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AT YOUR SERVICE FOR 45 Years and Counting….. Martina O’Leary’s lifetime at the Great Southern




The Great Southern Hotel, seeped in history since it opened its doors in 1854, recently featured on Nationwide and celebrating 170 years of welcoming guests from all over the world next year, including Queen Victoria, Jackie Kennedy, Sarah Ferguson, Kojak - Telly Savalas, Johnny Briggs, Charles J Haughey, Westlife, Colin Farrell, Bertie Aherne to name but a few, where else would I be only visiting Martina O'Leary who holds an impressive 45 years of service at one of Killarney's most prestigious hotels.

Let's start from the very beginning.....
"I was 19 and accepted for an elite, two-week crash course with 18 other candidates, through CERT, at the Aghadoe Heights Hotel in 1978. Each year the GSH was refurbished during the off-season, from November to March. That course really stood to me and I did endless globe trotting with my career as a result. I had mastered the art of silver service!
I began my post at the GSH in March of that same year, where much to my surprise, the existing staff continued to work internally for the winter refurb. I couldn't believe the transformation! They'd all scrubbed up nicely in hats and tails as porters and restaurant staff the following day as we reopened. It was rare to be a new staff member as the current staff returned annually. I'm originally from Cordal, Castleisland and while our accommodation was provided in the Garden Cottage, I would thumb home on my days off to help out with the hay and the turf. I saved and bought myself a new Peugeot racer bike so when the Ring of Kerry started, I needed no training" Martina laughed.

So have you been painting and decorating in the off-season for the past 45 years Martina?
"Our main trade was coach tours from America back in those days but today we are thankful to have a long line of repeat Irish guests and conferences now.
Some of the best days of my career at the GSH were the many connections we made with hotels around the world where we were referred to work during the off-season. I could write a book on the craic that was had" Martina smiled. "I have a good half an hour to listen to Martina so off you go" I replied. "We were accommodated on-site at many of the hotels we worked at. Myself and Kathleen Bhuiyan were joined at the hip. We still are. We worked at the Hilton in Rotterdam, the same year Johnny Logan won his first Eurovision in 1980. The following year we went to Frankfurt, Germany to the Intercontinental Hotel where we mainly catered for aircrew but were lucky to have 3 weeks off where we went inter-railing around Germany. We went to see so many concerts but the best was Queen and the Dubliners and it was there that Kathleen met her husband, Masum (RIP) who was a pilot who came from Bangladesh. One day we decided to travel to Bangladesh via Calcutta & Shrilanka. On arrival in Calcutta, we were lost completely. Two Irish girls, who stuck out like sore thumbs, and Kathleen with her long legs in short pants! We didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Such a poor country and no English but we were kindly guided to the bus which accommodated lots of furry friends, including hens, goats and cattle. We decided to ring the Intercontinental in Germany and they kindly accommodated us in one of their hotels free of charge before reconnecting flights, where Masum had a driver arranged for us at the other end.
The Cayman Islands at the Hyatt Hotel was another of my favourite spots to work in. Where else could you do your job barefoot complete with a swimsuit and sarong? I couldn't drive but learned fast as the golf caddy was my friend in getting from A to B. I'll always remember Mary Mac saying 'Martina it has forward and reverse, what's not to understand'?" Martina recalled with laughter. "While we were there, I was delighted to take a day trip to Jamaica where I managed a visit Bob Marley's grave!"

Do you care to share any equally entertaining stories of your years at the Great Southern Killarney Martina?
"Amongst ourselves, we have the best camaraderie and craic in the areas that are off limits to guests but I have to say, Marie, I take great pride in my work and I would do anything for the guests" Martina replied. I could see that as Martina had huge attention to detail in setting up for 'afternoon tea' in the reading room while we chatted. "Martina I did a bit of homework before arriving today and I'm told that you have super memory powers for every guest who walks through the door recalling their dietary requirements etc. Are my sources correct"? Martina laughed out loud "Funny you say that Marie, there was a lady in this week who hadn't visited for 10 years. I asked her how the twins were and she nearly died of shock"!
"I will tell you one funny story though. A wealthy French lady stayed with us regularly and her driver was also her pilot. He took myself and Marie Murphy for a helicopter ride all around the ring of Kerry and Dingle. It was absolutely unbelievable. The next day was his day off and he asked us to go to Paris for the day. I suppose it was because we squealed that we had the misfortune of the supervisor overhearing the commotion and insisted it was too far as we had to be back to serve dinner. Ah, such great times. Imagine, a day trip to Paris!!".

Martina, you have a fantastic way with people and you never stop smiling. What is your secret?
It's easy to smile when you're happy in your life Marie. I never intended on staying at the GSH, I just never wanted to leave it and I'll be here for another while yet. It's what you make it and I have fantastic memories. As John Fitz says, 'there's the right way and there's the wrong way but there's also Martina's way' so I must be doing something right!!" Martina joked
"I met my husband Jerry O'Leary, Meentogues in 1992 and it was 'all over'" Martina laughed. "I love the busyness of the GSH but I equally enjoy going home to my family (Jerry, Daniel, Katelyn & Marilyn) and the peace of sitting out the back of the house looking out at the view and the cattle in the field. I don't really have a secret, just do as much of what you enjoy. For me it's staying active, Irish Music, painting and GAA. My sister Ann O'Connell played with the first every Kerry Ladies team and now my niece Aisling O'Connell is on the current ladies' team and will soon play Mayo in the semi-final".

My sources on the 'inside' were 100% correct about Martina. I kind of knew that as I'd worked alongside her as a receptionist at the GSH for 3 years. I was told she was adored by everyone associated with the Great Southerns - guests, management and staff. 'Young and old she cares about everyone in her own unique 'Martina' way'.

Congratulations Martina on 45 years of service at Killarney's own gem, The Great Southern Hotel, which is filled with many diamonds

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Massive Park Road housing development given green light

A private developer has been given planning permission to build 249 new residential units at Upper Park Road. The development, which will be built on a recently cleared site near […]




A private developer has been given planning permission to build 249 new residential units at Upper Park Road.

The development, which will be built on a recently cleared site near An Post’s sorting office, will include a variety of properties from five-bed houses to single apartments, along with a crèche and over 500 car spaces and over 300 bike spaces.

The development has been welcomed by local councillor Martin Grady.

“Killarney has a massive housing shortage so this is very positive. It will retain young families in the area, stimulating economic growth,” he said. “After 17 years of different planning applications it’s finally coming to fruition.”

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Ballydribeen residents living in fear due to anti-social behaviour

Residents in the Ballydribeen are living in fear as a result of increased anti-social behaviour in the estate. Several serious incidents in the estate have resulted in several Garda visits […]




Residents in the Ballydribeen are living in fear as a result of increased anti-social behaviour in the estate.

Several serious incidents in the estate have resulted in several Garda visits in the last week.

Local councillor Martin Grady told the Killarney Advertiser that residents are “living in fear” as a result of very serious incidents in the last week alone.

One house in the estate was badly damaged when fire crackers were placed inside a letter box.

Another house had its windows smashed in over the weekend.

“It’s a major problem,” added Grady after meeting residents there earlier this week.

One of the most serious incidents occurred on Tuesday night.

A passing motorists had rocks thrown at his car while driving along the bypass whch is adjacent to the estate.
Taking to social media, local primary-school teacher Pádraig O’Sullivan posted:

“Travelling home tonight, at 11.05pm on the Killarney side of the bypass our car was hit by a rock – not a pebble – from the Ballydribben side , which hit the passenger door.

“It was centimetres away from hitting the window where my father, who is visually impaired, was sitting.

“This could have caused catastrophic permanent injury to him.

“The Killarney Garda were on the scene within three minutes.

“They can’t be patrolling the bypass all night.

“It comes down to parenting. You should know where your children are at this hour and be able to teach them what’s funny and what ruin a person’s life or cause a fatal crash.“

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