Archive of past stories
SEÁN Ó DÁLAIGH 1930 – 2012
Ar an lá deireannach de Mhí Iúil i mbliana, chailleamar fear uasal den scoth tar éis troid fada le mí-shláinte. Nuair a fuair Seán Ó Dálaigh bás múcadh réalt i measc Gael na tíre seo, ach táimíd go léir níos saibhre de bhárr a shaothar.
On July 31st this year we lost one of the great Gaels of our time, when the Seán Ó Dálaigh passed to his eternal reward after a long battle with ill health just a couple of months short of his eighty-second birthday. Seán had devoted his life to the promotion of Irish culture in all its forms. His first love was, without doubt, the Irish language, but Seán did not stop there. For him being a Gael encompassed much more than that, and included the promotion not only of the Irish language, but of Irish music, dance, and literature, along with Gaelic games.
Born on November 3 1930, Seán lost his father at the tender age of seven, which left his mother to rear four children on her own. On leaving school, he served his time as a carpenter, an occupation he followed for more than forty years. At the age of just sixteen he joined Craobh Móibhí of Conradh na Gaeilge, one of three very active branches located at that time in Parnell Square in Dublin, and thus began a passion that was to last all his life. From an early age he took an active part in every aspect of Conradh na Gaeilge, and his involvement took him to every level up to and including the Coiste Gnó – the governing body of the organization.
As a member of Craobh Móibhí, Seán took a keen interest in Céilí dancing, and was instrumental in the formation of Rinceoiri Craobh Móibhí. When Craobh an Chéitinnigh and Craobh Moibhi joined forces to establish An Siamsa Mor, Seán was to the fore in promoting and organizing that hugely successful Céilí every Sunday in Dublin’s Mansion House. In the early nineteen-fifties he was nominated by the Coiste Gnó to serve on An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha, which had been established by Conradh na Gaeilge in 1930. In the nineteen-sixties he was elected its chairman, a position he initially held for over ten years, steering the organisation through some of its most challenging times. When his successor, Séamus Mac Conuladh, was appointed Chief Executive of An Coimisiún, Seán was reelected chairman, and remained in that position until 1998. During all these years Seán continued to be a very active member of Conradh na Gaeilge. His tenacity ensured that Feis Átha Cliath, which was first held in 1903, has continued to the present day, providing a platform for Irish language, music, and dance competitions for the young people of Dublin, long after many similar events in other parts of the country ceased to exist. He was a founder member of Club Conradh na Gaeilge, which continues to provide a social outlet for Gaelgóirí of all ages in the basement of No. 6 Harcourt Street in Dublin.
Seán Ó Dálaigh was also a great family man. In 1961 he married Noelleen Clarke, and together they raised three daughters, Críona, Aisling and Niamh, and one son Cormac, all of whom have continued to espouse the traditions so beloved of their father. While he was without doubt a man of great integrity and dedication, Seán was also a man with a great sense of humour. He was a great singer and raconteur, who could hold his own and debate with any company. To his wife and family we offer our sincere condolences on his passing. We shall not see his likes again.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
Séamus Ó Sé, PRO, An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha.
DENNIS DENNEHY A.D.C.R.G.
On January 6th An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha lost one of the all time greats of the Irish Dancing World. Mr Dennis Dennehy, who was born on January 31 1939, grew up on the West Side of Chicago, and as a young man attended St. Philip High School. His parents hailed from the towns of Bantry and Macroom in County Cork, Ireland, and he studied Irish dance with Mary Campbell. He later attended Loyola University, where he met Marge Bartishell, whom he later married. She had learned her Irish dancing from the late great Pat Roche.
Outside of his Irish Dancing activities, Dennis Dennehy worked as an underwriter for Kemper Insurance in Chicago. With his wife, Marge, he co-founded the Dennehy School of Irish Dance, and together they taught many wonderful Irish dancers who went on to be crowned champions. Marge was a talented choreographer, and she even created one called “Lord of the Dance” which featured their star students of that time, including one Michael Flatley. It was no coincidence that when Michael Flatley went on to create his own show he called it “Lord of the Dance”. Together Marge and Dennis famously mapped out an award-winning number for the 1976 United States Bicentennial that traced the history of the Irish in America. In one arresting moment, the dancers formed a train to represent Irish labor on the railroads.
The basement of the Dennehy home was filled with trophies. Among those Dennis Dennehy taught to dance were Eleanor Daley, daughter of the late Mayor Daley of Chicago, and the well known Irish fiddler Liz Carroll, not to mention the President Elect of the IDTANA, Mr Tim O’Hare. He and Marge also found time to teach their daughter Kathy and son Dennis. Of his father and mother Dennis has been quoted as saying “My mom and dad would teach together, and they would have the kids in a line, with Mom on one end, and Dad on the other. If you didn’t know your steps too good, you got closer to my mom to avoid Mr. Dennehy’s booming voice”. Dancers foolish enough to chew gum in class usually found it deposited on their noses.
Dennis was elected for several terms as President of the Irish Dance Teachers Association of North America, and guided the IDTANA through some of the most important milestones in its history. His wonderful charm and and air of authority made him one of the most respected people to hold that office. He represented the IDTANA with distinction as a member of An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha, and was elected a Vice Chairman of An Coimisiún in 2008, a role he filled with distinction. He was an adjudicator who was much sought after at Feiseanna all over the world, and an Examiner appointed by An Coimisiún. Those of us who have shared Examination Panels with Dennis will always remember his wonderful ability to put candidates, whether for TCRG or ADCRG, at ease. He will be sadly missed.
In addition to his wife, Marge and son, Dennis Junior, Dennis Dennehy is survived by his daughter, Kathleen (Kathy), who now runs the dance school founded by her parents. He is also survived by his sisters Therese Smetana and Margaret Jandacek, his brother, Emmett, and grandson, Conor.
Dennis Dennehy was well known to be a big fan of the University of Notre Dame. He died the day before a recent Notre Dame 42-14 defeat by Alabama in the BCS Championship game. In his last days he told his family ‘I hope I make it to see the game’. His son’s verdict: “Well, he didn’t miss much.”
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
Séamus Ó’Sé, ADCRG, PRO, An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha.