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Birthday honour for noted Clare musician

LEGENDARY Irish traditional musician, Belharbour’s  Chris Droney, will be honoured by the Clare Association in Dublin as its Clare Person of the Year for 2012. He will receive his award at the annual dinner dance of the association in the Carlton Hotel, Dublin Airport on February 4.

The association’s Hall of Fame award for 2012 will be presented to Pat and Neilas O’Doherty of Ballingaddy, Ennistymon, who have done tremendous work over the years, caring for children in Belarus and charity work in Africa.
Clare has earned the reputation as being the heartland of the Irish concertina and Chris Droney must be one of its greatest exponents. The latest honour bestowed by Muintir an Chláir in Dublin on the hugely popular North Clare man is a timely one, as it comes just days before he celebrates his 87th birthday on Wednesday next.
He told The Clare Champion this week that he was just eight-years-old when he held the instrument for the first time and has not stopped playing for the last 79 years.
When first introduced to the instrument, he was following in the footsteps of his grandfather and father, Jim. Chris’ grandfather, Michael, who was born in 1829 and died in 1927, purchased his first concertina, a German-made Hohner, when they first came on the market in the mid-1800s for the old price of two shillings and six pence.
Music has been in the Droney home for many years and in his younger days, Chris played at gatherings in Belharbour House, where he was born and still resides.
Practising at home and learning tunes from renowned traditional musicians who visited the Droney home over the years, Chris became an accomplished player and his talent was recognised at All-Ireland level, when he became the country’s senior accordion champion on nine occasions during the 1950s and 1960s.
He also played with a number of well-known céilí bands, among them the Kilfenora, Belharbour, Ballinakill, Aughrim Slopes and Kincora groups. He won further acclaim with the Four Courts Céilí Band over a period of 18 years.
Playing music in his own unique style, he has since entertained Irish and Clare communities all over the world and had the honour of entertaining international celebrities and heads of state on many occasions. His many recordings have won him worldwide acclaim, especially his second album, Fertile Rock.
Chris told The Clare Champion he is very happy to be the Clare Person of the Year and, no doubt, he will be asked to play a few tunes at his presentation function.
The night won’t carry the same risks as when he played the concertina on his first trip to America in 1952 for the marriage of his brother, Frank in Connecticut. He recalled their turboprop plane had to land in Newfoundland for refuelling at Gander Airport. When it was announced there would be an hour delay, they were asked to wait in the airport lounge. In deciding to play the concertina to pass the time away, he did not realise the reaction six nearby husky dogs with their sleighs would have.
According to Chris, “The music set them mad. They came crashing through the lounge knocking all tables, chairs and drinks before them and order was only restored when the music stopped.” It should be a much calmer affair next February.
The Clare Association in Dublin held a function at the Addington Lodge Hotel, Glasnevin last Friday night, at which chairman Liam O’Looney announced the award winners for 2012.


Clare Association Yearbook launched
A LOVELY Christmas stocking filler this festive season is the Clare Association in Dublin Yearbook, which was unveiled last Friday at the Addington Lodge Hotel, Dublin.
Former Clare Person of the Year, Brother Sean MacNamara, launched the 76-page publication.
The book includes an article by Tomás MacConmara, highlighting interviews with elderly people in the Clare area; Mary Crawford’s account of the Monreal and Monanagh ambushes and an article by Harry Hughes on the Willie Clancy Summer School with a tribute to founder member, the late Muiris Ó Rocháin. Clare Champion sports editor Seamus Hayes gives an account of Clare’s GAA highlights, while ’Champion reporter Peter O’Connell also writes about the new lease of life for Loop Head Lighthouse. Photographs by Paul Markham and a history of the Kilmurry McMahon parish by Br MacNamara are also among the highlights.
A cheque for €3,000, the proceeds from the Martin Corry Memorial Walk in Howth Hill last October, was also presented on the night to the Clare branch of Enable Ireland. The walk is organised by Muintir an Chláir to honour its late president and member for many years.
Gerry O’Reilly, PRO of the Clare Association in Dublin, said that despite poor weather conditions, participants enjoyed the beautiful scenery on the 10km journey. He said the organisation was delighted to make the presentation to the Clare branch of Enable Ireland, who provide essential support, therapy and services to children and adults with physical and sensory disabilities.
Dorothy Barry on behalf of Enable Ireland, expressed their gratitude to the Clare Association and Mary Corry, wife of the late Martin, for the cheque.

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