Commins Calling - Jan 17, 2007

People and Places
Mass of Thanksgiving celebrated in St Patrick’s Church in Ballyhaunis
PLACE IN THE CHOIR Mildred Beirne (second from right in front row) is pictured here along with the group that performed a special dance during the Mass of Thanksgiving celebrated in St Patrick’s Church in Ballyhaunis during the summer festival a few months ago. Back row, from left: Bernie Lynn, Mary Syron, Canon Joe Cooney, Mary Moran and Carmel Kearns. Front, from left: Maureen Kearns, Liz Molloy, Mildred Beirne, Caroline Jordan.

Finding ‘Irishness’ in the feet

MILDRED Beirne from Loughglynn is well known in set dancing and line dancing circles around the Roscommon and Mayo regions for many years. She conducts weekly classes in Crossmolina, Ballinlough, Castlerea and other places. Some months ago, Babs Devaney-Sykes, formerly of Erritt, Carrowbehy, Castlerea, was back home on vacation and she rambled along to some dancing classes in the White House Hotel in Ballinlough and Tully’s Hotel in Castlerea. For Babs, it was a special experience and here she looks back fondly at a memorable holiday in West Roscommon and some special nights at Mildred’s classes.
“Caledonia. Whenever I’ve heard that word, wherever I was, I would get that little buzz I usually feel when a word or phrase hits me right. I collect words and something in my brain arranges them by how pretty they sound. I can’t recall when I first heard the word ‘Caledonia’ or when I first knew it was of Celtic derivation, but it’s always conjured up a magical image, one in which the mountains rose out of the mist, soaring to heaven itself.
“There were figures in this snapshot as well, young maidens, like on my mother’s ‘stations’ teapot. Said maidens would likely be linked with or dancing with handsome true loves. The sun would be shining on lovely Lake Caledonia. There would be music as well. Magic music in a magic place.
“Now, I’d like to report, I have found my own Caledonia and it was in a hotel function room in Co Roscommon. Young when I left Ireland, I had often felt that I had missed out on something, even if I couldn’t name that thing. It wasn’t necessarily people or a person, not really even a particular place, just something that would enter my mind in offhand moments.
“In the past few years, I’ve had occasion to return repeatedly to Ireland. Unknowingly, I had been seeking that essential Irish something, but I kept missing it until my last trip, where there it was, hiding in plain sight. Caledonia! And it was a dance. It was ‘The Caledonia’, for goodness sake! And it wasn’t just ‘The Caledonia’, there were many more of these set dances, all types of Lancer’s dances, Roscommon and Fermanagh, Connemara sets and more. Circumstances had introduced me to the traditional Irish ‘set dance’.
“Now I have had the extreme pleasure of feeling like Maggie In The Woods herself as I and my fellow ladies would end the evening circled hand in hand, bounding in, out and, waltzing a moment with each one as we moved from one to another all around the hall.
“One of my teachers, Mildred, a diminutive and dynamic lady, made these evenings so much fun. A natural-born teacher with legs like a Folies Bergere dancer and a skirt as high as fog on Nephin, she calls out the instructions and strides about, her microphone attached, like a secret service agent, to her little waist as she watches her dancers circle. Her humorous comments on the talents of the newest and most awkward dancers, of which I was one, are as much fun as the dancing itself. ’Holy Mother Of God!!‘, she cries to heaven!
“Because the lessons are attended primarily by women, the male roles are performed by the females. Trying to remember who is a man and who is a woman was almost impossible for me. Often I would forget which one I was myself! Many of the ladies have been taking these dance lessons for months or years and have their regular partners. Most were generous in sharing their knowledge with the newcomers, sacrificing the enjoyment of proper stepping partners to help out the enthusiastic, if bewildered, new arrivals.
“All of this cost €5 per lesson, a bargain in Celtic Tiger Ireland. For this, one gets music, dancing lessons, much-appreciated ice water and, sometimes, a fabulous feast at the end of the evening, dessert included.
“A  plus for me was getting to meet new people, lovely ladies from towns around, some who knew some members of my family, which made me feel a little more connected. Francie, Nuala, Miriam, Mary, Rosaleen, Ellen, lots of ladies like myself, out for a night of fun, not to mention exercise. Mildred calls out, ‘Ladies, chain’, ‘Sides, advance, sides, retire’, ‘tops advance, tops retire’, ‘everybody, house, céilí hold, full house, now SWING!!!’
“Attempting to move AND figuring out what chaining was, the difference between a top and a side and which one I was, provided so many giggles it was a challenge to pay attention to the actual steps. New ladies would be carried along by the group dynamic, there was little time to think, as the group would pull and push you where you belonged and somehow as the night wore on, we’d be doing some version of the dance.
“Another hilarious feature was when there was an actual biologically correct man, he was as gold in the furnace. For me, it made it much easier being able to identify him by gender rather than by the steps. A lovely man named Paddy was the darling of the lessons, dancing for some years now, he was always at the ready to help anyone out.
“One my favourite parts of the dancing was the syncopated sound of the shoes clattering on the floor and Paddy would hit those floorboards with an unbounded enthusiasm. His huge smile shone on everybody and served as a reminder that life is short and it‘s okay to have a bit of fun.
“I thoroughly enjoyed Mildred’s instructions to ‘SWING!’ as I had once watched the adults dance the Siege of Ennis and had envied them so. Dancing in Caledonia, and sometimes being swung so vigorously would often result in my feet leaving the floor and I would be dizzy and perspiring at the end of a set. It’s hard to describe the childish pleasure it evoked. I guess I like being dizzy!
“As I’d drive home under what I’ve come to think of as an Irish moon, I’d hazard a guess there were few happier on the road home than this budding ‘lancer dancer‘. All it took was waiting some 40+ years, a slightly foolish heart and a blind faith that one day I’d stumble onto what my Irishness means. And stumble I did. All for a flat €5 fee!!!
“In conclusion, I add that there are also lessons in other surrounding towns. Try it, most likely your heart and certainly your health will thank you. I can’t wait for my next visit to lovely and fair Caledonia, Co Roscommon, Ireland.”

Hospice fund-raising Country CD launched
THE White House Hotel in Ballinlough was the venue for the recent launch of the West Coast Country CD, a nine-track fund-raising venture for the Mayo-Roscommon Hospice and the Galway Hospice. Behind the project was Dan Caulfield from Granlahan.
The album features three songs by each of the participating singers. They are George Anderson, who sings the more traditional style of Country, Eamon Mullins from Athenry and Jean Williams from Abbeyknockmoy.
The guest performers on the show in Ballinlough were Kevin Prendergast, Lisa Stanley and David Moriarty from Sligo, Margaret Whyte from Williamstown (nee Stenson from Aghamore), John Murphy, and John Carlos and Jimmy Kearney of the well-known Lancers group form Roscommon.
The launch attracted good support from the region and among those we met enjoying the show were Margaret Grennan and her sister Ann Clarke from Lisacul, Christy and Mary Cregg, Cloonlough, Ballinlough and Bernadette and Padraig Gunning, Cahir, Castlerea.
Mary Teresa and Kevin Maloney were over from Cloonfad while John Murphy, who engineered the CD, was also among the attendance. Had a nice chat with Kevin Prendergast who is back home again after attending the funeral of his brother Brendan in Manchester three weeks ago.
Mick and Delia Joyce made the journey from Mayo Abbey to support the venture, while we also met Michael and Margaret Whyte and John and Breda Nee from Williamstown; John and Ann Flanagan, Castlerea; Mary Patterson and Margaret McDermott from the local support group of the Mayo-Roscommon Hospice; Dan and Margaret Caulfield, Anthony Jordan from Carrowbehy, Frank and Chris Neenan, Granlahan; Martin Walshe, Gorthaganny; Larry Wall, Williamstown; Gerry Conroy, Granlahan, and Joe and Gabrielle Cawley who journeyed from Drumlish.
It was lovely to meet Lisa Stanley again. The last time I spoke to her was at the launch of the Cloonfad CD. She still has a great fondness for performing on stage and hopes to record some fresh material during the year ahead.
A second launch night for the West Coast Country CD will be held in the Abbey Inn in Abbeyknockmoy on this Friday night, January 19, featuring the three singers on the CD as well as Kevin Prendergast and Kevin Rohan and Rodney’s Glory.

Galway goes Country as Glór Tíre rolls into town
COUNTRY music is all set to make a big comeback in Galway next week when patrons will have four nights of quality shows down at The Quays Bar, Quay Street. The venue is the setting for the recording of the new series of TG4’s Glór Tíre shows and some of the top names in the business are taking part in the series.
On Monday night, January 22, the featured singers are Brendan Shine, Mike Denver and Hugo Duncan. Tuesday night will see Mick Flavin, Shaun Cuddy and Robert Mizzell on stage, while the Wednesday night show will feature TR Dallas, Susan McCann and Mark Roberts. Each night will also feature three of the nine selected finalists in the new talent series. All nine finalists will then be featured in a special show on Thursday night, January 25.
Doors open at 8.30pm and the recording is due to get under way around 9pm. Patrons can either get out and dance or sit back and enjoy the music. There will be a nominal cover charge and all are welcome.

Family, sport and community were key for Kevin Roughneen
KEVIN Roughneen (pictured) from Bohola, who died some weeks ago, was a loyal Mayo football supporter down through the years. Among his close friends was the late Dermot Coyne from Kiltimagh and both of them could be seen at Mayo league matches in any part of the country.
Community service was close to his heart and Kevin was deeply involved in various groups and organisations in the Bohola region. He gave of his time freely and could always be relied on to lend a helping hand.
He took a keen interest in music too and among his favourite singers were Brendan Bowyer from Waterford, the man who fronted the famous Royal Showband and who now resides most of the year in Las Vegas, and Daniel O’Donnell from Donegal. He also liked many of the Irish Country music singers whose careers he followed with great interest. On hearing of Kevin’s death while on tour in Australia, Daniel O’Donnell took time out to phone the Roughneen family with his condolences.
Kevin was born in Craggagh between Balla and Kiltimagh on March 3, 1931 and was the youngest son of a family of eight (Joe, Pa, John T, Tom, Martin, Peg, May and Kevin) born to Jack and Margaret Roughneen.
He received his primary school education in Craggagh NS and from there went on to the Christian Brothers secondary school in Waterford where he achieved the qualification to train as a national school teacher in St Patrick’s Training College, Drumcondra, Dublin. After qualifying, he took up various teaching positions down through the years. Kevin obtained his BA, H Dip Ed in October, 1970. His final school before he retired was Ballyvary Central School, which was amalgamated with Loughkeeran NS, where he was principal.
He taught in Ballyvary for only a short time and retired two years early.
In a contribution to the annual Bohola Post at Christmas, his daughter Martina Sheerin, reflected on some of the other aspects of Kevin’s involvement with the community, as well as general interests.
“Kevin was a member of many organisations - Bohola Community Council, Bohola Group Water Scheme, Bohola Post, Moy Davitts Club, O’Dwyer Cheshire Home Committee and Bohola Church Choir. Any event that needed funds collected for, he always gave up his spare time to collect for it.
“He was a keen follower of Mayo football, travelling to matches down through the years with his friend Dermot Coyne (RIP), Kiltimagh. They travelled all over the country to Mayo matches. All they needed were two Mayo jerseys as they were playing the match in their seat. He also supported Irish rugby and was kept informed on  matches by his son Adrian.
“His day was filled with music and crack from Mid West Radio. It kept him happy. He was a big fan of Mike Denver, Patrick Feeney, Daniel O’Donnell and John McCormack. He was at his happiest when Mid West was on. His life centred around his family, music, sport, reading and current affairs.
“He and his wife Teresa had a good life together, very happy. They attended many functions, spending sprees and travelling to new places. They were days we will never forget. He was a brilliant husband and father and is deeply missed by his wife Teresa, daughter Martina, son Adrian, daughter-in-law Karen and granddaughter Lillian, son-in-law Martin, nieces, nephews, sister-in-law, brothers-in-law, and a wide circle of friends in Bohola and elsewhere. May his gentle soul rest in peace.”

Aidan returns to Crossmolina
TYRONE singer Aidan Quinn returns to the Upper Deck in Crossmolina on Sunday, January 21. He played his first show at the venue back in September and is very much looking forward to his return visit to Hiney’s.
Aidan, who is son of country legend Philomena Begley and her husband Tom Quinn, is laying down tracks for his second album which will be released in the coming months.
  His last promotional single entitled ‘Waltzing Margarita Round The Room’ received extensive airplay on the regional radio stations. The up-tempo number  was recorded in Cuan Music Studios, Portaferry, Co Down with the assistance of owner/producer Stephen Smyth.
Dancing in the Upper Deck on Sunday night is from 11pm to 1am.

Buckley tops bill in Digger Jay’s
ONE of the top draws on the Country circuit these days is Jimmy Buckley (pictured) and his band and they are back in Digger Jay’s in Ayle on Friday night (January 19) for another night of Country dancing.
These are exciting times for Jimmy who was over in Detroit prior to the Christmas where he was featured on a major Public Broadcasting channel (PBS). The reaction was such that he left other well-known acts from various music genres in the shade and he has been invited back for further negotiations with a view to coast to coast exposure on the networks.
The latest addition to Jimmy’s band is Declan O’Hare, a brother of Collette of Jivebeat, who has come in on lead guitar. It looks like being a full house for the visit of Jimmy Buckley and the lads to Digger’s this Friday night.