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

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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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Retiring Garda Sergeant began career in Killarney

Antoinette Cunningham who retired last week from An Garda Síochána and the Association of Garda Sergeant’s and Inspector’s as their General Secretary started her career 33 years ago in Killarney. […]

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Antoinette Cunningham who retired last week from An Garda Síochána and the Association of Garda Sergeant’s and Inspector’s as their General Secretary started her career 33 years ago in Killarney.

Sergeant In charge at Killarney Garda Station Dermot O’Connell paid tribute to her achievements and her unrelenting commitment to improving the policing environment.

As a former Chairman, Secretary and delegate of the Kerry Branch, Sergeant Dermot O’Connell worked closely with Antoinette in AGSI for many years.

“Her support for members of the Association was second to none. Antoinette always pursued what was right and just. Her ability, knowledge and professionalism was acknowledged both internally and externally by other representative bodies and also professional bodies,” he said.

“When Antoinette arrived here at her first station, the late Jack McGrath was the Sergeant In Charge.”
“As many know Sergeant Jack McGrath frequently walked the beat. During this time Jack shared much of his experience with Antoinette who proved her ability as a competent Garda to Sergeant Jack McGrath. “
“Jack was very impressed by her ability even at that early stage, he always spoke highly of Antoinette and followed her career path with great interest.”

Antoinette subsequently transferred to Limerick (Roxboro Road and Mayorstone Garda Stations). As a Sergeant she moved to the Garda College and completed a Master’s Degree in Adult Learning and a BA in Training and Education.
In 2021 Antoinette was honoured by University Galway with an Alumni Award for her significant contribution in the field of policing.

She became the first female member to serve with the Association of Sergeants and Inspectors at Branch level, National Executive level, President, Deputy General Secretary and finally General Secretary.

“On behalf of the Kerry Branch of AGSI I wish Antoinette the very best in whatever the future holds for her and her family,” added Sergeant O’Connell.

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‘The Bumblebee1000’ Supercar event arriving in Killarney on Saturday

The ‘Bumblebee1000’ supercar run will arrive in Killarney around 5pm on Saturday. Around 40 supercars will leave Barberstown Castle in County Kildare on Saturday morning.After stops at Portlaoise Plaza (11am) […]

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The ‘Bumblebee1000’ supercar run will arrive in Killarney around 5pm on Saturday.

Around 40 supercars will leave Barberstown Castle in County Kildare on Saturday morning.
After stops at Portlaoise Plaza (11am) and Cashel Palace Hotel (1pm) the convoy will arrive the Europe Hotel and Resort at 5pm.
“’The Bumblebee1000’ is not just about horsepower and adrenaline rushes; it’s about making a difference. As participants roar through the countryside, they’ll also be driving towards a noble cause. This event is dedicated to raising awareness and funds for The Little Blues Heroes charity, supporting the children of the Little Blue Heroes, and making a positive impact on their lives,” said an event spokesperson.
“The Bumblebee1000” is not just a journey; it’s an experience that blends luxury, adventure, and philanthropy in a seamless fusion. Whether behind the wheel of a sleek supercar or a supporter cheering from the sidelines, everyone is invited to be part of this remarkable event.
The cars will depart the Europe Hotel and Resort at 10am on Sunday and will stop off at a charity cars and coffee event in Tarbert at 11am before finishing in Adare at around 2pm.

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