Tuesday 24 October 2017

Padraig (92) tunes up for Gaelgeoiri festival

Padraig O Dalaigh will perform at the festival in Killarney
Padraig O Dalaigh will perform at the festival in Killarney
Majella O'Sullivan

Majella O'Sullivan

AGE is no barrier. Just ask Padraig O Dalaigh.

The 92-year-old is the oldest competitor in a major festival for Irish speakers taking place this week.

The Kerryman will compete in public speaking and also in sean-nos singing against people of all ages from Gaeltacht areas all over Ireland and from as far away as Australia, the US and Canada.

More than 10,000 visitors are expected at the Oireachtas na Samhna Festival in Killarney this week, generating over €5.5m for the local economy.

The last time the event was held in the Kerry town, World War I still raged. It was also the year Mr O Dalaigh was born -- 1918.

"I've not been taking part in the Oireachtas festival all my life because I was too busy," Mr O Dalaigh said.

"I suppose it was only since I retired from farming that I had the time, although I've been singing since I was young and learnt songs from Muiris O'Connell, who was from Cahirciveen. But it was only about 10 years ago that I started competing."

Mr O Dalaigh -- also from Cahirciveen -- says age is no barrier and jokes that scientists are now saying people could live to 150, so he's got plenty of time yet.

"I won second prize two years ago at the Oireachtas in Letterkenny, but I go to it every year. I've met so many people through it, who I'll be seeing again this year."

Now in its 113th year, the festival has entrants who are aged from nine to over 90 for its range of competitions.

Mr O Dalaigh will be accompanied to the festival by his daughter, Pauline, his travelling companion at the Oireachtas every year.

They will be joined by Gaelgeoiri from as far away as Australia, the US and Canada, as well as from Gaeltacht areas in Donegal, Kerry, Connemara, Meath and Waterford.

A Canadian woman of Polish descent is representing the world's newest Irish-speaking community. Gaeltacht Oileain Uir near Kingston, Onatario, was given official recognition as a Gaeltacht in 2007.

Yolanta Kruk, who is taking part in the sean-nos singing competition in Killarney this week, first encountered Irish culture growing up in Montreal in an Irish working-class area.

Culture

"My parents were Polish immigrants who came to Canada when I was two and my teachers at grade school were Irish nuns. I think I just absorbed Irish culture by osmosis," she says.

However, she says it was Michael Flatley who years later reignited the passion.

"He was in Canada with his 'Feet of Flames' show in March 2001 and I had lost my partner the previous December.

"It was a dark time in my life and that was the first thing that brought some light back to my life. I decided to start going to Irish classes in Montreal," she says.

Since then, she has travelled to Ireland 17 times and has picked up the language fluently.

The Oireachtas festival is considered a Mecca for performers of the traditional arts.

Irish Independent

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