On Friday 20 March 2015, President Michael D. Higgins and Mrs Sabina Higgins visited Kilfenora to open formally the Kilfenora Céilí Band Parlour – a permanent multi-media exhibition located in The Burren Centre that tells the story of North Clare music and its internationally famous traditional music band (106 years old and counting!)
This was the last fixture of a long day of visiting County Clare locations, starting with his old school St. Flannan’s. Nonetheless the Uachtarán na hÉireann and his wife gave generously of their time, meeting and chatting with Kilfenora locals and posing for innumerable photographs.
As the Presidential couple entered the Burren Centre they were greeted by a mighty blast of tunes from Kilfenora Céilí Band musicians past and present – including Ita Foley (née Mulqueeney) and Frank O’Mahony from the 1950s band, TG4 Lifetime Achievement (Gradam Ceoil) winner Chris Droney, and Michael Kelleher, Peter Griffin, Michael Butler and PJ Murrihy who played with the band over many decades.
Bandleader John Lynch gave the President and Mrs. Higgins a copy of the band’s new CD “Now is the Hour”, and then guided them around the exhibition, where they also met members of the Burren Centre committee.
After an introductory speech by Johnny Keane, the President then addressed an audience of Kilfenora locals in Irish and English – paying tribute to Brian Mooney who was instrumental in creating the Burren Center in 1975 and ending with rousing praise for the exhibition and for the contribution of the Kilfenora Céilí Band to Irish culture.
Following brief contributions from Burren Centre manager Frances Connole and MC John Morgan, Marion Kelly presented the Uachtarán na hÉireann with a sculpture created by exhibition contributor Bill Rothwell that reflected Kilfenora, its music and the Burren – and John Lynch presented Mrs Higgins with a bouquet of flowers.
After that the President and his wife mingled with the crowd over some food and drink, before finally departing for Dublin.
Thanks are owed to all the Kilfenora residents who worked so hard to facilitate arrangements for the presidential visit, starting with the Burren Centre staff and committee, and also exhibition designer Andy Lambert and photography contributors Liam Hogan and Key Hideki-Nakao who provided further photography and video services on the day. A selection of photographs may be viewed here.