Only on special occasions
I myself first became aware that there was a revival taking place, in December 1984, when, after a session of music at the Churchtown branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann in Dublin, I saw a notice pinned to the back of the door, which said there were set dancing classes being held at the De La Salle School hall in Churchtown on Tuesday nights. I wondered what it could be, would it be anything like the dancing and sets I had known many years before that, so I decided to go along and investigate. Little did I expect to find the teacher putting his class through their paces with the Plain Set - I was amazed, I had never seen so many people dancing the Plain Set before, and this was right in the heart of Dublin. To me, when I was growing up, the Plain Set was something special, not everybody in my neighborhood danced it, just because it was thought to be more complicated than the Caledonian, and it was only on special occasions and in certain company it would be danced at all. That night in the De La Salle hall was my first encounter with Connie Ryan, who was the dancing teacher, and over the following few years I was to learn from him such sets as The Lancers, The Orange and Green, and The Mazurka Set, all associated with Clare, and which I could vaguely remember my father speaking about, but had never seen danced before. Mrs. Crotty with a friendGoing back a little, to Dublin in the early 1960s, a group of Clare people, and I was very fortunate to be one of them, (the youngest member at the time), got together and decided to form a club where we could continue our music and dancing, which we missed very much since coming to live in the city. The club was called after Mrs. Crotty, a concertina player from Kilrush, in Co. Clare, and we met every Thursday night in a hall in Bridge Street, just up the hill from Ned O'Shea's Merchant public house, which is a very well known venue for music and set dancing at the present day [1994]. The sets we danced at the club were The Caledonian and Plain Sets - we didn't know any others, and we were quite happy with those two. We had some very memorable nights, and on one of those we had four Céilí bands to play for us, the Tulla, the Kilfenora, the Liverpool, and the Castle Céilí Bands, all of which were in Dublin for Oireachtas na Gaeilge music competitions. Connie Ryan tells me that he also visited us once or twice, and that he learned The Plain Set from some of the members of our club. The club lasted four or five years, before the building was demolished to make room for a wider road, and we failed to find a suitable alternative venue. Our MC, or teacher, in those years, was Josie Murphy from Ennistymon, Co. Clare, and she was responsible for teaching the sets to many a young Dubliner at the time. Sadly, Josie was called to her eternal reward in July 1993, and was buried in her native Ennistymon.