Will Paddy be coming?

By Bill McEvoy

Names and titles have long played a very significant role in the history, growth and development of Comhaltas Ceoltóiri Eireann. Apart from the numerous names and titles of tunes and dances to be found in the vast reservoir of our native Irish tradition, names and titles have also played a vital role in the success story of the annual Comhaltas Concert Tour of North America, now in its 26th year and still going great. We here in America and Canada are inordinately proud of this enduring characteristic so proudly carried forward by a succession of dedicated supporters.

‘A Glimpse of the Real Ireland,’ was a title used to identify the concert tours of 1976, 1978, 1981 and 1986. ‘The Spirit of Ireland’ was used in 1989 and 1990. ‘Kings of Irish Entertainment’ was the title given to the tours of 1987 and 1991. ‘Tops in Irish Entertainment’ came to us in 1988 and 1995. ‘An extravaganza of Irish Music,’ ‘Gems of Ireland,’ ‘From the Homes of Ireland,’ ‘From the Shores of My Native Land,’ were all part of a list of titles that helped to enhance the Comhaltas image on this side of the Atlantic. They touched the hearts of the Irish in exile because they were emotive and significant.

The Annual Concert Tour of North America is a never-to-be forgotten experience for those taking part. The coming together for rehearsals at Culturlann na hEireann. The Farewell Concert on the Sunday Night. The gathering at Dublin Airport, with crowds of family and friends from all over. Tunes and songs and dances to speed the group on their way to America. The friendly greeting and Céad Mile Fáilte at JFK Airport, New York, has long been a part of the things that we do. Over the past 26 years, great names from the world of music, song and dance have come together in a spirit of camaraderie to share their talents and put Ireland’s culture and heritage on a new plateau on the concert stages of America and Canada. The list of names of all who served us over the past 26 years would indeed be a long one. Superlatives all fail to honour them all.

From all who came to us and the man who served longest of all is Roscommon born comedian Paddy Fallon. Making his 18th trip in 26 years. His inclusion on this 1998 tour is something of an unequalled record.

He first came to us with a ‘Glimpse of the Real Ireland’ in 1976. The tour that included such magnificent talents as Bobby Gardiner, Jimmy McGreevy, the late Geordie Hanna RIP, Peter Carbery, Rodger Sherlock, Kevin Taylor RIP, Anne Mulqueen, Donncha ó Muineachain, Joe O’Donovan, Treasa Ní Cheannaigh, the Fonntraí Dancers, with Eamonn O’Toole of Clommel as Tour Manager.

Paddy Fallon was an immediate success. He fell right into line with his vast array of Irish jokes, humour and instant wit. Together with his B-Flat bodhrán, he enraptured audiences everywhere. Standing ovations and extended applause were a nightly experience at all concert venues.

As the years went by and each succeeding concert tour was announced my phone kept ringing to find out ‘Will Paddy be Coming?’ For all those years he became a fixture for the annual Comhaltas Tour. He played a vital role, not only on the stage where he captured the hearts of thousands, but also on the long extended coach rides over the many miles. It was only human that artistes would get exhausted, tired and worn out from loss of sleep and long distance travel. Never known to sleep for long, Paddy Fallon kept everyone happy with his array of jokes and ready wit.

Paddy Fallon is to Comhaltas what the great comedian Jack Benny was to America and to the world. He makes us laugh at the simple happenings of daily life. He brings joy to many an Irish and not so Irish heart. All who remember him will be glad to find that he is once again being included in this 1998 Concert Tour of North America. Once again he will serve as a source of joy to all who wish to know, ‘Will Paddy be coming?’