At the end of January, a stalwart and much-loved member of our committee passed away after a long and bravely fought illness. Owen Clarke RIP had been involved in lots of our shows with the props and lighting, but also as an actor and set-dancer. He had also been our Regional delegate for many years - he is greatly missed. Dean Warner was on this year's UK Concert Tour and we all went along to Bradford to see him perform, and very proud of him we were too!
In March we were asked to organise the Mass (said by Fr Eugene McGillycuddy) at the Cathedral in conjunction with the St Patrick's Day Parade. It was a real tribute to our team-working as everything was covered, music and singing, offertory procession, bidding prayers, ministers - and we had many compliments paid to our organisation, as the Mass went off beautifully.
Our scoraiocht 'Kate Srihorn and the Corrageenroes' competed at the Fleadh Nua. We had a brilliant time in Ennis, as always, and it was great to be back after a gap of four years. Our story was about a hurling team who had a run of really bad luck and to change it the team decided to visit a 'wise woman'. Many comic possibilities there, when you consider we had both David and Chris McDonagh, as well as James Forde. The dancers looked great in their blue and gold team strip, waving their hurleys around - and this year's banner ('Go, Go, Corrageenroe!') was made by inmates of Durham Jail!
Our show was very well received by our audiences both in Leeds and Ennis – the adjudicators scoring us a magnificent 91 out of 100 - unfortunately there was no competition for us, but as we were adjudicated, we can still claim the All Ireland title, even if we didn't get either medals or the Trophies! Ryan Sarsfield (Peggy & Martin's son) married Gemma in July and Debbie Howley (one of our brilliant music teachers) married Paul Gilroy in September.
We lost some good friends this summer – Jackie Walsh RIP, wife of former committee member Bill Walsh, died in June; Reuben Sykes RIP passed away in August – his connection and support for the branch goes back many years - and also Terry McNamara RIP, a good supporter.
Committee members John & Teresa Reape left Leeds for Lahardane, Co. Mayo at the end of August. Teresa has made many a costume for our shows - not to mention stitching huge, enormous rolls of material into a backdrop for us, on more than one occasion. She was also an organiser (along with Mary Dwyer) of our Annual Dinner for many years. And John – 'Mr Reliable' - the vice-chair to Jackie Dwyer for many a year, and also a brilliant 'props' person, was involved in all our shows. Before we let them go, we just had to award them with life membership in recognition of their amazing dedication to Leeds Comhaltas over many years.
Another award, this time to Kathleen Lunny-Walsh - in recognition of her mighty efforts for the Keighley branch of Comhaltas. She not only founded the Keighley branch, teaching music, set and ceili dancing and producing shows, but she also kept Keighley going through thick and thin, almost single-handedly, until the branch was forced to close. At her 80th birthday celebration in Yeadon, at the end of September, we joined her friends in paying tribute to her and we were delighted to present her with her life membership certificate of Leeds branch.
One of our favourite former members, flute and piano accordion-player Peter Duffy (now living in Aghamore, Co. Mayo) came back as our 'extra' special guest from Ireland, for the Annual Dinner & Ceili. It was a real treat to have him back. We were also able to surprise Brenda O'Malley, back in Leeds for the Dinner, when we presented her with a life membership certificate of Leeds Branch in recognition of years of hard work on behalf of the branch. The Ivy Leaf Ceili band did us proud once more and a great time was had by all!