Watching recordings of the great North Kerry dancers, Jack Lyons, Phil Cahill, Liam Tarrant, Jerry Nolan, Paddy White, I grew to love their style, the characters, and their stories. Being from North Kerry myself, I felt a connected to them, a sense of belonging to something special. I was never into the competitive side of dance, and so, on discovering this unique style, I had found my niche.
Of course the “style” as Paddy White says didn’t begin there, it came from the man who taught these dancers, the great Dance Master himself – Jeremiah Molyneaux, or “Munnix” as he was affectionately known.
Munnix was a travelling dancing master, born in 1883; he was the youngest of a family of seven. His Mother was Ellen Scanlon, a dressmaker and his father William Molyneaux was a blacksmith who had a forge at Gunsboro Cross in North Kerry. It was here in his fathers forge that Jerry learned and perfected his unique style of Dance.
He became the champion dancer of Munster when he was 18 years old.
In 1903, when he was 20 he held his first dancing class, from here he started travelling around North Kerry teaching his style of dance to young and old. He stopped his teaching when he was 70 years old, but he retained his interest in dancing until his death at the age of 83. He was buried in Gale cemetery and, as he had asked, his best pair of dancing shoes were buried with him, and who knows how many beautiful steps.
The fluid movements and steady rhythm is what makes this style special, and Munnix perfected this.
“Jerry Munnix was master of time and rhythm
His tiny feet like little hammers beating out the time clearly,
His style was unique, his movements, graceful and stately”