Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann is the largest group involved in the preservation and promotion of Irish traditional music. We’re a non-profit cultural movement with hundreds of local branches around the world, and as you can read in our history we’ve been working for the cause of Irish music since the middle of the last century (1951 to be precise). Our efforts continue with increasing zeal as the movement launches itself into the 21st century.
The Listowel Branch of Comhaltas Ceoiltóiri Éireann is one of the longest established branches in County Kerry. It is probably best known for hosting 14 All-Ireland Fleadhanna Ceoil between 1970 and 2002. Bernard (Bernie) and Margery Long, two local national school teachers were two of the initial founding members. Others who were involved in the early years were Jack Larkin, Babe Hillard, Mick Regan, Timmy Leahy and Timmy Brosnan. In 1970, Diarmuid Ó Catháin approached the branch about running the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann.
At the time, the Fleadh had been through some tough times and was in danger of collapse. The 1970 Fleadh was a resounding success. Listowel was asked to host the Fleadh again in 1971, but this was postponed due to the introduction of internment in Northern Ireland. The decision was a highly contentious issue within the organisation at the time and many remember lively and heated debates on the matter. The branch went on to host the Fleadhanna of '72, '73 and '74 and had they hosted the '71, it would have been an unprecedented 5 in a row. Incidentally, the competitions for the 1970 Fleadh were held in conjunction with Fleadh Nua in Dublin in May 1972.
Aside from hosting the All-Irealnd Fleadh, the branch also took part in many Scoraíocht Competitions and there are fond memories of organising these shows and attending the competitions. The branch also took part in the St. Patrick's Day parade. It was involved in the building of the Seanchaí Centre in Listowel. Today, the branch no longer takes part in Socraíocht, but instead hosts a very successful Seisiún Summer Show. This began in St. John's Theatre in the 80's then moved to the Seanchaí Centre and has now found its home in the Listowel Arms Hotel.
Michael Dowling gave a lifetime of service to the branch. He became chairman of the branch in 1968 and was chief steward for the first Fleadh in '70. He was then chairman of 13 Fleadhanna Cheoil. He served as Chairperson of the branch for 40 years. Other long-serving members of the branch include Sean Broderick, Mfary Broderick, Maureen O'Donnell, John Joe O'Donnell, Eamon hartnett and Betty Stack.
October 2008 marked a historic milestone in the history of the Listowel Branch of Comhaltas. Many of the existing officers were not seeking re-election. Amid fears that the branch may cease, a new committee was formed. An honorary celebration was held in May 2009 for long serving members, Sean Broderick, Maureen O'Donnell and Michael Dowling.
This current committee continues to promote the aims of Comhaltas in Listowel and its vicinity. The current committee is ; President: Michael Dowling, Chairperson: Alf Neville, Vice Chairperson: Mossy Molyneaux, Secretary: Aileen Dillon, Assistant Secretary: Maureen O'Donnell, Treasurer: Louise Moriarty, P.R.O.: James Duggan, Auditor: Hazel White, Youth Officer: James Duggan.
The branch aims to encourage more young people in the area to take up music, singing, dancing and an ghaeilge, while also providing an outlet to play and also provide opportunities to listen for locals and visitors alike.
Also, we would like to bring together the many facets of Irish culture present in the town. So, please do contact us and get involved in this wonderful cultural organistation. Tar isteach sa Chomhaltais.