My Kilkenny Life: Tom Kennedy

Mary Cody


Mary Cody


My Kilkenny Life: Tom Kennedy

Kilkennyman Tom Kennedy is well known for his athletic endeavours. No stranger to a triathlon or a long run, he also cycled the 2,500km long Wild Atlantic Way to raise funds for a permanent memorial t

What’s your idea of a perfect day, or perfect weekend, out in Kilkenny?
My perfect day is my normal day. I get up at 6.45am and get a lift into work. Then I go for a swim in the Ormonde Hotel and head over to work with Kilkenny County Council in the County Hall.
Walking over I might meet up with Paul Cleere from O’Loughlin’s and a few of the lads and we would shoot the breeze talking about the hurling and matches. I would at the front desk in County Hall and it great craic. After work I would go up to the Castle Park and do five or six laps - it is more like fast walking than running.
On a Thursday evening I would head into Ryan’s on Friary Street to listen to the music and on Friday evening I would shoot the breeze down in Ó Riadas and The Pumphouse and on a Saturday I would go down to Ryan’s to listen to the live music.
On Sunday evening if I have the energy I would go to Barflies. Like Mass it is a real Sunday tradition! It is always so uplifting to listen to the lads playing.

Who has made the greatest contribution to Kilkenny in your lifetime - and why?
There are so many, like the former county manager Paddy Donnelly. He was responsible for keeping the city and did a huge amount to keep Kilkenny as a medieval city. Willie Meighan and John Cleere who were responsible for bringing the Roots Festival. Willie’s passing was a tragic loss to Kilkenny.
Another local hero is Paddy Neary who does the walking tours - the amount of knowledge that we have got on Kilkenny from that man is incredible about the history of buildings and the history of the streets. Paddy has also involved in the Kilkenny Road Race for the past 40 years. He is a real local hero and is a complete and utter volunteer.

What’s your first Kilkenny memory?
I remember the time around My First Holy Communion my father bringing me into Billy Collins on Patrick Street to get my hair cut. There was the red and white sign outside the door spinning.
Inside there were black and white photographs of all the heavyweight boxers like Jack Johnson, John A Sullivan and Jersey Walcott. I was too small for the chair so they put a board across the chair so you could sit up and look in the mirror and they would oil in your hair.

What’s your favourite part of the county - and why?
My homeplace Kilmanagh. I come from the parish of Graigue/Ballycallan and it has been untouched by development.
The old mill and the old bridge are still there and when you are outside in the fields you hear nothing but birds and cattle grazing and maybe a tractor in the distance.
Ballykeeffe amphitheatre is a very special place in the area and my life-long friend Matt O’Sullivan showed great vision in developing it. The sound is incredible there and it has hosted so many amazing acts like Paul Brady and Aslan. I love where I live - even though I work in the city it is wonderful to come to the peace and quiet in the evenings.

What do you think gives Kilkenny its unique identity?
It’s the whole feel of the city. Even today I went for a run at lunchtime and there is always a lovely welcoming ambiance around.
I think that people in Kilkenny think outside of the box and are very liberal and open-minded. Everyone is welcome in our city.

Do you have a favourite local writer or author?

Local poet Pat Shortall would be one along with Tommy Kiernan, who writes short stories. He has a lovely story which you can listen to on You Tube called The Smell of Hay back in the 1970s.
If people want to get away from all the doom and gloom that is out there at the moment I would definitely recommend listening to it. It is a throwback to when hay was the staple diet of every animal.
As a teenager Imust have pitched thousands of square bales - I have happy memories of that time.
Another great writer is the singer/songwriter Mick Walsh who plays in Cleere’s every Monday night. He is Kilkenny’s Bob Dylan and he even wrote a protest song about putting a railing up in the Butterslip.
When it comes to writing music Liam Ronan, the accordian player is something else - his piece Over the Road to Josie is a great one.
Another great storyteller is Jim Maher, another local hero who is a local treasure but should be a national treasure. The talent locally in Kilkenny is unique.

What’s the biggest challenge facing the county today?
The demise of rural Ireland - the closure of post offices and pubs has had a real impact.
There were a lot of single people living on their own and the pub was there only social outlet. Now there is loneliness and fear. I think that the gardaí should have a bit more discrepancy. I think that if people have one or two pints over a night then the full letter of law should not be applied to them.
Rural pubs all over the country are closing down and no one is listening.

If you had the power to change one thing in, or about, Kilkenny what would it be?
There are two things. I would like to bring back the smell of the hops when the Brewery was there.
I remember as a child coming into town from the country - the smell of the hops. That was part of what Kilkenny was for hundreds of years. It is part of my DNA.
I would also like to see longer opening hours, especially now with the virus. We need it now more than ever.