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Happy Birthday to Bill McEvoy - the founding father of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann North America

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Happy Birthday, Bill McEvoy!
I want to wish a very happy 90th birthday to Bill McEvoy from Co. Laois who reached that milestone on January 19 this year.  

McEvoy is known as the founding father of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann North America because of his efforts since 1972 to foster and grow the cultural movement in both the U.S. and Canada to become one of sixth provinces of CCE, including the four in Ireland and Britain. 

He and his Kerry-born wife Lilly have reared nine children since immigrating to New York in 1954, but not before becoming involved in the nascent days of Comhaltas around Dublin in the early 1950s. 

In 1972, working in conjunction with Labhras O’Murchu and Diarmuid O’Cathain, he strung together a network of venues for a visiting concert tour from Ireland that would spawn a number of CCE branches upon the spine of the declining Irish Musicians Association at that time.

The concert tours in the days before emails and the Internet were a job for long-distant telephone and good faith conversations and agreements, and the well-respected and visionary Laois man had the goods to pull that off.

As a result thousands of Irish Immigrants were able to see many of the finest traditional musicians and dancers Ireland had to offer for many of the early years of the tour. 

With steady leadership he guided North America to provincial status in 1992 at the first official CCE North American convention in Montreal, and he served as its first provincial chair until 1997 when he turned the reins over to Hughie Smith, the then chairman of the Mulligan Quinn branch in Mineola, Long Island of which McEvoy was a founding member.

It is fitting that the Mulligan Quinn branch (named for two of McEvoy’s closest friends in Irish music, Louis Quinn, Sr. and Colm Mulligan) will honor his birthday this Sunday the 27th with a ceili from 5-8:30 p.m. featuring musicians, Sean Quinn, James Keane and Niall Mulligan and other guest musicians.

Along with dances and craic and nostalgic reminiscences there will be coffee, tea, cake and sandwiches hosted by the oldest branch in CCE North America. Call Pat Kearney at 631-698-3305 or email mulliganquinn@hotmail.com.

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