Portarlington Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann is proud to present the Bridge Ceili Band in concert in Saint Paul’s Church, French Church Street, Portarlington on Saturday night 7th December.
The band was formed on Thursday 7th May 1970 at the Girl’s Club on Foxcroft Street in Portarlington.
Its members came from a twenty-four mile radius of the town.
The band had been brewing for a long time before 1970.
The late Seán Ryan (a well known composer of Irish music and an All-Ireland champion fiddle player in the 1950s) had a céilí band of his own named after him in the area, but it disbanded around 1966.
The members of the Seán Ryan Céilí Band were drifting in and out of other bands and they always had the dream of resurrecting Seán Ryan’s band.
After much prompting from the late Martin Fallon, who was one of the founding members of the Bridge Céilí Band, the new band was formed.
The band was called The Bridge Céilí Band because the leader Eugene Nolan came from Monasterevin, which is noted for its bridges, and in particular the Pass Bridge, at the foot of which Eugene Nolan lived when the band was formed.
The band won the Leinster Fleadh Cheoil only five weeks after they were formed.
The band next went on to win the All-Ireland that year in Listowel. Martin Fallon (R.I.P.) a native of Roscommon was a fiddle player in that All-Ireland team.
The other fiddle players were Denis Ryan from Offaly and Maura Connelly also from Offaly, Tony Coen who was a native of Galway and Tom Aherne (R.I.P.) from Laois. The accordion player was Ellen Comerford from Offaly.
On piano was Pat O’Meara a native of Tipperary. The flute players were Joe Smullen from Offaly and Eugene Nolan from Kildare. The drummer was Jim (The Hopper) McGrath (R.I.P.) from Offaly.
In 1972 Denis Cahill became the band’s drummer. Denis had played with the GallowglassCéilí Band. In 1973 Joe Smullen left and Patsy Hanley joined in his place. In 1974 Tony Coen left and Robert Gleeson joined.
The Bridge Céilí Band have entered the Fleadh Cheoil Céilí Band competition a number of times. They have won the competition six times - 1970, 1973, 1974, 1992, 1996 and 1998; they came second in 1971 and 1995 and third in 1972, 1975, 1990 and 1991.
Apart from the band’s success in competition they have performed frequently on R.T.E. radio and television and at concerts and céilí’s throughout Ireland. They have entertained at the prestigious Bank of Ireland G.A.A. All-Stars banquet and three members of the band, Denis Ryan, Robert Gleeson and Eugene Nolan have visited the U.S.A. and Britain on Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann tours.
The Bridge will joined on the night by balladeer Michael Ryan, singers Aoife & Mairead Good and All Ireland musicians & singers from Portarlington’s Ceoltoiri Na nOg Music Class. Proceeds of the concert will be donated to the Church heating fund installation. Tickets €10.00 available from any member of the Portarlington Comhaltas branch or by ringing 087 947 2299. Doors open at 7.30pm concert commences at 8pm.