Ardclough branch of Cómhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann was founded in 1966.The aims and objectives of the organisation were to promote traditional music, song and dance and the use of our native language and to instill a love of our native culture in those who become members of the Branch and those who support it in any way, particularly among the youth of the area. The founding Committee was:
- Chairman: Patrick Corry.
- Vice-Chairman: Leonard Cullen
- Secretary: Essie Buggle
- Treasurer: Padraig McCafferkey
- Registrar: Breeda Cullen.
- Auditor: Brigid Maguire.
It was decided at the inaugural meeting to hold music sessions in Ardclough Hall on a monthly basis on the second Wednesday and also to hold weekly music and dancing classes. These classes were given by Marcella Donnelly and Leonard Cullen. In December 1968 the committee changed to
- Patron: Fr McDonald, PP.
- President: Fr Newman, CC.
- Chairman: Patrick Corry
- Vice-Chairman: Anthony Cullen.
- Secretary: Breeda Cullen
- Treasurer: Eamon Tansey
- Registrar: Margaret Buggle.
- Auditor: Brigid Maguire.
There were two affiliated branches of Cómhaltas in County Kildare at that time, namely, Moone and Prosperous and as a result of the establishment of Ardclough branch a county Board was then formed (it is necessary to have three branches in a county before a county board can be formed). The first chairman of Kildare county board was Ardclough`s Patrick Corry.
This broadened the work of the County Board and encouraged branches to visit each other. The Co. Board held their first Dinner/Céilí in Osberstown House Hotel in October 1970 and this was attended by a large group from the Ardclough Branch
The first Fleadh Cheoil Cill Dara was held in Athy in 1971. The Branch was always well represented at Fleadhanna. Among those who competed and went on to achieve success were Dick Flynn and Jack Nulty (singing); Leonard Cullen (mouth organ and céilí band drumming); Anthony Cullen (accordion) Colm Minogue (accordion) together with the Finan family; Paddy Spain and in later years Mairéad Maguire (piano accordion) Róisín and Píarais Ui Mídheadh. Other branch members competed at different intervals, particularly in set dancing and figure dancing competitions.
After the sad and untimely death of Patrick Corry in November 1971, Anthony Cullen was elected as chairman and went on to lead the branch in maintaining the monthly music sessions together with the local musicians already mentioned and also including Kit Doran and Jack Slattery.
Ardclough Branch was always very honoured to receive great support from Musicians, Singers and Dancers from outside the area. In the early days we were joined at our monthly sessions by master step-dancer Donncha O Muineacháin, set-dancer Connie Ryan, renowned fiddle player Antón MacGabhann and his set-dancing wife Bernie Murphy , Sean and Anne Haverty , Mary Donovan and other members of the Sean Treacy Branch in Dublin. The Liverpool Céilí Band with Kit Hodge was one of the earlier high-profile visitors along with Michael Tubridy and Sean Keane of The Chieftains fame and Eugene Nolan of Monasterevan who later went on to play with the Bridge Céilí Band. Rena (Crotty) Traynor and her husband Oliver were also regular visitors to the sessions.
Musicians from within the county were great supporters also. Among them being Jack Dowling and his daughter Mary and Owen Kelly (Moone). Billy Horan and Billy Redmond (Brannockstown), Bartley O`Flaherty (Leixlip) Tony O’Connor and Tommy Reddy (Newbridge) The Rinn family and other members of Prosperous Branch; Peter Sutton (Naas) Peadar Doogue (Athy) and many more too numerous to mention.
When the GAA Club was extended in 1976 the Music sessions moved to the second Saturday of each month. This coincided with an increase in the number of branches in the county and our visiting musicians increased and included members of Allenwood Branch, Clane Branch (particularly John Duffy) Kilcock Branch and Leixlip Branch (amongst others) and of course still including Jack Dowling and his wife Maisie who continue to be among our most loyal supporters.
The Fleadh Cheoil has always been the event that serves as a shop-window for Cómhaltas, however in 1980 the organization launched a new competition called Ceol an Gheimhridh. This, as the name suggests was designed to encourage inter-branch activity during the Winter months. The first time that this competition was held it was hosted by Moone Branch and Ardclough Branch was very well represented and indeed some of the qualifiers went on to the Leinster Final and to the All-Ireland in Gort, Co, Galway. The event was also hosted by the Ardclough Branch from time to time and on these occasions and many more the Catering Committee was to the fore, ably led by Nan Molloy.
At all stages during the years of existence of the Branch it has endeavoured to hold classes in music and dancing, classes in step-dancing, figure-dancing and set-dancing have been held at various intervals and have always proved to be very enjoyable and successful. We owe a great debt of gratitude to the dancing teachers who gave these classes.
The music classes have. in their time, included tuition in all instruments. The early tin whistle class was taken over by Paddy Spain following the death of Leonard Cullen in 1985 and continued for a few years. Other classes in various instruments continued under the tuition of teachers from Dublin. Later tin whistle class (with Lisa O`Rourke-Mullarkey) held on Mondays at 6.45pm in Scoil Áine Naofa is proving very successful (in this regard we have always been indebted to the priests of the parish and to the board of management of Scoil Áine Naofa for putting the premises at our disposal).
Céilíthe have also played a very important part in the activities of the Branch (especially those with music by the Tara Céilí Band with Tom Duff) and together with the Music sessions have hopefully contributed in some way to the social aspect of the Ardclough community.
Over the years, the local community has supported the Branch in every way – many of them becoming members at some stage.
The membership in 2003 stood at 28 Adult members (some of whom have been members since the Branch was founded) and 20 Junior members. The 2003 Committee was:
- Chairman: Anthony Cullen
- Vice Chairman: Tommy Maguire
- Secretary: Breeda Cullen-Shortt
- Treasurer: Nan Molloy
- PRO: Sheila Maguire
- Auditor: Michael Finan
- Treoraí Gaeilge: Róisín Ni Mídheach
- Youth Officer: Brid Murphy
Ardclough Branch Cómhaltas Ceoltóirí Eireann was disbanded in 2007. Since its formation, has been indebted to Ardclough GAA for its assistance to the Branch in enabling them to hold the various events associated with the organisation. Everyone associated with the Branch looks back on the many memorable and enjoyable occasions in the Ardclough Hall and Club.
Over the 41 years of the Branch’s existence, many loyal members, friends and supporters have gone to their eternal reward. Their contribution will never be forgotten.
Ar Dheis Dé go raibh a nanamacha dhílis.