Cahthaoirleach (Chair) of Comhaltas
Theresa shares her story about her journey with Comhaltas and Britain.
5th of March 2024
I started my journey with Comhaltas in Britain and at the oldest branch outside of Ireland. My branch is based in Glasgow and is called the Irish Minstrels. In 1979, my dad, Padraig, brought me along with my sister, Noreen, and brother, Frank. I started off with the whistle (Feadóg) then went on to learn the Flute (Feadóg Mhór). My mum, Margaret, got involved with the general admin of the branch, and has been the Gaelic Officer for many years, as well as previous involvement at Regional and Provincial level.
As a child, I loved being able to enjoy music making with my siblings and my dad. This continued on into my adulthood. When I was just 10 years old, I started teaching other children in my branch. The ability to be able to pass on the techniques and skills I learnt meant I was going full circle in my journey so far, and giving back to the community. I loved the nurturing and friendly ethos the Irish Minstrels branch of Comhaltas gave me. Another great memory was to be invited to help out at the first meeting of the St James the Great branch in Glasgow, and where I continued my friendship with my great friend and musician, Mairi Campbell.
Later on I also had the opportunity to compete as part of the senior ceili band, in Sligo, which was a memorable experience. Hence why I was keen to continue my affiliation with my branch, despite moving to London after I qualified as a nurse, to complete Intensive Care training.
In 1999, not long after I had Ciara, I adjudicated for the first time. This was at the Feis Glaschu, such a happy and positive competition, and stretched me as a musician.
In 2009, I was asked to join Comhaltas in Britain’s Music Sub Committee. This was the first time I was getting involved in more than teaching at my branch and Region. I went on to be Regional Cathaoirleach (Chair) of Scotland for 5 years. Then I became Las Cathaoirleach (Chair) of the Province. This was an opportunity to develop my knowledge of Comhaltas in Britain, and the workings of it.
In February 2020, I was fortunate enough to be elected to Cathaoirleach, the first female to be voted into that position. Within my first year, the world changed and Comhaltas in Britain had to adapt quickly, which , with the wonderful team around me , we did.
We called, emailed , wrote to and reached out to our members around the country. After the All-Britain Fleadh was cancelled due to lockdown, we ran an online event called the Feile which was hugely successful and made us feel connected in a world so disconnected from each other. After lots of discussion and collaboration with the members, we also produced our three-year strategy highlighting what we wanted to achieve in the organisation. I am very proud of the Comhaltas in Britain committee and recognise the amount of skill and friendly commitment which they give to the charity. We are also very fortunate to have Paddy, Elske and Erin , partly funded by the Irish Government, who go above and beyond to work so well with the Provincial Committee.
I still volunteer at my branch, Irish Minstrels, teaching baby beginner whistles, and I love the fact that I was able to join my children, Declan and Ciara, niece Siobhan, and nephews, Michael and Anthony, on their musical journey.
Comhaltas, and its membership and friends, has been supportive through the highs and lows of my life, and definitely enhanced my experiences. I still compete in the Senior Grupai Cheoil competition, as part of a fun group, including my sister on concertina, and I am still part of the Music Sub Committee. This year will see another challenge for me musically as I will be part of a new initiative in Scotland, Comhaltas in Britain strives to continue to diversify and evolve!
I’m so proud to be representing Comhaltas in Britain across the world and all the amazing work that is happening within each region and branch.