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Sligo village hoping for its own VIP visitor

Sligo - Both the U.S. president and the queen of England are due in Ireland in May but the village of Riverstown in County Sligo may have its own historic VIP visit before any of them.

The United States Ambassador to Ireland, Daniel Rooney is expected in Riverstown on the evening of May 13 to perform the official opening of the James Morrison Teach Cheoil, built to commemorate the famed Sligo-born traditional musician who died in New York in 1947, aged 54.

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Morrison is buried in St. Raymond's Cemetery in the Bronx.

A U.S. embassy spokesman told The Sligo Champion that it was hoped Ambassador Rooney could attend but stopped short of formally confirming the visit, pointing out that it was a week before the arrival in Ireland of President Barack Obama.

However, Riverstown CCE branch chairman, Padraig Kerins, and Martin Enright, CCE branch coordinator and CCE county board chairman, are among those firmly expecting Ambassador Rooney's visit which, according to Mr. Kerins, would be a major occasion for Riverstown, one that would symbolize the traditional link with America.

"If it weren't for America, we probably wouldn't have heard of James Morrison," said Mr. Kerins, referring to the American recordings of the music of Morrison, Coleman and others, recordings that would, in time, lead to a justified recognition of their genius, not only around the world, but also in the places from which they came.

"The Teach Cheoil is probably one of the few buildings owned by a branch of Comhaltas in Connacht. It's been a dream come true," said Mr. Enright, adding that the honorary president of the Riverstown branch, Paddy McDonagh, had such an idea for forty or fifty years.

Among those expected to attend the opening ceremony is veteran musician Joe Cunningham, from Yonkers, New York, who was a pupil of Morrison.

It is also hoped a representative of the Sligo Association in New York will be present.

The James Morrison Teach Cheoil, located off the road leading to Riverstown Community Park, commemorates Morrison, his musical contemporaries and the musicians of the Riverstown area. It is also a facility to promote interest and learning in Irish traditional music.

Although the Teach Cheoil is now built, funding is still needed as €7,000 is required for an external stairs along a gable wall to access an upstairs room/office. An archive is also being set up.

Apart from the few remaining people who heard Morrison play, his followers today can only appreciate his music through the impressive body of recordings he left behind.

Now, with facilities such as the Morrison Teach Cheoil, people can create an even greater appreciation of the man and his music.