On Wednesday the 4th December members of our Le Cheile branches from Dublin and Cork; and some members from the Trefoil Guild; all descended upon the Metropole Hotel in Cork for their annual Christmas lunch. The difference this year, they had very kindly extended an invitation to both the Chief Commissioner and myself to join them, and we were delighted to accept their generous offer.

Our day started off probably a little different to the ladies; we spent the journey down to Cork working on some CGI issues and ideas and catching up on our to-do lists. For some of the Dublin ladies, they had taken the wise decision to travel down the previous day and spend the night in the hotel and the morning shopping, before coming back for the festivities.

Lunch was set for 1pm in the Douglas Vance room on the first floor of the hotel, and as we arrived we were all cheerfully greeted by Marie Hannigan, Julie Donnelly and their team from Le Cheile Corcaigh. The room was decorated to reflect the festive season and the atmosphere was electric as soon as we walked in. The ladies from the Trefoil Guild had their beautiful scarves on, some of the Dublin Le Cheile members had their very stylish Le Cheile branded hoodies on, and many of the ladies wore their Le Cheile badge too.

At this point, I have to confess my ignorance of Le Cheile. I’d heard the name, I had an idea of what they were, but I really thought that it was essentially a group of ex-Guides getting together every now and then for a cup of coffee and a chat, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth and I’m delighted to say that I’ve been disabused of that erroneous notion. There are day trips and longer trips, there are shopping days and movie days, walks and talks and everything else you can imagine – I’m more than a little jealous of some of their activities and can’t help wondering where some of them get the time and energy to do so much.

Le Chéile at Christmas

Emily, Eileen and I were sat at a table with a group from Raheny Le Cheile; Annette, June, Ann, Frances and Statia. They told us that Statia had been their Captain back in the day, and they’re still going strong as a group. When two of the ladies casually mentioned what age they would be on their upcoming birthdays we were stunned, suffice to say if I look, and act, half as young as they do at their age I’ll be very proud of myself. It was amazing to watch these women, friends for so many years, still so close and enjoying each other’s company and their outings together.

June, no shrinking violet as anyone who knows her can attest, and Annette, another livewire, kept the conversation, the stories and the laughter flowing all afternoon. When they heard I was from Wicklow they immediately began to recount stories of their trips to Fernhill over the years and the adventures, and misadventures, that they got up to!

Another group that told us stories about Fernhill and their escapades in Wicklow and Arklow, were the ladies from the now defunct Pro-Cathedral Buion Mathair Dé unit. Phil Kelly and Therese Swords told us how they had all joined the same company aged 11, and they’re still all friends now. They may have lost touch for some years, but through a friend returning from Australia and organising a get-together, they all rekindled their friendships, and as Phil said, when they were together again they fell into their old, comfortable companionship, and it was like they’d never been apart.

The ladies from the Trefoil Guild were also delighted to be part of the fun and they joined in all the chats and laughter. That’s the one overriding feature of the day, the laughter. It was everywhere and it was infectious.

Marie started the event off by thanking everyone for making the effort to attend and by leading us all in the grace before meals. The food was delicious, and the staff of the hotel are to be complimented on the care and attention they brought to the day. When we were finished our meal it was time for the raffle, and even though we were all assured it wasn’t a fix, who won the first prize of a beautiful Christmas cake? The Chief Commissioner! Once all the prizes had been awarded it was time to move on to the Kris Kindle, and tensions began to rise. Some of the Cork ladies really brought the excitement to a fever pitch (May Dowling for one) as they were listening keenly and waiting for their number to be called. The laughter continued unabated throughout.

As the proceedings began to wind down we had the entertainment, some of it planned and some of it impromptu. Antoinette Long’s daughter and her friend came over from the Cork School of Music and played some Christmas carols on the violin to get us all in the holiday mood. And keeping the familial theme going, Julie’s son came along from school and took plenty of photos to commemorate the day. Next up, the Le Cheile members took over the mic; we had a campfire led by Dolores, we had an hilarious version of Honey Bun from South Pacific by June and Annette, and then the most stunning rendition of O Holy Night I’ve ever heard by Rita O’Callaghan, the room was in a hush and eyes were damp. What a beautiful and appropriate way to sign off the day.

Michelle Finnerty
Assistant Chief Commissioner