Louise, Tom and Francis Ahern, Parkanna, in Croke Park with the Athea U-12 team

Tina Collins, Templeathea, with her son Jamie in Croke Park recently

Athea Community Games

Athea Community Games would like to thank everyone who helped out on their recent sports days. A  sincere thanks to Athea GAA for the use of their facilities on the day. Also thanks to all who helped on the start line, recording the results and in doing the long puck. Thanks also to Paul Collins for providing treats for the children.

Stepathon Fundraiser

Nicole O’Sullivan is holding a Stepathon fundraiser in the Community Hall on Sunday, May 26th from 12 to 2pm in aid of M.S. Your support would be welcome for this very worthy cause. 

Thank You

Christina at Athea Hairstyles is finishing up on Saturday, May 11th and would like to thank all her loyal clients from the hair salon and barbering over the last 9 years.

Contact Christina on 0872433516 for any enquires on hairdressing and barbering as she is at a new location.

Athea Branch Comhaltas Ceoltoirí éireann

The next Trad Session will take place at Collins’ Bar on Sunday evening next May 12th from 7 to 9pm. Come along and enjoy a great evening of music, song and craic. The County Fleadh will take place in Athea on the June Bank holiday weekend and the next meeting is on Monday, May 13th at the Top of the Town.

Keeping it all Alive

By Domhnall de Barra

I went to the concert in Abbeyfeale last Sunday night to hear the Kilfenora Céilí Band in concert.  For me it was a bit of a trip down memory lane as I have very fond memories of the old Kilfenora who won all before them in the middle of the last century. At that time the three big céilí bands were the Kilfenora, the Tulla and the Liverpool. I had the good fortune to play with the Liverpool and we used to come to Ireland regularly for All-Ireland fleadhanna and the Oireachtas competitions. The Liverpool had a great connection with Clare as the leader, Sean McNamara’s people came from Kilmihil in West Clare. So, it was inevitable that we would meet the other bands and  share a few tunes and even the odd drop! When I returned to live in Ireland in 1972 it was to take up the position of Reachtaire na Mumhan with Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann. My job was to build up the organisation in Munster and service the existing branches. Once a month I delivered the magazine, Treoir, to every branch in the province and of course this brought me into contact with the secretaries of all the branches. In Kilfenora that secretary happened to be the leader of the céilí band, a fantastic piano player called Kitty Linnane. She was truly a great woman and welcomed me with open arms. The first day I knocked on her door she said “come in out of the cold, the dinner won’t be long”. I protested that I didn’t want anything to eat but she would have none of it and with a twinkle in her eye said “sure ye don’t get half enough to eat across there in West Limerick”.  That started a trend and every time I called it was either the dinner or a plate piled high with salad. The Kilfenora had a unique sound that to me epitomised the soul of Clare. Alas all the members of the band that played at that time have gone to their eternal reward but the banner has been carried forward by wave after wave of musicians who kept the tradition alive. The current band have taken the art of performing to a whole new level. Gone are the days when the band sat on a stage to play for a céilí for about three hours or so. They now put on a great show which includes dancers and singers as well as extra instruments that were not in the original line-up such as cello and big bass. Yes, it is quite different but when they break into a selection of the old tunes the basic sound is the same. Anyway, I really enjoyed their performance but they weren’t the highlight of the night. That went to the group that opened the show, the traditional group from the secondary school in Abbeyfeale. I counted 35 on the stage, all young teenagers, playing music to such a high standard that I was totally blown away by them. They played solidly as a unit but they also exuded joy and happiness as they rattled off jigs, reels and polkas with such rhythm that it was impossible to stop from keeping time with the foot. It was lovely to see two in the group who play regularly in our sessions in Athea; Emma Flynn and Liam Broderick. Liam also sang a lovely song as well. One of the lads who was playing an accordion got up and told a story about getting a black eye at Mass, of all places. For one so young he had a great grasp of storytelling and kept us all amused and spellbound until the final punch line. Congratulations to the group and to those who prepared them for the stage. They did our area proud.

Storytelling was once a very important part of life in rural Ireland. In the days before mass communication methods it was often the only way of delivering the news but was also a way of entertaining especially during the long winter evenings at some rambling house. Some storytellers would frighten the life out of you with tales of fairies, ghosts and strange happenings in the night. After listening to some of these the walk home, especially in the dark, was an ordeal with imaginary creatures ready to spring from behind every shadow ready to  carry us off to the other world. The practice of story telling has waned over the years but Comhaltas are trying to revive it. There is now a competition for story telling at the Fleadh Cheoil and it is getting great attention.  As part of the County Fleadh here in Athea there will be a night of story telling at the Top of the Town with the renowned  Frances Kennedy from Listowel in the chair. It is a golden opportunity to hear the best of talent regaling us with all sorts of stories so don’t miss it.

As story telling was once popular, so was the practice of whistling. It was not uncommon to hear people whistle while they worked or while walking and cycling along the road. I remember two great whistlers, Denny Kelly in Knocknaboul and a man named McMahon who worked at Sheehy’s in Cratloe. I don’t know what his first name was because he was known as “The Bird” because of his musical ability. You could hear him from a long distance as he whistled his way through the Glen on his way to Athea. Denny Kelly was also an accordion player and could whistle all the old traditional tunes. He also had the knack of being able to whistle continuously without a break by whistling while inhaling as well as exhaling, a remarkable feat. Donie Cusack and my father were coming back from Tipperary one time after delivering a load of turf to Donie’s aunt. They had a competition as to who could whistle and lilt the most reels between Bruree and Abbeyfeale! I was never told who won. It is good to see the old customs being kept alive especially now when we are bombarded with all kinds of alien influences. That is why groups like the one from Abbeyfeale are so important.