The seventeenth annual Connie Ryan Gathering Festival of Set Dancing was hosted at the St Michael’s Community Hall in Holy Cross from June 5th to 7th and proved a huge success.
Bridget O’Gorman, the festival secretary, welcomed everyone and launched the weekend.
This festival is run to honour the memory of dancing master Connie Ryan, one of Clonoulty’s most famous sons, who sadly passed away in May 1997, but thankfully the set dancing phenomenon did not die with him. All the hard work he, and indeed others, put into it over the years have ensured its survival and it is going from strength to strength.
A pilgrimage of set dancers and céilí bands converged on Holycross from the Friday night for the weekend. Indeed, the festival got off to a rapturous start. The Neily O’Connor Céilí Band from Kerry raised the roof and our spirits with some lively music. Dancing master Michael Loughnane, from Thurles, was master of ceremonies and everyone had a superb time dancing.
On Saturday morning the hall came alive early when world-renowned dancing master and Tipperary man Pat Murphy directed the set dancing workshop. Music was supplied by local musicians.
On Saturday night the mighty duo of Ger Murphy and Ken Cotter were on stage, with Pat Murphy acting as master of ceremonies for another fantastic selection of sets, some old, some new and The Metal Bridger Lancers also featured.
On Sunday afternoon the dancers converged for the final céilí of the weekend.
The County Longford Glenside Céilí Band took the stage and participants danced their hearts out for over three hours. The music was magical the atmosphere electric.
Pat Murphy and Joan Pollard Carew acted as the master of the ceremonies for this section of the festival.
Every other year Jim Doyle had acted as MC with his humourous banter and was sadly missed on this occasion.
Regretfully Jim was unwell this year, but he will be back and everyone associated with the festival wish him a speedy recovery.
Festival PRO Tom Maher closed the festival and thanked everyone for their support.
Tom thanked the bands and Pat Murphy and the callers over the weekend.
He also thanked the hall committee for their assistance and support.
Thanking the sponsors of the spot prizes Tom Maher said the festival committee is small, but mighty.
Tom Maher also asserted that everyone associated with the festival felt privileged to be honouring Connie Ryan and were grateful to Connie for for reviving set dancing not just in Ireland, but all over the world.