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Volunteer says Special Olympic trip was a “life-changing experience”

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And Special Olympic hero Gary welcomed home in Killarney and Castleisland

By Sean Moriarty

The Killarney woman who volunteered for the Irish team at the recent Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi has described her experience as “life-changing”.

Leanne Cronin, from Spa, has been a volunteer with Special Olympics Ireland for little over a year, after signing up for a scheme set up by her employer, Kerry Group.

She was the only Kerry person on the 74-strong volunteer team in the United Arab Emirates earlier this month.

She witnessed first-hand the success of Castleisland athlete Gary O’Sullivan who won a gold and silver medal at the games.

Gary, a member of the Kerry Stars, won gold in the shot put competition and backed this up with silver in the 400m walk.

He returned to Kerry last weekend to a hero’s welcome at the Dromhall Hotel on Friday night after a Garda escort from the railway station. On Saturday night he was paraded through his native Castleisland.

“It was a privilege to share my Special Olympics World Games experience with Gary. Gary is a gent,” she said. “Although we approached the games from different angles I felt so fortunate to be in Abu Dhabi for the Games when a proud Kerry man displayed his best ability and put his hard months of training to good use. He raised the flag not just for Ireland those days, but Kerry also, and that made me very proud. It was phenomenal, the entire experience,” she added. “To witness the sportsmanship and the friends for life that I made from all over the world. We were treated like royalty over there and the people of the UAE were some of the friendliest people I met in all my travel. The experience was life-changing.”

Leanne started volunteering for Special Olympics Ireland last year and her first major event was the Dublin qualifiers in June and this prompted her to join the local Kerry Stars Special Olympic Club as a volunteer.

“I was lucky that Kerry Group set this up. I always wanted to volunteer but this helped me take the next step,” she added. “The great work that the Kerry Stars do in all sports is fantastic.”

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Kerry rowing clubs flock to Killarney for the start of the coastal season

There was a fantastic spectacle of colour and rowing on Lough Leane last Sunday (June 16th) with the coastal rowing clubs of Kerry participating in the first ‘Head of the […]

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There was a fantastic spectacle of colour and rowing on Lough Leane last Sunday (June 16th) with the coastal rowing clubs of Kerry participating in the first ‘Head of the Lake’ time-trial for coastal one-design boats.

The event, hosted by the local Flesk Valley Rowing Club, signalled the start of the summer season for clubs rowing the coastal ‘one-design’ boats.

It was fitting that on the weekend that the Killarney National Park celebrated the 60th anniversary of the opening of Muckross House to the public, that hundreds of people also flocked to the Flesk Valley shore to appreciate and enjoy the splendour of the park.

Speaking after the event, Flesk Valley chairman, John Fleming thanked all the Kerry clubs who supported this new event and congratulated all the first-time rowers taking to the water in a competitive event for the first time.
“We were delighted to welcome our neighbouring clubs Workmens’ and Fossa, and look forward to renewing rivalries with them again at the Killarney Regatta at the end of this month,” he said.

“We would also like to thank Mary B. Teahan, Andrew Wharton, Johanna King and the Kerry Coastal Rowing Association for all their support and encouragement, and Denis O’Leary for coordinating safety on the water.”
Flesk Valley would also like to thank the Killarney National Park, Leanes Tool Hire, Hegartys Shop and Muckross Rowing Club for their support.

“This was a great start to the coastal rowing season, and augurs well for the months ahead as clubs build towards the All-Ireland Coastal Rowing Championships to be held in Dingle at the end of August,” added the chairman.

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NPWS announces nature scholarships to mark ‘Muckross 60’

Director General of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Niall O’ Donnchú, this week announced the inaugural ‘Muckross 60’ nature scholarships to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the opening of […]

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Director General of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Niall O’ Donnchú, this week announced the inaugural ‘Muckross 60’ nature scholarships to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the opening of Muckross House and Gardens to the public. The scholarships will be funded and managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Niall O Donnchú said, “Killarney and Muckross have a very special place in Ireland’s heritage legacy, and  such beautiful gems need constant care, nurturing and indeed protecting by future generations. In supporting these third level scholarships, the NPWS is building the knowledge base of the future to assist those generations in continuing to realise the full beauty and nature value of the very unique Muckross House and Gardens and Killarney National Park.”

Mr O Donnchú added: “Killarney has a long history of scholarship, research and frontier work on nature and that continues to this day in the management of Killarney National Park and Muckross House and Gardens. The endowment of these annual scholarships is a very clear attestation that this crucial work continues to be undertaken across our national park system and especially here in Killarney and Muckross. This work has been pioneering in respect of wildlife and nature research and indeed the reintroduction of endangered species and the discovery, even this year, of more.”

Minister for Education and Kerry T.D. Norma Foley also welcomed new scholarships to mark the 60th anniversary of Muckross House.

“Muckross House is one of the jewels in the crown of Kerry tourism and received almost one million visitors last year. These scholarships will further add to our understanding of this outstanding part of our national heritage,” she said.

Muckross House was built by the Herbert family, who were local landlords. They became very wealthy during the 18th century due to the working of the copper mines on the Muckross Peninsula. They commenced the building of the present Muckross House in 1839. It was completed in 1843 at cost of £30,000, just two years prior to the Great Irish Famine. The Herbert family hosted the visit of Queen Victoria to Muckross House in 1861 but later got into financial difficulties and lost the house in 1897.

It was then bought by Lord Ardilaun, a member of the Guinness family. He in turn sold it in 1911 to William Bowers Bourn, a wealthy Californian gold miner. Bowers Bourn gave it to his daughter Maud as a wedding gift when she married Arthur Rose Vincent, an Irish barrister who later became a Senator.

After Maude died from pneumonia in 1929, Arthur Rose Vincent decided to donate Muckross house to the Irish nation as a memorial to his wife. Muckross House was transferred to the state in 1932 with its 11,000 acre estate and became Ireland’s first National Park in 1933.

The park and gardens were opened to the public but the house remained closed until 1964 when it was reopened as a folk museum on June 14, 1964 following a campaign by people in Killarney.

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