Saturday 24 August 2019

No mean feat: WWII vet James (99) flies the Irish flag at Tango World Cup

King of swing: James McManus and his Argentine dance partner Lucia Seva received a standing ovation
King of swing: James McManus and his Argentine dance partner Lucia Seva received a standing ovation

Niamh Lynch

A World War II veteran is flying the flag for Ireland at the Tango World Cup in Argentina - at the age of 99.

James McManus, who was born in Paisley, in Scotland, but lives in Waterford, is currently competing in the qualifying rounds of the competition with his Argentine dancing partner, Lucia Seva.

Mr McManus is believed to be the oldest competitor in the competition, which could make him a Guinness world record holder.

The dancing partners received a standing ovation after his first performance and are waiting to hear if they have progressed to the next stage. "Tango brings me a lot of happiness. Dancing is very important socially, you interact with other people and make new friends," Mr McManus told local reporters in Argentina.

He has been living in Waterford since 1994 and took up the energetic hobby in 2002, well into his 80s - inspired by a couple tango dancing in a show.

After that, Mr McManus fell in love with tango music and dancing, confessing to being a huge fan of legendary Argentine musician Juan d'Arienzo.

Mr McManus learned his moves at a weekly tango class but also takes up to five other dance classes a week, as well as performing for audiences at the weekend.


Local tango dancers in Waterford raised €2,400 through a GoFundMe page to help fund his trip.

"This gentleman is an inspiration to our community and others around the country," said his local tango group.

"At milongas Jim dances with every lady in the room and is known to favour the stylish milonga, in which he has so much experience on the dance floor."

Mr McManus went to Buenos Aires with Tara Whelan, a tango teacher, and Hernán Catvin, an Argentine dancer based in Ireland, who Mr McManus describes as his mentor.

"I could not have been here without him," he said.

For Tara and Hernán, it's no surprise that he has made it to the world championships, describing him as "very disciplined".

Mr McManus's father was from Fermanagh, while his mother was from Sligo, meaning he spent many summers as a child on holiday in Ireland.

After fighting in France during the war, he worked as a marine telegrapher and radio operator in the Merchant Navy where he travelled around the globe.

However, before his trip to the birthplace of tango, Mr McManus had not been on a plane since 1981. He will turn 100 years old on January 5, and he already has the venue booked for the big occasion.

If the guests are lucky, he might even provide the entertainment as well.

Irish Independent

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