Mullahoran native, Josie O’Rourke (nee O’Reilly), has seen and savoured both sides of life and in spite, or perhaps because of this, she remains determined to live life to its full potential. It is this steadfast trait that has earned her the honour of being the Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann (CCE) Gradam Award recipient last week at the Farnham Arms Hotel, Cavan (Monday, August 13).
“I was honoured for my work with CCE and the Granard Harp Festival over the years,” said Josie speaking to the Leader.
She added: “I received a piece of Cavan Abbey Crystal from CCE and a bouquet of flowers from Pauline Flood of Longford CCE.”
In 1958 Josie married Joe O’Rourke, and together the couple set up a family home and eventually a guest house at Gowna. During this time, while rearing four children, Josie worked as a set-dance teacher and adjudicator and ran the family guest house.
“Following Joe’s passing (1986), I moved into Granard. I wanted to be around people like family and friends. I also wanted to be near organisations that I was interested in,” said Josie.
Bringing with her that love of traditional Irish music, Josie became involved in the Granard Harp Festival and also in the reorganisation of the Granard branch of CCE.
“I was only helping out at first, but about 14 years ago I became competition secretary (Harp Festival) and that was when I really got into it,” said a lady who has completed six women’s marathons in Dublin.
Over the years many fine musicians have graduated from the traditional music school in Granard. However, for Josie it’s not about the competition – it’s about the pleasure of playing.
“Our music is our heritage. I would like to thank CCE for the amount of work that they have done over the years. You can go into any country in the world and find a branch of CCE today,” said the former local correspondent for the Longford Leader.
Continuing she said: “There have been fantastic graduates from our schools. People like Kavan Donohoe (Martin Donohoe’s son) and Laura O’Reilly (Creevy). It’s hearing accomplished musicians like them coming through that makes me proud.”
Now in her early eighties, Josie has earned the right to sit back and reminisce about life, and she does so with grace.
“I’ve had a fantastic life. A good marriage. Times could have been hard but I really knocked enjoyment out of life,” said a lady who is still actively involved in a number of organisations including the Irish Countrywomens’ Association (ICA), CCE, Positive Age Mullahoran, and the Mullahoran Apostolic Society.
She added: “Anything I did I loved every minute of it. I was never idle. I didn’t sit around watching ‘Eastenders’. In latter years I learned the computer and I started to email my notes into the Longford Leader.”
For over 30 years, Josie submitted local notes to the Longford Leader for Gowna and then Granard. During the presentation on August 13, those in attendance were treated to music by young Irish musicians.
“The young people are the future. We are depending on them to carry on the traditions. I also have to thank the tutors for their patience in cultivating this talent, in particular Kim Fleming, Longford. On a personal level, I would like to thank my family, friends and all who attended the CCE presentation for all their support,” she said.
Josie’s Gradam Award was presented by the President of CCE, Vincent Jordan. Another Gradam Award recipient on the day was Ann Finnegan of Nobber, County Meath.