By Jimmy Rhatigan
All pics: Donal Foley
THE RIBBON cutting ceremony at a local community facility said everything about the great people who are leading a renaissance in a rural village that has been hit by business closures.
For their big day, the board of management and committee didn’t import so-called celebrities nor did they opt for a politician of any description.
Instead they went for one of their own, a son of the area who has served them with distinction.
And in a wonderful gesture of faith in their future a young boy was given the honour of performing the joint launching ceremony.
The decision represented the huge positivity that is obviously seeping through those involved in a project that it is hoped will resurrect and help to rebuild a smashing area, a Lazarus-like recovery if you will.
Billy Kiely, a great grand-nephew of the man of the same name who lived in the home that is now Billy’s Tearooms was a terrific ambassador for the schoolboys and girls of the region who, at another time, will enjoy the fruits of the hard work of an enthusiastic present generation.
Young Billy is a pupil of Scoil Pádraig, Ballyhale and he certainly did his family and school proud as he stole the show, winning local hearts and minds.
The official opening of community tearooms on Saturday was described as akin to a welcome home for local hurling champions.
That was the compliment that was paid by many as an estimated 350 turned up for a very special afternoon in the proud parish of Ballyhale.
Billy’s Tearooms at the heart of the village opened its doors eight weeks ago and was officially recognized as a fantastic community hub at the weekend
It has already been voted a smash hit and is the first positive step forward in an area that has lost its local supermarket, post office, several pubs, local chipper and petrol pumps et al.
The Tearooms include a shop, a cosy well heated snug for fireside Autumn and Winter Chats and a delightful dining area where meals can be booked in advance and will be ready when you arrive.
The verdict from locals and visitors is that the Tearooms are a Godsend, so successful that they are now being compared to the hurling kings of Ballyhale Shamrocks who year after year bring pride and success to the parish.
“There was a great buzz at the launch,” David Murphy told The Reporter.
“The turnout was far greater than we expected, our people are being hugely supportive and we are delighted with the reaction of visitors too.”
Billy said the Tearooms had already welcomed people from Donegal, West Cork and Clare, along with friends and well wishers from all over Kilkenny City and County.
And what is fast becoming a cosmopolitan village fulcrum has also played host to tourists from Italy, France, Germany and Spain.
“Different cycling groups call to us at weekends, Kilkenny Vintage Motor Club members are regular visitors and we have had senior citizens from Dunmore, Danesfort and Kilkenny City.
“We are thrilled with the reaction. There is fabulous support from near and far and to compare the excitement last Saturday with our GAA club coming home with the Kilkenny Senior Hurling Cup was certainly a super compliment.”
Volunteers have been flat out, baking, cooking, filling tea cups and generally looking after customers who are turning up in big numbers every day.
The Tearooms have been so busy that the first staff members have now been recruited.
Local girls Marian Walsh and Helena Cody will run the kitchen and the premises generally.
The Tearooms and area outside were packed on Saturday and it was standing room only in the adjoining parish hall afterwards where guests enjoyed refreshments and food, including samples of the home-baking that is always available in the Tearooms.
The premises was blessed by Fr Seán O’Connor who, David Murphy said, continues to be a great support to the committee.
The local shop, part of the Tearooms Complex, carries all essentials, including groceries.
Pride in local produce is highlighted in an area where Joan and Bob’s Jams, Thomastown, Beleven Honey, Little Mill from Mosse’s Mills, Bennettsbridge, Highbank Syrups and Cider Vinegar and Rapeseed Oil from Urlingford are all on offer and are selling very well.
A small well heated snug with stove will be available for Autumn and Winter chats.
Speakers included representatives of Leader who contributed €50,000 to the project, Michael Delahunty and Eamon Aylward of Kilkenny County Council who supported with €40,000.
As a certain politicians once said much has been done etc, but let’s now go down that road.
Plans are already in place for a retractable roof at the rear of the premises, a multi-purpose alfresco dining spot in Summer and Winter indoor haven perhaps.
The telephone number to order your lunch or simply for a Tearooms query is 056-77-68584.