Tuesday 22 January 2019

Academy of culture honours its masters

THE DEGREE of Saoi was awarded by Acadamh Fódhla to two of its members recently, one to Máire Ní Cheocháin Uí Chrualaoi of Cúil Aodha and Baile an Chollaigh, and the other posthumously to John the Rookery Ó Ríordáin, who died in Baile Bhúirne last year.Its more than 50 years s

By Seán Ó Loingsigh

THE DEGREE of ‘Saoi’ was awarded by Acadamh Fódhla to two of its members recently, one to Máire Ní Cheocháin Uí Chrualaoi of Cúil Aodha and Baile an Chollaigh, and the other posthumously to John ‘the Rookery’ Ó Ríordáin, who died in Baile Bhúirne last year.

It’s more than 50 years since Máire Ní Cheocháin won a gold medal for sean-nós singing at the Oireachtas of 1951, and she was awarded gold again at a formal ceremony attended by 70 people in Baile Bhúirne’s Ionad Cultúrtha.

It was six months ago that Máire’s highly acclaimed double album ‘Cú-cú-ín’ was released by Acadamh Fódhla – “it’s a long time since I’ve heard sweet music as can be heard on this CD” - said musician and broadcaster, Tony McMahon, about the 44 songs on the recording.

At last week’s ceremony, the composer and the academy’s native Irish singing teacher, Peadar Ó Riada, went through Máire Ní Cheocháin’s culturally rich ancestry in Béara, Ros ó gCairbre and Uíbh Ráthach, also describing her musically enriched upbringing in Cúil Aodha’s Múirneach Beag.

Before presenting Máire with a gold medal, Peadar told the beautiful story of how she fell in love with and married the butcher next door, the late Kevin Ó Crualaoi in Ballincollig, where the qualified chemist ran a pharmacy until she retired in 1993.

To warm applause, Ó Riada announced Máire Ní Cheocháin as Saoi, the old Gaelic equivalent of Master in the Dámh Amhránaíochta Dhúchasach, the academy’s faculty of sean-nós singing.

Máire’s daughter, academy member Gobnait Ní Chrualaoi, who was ‘Master of Ceremonies’ at the occasion, formally called her mother to receive her medal of honour.

In her acceptance speech, Máire mentioned various singers such as Máire Uí Chonaill and Micheál Ó Duinnín of Baile Bhúirne, from whom she had learned many songs, but most of all thanked her mother, Caitlín Ní Arrachtáin, and her father, folklore collector Domhnall Ó Ceocháin, who used to bring little Máire around on his bicycle when he was collecting material.

Then it was the turn of Acadamh Fódhla’s history faculty, ‘an Dámh Staire’, to name their master of history, ‘Saoi Staire’, and Cúil Aodha historian, Dónal Ó hÉalaithe, spoke of John ‘the Rookery’ Ó Ríordáin, who he described as “ollamh staire agus seanachais”, a professor of history and lore.

Dónal said ‘John the Rookery’ had deep knowledge of Irish history as well as local history and lore in Múscraí.

John’s sister, Máirín Deasy, Má Réidh, accepted the gold medal on behalf of her brother, saying it was a cause of sadness he wasn’t there to receive it himself.

The awards ceremony over, business was not yet completed, as Gobnait Ní Chrualaoi announced that Acadamh Fódhla were now establishing ‘Dámh Talmhaíochta’, a faculty of agriculture, and she officially called out Seán Ó Luasa, Diarmuid Ó hÉalaithe, Conchubhar Ó Ceallaigh and Séamus De Róiste, who will ‘select their own patrons’, and be engaged in the study of ‘animals, birds, insects, herbs and cures’.

Acadamh Fódhla was founded under the auspices of the Múscraí sean-nós group ‘Aisling Gheal’ in 2000, and this ‘Academy of Ireland’ is involved in various studies of native Irish culture.

They describe themselves as ‘Ollscoil Scairte’, a hedge-school university, but they regularly hold court in the more comfortable surroundings of ‘an Muileann’, the Mills Inn, Baile Bhúirne.