seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Death of Joan Denise Moriarty, Ballet Dance & Choreographer

joan-denise-moriartyJoan Denise Moriarty, Irish ballet dancer, choreographer, teacher of ballet and traditional Irish dancer and musician, dies on January 24, 1992. She is a key figure in the development of both amateur and professional ballet in Ireland.

Little is known of Moriarty’s early life. Her year of birth is estimated between 1910 and 1913 but no documentation has been found. The place of her birth is also unknown, and even the country is uncertain. She grows up as the daughter of Michael Augustus Moriarty, an alumnus of Stonyhurst College and contemporary of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and his wife, Marion (née McCarthy). The Moriartys are originally from Mallow, County Cork, where her grandfather John Moriarty was a successful solicitor.

Moriarty is brought up in England. She studies ballet until her early teens with Dame Marie Rambert. She is an accomplished Irish step-dancer and traditional musician, and becomes the champion Irish step-dancer of Britain on April 24, 1931. She also wins a swimming championship. She is a member of the Liverpool branch of the Conradh na Gaeilge.

In the autumn of 1933 Moriarty returns with her family to their native Mallow in County Cork. In 1934, she sets up her first school of dance there. From 1938 she also gives weekly classes in Cork in the Gregg Hall and Windsor School. During the 1930s she takes part in the Cork Feis, annual arts competitions with a focus on traditional dance and music, competing in Irish step-dancing, warpipes and operatic solo singing. She performs on the warpipes in various public concerts and gives at least two broadcasts. In 1938 she is invited by Seán Neeson, lecturer in Irish music at University College Cork, to perform at a summer school which the Music Department organises for primary school teachers.

Moriarty’s mother dies in February 1940. The following November she moves to Cork where she sets up the Moriarty School of Dancing. The early years during the war are very difficult financially. In the early 1940s she performs with her dancers in musicals and variety shows at the Cork Opera House.

In 1945 the composer Aloys Fleischmann invites Moriarty to perform in his Clare’s Dragoons for baritone, war pipes, choir and orchestra, which had been commissioned by the national broadcasting company, Radio Éireann, for the Thomas Davis centenary. Moriarty agrees, on condition that his Cork Symphony Orchestra would play for her Ballet Company’s annual performances, which marks the beginning of a lifelong collaboration.

Branches of the Moriarty School of Dance are established in Bandon, Clonmel, Fermoy, Killarney, Mallow, Tralee, Waterford, and Youghal. Moriarty bequeaths her Cork school to Breda Quinn, a long-standing member of the Cork Ballet Company, who runs it with another Moriarty student, Sinéad Murphy, who creates a new dance school, Cork School of Dance, after Breda’s death in 2009.

Moriarty founds the Cork Ballet Group in 1947, the members recruited from her school. It gives its first performance in June of that year at the Cork Opera House. In 1954 the group is registered as a company under the name “Cork Ballet Company.” The company’s final season is 1993, the year following Moriarty’s death.

Irish Theatre Ballet is founded by Moriarty in the summer of 1959, and gives its first performance in December 1959. It is a small touring company of 10 to 12 dancers, which travels all over Ireland, going to some 70 venues annually with extracts from the classical ballets, contemporary works and folk ballets. In an attempt to resolve the constant financial difficulties, the Arts Council in 1963 insists on a merger with Patricia Ryan’s Dublin National Ballet. The amalgamation does not bring a solution to the financial problems besetting both companies and, after one joint season, the amalgamated company, Irish National Ballet, has to be disbanded in March 1964.

In 1973, the Irish government decides to fund a professional ballet company, the Irish Ballet Company, and entrusts it to Moriarty. Like Irish Theatre Ballet, it is a touring company which travels all over Ireland in two annual seasons. The company has a number of striking successes between 1978 and 1981. In 1983 the name of the company is changed to Irish National Ballet. The severe recession in Ireland during the 1980s and shrinking funds force the Irish National Ballet to disband in 1989.

Moriarty spends almost 60 years working for ballet in Ireland. Her amateur Cork Ballet Company is still the longest-lasting ballet company the country’s history. Her two professional touring companies bring ballet to all parts of Ireland for 21 years. She receives numerous awards for her work, among them an honorary doctorate from the National University of Ireland in 1979.

During the last years of her life, Moriarty suffers ill-health, but continues her work with the Cork Ballet Company, bringing the shows to towns in the county. She dies on January 24, 1992 in Dublin.

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Bill Whelan Receives IMRO Lifetime Achievement Award

bill-whelanTaoiseach Bertie Ahern presents Irish composer and musician Bill Whelan with the IMRO Lifetime Achievement Award at Dublin Castle on March 2, 2001. Such big names as The Corrs, Brian Kennedy, Jean Butler, Jim Sheridan, Paul McGuinness and Moya Doherty join him to celebrate the award.

Whelan is best known for composing a piece for the interval of the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest. The result, Riverdance, is a seven-minute display of traditional Irish dancing that becomes a full-length stage production and spawns a worldwide craze for Irish dancing and Celtic music and also wins him a Grammy Award. It is released as a single in the United Kingdom in 1994, credited to “Bill Whelan and Anúna featuring the RTÉ Concert Orchestra.” It reaches number 9 and stays in the charts for 16 weeks. The album of the same title reaches number 31 in the album charts in 1995. He also composes a symphonic suite version of Riverdance, with its premiere performed by the Ulster Orchestra on BBC Radio 3 in August 2014.

Whelan is a native of Limerick and is educated at Crescent College, University College Dublin and the King’s Inns. While he is best known for his Riverdance composition, he has been involved in many ground-breaking projects in Ireland since the 1970s. As a producer he has worked with U2 (on their War album), Van Morrison, Kate Bush, The Dubliners, Planxty, Andy Irvine & Davy Spillane, Patrick Street, Stockton’s Wing and fellow Limerickman Richard Harris.

In theatre, Whelan receives a Laurence Olivier Award nomination for his adaption of Gilbert and Sullivan‘s H.M.S. Pinafore. He writes original music for fifteen of William Butler Yeats‘s plays for Dublin‘s Abbey Theatre and his film credits include, Dancing at Lughnasa (starring Meryl Streep), Some Mother’s Son, Lamb (starring Liam Neeson) and the award-winning At The Cinema Palace.


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Birth of Shane MacGowan, Lead Singer of The Pogues

shane-macgowanShane Patrick Lysaght MacGowan, Anglo-Irish musician and singer, best known as the lead singer and songwriter of Celtic trad punk band The Pogues, is born to Irish parents in Pembury, Kent, England, on December 25, 1957.

MacGowan spends his early childhood in County Tipperary, before his family moves back to England when he is six years old. He lives in many parts of the southeast of England, including Brighton and London.

MacGowan’s father, Maurice, works for a department store. MacGowan’s mother, Therese, is a singer and traditional Irish dancer, and has worked as a model in Dublin. In 1971, after attending Holmewood House School at Langton Green, Tunbridge Wells, MacGowan earns a literature scholarship and is accepted into Westminster School. He is found in possession of drugs and is expelled in his second year.

MacGowan gets his first taste of fame in 1976 at a concert by British punk band The Clash, when his earlobe is damaged by Jane Crockford, later to be a member of Mo-dettes. A photographer snaps a picture of him covered in blood and it makes the papers, with the headline “Cannibalism at Clash Gig.” Shortly after this, he forms his own punk rock band, The Nipple Erectors, later renamed The Nips.

MacGowan draws upon his Irish heritage when founding The Pogues and changes his early “punk” voice for a more authentic sound with tutoring from his extended family. Many of his songs are influenced by Irish nationalism, Irish history, the experiences of the Irish in London and the United States, and London life in general.

Between 1985 and 1987, he co-writes “Fairytale of New York,” which he performs with Kirsty MacColl. In the coming years MacGowan and The Pogues release several albums.

After The Pogues throw MacGowan out for unprofessional behaviour, he forms a new band, Shane MacGowan & The Popes, recording two studio albums, a live album, three tracks on The Popes Outlaw Heaven (2010) and a live DVD, and touring internationally. From December 2003 until May 2005, Shane MacGowan & The Popes tour extensively in the UK, Ireland, and Europe.

The Pogues and MacGowan reform for a sell-out tour in 2001 and each year from 2004 to 2009 for further tours, including headline slots at GuilFest in England and the Azkena Rock Festival in Basque Country. In May 2005, he rejoins The Pogues permanently.

The Pogues’ last performance on British soil occurs on July 5, 2014 at the British Summer Time festival in London’s Hyde Park.

For many years MacGowan suffers from binge drinking and heroin use. In 2001, Sinéad O’Connor reports MacGowan to the police in London for drug possession in what she says is an attempt to discourage him from using heroin. Initially furious, MacGowan later expresses gratitude towards O’Connor and claims that the incident helped him kick his heroin habit.

MacGowan has long been known for having very bad teeth. He loses the last of his natural teeth around 2008. In 2015, he has 28 new dentures on a titanium frame fitted in a nine-hour procedure which is the subject of an hour-long television programme. Dr. Darragh Mulrooney, the dental surgeon who carries out the procedure, comments that MacGowan recorded most of his great works while he still had some teeth: “We’ve effectively re-tuned his instrument and that will be an ongoing process.”

In the summer of 2015, MacGowan falls as he is leaving a Dublin studio, fracturing his pelvis. He is seen in public on crutches by December 2015, and continues to experience difficulty with general mobility.


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Founding of the Gaelic Athletic Association

gaelic-athletic-associationThe Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) is founded on November 1, 1884, by a group of Irishmen gathered in the billiard room of the Hayes’ Hotel in Thurles, County Tipperary. The architects and founding members are Michael Cusack of County Clare, Maurice Davin, Joseph K. Bracken, Thomas St. George McCarthy, P.J. Ryan of Tipperary, John Wyse Power, and John McKay. Their goal is to to formulate a plan and establish an organisation to foster and preserve Ireland’s unique games and athletic pastimes.

The GAA focuses primarily on promoting Gaelic games, which include the traditional Irish sports of hurling, camogie, Gaelic football, handball, and rounders. The Association also promotes Irish music and dance, as well as the Irish language.

It has more than 500,000 members worldwide, assets in excess of €2.6 billion, and declares total revenues of €94.8 million in 2010, with a total gross profit of €78.5 million.

Gaelic football and hurling are the most popular activities promoted by the organisation, and the most popular sports in the Republic of Ireland in terms of attendances. Gaelic football is also the largest participation sport in Northern Ireland. GAA competitions, activities, and structures are organised on an all-Ireland basis, without reference to the border drawn in 1921. The women’s version of these games, ladies’ Gaelic football and camogie, are organised by the independent but closely linked Ladies’ Gaelic Football Association and the Camogie Association respectively. GAA Handball is the Irish governing body for the sport of handball, while the other Gaelic sport, rounders, is managed by the GAA Rounders National Council.

Since its foundation in the late 19th century, the Association has grown to become a major influence in Irish sporting and cultural life with considerable reach into communities throughout Ireland and among the Irish diaspora.