Ireland’s rural Champions of 2011 have been revealed in the Countryside Alliance Ireland Awards. The strong line up of businesses will now head to the House of Lords in London in March to hear if they have scooped an overall UK & Ireland title.
The Countryside Alliance Ireland Awards, nicknamed the ‘Rural Oscars’, celebrate the characters, skills, traditions and enterprise of the countryside through the people who work so hard to make it tick. The Awards are public-nomination led, meaning each business is put forward by a supportive customer. Judging of a shortlist of finalists has now taken place and a winner declared in each category. Ireland’s winners for 2011 are introduced by Lyall Plant, Countryside Alliance Ireland Director:
Food category champion
Clogher Valley Meats, Clogher, Co. Tyrone, 028 8554 8365 www.cloghervalleymeats.com/. Lyall comments: “For a small premises there is a lot going on here! This is firmly a family concern, a butcher and baker all in one where Kieran Meehan and his team produce sausages, pies, burgers and cured bacon in one part of the shop while bread, scones, cakes, buns and occasion cakes are baked in another. Staff have a strong knowledge of everything sold, especially the locally reared meats for which Clogher Valley Meats is so famous. The shop also houses a deli section and Kieran plans to expand yet further to meet the needs of his community. The Meehan family is central to Clogher, helping to organise the local Clogher Festival, raising funds for local charities and taking pride in longstanding support of local GAA, soccer, rugby and cricket teams. Kieran is on the local traders group within the town and is extremely motivated by local life, saying his motto is “My community needs me as much as I need my community”.
Village Shop/ Post Office category champion
Muckamore Post Office, Antrim, Co. Antrim, 028 9446 2243. Lyall comments: “Islandbawn Stores are an institution in the area – a village shop and Post Office with a petrol station and a DIY supplier all rolled into one. The Kirkpatrick family has worked exceptionally hard over many years to build this business into what it is today, believing their strong customer service ethic helps them battle the threats from the larger multiples. Community spirit is also strong here, with support for local farmers evident in the produce in stock. The family provides a centre to the community, holding charity open days and supporting local schools and colleges. This shop is everything the category is about and we are very proud to honour the Kirkpatrick family for their hard work and care.”
Enterprise category champion
The Irish Fly Fishing and Game shooting Museum, Attanagh, Co Laois, 057 867 4348 www.laois.ie/leisureandculture/heritage/laoisheritagetrail/irishfly-fishingandgameshootingmuseum/. Lyall comments: “Walter Phelan deserves all the praise we can heap on him - he is a one-man mission to promote and defend our country sports. Walter’s rural museum, which has been funded mainly by himself, is a true labour of lovecontaining his extensive collection of fishing, shooting and trapping exhibits, alongside photographs, magazines, taxidermy and other curiosities from sporting history in Ireland. Walter’s pure aim, he says, is “to pass on the great joy I get when I am out in the open air hunting, fishing and shooting.” Walter’s obvious delight in country sports is inspiring, and it is the Countryside Alliance Ireland’s privilege to honour him for preserving and passing on our great rural heritage. It is unthinkable that this important part of our history should be lost.”
Butcher category champion
Nolans of Kilcullen, Kilcullen, Co. Kildare 045 481229 http://nolansofkilcullen.com/. Lyall commented: “This place is a real beacon of excellence. James Nolan is the fourth generation to own the shop in Kilcullen and his energy and ideas are inspiring, and inspire his staff. His father is in his eighties and still works in the shop, so you can tell that the Nolans are made of tough stuff. The produce is top notch and James and his wife Emma are rightly proud of the quality and traceability of everything sold on the shop floor, whether from their own farm or from other local farmers. There is an abattoir on site and when we visited there was a team butchering and boning out the carcases with impressive skill. Nothing is wasted as James has started producing dog food from offcuts and offers bones for customers’ dogs – simple but great ideas that cater for customers’ needs. The shop also contains fruit, veg and a deli counter alongside the award winning butchery products (with a special nod to the black and white pudding.) Nolans is a butcher shop with a difference, mainly due to James and Emma’s infectious enthusiasm for what they do. It is all the more impressive given that James himself has had an organ transplant and has gone on to raise over a million Euros for charity, continuing to give a huge amount of time and support to those on dialysis and facing transplants themselves. The Nolans and their team are happy in their work and their community has their total support. We are happy to name them the best butchers in Ireland.”
Highly Commended: J Muldrew & Son, Markethill, Co Armagh, 028 3755 1235. Lyall commented: “Muldrews really embody the community retail ethos we wish to preserve. Great community spirit is on display here from everyone on the team and Muldrew’s is a popular centre of the community. One nomination said: “They have in the past butchered a roe deer for me for free that a friend had shot, and are always happy to give extra scraps to the beagles.” We are delighted to give Muldrew’s this deserved commendation and would urge everyone to support their local butcher.”
Highly Commended: Moate Meats, Moate, Co. Westmeath, http://moatemeats.com/, 0906481216. Lyall commented: "Having been trading since 1913 it is clear this is a community heart - when we judged it on a cold, late afternoon in mid-winter it was packed with people cheerfully exchanging news and buying the finest local produce available. The team boasts its own abattoir - no mean feat these days, and they are rightly proud that they are still slaughtering much of what they sell, ensuring total traceability and high animal welfare standards. The local hunt Master also baked a cake to welcome our team, showing how well appreciated this butcher is locally and how supporting your community means that support will come back to you."
Rural Hero: Michael Patrick Martin has been selected as Ireland’s Rural Hero. Vice-President of the Six Mile Water Trust and a committee member of the Antrim Angling Club and a member of the Mallusk Angling Society, he is active as a bailiff for both angling clubs. He is also on the board of the Ulster Angling Federation. Michael has been instrumental, along with others, in setting up the Six Mile Water Trust. This Trust has been formed as a result of a disastrous pollution incident in June 2008 in an effort to try and protect the 26mile long river which runs through heavily populated and industrial areas of Co. Antrim. The Trust represents a wide range of people including local resident’s groups, RSPB, environmental groups and water sport enthusiasts. Michael is also involved in an education programme with local schools, teaching the importance of plant life and invertebrates in the river and how to introduce fingerling trout. This busy man is entirely motivated by a love of our waterways and a desire to secure their health and future – for the Countryside Alliance Ireland this makes him a true hero.