HISTORY OF THE MALAHIDE COMHALTAS BRANCH
It seems that the Branch began as a dream of a few musicians who played music together in the Grand Hotel in the early 1970’s. The main movers were Eoin Kavanagh and Aonghus Sheehan and they got great support from a wide range of people including Sr. Brendan who was a teacher in The Convent (now Scoil Íosa, The Community School), Whistle teacher Patrick Joyce and Set Dancing teacher Brendan Brophy. It is understood that the first meeting of the Branch took place in the Grand Hotel about the year of 1975. Informal music gatherings continued and classes commenced in the old Grill Room later moving to the Red School (St. Sylvester’s) on the Yellow Walls Road. Tin whistle and Dancing classes were held there, and Jim Collier ex Chairman recalls that the famous band U2 used also to practice in the same venue just before the tinwhistle classes, making “an awful racket”!
In March 1977 Mary Paula Hoyne Hon Secretary of Malahide and member of the County Board chaired the first meeting of Kinsealy CCE and the late 1970’s early 1980’s saw the beginning of a close relationship with the Kinsealy Branch of Comhaltas, which carries on to this Day.
A move to the Parish Hall below St. Sylvester’s Church followed on. Individuals and groups were tutored to a very high standard by some excellent teachers and the branch flourished right through the 80’s. The Branch produced some very fine musicians down through the years and our Bands and Groups performed at various events around the area as well as competing in the County Fleadh and Fleadh Laighean. Emir Morris did great work as leader of our Bands and Groups in the early 90,s after which Kieran Condron took over this role in developing groups of young musicians to represent the Branch. The Malahide Branch developed a great tradition over the years and has also hosted two Fleadhanna Ceoil, one in Scoil Íosa and the following year in the Grove Hotel. The roof of the Parish Hall was raised for several years with the happy sounds of Irish traditional music, until the growing amount of pupils and the demand for a greater variety of instruments led to the move from the Parish Hall to Oliver Plunkett’s School.
Currently classes are held in Malahide Community school.
Members of Malahide Comhaltas recall some lovely outings organised by the committee over the years. Our musicians and dancers performed at the Granard Harp Festival in the early 1992. June 1993 saw eight branch members invited by President Mary Robinson to visit Áras an Úachtaráin where they enjoyed a wonderful afternoon with a fine spread of tea and refreshments on the lawn. In August of that year, twenty-eight members of the Branch headed off on a trip to the midlands, enjoying a ride on the Bord na Móna bog train followed by a visit to Clonmacnoise and then on to Teach Cheol at Moate Heritage Park. In August of 1994 the branch went to Holy Cross Abbey and then on to Cashel where they performed at an informal Session at Brú Boru before the Professional Show. In 1997 a much larger group returned to the midlands for a Bog of Allen train trip followed by a meal and music in Moate. The following year 1998 saw a trip to Wexford and visit to the National Heritage Park in Ferrycarrig which was greatly enjoyed by all.
The 21st Anniversary of Malahide Comhaltas was celebrated in April 1996 with a well-attended special mass followed by a seisiún in St. Andrew’s School Hall. The proceeds of fundraising on that occasion were donated to the first People-in-Need event. The 25th Anniversary was marked with a Special Céilí in Portmarnock GAA where Anne Kavanagh was the guest of honour and she accepted a presentation on behalf of her husband Eoin from the then Chairman Joseph Gunning.
Malahide Comhaltas was also involved with organising monthly Céilí’s, held initially in the Parish Hall and later in St. Sylvester’s GAA Club. Jo Morris ex Chairperson introduced and organised these these Céili’s for a number of years and was assisted by a small dedicated bunch of people led by Joe Condron. In the early days the Shores of Erin Band played at these Céilí’s, before they became more widely known and later The Sean óg and Green Grove Céilí Band played on alternate months. The last Wednesday in the month became known as the Malahide CCE Céilí Night in the local area and not only did it provide great enjoyment but it also generated much needed revenue for the Branch. The Céilí moved in later years to the GAA club in Portmarnock because of the refurbishment of the Hall in St Sylvester’s. Excellent Set-Dancer, Donncha Ó Muinneacháin, was the well-loved Fear an Tí on these occasions until he sadly died in January 2005 (R.I.P.) Unfortunately our Monthly Ceili’s are no longer held but we have held some great fundraising Ceili’s for the Branch in recent years with our local Brian Boru Céilí Band providing some great music.
Several members of Malahide Comhaltas have gone on to become involved with the larger Comhaltas organisation: Jim Collier, ex-Chairman later became the Vice Chairman of the County Board of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and Jo Morris (ex-Chairperson) served as Chairperson of the Leinster Council for twelve years before becoming delegate to Cultúrlann National Executive.
In recent years, many of the pupils of Malahide Comhaltas enjoyed showing off their musical talents at seisiún held in the Parish Hall and St Sylvester’s. They dressed up for the special Halloween seisiún and enjoyed a special visit from Santa Claus at Christmas. End of term seisiun are also held in the school and pupils are encouraged to perform for the peers and family members in a non competitive environment. A great emphasis has been placed on the development of our own Teachers in recent years and very encouraging results have been achieved. Christina Cotter wrote and compiled a beautiful Music Book Coís Tíne in 2006 and this book is now used by all our teachers in their classes. We hope to make a digital recording of all the tunes in the book in the very near future.
Close links were again built up with our neighbour’s in Kinsealy CCE during the last few years. Our Bands and Grúpaí Ceol compete together in the Fleadh and play together at every opportunity. It was great to see our U18 Ceili Band qualify from Dublin to compete in Leinster Fleadh 2007. The two branches went on a very memorable week’s Trip to Italy during the summer (2007) where they entertained some very large audiences with great music and dancing. Malahide Branch were also delighted to assist Kinsealy in running the County Fléadh in 2007 to celebrate their 30th Anniversary and a very successful dancing event was run by the Branch in Malahide Rugby Club as part of the Fléadh Festival.
In November 2007 we launched our website which provides our members both past and present with an opportunity to communicate with the Branch and keep up to date with all activities.
This is not a definitive account of the history of Malahide Comhaltas so we welcome any corrections or additions anyone may wish to make. We acknowledge the fine work that everyone involved with Malahide Comhaltas has done down through the years and we thank them for keeping this great tradition alive in our local area.