Music, song and dance was going strong in Kildare in the early 60’s from which branches of Comhaltas were officially affiliated in Moone and Prosperous. It is generally agreed that branches were in existence prior to this but there are no records to substantiate this. A branch was founded in Ardclough in November 1966 and as a result it was then possible to form a county board (there is a requirement of 3 branches in a county to form a County Board).
The branch in Ardclough was founded by Paddy Corry who had a great knowledge of CCÉ. He organised a meeting to form the branch together with Leonard & Breda Cullen. A meeting was then held in Lawlor’s Hotel in Naas to launch a County Board. The meeting was chaired by Cathaoirleach Laighean, Cáit Bean Uí Mullally of Mullingar, who was one of the founders of CCÉ in Mullingar in 1951.
The County Board, under the Chairmanship of Paddy Corry and together with all those involved in the three branches made a major effort to bring the various aspects of Comhaltas to the wider community in the county. In 1968 a branch was founded in Athy, giving 4 branches to the county which continued up until 1971 when Leixlip, Newbridge and Coill Dubh came on board. The Brannockstown branch was then formed in 1972. The branch in Leixlip unfortunately disbanded in the late 70’s but was reformed in 1981 and is still going strong. During the following years branches were founded in Maynooth, Robertstown, Kildare Town, Monasterevin, Castlemitchell and Rathmore. Although some of those branches later disbanded, some members joined neighbouring branches and continued to be very active and supportive.
In 1982 a branch was founded in Clane, followed in 1986 by a branch in Allenswood and Kilcock in 1992. During the years from 1982 to 1992 there was up to 10 very active branches in the county promoting the aims of Comhaltas – music, song, dance and the Irish language.
There have been many changes to the branch scene over the years. The Allenwood branch unfortunately disbanded and although the original branch in Rathmore disbanded in May 2001, the Kilteel/Eadestown branch was formed which caters for that area and is going very successfully.
In February 2007 after over 40 years in existence it was with extreme regret that the branch in Ardclough disbanded. This branch had played a very important role in the cultural well-being of the community. With some great stalwarts at local level together with many visitors to the branch sessions, for example, the reknowned step-dancer Donncha Ó Muinneacháin, master set-dancer Connie Ryan, the ever talented Antóin Mac Gabhann and notably the Liverpool Céilí band at a céilí held by the branch soon after it’s inauguration in 1966, not forgetting all those from within the county who always showed their support.
The Ardclough branch, together with the Moone branch were to the fore in hosting Ceol an Gheimhridh, a competition which commenced in 1980 to encourage inter-branch activity and as the name suggests, it was held over the winter months. The first Ceol an Gheimhridh for the county was held in Moone in 1980 and they also hosted the Leinster final. This event was held annually with all branches hosting and playing their part until the competition was discontinued.
However, the Moone branch also was lost to the county when after close on 50 years, in the autumn of 2012 it was disbanded. To all those people associated with these long standing branches, the county owes a great deal of gratitude for all their hard work and support over the years. On a positive note, on the 5th September 2012, a committee formed a new branch in Maynooth. This branch is has made great strides and will host Fleadh Laighean 2015.
The main event on the Comhaltas calendar each year is the Fleadh Cheoil, which has always been an integral part of Comhaltas with competitions open to members and non-members and which provides a ‘shop window’ for Comhaltas in each county with qualifiers going forward to Provincial and All-Ireland levels. Kildare has succeeded in holding a Fleadh Cheoil every year since the first Fleadh Cheoil in Athy in 1971. All branches have played their part in hosting the county Fleadh and they work diligently in organising classes in music, song & dance and they encourage the use of Irish.
Workshops are also an important part of the Comhaltas scene and in Kildare a subcommittee of the County Board have organised Ceardlann Earraigh since 1998, held on the Saturday prior to the Easter weekend. The event consists of workshops in almost all instruments, singing and sean nós dancing, culminating in a Grand Concert at which the tutors perform. Together with this event, the weekly classes, the county Fleadh, sessions and céilithe with set-dancing and sean nós dancing along with signing clubs, the serious and social aspect of Comhaltas is well catered for in the county.
In 2003, Fleadh Laighean came to Kildare and was hosted by the Kilcock Branch. This event was undertaken superbly by those responsible and together with a large number of volunteers who came on board to assist the committee, this event turned out to be a marvellous occasion and one the county is justly proud of.
Many competitors from Kildare have competed and have been successful at Fleadh laighean and at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann over the years. All competitors are a great credit to their parents, class teachers and to their respective branches proving that all the effort and hard work is worthwhile and even tough competition is not always the most important aspect, it is nevertheless, recognised as a means of keeping up standards.
The present branches in kildare are:
- Leixlip (Craobh Bheartla Uí Fhlatharta)
These branches, together with the County Board encourage the formation of new branches and are only too willing to give their assistance to any group in any area who may be interested in promoting the aims of CCÉ and they see themselves as part of the wider organisation of Comhaltas.
We remember all those who have been involved in Comhaltas in Kildare over the years who have gone to their eternal reward, may they have eternal rest. All those involved with Comhaltas in Kildare will continue to work hard to ensure that it continues to flourish in the county.