Caoimhe Madigan, second from right, receives her scholarship cheque from the Murphy family and sponsor Ken Barrett. Also in the photo is Molly Tobin, right.

Ashling: ‘Every person she met was enriched by her’

The first Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann Ashling Murphy Scholarship winners received their awards at a poignant ceremony in St Paul's Church, Mullingar on Friday evening.

Comhaltas established the scholarships to recognise and remember the talent and legacy of the late Ms Murphy, a popular teacher and performer. The awards, which are worth €2,000 to the recipients, were presented at the National Folk Orchestra Concert on Friday August 5 in St Paul’s Church, by Ashling's parents Ray and Kathleen, her sister Amy and sponsor Ken Barrett. Ashling was a valued and much loved member of the National Folk Orchestra.

Speaking at the ceremony, CCE director general Labhrás Ó Murchú said that Ashling had a profoundly positive impact on those she met.

“The word celebration in the context of Aisling Murphy is very, very important. Every person she met, was enriched by her, genuinely enriched. There was a great connection she had with people.

“All of the people she met through Comhaltas, there is a sense within them that Ashling’s name will never be far from their lips or our heart.”

Mr Ó Murchú also explained that the purpose of the scholarship programme "is to help people who are deprived or challenged in anyway, and music has a particular role in that regard".

"There is seldom sorrow where music is being played and its influence cannot be underrated," he said.

Ashling was also remembered at the official opening of the Fleadh Cheoil on Sunday, when President Michael D Higgins acknowledged people from the traditional Irish music who had passed in recent years.

He said: “Let us take the opportunity at this gathering to think of those music makers we sadly lost during the pandemic, including Denis Cahill, Paddy Maloney of The Chieftains, and the accordion player Tony McMahon, to name but just three of quite a company of people that we lost, who had generously given their lives and their music to us all.

“And given where we are, let us remember too, the lovely Ashling Murphy, the young Irish primary school teacher and generous traditional Irish musician who was taken from us earlier and so tragically."

The first Scoláireachtaí Ashling Murphy was awarded to Lisa Ward (31), who is from Leitrim and living in Dublin 13. She has been a primary school teacher for nine years after receiving her Bachelor of Education from Mary Immaculate College, UL, 2012. Lisa also holds an MA Irish Traditional Music Performance from the Irish World Academy of Irish Music and Dance, UL in 2013. She plays fiddle, tin-whistle, flute and piano. She won the senior All-Ireland Fiddle competition 2010. She has two solo albums, is an adjudicator at county, provincial and All Ireland level. She also teaches at many summer schools across the world.

Lisa’s project is based on community connections and providing access to the traditional arts for disadvantaged and minority groups in Dublin.

The second Ashling Scholarship was awarded to Caoimhe Madigan. Caoimhe began playing traditional music at the age of four, when she started Feadóg at the Seamus Ennis Centre in The Naul. Caoimhe was music captain and music student of the year at secondary school, as branch youth officer she received the Gradam na nÓg award for exceptional services to Comhaltas. She started teaching music at the age of 15 and now teaches individual and group lessons. She is currently in her final year at St Pat’s, Drumcondra studying music and religion.

Caoimhe’s project is to develop a curriculum specifically for young students with intellectual or sensory disabilities who cannot access mainstream lessons.

The final scholarship was awarded to Jason McGuinness from Dromore West in Sligo. Jason is a renowned fiddle player with a keen interest in the musical heritage of his home county. He has won several All-Ireland titles on fiddle, drums, duet, céilí band and Grúpa Ceoil and most recently the All-Ireland Senior Fiddle Competition at Fleadh Fest 2021. He is the first Sligo winner since 1970 of the prestigious Fiddler of Dooney competition. Jason’s project is a detailed study into the music of west Sligo.

The Sligo County Fleadh is scheduled to take place in west Sligo in 2023 and this is the perfect setting to launch and develop this proposal.