Commins Calling - Mar 7, 2007

People and Places
Noel Dunne on the mend

ONE of the special delights of Kiltimagh life is Noel Dunne’s Home Bakery. For over half a century, the Dunne family have been baking bread in Kiltimagh. Now, Noel operates one of the last home bakeries of its kind in the region.
The venture was established by his late father, Patrick Dunne, who was a native of Castlebar. The Dunne family have been synonymous with the bakery business all through the years. And all of us who have tasted the beautiful produce from Dunne’s Bakery know the treasure that Noel has maintained so faithfully for the people of the region.
Some weeks ago, Noel went into hospital and his legion of regular patrons have been absolutely lost without their ‘daily bread’ ever since. The question that his sister Margaret has to answer several times each day is ‘When will Noel be back in the bakery?’ Well, we can tell you now that Noel will be back in action some time during the month of March. And that news will be greeted with much enthusiasm by so many people.
For some time now, Noel has operated on a four-day week. He bakes during the night and the small shop on the ‘back road’ is open on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. “They are often queuing up outside when I open at 9am,” says Margaret. “Everything is always gone by 1pm. Noel bakes white and brown bread, rolls, soda cakes, doughnuts, bracks, currant buns, and iced buns. They are all asking when is the bakery opening again. Well everything going well, it will be up and running inside the next two or three weeks.”
The success of Dunne’s Bakery has been very much on a ‘word of mouth’ basis. People sample the bread and are amazed at the taste. ‘Real bread as it used to be’, you could say. Noel is happy producing the amount he does each week and has no plans at all to expand the business. It’s a family tradition and one that many in Kiltimagh have endorsed day after day, week after week, and year after year.
Some of their regular customers come from neighbouring towns and some from much further afield in places like Crossmolina and Castlebar. They even have a regular customer down Achill way.
When the Quaker String Band from Philadelphia arrive in Kiltimagh once again for the St Patrick’s Week celebrations, one of the special treats they always look out for is Dunne’s bread. It just goes to show that they really do have good taste! Noel, they are waiting for your return!

The late Jim Aiken

ONE of Ireland’s foremost concert promoters, Jim Aiken (74), died last week following a short illness. The big man from Jonesboro, Co Armagh, commanded huge respect throughout the music industry.
His word was his bond and, famously, he hardly ever signed contract documents, such was his standing at international level. Jim studied for the priesthood in Maynooth and later spent some years teaching before eventually dabbling in the showband promotions stakes where he got an appetite for that business.
In the early 1970s, when the Troubles were raging in the North, he went to America and caught up with Charley Pride. Through his fine negotiating skills, he convinced Charley to come to Ireland for his first ever concert tour. It was a friendship that was to endure through the years.
Jim Aiken always credited Charley Pride with saving his career as a promoter. Pride was the only big name that played in Belfast during the height of the Troubles and, for a few nights, brought both sides of the community together at a time of huge division and enormous tragedy. Belfast has never forgotten Charley Pride for that and it is perhaps no coincidence that Belfast is twinned with Nashville.
When Charley came to Belfast for a pre-tour promotion of his Irish tour two years ago, James Cafferty from Curry, Co Sligo, head of Showtours, invited me to the Europa Hotel in Belfast where Charley was available for a series of interviews. Tomas Walsh from the Brose Walsh Band from Belcarra journeyed with me to Belfast that day. We had a lovely meal with Jim Aiken, who was coordinating the tour and who was so delighted to see Charley back in Belfast again. Once you met Jim Aiken, he left a major impression and his integrity in the business was exemplary.
Only a few weeks ago, he jetted out to America to attend the golden wedding anniversary celebration of Charley Pride and his wife Roseanna. He was diagnosed with a serious health problem just over a month ago and died following that brief illness. Among those who visited him during that time was President Mary McAleese.
To the Aiken family, we tender condolences on the passing of a noble son of Ulster.

Country and Irish stations on the way

IRELAND is to get two new regional Country and Irish radio stations. The Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) has announced details of its commercial radio licensing plan (Phase Two) for the period April 2007 and September 2008. And there’s good news for the Irish industry in the new plans.
Submissions of interest are being sought from people who would like to provide a Country and Irish music service for the Mid-West region of the country and this incorporates Galway, Clare, Limerick, and parts of Kerry and Tipperary.
The second Country and Irish service will cater for the North-East Region and will be targeted specially at North Kildare, Meath, Louth and parts of Cavan and Monaghan.
Also being advertised is a Classic Gold/Easy Listening service for the 45+ market and this will be rolled out in Dublin City and County and the commuter belt, Cork City and County, Limerick City and County, Co Clare and Galway City and County (single contract).
The news that the Irish country industry is to have two specialised stations catering almost exclusively for country music will be widely welcomed by all associated with the country scene here in Ireland. And while the designated areas for both new regional stations are mentioned above, there will obviously be a ‘spill-over’ signal into many of the neighbouring counties which, in this region, means Mayo and Roscommon as well.
The time frame for the advertisement for submissions for these licences are November 2007 for the North East licence and January 2008 for the Mid- West region licence.

Feeney stays country in Ayle

SLIGO’S Patrick Feeney (pictured) returns to Digger Jay’s in Ayle on this Friday night. The young man from Gurteen is now under the management of Knock native Joe Finnegan who is also CEO at Shannonside/Northern Sound Radio.
Plans are now well advanced for the Gurteen Goes to Spain Week which is being centred around Patrick Feeney and a number of other friends from the music world. Lots of people from Sligo will be joined by friends of Patrick from all over the country and England for what should be a great week of music in southern Europe.
Meanwhile, Patrick continues to enjoy plenty of success on the home circuit. There are also plans to re-record his song There’s A Moon Over Ireland, with a arrangement by Frank McNamara (formerly of The Late Late Show). The song was composed by Carracastle-based Londoner, Bill Roberts, who has written a number of songs for Patrick including Take Me To The River.

Delia’s Sweeney celebrates her big day

IT was glass-raising time for Delia Sweeney (pictured), Dalton, Ballyfarna, Claremorris who celebrated her 99th birthday in recent days. Delia was in the finest form for the big day and was delighted with all the cards and messages of goodwill that came her way.
One of the grand old stock of my home area, Delia is gifted with a wonderful memory and her clarity of recall is truly marvellous. When I spoke to her on the phone on her birthday, she was so enthusiastic and excited about the events of the day and all the family relations that had been in touch to join in the good wishes.
Home from Birmingham for the event were Noreen and Gerry Cunnane, while Mary and Sean Byrne travelled from Sunderland. Others came from Cork, Galway and various other parts of the country. And Delia took it all in her stride.
Among her very special favourites on the music scene are Kevin Prendergast and Margo O’Donnell and she has been an ardent listener to Mid West Radio since it came on the air in the mid-1980s.
Delia, who resides with her daughter Margaret (Costello) and family, is up and about every day and has enjoyed good health all through the years. All of her friends join with us in saluting Delia and here’s to the ‘Big One’ next February!

Return to the River

A MAJOR German TV drama, Return to the River, shot on location in Mayo, was aired in recent weeks on the German state television service. Featuring two of the country’s best-known stars, Jan Sosniok and Sophie Schult, the screening attracted in the region of eight million viewers.
Among he areas where the scenes were filmed were Achill, Ashford Castle and Westport House. A number of local people from the region filled the role of ‘extras’ in various scenes.
Michael Guilfoyle from the Ballintubber area, who is no stranger to playing parts in various films and television drama, featured again in some scenes in Return to the River.

Newport hosts major dancing weekend

THEY’LL be stepping it out in style in Newport over the coming week. The Newport Set Dancers are playing host to a major festival of dancing which looks set to attract aficionados from many parts of the country to what should be a most enjoyable weekend in the west Mayo town.
Mickey Kelly tells us that it is the first time in 12 years that Newport has played host to the event which was held in the Parochial Hall back then. This time, the new Hotel Newport is the venue for all the action and the hosts are making sure that all is in place for a very special weekend in Newport.
“There’s big interest in the weekend and we have people coming  from various parts of the country. Many have already booked into Newport for the weekend. We are good supporters ourselves of other groups when they host similar weekends and now they are returning the favour by coming to visit us,” says Mickey.
The show gets under way on Friday night when the local Burrishoole Céilí Band will provide music in the lounge from 8pm to 10pm. The Céilí Mór takes place in the main hall in the hotel from 10pm to 1am with the popular Copper Plate from Omagh belting out the music for the dancers.
There are a series of workshops throughout Saturday and the big céilí later that night will feature Matt Cunningham and his band. The Amethyst Band from Achill are in the lounge.
The Glenside Céilí Band are playing for the afternoon céilí on Sunday, while the Amethyst Band return for the evening session and sing-along which will go on into the night. Newport should be a lively spot this weekend.


John Forde dies
THE sudden death of John Forde from Ballinderreen, Kilcolgan, Co Galway caused widespread sadness and shock throughout his home area and further afield. Big John, as he was affectionately known to many, was in his mid-30s and took ill and died suddenly in the family home. In recent years, he had become a close friend of country music legend Big Tom and was his official ‘minder’ during Tom’s hugely successful nationwide tours in 2004 and 2005.
Big Tom and his wife Rose, together with Kevin McCooey, travelled from Monaghan to attend the funeral ceremony in Galway.

Joe Flaherty RIP
THE death took place in recent days of Joe Flaherty from Rahoon, Galway. Joe was a member of local Galway group, The Gamblers, and operated his own business for a time in Shop Street. He was aged 46. Condolences to his family and friends on their bereavement.

Jubilee time
WARMEST congratulations to Paddy and Mary Peyton form Tumgesh, Swinford who celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary last week. The popular couple were joined by family and friends for a special party to mark the occasion. Every good wish to Mary and Paddy from all their neighbours and friends.

Margo honoured
MARGO O’Donnell was honoured with the Donegal Person of the Year award at a big night in the Burlington Hotel in Dublin last Friday night. Around 900 people attended the show which is organised each year by the Donegal Association in Dublin. Among them was John Joyce from Currane, Achill, a long-time friend and supporter of the ‘Girl from Donegal’.
Her brother Daniel was a former recipient of the Donegal Person of the Year award and the presentation to Margo at the weekend marked the first time in the history of the awards that two members of the same family had been honoured with the Donegal Person of the Year title. Some achievement for the O’Donnells of Kincasslagh and a very proud night for their mother, Julia.

Mackey heads West
TIPPERARY singer Mick Mackey is all set for a return visit to Digger Jay’s on Sunday night, March 18. Mick, who hails from Clonmel, is also known as The Man in Black, and has performed on a few previous occasions in Digger’s. He is a regular performer at the Fleadh Ibiza and Fleadh Portugal music holidays where he also coordinates the nightly sing-alongs.

Big Fergie’s passing
ONE of the legendary Clipper Carlton Showband members died last week. Fergus O’Hagen was a popular member of the famous Tyrone band whom it is generally accepted were the pioneers of the entire showband industry.
The lads from Strabane changed the entire Irish music scene and kick-started an industry that was to give employment to thousands in the years that were to follow. They were the men that put ‘show’ into the band scene and were gifted entertainers.
Big Fergie, as he was affectionately known, sang many of the Jim Reeves songs and brought a touch of class to everything he did on stage. Older readers who remember with affection the great days of the Clipper Carlton will be saddened to learn of the passing of the man from Tyrone.

Mick Byrne and Brendan Bowyer
THERE I was reading the match programme for the Mayo v Limerick National Football League game when something caught my eye. “What’s Brendan Bowyer doing on the back page of a match programme here in Mayo,” says I to myself. But, on second glance, it was not Brendan Bowyer at all …. but Castlebar’s own Mick Byrne.
Maybe Mick has given many a ‘Royal’ performance over the years and maybe even done the Hucklebuck on a few occasions … but this is the first time I’ve noticed a similarity in looks between the former Waterford showband legend and our own ‘great one’ in Castlebar!