Kilmeedy, nicely icy on Sunday!

Jason, Teddy, Pippa, Rebecca and Sadie Stokes, Broadford, at the Kilmeedy Ice Bath Challenge last Sunday. – Photo Eddie Guiry. – Kilmeedy Ice Bath Challenge

Large crowds gathered in the West Limerick village of Kilmeedy on Sunday last to be part of a festival that saw over fifty people brave an icy, two-minute bathwater dip as part of an ongoing fundraiser by Kilmeedy Community Development. I drove into the car park, ably manned by stewards, and entered the seven-acre farm on the outskirts of the village, where the event was taking place. I was amazed to see that there were hundreds of people out and about, both in the village and on the farm itself. The sun was shining, and all around me, people were laughing, eating from the barbecue, drinking from the makeshift bar, and the general atmosphere was one of total enjoyment and fun. Children were running around with colourful painted faces, there were garden seats strategically placed for older people to sit on, and music was blaring from the main outbuilding where the brave bathers were taking their turn to dip in the ice bath. Stalls of goodies were set up, including Kilmeedy’s successful community shop and café, Roots. Little puppies were on show, with a friendly looking goat keeping an eye on them, and boxes of beautiful spring flowers were on display every-where, along with colourful upside down umbrellas suspended from what seem like the sky.
But this was not a farm just borrowed for the day. This was the latest in a long line of projects undertaken by this hard-working com-munity. Some time back, the Community Develop-ment Committee secured the purchase of the farm and outbuildings. Essentially, the committee took out a loan from a local bank. “There’s approximately twelve or fourteen directors in the group, but honestly, there’s a lot more who are involved, so there’s great support there,” I was told by a community member. It was a courageous deci-sion to buy the farm, but the benefit to the comm-unity will be everlasting. The group is now in the process of developing the farm, and of course, paying for it. Already, there’s been a very successful festival held last October – Full Moon Rising. “It was a wonderful occasion, magical even. Children and adults, young and old had a wonderful time,” Siobhán Reidy told me. The next Full Moon Rising festival takes place on 29th and 30th September. The festival proved very successful financially last year, the hopes are that it will be equally successful this year. Some months back, the committee brain-stormed to come up with ideas for a fundraiser and that’s how the Ice Bath Challenge festival came about. “We’ve been busy ever since, meeting every week to organise the day,” local man John told me. There’s an existing comm-unity garden where chemical-free vegetables are grown in Kilmeedy that services Roots, the shop, and café, but the farm allows for much more growing. There are plans to put a walking trail around the farm, staggered for easy access. Already there is an orchard and berry hedges on the farm and a vegetable patch, so the group certainly isn’t resting on its laurels. It has worked on many projects to date, including the purchase and renovation of Áras Íde Resource Centre, Roots Community Shop and Café, Full Moon Rising Festival, hosting local training initiatives, sponsoring and hosting the Glenquin Connello CE Scheme, leasing and renovating the Old Garda Barracks, Butterfly Preschool and Afterschool, Kilmeedy Community Garden and vegetable box scheme, Phoenix Project Intergenerational Garden, and the Old Boreen Wild-life Sanctuary. That is an incredible achievement from a community with a population of 353 and the wider parish of Feenagh Kilmeedy has a population of 950. It must be said that the real secret to the success of the group is the fact that so many younger people have come on board and are working side by side with more experienced volunteers. “We’re fortu-nate in that way,” Siobhán Reify told me. “The younger generation are wonderful, full of energy and enthusiasm, and that doesn’t happen every-where”.
“Walking on to the site this morning was electric” was how one community member described the effort of the many involved in the event. It may be a fundraiser, but it became increasingly obvious that it was much more than that. People of all ages within the parish are deeply invested in their area, and the events of the day were a testimony to the fact. When communities work together, people are meeting and engaging all the time and that can only benefit individuals and organisations alike. People feel that they have a voice in their community.
There were many familiar faces in the crowd, and I chatted with Richard O Donoghue local Independent TD. “What a fantastic event. The community spirit here is unbelievable. What’s been achieved over the last number of years here, from the night of the Full Moon Rising festival to today is commendable. There are hundreds of people here of all ages enjoying them-selves. There’s food, drink, and every kind of entertainment for children. They’re an amazing bunch and this is what rural Ireland is all about, com-munity.” He added, “Sometimes, the rest of Ireland does not understand this because living our life in rural Ireland is the happy life. The government should look at this, experience this and respect it. This is real life living in rural Ireland, where communities help each other, they help their neighbours, help the local parishes, and help the people that they know”.
I couldn’t resist asking him about meeting President Biden during the week. “He’s a great man, he gave a twenty-minute unscripted talk and at eighty years of age, one has to respect that. He spoke very well, was very courteous and very humble. The man loves Ireland, and I like anyone who loves this country” he said sincerely.
I left feeling a little bit sorry for Joe Biden, and anybody else who missed this monumental day in Kilmeedy. It was certainly a day to remember and a perfect example of what small communities can achieve when they work together for the greater good of all. To quote the American writer, Margaret Wheatley, “There is no power for change greater than a community disco-vering what it cares about”. I think Kilmeedy has it in the bag!