A life immersed in education and traditional music in Offaly
As part of its efforts to highlight the need for a new community centre on the site of the old Macra Hall in Killeigh, the development committee has been putting together profiles of local people. ATTRACTA BRADY, a teacher at the Sacred Heart in Tullamore, is the latest to be featured.
PROFILE: ATTRACTA BRADY
"Wednesday, August 11, 1965, was the day Eileen and John Brady welcomed twins into their lives. The only issue was that they didn’t know they were having twins. I was born first and, ten minutes later, my surprise sister Lelia made her grand entrance into the world.
As a twin I was never alone, never had to look for company, always had to share, and (almost) always had to wear the same clothes. That part was funny because I looked at least two years older than Lelia and was about 5 inches taller.
My childhood was idyllic. My earliest memory is of watching Daddy hurling in an Offaly jersey. Other memories I enjoy are of watching the runners at Killeigh Sports, where the sun was always shining, and the little girls with the flower petals walking up the long aisle of the old Church at Corpus Christi processions.
How I dreamed of being one of those girls in the lovely white dresses! The new church was opened in September 1971 and my class was the first group to receive our first communion there in 1972.
We lived in Finter, the land commission house that was built in 1933 and where Daddy had been born. Granny and Grandfather Brady were still there at that time. Grandfather died in 1966 and Granny died in 1976. The Brady family has been in the Killeigh area since the late 1700s, and I feel a great connection with all of my ancestors that lived in Graigue, Finter and Killeenmore.
The farm was where it all happened – I milked the cows and took great pride in getting the froth on the top of the milk in the bucket. I fed the calves and spoilt some of them so that they would follow me around the field. I loved the farm work and hated the housework.
Killeigh national school was where the GAA changing rooms are now. I was excited about going to school and ran in without a backward look on my first day. I loved school and would regularly do extra work just because it was interesting to me. Secondary school was every bit as enjoyable. Lelia and I attended the Sacred Heart in Tullamore.
Sr Dolores was the principal and was at all times kind and considerate to us. She encouraged initiative and gave me the go-ahead when I was in third year to get an old statue of the Blessed Virgin repainted. She was quite heavy to carry all the way to Marian Place, where Peter Fox redecorated her and didn't charge me a penny.
I attended UCD in the 80s and studied Gaeilge and Geography for my BA. I achieved my H Dip in Ed in 1987 and so began my teaching career. I first taught with Offaly VEC, then moved to Dublin, where I taught for six years, before moving back to my Alma Mater in 1994. I teach there to this day.
In 2006 I took study leave and attended the University of Limerick to do my MA in music performance, where I was delighted to achieve first class honours. Teaching has been very good to me, and I have met many students who motivated and inspired me. When I see young people, I see the future of our country and I can say with confidence that we are in safe hands with the fantastic young people that are in our lives.
Music, in particular Irish traditional music, formed a central part of our lives in Finter. Daddy played flute and whistle. Mammy played accordion. Lelia played whistle and fiddle (she now is an accomplished concertina player). John junior played flute, whistle and bodhrán. Adrian played whistle, flute and piano, and I played whistle, flute and fiddle. The four siblings still play music and all nine grandchildren are musicians as well.
I started the whistle when I was four years old, graduated to the fiddle at eight or nine. I don’t ever remember starting the flute. I just remember taking the F flute that stood in a brass flowerpot holder in the sitting room and playing it. The flute was to become my first instrument, winning 6 out of 11 All Ireland titles on it, from underage to senior.
Daddy was the biggest influence and inspiration for me as a musician. Even now he never fails to come into my mind when I play music, especially when I play one of his many compositions.
Music has been my ticket to many countries. It has been my great privilege to perform for dignitaries and heads of state in many countries including England, Scotland, Wales, Germany, USA, Canada, South Korea, Brazil and Lesotho.
I was a member of the group that accompanied President Mary Robinson on her first ever state visit to Portugal. I performed in Áras an Uachtaráin on three occasions, and met with President Mary McAleese, and I had the honour of meeting President Michael D Higgins on a number of occasions, even having supper with him once!
I've always loved playing music in sessions and I suppose it was inevitable that I would meet my future husband at a session. It happened in Tullamore in 1995, although I didn’t recognise it at the time!
Ned O’Connor is from Kilcormac and even though he has KK GAA running through his veins, he found time to become an accomplished bodhrán player. Our daughter Róisín plays flute, fiddle and piano and also plays camogie with St Sinchell's club. St Sinchells displays the Killeigh Crest that Johnny Brady created in the late 80s and Marie Louise McEnroe designed.
Comhaltas is the organisation to which I owe many of my achievements and successes. I’ve held many positions within Comhaltas and have represented it at many events including at committee level in Leinster House.
Killeigh Comhaltas was founded in 1968 in the old school hall by my father and mother. The branch was the host of Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Tullamore in 2007, 2008 and 2009. I had always dreamed of having the fleadh in Tullamore and I was immensely proud to head up and chair three great Fleadhanna. They are still regarded as some of the best Fleadhanna Ceoil ever to take place. The county fleadh was held on a number of occasions in Killeigh and each one was a unique success.
Life for me is now in Cloncon, where Ned, Róisín and I live. I'm immensely proud to say I'm from Cill Aichidh Droma Fada Dhá Shinchill – the Church of the Field of the Longridge of the two Sinchells. I’m delighted to see that the Macra Hall is being developed for the community by the community. I congratulate all the hardworking members who have the vision and I wish everyone success with this great project. Go n-éirí go geal libh.
*Killeigh Community Centre Development Association needs your support! If you would like to be in with a chance of winning a fantastic new three-bedroom house in Enfield valued at €355,000 and support our fundraising efforts, please visit www.winahouseinenfield.com. A bonus draw is now running where you have a chance to win €3,000 in cash and 10 free tickets if you buy your ticket by September 19."