Though next week is labelled Holy Week on the ecclesiastical calendar, I fear that holy matters will have to take a back seat for Leitrim folks in the Big Apple. The Leitrim football team is travelling across the big pond to battle New York in the first game on the Connacht Championship on Holy Saturday. Manager Andy Moran will be hoping that the lively Leitrim lads take care of business, while his counterpart John McGeeney and his Big Apple brigade are adamant that this could finally be their year to get their first victory in the Connacht championship. Time will tell.
Meanwhile hordes of Leitrim supporters will be traveling for the game, and the area encompassed by the juxtaposition of McLean and Katonah Avenues, and once dubbed “Little Leitrim” by an Irish journalist, will have full houses as spare rooms, basements and attics will be maximally occupied. In times past, the rambling house was an important community element in Leitrim and in rural Ireland in general. It was a house where locals gathered to pass long nights and entertained themselves with stories, song and dance before modern technology arrived. The famed seanchia (storyteller) Eamon Kelley, summed up the roles of the rambling house, by noting that the affairs of the day were debated, entertainment was mingled with education and the setting was generally suffused with a good dollop of gossip. In a way we have to be grateful to rambling houses for passing on traditional lore, music, stories, history and heritage from one generation to another.
Well on the evenings of the 6th and 7th of April, the Rambling House, located at 4292 Katonah Avenue, in the Bronx will certainly be fulfilling the traditional roles of rambling houses from long ago, of course without the hearth fire. The genial Joe Carty, a native of Aughavas, is the Fear an Ti or the proprietor, and it’s no bother to him to spin a good yarn, and you could easily be the butt of it. So if you wish to learn more about Leitrim’s role in the nation’s history, its deep musical traditions, and perhaps its ever growing business opportunities, the Rambling House is the place to be on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. On Thursday there will be a two- pronged presentation, starting at 8pm titled, “Leitrim’s Cultural Night in the Big Apple”, which will focus on Leitrim’s history and musical heritage. Dr. Padraic McGarty, a senior lecturer in Public Policy at the Institute of Technology, Tralee, will deliver a lecture on the impact World War 1, the War of Independence and the Civil War pertaining to Leitrim. Dr. McGarty is a native of Mohill and the author of a recently published and highly acclaimed book titled “Irish Revolution- Leitrim 1912 to 1923.”
Reviewers have noted that “it’s extremely well researched and a masterful review on Leitrim’s role in the history of Ireland during the revolutionary period”. Granted the sacrifice of Sean MacDiarmada and the heroism of the combatants of the War of Independence have been chronicled, but the actions or atrocities of the Civil War were a taboo subject during my time in school.
Following the history presentation, Fionnuala Maxwell will take center stage and enthrall the house with an ensemble of music, song and dance. Fionnuala who is a native of Dromod, a former All-Ireland winning soloist, and a traditional Irish singer, tutor and composer who has built up a very extensive repertoire over the last thirty years. Also performing will be members of the Mulligan-Quinn and Killoran-Clancy-Whelan, Mid Atlantic Ceoltas Ceoltoiri Eireann branches with Leitrim’s CCE and featuring All-Ireland traditional singer Josephine McNamara.
Martin McHugh,the goalkeeper when Leitrim won the Connacht Championship in 1994, and though now in his early 50s, he was the backup keeper for the victorious Intermediate Aughnasheelin team in 2022. Martin fought many battles along the goal-line and around the square, but his biggest battles were outside the white lines and off the field. Martin recently published a book, aptly titled “Born to Save,” which highlights his battles with two different types of cancer, one diagnosed in 2009, and the other in 2015. So the evergreen, and Martin ever grateful that he’s got a second chance on life will be around for a chat and a chance to get his book and have it signed by a real hero. He’s the only active player from the 1994 squad, and when you consider his life threatening battles with the Big C, that’s absolutely astonishing. It speaks volumes about the character and resilience of the seemingly ageless and still agile keeper.
An event, titled “A location for Business Opportunity” will be staged from 5 to 6 pm on Friday to present Leitrim as a dynamic location to live, work and invest in, with several guest speakers — Brian Conroy, Head of the IDA in North America, Lar Power CEO, Leitrim County Council, and Keith Dimmock, Principal Architect, Cora Systems, Carrick-on-Shannon. For this event Caitriona Clarke, from JP Clarke’s, will be the Bean an Ti or facilitator. A buffet will top off the evening. So the Rambling House, at the hub of “Little Leitrim” on Katonah Avenue, will be showcasing the county’s history and heritage and all the great things the lovely county has to offer. Hope to see you there!