There was a time when the mere survival of Irish traditional music was not at all secure. Interestingly, Mullingar played a pivotal role in its rejuvenation.
Mullingar - where it all began!
It happened, that in January 1951, representatives of the Thomas Street (Dublin) Pipers’ Club went to Mullingar for a meeting with traditional music enthusiasts from County Westmeath, i.e. Cáit Uí Mhuimhneacháin, Willie Reynolds and Jim Seery, among others. Two ideas which had already been mentioned amongst traditional musicians were discussed at this meeting; the first was the founding of an organisation to promote Irish traditional music while the second was the organising of an annual festival of Irish traditional music, song and dance.
The very first Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann
A further meeting was held in February ‘51, and at this meeting it was decided that, in conjunction with Feis Lár na hÉireann (a Gaelic League Feis which had been held in Mullingar for many years), a Fleadh Cheoil would be organised in Mullingar Town in May over the Whit weekend. The aim of the Fleadh being to promote traditional music and to arrest the decline in its popularity. The cream of traditional Irish musicians attending the Fleadh played a major role in furthering its aim.
Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann is founded
On October 14th, 1951, at Árus Ceannt, Thomas Street, Dublin, the first standing Committee of Cumann Ceoltóirí na hÉireann was elected. At a meeting in St. Mary’s Hall, Mullingar on January 6th, 1952, the title of the organisation was changed from Cumann Ceoltóirí na hÉireann to Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann.
From this point on, Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann grew from strength to strength to become a great annual National Festival attended by traditional musicians, singers, and dancers from all parts of Ireland and overseas.