Mixed emotions prevailed on Sunday afternoon 10th June as Amhran na bhFiann was sung with gusto in Holycross Community Centre bringing the 20th and final Connie Ryan Gathering to a close. These emotions varied from a great sense of sadness to feelings of happiness, satisfaction, fulfilment and pride.
Just like all of the previous 19 Gatherings a wonderful weekend had been enjoyed by everyone present but like all good things, they come to an end. In recent years numbers attending had been dwindling and the committee decided in 2016 that it would call it a day after staging the 20th Gathering in 2018.
The committee would like to extend its sincere thanks to the thousands of set dancers and patrons who supported the Gathering down through the years, from the magical days in the marquee in Clonoulty until circumstances forced the re-locating of the annual set dance festival to Halla na Feile, Cashel, to its final home in Holycross Community Centre from 2011 to 2018.
Whether you swept floors or manned doors, distributed fliers, sold raffle tickets or donated raffle prizes, conducted workshops or called out the sets, acted as fear a’ ti or wrote rave reviews of the weekends, poured tea or helped with the tidy up the committee is deeply indebted to you. Without you there would have been no Connie Ryan Gatherings.
The committee wishes to acknowledge the generosity of its many sponsors, especially that of Noel Ryan Bakery, Tipperary and of Stapleton’s Bakery, Roscrea. Stapleton’s came on board in 1999 and have sponsored the delicious bracks consumed each year for all to the 20 Gatherings! The committee also wishes to thank most sincerely, the board of management of Holycross Community Centre, its caretaker Mairead and her helpers. The re-locating of the Gathering to Holycross in 2011 was a very prudent and positive step as it made life much easier for the organising committee because your excellent facility catered, so well, for our every need.
During its lifetime the Connie Ryan Gathering raised in excess of 61,000 Euro. This huge sum was realised from the staging of several ceilithe, sponsored cycles and walks, bag packing and ceili classes, conducted for a long number of years by Margaret Slattery. Every cent raised was donated to charities and worthy causes at local and national level with Clonoulty Community hall having been the recipient of substantial amounts of money at different times to aid in the upgrading of the hall. The committee wishes to acknowledge the generosity of everyone during those fundraising activities.
As already stated mixed emotions permeated throughout the hall at the closing of the final Connie Ryan Gathering. We all felt a sense of loss because the Gatherings had come to an end. We also felt a deep sense of pride because, since 1999, we had gathered on the second weekend of June to honour and perpetuate the memory of the Clonoulty man, who during his relatively short life, had achieved so much in the set dance world and who has left us such a permanent legacy. We also remember, with great fondness, the many set dancers and patrons who began this journey with us in 1999 and who were, one by one, called to their eternal reward, Ar dheis lámh Dé go raibh siad.
Although the Connie Ryan Gathering is no more, the wonderful memories and the sense of fun and enjoyment of those weekends will be savoured for many, many years to come. Ár mhóráil libh, rath Dé ar gach uile dhuine agus go raibh míle maith agaibh as ucht an méid sin tacaíochta a thug sibh dúinn.