Whether it’s surfing off the Blasket Islands, revisiting the ballroom of romance or celebrating that red mane of hair, the Gathering has something for everyone
Denis John Kane, a surfboard maker, left, from San Diego, California, with his first cousin, Andrew Jacob, oyster fisherman and painter, from Cape Cod,who are the Great Great Grandsons of Padraig O’Hogán, The King of The Blaskets, who left the Great Blasket Island in 1905. Photograph: Valerie O’Sullivan
A 1956 performance of Robin Hood (two girls in this photograph are part of a pantomine reunion: see following picture).
Jean Winston (left) and friend Eileen McGarvey both panto stalwarts photographed at Ramelton Town Hall in Co Donegal. They were both in a 1956 performance of Robin Hood (see previous photo, in which Jean is fourth from left and Eileen seventh from left). Photograph: Bryan O’Brien
Padraig and Eilish McGivney (ballroom dancers) pictured at Greville Arms Hotel, Granard, Co Longford the launch of the Gathering reunion of ballroom dancers. Photograph: Barry Cronin
The Blaskets Gathering
Dún Chaoin, Dingle Peninsula
There’s a treacherous stretch of the Atlantic that flows between the mainland and the Great Blasket island. Lives have been lost and journeys ended but it’s a place where magic happens too.
Sixty years after the evacuation of the Blasket Islands – and the week of the Blaskets and West Kerry Gathering – two surfers, great-great-grandsons of Pádraig Ó Catháin, the King of the Blaskets, are chasing waves in this most famous of Irish waters – and chasing them in turn is a US documentary crew, itself infused with the DNA of the island.
The two surfers, Dennis “DK” Kane (25) and Andrew Jacob (33), are cousins who met for the first time at the Kerry Gathering event. Kane runs a surf board company in California. Jacob is a commercial fisherman who lives and surfs in New England.
Their grandfathers were brothers but they had been separated by their lives on either side of America. Brought together for the documentary, they met for the first time in Dingle. It was an awkward introduction, all caught on camera but the boys hit it off and the spark that the producers were depending on took hold.
Getting to the Blaskets was the goal. They had both tried and failed in the past. They took turns when they got there: the first to land, the first to enter the king’s house, the first to catch a wave, the first to cliff dive into the Atlantic. “It was like a Blasket baptism,” explains Andy, laughing. “The sun came out when we arrived. A group of donkeys came down to meet us. Seals splashed in the surf. We felt like we’d come home.”
And it is this homecoming The Crest is trying to capture and in turn is everything the Gathering is trying to achieve. GQ
Read full story on irishtimes.com/theblaskets
Strokestown, Co Roscommon
July 19th to 28th
One of the Gathering’s most poignant returns takes place in Strokestown, Co Roscommon in July, when the descendants of an Irish Famine boy are welcomed home 167 years after his family had to emigrate.
Daniel Tighe was 12 when his family was forced to leave Ireland in July 1847. After his father’s death, Daniel’s mother, Mary Kelly, left the country with her five children in a desperate attempt to save her family from starvation and extinction.
She boarded a Famine ship for Quebec. However, she and three of her five children died on the journey. Only Daniel and his sister Catherine (9) survived. When Canadian farmer Francois Coulombe was looking for a boy to help on his farm outside Quebec, he chose Daniel. Catherine became hysterical and clung on to her brother’s leg, sobbing. The Coulombes said, “We’ll take them both.” And they did. Daniel’s descendants still live on the farm today.
At the Strokestown Gathering Celebration, Daniel’s great-grandson Richard Tye will be the first member of the Tighe family to set foot in his hometown since the Famine. He says it will be an emotional return: “When I was young, my dad Leo did not talk much about my great-grandparents’ ordeal. Later on, however, he wanted us to know more to pass along the story.
“He said the image that Daniel would never forget was that of corpses being thrown overboard before coming into Grosse Ile.”
John O’Driscoll of Strokestown Park House says, “It’s symbolic that the Tighe family are coming back and being entertained in the main reception room of the house. When their ancestors left, would they have been welcomed into the drawing room of the big house? No, they probably wouldn’t even have got in the gate.”YG
Keash, Co Sligo
Saturday, August 24th
“We want people gathering from all over the world on the double,” says Patrick Ward, who won a competition for €5,000 worth of funding to hold a Gathering event. His winning idea was to reunite Irish twins who are living in different countries. The entrants had to explain their reasons for wanting to be brought home to see their twin. Five winners will be chosen from the entries, which so far have come in from Australia and America.
Ward is a twin himself and first organised a twins event three years ago to raise money for the Meningitis Trust. He and his twin brother are in the pub trade and the festival takes place on the grounds of Ward’s pub, The Fox’s Den in Keash, Co Sligo. Highlights of the twins gathering will include Twins Got Talent, a Twins Quiz and a three-legged race which, naturally, can only be entered by twins. RI
More at twinfest.ie
Sunday, August 4th