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Biddy spirit alive and well in Kerry

Ahead of the annual Biddy's Day festival taking place in February, Fergus Dennehy talked to the organisers behind the new Killorglin festival about the Biddy's Day festival history, the traditions and what people can expect from the day on February 3.


Callinafercy Rowing Club Biddies.

Callinafercy Rowing Club Biddies.

Callinafercy Rowing Club Biddies.


Do you hear that? That distant rumbling in the distance? Listen closely. That's right, the annual Biddy's Day festival has awoken from its slumber and is on the rise in Kerry once again.

A festival and tradition as old as time itself, Biddy's Day has enjoyed a huge resurgence in recent years, with Biddy's Day groups - which at one point, there were only two of in the entire county - now standing at 13 strong.

Sometimes compared to the Wren Boys or the Straw Boys, Biddy's Day has its roots deep in both the old Celtic tradition of Imbolc and Christianity's St Bridgid.

Biddy's Day is most associated with Mid - Kerry and the Kilgobnet area in particular, where the festival and its traditions were kept alive for many years during a lean period for the festivities.

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The Biddy is honoured each year in the region when Biddy groups visit a number of rural houses and pubs in the area, carrying a Brídeóg with them as they go, ensuring that all evil spirits are kept away from humans and animals alike for the coming years.

Traditionally, a visit from the Biddy guaranteed good luck, fertility, and prosperity, while receiving no visit was thought to be a very ominous sign indeed.

Following on from the huge success of last years inaugural event, Killorglin is set to be one of the main areas of festivities again this year amd organiser Conor Browne says that people can look forward to another great year of colourful customs and weird and wonderful fun.

From hat making work shops to the art of storytelling, from traditional music sessions to historical talks and from drama productions to the highlight of the evening, the famous torchlight parade through the centre of Killorglin - the Biddy's Festival, taking place on February 3, will have it all.

"The Biddy's festival is one that is very important to the people of Mid Kerry and beyond and so with our festival, our aim is helping to keep the important traditions alive and making sure that they carry on," said Conor, talking to The Kerryman on Monday.

"There will be plenty of craft making workshops taking place throughout the day, to ensure that people can really get into this traditional side of things and learn the skills. There will hat making, cross making and Brídeog making wokshops, while there will be secret cinemas and music and dance for kids as well," he continued.

"Full credit must go to the people of Kilgobnet and people like hat maker Mike Coffey for keeping the festival alive during its lowest points. This is their festival and we are just here to help keep it alive and kicking," said Conor.

Indeed, Mike was honoured for his contribution to the festival and helping to keep it alive, when he was named as the King of the Biddies; his music, dancing and flamboyant costume standing out a mile amongst the festival's cast of colourful characters.

This years festivities are set to be that little bit more extra special as organisers get set to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the festivals most famous song, 'The Ceannovoree Biddy Ball' being written.

"How it goes is that Biddy groups, they used to go around to houses around the county collecting money from people and with this money. With this money then, they would go out and buy a large amount of alcohol for use in something called the Biddy Ball," Conor said

"100 years ago this year, one of the groups, Ceannovoree, they were going out the road and they were ambushed and so all of their provisions and money for the alcohol were stolen."

"The guards had been lured to another area so there was no-one to help them. After this, there was then a song written about the incident and this year is the 100 year anniversary of the song being written, so it will be a special occasion," he finished.

The full programme of events for this years Biddy's Day festival will available online at the Biddy's Day 'Facebook' page in the next few days.

In the mean time, keep an ear to the ground and an eye on your front door, you never know who or what will be coming into your house next month!