Saturday 27 December 2014

Jigs and reels at the crossroads 
of midsummer

Brian Farrell

Published 29/06/2014 | 02:30

Local schoolteacher and Sean Nos dancer Edwina Guckian rolled out the barrels and organised a ‘shout out’ for a dance at a quiet crossroads in Effrinagh, Co Leitrim. Photos: Brian Farrell
Local schoolteacher and Sean Nos dancer Edwina Guckian rolled out the barrels and organised a ‘shout out’ for a dance at a quiet crossroads in Effrinagh, Co Leitrim. Photos: Brian Farrell
Local schoolteacher and Sean Nos dancer Edwina Guckian rolled out the barrels and organised a ‘shout out’ for a dance at a quiet crossroads in Effrinagh, Co Leitrim. Photos: Brian Farrell
Local schoolteacher and Sean Nos dancer Edwina Guckian rolled out the barrels and organised a ‘shout out’ for a dance at a quiet crossroads in Effrinagh, Co Leitrim. Photos: Brian Farrell

THE sinking sun danced and the lilt of fiddle and banjo bounced off the hedgerows and across the freshly mowed meadow. They danced at the crossroads in Effrinagh like there was no tomorrow.

Young and old gathered as the Leitrim village resurrected a tradition as old as time to celebrate life and midsummer.

Edwina Guckian, school teacher, Sean Nos dancer and a proud young Leitrim woman, rolled out the barrels at a quiet crossroads in Effrinagh and said simply: "Let's dance".

There was no VIP section nor free champagne reception.

And there was no need for bouncers or barriers. Dress was disarmingly informal. There would be no vanities at this bonfire, just barrels and barrels of fun.

Musicians of all ages found freshly saved and still fragrant bales of hay to sit upon and they quickly struck up the tunes that makes this part of Leitrim a fount of jigs and reels and polkas. Young and old danced and danced only stopping if a singer gallantly stepped up to give an excuse for all to catch their breath.

A small group of French students happened upon the gathering, joined in for The Walls of Limerick and stayed until the last tin whistle was tucked under the oxter.

Sometime after eleven, as the flames died down but embers still glowed, people slowly drifted away. The crossroads at Effrinagh returned to silence.

Edwina Guckian and her "shout out" for a dance at the crossroads had gathered a community together, for fun, for all and for free.

It was a return to old values for a village that has had its brush with history and notoriety. After all this was the birthplace of James Gralton, communist and agitator and the only Irishman ever deported from Ireland for his political views.

His story was the subject of the recently released Ken Loach directed movie Jimmy's Hall.

After the parish hall in Effrinagh was burned to the ground by the British Army, Gralton then helped organise the building of the Pearse-Connolly Hall in the village to replace it.

It was here that he expounded the views of the Revolutionary Workers' Group in Leitrim which was a forerunner of the Communist Party in Ireland. Inevitably it led to bitter clashes with the church. The local parish priest branded the meeting place a "den of iniquity."

A mysterious fire razed it to the ground on Christmas Eve, 1932 and the following year de Valera's Government ordered Gralton's deportation to America as an "undesirable alien." He stayed in New York for the remainder of his life, and became a trade union organiser and a member of both the Irish Workers' Club and the Communist Party of the USA.

Sunday Independent

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