Sunday, March 25, 2007

The flowers were there, courtesy of Eirflowers Wholesalers; four local landmarks sketched by Bill Delaney on show; hand scripted scrolls by Fiona Barrett and of course, the Gift Vouchers for the nominees….. Members of The CDA – Kay, Patricia, Margaret and Mary set up the teas and biscuits…. Fiona on hand with the proposed plan for the Library Project whilst Eric organised the seating and tables….. Tim, Rose and Michael of The Bugle discussing the running order…..
There was an air of excitement in the hall – please God, let there be a full house.
And there was, as friends and supporters of the Nominees arrived in cheerful mode. Sean Power TD and Minister of State for the Dept of Children and Health, Cllrs Billy Hillis and JJ Power arrived before our ‘centre stage’ stars – Breda and Gerry, Grania, Mary and Eamonn.

For the first time ever at a function in Ballymore Eustace, we were ready to start at 8pm, definitely a first in my experience! You know, it was a thoroughly enjoyable night and shame on those of you who missed it. Normally, people are shuffling or politely snoozing through speeches at awards ceremonies but I think our local awards night has managed to cast off the cloak of formality.

We kicked into action with a welcome to all and an acknowledgement to Sean, Billy and JJ that we appreciated their attendance. (Apologies received from Jack Wall TD, Cllr Willie Callaghan, Rev Kesh Govan, last year’s winner Ann Langan and nominee, Ann McLoughlin). Tim and I were joined at the top table by Michael Ward, former editor of The Bugle who introduced the awards as an opportunity to pay tribute to the real ‘beavers’ within our community, the people who rarely take ‘front of house’ curtain calls but do all the hard work backstage.

Gerry & Breda Bell
Well, it was easy for me to say a few words on this pair; warm accolades had been passed on to me during the weeks leading up to the awards night – ‘great neighbours, good people, great parents…’ No arguments from anyone on those scores. Gerry was recognised for his outstanding work with the Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Society at the Kildare Person of the Year Awards; a founder member of the Kildare Branch, Gerry takes members on holiday, day trips and shopping outings and the more the merrier, doesn’t take a feather out of him.
But Breda and Gerry were nominated locally ‘as a package’, for their support and generosity to everything their children are involved in, ‘all for one and one for all’ so to speak. Every sports or musical event, community games, panto, art competitions, wherever one of the family are competing, the Bells are out in force. I gave a bit of slagging to the pair but if you weren’t there on the night, well you should have been…

“Them scones, them scones….”
Next Tim gave a wonderful citation for Mary Campbell who was positively ‘cringing’ in the corner, with a grip on the radiator as if her life depended on it. I’m not going to repeat Tim’s tribute – but by God, this woman is busy!
And yet still she finds time to bake scones…..(I think personally she buys them from Grania and flaunts them as her own – plagiarist!) Tim also referred to the fact that despite between over 35? years married, Mary’s nomination for the Person of the Year Award was the first time during their marriage that Anthony knew something before Mary! Classic. And you know were we ended up after 2am the following morning – in Campbells eating the scones…

GRANIA, our ‘Muse of Comedy’
Michael then paid tribute to Grania for her community endeavours but it wasn’t mortal scones he sought inspiration from but instead looked to the Gods, quoting a passage from Helen of Troy to praise Grania’s pleasant demeanour and to The Muse of Comedy for her theatrical skills. High accolades indeed! Grania’s commitment to St John’s Church is extraordinary – I hope Nellie was looking down, Grania, she’d be so pleased for you. Grania is also a founder member of the local art group who gave a magnificent exhibition last year.

Michael extolled Grania’s good humour and welcoming smile; adding to that, I spoke of her calm running of the Brownies years ago (I forgot to mention the Playgroup) and how patient she has been over the years with youngsters working in the supermarket, ringing in sick (apr├Ęs nightclub malaise). There are so many other things to praise Grania for – her time visiting the elderly in nursing homes, her open house to students at Newbridge College who lived too far away to travel home at weekends, the Grania Shelter for Stray Animals - tonnes more good things to be said about our Grania.

Now Eamonn Deegan was nominated for his lifetime commitment to the sport of handball and the Wolfe Tone Brass and Reed Band/ The Bandhall. It is important to note here that the Deegan family in general are dedicated community activists – Martin, Margaret, Mary, Ollie, Tommy and Eamonn. As current President of the Handball Club, Eamonn has been a lifelong supporter of the sport, from the early days when he played himself, to the building of the glass alley and community centre. The alley has always been a huge social benefit to Ballymore – as a sport centre inc. racquetball and handball; it also provided a meeting place, shop and pool table.

Similarly, Eamonn played and marched with The Wolfe Tone Brass and Reed Band, accompanying them to the States and to events all around Ireland. Now the Bandhall facilitates drama, musicals, bowling, badminton, meetings and still continues to give weekly musical lessons. Billy Gobbett praised Eamonn for his handball skills but said he would never make the mistake of playing golf with him again ‘cos he is too damned good! Eamonn was formerly a member of The Sputnik Five (the Westlife of Kildare) and then F Troop (Boyzone in midlife). Sputnik Five were real serious X Factor contenders in their day. Tim had a few notes sent over from fellow member, Willie Ryan who reminded the audience that Christy Moore once played support to the band and there was a ‘vague’ reference to skinnydipping in Ardenode, “Clane lassies and Prosperous lads…” mmh, methinks there is a whole other story here……

Right Hand Page
It must be stressed here that all four nominees, Mary, Gerry and Breda, Grania and Eamonn are all deemed Ballymore Eustace People of the Year. Each one received gifts of equal value – for the ladies, a flower bouquet and for Eamonn, a bottle of wine; each received a framed sketch by local artist, Bill Delaney and a framed citation hand written by Fiona Barrett plus a gift voucher for a local restaurant. They are equal in our eyes, dedicated committed community activists who have served our village admirably.

Alas, when it came to picking a winner, we were tearing our hair out. But in the end, an overall winner had to be picked – we may not have a FESTIVAL QUEEN this year, but for these awards, the Coughlanstown Queen, Mary Campbell took top honours, much to her embarrassment. The joy and pride of Anthony and Laura was obvious, as was the delight of Nan Quinn and neighbours, the Dreelan sisters.

But Gerry and Breda were recognised too for their work, with a Special “Good Citizens Award” – good friends, Mary and John Hartigan, the neighbours from Broadleas, Pete Shinners and his wife were all thrilled to bits and of course, the family. Double baby celebrations for the family this month with Linda and Vera giving birth to baby boys!

Finally, let me say, it was great craic going to Paddy’s afterwards with the Campbells, listening to Olive and Pat Hilliard recall the days of the ‘old badminton regime’ …. Visits to Campbell’s in the early hours of the morning when Mary and Anthony lived in a caravan with a pot bellied stove that was better than a sauna… Olive, Pat, Liam Daly,Catherine Farrell all in the caravan, feasting on scones, ‘them scones, them scones’…..


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