My Kilkenny Life - Helena Hughes

Mary Cody


Mary Cody


Helena Hughes believes that the Rose of Tralee ‘is a celebration of real people’

Kilkenny Rose, Helena Hughes

What's your idea of a perfect day, or perfect weekend out in Kilkenny?
My perfect weekend in Kilkenny would include a walk in Kells Priory with my Labrador Susie, lunch in Fennelly's of Callan, before back into the medieval city for some shopping! I usually pop into Macdonagh junction, Lady Lorna's, Folkster and Mimi's. Dinner would have to be at Aroi on Friary Street as I love Asian food! Then after dinner some music, and a nightcap at Brogans.

Who has made the greatest contribution to Kilkenny in your lifetime - and why?
The Kilkenny Arts Festival, because each year the festival offers the opportunity to engage with an incredible level of international art, music, theatre and entertainment. It's brought so much creative influence to the city, particularly for children. I benefitted enormously from the whole family being involved as volunteers for years.

What's your first Kilkenny memory?
Probably going into St. Canices primary school for the first time and meeting my junior infants teacher Mrs O'Leary (RIP). Mrs O'Leary created an unparalleled music program which helped foster my lifelong love of music.

What's your favourite part of the county - and why?
It would have to be the village of Kells, my homeplace. The priory and round tower are incredible we have two beautiful mills, there's a fantastic sense of community, lovely local cafe, amazing local shop Bob's that helped us survive the big snow, and of course Sean's pub! It's a beautiful part of the world and we are lucky to live there.

What do you think gives Kilkenny it's unique identity?
The history and creativity of Kilkenny combined give it a unique identity. For one we have a medieval city rich with character, and also rich with culture. It also speaks volumes that we have so many festivals every year - the Cat Laughs, Rythm and Roots, Kilkenomics, Kilkenny Arts Festival, Abhainn Ri, the list goes on.

Do you have a favourite local writer or author?
There's a connection with Jonathan Swift, who went to Kilkenny College and lived out in Swift's Heath. I like his satire!

What's the biggest challenge facing the county today?
From my perspective I feel that it's third level opportunities. I was lucky enough to go to college in Dublin but I would love to see Kilkenny have a wider offering of further education. I feel that there is a real risk of young people having to move away for access to third level education and not necessarily getting the opportunity to come back later on in their lives.

If you had the power to change one thing in, or about Kilkenny, what would it be?
I would love to see more local employment opportunities to keep young people living locally. I would also be delighted to see less empty retail units around town but I feel that this will take a lot of imagination to revive local retail across the county. On a lighter note it would be great if the seaside was a bit closer too!