John McCullagh June 14, 2005
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When first I was hauled unwillingly to the Foresters’ Hall in William Street, I looked askance at my mother and uttered the great question, WHY?

No way was I for continuing at this carry-on!!  Imagine wasting a Thursday afternoon stuck in this hall.  Never mind EVERY Thursday afternoon. 

All I wanted was to be back in the Meadow or ‘Medda’ with the prospect of street football – or indeed anything but this dancing lark.

Yet I was about to get involved in a great, life-changing experience.

Irish Dancing has given me memories to treasure.

So it was Thursdays with Arthur Burns. No problem.

Dancing? Big problem! Dancing with girls, bigger problem still! And then thee problem, the wearing of a kilt.  At times I looked at my mother and seriously wondered about her and the direction of my life.  Football was easier to understand, even playing out in the street was easier, but this lark?  It was to push me to consider, ever so slightly, leaving home, the great Ballinlare Gardens!  Or throwing a weekly sickie on a Thursday.  Yet my mother was wise to this and still I ended up in the Foresters’ Hall.

When I look back I am amazed at the number of families that I was privileged to get to know, from my participation with Ceilidhe Dancing. So if I leave any out, please feel free to add your names (via Guestbook here) because I certainly have damaged some brain cells over the years.

This is my generation because there were ones before and after me.  From the ‘Medda’  the Allen, Ruddy, Campbell, McManus, Fitzpatrick, Teggart, Poland, Murphy and Courtenay families. I will let the reader add the Christian names.

From Clanrye Avenue or perhaps Daisy Hill, the Murphy’s. From Bessbrook came the Young and Quinn families. Dromalane had the Jennings, Moore, Rea and Carroll families and I know I am missing names out here.  The Fegans of Derrybeg Cottages. The Nolan family from Castle Street.  The McManus family from Courtenay Hill.

The Sweeneys from Carrivemaclone.  The McNally family from Rostrevor. The Kearns from Warrenpoint Road.

So to my memories. I hated Newry Feis, but for one reason only. The chance of being seen by mates, school or otherwise, wearing a kilt.  I distinctly remember the day my mother took us outside the Town hall for a photograph and she wondered why I would not smile! The fear of God was in me of being caught with a kilt on.

 I loved being encamped in the hall though and the buzz and tension of competition. Newry had that edge in competitions.

 I loved Newcastle Feis, the bus trip, the craic at the field and the weather. There was also the chance of a bit of boating if Arthur was in a kind or relaxed mood, and not pushing to return early.

My first trip to the Ulster championships was in 1970 in Derry and we were staying in the Bogside.  Irish Dancing was broadening my horizons.

For some unknown reason I stayed because the Irish dancing had the craic element that I enjoyed as I grew older.  The sense of enjoyment was tempered by the sheer nerve-wrecking ordeal of dancing ‘solo’, – all too much for me.  I loved the team dancing.  As I got older I was to dance in the big teams.  The Sword of Light, the Rose among the Heather and my favourite, the Four Winds.  We danced these Three Tunes so often, even I got sick of it.

 Now back to 1970 because it was to have thee piece of magic. Arthur had persuaded me to renege on a school trip to France and instead join the group going to the South of France for the two-week summer trip.  It was here along the C

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