Cleary Coyne (Claremorris)
Chairperson Kevin Feeney
Secretary Catherine Hynes
Claremorris branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann was founded in 1972. The first Cathaoirleach was Sean Fitzpatrick. Among the founding members of the branch were Pat Fitzgearld (RIP), Phil McTigue (RIP) and Rose Kelly (RIP): go ndéana Dia trócaire ar a n-anamacha dílse. John Kelly and Chris Conroy were also there at the outset.
The branch had always been very active in sessions and travelled far and wide in pursuit of all that was good in our Irish traditional music song and dance. Over the years the branch has always welcomed traditional musicians such as Peter Horan (RIP) and Fred Finn (RIP), Sligo, Frank Jordan, Roscommon and many more. The branch has always encouraged its younger members in furtherance of their knowledge and understanding of Irish traditional music. Down the years there has been a strong tradition of competition by members of all ages. It would be for another day to list all winners of county, provincial and All Ireland level. Suffice to say that the branch has always taken great pride in these achievements.
The branch has also been to the forefront in running highly successful Fleadhanna - Fleadh Mhaigh Eo in 1979, Fleadh Chonnacht in 1988, Fleadh Mhaigh Eo in 1993 and Fleadh Chonnacht in 1998. There was a long break then to 2010 when the branch was again to host Fleadh Mhaigh Eo. In accordance with current practice the branch is hosting Fleadh Mhaigh Eo in 2011 also.
The branch was also active in the running of Ceol an Gheimhridh during the 1980s. Here again the branch was host to a number of county and provincial competitions. Members of the branch were also successful in these competitions at county and provincial and also All Ireland levels. A céilí band featuring the McHugh family and Mattie Coyne won the All Ireland Ceilí band competition in 1985. Mattie Coyne, Phil McTigue and Johnny Cleary also won the All Ireland Scór competition during this time.
The nineties saw a big increase in junior membership in the branch with grupaí cheoil under the direction of Michael Hambly, competing in three different age groups. Darren McCallig, Olivia Galvin and Gráinne Hambly won the junior music competition in Scór in 1990. The following year Darren was replaced by Eimear Ní Mhaoilmhuaidh and the group brought the All Ireland title to Claremorris again. At Fleadh na hÉireann Áine Heneghan, Gráinne and Róisín Hambly won the harp competition in the various age groups. All three had the honour of representing their branch on the Comhaltas Tours of Ireland, Great Britain and North America. Gráinne also won the senior concertina competition in 1994. Both Áine and Róisín won the accompaniment competition in various age groups.
In 1996 a group of musicians under the direction of Séamus O’Dubhthaigh went on a two week tour of Brittany as part of a cultural exchange. Our branch members on this trip were Darren McCallig, Áine Heneghan, Eimear Ní Mhaoilmhuaidh and Niamh Hambly. In 1998 a senior grúpa cheoil made up of members from Ballindine, Castlebar and Claremorris branches took first place at Fleadh na hÉireann in Ballina much to the delight of all, especially the branch and county chairman, Mattie Coyne, who had always encouraged and supported the young and upcoming musicians in the area. A great bond and lasting friendships developed among the members, young and old, through their involvement in the many and varied activities of the branch during those years.
In recent years, there have been branch exchanges with the Fred Finn branch in Sligo followed by invitations to perform at the Vera Barrett traditional week-end in Castleblakney, the Connacht Fleadhanna in Roscommon and Westport and regular appearances at the Cleary-Coyne festival in their native Claremorris. Younger members are mentored by Comhaltas na nÓg leaders, while Fiona Lavin directs the senior musicians.
The branch has been extremely active of late with involvement in Scór, Readóirί and comhaltas competitions. Anthony Kavanagh won the All-Ireland Scór competition this year while Chloe Feeney was runner-up in the prestigious Oireachtas contest. Rachael Armstrong, Mark Jordan, Anthony Kavanagh, Aoife Rattigan and Maria Waldron have all had the honour of winning All-Ireland Fleadh medals and the branch congratulate them on their success. In addition, the Claremorris Plearacha group won the All-Ireland Plearacha final in 2012.
Clearly, the branch has accomplished a great deal over the years and much more could be written. Many of our members have served at County, Provincial and Ard-Comhairle levels and our musicians have gone on to tutor and share their experiences with a new generation. We trust that the branch will continue to develop and flourish for many years to come!
In 2016 the branch decided to rename the branch in honour of Johnny Cleary and Mattie Coyne, two local musicians who were honoured each year through the Cleary Coyne Festival held each October.
The branch will host Fleadh Mhaigh Eo 2016 and 2017 in Ballinrobe.