Fitting 59 years on to one page isn't easy!
The Irish Minstrels have a rich history dating back to January 1957 being the first branch of the organisation to form outside of Ireland. It is impossible to document every important event that has taken place over the years however the following brief passage has been taken from a special booklet produced in 2007 to mark the branches 50th anniversary - Itself based on articles by Pat McAleer and Joe Mullarkey
In the mid fifties Owen Kelly purchased a copy of the Anglo Celt every week. Being a great follower of the Cavan football team, he not only wanted to know all there was to know abut the team but also all about what was happening in Cavan. Increasingly he noticed articles about the great steps being taken in promoting traditional music largely as a result of the formation of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann in ireland in 1951. Owen discussed the rise of CCÉ with his friend Jimmy McHugh, himself a well-known and well-respected fiddler, and the two of them decided to look in to the matter, which ended up in the formation of the Irish Minstrels branch in January 1957 - the first branch of CCÉ to be formed outside Ireland. Jimmy encouraged other Glasgow-Irish musicians to join, notably Pat McNulty, and the first meeting was set up at which the following committee was elected:
Jimmy McHugh (Chairman)
Donal Boyle (Vice Chairman)
Annie McGrath (Secretary)
Owen Kelly (Treasurer)
Anne McHugh (Assistant Secretary)
Christy Darby, Pat McCusker and Pat Hetherson were also present at that first meeting. Pat McNulty and Liam McCabe were involved very early in the branch, followed shortly by Lena Tierney. Rose Friel put in an early appearance in the first concert held by the branch and was involved for many years after. Indeed, now in her eighties, she still manages to give us a well delivered song when she attends one of our functions. 'Round the fires' were held every week in the early months in a small hall near the Gorbals and moved within a few months to the A.O.H. Hall in Royston Road. In addition to promoting traditional music and ballad singing, céilithe were held regularly.
On the 6th October 1957 the Irish Minstrels held their first annual concert in Govan Town Hall with some leading visiting artistes:
Sean O'Siochan (Cork)
Margaret O'Reilly (Cavan)
Martin Mulhare (Galway)
Sean Seery (Dublin)
Robert McMahon (Clare)
John J. Sheridan and our own Jimmy McHugh (fiddle) who went on to win All-Ireland honours, Paddy Carr (accordion), Rose Friel (ballad singer), and Pat McNulty (Uileann pipes). The Charlie Kelly School of Irish Dancing gave dancing displays.
Céilí dancing was very popular at this time in Glasgow and was promoted by the Fianna Fáil Branch in Glasgow (again the only branch outside Ireland) under the enthusiastic organization of Fred Sweeney. Knowing that Céilí dancing was safe in the hands of 'Big Fred', the Irish Minstrels focused their attention on the promotion of music and singing, moving venues as the branch grew in popularity. When Jimmy McHugh won the All-Ireland fiddle competition in Dungarvan (1957) the branch celebrated! A very well deserved honour for Jimmy! Then, in Longford the following year Owen Kelly came second in the men's ballad competition with his now well-known 'Bonny White Hare'.
Despite difficulties in those early, lean years, the branch held their first All-Britain Fleadh in the Partick Burgh Halls in 1964. Three branches entered; London, Birmingham and Glasgow. The Fleadh programme makes interesting reading! In 1968, the branch was asked to host the All-Britain Fleadh again but by this time the competition was bigger. Expenses for five adjudicators had to be paid and the coffers were empty. Owen Kelly was involved with the GAA which had makeshift huts at their football ground. Events were held to build up funds - not without some intervention from the local 'polis' who when they paid a visit to the late night proceedings at the GAA park accused our 'pioneers' of running a 'shebeen' (As if they would!) However the target was achieved and events were well-organized by founder members and another much-loved and respected member of the branch, Lena Tierney, who acted as secretary for many years. Sadly both Lena Tierney and Jimmy McHugh died in recent years.
The 1968 All-Britain Fleadh was held in St Mary's Abercromby Street in the Calton area of Glasgow and was a memorable one with many musicians of note in attendance. Over 600 people attended the Fleadh Céilí. This was a turning point for the branch (at 10/- a ticket the bank balance was looking good!). Seisiúns were held every Tuesday night in the Diocesan Centre at Charing Cross and a Céilí once a month, Jimmy McHugh was at his peak and his son, Brendan, was well on his way to becoming a very good fiddler also. In the late seventies there was a very welcome newcomer to the Branch. Frank McArdle joined and encouraged youngsters from the secondary school where he taught, to join the Branch. And so, St Roch's Céilí Band was formed and remained the name of the céilí bands for young people within the branch. The focus of the Irish Minstrels became the teaching of Irish traditional music to the younger generation and so it has continued. Under Frank's leafership, Irish traditional music has progressed in Glasgow. For more than twenty years and with lots of hard work and enthusiasm, Frank has guided young and old towards improving their musical expertise and increasing their repetoire and is now ably assisted by many other volunteer tutors without whose help the Branch could not move forward.
Left to Right: Martin Mulhare, Jimmy McHugh,
Owen Kelly and Paddy Carr - Dungarvan 1957
Left to Right: Owen Kelly, (unknown), Kitty Joyce, Rose McKinney, Jimmy McHugh and Pat McCusker -
The Four Provinces Céilí Band