It was just great seeing my good friend Tom Sweeney, his wife Frances, and their beautiful daughter Fionnula, whom I had met for the first time. Tom's sister Anne and her husband Viv were with us all week, handling things on the ground and tickets at the door for the evening performances.

Tuesday, we went to Navan Fort, the land of legends and myths of Cuchulain (pronounced Koo-hull-in), Conchobar (pronounced Kon-or) mac Nessa , Emain Macha (pronounced Ev-in Mah-ha), and the Red Branch Knights. This area of history, where the legends and myths often flow together, was beautiful, and the multimedia presentation was very educational. Peter Makem, Poet and Author, gave a short lecture then we could explore the centre and the fort outside. Unfortunately I was so wrapped up in the multimedia, I ran out of time to go outside. On a really sad note, Navan Fort is closed to the public due to lack of funding. This presentation was a beautiful history of the origins of the Celts.

Navan Fort is only about five years old and it is absolutely preposterous that there is no funding available to keep this centre open. Thousands of pounds had been spent developing the centre and surrounding area, and now no one can enjoy the fruits of those efforts. It is only by special request that those in charge, can open the doors for groups such as ours.

Tuesday evening, Peter Clark drove us by coach to the Ti Chulainn Centre in Mullaghbawn in South Armagh. Enroute to the Centre, several persons on the coach, saw British soldiers with guns patrolling the road. I was on an inside seat and did not see them, however, hearing about them made the hair on the nape of my neck curl more.

This evenings' entertainment, 'Invasions & Legacies' was written and performed by Tommy Makem, and accompanied by Rory Makem on guitar. It was a production in verse and song about the invasions of Ireland from earliest times.. It was another fantastic night of learning.
Father & Son, Rory and Tommy Makem with "Invasions & Legacies" at Ti Chulainn
We were all very impressed with Ti Chulainn Centre. The centre is utilized by the community for a variety of functions. The children's artwork is displayed throughout, and shields are beautifully decorated. There was a replica of the Ballykeel Dolmen, and a Stone Circle outside the centre, with the Slieve Gullion Mountains in the background.
On Wednesday we had a delightful drive and Cultural Tour of South Armagh with local Historian and Author, Hugh Murphy. He was quite informative as we visited many sites in the area. As you viewed the beautiful crests of the mountains, there, on top, were the British Watch Towers, very unsightly and a spoiler to the fantastic natural beauty. We stopped off for lunch at the Slieve Gullion Courtyard and were entertained by two local musicians. After lunch we had the option to climb the Slieve Gullion Mountain or take the coach into Newry for a shopping excursion. In the meantime, I was trying to coordinate an interview with some folks I had previously contacted, but we just weren't able to get it together. So I missed the mountain climb and opted for shopping in Newry, which was just fine.
Slieve Gullion Mountains, a view from Ti Chulainn
Armagh Watch Tower, an eye sore on top of the mountain
Ring of Gullion
local musicians in the Slieve Gullion Courtyard
Ballykeel Dolman, Patty from Milwaukee is underneath

Wednesday evening, prior to the concert with Different Drums of Ireland, I conducted an interview with Roy Arbuckle, leader of the band. The group is based in Derry and has an interesting story. They started out in 1991 as a cross community project, which was very successful. They combine a mix of drums with the bodhran, lambeg, snare, bongo, a few others, and created a new drum, called the long drum, then add to the mix, the uillean pipes, tin whistle, guitar, and vocals. They have created a very unique sound. Since that time they have changed personnel a bit, and have performed internationally. Roy is very highly regarded in the music industry. Along with his knowledge and expertise, he brings a good bit of wit and humor into the equation.

After this interview, while sitting in the hotel lobby, I met a beautiful young redheaded boy, James Emmet Taggert. He is the son of Michelle Gildernew, MP, MLA Fermanagh / South Tyrone, and James Taggert. Michelle was in Pittsburgh in March 2001 where I had the opportunity to interview her, and have dinner at a friendís home the next day. We were delightfully surprised to see each other. We had a good chat, and it was refreshing to meet James Emmet, who is a gorgeous, very happy baby.

Entertainment for the evening included Different Drums of Ireland, Na Dorsa, and the Armagh Rhymers. Each group was unique and very different from each other. After the show that evening, Roy and I talked for a very long time exchanging various points of view on the Northern Ireland situation. Perhaps we enlightened each other, but no matter, it was an extraordinary conversation.

The Armagh Rymers
Learning, Myself and Roy Arbuckle of Different Drums of Ireland

Thursday we had another fantastic tour with Catherine and Tommy Sands through the Mourne Mountains. Just as in Percy French's song, 'The Mountains of Mourne' , they really do sweep down to the sea. Beautiful! We also drove through Newry, Warrenpoint, Rostrevor, and the seaside town of Kilkeel. Through some of the towns we saw the curbsides painted red, white and blue along with Union Jack flags hanging about. Any of the residents we encountered throughout our touring, were all so very nice and accommodating.

Thursday evening our entertainment took place at the Belleek Country House for 'Keepers of the Tradition'. Peter Makem Emceed the evening, in honor and recognition of the talent and contribution to the music makers and verse writers, which included Sean O'Riada, Norman Buchan, Sam Henry and Patrick McVerry. Members of their families accepted the Certificates of Award and each gave a short speech acknowledging the contribution. Mr. Frank Feeley, Newry and Mourne Council Chairman, very hospitably greeted all the visitors with Tommy Makem.. Afterwards we were treated to a delicious buffet dinner of Irish Stew, and beverages. The music for the evening included The Makem Brothers, The Spain Brothers and Kevin Byrne. When these six talented young men joined their voices and instruments together, they became a dynamic sound.

Friends, Diane, Rory Makem, Maureen Strotmeyer (winking at everyone)
Jim Laffey and Lord Mayor, Frank Fahey at Belleek Country House for "Keepers of the Tradition"
The Gang, Jim & Maureen Laffey Maureen Strotmeyer, Me and Paul from NC
Taste of Home, Rolling Rock Beer from Ligioneer, Pa. served at Armagh City Hotel
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Liam Spain, Rory & Shane Makem leading another session