On December 16, ‘The Nationalist’ published another great human interest story, by Margaret Rossiter. Sadly it began with listing the death of Jackie Delahunty, R.I.P. He was the last of the Delahunty brothers.
As the drummer in his brother Mick’s band, Jackie provided that distinct rhythm that contributed to earning the band a national as well as an international recognition.
I vividly remember the Mick Delahunty Band coming to our little dance hall in Clogheen in the mid 1940s. It was the early years of the band, but Mick’s musical presentation had already earned him the status of the ‘Big Band’. His music lent itself to ballroom dancing. It was said to be the best dance band this side of Heaven!
I was a teenager, growing up in the farming community just outside the village of Clogheen. It was during Ireland’s compulsory tillage years. To coin a phrase of that period, that described us as teenagers - “He followed a pair of horses.”
It was more than a true reality, when the horses were walking on the top of the sod, or in the furrow you followed. The harvest time did provide some relief, from the constant walking. The mowing machine and the reaper and binder did in fact provide an iron seat to sit on as you can well imagine.
We did not go dancing for the exercise but rather for the sheer enjoyment of dancing and especially to Mick’s music. Unlike today’s dancers who just sway back and forth, and never move from that position for the entire dance. Ballroom dancing had basic steps for each dance, as well as the traditional Irish dances. It was a beautiful scene to just sit and watch a group of exceptional dancers, dancing a waltz, or a quick step, all in unison with the music.
By today’s standards it sounds more like science fiction, when we look at the only mode of transportation from those days, which was the push bike, no 10-speeds in those days either. That did not discourage those of us who loved dancing. There were often six of us in the group, who would cycle the 16-18 miles from the Clogheen area to the Collins Hall in Clonmel, just to be able to dance to the music of Mick Delahunty. When the dance was over, there was the same mileage to cycle home, and Knocklofty Hill was always a challenge on that return trip.
As an early Irish immigrant to the US, I had the privilege of dancing to Mick’s band right here in Boston. Few will probably remember those years when there was no dancing allowed during Lent in Ireland, and Mick came to the US and as you might expect he played to sold-out crowds everywhere he went. He only came twice, as he loved playing to the home audience, and he was always booked months in advance.
We often refer to those days, when we all worked hard, but everyone was happy, and perhaps they were the good old days, and perhaps we didn’t realise it then.
I am certain that Margaret’s featured article will bring back some fond memories, of an era when we had wonderful music, often supported by equally talented singers.
Sincerely submitted by James Cleary, 31 Ward Street, Fitchburg, Massachusetts 01420. Tel: 1-978-342-3797.