PADDY McCrohan is chairman of the Bannalec/ Castleisland twinning committee and last week he and his fellow organisers pushed out the Underlining his enthusiasm for the process, Mr. McCrohan sent the following report on the latest exchange between the Breton and Irish communities.
"The July 25-29 visit of 21 women and men from the Breton town of Bannalec, twinned with Castleisland and Sliabh Luachra, was a great success. It was great to see just how much our visitors appreciated the hospitality of the host families, the scenery and countryside of Kerry, the music and singing in the pubs, and the humour and joie de vivre of 'les Irlandais'.
This enthusiasm and appreciation makes it a genuine pleasure for the host families and all who are involved in looking after the visitors. The visitors were welcomed, on Monday evening, by Mayor of Kerry, Cllr. Bobby O'Connell. Mayor O'Connell's support and interest in the twinning, like that of predecessors Tom Fleming and Michael Healy-Rae, is warmly appreciated.
Highlights of the visitors' stay in Sliabh Luachra included: a visit to Muckross House and Farm; Crag Cave; Pitch and Putt in Castleisland, courtesy of Pat Mitchell; a musical evening in The Half Barrel Bar; a visit to Tralee's museum, a celebration dinner at Kerins O'Rahilly's GAA Club restaurant, and an evening in Siamsa Tire to see 'Oilean," said Mr. McCrohan.
After a packed three days in the Castleisland area, the group spent three days visiting South Kerry and West Cork. Coach driver, Thomas O'Connor, and Paddy McCrohan, agreed on the pleasure the hosts gained from seeing the enthusiastic reaction of the French visitors to the Ring of Kerry; the Beara Peninsula; Baltimore and Kinsale.
"Even the weather did its best. Lots of sunshine between well-scattered showers. We Irish talk a lot, but the Bretons probably beat us: the laughter, banter, 'oohs' and 'ahhs' were non-stop. The party spent a night in Kenmare in the Brooklane Hotel and in Baltimore Rolf's Country House before the final day's journey via Skibereen, Glandore, Clonakilty and Kinsale to Cork and Kinlay House Hostel before departing from Cork Airport on Saturday afternoon.
Apart from the 'hospitalite irlandaise' and the 'full Irish breakfast,' the event that will probably be remembered when much else is forgotten, was the presentation of 'Oilean' in Siamsa. There was a packed house, and many of our visitors were in tears at several points of this wonderful depiction of life on the Blasket Islands before they were finally abandoned in the 1950s. The music, the dance, the choreography, the stage setting, were immensely beautiful. The fact that any words spoken or sung were 'as Gaeilge' added to the overall appreciation of something uniquely Irish and lovely. Our Breton visitors were very moved by the whole experience.
When our visitors said 'farewell' in Cork, before flying back to Lorient, there were lots of tears amidst the hugs, kisses and embraces.
It feels good to be from Ireland, and from Kerry and from Sliabh Luachra when what we are and have to offer is so much appreciated by others.
Next summer, God willing, there will be a return visit to Bannalec, where an equally warm welcome will be extended to visitors from Castleisland," concluded the energetic and enthusiastic chairman.