Longe took to the microphone and announced that the weekend had been so successful there would be a second weekend on 25–27 January 2008, there was great vocal response, foot stomping and applause. When I queried Sean about his feelings at the end of this very busy weekend he said in his gentle and unassuming voice, “I am fully delighted.” By the reactions of the well-wishers around him he was not the only one! You can mark your diaries for next year to Step to the West. God willing, I will see you there.

Gemma Burke Bourré, Belcarra, Co Mayo

Discovering Erlangen

No matter where I go to dance a few sets, I always seem to end up in a lovely place full of friendly people. When it’s a place I’ve never been before, the pleasure of discovery and exploration in my new surroundings is nearly as enjoyable as the dancing.

On the weekend of October 9th to 11th I found myself in the city of Erlangen, in the south east of Germany, 20km north of the city of Nuremberg in the Franconia region which forms part of the state of Bavaria. This small city of 100,000 inhabitants is known for its university (founded 1742), its large facilities of the Siemens company and its open-air twelve-day beer festival, the Bergkirchweih, this year from 27 May to 7 June. Munich’s Oktoberfest may be bigger and more popular with tourists, but a million connoisseurs of fine beer visit Erlangen annually.

For the past four years Irish set dancing teachers have been visiting Erlangen in the winter for an annual workshop weekend. Sharing the teaching at the fifth workshop were Aidan Vaughan (on his fourth visit) and Tony Ryan (on his first). Our hostess was Andrea Forstner, a keen set dancer who travels often to Ireland and recreates her enjoyment of Ireland at home in her weekly classes and annual weekend. She took Tony and me, the two newcomers, on a walking tour of the city. The small scale of Erlangen was the first thing I noticed, with no high-rise buildings and wide open streets, many of which are pedestrianised. It’s a good city for walking and cycling because the centre is so compact, and I did much more walking than I usually do when dancing. The venue was close to the station, main shopping area and a selection of hotels, restaurants and pubs. It is an historic city as well with many impressive churches, sturdy old buildings, and parks and squares that should look lovely once spring arrives.

I also made an early visit to the hall on Friday as it was being readied for our weekend of dancing. Andrea’s volunteers, capably led by her husband Christian, were lifting heavy dark oak chairs and tables out the door, across the car park and into a shed. In the hall I felt as though I’d entered another age. It was an intimate space with a parquet floor, surrounded by panelled walls under a ribbed, barrel vaulted ceiling. The caretaker explained that the hall was built 85 years ago for a gentlemen’s club called the Schlaraffia. Members hold their meetings in a mock medieval environment, recite poems and sing in their own archaic language and pledge themselves to Freundschaft, Kunst und Humor, as displayed on a small lamp hanging over the stage. How appropriate, I thought, as friendship, art and humour are equally important to set dancers.

Everything was in complete readiness when dancers began arriving that evening. The floor was clear of furniture, crates of drinks were piled high by the door, and snacks and hot drinks were ready in the downstairs kitchen. At dances in Ireland we all like to have chairs mainly for a place to hang our coats. Here dancers hung their coats on hooks in the entrance, eliminating the need for chairs in the hall. Just as in Ireland, hugs and kisses were awarded to each new arrival and there were plenty of introductions and conversations while awaiting the first workshop.

After Andrea’s welcomes and introductions, Tony Ryan began with an easy little set full of fun, the Cúchulainn, and immediately had everyone’s full attention and interest. The hall was perfectly filled with nine sets and there was eager applause and excitement as each figure was completed. With everyone nicely warmed up by the first set, Aidan Vaughan worked on basic reel steps—“You have to learn to fry an egg before you become a chef,” he said. He moved on to a few more elaborate meat and potato steps and demonstrated his haute cuisine sean nós routine to show us what we’re aiming for.

I’d been wondering how I managed to miss a meal this evening and why we were setting off to the pub so soon when there was still plenty of dancing time left, but it was all part of the plan. We walked a few streets over to an old fashioned pub called Alter Simpl, which translates to something rather like Ol’ Eejit. The logo on their napkins showed three dancing gentlemen with large mugs of beer and linked arms. When we arrived after 9pm we filled every available table and chair and still the kitchen was able to accommodate our ravenous appetites. Sausages were the popular favourite here, cooked over a wood fire in an oven right beside my table. I opted for a smoked fish platter, which was served with a horseradish cream sauce so delicious I had to replenish my supply twice. All meals were less than a tenner. When the eating was done, my table was the one which was stuffed into a passage to clear the floor for dancing. Andrea plugged in a mini ghetto-blaster and played a selection of CDs for non-stop sets till closing time. Even with just one set space was tight. The ancient floor with all its hills and valleys wasn’t exactly ideal for dancing, but there was no shortage of dancers and craic.

Tony began Saturday’s dancing with the Sliabh Fraoch Set, which made a favourable impression with its unusual figures and lively style. During the break between sets, folks relaxed with tea, coffee and biscuits on comfortable seating in the kitchen, while Tony helped dancers with questions on the steps. Aidan then continued with the Portmagee Meserts, a Kerry jig set danced with a reel step. There’s a line-up figure which can be confounding—after the first couple lines up, the others have to dance around them in turn. The last couple has to make a long-distance dash around the other three to arrive in time for the cast off. Lunch was available throughout the city of Erlangen though most took advantage of a special €5 menu in a small hotel nearby. Tony resumed with the short version of the East Galway Set. It shares the figures and the energy of the long version taught recently in workshops, and differs in the formation (couples arrange themselves in two half-sets) and the house, which is danced as a most enjoyable square. With Aidan we then danced the Ballyvourney Reel Set.

Music for the Saturday night ceili was by a band of German musicians called Greenfield, one of whom travelled from as far as Berlin. Joining them from as far as County Clare was Aidan Vaughan, who provided a steady beat at a dancer’s pace on his hired drums. He never looked happier! Tony was busy too, explaining every figure before it was danced, and during many of them as well, often while dancing himself. He varied the selection of sets to suit everyone and the calling was greatly appreciated. Just before the break, Aidan left his seat and came onto the floor for a sean nós display. He and the rest of the band were then rewarded by a delivery of five pizzas to consume during the break and sustain them during the second half. Another display was performed between sets by Gertrud Uphoff, who danced in clattery clogs and a radiant smile. The last set of the night was the Lancers, danced with shouts and cheers, especially when the Tamlin Reel started off the final figure. Afterward the buzz in the hall took a while to diminish, and by then many dancers had gone out to wind down in a modern glass-walled pub called Pio.

The big excitement on Sunday morning was that the local paper featured the dance weekend in an article, one of the dancers in the photo was given great acclaim for her angelic smile. There were two more sets with Tony and Aidan, the Roscahill from Galway and that Clare classic, the Paris Set, followed by a lunch break in another hotel—it was great to experience so many Erlangen establishments. The music for the afternoon ceili was in a bit of doubt, as the lead piano accordionist had to return to Berlin, but luckily a Nuremberg-based uilleann piper, David Bradfield, originally from Westmeath, filled in.

When the afternoon’s dancing had finished, Andrea expressed warm thanks to the teachers, musicians and dancers. Ray Kearns visiting from Dublin requested the microphone and expressed his heartfelt thanks, not only to Andrea, but to all the German dancers for making him and the other Irish visitors so welcome, and I was grateful to him for expressing so well what I felt myself. Ray had flown over from Dublin but was driving all the way back to bring home his newly purchased motorbike. The other Irish visitors included three fun-loving and fast-dancing ladies from Cork and a young Dublin woman living in Munich attending her first set dancing weekend with much success and pleasure.

For those who didn’t have to rush home, there was one last opportunity for a taste of Erlangen when we visited one of the local breweries. We were treated to an explanation of the brewing process and a guided tour of the equipment, and nearly everyone sampled the products. While waiting for the food I found myself nibbling at the malted barley used in the brewing process which was available on all the tables—it was quite nice, but the meal was far better.

Our return flights on Monday were late enough to leave time for Andrea to take Tony and me on a guided tour of Nuremberg, a pleasant finish to a beautiful weekend. The weekend was as warm and friendly as any in Ireland, with a fine little venue, perfect organisation and a city well worth another visit. I look forward to more dancing there!

Bill Lynch

Praise for Carrigaline

The Carrigaline, Co Cork, set dance workshop weekend, March 9-11, was an outstanding success. The signs were all up to guide our patrons in the right direction—the sign committee had seen to that earlier in the day. The festival started on Friday night, 9th March, when over forty enthusiasts turned up at 8pm in the GAA Pavilion for the sean nós steps workshop given by Susanne Leahy from Limerick. Those who attended were so happy it set them up for the weekend.

The Five Counties Ceili Band pleased everybody with a marvellous selection of lively dance music at the ceili. The recently formed ten-piece band of young talented musicians attracted the biggest crowd to date for a Friday night ceili in Carrigaline. The number of young people present augers well for the future of set dancing. Ann Mangan arrived with a busload of dancers from Killarney. They were full of praise for the weekend event and were delighted with the Carrigaline Court Hotel where they stayed. Pádraig and Róisín McEneany, from Termonfeckin, Co Louth, who came to Carrigaline to give the workshop, were among the many that flew into Cork for the weekend. The airport is so near to us it is very convenient. They came to the ceili on Friday night and enjoyed the dancing to this great young band.

Eight sets attended the Saturday workshop where Pádraig and Róisín started with the Ballycommon Set. There were many requests for the Claddagh, so they did that next and nearly finished before lunch at 1pm when everyone scattered to the village for something to eat in the many eating houses of every variety. After lunch he finished the last part of the Claddagh. The next set they did was the Sliabh Fraoch from Rockchapel, Co Cork, a new dance on the circuit. It seems to be gaining popularity at the moment and Pádraig called it that night at the ceili. They finished the workshop with two-hand dances: two variations of the Gay Gordons and the Waltz Country Dance.

The famous Tulla Ceili Band from Co Clare on their first visit to Carrigaline provided excellent traditional music for dancing, played at the correct tempo. Many who appreciate the best of Irish traditional music came especially just to listen to the world renowned Clare ceili band. At midnight after the tea break, as part of a nationwide tribute to the late Donncha Ó Muíneacháin, the band played a selection of two-hand dances. It was a sight to behold to see the full hall of over 300 dancing the Two-Hand Reel and the Peeler and the Goat in honour of Donncha. After eleven years trying, it was great to get the Tulla to Carrigaline and well worth it.

Sunday morning began at a deich a clog (10am) with Aifreann as Gaeilge (Irish language Mass) in the Church of Our Lady and St John. The workshop followed in the GAA at 11am when Pádraig and Róisín did the Fermanagh Set. The final ceili of the weekend took place from 2.30 to 5.30pm with another Clare band, the Four Courts from Kilfenora, who played beautiful dance music again at the proper tempo. Pádraig and Róisín had to depart for the airport before the ceili was over, another weekend down. Everyone was so pleased with Pádraig and Róisín, commenting that they were such good tutors and so helpful. Organiser Barry Cogan, when he was thanking them, was very pleased to announce that they are booked again for next year, please God.

It was a memorable weekend.

Aislinn Cogan, Carrigaline, Co CorkThe Carrigaline, Co Cork,

St Patrick helps chase snakes out of Canberra

Saturday 17th March, Canberra, Australia: It was a hot and balmy start to the day—perfect for snakes. But what would it be? Yellow-bellied black snake? Tiger snake? Or even a deadly brown snake?

Fortunately, none of the above, as the day soon cooled off with an easterly breeze from the far-off coast and then darkened to a magical night for dancing. The fifty or so snake-chasers arrived at the dance hall in their best camouflage of green, red, orange, purple and blue. The Beat’n’Track band were soon blasting out tunes and rhythm that would ensure any remaining reptiles were slithering for a new home!

The dance began in Co Tipperary with the Ballycommon Set—short, sweet and fast, and quickly moved on to the lovely waves of the Aran Set. Electric fans were then employed to improve air circulation as the perspiration began to flow. The focus moved back east to Cashel for all six figures and then southwest to the wee town of Ballyvourney for their reel set. Paul Carr was the caller for this set and gave a great run-through for all those who were unfamiliar with the dance.

Gasping for tea, the dancers trotted off to find supper—a great feast of cakes, buns, sandwiches, biscuits, fruit and nuts. Many found the cool evening a great relief and wandered outside to find two small grey doves or similar birds sleeping in the large oak outside. They were perched precariously on the very end of two tree branches, snuggled in and covered by leaves, about seven feet off the ground. Nature in Australia never fails to surprise!

Refreshed and revived, the Caledonian set was danced to a rake of excellent reels and called by the even more excellent Dave Arnold. The last set of the night was . . . the Plain set.

No surprise but great fun and danced with energy and enthusiasm.

Nora Stewart, Bywong, NSW, Australia

It's better in Killarney

Scartaglen, Co Kerry, is a village I’ve only ever seen in the cold and damp darkness of a February evening—never in daylight. I’m always bursting with excitement and anticipation when I make my annual pilgrimage to the ceili here, for it’s the start of the Gathering Festival, one of the major highlights of my set dancing calendar. The Gathering probably attracts more overseas visitors than any other event outside of the summer, and many arrived early enough on Wednesday, February 22nd, to experience for themselves the pleasure of music and dance in the heart of Sliabh Luachra.

The Gathering is based at Gleneagle Hotel in Killarney, and the visitors arrived in Scartaglen on a couple of coaches supplied by the hotel. They were first deposited in Tom Fleming’s Bar where they enjoyed the atmosphere of a Sliabh Luachra session. Once they had settled in they were slow to move down the road to the hall for the ceili. When I arrived, the band Uí Bhriain, brother and sister duo John and Martina Breen, were ready to go but waiting on a few more to arrive. When the Ballyvourney Reel Set was called we had just three sets on the floor of mostly local dancers. Then each time I looked around the hall I saw new sets and faces and gave excited waves to friends unseen for a year. The beautiful Kerry music was more than lively enough to make me hot, sweaty and breathless, and my excitement seemed to increase with each partner. We danced Sliabh Luachra, Borlin Polka and Jenny Ling, plus all three plain sets. The Gathering effect had begun and I was hooked! After the ceili I wandered down to the session where a dozen or more musicians were playing their hearts out. I was listening only a few minutes when the visitors were called back to their coaches; suddenly the pub emptied and the musicians were left packing up their instruments.

On Wednesday the dancers went to Sliabh Luachra, while on Thursday night Sliabh Luachra came to the dancers in the hotel ballroom. Local musicians played for a concert, which was followed by a ceili with the music of husband and wife duo Tim Joe and Anne O’Riordan. Polka sets get equal time with reel sets at the Gathering’s ceilis, so we began with a Sliabh Luachra, naturally, and in between the Kilfenora and Connemara sets was my beloved West Kerry. By the way, I learned something new in the Kilfenora Set—when I described the second figure to my set, a trans-Atlantic visitor said, “Oh, that’s the accordion figure,” which I thought a very apt name for the movements. The ceili finished with a Plain Set and at the end of each figure Tim Joe asked if we wanted to keep going and we shouted, “Yes!” and the music kept going. Someone on the other side of the ballroom must have shouted “No!” after the third figure because there was a pause, but the rest of the figures were non-stop, without losing a beat changing from reel to jig and back again.

Kids had a turn at dancing at their own workshop on Friday. Two patient teachers helped about twenty youngsters of various ages and abilities through the Siege of Ennis, the brush dance and a set or two. There was no dancing for adults until the night’s big ceili with Johnny Reidy. In fact they don’t get much bigger than this, with a fairly full house in the enormous Irish National Events Centre (INEC) attached to the hotel. The place was so full of friends that I had six sets booked before the music started and the remaining two vacancies were filled soon after the opening Sliabh Luachra Set. Next was the Mazurka and one fellow told me he counted 84 sets dancing. The endless sea of bodies moving together was a delight to observe from within, and I’m sure it was a marvellous sight for those observing from the balconies. Johnny had everyone under his complete control. He looked as cool as could be while delivering his amazing music. His eye wandered over everyone on the floor; his smile grew whenever he caught someone’s eye, heard a shout or acknowledged a wave. Piano player Eddie Lee welcomed Tom Scully, who has been playing banjo with the band for a few weeks, and announced that he was now an official member of the Johnny Reidy Ceili Band; we were all only delighted. By the time we finished with the Connemara we’d surely topped that figure of 84 sets, but only the people on the balcony knew for sure. The INEC emptied slowly; it takes a long while to return to normal after a good ceili. The hotel bar was packed with people and an assortment of session musicians kept dancers going at least till 5am.

Three dance workshops were offered on Saturday—Pádraic Ó hOibicín from Connemara taught sean nós dancing to sixty keen dancers, while Timmy McCarthy tutored beginners in Cork and Kerry sets. Pat Murphy was teaching here for the first time and wasn’t the least bit daunted by the immensity of the INEC. As in previous years, a line of chairs divided the hall to keep the sets from spreading out too far. We danced a varied selection of sets, beginning with the Aherlow Set, a rarity from Tipperary which I hadn’t seen since it was first uncovered about five years ago. The wheelbarrow formation is a bit different—the gent in the middle takes the two ladies’ outside hands as usual, and the two ladies also take their inside hands across the gent’s belly. “Don’t look down, Tony!” Pat advised Tony Ryan in the demonstration. In the second half of the morning session Pat taught the increasingly popular Sliabh Fraoch Set.

After the lunch break we had the pleasure of the Clare Orange and Green Set, known for it’s contrary movement which confounds and delights in equal measure. The back to back is my favourite part of the second figure as there’s an opportunity to meet my partner’s eyes a total of sixteen times! The third figure is the best of the set, and while all the other figures are repeated, the knot movement is so much fun that we’re only allowed to dance it once. When we finished there was enough time to finish the afternoon with three figures of the Loughgraney Set. Pat was in top form today and shared his expertise with amiable good humour. Nearly twenty keen and attentive sets stayed for the full day and enjoyed every dance.

The Allow Ceili Band brought as many to the Saturday ceili in the INEC as I saw on the previous night and probably more, perhaps even close to 100 sets! The Allow is an eleven-piece competition-style ceili band from Freemount, Co Cork, who placed second in the All-Ireland ceili band competition. They’re well practiced at playing fast music and excelled at it tonight whether we were dancing polkas or reels. My advance bookings only filled half the ceili tonight so I had the luxury of spontaneity in the second half; I even took my place in a set, raised my hand and met with a lovely partner I hadn’t danced with before. It was in the waltz that I realised just how big a room the INEC is—there was barely time to make two circuits around the hall before the music stopped. And even all the slower moving Pride of Erin dancers you encounter during a waltz these days weren’t able to hold up traffic, thanks to the loads of space. After the ceili’s end nearly everyone seemed to have jammed themselves into the bar to finish the night. The musicians at the centre of the crowd encouraged out reluctant young sean nós dancers, who were greeted with deafening applause and cheers. During a rake of jigs, there was a set dancing a non-stop Jenny Ling. Those who fancied a quieter end to the night had their choice of small sessions in nearby rooms and hallways.

After a short night I returned to the INEC for the Sunday morning workshop with Pat Murphy, who devoted the session to two-hand dances. Among the many waltzes and one and two-steps we danced, Pat was delighted to be able to teach us the Killarney Waltz in Killarney. I took a few moments to visit Timmy McCarthy’s workshop in a small ballroom in the hotel and was only delighted to see the floor full of people dancing the Borlin Polka Set with Timmy himself seated in the centre playing accordion. After a figure, he jumped up, said, “This is what you’ll look like if you keep dancing,” and stripped off a jumper to reveal a T-shirt over the lean machine beneath. He demonstrated the technique used to throw a lady up in the air after doubling around the house with her in the hornpipe figure. “That’s why there are so many dents in the ceiling,” he said. It was a rather low ceiling.

The Sunday afternoon ceili was again in the INEC, the last one of the weekend, and the support by the dancers was again outstanding, with another full house of eighty or more sets. We were blessed by a beautiful performance from Swallow’s Tail Ceili Band, beginning with a Connemara Set. The musicians were in their element with a big hall, huge crowd, high stage and bright lights. When the final Plain Set was called, we were told to expect a rake of reels immediately afterward, so my set had a lively debate on which set we’d do then. The Labasheeda was chosen and when the Plain ended and the music kept going, we changed over without hesitation. We did well to fit in three figures and the music only stopped a few bars into the fourth.

Sunday night’s concert was the only one of the festival without the distraction of a competing ceili, and many of the dancers staying one last night in the hotel enjoyed the chance to do some serious listening.The late session that night may not have been quite as crowded as other nights but the music was as lively as ever and tempted a few out to dance some steps and sets in the wee hours of the morning.

Among the many pleasures that make up the Gathering, I like the big crowds best. You can sometimes lose a partner, as I did one night, but you’ll rarely find more friends in one place and that makes it feel quite friendly and intimate. All ages from eight to eighty are here; many counties, countries and continents are represented. The INEC is stunning—big enough to hold a hundred sets with room to spare and balconies where spectators can see the beauty in a large crowd. The details were well looked after, with good sound, expert callers and even free spring water. Commendably, the organisers maintain a serious emphasis on the music tradition, particularly favouring the local Sliabh Luachra musicians, and this is welcomed by all who attend. The Gathering truly gets better and better each year.

Bill Lynch

West Limerick's great invention

The fifteenth annual West Limerick Set Dancing Club’s festival was held in Rathkeale House Hotel, March 2–4, for the second year following many years in the Convent Hall in Abbeyfeale. The change of venue has been a wonderful success judging by the hundreds of dancers who enjoyed the weekend of workshops, ceili and seisiuns.

The committee extended the floor area in the hotel ballroom to ensure adequate dancing space and comfort. The extra floor was a dream to dance on. You would know that dancers had put this floor down with attention to detail and safety. Mike Murphy and Connie Egan kept a close eye all weekend to ensure no screws were working loose although the dancers gave it plenty of leather.

The festival got underway with a ceili on Friday night. We had the superb Taylor’s Cross Ceili Band on stage. Timmy Woulfe welcomed everyone and then handed over to John Joe Tierney who was our MC for the night. Fifteen sets gathered on the floor for the first set, the West Limerick. We danced mostly familiar sets, including the beautiful Claddagh. The numbers grew as the night rolled on and I counted twenty sets enjoying the Cashel Set. After the ceili concluded with the Connemara Set, some dancers retired for the night while others had a seisiún in the residents’ lounge.

Saturday morning Pat Murphy and Betty McCoy got the workshop underway with the Sliabh Fraoch Set. Frank and Bobby Keenan revived this set from notes which Bobby got from her grandmother. This is a real treasure of a set I believe will become as popular as the Kilfenora and the Claddagh. The second set Pat and Betty taught was the long version of the East Galway. Some lovely formations are danced in it with everyone moving at the same time. In total the workshop was enjoyed by almost 200 dancers.

At 2pm sharp the hall was abuzz with dancers eager in anticipation of a wonderful afternoon’s ceili with the magic duo Micheál Sexton and Pat Walsh. And joy of joy, we were not disappointed. If you didn’t look up to the stage you would think that there were numerous musicians on stage. This twosome is one of the best bands on the set dancing scene. The ceili began with the Caledonian Set and Timmy Woulfe as MC. I was both delighted and honoured when Timmy invited me on stage to call the Ballyduff Set. We danced some more familiar sets including the Labasheeda and South Galway, then Pat Murphy called the Sliabh Fraoch. The ceili finished with the Connemara.

At the end of the ceili Pat Walsh told us of a new weekend festival in honour of Micheál’s father, the late Michael Sexton who was well known and loved by set dancers through the years. This festival is to be held in the Armada Hotel in Co Clare over the Easter Weekend next year.

at and Micheál didn’t play the customary national anthem and instead began a marching tune and to our great surprise we had a marching bodhrán display with participants as young as four years of age.

After Mass in the ballroom, the hotel bar and lounge came alive with a mighty bodhrán competition. Mike Murphy accompanied each entrant on the fiddle and Donie Sullivan from Taylor’s Cross on flute. The overall winner was Paddy Sullivan from Carrigkerry, first prize in the ladies section was scooped by Linda Murphy from Carrigkerry, and Liam Cops proudly took first in the junior section. The competition was a new venture and it was a joy to hear all the music created. The banter between each participant was like a big family gathering.

Saturday night at 9.30pm hundreds thronged to the ballroom to dance to the dynamic music of Johnny Reidy and his band. Pat Murphy was our MC for the first half of the ceili with Timmy Woulfe taking over after the break. We had a super selection of sets including the Derrada, Mazurka and West Kerry, which I danced with my old friend Shay White from Co Meath. Last year we danced this set together and had a ball; I was lucky and overjoyed to be his dancing partner for it again this year. Shay is a joy to meet at all times and a very popular dancer, especially with the ladies. It was brilliant to dance sets that are omitted all too often from ceilis around the country. Johnny Reidy and his band gave us music to raise the roof, lift our heart and reach our souls.

The break time flew by with special entertainment, both dancers and comedy. Sean Duggan from Co Longford gave us a display of his dancing routine, then we had a guest appearance by Mrs Doubtfire alias Diarmuid Foley from Abbeyfeale and set dancing pupil of teacher Josephine O’Connor. She gave us a little sketch which included some displays of step dancing by non-volunteers dragged from the crowd. Everyone enjoyed the show and the rest to renew energy for the remainder of the night. When the ceili finished most dancers retired but some remained in the residents’ lounge singing and having fun until 5am.

Our Sunday morning workshop got underway with Pat and Betty teaching Seit Doire Colmcille, another set that has not been danced for a long time. The workshop concluded with some lovely two-hand dances. The first was the Millennium Barn Dance. Pat told us that this dance was put together by Edie Bradley to celebrate the millennium. The second dance was a fabulous waltz called Margaret’s Waltz. According to Pat, the music was especially composed for a lady called Margaret. This is another progressive dance, a great way to interact with other dancers as the couples move on each time. Pat’s workshop had come to an end—we are always both enriched and enlightened by the professionalism of this gifted Co Tipperary dance master.

At 2.30pm the Glenside Ceili Band were raring to get the dancers moving. I was delighted to meet the Flood brothers once again and to wish Tom and his wife Marie a safe confinement on the impending birth of their first baby in April. I was also thrilled to chat to Alan Finn from the Forty Shillings and Five Counties ceili bands, who was playing violin with the Glenside.

Included in the afternoon’s list of sets was the South Kerry, and Pat Murphy called two of the sets he taught at his workshop, the Sliabh Fraoch and East Galway. We had super music as is usual for this young brilliant band. At the break we had a short version of the sketch with Mrs Doubtfire and then some brilliant sean nós dancing by numerous dancers from Limerick, Kerry and Laois. The ceili concluded with the Clare Lancers, Connemara and Plain Set. Ann Curtin, chairperson of the West Limerick Dancing Club, thanked everyone for their support and told us the festival was booked in the hotel for the same weekend next year. She said this weekend was mighty, and everyone present echoed her sentiments.

The weekend was regretfully over, and it felt like I was leaving home; there was almost a tangible loneliness in the parting. This club and the dancers who support them know the true meaning of a hundred thousand welcomes—I would go so far as to say these warm homely people invented the welcome.

Joan Pollard Carew

Gearóid's gang go Ghent

Thursday morning, the first day of March, the coach collected Ghearóid Mulrooney’s set dancers from Moycullen, Renmore, Tí Ghearóid’s (his pub in Oranmore) and Clarinbridge (all in Co Galway) en route to Dublin Airport where 44 dancers and three band members boarded the Ryanair flight to Charleroi, Belgium, at 5.20pm. There we were met by another coach and deposited in the excellent Novotel Ghent Central just before 10pm. Time for an express check-in, a quick bite and off in search of a drink. This we found in the Celtic Towers Pub—we would return there!

Friday began with a 10am briefing by our excellent Belgian organisers, Pascale and Stefan, who distributed brochures and local information. Time for shopping or relaxation before catching trolley bus Number 3 to De-Ingang (the entrance) and our first ceili from 2 to 5pm. By 7pm Stefan and Pascale led us around the more interesting sights—a tour of Ghent by night. Old buildings and young ladies, not to mention Mad Meg, a fifteenth century cannon which cracked the first and only time it was ever fired, were looked at and legends recounted as we trooped along the cobblestones and over the many wooden bridges. This was spectacularly interesting not to say a thirsty business. We retired to Foley’s for a fine meal and liquid refreshment. It was well after midnight when those who still had the energy made a second visit to the Celtic Towers and a great music session.

On Saturday morning the bright weather was temporarily interrupted by rain as we (those that were able to get up) voyaged in a glass top boat on the River Leie and the Ghent canals under the expert commentary of our Belgian hostess. She displayed remarkable restraint during our constant ripostes and was even gracious enough to take a group photograph afterwards by which time the sun had returned.

Shopping, visiting the famous Van Eyck paintings and the many interesting buildings, or simply relaxing was the choice on Saturday afternoon. After 7pm we once again boarded the Number 3 and headed for De-Ingang for another ceili. This time we were joined by almost twenty dancers from Brussels, Antwerp and elsewhere in Belgium. There were seven sets on the floor and the craic was mighty—and thirsty. The in-house bar did a great trade but most reserved their serious thirst for yet another visit to the Celtic Towers which was celebrating its fifth birthday. Another great but late night.

Sunday morning was sunny as we made our way to De-Ingang for the third and last ceili from 10am to 1pm. Less sets but still mighty craic. We returned to the hotel for a meal and check-out. Our coach arrived at 3.15pm and we sang our way to Charleroi. We got to know Ghent a little better and, we like to think, Ghent got to know the Irish a little better. By 9pm most were home again and already looking forward to next year.

Theresa O'Toole, Oughterard, Co Galway

Never before seen in Gortahork

Dancers came from all corners of England and Ireland to make the Hills of Donegal set dancing weekend, held in Óstan Loch Altan, Gortahork, Co Donegal, from the 8th to 11th of March, an amazing success.

All the weekend’s visitors gathered on the Friday night for the opening ceili. The Swallow’s Tail Ceili Band travelled from Co Sligo to start the dancing. The atmosphere was fantastic and got the weekend off to a brilliant start.

Gerard Butler was originally scheduled to teach sean nós and battering steps during the weekend, but unfortunately due to an injury he was unable to dance or teach at the event. However, ever the professional, Gerard still travelled to Donegal and took the job of MC during the event and kept the dancers on track and their feet aflame during the fabulous music from Friday through to Sunday evening.

Throughout the course of Saturday and Sunday morning, workshops were held in the hotel’s bars and function room. Edith Bradley taught two-hand dances to full classes on both days. Pat Murphy also travelled to Donegal to teach set dances, again to packed workshops.

Johnny Reidy and his band travelled a lengthy eight-hour journey from Co Kerry on the Saturday to play to a crowded function hall, and his band managed to fill the extended dance floor with a staggering 48 sets. The atmosphere in Loch Altan’s ballroom on Saturday was absolutely ecstatic, its like never before seen in Gortahork. Even those who couldn’t dance had tapping feet and clapping hands. A repeat performance was had on the Sunday afternoon for the final ceili, and they played yet again to a packed ballroom. The mood was electric as the weekend had been such an incredible success. This ceili band certainly put their stamp on the weekend.

Following the final ceili, hotel director Barney Gallagher gave a lovely speech that ended the weekend wonderfully and showed his sincere appreciation to all who came.

Diane Cannon, Gortahork, Co Donegal

St Patrick's Spanish idyll

The luxurious Hotel Riu Ferrara on the sea edge in the Spanish town of Torrox near Malaga was home to a wonderful week of Saint Patrick’s celebrations, the fifth annual Sunshine and Shamrock tour organised by Enjoy Travel. The weather, artists and entertainment were fabulous.

Most of the holidaymakers arrived on Sunday, 11th March, and I reached the hotel at lunchtime to a champagne reception. My baggage was taken care of and my room allocated without any delay. I showered and changed from my winter woollies and within half an hour of arriving I was sipping coffee on the sun-drenched terrace. The atmosphere was magic, with music flowing on the breeze and the happy chatter of the people arriving. Meeting old friends from other trips like Ibiza, Portugal and the Mediterranean cruise made it almost feel like a family reunion.

Live music got underway on Sunday night in the ballroom, which had a marvellous timber floor. Catherine Darcy kept us all dancing waltzes, quicksteps and jives, then to Dermot Hegarty everyone boogied until midnight. Most holidaymakers retired to bed but there is always a gang of festivalgoers willing to party until dawn.

Monday morning after breakfast I took a walk on the promenade, which was accessible from the hotel grounds via a security gate, operated by the bedroom door swipe card. The breeze was warm and the sea air a joy to my lungs. The street at the front of the hotel was alive with a market selling everything from a needle to an anchor. It was like stepping back in time for me and reminded me of my childhood when I visited the market square in Thurles or the market yard in Kilkenny with my father.

After our welcome meeting, Sharon Turley was the first artist to perform on the terrace and she brought us into true holiday mood with her singing and bubbly personality. Then we had Mr Accordion Man himself, Danny Webster, playing his heart out. I was delighted to see familiar set dancers from Limerick, Galway, Kerry, Clare, Tipperary and Britain enjoying the sun. I collected them together to start with a mighty Connemara Set. Danny played from 2 until 5.30pm, and interspersed the sets with waltzes, quicksteps, tangos and foxtrots to accommodate all the dancers in the beautiful sunshine on the terrace and pool areas. The five sets that had gathered had a wonderful time and requested that we have another session on the terrace the following day.

The hotel’s Blue Room hosted a cabaret act every night; the first show was a Spanish flamenco, a colourful exotic dance. In the main ballroom were Michael Cleary and Breege Kelly who delighted set dancers when they played a Seige of Ennis and we had no trouble filling the floor. Trevor Moyle and his band from County Meath were the second performers and the night concluded with brilliant music and singing from Liam McLoughlin. This new young artist has a superb voice and stage presence, sings in his very recognisable Antrim accent, and stole the hearts of everyone. When it was time for him to finish his act everyone applauded and shouted for more.

With breakfast eaten on Tuesday I took my by now customary walk on the beautiful promenade. At 2pm P J Murrihy started the music and dancing on the terrace, accompanied by Declan Aungier from Co Kildare as Seamus Shannon was unable to travel. We danced another Siege Of Ennis and of course social dancers had a ball. Then we had Danny on his magic box as we danced the Connemara and Clare Lancer sets, the Peeler and the Goat, Breakaway Blues, Military Two-Step and Gay Gordons.

All the holidaymakers were eager for a full night’s entertainment in the cabaret and ballroom. What a superb night of dancing—set dancers and modern dancers made new friendships, mingled and enjoyed each other’s disciplines in dancing. Most set dancers would not get the opportunity at home to enjoy the many country artists we have the privilege to dance to and get to know on these holidays.

Wednesday took on a slightly different focus for the set dancers. The one and only Mickey Kelly, Co Mayo’s ambassador of dance, arrived on Tuesday night and by popular demand set dancing workshops were arranged. Our first workshop began on Wednesday morning just after Mass with four sets on the terrace. We had a lot of newcomers to set dancing and Mickey danced the Connemara Set to live music supplied by Danny. We also danced the Waltz Country Dance and the St Bernard Waltz. Mickey was delighted to do the workshop, although he had no idea he would be doing it as he had come only to relax. The true nature of both Mickey Kelly and Danny Webster shone; these two talented men extended their brief to accommodate the requests of the dancers. Everyone was loud in their praise of these men.

Thursday after Mass, Mickey Kelly and Danny Webster set up on the terrace for another set dancing class, which had now grown to five sets. We danced the lovely Derradda Set. Mickey devoted ample time to the beginners and we had a fabulous time dancing and sharing Mickey’s humour. This big gentle Mayo man has a knack of putting newcomers at ease and takes them under his wing. He can be seen chatting to and advising these dancers long after the class finishes.

Friday morning’s set dance workshop got underway with the little Clare treasure of a set, the Kilfenora. We had five sets, all eager to dance. The workshop concluded with Mickey teaching the Sweetheart Waltz.

Saturday morning we had our set dancing workshop and danced the three sets we had done at the classes on the previous three days. It was a joy to see that most of the beginners were comfortable with these sets and understood the moves being called. I think that a small intimate class lends itself well to beginners as individual attention can be given. We danced the Circle Waltz and the Sweetheart Waltz again and finished with the Waltz of the Bells. Among the class we had a group of lovely Scottish ladies who fell in love with set dancing and are planning on getting a workshop going in Glasgow or Aberdeen. This is surely testament to the positive image of our music and dancing shown by Danny Webster, Mickey Kelly and all the set dancers. These Scottish ladies never danced a step before coming on this holiday.

On Saturday afternoon the talent show was an event to treasure. We had 21 performers, including some of the Spanish waiters. The popular winner was Agnes McCarthy from Co Cork, whose song and her fabulous voice brought tears to many eyes as this 92-year-old lady sang Danny Boy. Agnes was on holiday with her two daughters and niece. She scooped a lovely prize of a holiday courtesy of Enjoy Travel. For the fancy dress competition we had twelve entries; the winner was a young man from Aberdeen and his horse and jockey theme was very apt, as it was the week of Cheltenham races.

The terrace area was quickly set up for Mass in the open air. We had singing and music with most artists taking part. It was a very spiritual experience with most of the 700 holidaymakers sitting around in the evening sunshine and praying and joining in the hymns.

Saturday night was busy. We had our only indoor ceili at 8pm in the ballroom and danced the three sets from the workshops, plus the Waltz Country Dance and the Circle Waltz. Danny Webster once more kept us on our feet and Mickey Kelly made sure everyone knew what to do as he called the sets and provided humorous remarks. Trevor Moyle then came on stage, followed by Liam McLoughlin and finishing with Johnny Carroll. The night concluded at 2am for most holidaymakers but well after 4am there was music and singing in the complex.

This was my first time on this trip and it will be one of my must-be-there events from now on. It was a joy to celebrate the feast of our national saint on Spanish shores and a privilege to meet, dance to and enjoy the company of all the performers. The hotel is a beauty spot; the staff, food and service are second to none. Set dancers, polish your shoes and mark your diary for Paddy’s Week next year!

Joan Pollard Carew

Articles continue in Old News Volume 39.

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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