Four inducted at Celtic Music Hall of Fame ceremony
“Celtic Glengarry, thanks.” With those three simple words, Gerry O’Neill received a standing ovation at the Glengarry Celtic Music Hall of Fame’s 15th induction dinner, which took place Friday evening at the Bonnie Glen Pavilion.
Mr. O’Neill, who lives in Greenfield, was one of four individuals to be inducted into the hall that evening. His friend and fellow musician, Paddy Kelly, said in his introduction that Gerry “was larger than life; no one could fill up a room like Gerry.”
Originally from Ireland, Mr. O’Neill emigrated to Canada in the 1970s before eventually settling in Glengarry county, where he quickly became an integral part of the area’s musical fabric. His finesse on the fiddle made him a popular member of many local groups – Fiddler’s Choice, Fiddler’s Elbow, McMartin Fiddle – and, indeed, was admired by so many musicians that several of them made the trek to the Bonnie Glen Pavilion just to be with him on this date.
Although Mr. O’Neill’s list of past performances is an extensive one – he’s played at the Glengarry Highland Games as well as numerous concerts, dances, weddings and funerals – he was largely a spectator
on Friday evening, watching as friends paid tribute to him with a number of late-night musical performances, including a rendition of one of Mr. O’Neill’s trademark pieces, Hector The Hero.
Mr. O’Neill wasn’t the only inductee to inspire a performance during the ceilidh that immediately followed the induction ceremony.
The St. Andrew’s- based Highland dance teacher Ellen
Cameron Maloney saw a large contingent of her own young dance students take the stage too.
Ms. Maloney was introduced by her friend, Jacqueline Fraser, who wasted very little time lauding all of her dancing achievements. As a dancer, Ms. Maloney won championships at the local, provincial, and international levels. In her 46 years of teaching, she has produced five world champions, 17 na-
tional champions, and more than 30 provincial champions. On three different occasions, she was honoured as being the best teacher in the province and has even inspired some of her students to open up dance studios of their own.
In her acceptance speech, Ms. Maloney thanked her family for allowing her to pursue her passion.
She also paid tribute to the late Highland dance teacher
Rae MacCulloch – who was inducted into the hall in 2004 - saying that it’s an honour “to be placed in the hall with Rae MacCulloch, who was also a great teacher.”
There were two more inductees who were inducted posthumously.
One of them was Duncan Alexander Macdonell, who was inducted for nearly three decades of promoting Scottish and Celtic music – a large part of it from his 19-year tenure as owner/ operator of the Atlantic Hotel in Alexandria. When the liquor laws were changed in the early 1960s, Mr. Macdonell was among the first hotel operators to bring in live entertainment. The Atlantic quickly became a hub for music lovers; Mr. O’Neill credits him for being one of the first promoters of Celtic music in Glengarry.
Mr. Macdonell’s introduction came from his granddaughter,
Leah Macdonell, who says her granddad’s love of Celtic music inspired her to learn to play the bagpipes. She noted that she will be married this summer in St. Raphael’s, which is where her grandfather was born and where he is buried.
“I know that Duncan will be smiling down from above and that him and my ancestors will be having their own Ceilidh.”
Duncan Donald MacSweyn was also inducted.
Born in 1871 in the former Kenyon Township, Mr. MacSweyn was remembered as a favourite singer at church socials, funerals, community concerts, house parties, and fundraisers.
During the tough years of two world wars, a depression and countless community tragedies, Mr. MacSweyn – known as Duncie – was a “beacon of joy, helping the community stay strong through the preservation of the Gaelic song,” according to the induction ceremony program.
Mr. MacSweyn was introduced by his great- grandaughter, Tammy MacSweyn, who brought laughter when talking about how Duncie liked to travel everywhere by horse.
“Granddad would have been honoured to be selected,” she said.
Just before the induction ceremony took place, it was announced that Sherrill Trottier, who has been treasurer of the Glengarry Celtic Music Hall of Fame since 2003, is retiring from that position.
INDUCTEES: Friday evening’s ceremony at the Bonnie Glen Pavilion saw four new inductees enter the Glengarry Celtic Music Hall of Fame. At left are Dwayne Macdonell (accepting on behalf of his father, Duncan Alexander Macdonell), Kent MacSweyn...
AN ENTERTAINING EVENING: Ellen Cameron Maloney’s Highland dancers pose for a picture before taking to the stage for Friday evening’s Ceilidh, which concluded the Glengarry Celtic Music Hall of Fame’s induction ceremony.