• Kevin Owens
  • Ards
  • Co. Down
  • +44 7860 698 142
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Twitter: @ardscce

A Brief History.

Ards Comhaltas was formed 1st July 1976 with eight members present in the home of Denis Calvert, who over the years played a pivotal role in the fostering and promotion of the Branch at all levels. The first Chairman was Joe Mullan, who, until his death, was an active member of the Traditional Music scene.

By the time of the second AGM there were 30 members and this has grown over the years to over 200 members.

The first of the County Down Fleadhs hosted by the Branch was held in 1978 in Portaferry and many more memorable Fleadhs were to follow. In 2012 and 2013 Ards CCÉ hosted the most succesful Fleadhs ever seen in Bangor, Co. Down with thousands of spectators in attendance.

Local winners have gone on to win at Ulster and all Ireland levels. Many of our members have had the opportunity to perform all over Ireland, Europe and the USA.

Christmas 1983 saw the Branch start The “Ards Rhymers”, who took to the road with their first performance in the Tavern Bar, Carrowdore. In 2008 a book was published on the history of the “Ards Rhymers”.

After over 35 years the Branch continues to promote traditional music, song and dance throughout the North Down / Ards area and further a field. Due to the incredible success of our recent Fleadhs, many more young musicians have also taken up an instrument, which is fantastic to see.


Ards CCÉ has had many accomplishments over the past 35 years at both competition and entertainment levels. Numerous musicians have won at County, Ulster and All Ireland competitions. Among our All Ireland winners were Leon Agnew (flute), Chalmers Brown (flute), Niall McClean (fiddle) and Catherine McGinn (fiddle). Our groups, at all ages, have also had incredible successes and regularly hold the titles of Co Down champions, Ulster Champions, Holywood Champions and All Ireland finalists.

Our Entertainment Group, with their Award Winning Show, have also played at many prestigious music festivals throughout Europe, namely The International Music Festival in Rouen, France, Nottingham Irish Fest, Dunfanaghy Irish Festival, Interceltic Festival of Aviles, Spain, Copenhagen Irish Festival, International Pan Celtic Festival, Carlow, Cup of Tae Festival, Donegal, Bath Irish Festival and Liverpool Irish Festival. In addition to above they have played at many local Council Events, All Ireland Fleadhs, Major Tourist Attractions, Cruise Ships, and moreover, been Supporting Acts for Sean Keane, Beoga, Sharon Shannon, Frankie Gavin and De Danaan and Lúnasa.

March 2011 saw the release of Ards CCÉ’s first CD, “Shores of Strangford”, which due to its popularity led to the release, in June 2013, of a second CD, “The White Dove”. Furthermore a DVD of the Award Winning Show was also professionally recorded in 2013, as it had received acclaimed recognition on Irish TV Station TG4 and been described by local Irish media as “The Best of Irish Culture”.

Lessons & Workshops.

Presently Ards CCÉ run lessons for all traditional instruments on Wednesday evenings at St. Mary’s Primary School, Comber and Saturday mornings at St. Columbanus College, Bangor for both children and adults.

There are also fortnightly lessons at St Mary’s Primary School, Portaferry from 3-4pm every other Sunday. Actual dates for these lessons are arranged prior to commencement of each class term.

All classes are overseen by Niall & Bronagh McClean. Niall is an All Ireland Champion fiddle player and extremely adept on the tin whistle / low whistle and has played all over the world (including the USA) with other famous musicians, in particular, “The Three Irish Tenors”. Bronagh is an incredible banjo player / fiddle player with a 1st Class Honours Degree in music and is currently teaching at a local secondary school.

In addition to above, Ards CCÉ also runs specialised workshops in various instruments and have in the past had the pleasure in welcoming Eamon Murray, master bodhrán player, along with other high profile musicians to our classes.


Sessions for adults in The Coach Inn, Portaferry, on first Sunday, first Tuesday and third Tuesday and in Dumigan’s Bar, Portaferry second and fourth Tuesdays.

There are also sessions on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month in Rabbit Rooms Bar, Bangor from 9.30pm. Also last Sunday of the month in Coyles Bar, Bangor from 1.00pm - 3.00pm.

Adult and children’s sessions take place in St Mary’s Hall, Comber every third Sunday from 3 - 5pm from September to May (not December).

The Adult Home Session with tea and craic, and the opportunity to learn a new tune, continues fourth Sunday of the month from September to May (excluding December) at 7pm.


The current committee of Ards:
Title Name
Chairman Fergus Thompson
Vice Chairman David Lennon
Secretary Kevin Owens
Treasurer Donard Mc Clean
PRO Mervyn McCleery
Co. Board Reps: Niall & Bronagh McClean
Irish Officer: Patrick Hughes
Committee Members: Jean McMullan, Margaret McAllister, Joe Edgar, Pauline Turner, Denise Farren & Andrea Lappin