Dick Fitzgerald (002) copyDick Fitzgerald, president of Ballon/Rathoe Community Games and vice-president of Carlow Community Games was awarded the Adult Volunteer Award for 2017 for Carlow. Dick has given over 30 year’s voluntary contribution at a local and national level to Community Games. It is the day to day work and commitment that Dick has given both in his own area, in Carlow and nationally as well as his vision for community games and athletics for the children in the local area that has been recognised. Dick is seen here receiving his award from national president, Gerald Davenport at the National Awards Ceremony Johnstown House Hotel in Enfield.







Paddy GCongratulations to Paddy Grant, Ballymogue, who was last week announced as the winner of the Care Plus Pharmacy Carlow Carer of the Year winner. Nominated by his daughter, Teresa, Paddy cared for his wife Theresa, who had a number of health issues, for close on twenty years before she passed away on 4 September of this year. Paddy (91) and Theresa (85) would have been married 64 years on 30 September. The Grants were well-known for their ballroom dancing and competed successfully all over Leinster.








KT1Congratulations to Katie Brennan, Shraugh, on receiving the 2017 Rounders Ladies Roaming Player of the Year Award at a reception in the Green Isle Hotel in Dublin on Saturday 23 September. Katie made a huge impact in the championship this year as Cuchulainn Rounders Club’s senior ladies team reached the All-Ireland final for the first time only to be beaten by the holders, Glynnbarntown, County Wexford.

See a fuller report here













Michael celebrates 50 years reporting on life in Ballon

By Elizabeth Lee ***The Nationalist***.

ON 8 September 1967, a teenager from Ballon filed the first-ever local notes to this newspaper.

That teenager was Michael Dawson, who has dutifully sent in local news from the village every single week since then. He has never missed a deadline in all those 50 years, such is his dedication to both the people of Ballon and to ***The Nationalist***.

“I’m very proud of it and I make no apology for it,” Michael smiles as he leafs through notes and memos that he had scribbled down on a jotter ahead of this interview. “I’m very committed to it, that’s for sure, and I spend a fair bit of time on them.”

Michael Dawson (002) copyHis long relationship with the newwpaper began when he was just 18 years’ old and when there were no local notes from his area. He recalls that a Sgt Michael Ffrench, who was involved in the local athletics club, was eager to get the club’s running results published and so approached the young Mr Dawson about getting them into ***The Nationalist***.

“I said no to him because how could I do that? I didn’t know what to do,” he laughed. Nevertheless, he contacted Paul Donaghy, a sports reporter with the paper, about getting local notes in and it was duly agreed that Michael could send in bits and pieces of news. Since then, he has filed thousands of notes, nuggets of information and longer, more serious pieces. Indeed, he has 50 years’ worth of columns kept in special scrap books and although he has abridged 30 years of these annual digests, he says that he’s reluctant to publish them in one publication. There’s not a single week missing in all those 50 years and Michael has jotted down what his first-ever notes column contained.

They included a note about a junior Muintir na Tíre meeting, a report on a meeting to repair the local hall and, of course, something on the AGM of the athletics club. All were written on blue Belvedere Bond writing paper, borrowed from his mother Kitty.

That was a long time ago. In the 50 intervening years, Ballon village, technology and, indeed, how the newspaper industry is run have all considerably changed.

“Back then, we didn’t even have a phone at home and I didn’t have a car either,” Michael remembers fondly, adding that he would have to walk or get lifts to events.

News gathering was an on-the-ground and quite social job back then. When he got a bit older and worked in Portlaoise and Athy, Michael would drop the notes off into ***The Nationalist*** office on his way through Carlow town. Sometimes, he’d just post them through the letterbox, but as the years went on he called into the offices and got to know the editors and reporters. During the past five decades, he’s worked with five editors – Liam Bergin, Seamus O’Rourke, Tom Mooney, Eddie Coffey and Conal O’Boyle – and has associated with countless reporters and sub-editors.

“Margaret O’Rourke would be sitting there with all the notes from the different areas, ticking them off one by one as she got them. She was a super lady,” he remembers with almost photographic detail. “You’d sometimes hang around the newsroom, getting a feel for production. Charlie Keegan was very to the fore in news and sport, as was Mick Godfrey. Olivia O’Leary was there, too.”

Current ***Nationalist*** editor Conal O’Boyle believes that Michael’s 50-year record will probably never be equalled. “It’s an extraordinary achievement by any standard,” he says. “I can’t see anyone else matching that feat. Community notes are a unique feature of local newspapers and good notes correspondents are worth their weight in gold. Michael has never missed a deadline – and he’s the only reporter I’ve ever met who can say that! We’ve been lucky to have him for 50 years and, God willing, he won’t put his pen away just yet.”

Michael didn’t only stick to local notes, though, because during the 1970s he contributed to a ‘youth column’, alongside the aforementioned Olivia O’Leary. And from 1973 to the mid-1990s, he filed hundreds of sports reports after being contacted by Paul Donaghy, the man whom Michael had initially contacted about submitting news about Ballon.

Michael’s own interests changed and diversified, too, as he grew older and became more confident in his own reporting skills.

“As I grew up, I changed and my priorities changed, until I became a proper reporter,” he explains.

He covered some of the most important events that impacted on his village, like the tragic death of a local man while on holiday in Spain in 1975, or President Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh’s visit in 1976 to officially open the local hall; or the time that the residents of Ballon hill went on strike in 1983 to protest against water shortage; or during the 1980s when the ICA won a national competition; or even when the so-called ‘bull tree’ succumbed to Dutch Elm Disease in the village and had to be chopped down in 1988.

“The ‘bull tree’ was as much to Ballon as Nelson’s Pillar or the Spire is to Dublin,” Michael points out.

Michael is such a chronicler of life in Ballon and nearby Rathoe that he peruses the notes in front of him as we speak, reading out more landmark events, or even deaths.

“I’ve tried to cover every death in the parish, maybe one or two got away,” he continues. “Death notices are important and it’s important to use photographs, too.”

He’s so meticulous about the information that he’s gathered for the past half-century that he even knows that 13 people died in fatal car accidents in the area between 1982 and 1988. And in 1996 to 1997, four people were killed, he says, as he names them out. He remembers them because he had to write about them.

“That’s a savage amount of people,” he says.

He says that the villages of Ballon and Rathoe have grown so much over the past decade that he would be hard-pressed to name everyone who lived there now.

“When I started out, I knew everyone and where they lived. I really did. I knew people from the Rathoe side, too,” he says. “Things have changed, though, and now I’d be lucky to know about half of them. That’s one of the changes I’ve seen.”

Michael not knowing half the population of his stomping ground probably has as much to do with progress in technology and, in particular, communications as it has with the growth of the population. His news-gathering doesn’t have to bring him into direct contact with people any more, as emails, social media and even phone calls have put paid to reporters being out in the field.

“I do find technology very handy, but I miss the human touch,” he smiles.

Whatever about not knowing every single person living in Ballon and Rathoe, Michael Dawson, long-time chronicler of life in a small community, probably knows more people than most.

“Ballon is still a tightly knit community with a great spirit. You can see it in the way the village is kept, especially for the tidy towns or Pride of Place competitions. I think that it’s a great privilege to be a notes correspondent. You have an opportunity to showcase your own area and the pride that you have in where you come from.”



Isobel Webb and Edelle Morrissey (002) copyThe parish of Ballon/Rathoe continues to box above its weight in the national James Kinsella_ (004) copyCommunity Games finals and this year three more young competitors returned home from Abbottstown with medals -two silver in art and a bronze in handwriting. Having won gold in art in the U12 age group last year Edelle Morrissey moved up to U14 this year and claimed the silver medal in that category. Edelle is daughter of Niall and Cora Morrissey, Forge Meadow, Ballon. Joining her with a silver medal from the U10 art competition this year is Isobel Webb, Kilcoole, Rathoe. Isobel is daughter of Liam and Simone Webb, the latter the art trainer of the Ballon/Rathoe children. Our third medallist this year is James Kinsella, winner of the bronze in the U10 handwriting competition. James, son of Jim and Noriel Kinsella, Closh, Ballon, was also a finalist last year. 



4/8/17 by Michael Dawson


Fr Jim O'Connell ADM (002) copyIn the wake of Fr Brendan Howard’s retirement as Parish Priest of Ballon/Rathoe last week, Fr Jim O’Connell, who has been filling the role of Administrator on a temporary basis has been made permanent.  The very popular Fr Jim served as curate in the parish from 1968 to 1976 and is fondly remembered by those of a certain age. He made his mark in the parish as the enthusiastic, modern and young priest who buzzed around visiting the parishioners on his bicycle or in his little white mini  (registration 982 HOB) with a ghetto-blaster blaring out the window. He made his mark on the young, identifying with them – something new in the church in 1968. He put his shoulder to the wheel and was the man behind the (then) new Community Centre in Ballon which was opened by President Ó Dalaigh in 1976. He also introduced a weekly newsletter ‘The Intelink’ and its big brother, The Link, which was published annually.

Fr Jim, a native of Kilcavan, Mountmellick was ordained in Maynooth in1966 and served in Litchfield in England for two years before moving to Ballon/Rathoe. His next posting was to Portlaoise (1976 to 1989) and then to Graiguecullen ((1989 to 1996). In 1996 he was promoted to Parish Priest and was posted to Goresbridge where he served until 2001.  From 2001 to ’07 he served as Chaplin in Portlaoise Prison and then from 2007 to his retirement in 2016 he was Parish Priest of Stradbally. He celebrated the golden anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood in 2016. Fr Jim retired from the priesthood on 1 July that year after 50 years of service to the Church. His plans to retire to Mountrath were short lived and as he told the Laois Nationalist in an interview “I retired on 1 July (2016). But the parish priest in Ballon took seriously ill and I was drafted in over there. It was the shortest retirement in history. So that’s where I am now,” he said. And that’s where he will stay following his permanent appointment as Parish Administrator in August 1. Now 76, Fr Jim retains his youthful looks and very little has changed in the forty plus years since he was here as Curate.

Already he has been to the four corners of the parish (sometimes still on his bicycle) visiting his parishioners and attending the sick and he gets a very genuine and warm welcome wherever he goes. Welcome home, Fr Jim.


Fr Brendan Howard (002) copyFr Brendan Howard retired as Parish Priest of Ballon/Rathoe on Monday 31 July

having served there for nine years.

Fr Howard was installed as Parish Priest by Dr James Moriarty, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin on Sunday 14 September 2008 in ceremonies at both St Patrick’s Church, Rathoe and the Church of SS Peter and Paul, Ballon.

As well as ministering to his parishioners Fr Howard was involved in the refurbishing of the old national school in Ballon, the building of the new community centre, was chairperson of the parish council and the board of management of Ballon NS and also chairperson of the Mount Leinster Region Community Employment Scheme.

A Christian Brothers from 1956, Fr Howard dispensed from his religious vows to the Brothers in 1996 and was ordained a Deacon for Kildare and Leighlin. He was ordained to the priesthood by Most Rev Dr Laurence Ryan DD in the Cathedral of the Assumption, Carlow on 6 July 1997.The following day he celebrated his first mass in the Cathedral – his own parish. His first appointment was to the Cathedral parish from 1997 to 2000 and was then appointed to Myshall/Drumphea parish until 2008.

Fr Howard was born at Ardreigh, Athy on 24 May 1942, his family moving to Jerusalem, Carlow soon after. He attended Levistown NS and Bishop Foley School in Carlow before moving to the CBS Academy, Carlow for his secondary education.

In 1956 he joined the Irish Christian Brothers at St Joseph’s Baldoyle and continued his education there and at Colaiste Ioghaid Ris, Dun Laoghaire.  He qualified as a primary teacher in St Mary’s Marino in 1966 and went on to teach in Limerick, Portarlington, and Drimnagh Castle, Dublin before taking up secondary teaching at the latter school from 1972 to 1975. He was Superior and Manager at St Brendan’s College Bray, CBS, Portlaoise, Colaiste Eoin, Athy CBS, North Monastery, Cork and St Mary’s CBS, Kilkenny between 1977 and 1993. 

In 1993 he enrolled at the Jesuit School of Technology, Berkley and obtained a Masters of Theological Studies in 1995 before deciding to become a priest.

Throughout his life Fr Howard has been immersed in the GAA was secretary of the County Limerick Bord na Nog to be followed by a similar position in County Laois and as his teaching took him across the country he was involved with clubs in places as diverse as Bray, Portlaoise, Athy and Dicksboro. He has served as president of the O’Hanrahans Club in Carlow, Naomh Eoin, Ballon, and was chairman of County Carlow Coiste na Nog and Irish Officer for County Carlow.

Fr Howard was involved in many other sports including athletics and from 1966 to 1969 was president of the newly formed BLOE; he was involved with CBS Portarlington and North Monastery, Cork when they won national titles in basketball and was a founder member of Athy Boxing Club in 1986.

Fr Howard was one of the first to promote alcohol free discos in Walkinstown in the late 1960s and was also involved with the Legion of Mary in many centres.

Another of Fr Howards many and varied interests include Tidy Towns and he served on the committees in the many towns and centres in which he worked.

As he leaves to retire in Clonegal Fr Howard is wished a very happy retirement as well as a speedy recovery from his recent period of poor health.  

A party to mark Fr Howard’s retirement will be held in September



Sheila Nolan Best Brown Bread (002) copyMrs Sheila Nolan, Connaberry, Ballon won the County Carlow ICA brown bread baking competition held in St Mullins on Wednesday 21 June. As a result she now goes forward to represent the county at the next stage of the competition which will be held in An Grianan in mid-August. This year the competition was open to non-ICA members and Sheila entered the competition as such as she is not affiliated to any guild. Sheila is famous for her bread and cake baking skills in the Ballon area.











Crazy Flower Containers Competition June 2017

Crazy cotainer competition

Bernie Mullins and Maire George pictured with  the  overall prize winners at Ballon School for the  crazy container competition.

1st: Daniel and Liam morahan.
2nd: Emer and Aine deacon.
3rd:Molly Maher.
Judges prize: Ross Cummins


Mrs Freda Sheppard (002) copyMrs Freda Sheppard, Glenogue, celebrated her 100th birthday on Monday 12 June in the company of family, friends and neighbours.

Born Freda Murphy in Kilbride in 1917, Freda was the oldest of three children of John and Jane (nee O’Neill) Murphy. Her younger siblings Dor and Jim predeceased her. All three Murphy children attended Kildavin National School.

Freda moved to Connaberry as a young girl to take care of a disabled aunt and two uncles and lived there until her marriage to Tommy Sheppard from Outage on 7 November 1945. The couple then moved to Aughwater before finally settling in Glenogue where she still resides.

Freda and Tommy had eight children, Billy, Mary (RIP 2004), John, Jane (RIP aged 2 years), Kit, Tom, Una and Colette. She has fourteen grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.

During the course of her long-life Freda saw unbelievable changes in the world in which she lived including the introduction of electricity, radio and television and in more recent times computers and mobile phones. She embraced all these new inventions and technology and today the radio is still her favourite allowing her to keep up with current affairs, in which she has a keen interest. 

Freda enjoyed her birthday and appreciated all the cards and good wishes she received, especially, of course, a very special message and cheque from President Michael D Higgins.

Naturally Freda is the oldest parishioner in Ballon/Rathoe and the entire parish extend its congratulations and best wishes for many more years of good health and happiness




Brian HuttonBrian Hutton is the toast of Ballon/Rathoe and County Carlow following his heroics in the swimming pool at Abbottstown on the May Bank Holiday weekend which earned him the gold medal in the U12 breaststroke at the national Community Games finals. After months of dedication and early morning practise in Carlow (he had to be driven in for 5am training before school) Brian swam a determined race and emerged victorious touching the wall in an excellent time of 42.11 seconds. His success is well deserved. Brian is son of Trevor and Fiona Hutton, Kylemore Hill, Rathoe.







Shane Duffy and Evan CorrBallon/Rathoe had a 13-strong contingent at the national Community Games finals and there was further success when Evan Corr and Shane Duffy helped Carlow to the fourth-place medals in the U14 middle distance running event.










Debating Champions

Opposing the motion – Entertainment Should Only Promote Positive Lifestyles

Niamh copy

Kathleen Ryan, Laura Doyle, Edelle Morrissey,  Roisin Connelly

Khiara Egan, Aoibhin Iroh (3rd Speaker), Roisin Morrissey (Captain), Niamh Lalor (2nd Speaker),


Ballon NS debating team are the Soth Leinster champions after a long and hard fought battle. The whole school was out in a guard of honour to greet them when they arrived at the school. Parents please note don’t get into an arguement as you won’t win. See school web site for fuller details.



cafe de mode award 3 (002) copy“It has been my lifelong dream to open my own coffee shop/cafe. When the opportunity arouse last June here in my home village, Ballon, I met with Kevin Doyle from Doyson Construction who owns the building and started the process of opening Cafe de mode.

The cafe opened on Dec 10th 2016 and within only 3 months in business I was nominated for an award from the Restaurant Association of Ireland. I was delighted to be nominated having only recently opened. To have been named Best Cafe in Leinster is an amazing achievement and I am absolutely delighted.

I could not have achieved this without the support of my family, the wonderful local community support and surrounding areas and Kevin whose help and assistance I am truly grateful for. Thanks to all my customers, regular and new for your support and positive feedback. I am delighted to serve the community with a much needed relaxing outlet here in Ballon. Co Carlow.

Dave Lloyd”










Tom Daly (002)Tom Daly (23) Castlegrace, joined a small but elite group of men and women from Ballon/Rathoe who have been selected as County Carlow All-Stars when he was selected as the winner of the rugby section at the 2017 awards on Friday 17 February. Tom made his senior debut for Leinster in the Pro 12 competition in Parma in November 2016. Not contented with that he scored his first senior try as the Irish side defeated their Italian counterparts, Zebra by 33 points to 10. To crown a great year, he scored 23 points, including two tries, as Leinster A defeated Welsh side, Scarletts 65-16 in December. He is the 17th recipient of the awards from the area since they began in 1968 and is the third winner in this category following in the footsteps of Roy Elms, Ardristan (1977) and Liam O’Byrne, Ballykealey (2001).