"THE passing on of our cultural values is vital for all our young people. We are the keepers of the flame but we also stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. We have a duty and obligation to pass on - in its purest form - what we have received," said Con Herbert as he unveiled a plaque and declared the newly refurbished heritage centre in Freemount open last Friday night.
And indeed, it was a double celebration in Freemount, as Con was also honoured by the community for establishing the first branch of Comhaltas in the parish on March 3, 1983, and also for his outstanding contribution to fostering the talents of young musicians in the area during the last three decades.
MC Gerry Noonan explained that the refurbishment was badly needed because over 100 music students use the premises every Wednesday night, and also due to the large numbers attending the weekly summer seisiúin.
The heritage centre, or 'old school', first opened in 1853, and served the children of Freemount until 1982 when the pupils relocated to the brand new school nearby. Shortly afterwards the building was acquired by the local community for a nominal fee and thus entered a new era as a centre of culture, especially for the teaching and promotion of traditional music, song, and dance.
Con Herbert acknowledged the achievements of members of the Comhaltas Branch since their first All Ireland success at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in 1984, and the many more recent successes.
"As we look back on the history of the branch over the past 30 years, we are mindful of the contribution of so many people at every level," said Con. "However, it usually takes one person with vision and foresight - imbued with a true sense of altruism - to achieve what we see here tonight. These people are natural leaders and have the ability to bring others with them because of their enthusiasm and selflessness. There is no doubt that we would not be here tonight without the fantastic work and dedication of Pat Joe O'Sullivan whose dream it has been for many years to see this project brought to fruition."
He added that "Duhallow now has three outstanding cultural centres as we now join Bruach na Carraige in Rockchapel and the Glen Theatre in Banteer, all of which have been made possible by the dream and hard work of community members, and the professional and financial support of IRD Duhallow without which, any of them would not be possible."
Guímis Rath Dé ar saothar Chraobh Chrónain ins na blianta fada ceolmhar spraoiúil atá amach rompu," concluded Mr. Herbert.
Mr Herbert was ably assisted in the running of the branch in the early days by, among notable others, Ms Mary Coleman, who received the Bill Danaher Memorial Trophy on Friday in recognition of her contribution to the branch over the years.