Oxford and Cambridge Boat Clubs at the Killarney Rowing Festival


Killarney Rowing Festival

Killarney Rowing Festival took place on Sunday 28th July at Killarney Golf and Fishing Club, on Lough Lein, celebrating the 228th Annual Killarney Regatta – the oldest surviving traditional regatta in the World.

The World’s most coveted rivals, Oxford and Cambridge Boat Clubs challenged the six Killarney Rowing Clubs, in the prestigious ‘Lakes of Killarney Salters Cup’. It was Muckross Rowing Club who were victorious in the Challenge. Patrick and Steve Casey were on hand to present the famous cup, won by the Casey Brothers at the Killarney Regatta in 1931. The Muckross Crew included: Brendan Sheehan (stroke), Jeremy Kenny, Ronan Spillane, Maurice Coffey, Brendan O’Neill, David Horan and Aoife Cooper (cox).

Each of Killarney’s six rowing clubs took part in the challenge: Flesk Valley
RC, Workmen’s RC, Commercial RC, St Brendan’s RC and Fossa RC. The type of
boat is unique to the Lakes of Killarney and known as ‘The Killarney Sixes’, and is wooden in structure, wooden oar and fixed seat. The boats were originally
designed and built by Salters in Oxford.

A wonderful spectacle of boats from the Coastal fraternity of South Kerry, added to the colour and splendor of boating life on the lakes of Killarney.  The traditional Seine boat race – a traditional race (once the preserve of the fishermen) with a crew of 13  men, normally raced on the South Kerry Atlantic seaboard, saw 30 minutes of sheer adrenaline, sweat pumping action sweeping along the islands and mountain shores of Killarney’s lake district,  normally the reserve of the more gentile rowing and fishing boats.The race was won by Sneem Rowing Club.

Fáilte Ireland have been working very closely with festival organisers to ensure this unique event is a huge success and given an international platform. Declan Murphy, Killarney, Client Services officer for Fáilte Ireland said, “The Killarney Rowing Festival honours the spectacular outdoor setting of the lakes of Killarney. It is a magnificent event, tying in the history, heritage, culture and tradition of rowing and tourism which has such a long association with the town and its people”

During the weekend both Oxford and Cambridge crews visited Muckross Rowing Club, the oldest Rowing Club in Ireland. The Trustees of Muckross House hosted a lunch at Muckross Garden Restaurant. Pat Dawson, Regional Manager of National Parks and Wildlife Service, gave the crews a rare glimpse of some of the rare Killarney boats stored in the old Muckross Boat House. One of the unique boats was the famous Queen’s barge, built especially for Queen Victoria’s historical trip to Killarney and Muckross House in 1861.

The O’Donoghue family, who run Killarney Boat Tours, took both Oxford and
Cambridge crews on a boat trip show casing Killarney’s lakes, mountains and
islands. The crews landed at the scenic Lake Hotel, where they were
accorded a Civic Reception hosted by Killarney Town Council. Cllr Michael Gleeson, Deputy Mayor of Killarney, spoke eloquently of the importance of rowing and the history and majesty of the lakes and many Islands making reference to Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s celebrated poem ‘The Splendour Falls on Castle Walls’, written in 1848, inspired by his visit to Killarney.

The reference in its chorus: ”Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes
flying”, was reiterated at the opening ceremony on Sunday, when Trumpeter
Morgan Foley,who plays with Gleneagle Concert Band, played a fanfare at O’Mahoney’s Point, Con Cronin, President of Rowing Ireland, raised the
white flag signalling the start of the racing.

The crews of Oxford and Cambridge, made time to savour the night life of
Killarney, there was a reception at the Laurels Bar on Saturday night, they
sampled Guinness in many of the ‘local men’s pubs’ and night clubs. Giles
Vardey, Oxford Boat Club, said “both crews were honored and privileged to
have been invited to such a beautiful part of Ireland, it was marvelous to
see such a strong and vibrant tradition and passion for rowing with all the
clubs in Killarney. Tobias Garnett of Cambridge Boat Club commented ” it is unbelievable to think there are six rowing clubs, in one town, each
producing wonderful oarsmen and women who have represented Ireland at world level, which is an amazing achievement. We’ve had a wonderful time in
Killarney, enjoying the hospitality and friendly rivalry of the clubs both
on and off the water!”


Atthe Rowing Festival ‘Scattering’ party at the Brehon Hotel, the Oxbridge

crews, danced polkas, were taught a few essential words ‘as gaeilge’ and
have adopted the ‘Siege of Ennis’ dance for next years Oxford Cambridge
The Cambridge Crew included, Tobias Garnett, Peter Marsland, Colin Scott,
Peter Champion. John Heder, Robert Baker and were coxed by Coxed by Mikey
Joe Burns, of Workmen’s RC. The Oxford crew included, David Alexander
Livingston, Matthew James Smith, David Whiffin, Alec Dent, Nicolas
Brodie, Robin Ejsmond Frey, David Hopper, Mr Ciarán Hayes, from Skibbereen,
Domnick Burke, who’s Father rowed the Seine boat for Valentia Island.
Valerie O’Sullivan

087 262 9375

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