Mayos in Dublin hail Joe Kennedy and Bonni’ Show
A MAN who started his business career in Manchester with three shovels and a wheelbarrow and who went on to become a multi-millionaire was crowned Mayo Person of the Year in City West in Dublin on Friday night. For Joe Kennedy and his family, it was a night to cherish, the further cementing of his close ties with the county and the land that has always had the fondest of places in his heart.
Joe spoke of his young days in Doocastle picking spuds and milking cows before leaving for England. He recalled early days over yonder and singing in a band at the Round Tower in Holbury before launching into a rousing rendition of “Moonlight in Mayo” to the delight of the gathering in City West.
Around 700 people attended the annual celebration night which is organised by Muintir Mhaigh Eo in Dublin. Last year’s recipient, Louis Walsh from Kiltimagh, was present for the hand-over together with his mother Maureen, brothers Frank, Paul and Eamon and sisters Evelyn and Sarah.
Several other former winners of the title were also in attendance including Dr John Hegarty from Claremorris (Provost of Trinity College), Professor Seamus Caulfield (Belderrig), Kevin Bourke (Ballyvary), Frank Harrington (Kilkelly) and Dr Jerry Cowley (Mulranny) to mention a few.
The chairman, Sean Reid from Charlestown, presided at the address of welcome. He said the Association provides a pedestal every year and the support they receive reflects the camaraderie that exists amongst Mayo people everywhere.
Sean congratulated Joe Kennedy and the Bonniconlon Show committee on their respective awards and had special words of thanks for the adjudicators, GAA legend Mick O’Dwyer, Martin Murphy, managing director of Hewlett-Packard Ireland, and Siobhan O’Connor, a journalist with the Independent group and presenter with 98FM in Dublin.
He also welcomed the representatives from other Mayo Associations at home and overseas with a special welcome for the large contingent who had journeyed over from Manchester with Joe Kennedy and his family. Fr Gerry French (Claremorris) said grace while other speakers included Padraic Jordan (Castlebar), President of Muintir Mhaigh Eo in Dublin and Michael Cannon (Carrowholly, Westport) who is PRO.
The citation for the Mayo Person of the Year was read by Dr Martin McAleese, husband of President Mary McAleese. “In 1955, Joe Kennedy emigrated to England where he met his wife, Kathleen Keevney from Cloonfad. They were blessed with seven children, five boys and two girls, and now lots of grandchildren. Joe started in business in 1959. He became very successful with J Kennedy and Co Ltd, Manchester and expanded into other parts of the UK, the Middle East and America.
“He has contributed more than £10 million to a wide variety of charities, including over £900,000 to Mayo charities and over €100,000 to the diocese of Killala. He played a significant role in establishing the first Catholic University of Ireland, the Newman Institute in Ballina, to which he organised the contribution of €2 million. Joe has also contributed greatly to peace in Northern Ireland through many community-based peace initiatives.”
The adjudicators also took on board his major role as chairman of the board of Knock Airport where he oversaw much expansion. The citation concluded: “He has been the deserving recipient of many honours for his work, including the Manchester Mayo Association Award and a Knight of St Gregory Award from Pope John Paul. We salute Joe on this terrific achievement. We thank him for his contribution to Mayo and wish him every success in the future.”
Between reminiscing, singing and telling some jokes, it was clear that Joe Kennedy was very much at home behind the microphone. Memories of Doocastle and Manchester were to the fore while his work in other areas, including Knock Airport, were also prominent in his delivery. He referred to Faith, Hope and Charity, and said he hoped he had been true to those three guiding values in his life.
It was a proud night too for the large contingent that travelled from Bonniconlon. “There’ll not be too many in the pubs in ‘Bonni’ tonight!,” remarked John O‘Hara. They certainly had travelled in style to celebrate their choice as “Meitheal” winners for the famed Bonniconlon Show.
The show started back in 1949 but made tremendous strides in more recent years to the stage where it now attracts in the region of 30,000 to the one-day event which is held on the August Bank Holiday Monday.
Chairman of the committee, John O’Hara, accepted the award on behalf of the committee.
In his acceptance speech, John was loud in his praise of the community effort that goes into maintaining Bonniconlon as the top show in the province. He said it is now an all year round commitment by so many dedicated people and it all comes together in great fashion on the big day in August.
Among the guests present were the Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy (whose wife Ann Reilly is from Kiltimagh), the Bishop of Killala, Rev John Fleming, Bishop Christy Jones of Achonry, Junior Minister Dara Calleary, Cllr John Cribbin (Chairman Mayo Co Council), Judge Margaret Heneghan of the Circuit Court, Sr Maria O’Regan (Ursuline Sisters), James Waldron (Chairman of Mayo GAA Board), John O’Mahony TD (Mayo senior team manager), and Lucinda Creighton (Dublin TD and a native of Claremorris) and the various representatives of the Mayo Associations.
Music was provided by Keith McDonald and the Showband Show while Deirdre and Sylvie Golden from Ballina also entertained the patrons. It was well into the deep hours of the night before the curtains finally came down on the celebrations.