Margaret Wray (1952 – 2023)
These words were written by Margaret in May 2022:
I was born in Bishop Street, Derry in 1952, I started to dance at the age of five, I had seen my cousin dance at my aunt’s house, she had started dance classes and I wanted to go too. I cried until my mother let me go!
My teacher was Marie Barrett and the classes were held in the Owen Roe Memorial Hall, in the back lane off Hamilton Street. I was hooked from day one!
My two brothers and sisters attended as well but only Liam and myself kept going. By the age of 6 years, I had started dancing at Derry Feis, solo as well as three, four, and eight hand dances.
Marie would usually lilt for us, but leading up to the Feis Frank McFadden, a local man from Bishops Street would play for us at the class. I also competed at other Fesianna in the area, Rosnowlagh, Ballinascreen, Buncrana, and Moville.
When I was thirteen years of age, I changed dance teacher to Lilian Moore from Derry and continued classes until I was fifteen or sixteen years of age. It was the done thing at that time to stop at that age. I had started to work and there seemed to be no future in continuing to dance, so I stopped.
Twenty years later, when I was about thirty six years of age, Frankie Roddy, a well-known dance teacher from Derry returned home from England to live. He started celli dance classes in Pilot’s Row Community Centre and we started to dance in competition including Fleadh Amhran Angus Rinnce in Ballycastle, Co Antrim. The Fleadh had a national traditional step dance competition and I won that in 1992.
Around that time, we were invited to dance in Italy and it was there that I met Joe McGuiggan. Joe was from Co Derry originally but was living and working in Derry City, we both shared an interest in the old traditional style of step dancing. From then on, for the past thirty years or so, we have met once a week in my kitchen to practise our dancing. During those years, as well as dancing all our solo dances from our youth, we have expanded our dance we with dances learned from old style dancing teachers throughout Ireland, including Joe O’Donovan, Celine & Michael Tubridy, Tony McNulty and Frankie Roddy. We have learned around fifty distinct reels, jigs, hornpipes and set dances including the Donegal Mazurka, Clap Dance and Maggie Pickie. My dance journey has also introduced me to the sean nós style of dancing and expanded my experience of the diversity of Irish dance.
During those years I have had the privilege of dancing throughout Ireland and abroad including France and Italy. For most of those years Joe McGuiggan and myself have taught, together and individually, traditional step dancing in Derry on behalf of the Derry City CCE.
I have taught traditional dance to students at the Traditional Music and Dance Academy in the University of Limerick and for years I was resident dance tutor at the Willie Clancy Summer School in Miltown Malby, Co Clare.
“Margaret Wray”, deeply missed by all who knew her, may she rest in peace.
Annette is an accomplished dancer and multi-instrumentalist.
Blogs to date:
-Irish News Article
-Warning re Dance!
-The Dan Furey Group
-Party time 0721
-Old Style Steps Abroad
-Thanks to my Funders!
-Old Style Step?
-Dancing vrs Ageing