(An abridged version of John Brady’s account as described in the 2007 All-Ireland Fleadh Handbook. The 2007 Fleadh Cheoil na h Éireann was, of course, hosted by Killeigh Comhaltas.)
The Branch was formed on 24th October 1968 with the intention of spreading every aspect of Irish music, song and dance.
The chairperson of the Leinster Council, Mrs. Catherine Mullally from Mullingar and Reachtaire Laighean, Brendan Gaughran from Dundalk attended. John Brady chaired the meeting.
Brendan gave a detailed outline of how a branch should operate as set out in the Bunreacht. Mrs. Mullally emphasised the value of our traditional music, song and dance, that it should be passed on to the younger generation and not be selfish about the gifts that God gave us.
Officers elected at the inaugural meeting:
- President: Rev. Fr. Thomas Donoghue
- Chair: John Brady
- Vice chair: Martin Fallon (Clonaslee)
- Secretary: Eileen Brady
- Treasurer: Billy Dowling (Tullamore)
- Committee: Ellen Comerford, Frank Hill, John Dunne (Clonaslee), Matt Conway (Tullamore), Bob Lynch (Daingean), Paddy Flanagan (Durrow)
At the time of the formation of the branch, there were no other branches in the centre of the county. The members came from Clonaslee, Ballyboy, Kilcormac, Rahan, Durrow, Tullamore and Killeigh itself. There are branches in most of these areas now.
Killeigh’s first fleadh cheoil was the very successful county fleadh held in Tullamore on October 5th, 1969.
Throughout the seventies, the branch found its young musicians coming along very well, showing great potential and setting a high standard. They took part in competitions with much success in solo, duet, trio and underage ceilí bands. Indeed one of them became a member of the senior Longridge winning an All-Ireland title with the band in Listowel in 1978. They played in branch sessions, at concerts, and céilithe and took part fully in all the branch classes. Some of them toured with Comhaltas both in Ireland and abroad. The contribution of these young people to the branch cannot be measured and we salute them and their parents for all that they did.
The Longridge céilí band first competed in the Fleadh in 1976, qualifying for the All-Ireland in Buncrana. The following year, the band, now composed of local musicians and band members won its first All-Ireland in Ennis. The members were:
- Fiddles: Freddie Rice, Raymond Condon, Dan Cleary, Breege Stone.
- Flutes: John Brady, Mary Kilroe.
- Accordion: Tom Maguire.
- Pipes: Tom Nolan.
- Piano: Eamon Cunningham.
- Drums: Jim McGrath.
In 1978, Raymond Condon was replaced by Attracta Brady and Jim McGrath was replaced by Kevin O’Callaghan. The band retained its title.
In 1982, the ‘junior band’ was joined by just three members of the previous winning band. The Longridge was again in the senior céilí band competition. It won the All Ireland title in Listowel. The members were:
- Fiddles: Attracta Brady, Lelia Brady, Dan Cleary.
- Flutes: John Brady, Claire Burke.
- Accordions: Eileen Brady, Liam Daly.
- Banjo: Breda McDonald
- Drums: PJ Daly.
Even though the band ended its competitive career, the members continued to play music and compete at the fleadhanna. Several of Killeigh’s members went on to win All-Ireland titles. Indeed, prizes have come to the branch every year from Fleadh Cheoil right up to the present day.
The branch has always prided itself on its teaching and sharing of traditional music. It now has ‘third’ generation members teaching the children who attend the music classes. These young people are an invaluable asset to the branch and they safely hold the key to its future.
Projects that the branch organised over the years include the Flute Marathon which ran for six years and raised over €30,000 for various charities; the cultural weekend of Killeigh which ran successfully for several years in the late 80s and early 90s; the annual summer camp in July of each year for beginner musicians, singers and dancers, the first of its kind in the country; numerous sessions, concerts, céilithe, workshops, recitals, music, singing and dancing lasses, not to mention the good days and nights enjoyed by its members.
Undoubtedly, the biggest project of all for Killeigh was the hosting of Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2007 (& in 2008). It was the single most ambitious task that the branch tackled and one that required the full focus not just of Killeigh’s members but also of all the branches in the county who helped and supported this mammoth job. John expressed Killeigh’s gratitude to all our Comhaltas colleagues who made this fleadh possible. He also thanked all our Comhaltas friends who ensured that the fleadh is organised to a very high standard. He also thanked all the people who supported us down through the years – the parents, schools’ management boards, and priests who helped us and gave us venues for classes and practices, the other branches and clubs in the county. John paid tribute to his wife Eileen who acted as secretary and taught céilí dancing for many years, and to Frank Hill who had been a member since the formation of the branch and, in 2007, was the honorary president.
Finally, I wish all the young people in our branch the very best of luck in the future. They play their music with a passion and pride that will carry them through life. Our branch is in good hands.
John Brady, 2007.