The spectrum of business interests was certainly diverse, but hard work and perserverence were the common qualities among those who gathered for the Against the Wind awards at County Hall last Friday.
In his last official event as Cathaoirleach of Kilkenny County Council, Cllr Paul Cuddihy chose to celebrate a number of different people from around the county for ‘resilience in business’.
“This is about surviving in difficult circumstances,” he said.
“What I am here to do today is to honour a diverse group which have one thing in common. And that is the huge amount of work they have put into their businesses.”
The awards were designed by well known local designer Claire Goodwillie from Lavistown.
The first to be acknowledged was local man Tony Hayes, for his work for the upkeep of Newpark Fen.
“Many people have said that, with very few resources – but a lot of imagination and hard work – he has transformed Newpark Fen,” said Cllr Cuddihy.
“He is a man who works tremendously hard.”
Next up were Bill and Joe Connolly from Connolly’s Red Mills.
“I’d like to thank Paul Cuddihy on presenting this to us and acknowledge that Kilkenny is a tremendous county to live in,” said Mr Connolly.
“Goresbridge is the centre of the universe as far as we’re concerned.”
The next award went to Mark Carr and Sean Donnelly of Easy Wind Energy, for their innovative approach in developing wind power. The company has come up with a vertical axis wind turbine that is unlike anything else currently on the market.
“We have created a very unique low cost wind turbine that I think will do a lot to save energy costs for businesses and homeowners,” said Mr Donnelly.
The next award, for providing an exceptional family and educational facility, went to the Castlecomer Discovery Park. This year, the park opened its new tree top walk and climbing wall. Following a first-year deficit, the business is now turning a healthy surplus.
Staying in the north of the county, the next award winner was the Johnstown-based business Black Door Craft Shop, for commitment to artisan craft. Maeve Sookram and Kevin Dolan produce handmade ceramics and the pair source as many local crafts as possible. They stock a wide range of Irish and local handcrafted giftware, pottery, ceramics, turned timber, textiles, candles, greeting cards, jewellery and more.
It was then across to Gowran, where Siobhan Murphy Lawler’s Glasrai and Goodies won an award for commitment to sourcing local artisan food produce.
Keogh’s Bakery in Callan was next, with an award for producing consistently high-quality confectionery and delicious bread.
Not only is the last ‘real’ bread available from Keogh’s Bakery, according to Cllr Cuddihy, but it also has the finest frontage of any shop in Kilkenny. Billy Keogh thanked his father (who is 91 and still does the VAT), as well as the staff and customers for all their support over the years.
Local man Pat Murray won an award for his unfaltering professional approach in dealing with the public.
“As long as I have known him he has been courteous and respectful to all customers, and a byword for professionalism and efficiency in Kilkenny,” said the then Cathaoirleach.
The following award was for a family-based business Waterside Bike and Hike in Graignamanagh, which provides
“A lot of Kilkenny people are unaware of what is going on in Graignamanagh, you’ve got to get over the hill, but when you do – it’s worth it,” said proprietor Brian Roberts.
The next award, Cllr Cuddihy described as ‘an acorn from which an oak tree will grow’. It was to Michael Gaule Jr for his enterprising efforts with a mobile butcher service.
“He decided to get a chilled van and go around the villages and rural areas of Kilkenny,” said Cllr Cuddihy.
“He has tripled his output since last September.”
Finally, two awards were presented in absentia of their intended recipients.
Terry Clune, CEO of Taxback.com and frontman of the Connect Ireland initiative was honoured with an award for ‘Inspirational efforts in creating employment in Ireland. John Purcell, president of the chamber of commerce accepted the award on Mr Clune’s behalf.
“Awards like these play a huge part for businesses – in terms of confidence and affirming what they are doing,” he said.
Finally, Catherine ‘Kitty’ Donohue (77) of Goresbridge was named the winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award. Following the untimely death of her husband, she had raised a young family alone and gone on to develop one of the largest and most successful equine businesses in the country.