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Thursday 19 July 2018

Giving it plenty of welly for a good cause in Kilkenny

On their marks and ready to go in the Castlecomer Wellie Race on New Year's Day
On their marks and ready to go in the Castlecomer Wellie Race on New Year's Day
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

It's not every day you'd expect to see the cast of Father Ted, Beauty and the Beast and Star Wars in the same vicinity, not to mention that they'd all be dressed in wellies.

But that was very much the case at the 38th Annual Castlecomer Wellie Race which took place on New Year's Day.

Floats carrying locals dressed as well-known characters such as 'Mrs Doyle' and The Last Jedi crew paraded down the streets of the Kilkenny town at 1pm before the wellie race event, which has been taking place since 1981.

Committee member Paul Brophy told the Farming Independent that the first wellie race in the area was originally initiated by "local men of the land" looking to work off their Christmas dinner.

"It began 40 years ago when a group of local men of the land decided they'd do a cross-country run to work off the turkey and ham they'd eaten on Christmas Day," he says.

"It originally took place on St Stephen's Day and the men completed the run the only way they knew how - wearing wellie boots."

After gathering attention from a local publican, the cross-country run gathered speed and was brought to the town of Castlecomer.

This year, crowds of all ages took to the streets of Castlecomer sporting wellies to walk or run the well-known 5km Killtown circuit, with the local Macra club completing parts of the race in three-legged teams.

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The event, which is in aid of local charities, has been mimicked across the world in locations as far afield as Sydney, New York and Missouri.

"They were all inspired by our concept. The New York one was organised by Castlecomer native Rosaleen Crotty and the Missouri one was also organised by a Kilkenny man," says Michael.

"When you leave home you try to bring a part of it with you.

"The wellie race is a very novel event and is a big feature of the festive calendar in the area."

The event has raised thousands for local charities over the years such as St Vincent de Paul, School of the Holy Spirit in Callan, Castlecomer Rural Link, Castlecomer District Hospital, St Patrick's Centre Kilkenny and many more.

Last year the event raised around €20,000 for charity and although the organising team has yet to finish counting donations, Paul hopes that it has surpassed that amount this year.

"Last year was the first year we were up in a long time. In the boom time we would've been raising almost €30,000 but then there was the economic downturn," he says.

"Hopefully we'll be up again this year. We're grateful for all the support we get."


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