Celebration at Castle Bay

THE celebration of the life and achievement of John Canavan, the Bard of Killycolpy, takes place at Castle Bay Community Centre, Brocagh, beginning on Friday 12th October with an evening of talk, theatre and music. Proceeds from the event are being donated to support the work of Sperrin View School, Dungannon.

John Canavan was born in the townland of Killycolpy on 27th August 1862. He attended Mountjoy National School and, later, Albany National School. He somehow managed to acquire an education which befitted him for life as a farmer’s son and as a commentator on the world of the loughshore. As an only son, he assumed the role of provider for his widowed mother Nellie and his sister Kate. While many of his friends and contemporaries boarded the emigrant ship for the United States, his calling was to remain a small farmer and a social commentator.

He had a gift for simple verse and a sharp eye for the natural world.

His name appeared in the pages of the Mid Ulster Mail in 1911 when he became involved in a veritable ‘battle of the bards’ with a gentleman from Castledawson. On Friday at 8.30 pm Marie Heaney will tell the fascinating story of Canavan versus Macauley. This will be followed by an ‘interview with John Canavan’ with the part of the poet being taken by Frank Fee, reviving a role he created some ten years ago. The evening promises to be particularly special because of the involvement of so many fine local singers who will perform many of Canavan’s compositions.

To allow people to see the world which John Canavan celebrated, a bus tour of ‘Canavan Country’ will journey through

the townlands of the lough shore under the guidance of Aidan Fee and Plunkett Teague.

The area is rich in history

and folklore and this tour will provide a unique opportunity for locals and visitors to enjoy their heritage. A coach will leave from Castle Bay Community Centre at 2.30 pm on Saturday 13th October and, for those more attuned to a Sunday jaunt, the tour will be repeated the following day at the same time, same place.

A night of traditional music and song organised by Clonoe and Coalisland branch of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann begins at 9.30 pm on Saturday in the Meeting Room at Castle Bay, and a feast of fine singing and playing is promised.

The Canavan weekend ends on Sunday 14th with an opportunity to remember the poet and his family and friends with a

special mention at 11.00 Mass in Mullinahoe, after which the memorial plaque will be rededicated. The

Comhaltas group will again be in action at Castle Bay from 8.30 pm with a night of singing.

Throughout the weekend, visitors to Castle Bay can discover lots about John Canavan and about the lough shore area by exploring the exhibition at the Community Centre. A particular feature of the display will be copies of historical maps of the district, which are on temporary loan from Stewartstown Local History Society.