Out with the old, in with the new

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Dunloy Comhaltas is holding a SEISIÚN in the Teach an Cheoil on Saturday 22nd June 8.00pm to say goodbye and thanks to the Dunloy Comhaltas Centre and all those who passed through its doors for the many and varied activities held in the building over the past 32 years.

The Teach an Cheoil (meaning ‘Music House’) also known as The Dunloy Comhaltas Centre, is a prefab building, used for over 30 years. It has seen better days and will be removed. However, before it goes, plans are afoot to send it off in style.

Classes are moving to the newly refurbished Parish Centre in September where the group is fortunate to have the use of designated rooms for Comhaltas activities with new, modern facilities.

In 1976 a meeting was held in Dunloy by concerned parents and residents as to how the youth in the area could be involved in traditional arts that would enrich their creativity and benefit their social and cultural activity as well as reducing the impact of “The Troubles”. After much discussion it was decided to set up a branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (CCÉ). This meeting took place on the 10th June 1976 under the chairmanship of Seamus Rainey. The initial committee included Brigid Boyle (secretary) and Phil McKeague (treasurer).

The newly elected comittee sent two delegates, Alex McGarry and Dot Logan to the County Antrim Board meeting where it was decided to begin traditional music classes in Dunloy.

The vision of Comhaltas was to combine young and old in passing on the Irish tradition from one generation to the next. Tutors selected were Sinead Mc Grath, John Kennedy, Tommy McGoldrick and Ronnie Bamber. The first classes were held in the upper room of Dunloy Community Centre on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights. It was often a struggle to book the upper room and members decided to have a facility of their own.

Dunloy Branch made history by being the first branch of CCÉ to build and open their own Teach an Cheoil. They were readily and willingly assisted by the local community. Through voluntary work and donations the present Teach a’Cheoil was built, facilitated by the GAA which kindly gave permission for the use of their grounds.

This proved to be a foresighted initiative as the building became a social hub of the area providing the focal point for community action, hosting the Ireland Comhaltas tour, traditional concerts and Céilí dancing. Not only was traditional music, singing and dancing taught, Irish language classes were also started and other aspects of the culture were initiated.

Thousands of pupils have passed through the music classes in the past 32 years and Dunloy has gained a reputation throughout Ireland and beyond as a stronghold for traditional culture, dance, language and music.

One of the greatest disappointments was the arson attack on the Teach an Cheoil which happened in November 2000. The kitchen area was badly destroyed and the hall was out of use for three months with classes being held at the local primary school. However with the dedicated support of committee members, friends, local villagers and funding secured from America, the refurbished hall was reopened in March 2001.

Mícheál Ó Breisleáin served as Treoraí na Gaeilge (literally, “guide to Irish” within a Comhaltas unit) for Co Antrim, the Provincial Council and represented Ulster at national level. Members of Comhaltas through the post of Treoraí na Gaelige were prime movers in the setting up of branches of other organizations. Among them Conradh na Gaeilge, Glor na nGael, Comhcoiste na Gaeilge, Antroim Thuaidh and the Dunloy Development Association.

Dunloy’s pupils were being recognised at competition level and were achieving top honors at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, taking part in Comhaltas tours in Ireland, England and America. One of its members accompanied the President of Ireland on a state visit to Portugal. Past pupils have branched out into the commercial field and we wish them success in their endeavors. A dedicated corps of tutors passes on their skills to the next generation of traditional musicians attending classes each year.

All Ireland Fleadh Winners from Dunloy Comhaltas are Seamus Logan – Accordian, John Kennedy – Singing, Bernie Mc Mahon – Bodhran, Deirdre Havlin – Tin Whistle and Flute, Moya Hughes – Fiddle, Damien Mc Kee – Accordian, Marie Haveron – Fiddle.

To celebrate their 32nd year in Teach a’ Cheoil, they are having a night of music, singing and dance where children from the CCÉ, Dún Lathaí will be playing with experienced musicians, to which everyone is invited.

Family, friends and visitors, as well as those who took part in the many activities which were held there, are invited to the celebration and will be welcome to join us for a great Seisiún night being held at 8pm on Saturday 22nd June in the Teach an Cheoil, Dunloy where light refreshments will also be provided.