Josie McDermott, the blind traditional Irish musician, from County Roscommon explains to Doireann Ní Bhriain, how the tradition of door dancing came about.
In Ireland long ago it was customary when groups of people worked together, as a 'Meitheal' to dig potatoes or save hay, that they would gather after a day's work to relax and have a dance.
These gatherings took place in traditional Irish cottages with mud floors and flagstones. A door was taken off its hinges to provide a flat surface for dancing. Solo set dancers were asked to dance on the doors as the skill of the dancer is best shown by how well they can produce the variety of steps within the narrow confines of the dance surface. In order to gauge the best dancer amongst a group of solo dancers, they placed four glasses on the corners of the door to help determine the most skilled dancer. The person to spill the least amount of water was the winner of the competition.
The custom has been revived at the O'Carolan Festival in Keadue, Roscommon where male dancers take to the 'door' to demonstrate their solo dancing prowess. Josie McDermott and a fellow musician provide the flute music.
This episode of 'Hand Me Down' presented by Doireann Ní Bhriain, was broadcast on 11 May 1981.
This episode of 'Hand Me Down' provided a profile on the blind flute player, composer and singer Josie McDermott (1925–1992) from O'Carolans Country. He lost his sight in the 1960s and lived as a blind man for thirty years. He was a versatile musician and continued to play a wide range of instruments until his death.