Commins Calling - February 28, 2007

People and Places
SMILING at the Muintir Mhaigh Eo dinner dance
SMILING at the Muintir Mhaigh Eo dinner dance From left: Anne Roache, Lily Gardiner, Mary Murray, Galway; Paddy and Maura Butler, Ballina; Marie Killian, Galway, and Loretta Walsh, Ballycastle. Pic: Frank Dolan

Mayo celebration in the City of the Tribes

Michael Commins

CLOSE on 400 people attended the annual Muintir Mhaigh Eo dinner dance in the Galway Bay Hotel in Salthill on Friday night week. Mayo folk living in Galway were joined by friends from the home county as well as representatives of Mayo associations from other parts of the country and overseas. Among the special guests were Mayo Person of the Year, Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy from Aughleam, and Sr Attracta Canny and Sr Dolores Duggan from Hope House in Foxford, winners of the Meitheal award.
The social side of these nights are at the heart of their success and friendships are renewed on an annual basis. Crossmolina’s Andy Dunleavy was among the first to welcome us to Galway. We’ve known Andy and Carmel for several years now through our coverage of the various gatherings of Muintir Mhaigh Eo around the country.
It was nice to meet up with Padraig and Martina Peyton who made the journey from Sligo. Two weeks earlier, they had their own big night when close on 300 attended the Mayo Association dinner in Sligo. They were accompanied on the trip to Galway by Padraig’s uncle John Durkan and his wife Eileen who were home on vacation from Philadelphia. They are regular listeners to Mid West Radio via the internet service.
Dan O’Neill and Nancy were in the Galway Bay for the big night. Speaking to Dan, he told me how much he was looking forward to the big reunion night in Dundalk for the members of the Louth 1957 All-Ireland winning team. Dan, who hails from Castlebar (and who sends his good wishes to his cousins, the O’Donnells in Sheeaune, Westport), was midfield on the team captained by the famous musician, Dermot O’Brien, and his partner on that occasion was none other than Ballaghaderreen man, Seamie O’Donnell, now a retired Garda superintendent down in Gorey.
This year is, of course, the golden jubilee of that famous year when Louth defeated Cork by 1-9 to 1-7 to bring the Sam Maguire back to the Wee County amid great excitement. Bonds of friendship were founded that year that have stood the test of time.
For over three decades, Sean and Vera Dunleavy welcomed Muintir Mhaigh Eo and their guests to their own hotel, the Sacre Coeur, which was a home away from home for many of the Mayo people in former times. The sale of the hotel inside the last two years has seen the venue for the big Mayo night move over to the Galway Bay Hotel. However, Sean and Vera were among the supporters and were enjoying the night in a very relaxed mood.
We had a brief chat with Archbishop Michael Neary who always lends his support to this annual gathering in the City of the Tribes and it was also nice to share a few moments with Srs Dolores and Attracta who were back in the limelight again one week after their big presentation night in the Burlington Hotel in Dublin.
PJ Kavanagh and some colleagues from the Bank of Ireland were enjoying the Mayo night out in Galway. A former neighbour of my own, PJ is now manager of the Bank of Ireland in Tuam and his brother John is manager of the Longford branch. As children we used to play football Sunday after Sunday in Cloonmore and Mace.
It has been a rather hectic social time for Sean McManamon in recent weeks. A surprise party in his honour to mark his retirement from De Care International was held in the McWilliam Park Hotel in Claremorris two weeks ago and Sean was back co-ordinating the major raffle at the dinner dance in the Galway Bay Hotel. He is a former chairman of the Association in Galway. His wife Kitty, a native of Westport, was also enjoying the celebrations and recalled how they had all managed to keep the Claremorris party a complete surprise for Sean a week earlier.
We met up with John Walkin for a few moments and the Ballina man was in fine form. No doubt, looking forward to the angling season ahead.
Westport photographer Frank Dolan was present on official duty. He’s no stranger at these gatherings and has covered several such events over the years. Frank Kearney was there from Lackagh, Turloughmore. He is well known to sports followers as the Galway correspondent for Mid West Radio. His mother was one of the Heaneys from Garrymore and he is a staunch supporter of the Garrymore club.
Michael and Maura Commons reside in nearby Knocknacarra and it was nice to meet up with the cousins again. Michael is from Mossbrook, Claremorris and Maura was formerly Conway from Dooleague, Islandeady. They came to reside in Galway in recent years after spending around 12 years in Portlaoise prior to that. Michael is now an active committee member of Muintir Mhaigh Eo in Galway.
Gerry Coyle, the current chairman of Mayo County Council, was in fine form when we spoke during the night. It will be a very proud occasion for Gerry when he will front the Mayo delegation heading out to New York for the annual St Patrick’s Day celebrations. His son Henry is boxing in Madison Square Gardens at the big eve of St Patrick’s Day boxing festival and the young Erris man is assured of great support from the west of Ireland brigade out there.
Frank and Bernie Gaughan are regular supporters of the annual Mayo night out in town. And such occasions would hardly be complete without a few songs from Frank and, naturally enough, Blacksod Bay always gets a good airing! A mention also for Josephine who was in their company. Great to meet them all and have the wee bit of banter.
Martin and Norrie Kearney were among those sharing the table with us. Martin is a member of a well-known Ballindine family and the same can be said for Norrie who is one of the McIntyre family from Charlestown. Hello also to the O’Connor brothers from Ballinrobe and friends who were enjoying the celebrations. And greetings as well to Joe Conway, formerly from Rathduff, Balla, a retired garda who has resided in Galway for many years.
There has always been strong links between the Mayo Associations in Galway and Dublin and there was a nice contingent down from Dublin this time around. Among them were Paddy and Bridie Moran, John and Betty Garavin, Jim and Theresa Murphy, Mary King, Michael Cannon, Padraig Jordan and John McMyler. Also present was Pat Bracken, formerly from Newport, and a good friend of Padraig Jordan.
Marcella Wilkinson was over from Manchester where she has been a leading member of the Mayo Association for several years. A native of the Knock area, Marcella always has a warm welcome for us. Up Cloonmore, Marcella!
Seamus and Monica Henry were up from Bangor for the celebrations and they were joined by Tom and Patricia Gaughan from Teach Iorrais, Geesala, and Evelyn and Peter Keane from Belmullet. Some of them were also looking forward to the Green and Red Trust Night in Castlebar at which Richard Cosgrove was being honoured by the GAA.
Eddie and Margaret Cuffe also made the journey from Belmullet. Eddie is no stranger to long journeys as he attends all Mayo’s National League games no matter what part of the country they are in.
Paddy and Mary and Ailish Conroy, Padraig and Marian Conroy, and Kevin and Patricia Rabbitte were all up from the Aughleam area while Maureen and Mick Hussey from Crossmolina also joined Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy and his wife Mary for the celebrations in Galway. So too did spritely 90 year-old Michael McDonnell from Belmullet who enjoyed the dancing no end.
For Bernard and Mary O’Hara, it was another rather hectic social occasion, renewing acquaintances with old friends and sharing in the festivities. The year just ended was an especially busy year for Bernie who published his own book about Michael Davitt and who also contributed numerous articles to newspapers, as well as delivering a number of lectures in relation to the life and times of the Mayo born Land League founder.
Sean Heneghan was there too but Monica was unable to make it on this occasion. We understand it was the first time in around 33 years that Monica (nee Langan from Knockrooskey, Westport) missed out on the annual dinner dance. A mention also for Maureen Langan-Egan and Nora Kelly-McGinty who have been associated with Muintir Mhaigh Eo down through the years.
We had a great chat with the Ballyhaunis contingent of Pat and Margaret Byrne and Bernie and Mary Freyne who were taking things nice and easy. Brenda O’Neill from Foxford, who is teaching in Galway, and April McHale from Knockmore were also enjoying the Mayo celebrations in the city.
Hello also to Hubert and Marie and Patricia Callaghan from Castlerea, great friends of the Brose Walsh Band, who came along and enjoyed a memorable night in the Galway Bay Hotel.
A lot of organising goes into such ventures as the annual dinner dance and I’m sure chairman Seamus Murray was pleased and at ease when the curtains finally came down on the occasion. He had special words of thanks for his wife Carmel who hails from Milltown. Joining them were family members and friends from the Belmullet area, including his brother Joe.
Also present were Sean and Marie Kenna who journeyed from Claremorris while we also met Donal and Teresa Downes. Donal was the second chairman of the Association back in the early 1970s. A mention too for Padraig Fahey, formerly of Newbrook, Claremorris and all his group whom we met towards the end of the night.
Declan and Anna Marley (Glenhest and Newport) had no shortage of family support on the night. They included Kevin Marley and Mary O’Reilly who journeyed from Mayo, Eamon and Gabrielle Hurst, and John and Veronica Marley who live in Corrandulla. Also in the group were Sean and Kathleen Kelly from Newport. Sean is an All-Ireland and European champion in the craft of sausage and black pudding preparation and an acclaimed master of his trade.
The Mortimer family from Shrule were lending their support and it was nice to meet up with Frank and Carmel as well as Kenneth who also joined them for the big night. Tom McHugh, the county councillor from Tuam and his wife Sal, a native of Ballinrobe, were among the attendance as were Martin McGarry from Lacken and his wife Deirdre.
We had a chat with James Waldron, chairman of the Mayo GAA Board, while Mayo dual player Keith Higgins from Ballyhaunis and Mick Morris from Hollymount, manager of the Mayo Over-40s team, were also among the big gathering.
Gerry Devaney, formerly from Swinford and now well-known in business in Galway, had a table of 18. A busy man on the night! Padraig ‘Rocky’ Moran from Castlebar, manager with AIB in Galway, was lending his support to the big night while we also met Richard Hughes from Westport who is an optician in Galway for many years.
The raffle brought in close on €3,000 and this was presented to Srs Dolores and Attracta from Hope House.
The Brose Walsh Band played some lovely music and had the dancers stepping it out in style. Declan Marley and Seamus Murray presided at a special presentation to the five band members, James, Tomas and John Noel Walsh, Jimmy Deacy and Phil Munnelly, to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the famous Belcarra based outfit. All in all, a very pleasant night by the shores of Galway Bay.

Family tribute song a big hit
A song composed in memory of country singer Johnny Loughrey and his wife Mary has been recorded by their son Shaun. Written by band member Marty Pollack from Co Down, ‘The Rock and the Pillar’ is a poignant tribute to the Loughreys and is already generating a lot of interest.
After airing the song on the Late Show on Mid West Radio last Wednesday night, we received several text messages and phone calls from people who had been deeply touched by the lyrics of the new single from Shaun. In many respects, it is the kind of  song that many families can identify with and the message appears to have a major outreach.
Shaun recorded the song in Jonathan Owens’ studio in Granard. His manager, Kevin McCooey, said there has been a phenomenal reaction to the song after just a few airplays on some of the regional stations. It has been issued as part of a two track single and will also be included on the forthcoming album.
Shaun Loughrey and his band are playing in Digger Jay’s, Ayle, Westport on this Friday night, March 2.

Céilí House in Newport
THE long-running ‘Céilí House’ programme on RTÉ radio will come from Newport next Saturday night, March 3. The show was recorded in the Granuaille pub last Saturday night and marked the first time in the history of the programme which goes back to the 1960s that it emanated in Newport.
Programme presenter, Ciaran Hanrahan from Clare, was delighted with the talent and enthusiasm and the full house that turned up for the special recording. The programme, which goes out between 9pm and 10pm, features several local musicians and others from around the county, as well as céilí dancers, and other guests. Well worth a listen this Saturday night.

Dancing treat in Julian’s
A special treat is in store for dancers in Julian’s lounge in Midfield on Saturday night, April 7. Michael O’Brien and Philomena McGovern have been booked for a special show and this will be Michael’s first performance in Julian’s since the days he fronted his own band.
The popular Clare duo have just released their first album in some years and are in great demand for shows at home and overseas. They will be heading off to the Fleadh Ibiza one week after their show in Midfield.
Michael hit the big time when his recording of ‘The Veil of White Lace’ became a huge country hit. He was signed to K-Tel Records and enjoyed some very good years in the business. In more recent times, himself and Philomena have been consolidating their position as a top draw duo. They are very much looking forward to what will be their first show in Mayo for some years.

Photographs left in Swinford 
ON a visit to Swinford last week, we dropped in to the Mayo-Roscommon Hospice shop in the town. It was opened six years ago and has proven to be a very successful venture under the management of Margaret Devaney from nearby Culmore. She also has a good back-up team who lend their support on a voluntary basis and it was surprising just how busy the place was during our short time there.
Margaret tells me they that they have a fine selection of debs dresses in stock at the moment which may well be of interest to some locals from the region or further afield.
They would also like to return some studio photos of two brothers that were left in the shop recently by some caller to the premises. Margaret says they don’t know who the young lads that are featured in the photos are, but are sure they were left by accident by someone who is probably wondering where the photos are now. If you know of anyone missing such photos, you can contact 087 4150663.

Arlene heads for Nashville
KILDARE-born Arlene Bailey is making quite a name for herself in Nashville. The young lady from Sallins is now resident in Nashville where she is currently working on her new album.
She is doing a few shows back home in Ireland over the next two weeks and these include gigs on Saturday night, March 3, in the Hibernia Inn, Tuam and in the Diamond Court Hotel in Enniscrone on Sunday night, March 4. On Saturday, March 10, Arlene and her band are playing in Pauric Lee’s in Lettermullen, Connemara.
She returns to Nashville on March 12 and she kicks off a tour of Texas shortly after. Arlene’s new single ‘Nothing On But The Radio’ will be released in April on Crashed Records and her new album entitled ‘I Am Woman’ will be available at the end of April.

Paddy takes flight once more
THE sky is the limit for Paddy Glynn (right) from Kilvine, Irishtown. Last July, Paddy made his own piece of local history when he became the first man to be brought by helicopter from Irishtown to the Galway Races. He was a guest of his friend Pat Moran from nearby Kilmacnella on that occasion. The helicopter was piloted by Joe Walsh from Kiltimagh, a brother of showbiz impresario Louis Walsh.
Last year also saw Paddy make trips to Thailand and Germany. Now, the bould Paddy is all set for another trip to Thailand, a country he has taken a great liking to since his debut visit there. All his friends around Irishtown and Garrafrauns wish him bon voyage as he heads to the Orient again.