Flower Festival not to be missed!

Mary O’Brien (Cobh), Cork RTAI, is national chairperson of AOIFA (Association of Irish Floral Artists). During her tenure as chairperson she is staging a Flower Festival in St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh from 27th to 29th September. The festival entitled “Splendour in Flowers and Stone” will feature exhibits both decorative and interpretative in nature by flower arrangers from all over Ireland.

The festival will be open to the public on Saturday 28th Sept from 11am to 5pm and on Sunday from 1pm to 4.30pm. The festival will open with a preview at which Mr. Adrian Gebruers, cathedral organist and carillonneur, will play the recently restored Telford organ.

The proceeds of the festival will go to Pieta House.

This amazing spectacle of flowers is not to be missed.




Darragh Loop Walk

When our hillwalk leaders plan a hike, there is a lot of behind-the-scenes work to be done beforehand. An early ‘recce’ walk through the terrain, followed by possibly two more, closer to the date to make sure the path is still clear and safe, are just the more obvious preparations. A thorough knowledge of the terrain is often called for, especially when unforeseeable events occur (more of which anon).

Then there is the equally important question of “Where will we have lunch?

Máiréad and Nora hit the spot for that question! Shortly before 10 a.m. we assembled at the Thatch and Thyme in Kildorrery, for the customary cupán tae, and the all-important Rolla . Further evidence of forward planning….- we were invited to order our lunch before we set off. The thoughts of the feast that awaited at the Thatch and Thyme certainly quickened the step of this hiker!

A short drive later, we were at the trail head and up we climbed towards the summit at Castlegale. All that is left of this edifice is a pile of stones and a 360° vista of the surrounding counties: Cork, Limerick and Tipperary. Somebody once left a tin of biscuits with a notebook and pen here, with the invitation to all who passed this way to help themselves, and sign the book. The biscuits are long gone (although it is said that kindly souls who regularly pass have been known to replenish the supply) however, the RTAI signature is now recorded for posterity.


A short stop, not conducive to delay, as the exposed position forced us to hang on to our hats!

Descending form here, we found ourselves on a sheltered path beside quiet woodland, and then crossing some pasture, where we spotted the most underwhelmingly named “Common spotted orchid”. What a beautiful flower!


Having descended, the inevitable climb back up loomed ahead. However our work was rewarded with great views and our sos beag.

Downhill all the way now, and thoughts of the Thatch and Thyme spurred us on. All well, until we met the lads from Coillte felling trees across our path! A timely juncture for a song! Our “Trusty Troubadour” led us in the singing of “Cill Cais”.


And so to Plan B. Máiréad and Nora had no trouble in finding an alternative path through the pine trees, and our feet were indeed glad of the soft carpet of dry pine needles underfoot.

All paths now led to Darragh, and as soon as we reached the car pool we turned towards Kildorrery, where lunch was served al fresco on the well-appointed terrace of the Thatch and Thyme.

Gura míle maith agaibh, a Mháiréid agus Nora as an siúlóid iontach!

May 30th, Nano Nagle Centre, Douglas Street, Cork

24 of us gathered for a most interesting guided tour of the former Presentation school/convent complex. A very sensitive restoration and transformation project has been carried out here with UCC’s school of architecture and physiotherapy department continuing on the tradition of education on part of the site. This centre is of interest to anyone looking for information on Nano Nagle and her work in founding the Presentation Order, educating the young people of 19th Century Cork and the fabric and architecture of the city at the time.

Throughout each area, including the Goldie chapel and Miss Nagle’s parlour, artefacts belonging to Nano and the sisters are on display and are further brought to life with a very comprehensive audiovisual display. The convent garden and graveyard and Nano’s own tomb with visible coffin is a wonderful reflective space, well worth a second visit. A separate vegetarian café can be visited in the garden also if wished. Many events are planned in the complex during the coming months. Information is on the Nano Nagle Place website.

Warrenscourt Lissarda Amble May 16th

Just back from Tralee it was off to Lissarda the following morning for a lovely easy amble at Warrenscourt Forest Amenity Area just off the main Cork- Macroom road near Mai Fitz’s Pub. Flanked by a meandering small river and dotted with picnic benches the pathway wend slowly upwards through the forest in a loop, giving lovely views over West Cork.

After lunch back in Mai Fitz’s we reconvened at Kilmurray War of independence museum, situated  close by. What a jewel of a local attraction with a wealth of information, artefacts and photos of 1920s west Cork life and history of Michael Collins/Terence McSweeney and other prominent figures involved in those turbulent times. Our very informative guide was equally impressed by our very informative retirees, many of whom had family connections to the area and activities of the time.

Cork RTAI Visit to Tralee May 12th – 15th

While blessed with glorious weather from start to end, 16 of us made our own way to Tralee, via a walk in Muckross Park, Killarney on Sunday, May 12th. We stayed in the Rose Hotel where the standard of food, rooms and service was excellent. Walking off breakfast on the wetlands developed area (pathways, café, interpretive centre) just behind the hotel, we then car pooled and left for Listowel for a visit to the Writers’ Museum.

The works of J.B.Keane, Bryan McMahon, Gabriel Fitzmaurice and Maurice Walsh are eerily brought to life with a superb audio presentation in each room. Foregoing a visit to JB’s pub and other Listowel gems, we proceeded to Ballybunion for the spectacular cliff walk and textbook coastal geographical features. After another superb dinner, a night at Siamsa Tíre with a story of North Kerry dance forms rounded off a great first day.

Tuesday morning we set off for Dingle with another long walk for the more able bodied on Inch beach en route. Dingle town was already very busy with large tourist numbers and on the spectacular Slea Head route they and us were not disappointed. That evening another excellent dinner followed at the hotel and people departed at leisure next morning.

Summer Meeting 2019

The annual summer lunch is an occasion to which many of our members look forward eagerly each year. It’s an opportunity to don the summer frocks, the short-sleeved shirts and the open-toed sandals, while anticipating the lazy, hazy summer days ahead.

As in previous years, our lunch meeting was held at Oriel House Hotel, and no lunch was had till we had completed our business first! We are fortunate to have our wonderful choir to entertain us. They opened the proceedings with three  sweetly sung and beautifully harmonised songs: The Bells of Shandon, Jubilate Deo, the Londonderry Air and When You Believe. A sure sign that our choir is going from strength to strength is that they could perform so expertly under the guidance of a guest conductor. Indeed it seemed that they were able to put her at her ease, so confident did they appear, after their recent tour to Krk, Croatia.

Our secretary Marian O’Callaghan then outlined the wide variety of activities that are available in our Branch. As an illustration of that, our Camera Group exhibited a fine selection of photographs taken during the past few months. Marian emphasised that the committee are open to all ideas, and are willing to consider any proposal put to them by our members.

General Secretary of RTAI, Billy Sheehan addressed the meeting too. His address covered the following topics:

  • RTAI current position
  • Pensions
  • Changes to the PSPR – end in sight!
  • Changes to Branch funding formula
  • GDPR
  • INTO
  • Membership Plus
  • Contacting RTAI – please call early in the day! 01-2454130, alternatively email info@rtaireland.ie, or see the website www.rtaireland.ie

One of the results of discontinuing the Membership Plus, is that there is extra funding for RTAI bursaries and for the counselling service, Inspire.


One of the recipients of a bursary this year was RTAI Cork member, Michael Duggan. Maith thú, a Mhichíl. Go n-éirí leat!



Once again the staff of Oriel House put on a great spread for our lunch. Compliments were flying to the chef!


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The advantages of retirement include plenty of time for chat and catching up with old friends.  When those who lingered did eventually get up to leave, we were met at the door by a torrential downpour!

Ah, summer!

Notes from an Island in the Sun


Following a very happy tour to San Marino in 2017, our choir felt their musical wings were up to further flight. To help whip us into shape Mary G. O’Brien, our conductor entered us for Féile an t-Samhraidh in Midleton with happy results: (a) We upped our performance, (b) We brought home two trophies.

Planning for a choral tour takes lots of tedious and often exhausting preparation. Mary Fitzgerald (our founder) made a great hand of much unseen heavy lifting.

Starting last September, the research, planning, saving and learning steered our course for the island of Krk, off the coast of Croatia.

Thirty singers, some guests, our conductor and Antoinette, our accompanist boarded Ryanair for Zadar, Croatia, on Wednesday 5th June. After a flight of 3 hours, and a bus trip of 4, we reached our island home, tired but energised for our adventure. Our hotel was in a perfect setting, within 3 minutes of a clear blue sea, most inviting at 18 degrees. The buffet meals catered exhaustively for all tastes. The hard working highly efficient staff might crown their C.V.s with a smile for guests and a bit of banter. The almost reverential hush of the dining room was subdued mood music to the more boisterous ways of choristers on tour.

The boss man in the dining room, a one-man “Checkpoint Charlie” seemed a two-ulcer man with a three-ulcer job. When some of us on occasion forgot our room card numbers, he seemed to wilt a little further each time.

The popular belief that singing is thirsty work came under pressure as our conductor exhorted us to abstain and mind our voices. Some despairing voices were heard to moan, “Are we a temperance choir?” Balance and moderation prevailed.

To plan an outdoor concert, months in advance, without fear of rain is a luxury we don’t enjoy in Ireland. Two local choirs joined us in the square of the little town of Omišalj. The applause was generous, and despite the difficulty of the local language for us, we found Ireland had a bigger profile than we expected. Sadly, Croatia has lost half a million of its 4½ million in recent years. Ireland it seems, has become the destination of many. The name of our city and their island, C-O-R-K and K-R-K was commented upon. Post-concert, informal singing and grub, Alen our excellent guide brought us on an “in-the-dark” tour of the town, his home. The late hour lent its magic to the lanes, buildings and spaces of a very pretty time-warped town.

For our second outing, we headed to the mainland, to Rijeka, Croatia’s third largest city. After practice, practice, practice we finally made it to Carnegie Hall, for that indeed was the venue as we sang for the Slovenian minority community in their club venue. The full hall, reminiscent of the “halla” in my own school, made us feel at ease. Trasna na dTonnta wooed them early in our recital, and we gave them of our best. Once again we were warmly welcomed and fed, and the unexpected connections with Ireland were explored. With one more public performance to come, we had an early night, but not before rearranging our music for our church performance the following day.

Krk Cathedral has been a space for Christian worship for 15 centuries with features that represent each milestone in that time span. We sang the Lord’s praises as Laidin, as Gaeilge agus as Béarla. The congregation were later our audience, immediately after Mass, and we gave them a short recital.

Afterwards, our parched throats led us to “Titanic”, a bar and pizza spot by the pathway that led from the walled town of Krk to our hotel. With no icebergs in sight it was a wise choice. Individual party pieces were let fly with impromptu harmony, giving soloists a supported, if rocky ride. With duty done, Monday beckoned, with a 5 hour sea cruise among the islands. Two swimming stops along the way made it the perfect post performance release. A special bonus was our sighting of a griffon vulture with its wingspan of almost 3 metres, and its demanding chick. Long may this endangered bird be free to float above us.

With the food so good and pounds being gained, we all resolved to be active on the long shaded walks in temperatures hitting 30 degrees, or spending more time enjoying the salty water experience. Further visits to “Titanic” called forth Plans B, and C, as no party piece was allowed a repeat. The growing sense of comradeship among the choir made it possible to enjoy any meal or outing with any random members and feel perfectly at ease. With our Euro worth 7 Kuna it was difficult to get rid of one’s spending money. We tried a little harder and just about managed to shed our “funny” money.

Then suddenly we found ourselves mentally packing and gearing up for the return trip. With little extra weight by purchase, may I now inform Ryanair that we may have boarded with extra carry-on weight!!!

Our Croatian driver loaded us up, and off we headed once more for Zadar Airport. Alternatively the most barren, rocky landscape could give way to lush growth and harvests to come. The stone walls of Connemara are works of art in comparison with the mounds of Croatian rock walls that speak of surplus of rock and lack of inspiration.

At the Airport, the greeting that our flight was delayed struck some as an overture to worsening bad news to follow. Thankfully we got away in just under an hour late. Once we landed in Dublin it took us a while longer to come down from the natural “high” of our trip. Yes, we are back, but our photos, recordings and especially our memories will keep Krk 2019 in a warm and special place in our hearts.

le Seán Ó Callanáin

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