Community news: West Kerry

The champion potato growers of Paróiste na Cille Cois Cnoic and the wives who make it all possible. In first place was Finbarr McCarthy (centre) with his triumphant wife, Helen; Gearóid MacGearailt, with wife Helen (left), came second and Packie and Barbie Begley were third in Saturday night’s Spud Off tasting in Begley’s pub in Baile na nGall. Photo by Declan Malone
The champion potato growers of Paróiste na Cille Cois Cnoic and the wives who make it all possible. In first place was Finbarr McCarthy (centre) with his triumphant wife, Helen; Gearóid MacGearailt, with wife Helen (left), came second and Packie and Barbie Begley were third in Saturday night’s Spud Off tasting in Begley’s pub in Baile na nGall. Photo by Declan Malone

The effects of a cold, wet spring were felt at the parish heats of this year's Spud-Off Mór competition where entries were fewer and potatoes were smaller than usual. But this didn't diminish the intensity of competition and the pride in producing a good spud.

The Spud-Off Mór finals will be held next Sunday (July 8) in Begley's pub in Baile na nGall, and in advance of the big event the parish heats of the annual competition were held in pubs throughout West Kerry over the weekend.

The parish competitions were held in the finest weather the country has seen since 1976, but they still felt the effects of the cold, wet, wintry weather that persisted until nearly the end of April this year. The bad weather meant potatoes that were planted early in the year struggled to survive and many growers delayed planting until far later than the traditional deadline of St Patrick's Day. In either case the outcome was similar and the potato crop in West Kerry is far behind what it should be for this time of year.

The result of all this was seen in a reduced number of entries in the parish heats because people either had no spuds at all to bring to the table or they didn't want to embarrass themselves by turning up with a plateful of criocáns.

In Dún Chaoin there were only two entries, while both Baile an Fheirtéaraigh and Dingle had only one entry each. Other areas fared better and in Baile na nGall, where good potatoes are cherished, the judges had their work cut out for them on Saturday evening as they daintily sampled the entries in the Paróiste na Cille Cois Cnoic round of the competition.

The best method for growing potatoes, the choice of ground and manure, the appropriate care and attention, are often a subject of debate - but rarely of agreement. However, a grower gains a certain authority on the matter by producing a winning spud.

On Saturday night Finbarr McCarthy's British Queens were judged the best spuds in Paróiste na Cille Cois Cnoic and he revealed the secrets of his success to The Kerryman.

Finbarr, who works as a brewer with Heineken in Cork, reckons British Queens have a natural advantage in the Spud-Off competition because they're in their prime around the end of June/early July. His potatoes were planted in garden compost beside his holiday home in Carraig on St Patrick's Day and he thought they weren't going to grow at all because no stalk was seen above ground for six or seven weeks. After that Finbarr didn't go near the potatoes and when he dug them for the Spud-Off competition they were buried in weeds, with thistles growing up between them. The 'laissez faire' approach worked and Finbarr's Queens were a country mile ahead of the second and third placed Queens grown by Gearóid Mac Gearailt and Packie Begley.

The Spud-Off finals will be held this Sunday in Begley's pub in Baile na nGall, starting at 4pm with the Pláta Práta competition for the best potato-based dish. The competition is being judged by a panel of five tasters, including TV chef Karen Coakley (the Kenmare Foodie). The Pláta Práta competiton is open to professional chefs this year and anybody who wants to enter can do so by contacting Elaine on 086 1006046 before 5pm on this Friday.

Judging of the Spud-Off contest will begin at 5pm in Begley's pub, and in between all that there will be a schools art competition organised by Elouise Flannery from Dingle, a potato peeling contest and a competition to guess to number of criocáns (small spuds) in a bag - the winner of which will receive the standard, and very useful, prize of a shovel.

Results of the Spud-Off parish heats:

Dingle: Noel O'Neill (British Queens). Ventry: Micí Ó Conchúir (British Queens). Dún Chaoin: Nora Murphy (British Queens). Baile an Fheirtéaraigh: Breandán Ó Cíobháin (British Queens). Paróiste na Cille Cois Cnoic: Finbarr McCarthy (British Queens). Paróiste na Cille Cois Farraige: Josh Ó Breanáin (British Queens). Paróiste Mórach: Billy Corr (Kerr Pinks).

The Lios Póil heat was being held on Tuesday night.

Ventry church to remain closed until November

Ventry chuch is open to the air this week - but it will remain closed to its parishioners until November.

The sandstone church at Ard a Bóthair has served the western part of Dingle Parish since it was dedicated to Naomh Caitlíona in 1874. However, in recent years a number of leaks in the centre of the roof and above the altar lead Parish Priest Fr. Joseph Begley to initiate an investigation into the state of the structure. Co-ordinated by Michael Moriarty of Moriarty & Bambury Engineers in Dingle, the investigation resulted in the decision to replace the roof.

This week the church was open to the air after the Bangor slates had all been removed and work is now underway to re-roof the building. The unfailing sunshine of the past week and a good weather forecast for the coming days have greatly helped the work, but, just in case, the section above the altar has been covered in felt to protect the interior.

The re-roofing is being carried out by Inch Construction and for company owner Seán O'Connor it's a great job to work on, simply because of the quality of the work that went into the church when it was built.

Speaking to The Kerryman on Monday he pointed out that it's common to see the walls of old buildings pushed outwards by the weight of the roof. But in Ventry church the three-foot thick stone walls are as straight and true as the day they were built and the pitch pine beams and trusses that supported the slate roof are beautifully jointed and still in perfect condition. The only fault to be found is that somebody, at some time in the past, thought it would be a good idea put a coat of brown paint on the pitch pine beams.

"You can see the respect there was for the Church from the quality of the building," said Seán, who added that he still hasn't worked out how the original builders got the roof 'A' frames, weighing about five tonnes each, into place without the use of the lifting equipment and machinery that builders take for granted today.

Additional work that will take place as part of the renovation include the installation of insulation and a new heating system as the existing gas heating system creates condensation which is problematic according to Fr. Joe. The project will also include electrical work, re-painting and the installation of ramps to improve wheelchair access, he added.

The cost of the refurbishment work will be in the region of €400,000 and the parish is commencing a number of fundraising activities to help cover the cost. One donor has already come forward and further donations will be welcome, said Fr. Begley.

While work on the church is continuing the weekly Saturday evening Vigil Mass is being held in Halla FionnTrá. For information on the fundraising initiative contact the Parish Office at 066-91208 or email

Cupán with cop on to help cut litter

Dingle's latest contribution to the battle against litter and the over-use of disposable plastics was launched last week and it comes in the form of a very simple but very special coffee cup.

The cup, known as the Dingle Cupán, looks like the disposable cups that are filled at coffee machines in restaurants, petrol stations and supermarkets, used once and then dumped. Those disposable coffee cups sometimes end up as litter on our streets and along roadsides after they are carelessly tossed out of car windows, and it's no small problem.

The Irish are the biggest users of disposable plastics in the EU, it's estimated that 2,000 disposable coffee cups are used daily in Dingle during the summer, and on County Clean Up Day in April coffee cups were the most common item of litter picked out of the roadsides around Dingle.

Conscious of the extent of the problem, Transition Towns Chorca Dhuibhne set up a sub-committee in February to examine solutions and they came up with the Dingle Cupán. It's a coffee cup in every sense of the word - it doesn't just hold coffee, it's made out of used coffee grounds. On top of that novelty value, the heavy duty cup is shatter-resistant, naturally insulated, it's reckoned to have a 20-year lifespan and then it can be recycled again.

Máire Uí Léime of Transition Towns Chorca Dhuibhne (TTCD) said the idea for the Dingle Cupán grew out of the group's involvement in providing recycling facilities at the Dingle Food Festival over the past two years. They were concerned at the huge volume of litter, especially single-use cups, produced at the food festival, but they also discovered that people were interested in finding a waste-free alternative.

With financial assistance from Kerry County Council's Waste Prevention Fund, TTCD ordered 524 cups from the German coffee shop, turned coffee cup maker, Kaffee Form and they're now available in Garvey's SuperValu, Sheehy's Spar, the Grá Dingle health food shop, Dingle Surf Shop, and My Boy Blue café. The cups cost TTCD €9.30 each and they're for sale at €10, which is cost price or even a little less.

Kerry County Council Environment Awareness Officer Oonagh O'Connor said Transition Towns Chorca Dhuibhne was leading the way once again with, which is "a fabulous community initiative".

"It's all about making these small changes. If everybody starts with something small, like abandoning disposable coffee cups and using the Dingle Cupán instead, we will go a long way towards reducing our litter problem," she said.

Village barbecue aids fire victim

Businesses in Ballyferriter joined forces to host a barbecue on Sunday evening to raise funds for a neighbour who lost his belongings when fire devastated his home recently.

Displaying great community spirit, locals rallied to raise funds to help relieve the difficult situation. Local business owners took time off from their own work to set up and prepare the barbecue at the entrance to the Museum in Ballyferriter. Sausages, burgers and salads aplenty were provided as people found perches around the village to enjoy the fare. The sun shone and the breeze which had swept through the village all day calmed in time for the occasion.

"There was a great turn, out everyone enjoyed themselves and we gathered some money for a good cause," said Diarmuid Sayers of Tigh an tSaorsaigh.

Jay’s paintings finally get an airing at Díseart open day

The entire community is invited to attend an open day at An Diseart, which will include an exhibition of paintings by the late Jay Killian. The American-born artist who lived in Dingle from 1978 until his death in 1995 was greatly admired for the quality of his work - and his personality - but he never held an exhibition of his paintings.

Jay's good friend Gene Courtney wanted to put this to right and contacted owners of Jay's paintings for the exhibition.

Jay was one of the first recognised artists to live and work in Dingle. His work includes commissioned portraits of Eamon de Valera and Charles J Haughey but his preferred subjects were the people of West Kerry. In an interview with The Kerryman shortly before his death he said: "I like painting people. The scenery will be there for thousands of years but the people they only live a lifetime, they are the ones worth painting."

As well as the art exhibition, musicans Eoin Duignan, Eilís Ní Chinnéide and Gerry O'Beirne are among the local artists to lend their support on the open day at An Díseart. Other activities include a puppet show, a massive cake sale and tours of the building and the gardens.

The open day is the first event organised by Cairde an Disirt, a group established in 2017. to extend the facilities of An Diseart to community groups and individuals working in the areas of community development, spirituality, the Arts, heritage and sustainability.

Mary Ruddy of Cairde an Dísirt said: "The day is about social inclusion. We hope to bring people from around the peninsula for a day of comhrá craic , relaxation, music and refreshments in the surrounds of the Díseart building and gardens, we are providing a little bit of something for everyone. Our aim is to help break social isolation".

The open day will start at 11am on Friday, July 6, and continue until 4pm. For further information contact the Díseart at 066-9152476 or

Walking fish adds to rare catalogue

The latest addition to the ever-growing catalogue of rare and wonderful sea creatures landed in Dingle is a fish with feet. But it isn't an alien from tropical waters that slowly walked to Ireland - they're here all the time, we just don't catch them very often.

The sea toad, which was caught at a depth of about 500m on the Porcupine Bank by Michael Flannery's trawler Cú na Mara last week was one of only a handful ever landed in Ireland. By rare coincidence, the first ever recorded catch of a sea toad in Ireland was also made by Michael Flannery in 1988, also on the Porcupine Bank and also in June.

Marine biologist Kevin Flannery said that, unlike the slipper lobsters recently caught off the Blaskets, sea toad could be considered native to the Porcupine Bank. They are very rarely landed in Ireland but he said that's partly because our fishermen rarely fish the Porcupine, which is about 200km offshore and not a great place to be in bad weather.

Despite being rare, the sea toad is relatively well known thanks to David Attenborough's 'Blue Planet' series which featured the fish with feet shuffling its way across bottomless seas.

Michael Flannery's sea toad probably won't have as many viewers but it will have its own place in history after it is dispatched to the Natural History Museum in Dublin.