By Harry Keaney
Having taught Irish dancing to scores of students for almost 60 years, Stamford native Kathleen Mulkerin was recently inducted into the North American Feis Commission Cultural Hall of Fame during a ceremony recently in the Hibernian Hall in Stamford.
Mulkerin, 72, a member of the Irish Dance Commission in Dublin and the New England and National Dance Teachers Association, was born and raised in Stamford. In 1976, she moved with her husband, Richard Jones, their daughter Cathy and three grandchildren, to West Haven, Conn.
It was while she was only in eighth grade that Mulkerin’s dance teaching career began. Her first student was Joan Hagan.
"We had both been taking lessons from a teacher from New York," Hagan recently told the Stamford Advocate. "Then that gentleman stopped coming to Stamford. So my Mom asked her to teach me everything she knew."
"When I started, I used go house to house in Stamford," Mulkerin said.
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In time, Mulkerin became one of the premier Irish dancing instructors in Fairfield County. Because many of her former students are now teaching Irish dancing, Mulkerin has emerged as a key link in the chain of handing down an integral part of Irish culture from one generation to the next.
Mulkerin has made several television appearances and has performed in two shows at Carnegie Hall as well as in four tours of Ireland.
Among those who knows Mulkerin best is Stamford woman Maura O’Connell, whose daughter Julie is one of New England’s best known dance teachers.
"Although she is 72 years, Kathleen has four or five schools in Connecticut and did upwards of 30 shows this St. Patrick’s Day," Maura O’Connell said. "The majority of her shows were for nursing homes and shut-in folks who rarely see a child. Kathleen takes pride in her Irish culture and has inspired many pupils to qualify as teachers."
O’Connell said that Mulkerin has always brought honor to the Irish, their culture and the community in which she lives.