One of the highlights at the start of the recent RTÉ Big Music Week to encourage live music was the parade in Newbridge. It made its way from the train station to the Main Street and then over the bridge across the River Liffey to Patrician Secondary School for an hour-long concert in the school hall. The parade was led in style by the Army No.1 Band from Cathal Brugha Barracks in Dublin. Tomorrow night (Saturday 12th October) they will be performing at the National Concert Hall in Dublin in the annual defence forces benefit concert and the tickets are sold out so there will be a full house. Celine Byrne from Caragh in County Kildare who was also in Newbridge for the RTÉ Music week is the guest soprano.
What a fantastic reception in Newbridge for RTÉ’s Big Music Week. Alighting from the train, the musicians, presenters and guests were greeted by the colourful ‘Birds of Paradise’. Town Mayor Councillor Mick Deely was on the platform, waiting to whisk Miriam O’Callaghan away in a horse-drawn carriage.
Hundreds of schoolchildren and supporters lined the station car park and poured out onto the streets to cheer the musicians. One banner read ‘Thank you for the music’. The Kill Singers from County Kildare serenaded the arrivals with “Chattanooga Choo Choo”, which had also been performed on board in style by the Bugle Babes.
Numerous local bands including the Scoil na Naomh Uilig band played as the musicians and singers lined up for a parade into town headed by the Army No.1 Band from Cathal Brugha Barracks in Dublin. On Saturday they will be appearing at the National Concert Hall in Dublin at the Defence Forces Benefit Concert, which is sold out. Soprano Celine Byrne who was also in Newbridge will be making a guest appearance. I notice she is also coming to the Waterfront Hall in Belfast on October 17th to sing alongside José Carreras in the opening night of the Belfast Festival at Queen’s.
“What a way to arrive into my hometown of Newbridge,” singer Luka Bloom told the Leinster Leader. He was joined on the platform by fellow musician and friend Philip King. “What a thrill. I was at Connolly Station at 8am this morning [Monday 1st October] and what a way to spend a Monday. There was a lot of singing on the train”.
At the Patrician Secondary School, Luka Bloom’s brother Christy Moore was waiting at his alma mater. Luka sang a song he had written for his good friends the Brigidine Sisters in Kildare Town called ‘Don’t be afraid of the light within you’.
Uachtarán na hÉireann Michael D Higgins led the national Day of Commemoration ceremony this morning at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Dublin. Similar ceremonies took place at seven other locations across the state. The multi-faith and military ceremonies honoured all Irishmen and Irishwomen who died in wars or on service with the United Nations. The Dublin event was attended by the President, the Taoiseach, the Government and Council of State, as well as members of the diplomatic corps, Defence Forces, veterans’ organisations, the judiciary and Northern Ireland representatives. In this latter category it was interesting to note the presence of the Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt along with the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir of Sinn Féin.
I watched the service which was broadcast live on RTE1 television. The military part of the ceremony was carried out with great precision and the music played by the Army No.1 Band under the baton of Lt Col. Mark Armstrong added to the solemnity of the occasion.
The Maze was once the site of Northern Ireland’s high security jail, spread out over 360 acres. Today saw a new chapter in its history as thousands made their way to Balmoral Park, the new venue for the annual Royal Ulster Agricultural Society show. Helping to entertain the crowds in the main arena was the Army No.1 Band from Cathal Brugha Barracks in Dublin, under the direction on this occasion of Captain Fergal Carroll.
Who would have thought that 13 years after the closure of the prison in 2000 and the release under the Good Friday agreement of the remaining loyalist and republican paramilitaries who had served sentences, that an Irish Army presence would be welcomed there. In addition, I noticed the tricolour flying alongside the Union flag and the flag of Canada in the same arena, where the showjumping was held.
As the band was performing for the second time, the riders were coming out to inspect the course for their competition. Among them was Captain Geoff Curran from the Army Equitation School at McKee Barracks in Dublin, who met Queen Elizabeth during her visit to the National Stud in County Kildare in May 2011.
In the past, the cages on this site were the H-blocks, housing prisoners. Now the only cages and huts are those holding animals and livestock. There is just the hospital wing and part of the H-blocks remaining.
It has taken many months of planning to get the Balmoral Show to its new site at The Maze. I passed by recently on the M1 motorway and saw in the near distance the extensive tented village and the hard standing for the car park area. Today I was able to enjoy a visit to the complex. Translink had put on special transport arrangements for public transport, including a shuttle bus to and from Balmoral Park from Lisburn station.
The journey to the show via Hillsborough and Culcavy took half an hour but the return at 6:30pm took half the time. My sister-in-law travelling from Monaghan and others heading from West of the Bann trying to reach the show from the M1 motorway ran into great difficulty. She took four hours, having left at 9am. The former Ulster Unionist leader Tom Ellliott MLA had a similar story. He left Fermanagh at 8:30am along with two children in the car and did not reach the showgrounds until 1:30pm! His successor Mike Nesbitt though had no such problems and told me he had taken less than half an hour to reach Balmoral Park.
For more background on the move to the Maze site and the programme of events see my post in March.