Dancing Master in Counties Derry, Tyrone and Donegal. Gentleman. Young at heart. Age is approximate!
25 November 2011, 18:03:57 From myles sweeney: "Eternal rest grant him Oh Lord."
07 May 2011, 22:30:08 From Maura O'Neill: "I came upon this lovely tribute to my old dancing master quite by chance. I have many happy memories from your dancing class and thanks for passing on your love of Irish dance to myself and so many others."
30 December 2010, 23:22:29 From Joe McGuiggan: "Thinking of you today Seamus on your first anniversary. Your spirit lives on."
13 April 2010, 15:17:41 From Audrey Gallagher: "you taught us all more than how to dance, you taught us lessons and skills we carry through our lives."
28 February 2010, 23:20:54 From Paul Wilson T.C.R.G.: "Go raibh maith agat a Sheamus, for all your sound advice, words of wisdom and encouragement for many years. Above all thank you for your friendship and many happy memories. You will be sorely missed. May God rest your gentle soul. Slan agus Beannacht. Pól Wilson, Chairperson Belfast Branch An Comhdháil"
28 February 2010, 13:46:59 From bernie veronica anderson: "thank you cousin for everything you done for us"
28 February 2010, 13:38:50 From peter Anderson: "Thank you for your present of snuff box"
28 February 2010, 13:36:07 From catherine anderson: "Thank you for all the times you performed for us in St. Joseph's Hosp,Stranorlar.CO.DONEGAL"
27 February 2010, 13:12:48 From Mona Doherty : "I was a pupil of Mr Kerrigan's in Dungannon and I have many happy memories of him. He was a strict master but a kind master. He expected high standards of behaviour from his dancers and taught us much more than jigs and reels - he taught us to be proud to be young Irish people. He gave us 'cúpla focal Gaeilge', told us about things such as 'an chrannóg'. He was a great lover of the traditional set dances and when he demonstrated 'Garden of Daisies' and 'The Blackbird', you could hear the tune from the rhythms of his feet. Most people dance in time to the music; when Mr Kerrigan danced, his feet made the music! Go ndeana Dia trocaire ar a anam uasal Gaelach! Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann!"
26 February 2010, 22:29:29 From Fionna Gordon: "I was a dancer from Belfast and was always in awe of Master Kerrigan. I can still picture him putting his dancers through their steps at the side of the stage. Seamus Kerrigan R.I.P"
01 February 2010, 19:48:43 From KATHLEEN MCCAY NEE KERRIGAN: "FOREVER IN OUR HEARTS & PRAYERS. YOUR COUSINS KATHLEEN MCCAY (NEE KERRIGAN) STRABANE & ROSE KERRIGAN CASTLEFIN."
24 January 2010, 16:14:37 From Joe McGuiggan: "Seamus, We mourn your passing but you have left a rich legacy which will inspire and be remembed for generations to come. Codladh sámh."
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This memorial page was created by Joe McGuiggan
Seamus was born in Castlefin, County Donegal. He learned his dancing from the famous Nellie Sweeney from Derry who in turn was taught by her father Myles. Myles was from the Milford area of Donegal and came to live in Derry circa 1889.
Visiting Seamus Kerrigan in his home in Draperstown,( must have been 1970), the three of us visitors slept overnight. What an imposition!!
When the information got around we were asked by many of his lady admirers: "did he use colouring, did you see any bottles on the shelves". His black hair was a constant wonder.
The last time I saw Seamus was at Alice Donnellys funeral. He stayed in Alice`s Restaurant on those days that he taught in Omagh. He was talking to a priest, a Fr. Mullan. I did not wish to interrupt and only wished him a pleasant hello. I regret not having spoken to him at length.
I have this to say: in all his years teaching boys and girls, he was ever most wholesome. In these dark days when so many idols have fallen, Seamus was always beyond reproach. Go ndeanaidh Dia trocaire ar a anam uasal.
I was always proud to say I danced for the Kerrigan school of irish dancing because Mr.Kerrigan always instilled that pride in us for our ability to keep alive the irish culture .personally he encouraged and supported me through my t.c .r.g exam and was always delighted when my dancers had success.We all miss him and thank him for the precious gift of dance he handed down to us.Go raibh maith agat Mr Kerrigan.
When Mary Robinson was chosen as President of Ireland, in her inaugural address to the nation from Aras an Uachtaran, she quoted from the words of W B Yeats ' I am of Ireland '
'I am of Ireland
And the Holy Land of Ireland
And time runs on ' cried she
'Come out of charity
Come dance with me in Ireland'
President Robinson was speaking to the Irish diaspora around the world to come and join in the dance of the Ireland of the day.
I have been invited to share a reflection on Mr. Kerrigan - who has enabled so many of us here today, and so many people now making up the Irish diaspora across the world - to join in the dance in Ireland and for Ireland.
We gather here in acknowledgement that the Lord of the Dance himself has invited Mr Kerrigan to come and join in the great dance of eternal life. I suppose you could say he has been called to dance at the Ceili Mór of Heaven.
Some people remember Mr. Kerrigan from their days working with him in the shirt factory, some will remember him from his days of auctioneering, something that he loved very much, especially as he had such a love of antiques himself - as he'd say say himself he'd be a great one for a bargain. I'm sure many of you were with him when he'd be paying for something; he'd always ask "Is that the best you can do?" and then as he'd hand over the money he'd say "Go easy on that now"!
But for most people Mr. Kerrigan will be remembered as our Irish dancing teacher. When the news spread quickly on Tuesday of Mr. Kerrigan's death so may commented: 'sadly that's the end of an era.' One man I met said: "not the end of an era but the end of 3 or 4 eras."
Teaching Irish dancing since 1942, Mr. Kerrigan has taught 3 or 4 generations in so many towns and villages throughout Tyrone and Derry, having first taught dancing in the Gaeltacht of North Donegal. And we know that he travelled over 'that mountain road' through Broughderg and Greencastle and continued teaching his class in Omagh up to the end of November with the assistance of Joan Conaghan, Mary Baxter and Olivia Daly.
The 'Seamus Kerrigan School of Irish Traditional Step and Figure Dancing' was born when he was invited to Omagh by the Christian Brothers, and since then he has been teaching in the schools and those of the Loreto Sisters. Throughout his life he has always acknowledged the great support he received from both Religious Communities - as children we all got to know about Mother Philomena and the various Christian Brothers from the stories he told.
Being a pupil of Mr. Kerrigan's dancing class was a bigger experience than learning to dance - somehow his primary aim was to instil in us a proud sense of being Irish boys and girls and that wherever we travelled in life that we would be worthy ambassadors of Ireland.
Lessons in life, and good behaviour, were integrated with the teachng of Irish dancing.
Probably something unique in Ireland, Mr. Kerrigan had a class for boys separate from the girls. At a young age it was easier for boys - we'd just come together for ceili dancing in preparation for feiseanna. Of course as we all got older it was hard to separate us and we would have preferred one class! It was certainly a successful method of ensuring a constant flow of boys for mixed teams in figure dancing. The girls might have thought that the boys got more attention from the Master but that was never true - everyone was treated the same!
Mr. Kerrigan had a great leaning towards team dancing because it created a wonderful spirit among the dancers. There is a great camaraderie and when a team wins, it is is a team effort and not just one person. Of course the School excelled in step dancing also, Mrs Bernie Groogan being the first of a line of All - Ireland champions.
Mr. Kerrigan's contribution to Irish dancing has undoubtedly been immense, and while he enjoyed producing champion step and figure dances and composing amazing dances like The Gold Ring, The Tara Brooch, The Forts of Ireland, The Hurling Boys, and more recently Carraig an Aifrinn, he was always particularly proud to have played a part in helping so may children develop into confident caring adults.
As we journeyed through the world of Irish dancing we got to know of the other legends who were Mr. Kerrigan's contempories and colleagues - the names of Miss Sweeney ( his own teacher) Brendan de Glynn, Miss Cora Caldwell, Miss Kane, Mr. Peter Bolton, Br. Pascal of Rossnowlagh, Miss Mulligan, and of course Miss Mary McLaughlin of Derry - always the big competitor in ceili dancing. In competition neither Mr Kerrigan nor Miss Mclaughlin would ever have been happy with anything but first prize for 'their teams'. Arch rivals on stage but great friends away from the Feis. They would have spoken on the phone almost every day - so often since Miss M'Laughlin's death Mr. Kerrigan would say " How I miss Mary"
Also we hold high regard for Mrs Rooney of Newry, Miss May Allen of Antrim, Miss Peg McTaggart of Newry, and of course Miss Anna McCoy of Belfast, Mr. Kerrigan's partner for Maggie Pickens. The old traditional set dance of Maggie Pickens was something Mr. Kerrigan loved and kept alive over the years. It was lovely to see him dancing it with Anne - Marie McGirr and Hugh McKenna ( two of his All - Ireland champions ) when hundreds of his dancers of many generations came together to celebrate 'Reeling back the years - the Kerrigan Way'
So for the Donegal man from Castlefinn who journeyed through life for 102 years ... no that can't be right! ... why was it that so many people wanted to know Mr. Kerrigan's age? Was it curiosity, because he himself was so elusive about it, or was it, as an article was entitled a few years ago - 'The Peter Pan of Irish Dancing'' - he taught for 67 years and appeared to many never to have changed? One one occasion about ten years ago someone asked his friend Hughie McKenna (senior) Mr. Kerrigan's age. Hughie (in his usual rascally way) said " I suppose he must be nearly 65 " The man said " Och your head, Kerrigan must be at least in his nineties"
Anyway .... for whatever number of years of life, Mr. kerrigan was a hardworking, good and kind man who touched the lives of so many, many people. He was a man of great character and great hospitality and how we all loved to gather in the kitchen for extra dance practices, knowing that they'd end up with tea in the china cup and saucer, and a generous helping of Mrs Hegarty's sponge cake and apple tart.
He was a perfectionist and a disciplinarian, attributes which served him well in his quest for excellence throughout the years. however alongside these attributes he always loved a bit of fun and light banter.
Even though he was a strict disciplinarian he was fair and understanding. I'd say there are few of his dancers who did not receive correction at one time or other. I remember my own experience of correction amd it was 1978, I was about 16 years of age ... at Letterkenny International Festival .... being caught smoking by Mr. Kerrigan and Br. Kelly .... for years later I was intoduced as the boy who elected Pope John Paul 2nd at Letterkenny.
The stories could go on and on and the stories will go on for many years to come - the involvement with St. Enda's G.A.A. and Scór Na N'og agus Senior Scór - the charity concerts, the trips to festivals around the world.
As Brendan McKenna said to me the other day and as so many have said since .. 'the likes of him we'll never see again.'
Mr. Kerrigan has left a great legacy - indeed he was a legend in his own lifetime and today we say thank you Mr. Kerrigan, and thank God for giving Ireland such a wonderful lover of its language, culture and dance.
Also, I invite all his dancers and associates to say together:
Go raibh maith agat Master Kerrigan
Go raigh maith agat Master Kerrigan
Dancing in BallinascreenSeamus with Eddie Kearney
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