2019 St Patrick’s Ball

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When asked how one describes the largest social event in the Kuala Lumpur calendar many fulsome words come to mind. “Unifying’ like the Derry Peace Bridge perhaps, but inspiration came to me closer to home, about a third of the way through the packed night of celebrating Saint Patrick and all that is Irish. The inspiration came after one of several engaging community performances. Adam English shared a few words after I commented on how much I enjoyed his vigorous, nuanced, Irish dancing. I asked why he keeps dancing as it surely takes many hours, like much involving the performances, organisation and contributions to the 94th Annual Ball. Adam spoke of the dancing being “who I am. My family and dancing friends and all. It’s where I am from and am and it’s great being within a group. Lots of work but real fun.”

I looked around the large foyer outside the Ballroom, with the photo backdrops, ever lively bar and gaggles of friends, some as newly minted as this year’s gowns, others with several years of knowing care. Adam made me think of how many of the Irish community share time and energy for the enjoyment of close to a thousand merry makers and charity. I will not run through the comprehensive list of sponsors and the committee names can be found on this website.  There are many to whom all Ball goers can be grateful.  Thinking back to the dance performers coached and led by Niamh Bannon, one could see the joyous commitment, identity and the special part of being in the midst of really good “craic.” The community performers added a youthful and real sense of shared identity, whether of Ireland, the huge diaspora or being  a friend of the Irish here in Malaysia.

There was much more than dancing which was choreographed. As the much anticipated stirring start, The Saint John’s Old Boys Pipe Band piped and swirled their way from foyer to Ballroom with some unusual lighting. Even passing the baton across generations was part of the planning and performance as we heard in anthem singing.  When it was time for speeches one detected an early peak to enjoyment and some guests may not have heard all that the High Commissioner had to share. The meal was certainly very attention gaining. One really wonders how the kitchen caters for so many with such finesse, even to a desert with the Irish colours and melt in the mouth chocolate afters. Wonderfully choreographed, if I can stretch the metaphor. 

Music maketh the night for many and the “Newfoundland band” mixed and meshed up the traditional, the evergreen and contemporary. However, there was a noticeable thinning on the floor just before ten o’clock with many tuxes and suits heading out to one of the smaller Ballrooms. The Six Nation organisers obviously know the Ball dates. I doubt that they know of the charity which benefits from so many being part of the night. Clearly Six Nations and the northern rugger boys had created the conundrum of a “who do you really cheer for” match. The highlight in my view was afterwards with the wonderful cheese buffet with local and Irish cheese choreographers at work. It was easy to stop talking rugby with good company, Sarawak Pepper cheese and a wee dram. The musical and dancing energy certainly did not let up during the bands second set and on. The craic rolled on occasionally being captured in or on the cloud by our ever present Society paparazzi, with friends old and new, imbibing, enjoying music and dancing. To extend Adam the dancer’s thoughts. it was a memorable night of extended family, community and extraordinary craic. Thank you hardworking committee. The 2020 calendar is already marked. 

Stephen J Hall

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