Friday, January 01, 2016

The year we've had

The highlight January event to kick off Kilcullen's always busy year was organised by some of the keepers of its heritage, Mary Orford and local librarian Julie O'Donoghue, who set out to bring memories of shopkeepers and their customers in Kilcullen back to life. Carbolic soap, studded boots, string shopping bags, wet and dry batteries, were among the very many pieces exhibited at the 'Open All Hours' afternoon in the Library. But best of all were the memories ...

In February, long established local business Nolans Butchers had a celebration for customers for their winning the Champion of Champions award from the Countryside Alliance, confirming their win earlier in the decade as the Best Butcher Shop in the UK & Ireland. The event was led by Micheal O Muircheartaigh, who described the family-owned business as a true 'Centre of Excellence' in business and community involvement.

A 5K Fun Run & Walk in March, organised by Grainne McGrath, attracted participation of more than 270, adults and children. Approximately €1,400 was raised each for St Joseph's NS in Halverstown and St Anne's School on The Curragh. As always, there was strong support in donated prizes from local businesses, and what started off as a post-Christmas get-fit idea a couple of years ago is now an established major fundraiser for the two schools.

April was a seriously busy month. Kilcullen Drama Group once again showed their skill with farce, performing Ray Cooney's 'Caught in the Net' to a full run of sold-out houses. Kilcullen Community Library played host to yet another 'memories' afternoon, this time about local sporting matters, bringing back some legends, ordinary participants, and once again the memories in 'Action Replay'. And St Joseph's NS in Halverstown, which was proposed for closure back in the 1950s but saved by local families, celebrated the latest of a number of extensions that showed just what a poor decision that might have been.

One popular community highlight in May was the Golden Jubilee celebration for Parish Administrator Fr Niall Mackey, which included among the attendance Bishop Eamonn Walsh. At a reception in the Parish Centre presentations were made to Fr Niall on behalf of the parish, and the schools. Meantime, local man Billy Redmond, fundraiser extraordinaire for many years for the Irish Wheelchair Association and a member of the first Irish Army peacekeeping expedition to the Congo, did a count on the medals, badges and similar memorabilia from his travels and found he had more than 250 of them. They're now mounted and available for showing at relevant events.

The most colourful event of June was the Flower Festival to mark the bicentenary of St John's Church in Yellow Bog. 'Stepping Through Time' was opened by the Most Rev Patricia Storey, Bishop of Meath & Kildare, in the presence of the Dean, Very Rev John Marsden. A concert and reception for sponsors and supporters of the event were part of what turned out to be an extremely successful weekend.

In July, a Cycle Run in aid of the Crumlin Medical Research Fund, organised by local firm Murphy Surveys, attracted over 120 cyclists including staff of the company, friends, and members of local cycling clubs. Liam Walker and the members of Kilcullen Cycling Club helped marshall the event and kept everyone safe. Among the participants was Kildare Rose of Tralee representative Ailish Brennan. More than €10,000 has since been presented to the fund in the interim, and further funds are still to come.

August is always a wicked month in Kilcullen, with lots happening. The regulars included a heritage walk for National Heritage Week, the Mac & Norman Vintage Rally in aid of the Irish Cancer Society which has to date raised almost €383,000 in the 13 years it has operated, and the Kilcullen River Festival in its 6th year, this one the first time the weather dampened those not in the river. But the crowds came anyway, and particularly enjoyed the thrills — and occasional spills — of the new Soap Box Derby event.

Another expression of local fundraising generosity happened in September when a cheque for €7,200 was given to Pieta House, the therapeutic service for people with suicidal tendencies. The money was raised by a Dawn Walk through nearby New Abbey Stud, organised by Lorna Brophy and Richie Kelly. For some 64 younger people, their presentation of certificates for participation in Community Library Summer Reading Buzz brought them into contact with local real life published author Hazel Gaynor.

And a real live local actor wowed Kilcullen audiences in October with her performance of 'Shirley Valentine', the well-known Willy Russell play. Evelyn O'Sullivan, who runs her Drama Dynamics speech and drama school in the town, showed that she is a teacher who can actually do what she teaches very well indeed. A tour de force.

November saw the introduction of an interesting change to a longtime junction of concern at Mile Mill, when it was turned into an unusual for this country 4-way stop. It took a little bit of getting used to, especially by drivers between Kilcullen and Dunlavin used to not having to stop. Deputy Martin Heydon, who had pushed for the alteration, said it would need a change in driver behaviour to work safely.

And finally, amid all the usual Christmas-themed goings-on, a little reflection on the old meaning of the season was performed in Kilcullen Parish Church, when the two parish choirs combined with the Milltown Singers from Dunlavin to present a Carol Service.

Singing us neatly out of 2015 and into whatever 2016 brings. Hopefully a happy and peaceful new year to all.