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|The County Antrim Fleadh was held for the first time in the village of Toome, Co Antrim on the weekend of 17/18/19 May 1998. Two local branches of Comhaltas, namely Loughbeg and Cois Locha, under the joint Chairmanship of Phonsie Agnew and Brian Duffin organised the very successful event. It was a great weekend altogether, one of the best weatherwise we had all year and this drew quite a large crowd especially on the Sunday.
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As it was the bicentenary celebrations of the 1798 rebellion this
became the underlying "theme" for the Fleadh and it was by strange
coincidence that young Rody McCorly "one of the first to join the United Irishmen at Toome"
joined in May 1798. He was hanged near the Bridge of Toome for his part in
the rebellion and for over 50 years his body lay beneath the gallows tree.
In 1852, it was decided that a new bridge would be erected in place of the old one. The foreman in charge of the work happened to be a nephew of Rody's. Knowing where the body of his martyred uncle lay he carefully and religiously laid plans to recover the remains and on the 29th June Rody's remains were unearthed intact and placed in a coffin. He was re-interred in Duneane graveyard with a funeral that was the greatest and largest seen around that area.
To ensure community involvement in the Fleadh it was decided to ask all
the local primary schools in the area to take part in an individual poster
competition advertising the event and in a group project to depict the 1798
rebellion through poetry, song or display. This proved a very popular idea
with the winning piece coming from Millquarter Primary School. This was in
the form of a large map of Ireland showing the various birthplaces of 'United'
men and also various battle sites with information about each person and
site - a great team effort by the school.
From the hundreds of posters we had a particularly difficult job picking the winner but there had to be one and Lisa McCoy, Primary 6, again from Millquarter Primary School was the overall winner.
A song, written especially for the Fleadh, entitled 'Brave Rody O from Toome' was composed by Creggan Primary School and was sung in public for the very first time from the 'Gig Rig' by the children.
Oh Mother dear I often hear you speak of '98.
When the brave United Irishmen marched off to meet their fate.
Of McCracken, Tone and Jimmy Hope who bravely faced their doom,
But Mother will you tell me of brave Rody O from Toome.
Oh come my dear and listen here and I'll tell to you the tale,
Of an Antrim boy who had a ploy to make the English sail.
Far from the land, no more return, our country left to bloom.
And that is how the story began of brave Rody O from Toome.
From Antrim town where they went down, was Rody on the run.
Through Drumaul and Ballyscullion, from the threat of the Redcoat's gun.
But he was sought and soon was caught and now we're filled with gloom.
But you can bet we'll not forget brave Rody O from Toome.
Moneyglass Dramatic Society
A pageant performed on the Sunday evening by members of the local Dramatic Society depicting Rody's trial and subsequent hanging was one of the highlights of the Fleadh and a fitting end to a great weekend.Exhibitions
Also on display was an exhibition by local stonemason, Owen McMeel.
Owen's father, a native of Monaghan, came north in the late 1800s to build churches.
He married a local woman and his work brought him to Toome for the building of
Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Moneyglass in the early 1900's.
A local thatcher, Gerry Agnew, also had an exhibition piece at the Fleadh and like Owen his skill was handed down by his father. He has worked on thatched houses the length and breadth of Ulster. One of his local 'jobs' would be the Crosskeys Inn. In 1808 coach travel was introduced between Belfast and Derry and it proved to be such a success that other routes were introduced in 1809. One of them was from Belfast to Kilrea via Templepatrick, Randalstown and Portglenone. A stopping place on this route for the Mail and Passenger Service was the Crosskeys Inn. Today it is no longer a 'coach stop' but a haven for traditional musicians famed for its hospitality throughout Ireland.