After Father Kehoe's appointment as Parish Priest of St. Anthony's in 1953, Mrs. O'Neal - as Margaret was then known following her marriage to Mr. Sean O'Neal, also a schoolteacher and, subsequently, headmaster of St. Paul's R.C. Secondary School, in Wythenshawe - took the dancers up Woodhouse Lane and Brownley Road to the new parish in Woodhouse Park.
Mrs. O'Neal marching with her dancers at the Whit Walks.
Thanks to Kev Parr (www.kevparr.com)
and Eamonn O'Neal for the photo.Classes were initially held in the "Green Hut" and then transferred to St. Anthony's Primary School once the school was completed in 1954.
Over the years, the O'Neal School of Irish Dance maintained a close relationship with the band, the two groups performing together at a range of parish and local events.
Throughout her career, Mrs. O'Neal taught successive generations of Irish dancers, both in the parishes and at the Gaelic League in Manchester. In an interview with the Wythenshawe Express in October 1972, on the occasion of a Festival of Traditional Irish Dancing which she organised at the Wythenshawe Social Centre (later renamed "The Terry Dowling Centre"), Mrs. O'Neal reflected, with typical modesty, on her long service to the community as a teacher of Irish Dance.
"Parents of some of the children who were dancing on Saturday were in the classes themselves 20 years ago," said Mrs. O'Neal. "They must have been delighted to see their children dancing so well."
The Wythenshawe Express, 19 October 1972
Her inspiration was such that many young dancers went on to follow in her footsteps, becoming Irish dancing teachers and adjudicators. A simple online search is sufficient to gauge Mrs. O'Neal's influence to this day on the Irish Dance community in Manchester and further afield...
My dancing career started when I was 5 years old. My parents took me with my brother and 3 sisters to Mrs Margaret O'Neal at the Gaelic League which was off St Peters Square. Manchester. We quickly picked up the steps and were soon winning numerous trophies and medals in Ireland as well as in England. Sadly, Margaret has now died but I will always teach in the same way that she influenced me.
posted by Eileen Lally in October 2012, on IrishManchester.com (http://www.irishmanchester.com/memories.shtml) - permission pending.
Barbara [Ahern] started dancing at about 3 or 4 years of age. Barbara's mother took her to the Gaelic League in Manchester, where she learnt step dancing with Margaret O'Neal who was then Margaret Carroll. She also taught ceili dancing and Barbara learnt her first set dancing with Margaret.
from Irish Set Dancing Workshops events page on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/events/268305453183614/) - permission pending.
But perhaps most importantly, from those very early days, in true Fianna P(h)ádraig tradition, grew friendships which were to last a lifetime. Indeed, until Mrs. O'Neal sadly passed away on 29th January 2010, many of her dancers from the fifties and sixties made a point of meeting up with their former dance teacher each year to catch up, reminisce, and reflect on past camaraderie and the legacy left for future generations to cherish.