The farmers who are singing till the cows come home

Cavan Rugby Club Choir
Cavan Rugby Club Choir

Singing till the cows come home could very well be the motto of one all-male choir that boasts a considerable amount of farmer members.

Cavan Rugby Club Male Voice Choir was set up in 2008, and from humble beginnings, it has gone from strength to strength - the choir now boasts over 60 members, several of whom are farmers.

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One such member is beef, pig, suckler and sheep farmer Howard McCollum from Corranure, who joined the choir eight years ago. In that time, he has been lucky enough to perform as far afield as New York for the St Patrick's Day festival in 2016. He says that, because of the choir, he has mixed with people from all walks of life that he may never have met before.

"We rehearse once a week in the rugby club and sometimes more if we have a big performance coming up," he says.

"We have six to eight farmers, and there's also a multiplicity of people and professions, from solicitors and accountants to bankers and businessmen," says Howard, who is a low bass in the choir.

"One of our members travels from Fermanagh across the border, so we hope Brexit won't affect him."

Howard also points out that the choir has a positive impact on members' wellbeing.

"We care about each other," he says. "We don't discuss farming when we are there. We are able to get away from it, as farming can be something you can get very trapped in, and can be lonely and isolating."

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Dairy farmer Winston Morrison from Killashandra was in a choir in school, and emphasises the positive impact being a member of the rugby choir has had on his life.

"I enjoy the practice and the camaraderie," he says. "I look forward to the events and we encourage each other. We raise money for charity through our events, which makes it all the more rewarding."

Michael Caffrey enjoyed performing in Scor competitions with his local Mountnugent GAA club in bygone days, and he says that joining the rugby choir was one of the best things he ever did.

"I never played rugby - I played other sports, but wouldn't have been involved in the rugby club if it wasn't for this, and there are other lads in the group that never played sport at all," he says.

The choir is guided by director Dr Ann Noelle Bennett and musician Carmel Fay.

"They're a great bunch of guys and have raised lots of money for charity," says Ann. "It's a great way to beat rural isolation and a positive story.

"The choir is open to everyone too. You don't have to be the next Pavarotti."

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