The festivities around World Fiddle Day got off to a flying and sunny start in Scart on Friday evening, night and Saturday morning.
The gathering of musicians, poets, politicians and the curious basked in the beautiful and welcome balmy summer evening and only reluctantly went indoors soon after the appointed off time came and went.
Féile Cheoil Memorabilia
A comprehensive, Scartaglin Féile Cheoil centred collection of press cuttings and photographic memorabelia greeted the crowd on entering the theatre space.
There was more nostalgia in store as the night wore on. Paddy Casey is a nephew of the late fiddle player, Mikey Duggan. He brought Scartaglin Féile Cheoil trophies going right back to the origins of the long running event in the mid to late 1960s.
The packed evening of events got under way with a few welcoming words by co-founder PJ Teahan. PJ handed us over the his fellow founder member, Tomás Mac Uilgeaóid who acted as master of ceremonies for the evening.
Eileen Sheehan was invited to the centre of the floor and she expressed her delight to be back in Scartaglin on an occasion which was very special to her.
She thanked PJ Teahan for involving her in the Handed Down series, for reconnecting her to the place of her birth and roots and for the invitation to launch her The Narrow Way of Souls collection of poetry.
Eileen spoke about growing up in the Scartaglin area and all the influences it had on her and on what she’s doing now.
A couple of readings followed and these were greeted by bursts of genuine and warm applause. And there could yet be a Handed Down Special on the poem Remedies as it lists some old and very strange cures.
Dave Buckley’s Launch
Dave Buckley is another local who gets the best out of the Handed Down audiences. Dave was also there to launch his latest collection – in his case as CD full of songs.
Songs of the Heartland includes his song on his native Scartaglin and its delivery was especially well received on this memorable evening – and there was one in tribute to his adopted Spa.
Tom’s Wide Ranging Trawl
Tom Fleming gave a comprehensive run-down on the over 30 year history of the fondly remembered Féile.
He was afraid, he said, he’d forget someone – but he didn’t leave out a single sinner in his wide ranging trawl back over all those years.
In the course of his talk he recalled the arrival of Matt Cranitch and Jackie Daly as emerging forces in the reawakening appreciation of Irish Traditional Music at that time.
Féile Committee Survivors
Tom also revealed that himself and John Galvin were survivors of that first féile cheoil committee. He thanked John for keeping the event to the fore through his weekly notes and timely articles in The Kerryman.
Peter Browne’s Visits
Peter Browne then spoke of Tom’s genuine interest in the music and traditions of the area.
He mentioned how helpful Tom had been to him when he came visiting and collecting material and meeting people during the making of his RTÉ Radio One documentary on the life of Patrick O’Keeffe in the early 1990s.
World Premiere of PJ’s Jig
Matt Cranitch and Jackie Daly then took the chairs at the mic. Matt declared that the occasion marked his ressurection after a period of illness which saw his activities severely curtailed since last January.
After lashing into a couple of tunes, Jackie revealed that the next tune they were going to play was a jig he had written for PJ Teahan and that they were about to perform its world premiere.
The session finished and an outbreak of conversation and photographs wrapped up the heritage centre’s involvement in the eve of World Fiddle Day Scartaglin 2018 celebrations.
The short walk to the village pubs and a resettling was followed by sessions that were being spoken highly of throughout Saturday.
Saturday Dawned as Fine as Friday
Saturday dawned as fine as Friday did and it blessed the carry-on with sunshine and a warm breeze as the day’s programme of events unfolded.
As sessions settled in around the village, the What was in the Air theme was up for discussion at the back of Fleming’s Bar and was assuredly and expertly compered by Maggie Prendiville-Keane.
What was in the Air
There were contributions from Peter Browne, Skip Gorman, Eileen Sheehan, Breda Joy, Lisa O’Neill, Jackie Daly, Matt Cranitch, Joe Thoma, Joe Creedon, Éamonn Ó Braoin and myself.
We all wrestled with the mercurial topic of what’s in the air here and all contributed our own thoughts on the history, evolving and surviving culture of an area reputed by many to be little more than a state of mind.
It’s here alright.
Events like World Fiddle Day Scartaglin and Handed Down and the Patrick O’Keeffe Traditional Music Festival in Castleisland – and those who support them – keep its heart beating.
Growing in Stature and Status
The prevailing weather conditions stretched over the rest of the day and night from the annual photo shoot at the monument to the fiddle concert at the heritage centre and the pub sessions.
While the organisers are justifiably pleased at how things went and they especially mentioned the management and caterers at the local heritage centre for their highly efficient, loaves and fishes / bacon and cabbage coverage of the weekend.
The general consensus is that the event has grown in stature and status in the course of its six year run to date. Long may it continue.
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