THE funeral took place last weekend of Alphie Joe Dineen, a native of Lavally, Ballintogher, arguably Sligo's best known box player.
He was one of a family of nine, three brothers, Sonny, Brendan and Gerald, and six sisters, Maureen, Annie, Elizabeth, Teresa, Kathleen and Christina.
His parents, father Michael and mother Mary, from Bloomfield, were well-known local musicians who both played the button accordion, fostering Alphie's love of music from a tender age. Neighbours in the area who played music included David and Josie Sheridan, Mick Coggins, Sonny Jackson, Paddy Joe O'Brien, Hugh Lyons, Michael and Joe Clancy and James Sweeney.
When Alphie was three, he began learning how to play the 10-key button accordion and later played the fiddle and piano
He won his first competition in Feis Shligigh when he was seven years old, and as he grew older he learned how to read and write music.
At 14, he joined the Down Beaters Ceili Band in which he played at dances throughout the length and breadth of Connacht. The other members of the band were Josie McDermott, P. Conlon, John Conlon, Mary Dolphin and Martin Brady.
When Alphie was 18, he moved to Sligo Town.
In 1965, Alphie Joe and Seamus Tansey won the senior duo competition at the Connacht Fleadh in Foxford and third in the All-Ireland Fleadh in Thurles.
In 1967, a group of musicians formed the Coleman Country Ceili Band comprising Seamus Tansey, Peter Horan, Fred Finn, Tommy Flynn, Noel Tansey, Peg McGrath, with Alphie Joe as the band leader. The group played at ceilithe in every hall in the west of Ireland and were regularly featured on radio and television programmes.
In 1972, the band toured America for three weeks and, while there, recorded "The Coleman Country Ceili Band on American Tour" album.
The band played in Detroit, Rhode Island, Oklahoma, Chicago, Boston and New York. Indeed, one of the most memorable occasions in Alphie's playing career was the final night of that tour in John Kerry O'Donnell's hostelry in Gaelic Park, the famous GAA grounds in New York, when the band were joined by many well-known musicians, including Larry Redican and Martin Wynne.
On its return from the U.S., the band split as the ceilithe were now becoming a thing of the past.
From then until 1979, Alphie Joe, Seamus Tansey and Mary Mulholland, from Antrim, played the traditional circuit and pubs with the Coleman Country Trio. They were featured on the RTE television programme "Trom agus Eadtrom", "Ag Deanamh Ceoil", "Be My Guest", "Country Airs" and an Ulster Television programme, "A Drop in Your Hand." The trio later recorded the "Emigrants Farewell" album in 1980.
Early in 1979, the Coleman Country Ceili Band was revived with Alphie as leader on the accordion, Seamus Tansey on concert flute, Pat Sweeney on banjo, Seamus Horan on fiddle, Mary Mulholland on piano and John Watters on drums.
Success soon came with a new album entitled "The Coleman Country Ceili Band" which featured the music of the great Michael Coleman and also a reel composed by Alphie named "Alphie Dineen's no 3" which was the first of his three compositions to be recorded. In 1985, the band won the Connacht title in Mohill and featured on the RTE radio programme "Ceili House" about fifteen times.
Alphie Joe, who worked as Supplies Officer with the North Western Health Board, also taught classes at his home in Doorly Park, in Sligo, in the early years. Throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s, under the auspices of the Vocational Educational Committee, he taught at Coola, Ballintrillick, Ballintogher, Grange, Dromahair and Rathcormac.
Alphie, a member of the Coleman Country Quarter with Pat Sweeney, Seamus Tansey and Hugh Slevin, also toured England.
After retiring from the band scene, he continued to play at weekly sessions in Earley's Bar in Bridge Street, Sligo.
He was honoured in November 2003 during a symposium at the John Egan Festival, in his home town of Ballintogher.
He is survived by his wife, Mamie (nee Kelly) from Corglancy, Dromahair, with whom he celebrated his golden wedding anniversary in 2003 in St. Mary's Church, Killenummery, where they got married on June 30th, 1953. She is a sister of the late Francis Kelly, former chairman of the Leitrim People's Association in Sligo.
Alphie is also survived by daughters, Mary, Claire, Ursula, Nuala and by a son, Enda, and by grandchildren and greatgrandchildren.
His remains were removed on Friday evening last to St. Anne's Church, Sligo. Following funeral Mass on Saturday, attended by a large contingent of traditional musicians who performed their own musical tributes, the funeral took place to Sligo Cemetery.
One of my very fondest memories of many evenings musical evenings in the company of Alphie was joining him for this
session at the Black Horse pub in Oxford in 1986.