Ómós: Timmy McCarthy


The dancing master

The renowned dancing master, Timmy ‘The Brit’ McCarthy, passed away on September 12.

Born in London of Irish parents in 1945, Timmy returned to Ireland over fifty years ago – finding a home near Ballyvourney in West Cork – from where he is credited with almost single-handedly preserving more than a dozen set dances which would have otherwise been lost to history.

A stalwart of the original Cork Folk Club, he was also the long-time director of the Cork Folk Festival – now in its thirty-ninth year – before passing on the director’s baton to William Hammond and Jim Walsh.

People in many parts of Ireland have fond memories of Timmy. So here’s another recollection to add to the storehouse.

About twenty-five years ago, there was an international human rights conference in Cork – attended by delegates from a wide variety of countries. from such diverse cultural and language backgrounds. While the business end of the conference largely took care of itself, the issue of providing some kind of interactive entertainment for a group of strangers. Someone on the local organising committee had the brilliant idea to invite Timmy to come over from West Cork to teach some sets.

Relishing the challenge of overcoming all the barriers of culture, language, attitude and aptitude, Timmy demonstrated the steps for each of the various elements through signs and sheer enthusiasm. After a couple of partial practice runs, Timmy then set the dance in motion and the Waves of Tory began to cascade down through the hall to the astonishment and joy of the participants – thrilled at their achievement. What an ice-breaker!

Our thoughts are with Timmy’s family and friends.

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