O’Connell Award Handed Down to Teahan

Dan O’Connell Memorial Award winner, PJ Teahan flanked by his wife and daughter, Siobhán and Eilish with Tomás MacUileagóid (left) and Aidan Connolly who presented the lecture: The Cronins from Raeboy at the Sliabh Luachra Heritage Centre, Scartaglin on Saturday night. ©Photograph: John Reidy

Dublin born, Kerry connected fiddle player, Aidan Connolly is another major figure of a rising generation with a safe pair of hands and a deeply appreciating, cradling nature for the music of his ancestry.

On Saturday night he brought his Handed Down audience on a trip through the musical family history of the Cronins from Reaboy.

It was a journey laced with humour, dedication to the music of their area, of living in the moment and the inevitable scattering of the family through emigration.

The Music Triumphed

In spite of all the going away, the power of the music triumphed and, in latter years, Radio Éireann / RTÉ recordings by the likes of Ciarán Mac Mathúna and Peter Browne put this cultural survival evidence clearly on the table.

It was at PJ Teahan’s invitation that Aidan Connolly took on his first stage presentation job on Saturday night – it won’t be his last.

Invited on Stage

Earlier in the night, PJ himself was invited onto the stage by the night’s MC, Tomás MacUileagóid, to receive the Dan O’Connell Memorial Award for his work on the Handed Down series and on World Fiddle Day in Scartaglin over the past six years.

Dan O’Connell was one of the most influential figures in the overall Sliabh Luachra scheme of things in his generation.

His pub in Knocknagree was a hive of music, musicians and set dancing.

Put Legs Under People

He was described one time by a man thus: “He put legs under people who thought they hadn’t a leg or any shake at all.”

The award was presented to PJ by Thomas Barrett of the Killarney based band The Rising and he explained the origins and reasons behind its being:

“The Dan O’Connell Award was presented to our band The Rising in November 2018.

“Every year the award is presented to a new individual for their contribution in ‘A Simple Way’ and that’s a line that is pivotal to the whole award, to enhance, perform, teach and promote the music of Sliabh Luachra.

Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea

“We were presented with the award because people felt the band promoted the Sliabh Luachra and Irish music tradition to a younger audience around the county, country and in fact the world.

“We may not be everyone’s cup of tea but the band does its best to stay true to the roots of its members individual styles which are rooted in Sliabh Luachra.

“Passing on this award was an easy decision for us as we all knew the same man.

Preserved and Taught

“He has for years in his own way preserved and taught his knowledge of Sliabh Luachra through its music and history to the wider community – and this man was PJ Teahan.

“We felt he does so much through the fantastic and simply unique ‘World Fiddle Day’ in Scartaglin and through the Handed Down Series he prepares year in and year out archiving and keeping the Sliabh Luachra tradition of song, music and dance alive,” said Thomas.

Shock on the Phone

Accepting the award, PJ Teahan admitted he got a shock when he answered the phone on an evening in December and heard Thomas Barrett informing him that they chose him as the recipient of the Dan O’Connell Memorial Award.

“I am truly humbled because the things I like and do others everywhere do and they are done out of a love for the tradition we hold dear.

Organiser or Facilitator

“I see myself as an organiser or facilitator only and I believe our own tradition is on top of the pile and should play second fiddle to no other style or region.

“Growing up in our house when my father talked about Kerry footballers, he spoke of them as if they were Gods and not mere mortals.

“I think maybe I view our musicians the same and wish that their music and names be recognised and live on because maybe they were taken for granted when alive.

Nominated by The Rising

“It was extra nice that young musicians like The Rising nominated me and it showed me that the young are interested and listening because it’s the youth who have the power and ability to make this region great again.

“There are outstanding young boys and girls coming through and are playing the music O’Keeffe and his pupils played and they are going to keep Sliabh Luachra music in the limelight – just as it deserves,” said PJ.

Teahan’s Award – O’Connell’s Pub

Then, just like a well choreographed scene from a play, the steps to the stage were carefully flung aside and the floor cleared in celebration of Teahan’s award and in memory of O’Connell and his world famous pub in Knocknagree and the dancers took over.

That, in itself, was a night’s entertainment but the dust settled and Aidan Connolly climbed the reinstated steps and on to the stage and brought us The Cronins from Raeboy – like he was one of them.

A Matter of Appreciation

He was no sooner finished when a member of the talented Cronin family approached him with a bag and a bubble-wrapped frame.

It contained a handsomely executed,watercolour painting of a fiddle on a window ledge. It was presented to Aidan by Theresa Horan in an expression of appreciation for what he had just done for her family.

That was the last act of the night in the Sliabh Luachra Heritage Centre in Scartaglin before the whole, huge band and supporters moved off up the village for much more of the same.