Commins Calling - Feb 21, 2007

People and Places
Sr Attracta Canny (right) and Sr Dolores Duggan from Hope House
AWARD Sr Attracta Canny (right) and Sr Dolores Duggan from Hope House receiving the Meitheal Award at the Burlington Hotel.

A night to remember in the Burlington Hotel

Michael Commins

OVER a century of service to Mayo and its people has been rendered by Muintir Mhaigh Eo in Dublin. Founded in 1905, the Association can still boast the biggest county dinner dance in the capital. Over the decades, it has played a central role in the lives of many people and, while the emphasis has changed dramatically in recent years, it still has a special place in the hearts of many.
Last week, we reported on the presentations of the Mayo Person of the Year award to Garda Commissioner, Noel Conroy, a native of Blacksod, and the Meitheal Award to Srs Attracta Canny and Dolores Duggan from Hope House in Foxford. It was, of course, a very special night for all of them and for their friends and colleagues and supporters who travelled form many parts of the country to share in the celebrations and festivities.
Nights such as these are occasions to renew acquaintances and, for regulars, a special get-together among friends. There was, perhaps, on this occasion, the tinge of sadness that this may be the last such occasion at the famous venue. The Burlington has been sold and will make way for a huge apartment complex sometime in 2008. It will be the end of an era in more ways than one. Few hotels had the homely feel that made country people so comfortable as the ‘Burlo’.
Among the first we met on arrival in the Burlington were Muintir Mhaigh Eo members Mary Fraine (Kilkelly), Helena Kelly (Drummin, Westport), Eddie Gallagher (Swinford), Sheila Gunning (Erris) and Teresa Ruddy (Ballina). This is the social highlight of the year for all the members and the culmination of a lot of work.
Aidan Prendergast from Ballyglass, Mayo Abbey was just back from the Superbowl in Florida, feeling tired and exhausted, but happy. Had a brief chat with Kiltimagh native John Higgins who has penned many fine articles for the Mayo Year Book and well as editing it in recent years.
It was nice to meet up with Eamon Dixon from the Erris region who was representing the Mayo Association in Luton, along with Michael Clifford. Eamon and Ellen are heading to the Fleadh Ibiza in mid-April. Mention of Ibiza reminds me of Luke and Agnes Padden who were in great form when we met before the end of the night. Agnes is a sister of Paddy Moran from Bonniconlon, a well known member of Muintir Mhaigh Eo. Last April, we met Agnes and Luke in Ibiza and they are heading back for the Fleadh again in April.
Greetings also to Paddy and Bridie Moran … and Paddy is probably hoping that if Mayo get to Croke Park under John O’Mahony’s guidance in September that they don’t meet Kerry in the final. (Bridie is a Kerry woman and I’m sure the Kerry brigade are not slow in teasing Paddy!)
Attymass native Noel Howley is PRO of the Association and the big night brings its own special demands. Noel was also a co-host of the one-hour radio programme on Mid West Radio with Teresa O’Malley earlier in the evening.
Another busy man was Ballyglass native Jim Murphy who is the current chairperson and who presided at the presentation of the Person of the Year award to Noel Conroy. Michael Cannon, who is from Kilmeena, Westport, current President, officiated at the Meitheal award presentation to Sr Dolores Duggan and Sr Attracta Canny.
Later in the night, we bumped into Claremorris native Noel Higgins and his sister Teresa Warde who were busy meeting friends from over the years. Maureen Walsh was up from Kiltimagh as were Sarah and Evelyn while Frank was also busy doing the rounds.
It was lovely to renew acquaintances again with Frank and Ann Kavanagh, who were the official representatives of the Mayo Association in Limerick. Frank is a former Garrymore footballer and still retains a great interest in all matters relating to his home region.
Eddie Maguire was recently honoured with the Belmullet GAA Hall of Fame award and he was really delighted to be remembered with such affection after over 40 years away from his native Blacksod region. Eddie and his wife Joan reside in Co Meath. He has written in the region of 20 books in relation to educational matters and also contributes regular columns to The Irish Times under the name Eamonn Maguire.
A songwriter of note, Eddie has composed many well known songs and chief among them are Memories of Mayo, recorded by Margo O’Donnell and Frank McCaffrey, and The Green Fields Around Ardboe, a song which enjoys huge popularity in Tyrone and other places and which was recorded by Philomena Begley and Colette O’Haire.
One of my special favourites from the Muintir Mhaigh Eo scene is Rose Johnson from Newbridge, Co Kildare. Rose was associated with the Mayo group in Kildare back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Her people come from the Midfield area near Swinford and she is a regular visitor to Swinford. The family run the Liffey Arms pub in Newbridge. It was great to meet her in the Burlington and I look forward to seeing her on her next visit to Mayo.
Representing the Mayo Association in Sligo were Tony and Margaret Bolton with Aghamore and Garrymore roots. Indeed, Margaret will be taking over the reins of Muintir Mhaigh Eo in Sligo from Peter Chambers at the next annual general meeting
Pearse Culkin from Ardnaree has spent many years in Dublin but retains a boyish fondness for the home he left behind. He is prominent in Muintir Mhaigh Eo circles in Dublin for several years and is a brother of Phoncie Culkin back home in Mayo.
Frank Fleming, who hails from Kilcolman, Claremorris, and is an Honorary Life President of Muintir Mhaigh Eo, also dropped by to say hello, as did Arthur French and his brother Fr Ger French who are from Mossbrook, Claremorris. Arthur, a close friend of Mick O’Dwyer, is currently involved with Micko in the management of the Wicklow senior team.
Mayo TD John Carty and his wife Kathleen were busy mingling with the guests while we also met Frank Salmon, who hails from Knock and who resides in the London area. His uncles, Frank and Vincent Gill, were members of the famous Royal Blues Showband.
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny was also busy meeting the Mayo folk in the city while we also met Cllr Frank and Phil Chambers from Newport and Cllr Gerry Coyle from Geesala while we also spotted Dara Calleary among the gathering.
James and Pauline Waldron and Sean and Mary Feeney represented the Mayo County GAA Board while Mary King, an ardent supporter of the red and green, came by to say hello. Mary, formerly Burke from Ballyheane, tells me she is now ‘geared up’ to the internet and listens to some of her favourite late night shows on Mid West Radio in Dublin!
Declan Marley and Seamus Murray were among the Mayo contingent from Galway that we met during the night. And we also had a good chat with Tom and Bridie Egan who were up from Carlow for the celebrations. Tom is from Kilgarriff, Knock while Bridie is from Mountrath. Also met Mona McGarry from Ballyhaunis during the night. Mona is a former chairperson of Muintir Mhaigh Eo in Dublin and a member of a well known Ballyhaunis family.
Michael Mulhern from the Crossmolina area and his daughter Annette came over to say hello. It was nice to meet them.
Other regulars that I met during the night were Kieran and Margaret O’Brien from Bohola, and Padraig Jordan from Castlebar while we also spotted John Grant from Claremorris mingling with the guests.
As always, our sincere thanks to everyone associated with Muintir Mhaigh Eo in Dublin for their kind and hospitable welcome.
The 1,000-plus attendance enjoyed another big night in the capital when Mayo accents rang proudly around the big ballroom. A pleasant time in the Burlington before the curtains came down on another night in Dublin’s fair city.

The legendary Nobby O’Reilly

BEKAN native Eamon McDonnell, now based in Dublin, rang me some days ago to say that Nobby O’Reilly had died in Dublin. In his native Monaghan in the land that Paddy Kavanagh celebrated so well in his poetry, he was christened Norbert but, to all and sundry, he was known as Nobby.
Nobby came to live in Dublin several years ago. He loved the entertainment scene and the people who made the wheels go around. At times, he appeared to have the bi-location ability …. Nobby was likely to turn up anywhere.
Almost all the people in the band business knew Nobby. For a time, he ran the restaurant downstairs in Barry’s Hotel. During that time, Barry’s was still a Mecca for mid-week dancing. This was home away from home for Nobby.
In July 2005 when the people of Oram near Castleblayney unveiled a monument to Big Tom McBride, their most famous son, Nobby was there in all his glory lending support to the occasion. He had a great time for Big Tom and I recall when Tom and the Mainliners played in the Hazel Hotel in Monasterevin that same year meeting Nobby and Tom after the gig.
Even up to recent months, he was there lending his support to all aspects of the business. He was a great promoter of the Steppin’ Out supplement which was carried in the Irish Mirror for around 18 months and which featured all the latest from the Irish and American country music scene. He had his own name pens which he distributed to friends and he always felt a real part of the showbiz scene.
He died peacefully in Tallaght Hospital after a short illness. Among those who travelled to Dublin to pay his respects was James Cafferty from Showtours, the company now based just outside Charlestown. “Nobby was one of the old stock. He just loved the business. There aren’t many of his kind around anymore,” said James.
Nobby, who was predeceased by his wife Terry, is survived by his son Norbert and daughters Emma and Clare, in-laws, grandchildren, sisters, relatives and many friends.

Double graduation

ANN and Martina Walshe, daughters of Martin and Kathleen Walshe, Erritt, Carrabehy, Co Roscommon, recently graduated with Diplomas in Education. Both are past pupils of Gorthaganny National School and Ballyhaunis Community School. Ann graduated with a Higher Diploma in Primary Education from Hibernia College, Dublin. She is currently teaching at Brusna National School near Ballaghaderreen. Martina graduated from NUI, Galway with a Higher Diploma in Education (Secondary). She is currently studying for her Master of Accounting at NUI, Galway.

A great vintage

THE Western Vintage Tractor and Engine Club has been very supportive of various causes in Mayo since its inception over 15 years ago.
Apart from the big Steam Rally at The Country Club in Hollybrook each summer, and the sponsored tractor drive, they also stage an annual auction and auto jumble and this will be held on next Sunday, February 25, at Shrule Community Centre from 12pm to 5pm.
Michael Mooney from Crossboyne tells us they are expecting plenty of interest in the large amount of memorabilia and items of bygone days that will be on view and for sale. “A lot of interest is being generated by the auction of vintage material with everything there including vintage cars, tractors, commercials, stationary engines, horse and farm machinery. All the regulars look forward in a special way to this gathering in Shrule, while anyone with the slightest interest in such matters will be most welcome on the day,” says Michael.
Anyone seeking further information can contact Bartley Horan on 093 33397 or 086 8246671. The club also has a website address on www.westernvintage.com.

Golden jubilee in Cleveland

SPECIAL celebrations to mark the golden wedding jubilee of Andy Dever and his Australian-born wife Margaret were held in Cleveland, Ohio last Saturday. Andy is a native of Currane, Achill.
Among those who joined them for the weekend festivities was Andy’s brother, Msgr Willie, who jetted up from Florida for the festivities. Every good wish to Andy and Margaret from all their friends back home in Mayo.