Taj Mahal, Great Wall of China and the Wellie Wonder

    By Jimmy Rhatigan

    Pics: Donal Foley

    FEAR NOT, The Reporter is not about to deliver a history lesson.

    But in reminding of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the ‘New’ Seven Wonders of the World, we make the point that we cannot but believe that Castlecomer Wellie Race would fit comfortably into either list.

    Wonders of the Ancient World were:

    • The Great Pyramid at Giza, Egypt.
    • The Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
    • The Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Greece.
    • The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus.
    • The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.
    • The Colossus of Rhodes.
    • The Lighthouse at Alexandria, Egypt.

    The ‘New Wonders’ are The Great Wall of China, Christ The Redeemer Statue, Rio de Janeiro, Macchu Picchu, Peru, an Incan City of sparkling granite precariously placed between two towering Andean Peaks, Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico, a powerful trading centre for cloth, honey and salt, the Roman Colosseum, Rome, Taj Mahal, Agra, India and Petra, Jordan, a World Heritage Site.

    There will probably be those who will say that the Wellie Race would be out of its depth in either group.

    But there may be others who would be happy to see the wellie wonder take what it might call its rightful place among the elite.

    That the Wellie Race, born in The Powley Vale 40 years ago continues to be a huge success and is still growing is a huge tribute to the wonderful community that is ‘Comer and hinterlands.

    That what Chubby Brennan calls the acorn that was planted in Castlecomer 38 years ago has grown to a giant oak tree that now has branches throughout the world is another huge plus.

    That the race has raised countless thousands of Euros for local, national and international charities over the years is a phenomenal achievement.

    That there are always sons and daughters of ‘Comer willing to serve as race committee members, stewards, ticket sellers, float makers and that big numbers don their wellies ever New Year’s Day in ‘Comer to pay tribute to the humble wellie and, more importantly, to raise funds for families in need and to boost local services is another fantastic positive.

    We could go on and on and at The Reporter we accept that our leanings are very much towards ‘Comer, one of the great local communities in our community conscious country.

    It is worth recalling that last St Stephen’s Day, The Powley celebrated 40 years of wellie racing, started following a chat in the home of Paddy Phelan of Moyhora.

    Sitting around a table on Christmas Night, a group of Powley boys decided that it would be a good idea to go for a run on Stephen’s Day.

    That all turned up at 3pm and wearing wellies was perhaps planned or may have been a coincidence, but whatever, what followed and continues today is a tribute to men of courage.

    Foresight was the name of the game in 1981 when ‘Comer publican, Jim Bollard and Seamus ‘Joker’ Brennan pointed out the huge potential of the Wellie Race, the Powley Boys agreed to switch venue to ‘Comer and the rest is a historical story of beauty and amazing achievement.

    From a humble beginning, the Wellie Race, went on to spawn other races, first cousins perhaps in Toronto, Canada, New York, Penvénan, France, ‘Comer’s twin town, in the Austrian Alps and Torrevieja, Alicante, Spain.

    Many sons and daughters, devoted families and friends have played their parts in spreading the wellie gospel around the globe, ensuring that what began as a run through the fields in Powley Vale was catapulted to a world colossus in alfresco entertainment.

    Among those who have played leading roles in setting up wellie races are Eamon Brennan, a son of ‘Comer who now lives at Eden Vale Close in Kilkenny City, former Village hurling man, Dinny McCormack who had a pub in Torrevieja, Rosaleen Crotty, daughter of Kilkenny City Mayor, Tom Crotty takes to the Alps with her German and Austrian friends every year to celebrate the wellie and flies to ‘Comer for the home, sweet home spectacular.

    Jim O’Brien and family, originally from Moyhora, are the wellie race powerhouses in Toronto where they held a race last month.

    The Mother Wellie Race in ‘Comer works in tandem with all other races and is delighted that charities throughout the world benefit from the antics of the now famous pair of wellies.

    The present ‘Comer Wellie Race Committee is chairman, Mark Rothwell, vice-chairman, Macha Brennan, treasurer Paul Brophy; assistant treasurer, Chris Grammar and PRO, Chubby Brennan.

    On Monday, the town of ‘Comer was resplendent in decorations as thousands poured in for another memorable day of wellie fun.

    When the races were run, the float parade enjoyed, the raffles held, the programmes sold and the music died down, revellers ambled to local hostelries and a great day continued into the night as a wonderfully close-knit community celebrated the satisfaction they get from helping others.

    And on the morning after the big day, there wasn’t a lollipop stick or a cigarette butt in sight.

    Volunteers had kept an annual promise that they would clean up after the greatest outdoor show on earth.

    Whether or not it makes its way into The Seven Wonders of the World, no one can deny that the Wellie Race is run by people of real class.