Community news: West Kerry

John Long cycling along Slea Head. Photo by Valerie O’Sullivan
John Long cycling along Slea Head. Photo by Valerie O’Sullivan
Ciaran Slattery, Matt O’Regan and Tommy O’Brien who came first in the relay section and second overall in the Ventry Hardman

Hard men - and women - showed what they were made of in Ventry at the weekend as the village hosted its first 'Hardman' triathlon. And such was the success of the event that it will be back again next year with three times as many competitors.

The Hardman test of endurance and fitness was organised by Alan Ryan from Killarney, who initially planned to base the event in Dingle. However, Dingle tends to be preoccupied with catering for a flood of tourists over the June Bank Holiday Weekend and Alan decided to bring the event further west to Ventry, where he was warmly welcomed.

"The local support was great. I spoke with Jim Long in the Post Office and everything was possible," said Alan, who was very happy to have filled his quota of 90 competitors for Saturday's event. Next year he expects to grow this number to 240 competitors and, given the hugely positive feedback he received last weekend, he is confident of success.

Saturday's events centred on Ventry harbour, starting with a 1.5km swim in water so calm that Jim Long reckoned we mightn't see the likes of it for another 20 years. Well refreshed after their early morning swim, competitors dashed off on a 40km cycle around Slea Head, returning via Milltown to Ventry. Bikes were abandoned and the athletes set off at a gallop up the steep hill to Mam an Óraigh, through Baile 'n Cóta and back via the beach to Ventry village.

The overall winner was UL student Cillian Tierney, an exceptional athlete by any measure considered the challenging course. "Even the lead bike found the hill up to Mam an Óraigh tough," he said. "You don't get many races like this - even though I didn't have much time to look at it, the scenery is gorgeous". The Tralee athlete completed the Olympic distance course in 2:04:40..

Cillian crossed the line ahead of the relay team lead by cyclist Ciarán Slattery from Ballyferriter, who was joined by Tralee duo swimmer Matt O'Regan and runner Tommy O Brien. A first for this team but definitly not their last, they thoroughly enjoyed the experience "It was great to do a local event" said Ciaran.

The first lady across the finishing line was Dena Hogan followed by Deirdre Sullivan in second place.

The success of the triathlon means that Alan is planning to run a larger event next year. To avoid a clash with Comórtas Peile na Gaeltachta he is looking at options for other weekends in June.

Maharees highlights rich heritage

The history of the Maharees is not the history of big monuments, but of ordinary people who have succeeded in eking out an existence from a harsh environment since the Bronze Age. For the most part it has been a hidden history but it will be better known following the launch last weekend of the Maharees Heritage Trail which tells the story of those people, and the land and sea that sustained them.

The 10km trail follows the Maharees coastline, taking in Tralee Bay, Scraggane Bay, Brandon Bay and five of the narrow peninsula's six villages, highlighting points of interest along the way.

Maharees Conservation Association CLG developed the trail to raise awareness of the natural and cultural heritage of the area among the local community and the many visitors to the area. Interpretive trail map signs are located at Beal Geal, Kilshannig and Fahamore and they complement existing signage about the unique sand dune system and the resident and visiting bird populations.

Speaking at the launch in Fahamore on Saturday, Maharees Conservation Association Chairman Martin Lynch said the Maharees has a long history of human settlement, dating from the Bronze Age fulacht fias found at Magherabeg and the Early Christian Monastic Sites at Oileán tSeanaigh and Kilshannig. However, for the most part it was "a hidden history of the people who lived here and how they got on".

Some of that hidden history is revealed along the heritage trail, for example at Chora Locha where a massive shell midden provides evidence that the stony strand provided a supply of shellfish to countless generations of inhabitants. The beach provided for the local polulation in other ways as well: In 1890 the 174-foot barque, The Charger, was wrecked there and many of the 29,000 deal boards she was carrying were washed ashore. The authorities arrived to claim the wreckage but didn't find much as the locals had already carried them off and hidden them.

Martin also referred to accounts from the 1800s which told of the struggle for survival in the Maharees. One visiting writer noted that "an extraordinary air of savagery pervades" and in 1895 The Kerry Sentinel reported on evictions saying that "the homes of these poor creatures are a scene of desolation… their plight ought to bring tears to a heart of stone".

Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin, performed the official launch of the heritage trail, arriving in Fahamore with great ceremony in a horse and trap driven by Denny Cronin. He said tourism needs to be developed as a year-round industry to provide the jobs needed to keep young people at home in rural areas and the Maharees Heritage Trail was a good example of developing tourism in a sustainable way.

"The Maharees is a beautiful place, with so much more potential. There are challenges to address [such as the ongoing erosion of the peninsula] but we'll do that and we can build a great future for this community," he said.

Speaking in the open air beside Chora Locha strand, Minister Griffin added that he has travelled widely at home and abroad since being appointed as a minister, but he had never before made a speech in such a spectacular location. On a balmy summer's day in the sun-kissed Maharees everybody was inclined to agree.

Naomhóg season gets off to a racing start at Regatta Baile na nGall

Regatta Baile na naGall, which takes place this weekend will give the oarsmen and women of West Kerry their first chance to size up the opposition for the season ahead.

Racing will start at 1pm on Sunday with races for both underage and adults. There are races for oarspeople under 12 and under 14, while adult races include Rás Mór na bhFear, Rás Mór na mBan, the single handed Rás Aonar, and a two men and two women race between the parishes. The mixed race, for teams of four 'drawn out of a hat' and the final race dedicated to the memory of Aloysius Ó Ciobháin. Local fishermen will take to the water for the keenly contested punt race.

For more information on the regatta contact Caitlín Mhic Ghearailt on 087 9049165

Summertime is the naomhóg regatta season and the next regatta after Baile na nGall will take place in the Maharees on June 24, followed by Regatta Fionn Trá on July 29. Regatta Fionn Trá was orginally scheduled for July 22 but due to requests from the rowing community the date was changed so as not to coincide with the rowing All-Irelands taking place in Roundstone, Galway. Dingle regatta will be held on August 18 and 19 with Brandon rounding off the season on August 26.

Dingle offers adventure challenge

The eighth Dingle Adventure Race, which takes place this weekend, offers a 48km combination of cycling, mountain running, road running and kayaking to challenge the toughest.

It is not for the faint hearted with a good level of fitness required to complete the race. Individual competitors and relay teams start from Dingle on Saturday morning with a testing cycle over the Conor Pass to Cloghane, followed by a steep climb to the summit of Mount Brandon and a rapid descent to Baile Bhreac. Participants will then run from Baile Bhreac to Milltown where there is a 2km kayak race before the final dash to the finish line.

The event is limited to 950 competitors. For further details visit

Kathleen’s Upper Deck

Kerry football's greatest fan, Kathleen O'Sullivan was warmly welcomed to West Kerry by Bórd CLG Chiarraí Thiar when she arrived on the Bank Holiday Monday to hold the Dingle launch of her charity CD, entitled 'Kathleen's Upper Deck'.

The launch was held in Garvey's Supervalu where Cathaoirleach of Bord Chiarraí Thiar, Muiris Ó Fiannachta, declared the CD of 16 songs about Kerry football and the charms of South Kerry officially for sale. But he hadn't finished speaking before Kathleen was selling copies to passing shoppers, informing them that proceeds from the sales would be donated to Cúnamh Iveragh mental health services.

Kathleen hasn't missed a Kerry match in Croke park since 1971 and her passion for Kerry football is matched only by her dedication to fundraising for mental health services.

"She is the golden pearl of mental health fundraising in Kerry," said Muiris. "On her own, she has rased €45,000 through her book, by running marathons and now with her new CD."

Camphill open day

The annual open day at Camphill Dingle will take place this weekend, with craftwork demonstrations, tractor rides, face painting and a puppet show among the attractions.

A great family day out , the open day provides the larger community of West Kerry an opportunity to see the work Camphill.

Some of the community members attended a recent 'Latch On' course in Tralee and, at the graduation ceremony, Pa Sheehy of Walking on Cars was there to present the certificates.

Much to Pa's delight, Dingle Camphill resident Robbie O' Neill gave a full rendition of the Walking on Cars hit Speeding Cars - and Pa joined in on guitar and supporting vocals.

The open day at Camphill starts at 1pm on Sunday and continues until 6pm.

Getting tourists up to speed on the Pass

Snow, ice, mist and rain are only minor inconveniences compared with the greatest hazard on the Conor Pass road - the tourist driver who doesn't know when to stop.

It's a familiar scenario: The tourist driver sees an oncoming car but, rather than stopping where there's space, he keeps going until he gets to the narrowest possible bit of road and then freezes behind the wheel, unable to go forward and definitely not able to reverse.

It's bad enough when tourist meets local, but when tourist meets tourist in this way it's a disaster and a traffic jam is the inevitable outcome until local drivers sort out the problem, sometimes by reversing the tourists' cars for them.

The problem of summertime traffic has previously prompted calls for such draconian solutions as traffic lights on the narrowest stretch of road, between Peddlar's Lake and the top of the Pass. However, Kerry County Council has come up with a laudably simpler, cheaper and infinitely less ugly solution - signs telling drivers where to pull in to avoid blocking oncoming traffic.

The signs were erected two weeks ago and over the June weekend they appeared to be working pretty well. A couple of signs on the approach roads, warning tourists that they really don't want to go up the Pass when the mist is down would be another cost effective and useful addition that'd make for happier tourists - and locals!

Camino film goes on tour

Dónal Ó Ceilleachair's film documentary of the Camino voyage undertaken by a crew of adventurous pilgrims, who rowed a naomhóg from Ireland to Santiago de Compostella in Spain, will be on tour around Ireland over the summer, having been screened last weekend at the Mendocino Film Festival in California.

Danny Sheehy, Breanndán Ó Beaglaoich, Breandán Ó Muircheartaigh and Liam Holden from West Kerry - with Glen Hansard joining in for part of the voyage - completed their maritime pilgrimage in 'Naomhóg na Tínte' over the three summers from 2014 to 2016 and Dónal Ó Ceilleachair from Coolea followed the adventure, documenting the craic, the characters and the hardships they met along the way.

Sadly, Danny died this time last year as the crew rowed south from Spain on a further naomhóg voyage of discovery and the film now stands as a memorial to his vision and achievements.

Criomthain house opens

The film will be screened this Thursday at the Cork Harbour Festival. In July it will be screened at the Clonmel Arts Festval and the Galway Film Fleadh.

After many months of work the restored house of an t-Oileanach, Tomás Ó Criomhthain was opened to the public on Friday. The building which was restored from a roofless ruin is now furnished simply with a table and chair located where Tomás ó Criomhthain used to sit and write.

Dingle printers are short of ‘fadas’

Ponc Press is short of 'fadas' and the owners of the small printing operation in Pucaí's Lane, Dingle, are hoping that people who have old monotype letters stashed away in dusty corners might be able to help them out.

Ponc Press, owned by Camilla Dinkel and Mike Venner of the Dingle Bookshop and Tor Cotton, prints limited edition publications with a leaning towards the arts and the Irish language. They use a 1950s Heidelberg press - a wonderful piece of machinery that prints from monotype lettering. However, computerisation has rendered the Heidelberg and similar printing presses obsolete and, therefore, the monotype that's used in them isn't easy to come by anymore. This is particularly true of Irish language fadas (ie: á, é, í, ó, ú), which are badly needed by Ponc Press.

They're hoping that people who were previously involved in the print industry - or even collectors of random antiques - might have fadas that they'd be willing to part with. They would be happy to get any lettering that's 10-point or bigger, in any typeface, bold, roman or italic. Contact Tor Cotton at