The Sydney Irish Ceili Dancers Group was formed in 1958 at the Irish National Association's Cultural Centre, 64 Devonshire Street, Surry Hills, Sydney by Peter Paul McKenna of Ardee, Co Louth, Ireland. Peter remained leader of the Group until his untimely death on 6th February 1992.
The current teachers and leaders of the Group, Margaret & Bill Winnett, have danced with the Group for many years. Margaret is a traditional old style Irish step dancer since 1957 and began learning ceili dancing from Peter in the late 1950s. Bill joined the Group in 1965 when he moved to Sydney.
initially, the main focus of the Group was on ceili dancing, but in 1989 following a visit to Ireland and the world renowned Willie Clancy Summer School with Peter, Margaret and Bill began to research and learn Irish set dancing, the most sociable form of Irish dancing. Since 1989 Margaret and Bill have returned to Ireland on numerous occasions with the aim of furthering their skills and knowledge of set dancing, always returning to Australia armed with new dances on video and in written form together with CDs of Ireland's top dance musicians.
Over the years this wealth of knowledge has been shared with hundreds of dancers around Australia. Margaret and Bill believe in keeping alive all facets of Irish dance and performances by the Sydney Irish Ceili Dancers embrace set, ceili, couples and step dances. Their Irish dance classes are filled with adults and children eager to learn the dances and experience the absolute joy of irish dancing.
Margaret and Bill pay tribute to those in Ireland who have assisted them - Jerry O'Reilly, Terry Moylan, Eileen O'Doherty, Mary Friel, Irene Martin and Terry Cullen of Brooks Academy Dublin, Billy Donahue, Pat Moroney, Mick Mulkerrin, Tom Quinn, Tony McNulty (RIP), Pat Murphy, Dan Furey (RIP), James Keane (RIP), Donncha O'Muineachain (RIP), Willie Keane (RIP), Joe and Siobhan O'Donovan (RIP), Patrick O'Dea, Paidrag and Roisin McEneany, Betty McCoy as well as the inimitable late Connie Ryan.