Though next week is labeled Holy Week on the ecclesiastical calendar, I fear that holy matters will have to take a back seat for Leitrim folks in the Big Apple. The Leitrim football team is traveling across the pond to battle New York in the first game of the Connacht Championship on Holy Saturday, April 8. 

Leitrim manager Andy Moran will be hoping that his lads take care of business, while his counterpart John McGeeney and his Big Apple brigade are adamant that this could finally be their year to get their first victory in the Connacht Championship. Time will tell.

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Posted by New York GAA on Thursday, March 9, 2023

Hordes of Leitrim supporters will be traveling for the game, and the area encompassed by the juxtaposition of McLean and Katonah Avenues and once dubbed “Little Leitrim” by an Irish journalist will have full houses as spare rooms, basements, and attics will be maximally occupied. 

In times past, the rambling house was an important community element in Leitrim and in rural Ireland in general. It was a house where locals gathered to pass long nights and entertained themselves with stories, song, and dance before modern technology arrived.

The famed seanchai (storyteller) Eamon Kelly summed up the roles of the rambling house by noting that the affairs of the day were debated, entertainment was mingled with education and the setting was generally suffused with a good dollop of gossip. In a way, we have to be grateful to rambling houses for passing on traditional lore, music, stories, history, and heritage from one generation to another.

On the evenings of April 6 and 7, the present-day Rambling House, located at 4292 Katonah Avenue in the Woodlawn section of the Bronx, will certainly be fulfilling the traditional roles of rambling houses from long ago, of course without the heart fire. The genial Joe Carty, a native of Aughavas, is the fear an tí or the proprietor. It’s no bother to him to spin a good yarn, and you could easily be the butt of it.

So if you wish to learn more about Leitrim’s role in the nation’s history, its deep musical traditions, and perhaps its ever-growing business opportunities, the Rambling House is the place to be on Holy Thursday and Good Friday.

On Thursday, April 6, there will be a two-pronged presentation starting at 8 pm called “Leitrim’s Cultural Night in the Big Apple” which will focus on Leitrim’s history and musical heritage. 

Though Leitrim would be regarded as having a modicum of success on the playing fields, the county has certainly punched away above its weight on the nation’s battlefields. Dr. Padraic McGarty, a senior lecturer in public policy at the Institute of Technology, Tralee, will deliver a lecture on the impact of World War I, the War of Independence, and the Civil War pertaining to Leitrim. 

McGarty is a native of Mohill and the author of a recently published and highly acclaimed book titled Irish Revolution-Leitrim 1912 to 1923. Reviewers have noted that it is “extremely well researched and a masterful review on Leitrim’s role in the history of Ireland during the revolutionary period.”

Granted the sacrifice of Sean Mac Diarmada and the heroism of the combatants of the War of Independence have been chronicled, but the actions or atrocities of the Civil War were a taboo subject during my time in school. Well, with Irish men killing each other, it was hard to stomach, especially since the English had been doing it for over 800 years.

Suffice it to say if you wish to get a good grasp of Leitrim’s role in the nation’s robust struggle at the beginning of the 20th century, blemishes included, don’t miss McGarty’s presentation, and he will gladly entertain any questions that you might have.

Following the history presentation, Fionnuala Maxwell will take center stage and enthrall the house with an ensemble of music, song, and dance. She is a native of Dromod, a former All-Ireland-winning soloist, and a traditional Irish singer, tutor, and composer who has built up a very extensive repertoire over the last 30 years. She is fiercely committed to preserving and promoting older Irish songs that have almost become extinct. 

Also performing will be members of the Mulligan-Quinn and Killoran-Clancy-Whelan Mid Atlantic Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann branches with Leitrim’s CCE featuring All-Ireland traditional singer Josephine McNamara. Incidentally, she will be presented with a special Gradam na hEigse award in recognition of her efforts for promoting our culture through song and dance. So the Rambling House will certainly be lively on Thursday night.

Leitrim CCÉ joins forces with Mulligan Quinn Comhaltas Branch and CCÉ Killoran-Clancy-Whelan in the Rambling House, the...

Posted by Leitrim CCÉ on Monday, March 20, 2023

Martin McHugh, another man with a good story to tell, will also be in the Rambling House. He was the goalkeeper when Leitrim won the Connacht Championship in 1994, and though now in his early 50s, he was the backup keeper for the victorious intermediate Aughnasheelin team in 2022. 

McHugh fought many battles along the goal line and around the square, but his biggest battles were outside the white lines and off the field. He recently published a book, aptly titled "Born to Save," which highlights his battles with two different types of cancer, one diagnosed in 2009 and the other in 2015. So the evergreen, and Martin ever grateful that he’s got a second chance at life will be around for a chat and a chance to get his book and have it signed by a real hero. 

He’s the only active player from the ‘94 squad, and when you consider his life-threatening battles with the Big C, that’s absolutely astonishing. It speaks volumes about the character and resilience of the seemingly ageless and still agile keeper.

While rambling houses were generally places of entertainment and information, they were also places where deals and decisions were made. So in that vein, an event titled “A Location for Business Opportunity” will be staged on Good Friday from 5-6 pm to present Leitrim as a dynamic location to live, work and invest in. 

Guest speakers will include Brian Conroy, head of the IDA in North America; Lar Power, CEO of Leitrim County Council; and Keith Dimmock, principal architect of Cora Systems, Carrick-on-Shannon. 

For this event, Caitriona Clarke from JP Clarke’s will be the bean an tí or facilitator. A buffet will top off the evening. 

So the Rambling House, at the hub of Little Leitrim on Katonah Avenue, will be showcasing the county’s history and heritage and all the great things the lovely county has to offer. Hope to see you there!

*This column first appeared in the March 29 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.