Crib creator Rena takes a well-deserved bow

Rena Kennelly
Rena Kennelly

SHE has helped make Christmas magical for a generation of Killarney Children but this week Rena Kennelly was not leaving new found fame go to her head.

The Killarney woman has been creating the crib at St Mary's Cathedral for 40 years, but until this week many people in the town would have been unaware of her contribution- that is until she hit the headlines.

However, instead of basking in the limelight Rena was back at work on Thursday putting the final touches to the crib before its official opening at 6.15pm mass on Saturday evening. Rena has been creating the crib since the Cathedral was refurbished in the 1970s. Before then there was no crib or designated space for it within the historic building.

But the Cathedral crib was not Rena's first. During the refurbishment of the Cathedral, services shifted to St Mary's Parish Hall: "I was asked to make a crib to put up on the stage of the hall, I suppose to give the space a bit of religion. I made this cardboard cut out crib, which I wasn't too pleased with, but they loved it," she said.

When services returned to the Cathedral, Rena offered to make something a little more permanent, which she made using shop models with faces she fashioned out of plaster.

These figures served the parish for over 20 years until Fr Gearoid Walsh offered to replace them with models from Italy. The crib is divided into key sections: the stable, the village in the distance and a pool of water with a baby deer, donated annually by Killarney man Johnny Coffey. This year Rena has created a new village, and has added a much needed extension on to the stable which was getting a little cramped for space thanks to a larger donkey. Other new additions include a camel which Rena placed in the crib on Thursday.

"I have always loved doing the crib, I was always artistic but really this was the only outlet I had to do something," Rena said. However, it is not just a job for Rena; brothers Brendan and Andrew Joy, and St Mary's Cathedral Sacristan Tadhg Fleming help over the festive season, while building contractor Martin Walsh puts the structure for the crib in place.