Denny the Dancer
Denis Murphy, better known as Denny, was a member of Killarney branch of Comhaltas for decades. Denny was our dancing Guru, a man steeped in the tradition of set-dancing from his time growing up on his fatherâs farm in Knocknagree. Denny learned his dancing from a dancing master who used to call to the house â not the only caller to that house, Dennyâs namesake Denis Murphy, the famous fiddler, was another regular caller.
Denny joined the Garda Síochána in 1939 and was stationed in Dublin and Lixnaw before finally being stationed in Killarney.
In Killarney, Denny was the prime mover in reviving the older sets that had fallen out of fashion and been forgotten years earlier. He contacted older dancers in the area who had danced these sets in years gone by and they combined their memories to reconstruct the Jig Set as it had been danced in the past. They went on to revive a number of sets such as the âJenny Lingâ and the âTalevaraâ.
Denny, being passionate as he was about set-dancing, had strong opinions about the way sets should be danced. He had no time for the wild, buck jumping, yahooing style of many young set dancers. Watching Denny and his friends dancing a set was a totally different experience - they glided around the floor almost like people waltzing, their heads moving up and down by no more than a few inches.
Denny married Helen in 1960 and they raised a family of five, all of whom learned set dancing from Denny. Meanwhile the girls inherited the beautiful singing of their mother. Denny retired in 1978 and, with Helen, remained an active and dedicated member of Comhaltas for many years after, until his death in 2006, just ten years ago this year.