Sunday 22 September 2019

Proud of its roots: Irish town enjoys global spotlight for turnip race world championships

Get set, throw: Contestants line up for the annual turnip race in Ballydehob
Get set, throw: Contestants line up for the annual turnip race in Ballydehob
Rachel Farrell

Rachel Farrell

We've seen the welly-throw and the egg and spoon race - but in West Cork, residents of a small town have gained global recognition for racing turnips.

The turnip race world championships have taken place in Ballydehob every summer for the past 30 years, and this year, the race made the front page of the 'Wall Street Journal'.

Organiser Barry O'Brien said he was contacted by a journalist who read about the race in the 2019 festival programme, and wanted to see it for herself.

"She asked me after the race why there's barriers on the street," Mr O'Brien told Cork's 96fm.

"I told her it's because these turnips are flint-hard."

The rules of the game are simple - on the mark of three, contestants throw their turnips on to the ground and must follow their turnip to the finish line.

"Man and turnip, both must cross the line," Mr O'Brien said.

"You must follow your own turnip. Fella picks up a different turnip, then he's disqualified."

According to Mr O'Brien, people come from all over the world to take part in the turnip race.

"This year's world champion came from Germany, a young lad," he said.

"We've a duck race as well, and he bought several ducks for the duck race.

"He took back a lovely trophy with him."

And one year that has gone down in history among locals was the year they had so many sign-ups for the competition, they ran out of the root vegetable itself.

"A man from Clonakilty brought us Spanish onions, made for chip shops for making onion rings," Mr O'Brien said.

The mayor of Co Cork, Cllr Christopher O'Sullivan, shared the good news of the town's publicity on social media.

"Surely it won't be long now before it's an Olympic sport," he said.

The next turnip race will take place at the Ballydehob Summer Festival next August.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News