Rose Watters: set dancer

 Our regular contributor Carmel Goodwin offers this synopsis of the life of her mother, the famous Rose Watters, who taught Irish dancing to among others, our own Arthur Burns and his brother Tommy.



Rose was born in 1909 and lived in Afton House, Patrick Street, Dundalk. She was the oldest of seven children and the only girl. Although there were no Irish step-dancers before her in the family, she recalled that her father was a great old-time waltzer and that her talent came from his side of the family. 


She learned her first steps from a Mr Faulkner who had a bicycle shop on Church Street. Later it was Jack Murphy’s dancing class in Woodview Terrace – a man who quickly recognised her talent and under his tutelage she went from strength to strength. She won her first prize at a feis in Carlingford when all she knew was one jig and a reel.


When Jack Murphy emigrated to USA Rose travelled to Dublin to attend the class of Miss Lily Comerford where she learned and perfected new steps and dances, including ‘The blackbird’. Soon she was competing in Feiseanna from Dublin to Ballymena, Drogheda to Newcastle and from Cavan to Armagh. She was winner of the Cavan Championships in 1932.


Rose became unbeatable in solo competitions and won many team events along with Tom Farrelly and his sister Eileen. She did much exhibition dancing too. 


Starting a class of her own was a natural progression and soon large numbers of children were eagerly taking up the Irish dancing. Her own brother Oliver was one of her better pupils and became a very fine dancer indeed. Also in his class were Kevin Dillon, Jackie O’Callaghan, Francie Reid, Aggie Grant, Irene Lennon, Monica Clerkin, Angela and Deborah Crilly and the Hunter sisters from Newry (???). One of her best known pupils , Pat(ricia) Mulholland later as Mrs Matthews became dancing teacher to All-Ireland Champions Mona Roddy and Aine Kennedy and to World Champios Jimmy Johnson, John Burns, Janey McGardle and Bertie Roddy. 


Ceilis in the Gaelic League hall were always very popular and, with her husband Seamus Hunter, Rose met up there with friends and danced the night away. Her favourite dances were ‘Haste to the Wedding’, ‘The Bridge of Athlone’ and ‘The Rowenella’. 


Rose and her family emigrated and lived for many years in England. Not content with sitting back, Rose started classes in Manchester and in Coventry where she was delighted to pass on her heritage to others. 


Rose, who was pre-deceased by her husband, passed away a few short years ago.


We are proud at Newry journal to have her daughter Carmel on our staff. 

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