last updated 24 April 2014
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Set Dancing News

Old news and reviews—Volume 83

Copyright © 2011 Bill Lynch

Party in Portugal 2013

As myself and Carol pulled up our hoods and made a dash for the car park in Cork Airport, the reality hit home that our holiday in Portugal with Enjoy Travel was well and truly over. It was only ten days ago, on October 12th, that we were sitting in this very airport looking forward to jetting off to Party in Portugal 2013. This was our second trip to Portugal, and a huge part of the build-up to it was looking forward to meeting the extensive family which we seem to have been officially adopted into! So as we waited for our flight to Faro airport with friends, musicians and numerous other dancers we had a fair idea of what the next ten days would hold and we couldn’t wait! The two-and-a-half-hour flight from Cork to Faro was made all the more pleasant in the company of Eilis Murphy from the Neily O’Connor Ceili Band, and her hubby to be Patrick Mulcahy. Congrats on the engagement, guys!

This year, the Tivoli Hotel in Carvoeiro was home to the event, and a first time trip here for Enjoy Travel. As I do a bit of landscape photography, I was especially excited about the hotel, as it boasted some amazing scenery, ideal for those sunset photo shoots! Perched on a cliff, this very large hotel overlooked the Atlantic Ocean with steps down to its own private little beach, Praia Vale Covo. It took a while to get our bearings, as even though the hotel reception was on the ground floor from the front, it was actually on the fifth floor from the back! You had to go down five floors to get to the ground level and the exit to the pool area. There was also the choice of two restaurants, one of which was situated at the back of the hotel with a balcony overlooking the stunning views.

After a lovely buffet meal on our day of arrival, we were starting to look forward to the first ceili of the trip with Neily O’Connor and company. But first stop was the hotel lounge to catch up with the master of ceremonies for the nightly session, Mick Mackey. We were so looking forward to these sessions, and if our previous two holidays were anything to go by, they would be even bigger and better! The fourth floor was where the two ballrooms were situated, and these two extremely large rooms were where all the nightly ceilis and social dances were held. The smaller of the two rooms (although not small by any means!) was the ceili room, and proceedings kicked off with a fantastic ceili! Along with the Neily, three other ceili bands made the trip to Portugal. For the first five days, Neily’s band was joined by Mountain Road Ceili Band, and for the second five days we were treated to the musical delights of Donie Nolan and Taylor’s Cross and the Annaly Ceili Band. As usual, each ceili band brought their own flair and their own unique sound, which had all dancers entranced for the duration of the ceilis. As is commonplace on these trips, the sets are called, which is a help to newcomers and the less experienced, or people like myself who can never remember them! Unfortunately, Ger Butler and Pat Murphy were unable to make the trip as expected, which left the responsibility for all workshops and ceilis to Mickey Kelly and Sheila Gormley, with Jane Mackey helping out at various stages over the ten days.

Ah, the workshops! Learning sets in the sun is always a special treat! Outside in the pool area, beside the ground floor bar and restaurant, a floor had been set up for the workshops, the afternoon dancing and the popular ‘strictly fun dancing’ competition, talent show and county colours parade. Following the ballroom workshops in the morning, the set dancing workshops kept the dancers entertained and educated until the afternoon dancing took over. Mickey, Sheila and Jane were fantastic, and a full dance floor for every workshop was a testament to how much everyone enjoyed themselves. Similar to bands having their own unique sound, each of the teachers had their own unique style of teaching, but all of them kept the workshops extremely entertaining and fun! Over the course of the trip, there were eight different sets taught, the Claddagh, Newport, Rinkinstown, Camp, Blacktown, Fermanagh, Borlin Jenny and the Nine-Mile-House Lancers. The Camp Set made its debut at our Sweets of May weekend, as part of our compose-a-new-set competition, and was well received by dancers. The set has the potential to be a popular one at ceilis! The Nine-Mile-House Lancers was one we had never heard of, and was taught by Jane Mackey. It originated in Tipperary on the Kilkenny border. Most of the sets taught at these workshops were later danced at the night time ceilis.

There is also something very special about an outdoor ceili, especially when the weather is glorious! The outdoor afternoon ceilis were an absolute delight and even for those who chose not to dance, being able to relax in the sun and enjoy the best in ceili music was a joy! Unfortunately due to two injuries, I was unable to do a lot of dancing, but to be honest, there was so much going on that I never felt like I was missing out. I was able to join in for a few sets here and there, and was of course able to listen to all four bands’ electric music!

Social and ballroom dancing was never something that interested me, but having been on three Enjoy Holiday sun trips, I feel I have now been swayed to the dark side! Yes, I have to admit that I am now quite taken by it, and can openly admit that I thoroughly enjoyed these dances, doing a small bit of waltzing and jiving with Carol. I haven’t quite yet progressed to foxtrots and quicksteps, but decided to take the plunge with Carol and attend a jiving workshop, taught by dancing genius Piret Annus. In no time at all, we were both managing the basics of jiving. Piret is a fantastic teacher with a wealth of knowledge, and more importantly, great teaching skills, and taught ballroom dancing twice every day, beginners first thing in the morning, and advanced nearer to lunchtime. Anyhow, we have now decided that the slow waltz is the next one that we need to cross off the list, so we are looking forward to Spain 2014 when we can attend Piret’s classes again!

The social dances began each day by the pool at 2pm. There was a variety of bands who entertained us each day, and we were treated to some amazing classic songs and tunes! Once again, the Slosh, or as some pronounce it, the Slush, was a real favourite, and each time this dance was called, there was a scramble for the floor, or indeed anywhere there was space available. On one particular afternoon, Pat Jordan held an official launch of his new CD. The champagne flowed, the Slosh got into full swing, and one of the songs on the CD, titled Fifty Shades of Gray was met with a great response. If you have not heard this song, it is definitely worth a listen! The night time social dances were held in the larger of the two ballrooms, and started at 9pm with a change of band at 11. The bands were amazing, and seemed to have the floor full each night from start to finish.

If all this entertainment wasn’t enough, the lounge each night hosted the famous Mick Mackey and friends sessions, followed by more music and dancing until 3am each morning. I think it’s fair to say that at this stage, the sessions have become so popular that Mick deserves his own ballroom to accommodate everyone! Because of the size of the crowd each night, chairs had to be brought in from the other bar and restaurant. Mick is a master at running these sessions and his great sense of humour and wit instantly wins over the crowd. As the saying goes, behind every great man is a great woman—well in this case, behind Mick is a great group of musicians who are there each night to perform. Sean Gilsenan, Pat Casey, Tommy Mulhall and Brendan Daly were the core group of musicians, but each night there ended up being at least a dozen to fifteen musicians! Songs, jokes, recitations, poems, tunes, dancing and more—everything was included!

Most days there was music tuition by Sean Gilsenan and the musical talents of all his students were showcased at Sunday Mass. I definitely could not forget to mention Father Eugene who said Mass each morning in the ballroom and was there for the entire trip to cater for all the spiritual needs. A lovely man with a great sense of humour, and not a bad mover on the dance floor!

The session in the bushes was another great way to spend a couple of hours in the sun each day. A beautiful garden area at the back of the hotel overlooking one of the cliffs was the location for these sessions, which attracted quite a large number of musicians and singers.

Three other events which are a permanent fixture on these trips are ‘strictly fun dancing’ competition, the talent show and county colours parade. All three are definitely not to be missed, and were as entertaining as ever! The comedic talents of all the couples and judges involved in this trip’s Strictly Fun Dancing was clearly on show, and a huge congrats to all involved as it was a highly entertaining afternoon. On the last day we had the talent show, which didn’t fail to entertain. From the winning story by Daisy Kearney to the singing and dancing talents of Michael O’Keeffe, all twenty or more participants were super talented, and it was very entertaining. The county colours parade followed the talent show, and the pride of all who donned shirts in their county team colours was evident. This year was extra special as my home county of Clare, as all-Ireland champions, proudly led the parade with two replica Liam McCarthy cups on show. In second spot were the Dublin colours, and they too sported their very own Sam Maguire cup! All other counties followed suit, and it was a great way to finish off an epic afternoon.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and the last night is always a little sad. With everyone gathering in the main ballroom for a last hurrah and a farewell get together, we ended a great night by wishing fellow holiday goers a bon voyage and so much looked forward to meeting them again very soon. That was it, another holiday over, all the singing and dancing done—or was it? It most definitely was not! As we waited at the gate to board our plane, Donie Nolan was on hand to get us up off our seats for one last time. We had just enough time for two figures of the Sliabh Luachra and the Connemara, and a lovely version of John O’Dream by Michael O’Keeffe before our flight was called. What a perfect way to end a most fantastic holiday!

Once again, all that remains to say is a huge thank you to Gerry and Susan Flynn, to all the Enjoy Travel staff, to the hotel staff, to all the musicians, all the entertainers, all the workshop teachers, and all our friends who made this trip yet another memorable holiday. It is hard to imagine ever going away on a sun holiday now without meeting up with everyone and having such an array of daily entertainment. We feel so lucky that we have met such amazing people on these trips, and we are delighted to have become part of the family!

Keith McGlynn

All of Keith’s photos from the holiday can be seen and ordered at

Halifax in better light

Benefits of retirement! Pat Murphy has been visiting Halifax, Nova Scotia for fifteen years for an Easter weekend of sets and céilithe. Now, there have been some lovely weekends in that decade and a half, but given the combination of the moveable date with our unpredictable Nova Scotia spring weather, some of our weekends have included delightful white flakes. Since Pat has now retired from teaching and is no longer tied to the Irish school year, he expressed an interest in seeing Nova Scotia in a better light. And did he (and we) luck out!

We fixed our workshop for the second weekend of September, and Mother Nature gave Pat an awesome autumn welcome. The evenings were refreshing, and the days warmed up to an appropriate dancing temperature—not too cold, not too hot. The registrar was astonished not to be smothered by boots and umbrellas and parkas and scarves. And the new time proved to be a great time for travellers: we had visitors from all over the Maritime provinces, including Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.

This year also brought us a change in venue, but we again found an historic property. Our new home is a former Methodist church in Dartmouth, a community across the harbour from Halifax. The building is now named the Heritage Centre, but is locally known as the White Church. It is located on the property of the current Woodlawn United Church, a congregation that is known for its support of the arts. The Heritage Centre includes beautiful wooden floors, a convenient break-out room for lunch, and—a first for us—two ‘small’ rooms!

The weekend kicked off with a house party, also in Dartmouth, home to many of the local dancers. On Saturday, Pat started off the workshops with the relatively easy Coomhola Set from the Borlin-Coomhola Valley in West Cork. This proved to be a marvelous choice, given that several brand new dancers showed up. The Coomhola includes seven mostly short figures, all danced to polkas and slides. We were amazed to discover yet a new variation on the wheelbarrow. The easy-flowing music of the Abbey Ceili Band was a perfect match for the relaxed set.

At midday we enjoyed a box lunch, and several dancers turned into musicians for a lively session, joined by some of the local musicians who have not yet discovered the joy of sets. Impromptu sean nós step dance demos and lessons broke out among several dancers whose feet apparently do not need rest.

In the afternoon, Pat taught the popular Rinkinstown Set from County Louth. Our favourite elements were the doubles: double ducks, double ladies’ chain. Since learning this set from Pat, it has become a Nova Scotia favourite.

After supper break, we returned to the Heritage Centre for the céilí mór. The house band was led by Jane Lombard and Jeremy Finney. We danced several of the old favourites, including the Kilfenora, Williamstown, and Ballyvourney Jig sets.

Sunday found us in a familiar place, the Old Triangle Alehouse in Halifax, where we dance every Sunday. Jane and Jeremy were back to lead the band. The local regulars were impressed by several sets including the Mazurka and the Antrim Square.

Monday evening we kicked off our new term of dance classes. Our teacher, Elizabeth MacDonald, ceded her role to Pat—rather convenient that Monday night happens to be our regular class night. Pat taught the Hunter Valley Set, a set composed by James Garner. Hunter Valley is in the wine-producing area of Newcastle, near Sydney, Australia. Mr Garner composed the set to thank the people of Newcastle for their warm welcome to him. The set became the first winner of the newly composed set competition in Tralee. Elements of the set represent influences as varied as Playford and Australian folk dances. Now that we know the Rinkinstown, we plan to learn this new set next!

Some of our more energetic dancers retired to the Old Triangle to wrap up the weekend with a refreshment. We congratulated ourselves on our change of date, which produced higher attendance and better weather. Pat’s retirement paid off for all of us!

Adele Megann, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Every cloud has a silver lining

My husband John and I had booked and paid in full for the Boston trip, August 24–31, with Gerry Flynn and Enjoy Travel. However as Taylor’s Cross, Matt Cunningham and Pride of Moyvane ceili bands were all dropped from the package, we cancelled our trip, the purpose of which was to enjoy these fantastic bands and set dancing. Consequently, while we were refunded our accommodation and entertainment expenses, we were left with two return Aer Lingus non-refundable flights.

I was fortunate to read that Chicago Comhaltas had organised a weekend of set dancing with the affable Tony Ryan at the Irish American Heritage Centre. I re-arranged our flights to coincide with this weekend. What a brilliant event it was! It surpassed all our expectations.

We were showered with the warmest welcome and hospitality at each ceili by the Irish and Irish-Americans. There was a choice of twelve or thirteen dances on the programme for each ceili, between sets and figure dances and a waltz. The excellent music was provided by Ceoltóirí Chicago and the Chicago Reel Ceili Band. Dan Cahill and Alan Beale ensured everybody was well looked after as did Mickey Rahilly from Scartaglen, Co Cork.

During our trip we were pampered with hospitality and ambience in the beautiful home of Eileen and Brendan Riordan, originally of Listowel and Moyvane, Co Kerry, who visit here annually and frequent our local céilithe.

During the days we met new-found relatives of both our families, second and third cousins I have been corresponding with since I took up genealogy as a hobby and I must admit I personally felt drawn to ‘The Windy City’ to explore its culture and meet some of our hereto unknown relatives. It truly was a superb experience.

When one door closes, another opens if you allow it.

Noreen O’Connell, Listowel, Co Kerry

A cure for motion sickness

SM7 has been and gone. Sadly, the waiting for the next happening will have to be a patient one, a full year till it comes round again. But for one patient, suffering with the after-effects of motion and sea sickness, it wasn’t clear until the last moment whether he’d make it to Basingstoke or not. SM7, by the way, is not a designation for the new Lexus series, (although, in class, a right match) but short for SetsMad the seventh, (royalty alright) the set dancing weekend which took place 27–29 September, in Cliddesden, near Basingstoke, England. Kevin Monaghan, set dancing’s enfant terrible (in its most positive connotation), who together with his wife, Carol Gannon, brains this enterprise, has crafted masterly logos (t-shirts, etc) and abbreviations (like SM) that are eye and ear catching and have become synonymous with the weekend. What an advertising expert our Kevin is!

The motion-disturbed patient, Tony, had had a rough time of it just before SM7. On a cruise, where he was playing bass guitar in a band, the weather had been less than tranquil—actually, you might call it ‘savage’. The first few days, the crew was giving out anti-seasickness tablets for free, and the band had to play sitting down lest the upheaval of the ship and the stomachs would move them this way and that. (Rumour has it that plastic bags were attached to the backs of the chairs.) After landfall, Tony wasn’t sure whether going away straight off again to a set dancing weekend was a great idea as he was still staggering about the place somewhat. But he wanted it badly. Had heard so much about SetsMad events. Had not danced much lately and was missing it. Wanted the opportunity to learn from Róisín and Pádraig McEneany, who he’d heard were meticulous teachers. Tony isn’t dancing that long yet, and he really likes learning all sorts of different moves and movements and trying out all kinds of sets and steps.

He went anyway. With the last ounce of strength he made it to the airport, and was met by other event-goers and the band. Dust off the shoes and wash the floor, for the band was Rise the Dust! No dust particle will be left unturned when Brendan Doyle, Johnnie Duffy and Liz Ryan, who make up Rise the Dust (formerly the Lough Ree Ceili Band with Colin Butler on drums) pick up and sit down with their instruments, but for the moment, these were in their cases when the band members and their respective partners, who had flown in from Ireland too, and everyone else was driven by minibus to the hotel. Tony simply sank back into the seat in the bus, and then into the pillows of the hotel room, to emerge later a changed, fed, watered and excited man, ready for the ceili, ready for the music. Now how could he possibly have been a changed man? You see, the mere thought of what’s to come can extract some hidden reserve energy you didn’t know you had, fashioned by adrenalin, no doubt, and once he’d arrived at the venue (Cliddesden Hall, out in the country, a sweeter hall you couldn’t find) and the sound checks were in progress, and people started to gather on the floor, so did Tony, rubbing his hands together and announcing with a clap! that he was as ready now to dance as he’d ever be. The band had set up, purple the chosen colour of their shirts, and the first notes drifted through the hall in perfect resonance. Legs began swinging and faces smiling, and Tony couldn’t help but to enjoy the dancing through some dizziness, which might be attributed to the tempo rather than ongoing motion sickness. Either way, the motion sickness got better, quickly. How’s that for another side effect of set dancing! Wondrously, the head was spinning the right way, and the floor stayed put without warping up and down and sideways. Ah yes, he was tired after the ceili, and announced that he would not be able to make it to the workshop the next morning. No way. Guess what happened the following morning? That’s right, Tony, all beaming, arrived at the workshop, chauffeured by one of the many who offered lifts to the non-automobiled, and made it through the Blacktown, Merchant and South Sligo Lancers, with later on yet another tank full of newly excavated energy for the night ceili. More sets, more laughs, less motion sickness, ah, you can’t beat it! And since nothing else was heard or done before or after the ceilis and workshops, (bar the delicious buffet, perhaps) the miraculous recoveries after exclamations of “I’m not able to go to the next dance any more!” can solely be attributed to music and sets. Who needs a doctor anyway when you can have set dancing? Over-fifties vitamins and minerals? Bah! SetsMad has the cure!

People had gathered at SM7, to Tony’s astonishment, from quite a few countries: France, Belgium, Czech Republic, Ireland, Germany, Denmark and Switzerland. SetsMad, your reputation as an internationally acclaimed event proceeds you!

The sets that were danced were not all familiar to Tony, who would claim that he doesn’t know any set yet really well. Some were brand new altogether, in this case, the Merchant Set which was composed by Pádraig on a walk with Rascal, the cocker spaniel. Unlike on another occasion where Rascal had to be rescued by a daring jump by Pádraig into ice-cold floods, this time the dog inspired the creation of a set. Following a four-mile hike, most of the four figures were ready to be tried out, and only the third figure needed some, er, refiguring. I wonder what this canine and this set have in common? The progressive struggle as to who’s in top position?

Tony liked the set very much, some of its elements are repetitive, so for someone who hasn’t got an awful lot of dance experience it was just the ticket. He actually became so confident that he was seen starting it in first top position, although you don’t get to keep it. Way to go! Having said that, the Merchant Set’s main feature is that each couple ends up in first top position during the figures, and there are some interesting ways of moving the dancers on throughout, meaning Tony thought that it had its challenges!

The Sunday workshop was taken up by some step exercise—all now, anti-clockwise, around the hall—and the Newmarket Meserts. How often it has accidentally been called Newmarket Desserts will be left to imagination, but on dancing it again it became clear how it could well be used as a beginners’ set. Loads of repetition, but some very interesting characteristics like the half-figure (the line-up) and the unusual high gates. For some reason, in the line-up figure only first tops and first sides have a chance to lead, and—bleh!—second tops and second sides don’t get a look in. Whereas in all other figures, every couple in turn leads the figure. Was it perhaps considered too long to let all four lead?

Tony danced almost all of the sets, none of which were repeated—which is what SM is proudly known for. But, as with all good weekends, every year the strengthening experience shows. More and more polished and calm, the weekend itself seems to ooze confidence. Organisers are benefitting from what was gleaned over the past six years. And so, there were no glitches. Really. Can’t think of any, anyway.

One of the highlights was the launch of Rise the Dust’s first CD. And as a special treat, they have included a quickstep and a waltz on it, apart from providing sets music. The waltz got an airing, or two, hmm, or was it three or four? During a break when the CD was played with the repeat track feature left on, Tony was out dancing the waltz and never stopped. It’s what this weekend brings about, an unmissable nonstop dancing feast to pig out on, distilled and purified, that even brings a cure to the motion-challenged. Tony said he’d be back. September 2014. Without the precursory cruise. To dive in and enjoy from the word go!

Chris Eichbaum

More than one way around a set

What a difference a week makes! One weekend, I’m one of the organising team, appearing a little like a swan, gliding seemingly effortlessly on the surface, but paddling madly beneath. Then within a few days, I’m enjoying workshops, ceilis and the craic, and all the stress of organising has been forgotten for a while at least, as it’s someone else’s responsibility.

And so it was in late September and early October, just five days after our successful SetsMad weekend of music and dance, that we once again found our way to the hills above Heidelberg in Germany to enjoy the wonderful atmosphere of an event which has been honed over the past fifteen years by Henning Brouwer, Heike Günther, Andrea Brouwer and Bernd Fallert. I’m sure they too have been like the proverbial paddling birds, and yet they always appeared calm, collected and, dare I say, relaxed over the entire weekend, despite injuries to feet (theirs), delays by travellers at airports (not me) and forgetful photographers (me) leaving cameras with the all-important snaps in the airport-bound taxi and having to retrieve it—oops! Nothing seems to faze this remarkable team, and I feel many weekend organisers would applaud their remarkable approach to event management. I know it’s no easy matter to run a weekend so smoothly, and we have taken on board many of their tips and wrinkles to aid our weekend. I feel it’s all about sharing the good ideas, learning from the past, and adapting the ideas to our needs, which of course is what set dancing is all about, too.

Another inspiration was the acknowledgement by Mairéad Casey of the differences within sets which have naturally occurred over their lifetime, making me think that it’s almost a sort of natural selection. Tiny evolutionary variants creep in and take root, gently evolving over time into a new form somewhere along the line, and sometimes being taught as the way to dance a certain set or figure. I have been known to get quite cross about some elements which have been wilfully changed within a set and which detract from the uniqueness of certain regional types, but here, I’m talking about tiny almost imperceptible differences which are still an authentic part of a set but which sometimes pop up so as to have notice taken and to remind us of all that is great about set dancing.

Mairéad taught the Aran Set, which is one of my all-time favourites, due to its complexity and gorgeous waves, and she used the fabulous music of P J Hernon to accompany it. There’s nothing better! I was in heaven, despite being in the demo set, with goose-bumps from the music, and my feet tapping in time to the wonderful box playing. I was then brought back to earth with a tiny but noticeable bump as I began to notice the slight differences between the way I had learned the set many years ago and how I was instinctively dancing it, compared to the way in which it was now being taught at this weekend. I have no problem with evolution of sets; I was concerned mostly by how ‘set’ in my ways I had become and how automatically I wanted to dance the figures, seemingly without thinking, and then I was having to focus, concentrate on learning a new, equally acceptable form of the figures. My ears were pricked and my attention was fully turned on to learn this new variation. No wonder I love workshops! There’s always something new to learn, no matter how long we’ve been at this malarkey! I now have two (or is it three?) variants of the Aran Set, and I wonder how long it will be before I notice that I’ve merged them into an entirely new form? Mairéad was very forgiving of my beginning to dance in my particular fashion, (I was lost in the music, I told her) and I did of course adapt my style, yet I appreciated her acknowledging that there’s more than one way to get around a set!

It was one year ago that I first saw the Rinkinstown Set demonstrated whilst in Heidelberg, and it’s great to see how it has really taken off across the dance floors. It’s a set we dance regularly at out Basingstoke class, and as yet, the variations haven’t started to creep in, mainly due I think to the set being so well crafted, and with there being enough to learn in each figure that we all need to concentrate! We still teach it by calling “round the big tree” and “the ducks”, although Kevin Monaghan has started saying “the ducks grow wings” when he’s talking about getting into the Christmas part of the figure, so maybe we’re adding to the lexicon in a different way. We’re adapting the language to suit our set of dancers, using a vocabulary they’ll hopefully remember as they link the moves to the imagery.

So my ten days and two very different weekends is over for a while, and what a contrast: at one end was the blur and organised chaos associated with being an organiser, whilst at the other end was the freedom and enjoyment of being part of organised fun. Some may say that is an oxymoron, but if we know that everything is in place, all boxes ticked, everything in capable hands, then the stress and worry fall away, and we dancers are free to engage in flights of fancy on the dance floor, sharing knowledge and fun with friends old and new, adapting and evolving so as to accommodate differences. In set dancing, I’m beginning to realise that it’s not always the best policy to be too ‘set’ in our ways.

Carol Gannon

Plenty of interest in Canberra

The annual Canberra Irish Set Dancing Weekend, now in its ninth year, drew a record number of 110 participants to all or some of the sessions of a packed program that ran from Friday 11th to Sunday 13th October at the Cook Neighbourhood Hall. Because the event is in Canberra, the numbers from the ACT and New South Wales usually outweigh the other states, but this year there was an especially strong contingent from Victoria, as well as representation from Queensland. It was a great opportunity for dancers to polish up their skills, learn something new, socialise with familiar friends in the Irish set dancing community and welcome some new faces. The event aims to cater for the experienced dancer and to attract others to set dancing. It was great to see the new faces, including a number of younger dancers.

The program got underway on Friday evening with a welcome ceili. A feature of this year’s event was live music at each of the three ceilis during the weekend. On Friday and Saturday nights, the Jimmy Mullarkey Ceili Band from Sydney performed their magic, creating music that set feet tapping and made us eager to get up on the floor. For most of Friday evening there were eight sets dancing and a handful of non-dancers just enjoying the music. At the supper break, the band was prevailed upon to accompany us singing Happy Birthday for one of the well-known and long-standing members of our dancing community, Lance Court, who was celebrating his seventieth birthday. Happy birthday, Lance!

Saturday morning and afternoon and Sunday morning were devoted to workshops with three teachers—Ina Bertrand from Victoria, Arthur Kingsland from New South Wales, and David Arnold from Canberra. Ina taught three traditional sets, the Ballyfin Set from County Laois, and two from County Waterford, the Black Hill and the Melleray Lancers. Figure 3 of the Melleray Lancers, the kissing figure, was the source of some humorous exchanges among workshop participants. Arthur Kingsland taught two more recently created sets, the Charlestown Set and the Drumbo Lancers. The Charlestown Set was created by Julia Smith of the Newcastle Irish Set Dancers who dance in the suburb of Charlestown in Newcastle, NSW, and is dedicated to them. It was entered in a competition for newly created sets at the Sweets of May Festival in Tralee, County Kerry, in May 2013. The Drumbo Lancers was created by Teresa Quigg of County Down for the people who dance in the village of Drumbo, and to evoke the rolling hills of the area. David Arnold taught two traditional Irish Sets, the Armagh Set, and then something a little different—a half set: the Dromgarriff Half-Set from West Cork. With so much variety in the workshops, there was plenty of interest for both the experienced dancer and those newer to Irish Set Dancing. In addition to the workshops, Ina Bertrand offered a practical session on musical rhythms and how to identify if a piece of music is a reel, jig, or hornpipe.

Traditionally, the Saturday night ceili is the highlight of the weekend. This year was no exception. Ten sets formed up on the floor for a program of eight dances, including three of those which had been taught at the workshop. The Jimmy Mullarkey Ceili Band was again in fine form, and again was called upon to accompany us in singing Happy Birthday, this time for Graeme Bertrand (Ina’s husband) who was celebrating his 78th birthday. Happy birthday, Graeme!

With the exception of the sets mentioned below, all sets danced at the ceilis were called, and called by experienced local and visiting callers—thirteen in all. To practice our skills at memorising sets, two were danced without calling at the Saturday ceili—the Cashel Set, which we had practiced with calling at the Friday ceili, and the Ballyvourney Jig Set, which is a favourite and danced often.

The farewell ceili on Sunday afternoon featured a local band, Dave O’Neill and friends, whose uplifting music easily motivated the now somewhat sore feet and tiring legs to find that last drop of energy to keep on dancing with spirit. We are very fortunate to have access to such quality musicians who enjoy playing for dancers as much as we enjoy dancing to live music. By the end of the farewell ceili, those who had attended the full weekend had danced a total of 22 sets in three ceilis and been taught seven sets in a day and a half of workshops. We had reason to be tired, but also very happy.

For those not needing to travel home immediately, there was a final opportunity to socialise, listen to more music and chat about the weekend over a meal at King O’Malley’s Irish Pub. As people farewelled each other it was clear the weekend had been a great success.

Christine Briton, Canberra, Australia

Euphoria in Enniskillen

After finishing yet another issue of Set Dancing News (97 and counting with this one) there’s nothing I enjoy more than hopping into the car and going as far away from the office as I can for some good sets. On Friday, October 4th, I set off from Clare and crossed borders into Galway, Roscommon, Leitrim, Cavan and Fermanagh before arriving in the town of Enniskillen. It was a beautiful autumn afternoon and I took great delight in sailing along the back roads past beautiful hills and lakes. After about three and a half hours, the sun was still blazing when I arrived at an economical but well-appointed farmhouse B&B on the edge of town, where my gracious landlady welcomed me with tea and a plate piled high with biscuits, buns and cakes.

The other residents in the B&B had come to the area for the fishing or to visit nearby stately homes, whereas I had come to dance, of course, at a weekend remembering Eamon McKeaney. Eamon was a Fermanagh dancer, singer, musician, teacher and all-round proponent of traditional culture who passed away in 2007 at the young age of 49. His friends and extended family organise the weekend to share the music and dance Eamon loved so much with everyone who attends his weekend, with the aim of just enjoying ourselves as much as possible.

The weekend has visited lovely venues in Fermanagh over the years, and came to the Enniskillen Hotel this year in the town centre. It’s a compact hotel under new management who have done every bit of it up with smart good taste. The ballroom was small but perfectly formed, bright and modern, with a smooth timber floor by the stage and some additional temporary boards a few steps away on an upper tier. The special attraction for Friday’s opening ceili was my first chance to hear the Salamanca Ceili Band, and right from the start they touched all the right nerves to make every set feel thrilling and draw spontaneous cheers all night long. In addition to all the favourite sets, there was a display of sean nós steps by Ben Cassidy, Ger Butler and Eamon’s sister Peggy McGovern. The final Connemara was a lepper’s delight, with the musicians and dancers sharing the excitement equally.

Ger Butler made a double appearance at the weekend, playing drums with the Salamanca Ceili Band on Friday night, and then teaching set and sean nós dancing workshops on Saturday. Ger traces his love of dancing back to Eamon, who taught him sean nós steps as a teenager. Ger devoted the morning workshop to the Shannon Gaels Set from Roscommon, which was danced in competition decades ago, and is now revived by Ger for all to enjoy. He continued after lunch with sean nós dancing.

A big singing session was underway as I came into the ballroom for the Saturday night ceili. Eamon was a fine singer, and so are many of his sisters. In fact there were so many sisters, cousins and in-laws dancing at the ceili afterward that it was nearly impossible to dance a set without meeting the family. Swallow’s Tail Ceili Band were on stage playing their luscious and exciting music, which when combined with our spirited dancing, provided us with a three-hour-long state of euphoria. Calling nearly every set, usually while dancing herself, was Teresa McKeaney, Eamon’s wife, who was decorated with a broad smile all weekend. The set of the night was the Rinkinstown, which everyone attempted with varying degrees of success but unanimous fun. We had a bigger crowd tonight, but the ballroom was the perfect size, with enough space for comfort and still tight enough to generate an atmosphere of high voltage electricity.

The Sunday ceili demonstrated how quick thinking and resilient the weekend organisers are, and how well-supplied with excellent small hotels Enniskillen is. I showed up early at the Enniskillen Hotel to get a prime parking place, which are rather scarce on their grounds, and was flagged down on the street by one of the organisers, who instead directed me to the Westville Hotel about half a mile away. It turned out there was another event on, which wasn’t going to be over in time to allow the band to set up and begin the dancing at the scheduled time of 2.30pm. So Teresa and team made phone calls, found an available alternative hotel, dismantled the temporary flooring, transported it to the new hotel, reassembled it and posted helpers to redirect dancers. We had the benefit of a more spacious room with a slightly smaller floor, but luckily it was again perfect for the dancers who showed up. Brian Ború Ceili Band played for us, the third-in-a-row top band for the weekend. While they may be Dublin-based, their Clare roots were clearly showing thanks to the great selection of tunes they played. Sun was streaming through the windows as we danced with the same vigour we started with on Friday. Two members of the Copperplate Ceili Band came along to dance, Aileen Fitzpatrick and Ciarán McManus, and Ciarán was delighted to be asked to dance a few of his steps, a high percentage of which were fully airborne. Despite the change of venue, the weekend’s final ceili was as enjoyable as all the rest and we danced the last Connemara Set with joyful glee. The events were a worthy celebration of the things that Eamon McKeaney most enjoyed in life and luckily they seem to become more enjoyable as time passes, not less.

While dancing was reason enough to bring me to Enniskillen, I mentioned that the fellow residents of my B&B were pursuing their own activities. While I can’t speak for the fishing, which is undoubtedly excellent, I can vouch for two stately homes, Florence Court and Castle Coole, which are well worth a visit, and I have made mental note of a few more places to explore on my next visit, as I’m looking forward to dancing at another Eamon McKeaney Weekend in Fermanagh again soon!

Bill Lynch

Carryduff spirit

There were a few times when I was asked to dance in a set of strawboys to welcome a newly married couple from their honeymoon. We had to pick through a bin bag of old dresses and masks to find something we wanted to wear, and it was hot and impossible to see when dancing. On another occasion at a Christmas ceili, a friend gave me a gaudy Christmas tie to wear—it played a carol if you touched the right spot. Apart from these rare occasions I have resisted the urge to dress up to dance as people often do at Halloween and Christmas—ordinary clothes are troublesome enough at a ceili, always getting soaked! Then one day I found myself admiring an old black suit of mine, hidden in a wardrobe which is almost never opened. I hadn’t worn it in close to twenty years but I thought it might be suitable for my upcoming visit to the Carryduff Halloween Weekend. I also found my black fedora hat, but I felt the ensemble needed something more, so I left early for Carryduff on Friday 24 October, just to give myself time to visit the shops in Belfast city centre. Concentrating on the many bargain stores, I found an imposing pair of dark glasses and then, la piece de resistance, a glittering bow tie. I wasn’t at all sure what all this added up to, nor that I could actually model these items in public, but I was making progress. And I had till Saturday night to build up my courage.

Meanwhile the weekend opened at the Friday night ceili and I couldn’t have been happier dancing to the lively Copperplate Ceili Band with a big crowd. St Joseph’s Hall is a huge community centre with a lot of space to fill, but fill it we did with overseas visitors (Brittany, Corsica, Italy, Canada, Scotland), a handful from farthest Limerick and Kerry, and a lot of enthusiastic young adults having fun at their first ceili, all on top of the regular supporters. Joe Farrell was on duty as ever to call the sets, and he cleverly led off with two of the usual suspects, the Corofin and Moycullen, before springing the Fermanagh and Merchant sets on us! The first was one of those rare old favourites, like meeting an old friend by pure chance, but the second was a genuine surprise. The Merchant Set was devised by Pádraig McEneany and named after the Dublin pub where he holds Tuesday night class. It was rather ingeniously devised to be easy to dance and call (no workshop needed) and yet different. One notable feature was that the couples always dance their turn from first tops position, and the set moves around each time to accommodate this in different ways for each figure. After this we were able to coast along the rest of the night with old favourites, interrupted only by the tea break witt a huge spread of edibles, and a display of step dancing by the Copperplate’s fiddler, Ciarán McManus. Amazingly, one of the Munster visitors told me he found the music fast, but I found it great, though I did mention that I would probably be the last to notice, if indeed it was too fast!

Lots of community halls are located in lovely rural locations, but that means practical amenities are located far away, requiring overseas visitors to hire a car. The hall in Carryduff is fortunate to have an adjacent hotel, which is where most of the weekend visitors lodged, with just a couple of minutes walking between them. Meals were available in the hotel, and there were more dining options 300 metres down the main road. Nevertheless, there was plenty of sustenance available at the weekend events, and I made sure to show up early for the workshop on Saturday morning for Isabel Woods’ fresh-baked scones, a tradition going back many years. Isabel always brings along a huge batch of scones, pots of her home-made jam (crab apple and clove is a favourite) and real butter, and it all gets consumed before the day is half over! So there were no pangs of hunger as we danced the Coomhola and Camp sets (Cork and Kerry) in the morning, taught by Pat Murphy, who is never short of something new and different to show us. The Coomhola Set is a seven-figure polka set of easy, familiar moves, from the valley of the same name adjacent to the Borlin Valley. We then had time to dance the first of four figures of the Camp Set before the break, and afterward continued with the rest. It was devised by John Stack, a Monaghan man living in the depths of Kerry, near the village of Camp on the Dingle Peninsula, and it neatly straddles the north-south divide with elements from both sides of the tradition. After this Pat finished the afternoon by showing us four figures of the Hunter Valley Set, the prize-winning concoction by James Garner from Australia, leaving the fifth and last figure for another occasion when time allows.

By now I was enjoying the weekend so much that I had no hesitation about donning my suit, hat, sunglasses and bow tie and looking like an eejit at the ceili that night, and getting complimented for it. Fortunately I was in great company as about a third of the dancers were equally strangely attired, some with elaborate makeup, or dazzling dress, or both! Once the Long Note Ceili Band revved up the music and we began dancing, the fancy dress made no difference at all as we just had our usual high-spirited fun. I managed to discard the jacket fairly soon, but kept the rest of the attire in place most of the night. During the sets there was a lot of hat swapping going on, and somehow I ended up in a pair of cats’ ears while my hat went around the set without me beneath it! Joe was back at the microphone and outdid himself with the selection of sets, calling the Clare Orange and Green and Derradda for us, while Pat reprised the Camp Set from the workshop. After the break, dancers in costume were all invited to gather by the stage for photos and a drawing with a £10 prize, which was won by a very happy ship’s captain. By the end of the final Boyne Set, the powerful music, well-chosen sets, delightful partners and festive atmosphere all added up to an unforgettable ceili.

Annoying as it is, the overnight seasonal change of clocks rewarded some of us with an extra hour of sleep, though the folks wandering in late throughout Pat’s two-hand workshop on Sunday morning must have found other ways to use this time! Pat taught an enjoyable selection of dances, such as the Whispering Foxtrot and Mississippi Dip, before the lunch break, then there was the weekend’s farewell ceili. The Ceili Time Band excelled at playing appealing and relaxed music, and Joe outdid himself with the best selection of sets for the weekend, including the Rinkinstown, Newport, Sliabh gCua, Labasheeda, Borlin and Claddagh. Apart from calling them all, he also made efficient work of filling the sets, even dragging people up from their seats into gaps in the sets. The only time he took a break, or repeated a set for that matter, was during the final Plain Set, which finished the weekend with a burst of familiar pleasure and a tour de force from the band as they played it without stopping between figures (skipping the jigs) with roars of approval from the dancers.

While the fancy dress may be optional for Halloween in Carryduff, the great craic is absolutely unavoidable!

Bill Lynch

A bountiful selection

Dear Bill,

Great to see you again at Carryduff. I am sure you will write in detail about the weekend experience. I am just writing to pay tribute to the fact that those, like me, who enjoy dancing different sets were treated to a bountiful selection. If my memory is correct, the only set repeated, and then only once, was the Plain Set. The music by Copperplate (Friday), Long Note (Saturday) and Ceili Time (Sunday) was always of the highest quality which meant that you couldn’t stop yourself dancing. Pat Murphy’s workshops, Saturday (sets) and Sunday (two-hand), were as ever entertaining, and at times challenging. He always manages to get the mix just right.

It is a tribute to Joe Farrell, who called the sets (all but one, the new Camp Set, which Pat called) at each ceili, that we had such a great selection of traditional sets and some of the newer ones, like the Merchant (delightful) and the Rinkinstown (clever, yet a really flowing set). In all we must have danced some two dozen different sets—I lost an accurate count. Joe does a great job in calling clearly and remembering so many sets. His calling has been honed over many years experience and he is achieving an ability to provide that little prompt at just the right time. He is also adept at encouraging people to fill sets with a mixture of charm and, at times, a little hand-holding, escorting them from their seats to the set.

I also love dancing where there is no calling, but that is just me—and possibly one or two others. Why? Because I think that if there is no calling the dancers and the music become one and as a dancer you are lifted to a higher plane and the experience becomes sublime. But that is just my personal nirvana and thankfully one that I can enjoy elsewhere.

As I said, I am writing here to pay tribute to Joe Farrell’s ability to enhance the weekend with sensitive calling of so many different sets. I certainly enjoyed the opportunity to dance sets which, without Joe’s calling, I couldn’t have managed. I know that there are many people who say that variety isn’t to their liking, but there is a place for everyone and there are many ceilis where the fare is less diverse. However, I think that what Carryduff offers is an opportunity to enjoy our traditional northern calling and the benefit it brings in a bounty of many different sets. Without it, many sets being danced regularly at our ceilis may only see the light of day at workshops and classes, or perhaps not even then.

I do encourage anyone to put Carryduff in their diary for next year, and to visit the north anytime to experience dancing different sets. It is not only Joe, but callers like Kathleen Smyth (often at Castlewellan), Paddy Mee (the regular caller at Kilcoo), and Ronan Eastwood (Belfast Castle) who add to the enjoyment of dancing to good music, like that enjoyed at Carryduff, with a range of different sets, traditional and new, that they are constantly updating. If you can’t make a ceili, drop in to one of their many classes. You can be guaranteed a warm welcome, some sets that you know well, and the enjoyable experience of dancing a few with which you are not so familiar. Why not give it a try!

A brief final word on the Carryduff experience—the weekend ends with a session in the Errigal Inn, Belfast, on the Sunday evening. This year, as last, we were blessed with a plethora of talent, much supplied by a wonderful group of people from Carlow. It was a great night’s craic, with traditional songs, music and some hilarious stories and recitations as well as a few sets. This year at Carryduff we had a group of Corsicans and at the session, one of them, a young man, accompanied by his father on guitar, gave us some wonderful Corsican songs. We also had La Vie en Rose sung in French by three French girls and one of them taught us a Breton dance. Michael Walker, as well as performing, was the consummate MC, and we are indebted to Veronica Doran, who got the first of these sessions going so many years ago, and who continues to be the sustaining force behind this magic ending to a wonderful weekend.

Think about it for next year—as Mrs Doyle would say, “Go on, go on. You will, you will!”

Ashley Ray, Ardglass, Co Down

Polkas to die for

The village of Ballyvourney, Co Cork, is set in a tapestry of history and legend, and is also a Gaeltacht, a heartland of Irish culture. The area boasts numerous saints, Gobnait and Aban in Ballyvourney, Fionnbara, in Gougane Barra, and Lachtin in Cill na Martra. These saints built monasteries and churches dating back to the 6th century which are still places of devotion today.

This historic place is a superb venue for a weekend of polkas at the Abbey Hotel, brought alive by Timmy ‘the Brit’ McCarthy, a warm smiling man with a mop of curly hair. His love for culture and style is evident in every word he speaks, often in fluent Irish although he mentioned that he was not a native speaker. I have attended his workshops in the past but was unable to do so this year. I spoke with dancers who attended all his workshops and learned that as usual no time was wasted. Everyone got out on the floor and danced as Timmy instructed the movements and played his beloved box at the same time. Timmy is a natural dancer and instructor and has a wonderful sense of humour.

The ceilis were fantastic. On Friday night we danced to the music of Timmy and his son Tony followed by Donncha Lynch. Friends visiting from Bavaria played music and danced in their style and they encouraged us all to participate—great fun! On Saturday night there was magical dancing to the music of Pádraig Ó Sé, Gary O’Brien and Jeremy Spencer. Sunday afternoon we stepped it out to the superb tunes of Donal Murphy and Mike Galvin. Shane Creed gave us a demonstration of sean nós dancing.

We danced, laughed and learned so much about our culture and all the polka sets Timmy managed to squeeze into the weekend! Timmy gave everyone who attended the weekend the spirit of Ballyvourney to take home, its music, dance, song and story. This glen still has the myth and magic of Ireland around every bend in the road. As long as people like Timmy continue to pass on their love of polkas, history and true Irish tradition, the magic will never die.

Timmy’s popularity was clearly visible by the large attendance at his weekend. All the musicians for the weekend played their hearts out. I was amazed by their repertoire of polkas. I was hesitant to leave on Sunday evening but my spirit felt nourished and re-born as I drove towards home with the mists creeping over the mountains.

Joan Pollard Carew

Every class of ghoul and scoundrel

Letters and emails

Hello Bill,

Our set dancing class had mighty craic on Pooky Night where the theme was fancy dress.

Well! There was every class of ghoul and scoundrel in attendance from spirits (not the bottled kind) and witches to hippies, Arabs, clowns and the even the clergy, to name but a few. The floor was full all night and although we were missing our teacher Nora Carroll for guidance, John Gaffey stepped into the breach and kept the collisions to a minimum. We even had a few yarns from John and Martin Newton followed up by a couple of songs from Bernie Foran, John Mollin, Maureen Gaffey and Patricia Handy. The very reverend Mary Brennan serenaded us with a few tunes while we caught our breath and then with the tea drank and the goodies ate, the motley crew dispersed into the darkness once again. Best regards,

Michael Grennan, Rahan Comhaltas, Co Offaly

An historic event

Dear Bill,

The 26th Manchester International Set Dance Festival was an historic event—it was the first to be held in our new Irish World Heritage Centre, which opened to the public in January. The festival’s support was a big improvement on last year. The first ceili on Friday October 25th was quite well attended, and Saturday the 26th was very good, with visitors from Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Preston and one from Cork. There were a great many people from the Greater Manchester areas. Many stayed over for the Sunday ceili.

The band which, we named Ceoltóirí Mancuin, played brilliantly throughout the weekend. Everyone enjoyed their playing and had a great time dancing. I would like to thank the band members for all their hard work. Many thanks to George Hook and Linda from Birmingham who provided the sound equipment.

I would also like to thank all those who attended, with a special thanks to all our own Manchester crowd for their support and help over the weekend, without whom it would have been impossible to stage the event.

Margaret Morrin provided an excellent workshop on the Saturday, thanks to herself and her husband, John.

The staff at the Irish World Heritage Centre helped in every way they could so as to ensure a successful event, I thank them most sincerely.

We hope the event will continue and go from strength to strength, as a regular yearly festival.

We owe it to the memory of our founder Seán Dempsey.

Barbara Aherne, Manchester, England

A great bunch of people

Dear Bill,

Just a short note to let your readers know we had a very successful weekend of dancing in the Highland Hotel, Glenties, Co Donegal, 13th to 15th of September. A very big crowd came from all over Ireland, England, Scotland and the USA. I would like to thank everybody very much—only for them the weekend would have not been a success. It gives myself and my working gang great heart for our tenth annual weekend in 2014 which falls a week earlier on the 5th to 7th of September. I wish to thank the hotel, my workers, my two door ladies and everybody who came from near and far. We have a great bunch of people that we can call on—a big thank you to you all and looking forward to seeing you all in early September next year.

Connie McKelvey, Fintown, Co Donegal

Brilliant from beginning to end

Dear Bill,

Last summer we wrote you about always dancing the same sets during a weekend almost everywhere in Ireland. Well, on the weekend of 1–3 November we were in Salthill, Galway, and—surprise!—we danced several different sets. For this we wish to thank Pat Murphy and Tony Ryan for the very interesting selection of sets chosen during the three different ceilis. Super! Then after the Sunday afternoon ceili in Galway we drove fast to Thurles, Co Tipperary, for another ceili that night. Thanks for the friendly hospitality!

Here we wish to write a few words to celebrate Ger Murphy, because after playing with the Abbey Ceili Band in Galway in the afternoon, he was then in Thurles with Ken Cotter. Ger played six hours, always different tunes and always brilliant, from beginning to end. Fantastic, thank you, Ger!

Thank you again for your attention.

All the best, your Italian friends,

Christina and Claudio Cavallini, Bologna, Italy

Fantastic music

Dear Bill,

Thanks to everyone who supported the charity ceili on September 21st in Maudabawn, Cootehill, Co Cavan. A special word of thanks to Copperplate Ceili Band who as always provided fantastic music. Sincere thanks to all who supplied food, spot prizes and helped on the day. Also to those who were unable to attend on the day but donated generously.

Proceeds of €600 were given to the Cavan branch of Cystic Fibrosis and €360 to an orphanage in Kenya.

With thanks,

Geraldine Carragher, Cootehill, Co Cavan

Gratitude to each and every one


Thank you very much for the flattering article in the October-November issue of Set Dancing News regarding the Ballyfin festival. I am always glad to welcome dancers to this rural setting and I express my gratitude to each and every one for choosing to spend the August bank holiday dancing in Ballyfin.Thanks to set dancing and your magazine, the name Ballyfin is known the world over.

Also a big thank-you to all the dancers who took time out from their busy schedule at the Ploughing Championships at Ratheneska, Co Laois to join Danny Webster, and myself as coordinator, in Laois Ploughing Village where there were two céilithe each day. Much appreciated.

Continued success,

Maureen Culleton, Ballyfin, Co Laois

A much loved man

Dear Bill,

More than sixty set dance friends and family of the late Jim Flanagan joined the Oxford set dancers in a workshop and ceili at Headington, Oxford, on Sunday 10th November. They gathered to remember Jim and to raise funds for the haematology unit at Oxford University’s Churchill Hospital where Jim was treated for leukaemia.

The Oxford group, including Jim’s wife Clare, would like to give sincere thanks firstly to Kate Howes who expertly ran the workshop and called the dances. Secondly, many thanks to everyone who travelled from far and near to dance in memory of Jim and to all those who were unable to make it but donated generously in support. £600 was raised for the unit.

A significant number present were new to set dancing and experienced for the first time the incredible warmth and generosity of spirit of the set dance community, which was evident in spades. It was a splendid afternoon and a great tribute to a much loved man.

Thank you all,

David Kay, Oxford, England

Ease and expertise

Hi Bill,

I would like to say a big thank-you to all who attended our workshop in Áras an Mhuilinn on October 19th. We did the Aherlow, Allow, East Mayo and South Galway sets. A very special thanks to teachers Frank and Bobbie Keenan for a job so well done with ease and expertise. Frank explained all so clearly, and assisted by Bobbie and others demonstrated the dances in a way that made learning very easy.

We broke for lunch, which was served on the premises, at 1.15pm and resumed dancing at 2.15. Lunch was included in the entrance fee of just €12, and consisted of a good variety of salad, meat and homemade bread and desserts, much of which was provided by members of our Monday night set dancing class, to whom I say a sincere thank you.

The food was prepared and served by a few dedicated volunteers, members of Comhaltas Ceolteóirí Éireann, who worked hard all morning to ensure all was ready for almost forty diners—not a buffet but tables set and all served on plates ready to eat. To Maureen and Joe Keane, Rose Colentine, Margaret Ryan, Monica Byrne and Anne Wilson, we are especially thankful, without you the day would not have been the success that it was.

Our ceili that night with the Glenside Ceili Band went very well, again a large attendance. Frank called a few sets including one from the workshop, the East Mayo. Thanks too to you, Bill, and all at Set Dancing News and for all you did and do to help promote our events.

We plan to have a repeat workshop and ceili on the same day next year, October 18th, and look forward to seeing you all again, and hopefully at a few céilithe through the year.

Thanks sincerely,

Martin Coyle, Mullingar, Co Westmeath

Articles continue in Old News Volume 82.

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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