An tUachtarán ag Bruach na Carraige

This is testament to a community that cares very much about its people, about its music and its culture, but particularly about its future.

This was stated by President Mary McAleese when she officially opened Bruach na Carraige, its new magnificent Comhaltas Teach Ceoil in Rockchapel, Co. Cork.

I have seldom seen such a lovely, warm welcome in such a lovely community,’ President McAleese began, giving some of the credit to the weather which contributed to the huge turnout for the event. The President endeared herself to the crowd immediately by quipping: `I have a sneaking suspicion from the smell of fresh paint in there that a few people were up until the early hours of the morning to make sure that this was in absolutely tip top condition today.

Like many others, President McAleese said, this rural community has experienced many hardships in recent times but with this project, this community has shown itself to have real heart and real vibrancy.


Describing Comhaltas as a great repository for Irish music, President McAleese noted: But it's not just something to be looked at, not just something to be dusted.' She added:Generations of Irish men, women and children have tapped their feet to the lilt of Irish music that’s been made by Comhaltas. So often when we listen we fail to understand the extraordinary legacy that that tradition give us.’

What was once the preserve of the fireside and local cross-roads is now celebrated right across the world, the President pointed out, as those who left our shores brought the traditions of Ireland with them and celebrated them in their new lives.

President McAleese recalled her own grandparents in Roscommon and their sorrow at the realisation that they would never know the joy of seeing their grandchildren grow up in the same parish. Ironically, she said, the mass movement of Irish people throughout their own land and throughout the world had led to the huge popularity that all things Irish enjoy in every corner of the globe.

On her many visits abroad, she noted: The first people you meet off the plane are the Comhaltas people, closely followed by, if not in partnership with, the GAA'. We all owe a great debt to Comhaltas, the President said, for their music that crosses so many boundaries.You have won friends and admirers for Ireland across the world and we owe you so much for the way you have fed that sense of self esteem, that sense of self- confidence we now enjoy.’

The Irish are now a can do' people, but it was not always that way, President McAleese remarked, recalling the inaugural meeting of Comhaltas in Mullingar in 1951.Our traditions were in real danger of just fading into the ether,’ she said, It took a lot of long, hard and lonely years. But their efforts have been repaid and repaid a hundred fold.' Rockchapel is a fantastic example of that dedication, that faith in what could be done, President McAleese said, a community that, in the face of adversity, always fought hard for its traditions and for its people. Daring to mention theR’ word. President McAleese tentatively suggested: Riverdance could never have happened unless there were people like you here in Rockchapel to hold on through the harder times until the good times would come.' She added:This place is going to play its own role now in sustaining all the good things you have in your community.’ President McAleese also paid tribute to the work done by IRD Duhallow and Cork County Council in making this project possible.

Sliabh Luachra

The traditions and music inherent in Sliabh Luachra are as strong today as they have ever been. Councillor Jack Roche pointed out as Gaeilge, noting: This is the reason why Bruach na Carraige is here and this is why President McAleese is here tonight.' Rockchapel Comhaltas <a class="glossary" href="/glossary#ceoltoiri" title="Glossary: Ceoltóirí">Ceoltóirí</a> has had many proud days, thanks to the exploits of its young performers up and down the country and abroad, he added but:There was never before a day like this and I honestly think there never again will be.’

We are deeply honoured that the President accepted our invitation to come here today,' Councillor Roche said,We were over the moon but we weren’t awfully surprised because we know that President McAleese comes from a very rural part of Ireland and understands the culture.’ Many bodies and individuals were responsible for making this day possible, he continued, including IRD Duhallow and Cork County Council and, to all of these people, the Comhaltas branch is deeply indebted. Councillor Roche concluded: `We hope the monument we have built here will be a monument to the music and culture of Sliabh Luachra for this and future generations.’


Bruach na Carraige is the first project to realise the potential of Sliabh Luachra music and traditions in the Rockchapel. The 2,0000 square foot building, which cost in excess of £120,000 to construct, was just about up and running for the arrival of President Mary McAleese last Thursday, a visit which sparked a party that lasted well into the night,

Around two years ago Councillor Jack Roche was at the head of a think tank which came up with the idea of a `teach ceoil’ which would serve not only as a concert venue to promote the wealth of music and culture in Rockchapel itself, but also as a centre of excellence for Irish traditional music. Bruach na Carraige includes an auditorium capable of holding 100 people as well as an exhibition area which will be used as an interpretative centre on Sliabh Luachra, and a full archive and library which is already filling up.

Getting from the dream to the reality was no easy task, and Councillor Roche thanked IRD Duhallow for their assistance in securing Leader funding for the project which, it is hoped, will be a valuable asset for the area for generations to come. On mainland Europe, particularly France, Norway and Denmark, the Sliabh Luachra is synonymous with the best in all things Irish and traditional, and ClIr Roche and all involved are confident that true students of our heritage will find their way to Bruach na Carraige in the coming years.

As well as a year round centre of excellence, entertainment and study, Bruach na Carraige, it is expected, will have a full programme of special events, and, to begin with, a Sliabh Luachra Summer School is scheduled to take place in Rockchapel from August 9 to 15. Jack Roche, Fianna Fail county councillor and Comhaltas stalwart told The Corkman that utilising Rockchapel’s unique cultural heritage and musical standing to bring revenue to the area has been an aim of the people of the area for some time.

Rockchapel, like all of the Sliabh Luachra, boasts a wealth of unspoiled traditional music and dance. ClIr Roche explains that in most of the country, the authentic traditions died out during the 30s and 40s, but in Sliabh Luachra the true sounds of old Ireland still remain. Among the most popular tunes in the local musicians’ repertoire is the march that was played at the Battle of Knocknanuss in 1647, ClIr Roche said, promising that the emphasis in this new facility will be very much on authenticity.

At the official opening, which was a joyous affair attended by hundreds of supporters from near and far, President Mary McAleese said: Our strength really is in what we are capable of doing together, this is an example of the genius that can happen when we come together.' At that event, Councillor Roche paid particular thanks to Nora May Kelleher, who donated the site, and said:Anything that ever happens in Rockchapel, Nora May is part of it and when Nora May is part of it, everything turns out right.’

Councillor Roche, recalling the hard work and endless fundraising involved, added: `Much of the finance that was generated for this was earned by our very fine group of musicians, whom we are very proud of.’


President McAleese was thanked personally by Mairead Murphy, branch secretary in Rockchapel and presented with a beautiful silver brooch by Tom Murphy, founding member of the Comhaltas branch in Rockchapel and current President.

Of Mr Murphy, who is Mairead’s father, Councillor Roche noted: `Up until now his home has been a kind of unofficial headquarters for Comhaltas.’ As the formalities concluded, the music began and there were enough outstanding musicians in the company to keep the party going long into the night - and to this end they happily obliged.