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26 May 2022

Mo thuras go Fheis Dhoire Cholmcille 2022

'We were roped into the Feis as soon as we could do joined up writing' - Kathleen McGlinchey

Feis committee, Kathleen McGlinchey front left

Feis committee, Kathleen McGlinchey front left.

Derry Feis committee members - seated: Aisling Bonner (Feis secretary), Fr Kevin Mullan (chairperson), Ursula Clifford (registrar), and Kathleen McGlinchey (medals and competitions co-ordinator).

Back, from left: Carmel McCallion (hostess), Martin McNamee (finance assistant), Christine McIvor (assistant treasure), Deirdre Kelly (Feis assistant), Elizabeth McCloskey (dancing co-ordinator), Betty Gallagher (speech and  drama secretary), Pat MacCafferty (music secretary), and Collette Craig (cups and trophies Secretary).

Derry Feis is celebrating its 100th birthday this Easter. To mark this special occasion, the Derry Now is publishing a series of articles titled: Mo thuras go Fheis Dhoire Cholmcille 2022.

Today, Feis Dhoire Cholmcille stalwart, Kathleen McGlinchey, describes her personal journey to Derry Feis 2022.

Famous for handing out Feis Dhoire Cholmcille's highly decorative and much sought-after Teastais, certificates for highly commended competitors, Kathleen is Derry Feis through and through.

As she said herself, she was 'roped in' to help at the Feis, filling out tickets for competitors, as soon as she could do joined up writing.

“My Feis involvement all stemmed from my grandfather, my granda Burke, and my auntie Kathleen, Mrs Walshaw. She helped Sarah Jane McCormick, who lived in Windsor Terrace, and was the Feis registrar at the time.

“When Sarah passed away, my auntie Kathleen took over registration. My auntie Sybil became involved then because, unfortunately, my auntie Kathleen died quite young. My mother, Ethna, was also helping my auntie Sybil, so we were all roped in as soon as we could do joined up writing.

“We were put to work as soon as we got out list of entries and our big pile of tickets. They were all handwritten then. There used to be hundreds of them, in those days, with the dancing and all there were a lot of competitors,” smiled Kathleen.

Kathleen said her mother had got involved in the Feis because she had her family more or less reared and could devote her time to Feis week.

“My mother and my auntie Sybil were always in my uncle Sammy Burke's choirs. He had great choirs, which always took part in the Feis. My mother also took part in piano competitions in the Feis away back when. I was about nine when I did my first solo in the Feis. It was the over eight and under 12 solo and I think I was number 173

“I was a singer and I am still a member of the Cholmcille Ladies Choir. In those days, we learned the songs in school. I was at St Eugene's School and I was in the wee choir. In fact, there was a photo in the Journal, away back in 1951, and I am one of the wee choir members.

“In later years, I got involved in the An Teanga section of Feis Dhoire Cholmcille because I would have met up with people in Gaeláras who would have been a great help to me, including the late Anne Doherty and Liam Mac Lochlainn. Liam would have helped me to pick poems. He also adjudicated a couple of times.

“I am absolutely delighted Míceál-Piaras Ó Ceallaigh is helping me this year. He is young and he is steeped in Irish and, hopefully, he will get the schools involved. Paddy Tunney, from Letterkenny, was the An Teanga adjudicator for Feis Dhoire Cholmcille in 2019, the last one before the pandemic. He phoned me afterwards to say how much he had enjoyed it and he suggested some new poems for 2020, so we will be using those this Easter,” said Kathleen.

Of the beautiful Feis Dhoire Cholmcille Teastais, Kathleen revealed, they are ordered from local printing firm, Cityprint, along with the adjudicators' marking sheets, competitors' cards and tickets.

She was also delighted Feis Dhoire Cholmcille was back in business after an absence of three years.

She said: “It is great for the youngsters because we missed them all and their buzz. The only slight regret I have is that the school choirs now compete now in Holy Week, but the choirs are absolutely fantastic. I would just love them to be back competing in Easter Week.

“I sincerely hope there is a good crowd at Feis Dhoire Cholmcille this year. I would like to think people would be glad to see it back and people who have youngsters competing are always very, very supportive.

“Back in the day, I enjoyed the choirs and I enjoyed the buzz in the corridor. Being a member of the choir, we used to have to grand wee chats out in the corridor when we were serving the teas and coffees, as well as working in the office.

“I also loved the action songs. There used to be great action songs from the three schools, Artillery Street, Christian Brothers and Nazareth House. They were absolutely brilliant. We used to look forward to them every year and there was a great rivalry between the schools,” said Kathleen.

Very obviously a singer, Kathleen said she always loved being in the school choir when she was at school. She added: “I really loved the Gregorian choir. St Eugene's always entered a Gregorian choir in Feis Dhoire Cholmcille, as well as the 25, and I still love Gregorian.”

The dawning of the era of health and safety meant that one of Derry Feis' patrons, Bishop Edward Daly, was locked out of the Guildhall on one of the 'big' nights.

“They started head counts in the Guildhall and people had to be in early, especially on the good nights, Thursdays and Fridays, when the Feis was finishing.

“So, only so many people were allowed in and then they locked the gates and on one occasion, even Bishop Daly was locked out, although, we got him in eventually.

“Before the head count was introduced, people used to be hanging over the balcony. We used to be watching them from the office off the Minor Hall, the pushes and the shoves of them,” laughed Kathleen.

Kathleen said she would encourage as many young people as possible to take part in the Feis, for the enjoyment, not just the competition.

She added: “Youngsters love to do their pieces and I think it is great experience for them. I used to die at the Feis myself.

“I used to be standing and my two legs would be shaking with nerves but I still did it.

“The youngsters coming in to do the competitions, music especially, are great. They love competing and they love to be part of the Feis. The character studies and the musical theatre competitions are amazing. The youngsters love dressing up and they love taking part. I think it is great for them because they get so much enjoyment out of it.

“You always meet up with good friends at the Feis. I also used to enjoy the dancing nights when they did the Gates of Derry and the céilí dances. I always go in to see those. Roll on Easter Week 2022. I cannot wait until we are back at Feis Dhoire Cholmcille,” beamed Kathleen.

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