2013 was the Year of The Gathering and while both Ballon and Rathoe hosted one each there were a number of very special gatherings in the parish in 2013. Topping this list was the gathering of the Grant Family, Ballymogue  as Paddy and Teresa, celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary with a party held in Ballykealey House Hotel in September. Mr and Mrs Grant (nee Whelan) were married by the late Very Rev James Gardiner PP, Ballon/Rathoe in St Patrick’s Church, Rathoe on September 30, 1953. Some distance behind were Pat and Kathleen Condron , Rathrush, who celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary with a special party in Leinster Hills on New Year’s Night. Pat and Kathleen (nee Donohoe) were married by  Very Rev John Flood PP in St Patrick’s Church, Rathoe assisted by Rev Patrick Jones CC, Castledermot on 1 January, 1973.

Peg Bolger, Ballon, also had something to celebrate as she reached her 90th birthday in July and celebrated with family and friends in The Forge. Close on Peg’s heels was Tess Blanche, Ballinadrum who became a nonagenarian  in September and celebrated with family and friends in Ballykealy House Hotel.


Two Ballon ladies got their just reward in mid-summer when they were named Carlow Local Heroes winners. Patty Candy and Rita Barry, both from Maple Lawn whose unstinting work over a 40 year period  has enhanced the appearance of Maple Lawn and the Carlow approach road to Ballon village were chosen as the July winners in a monthly awards initiative sponsored by The Nationalist and The Talbot Hotel.

Two younger Ballon ladies, both pupils of Tullow Community School, were recipients of the Gold Award at the John Paul II Awards night held in The Seven Oaks Hotel, Carlow. Mary Flood, Laragh and Ellen Kennedy, Cappagh received their awards for the work they had undertaken in their parish and assisting in the training of juvenile GAA teams.


RTE’ Operation Transformation programme came to an end in February and Ballon’s own Monica Percy did herself, her family and her village proud throughout  the eight weeks that the programme was transmitted. She met her weigh target each week and in the end lost a whopping twenty-four pounds. Monica’s enthusiasm was such that a local walking group was formed in Ballon to support her and with some fifty people taking to the bye-ways and laneways each night, wet or fine, a total of 30 stone was collectively lost.  


The Ballon School team of David Lalor, Tadhg Downey and Séan Tracey, winners of the South East Region, competed in the National Primary Schools All- Ireland Debating final which was held in UCD in March. The team members excelled themselves and proposing the motion that ‘Primary School Holidays are too Long’  emerged as National runners-up with David Lalor winning the award for best overall speaker. The panel was completed by Ella Nolan,  Megan Brennan and Cormac Ryan.


Ballon National School won the Digital Schools Award making them only the second school in County Carlow to do so. The Digital Schools Award is an initiative of the former National Centre for Technology in Education (NCTE), now PDST Technology in Education, in partnership with the Computer Education Society of Ireland, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation and the Irish Primary Principal’s Network. The Digital Schools Award aims both to build on the excellent progress already made by schools in ICT integration and to give recognition to schools who have achieved exceptionally high standards in this area. This award for Ballon recognises the excellent progress dedication and commitment of the teachers and pupils in relation to ICT usage.


Ballon-Rathoe Community Games area improved on their second place in 2012 to win the Hosey Cup for best overall area at the Carlow Community Games Athletics finals in Ardattin in June. A total of 92 children ranging in age from 5 to16 years represented the area over the weekend.  Forty-two of the children collected a total of 58 medals from both individual and relay events.

Earlier in the year Ballon/Rathoe won both the under-12 and under-16 County Community Games chess championships. The under-12 team was John Kinsella, Sandbrook, Cormac Kinsella, Sandbrook, Marie O’Neill, Rathrush, Lorcan Doyle, Ballinvalley and Aoife Connolly, Ballymogue with Roisin Connolly, Ballymogue as substitute while the under-16 team was John O’Neill, Rathrush, John Cummins, Mullaunmore, Sarah Bermingham, Ballintrane, Seamus Connolly, Ballymogue and Anna Tracey, Ballintrane with Sean Tracey, Ballintrane as substitute.

The area also won the gold medals in the under-12 soccer competition defeating Burrin (Carlow Town) 4-3 on penalties to do so. The winning team was Dara Curran, Jake Somers, Adam Deacon, Jamie Cooper, Corey Kelliher, John Kinsella, Sean McGrath, Sam Hogan, Luke Drought, Declan Lester, Aaron Bolger, Lorcan Doyle, Cormac Kinsella and Darren O’Donoghue.


Twenty eight years on and interest in the Ballon St. Patrick’s Day Parade shows no sign of abating. The 27th renewal of the event, held on the national Feast Day, saw large crowds line both sides of the route from The Garage Cross to Dowling’s Cross to be entertained by the various floats, walking groups or vintage cars and machinery.  Even the rain which bucketed down at times failed to dampen the enthusiasm.  The parade was led through the village by members of ONE and St. Patrick (AKA John Kelly) and, making his first appearance in Ballon, Pope Francis (AKA Brendan Doyle). The event was colourful and entertaining  with the Government and The Croak Park Agreement (Failure) both taking the brunt of the jokes.


While most people in this area were generally unaffected by the heavy rains and winds of Thursday 21 and Friday 22 March the  home of one family in Ballintrane was damaged by floods. Paddy and Grace Jeaney and family watched in horror on Friday 22 as the normal tranquil and picturesque River Burren, which runs alongside their house, burst its banks resulting in the flood waters gushing into the ground floor of their home.  Mrs Josie Brophy (92) who lives with her daughter and son-in-law and who has resided there for close on seventy years said that this was the first time in her memory that the waters of the Burren had risen to such high levels.


On Sunday morning , 12 May at 5.45 people gathered at Slí na Sceach in this special ‘Gathering Year’ and heard the first singing and twitters of a beautiful May morning . The Blackbird was first but close behind came a pair of competing Robins.  Paul Cutler, Bird Watch Ireland Expert and Head Gardener at Altamont, give a short account of the various strands of each section of the Chorus. The group took a walk around the wonderful hedgerow of Kilbride where many of the local birds make homes and feed in these mini-nature reserves.


There was great excitement and a full house for this 10th anniversary celebration of the formation of the Kenya Helpers Association in Ballon NS in May. Past pupils, parents and villagers joined in for the occasion with the KHA committee, teachers and present pupils. These gave a brief history of the development and progress of the KHA with a loud proclamation of the total amount collected – namely, €59,000.

Sister Nora Doyle of the SMG Nuns and a native of St. Mullins and who  was home from Kenya at the time gave thanks to all and with a slide show showed how the money had been spent to help with projects undertaken by the order.


Ballon GFC held its contribution to the Countrywide Gathering over the June Bank Holiday weekend. It started with a Song and Story session in Aras tAthair Mac an Tuille on Friday, 31 May. The main event was held in Ballykealey Manor Hotel on Saturday, 1 June and started with a disco for the children followed by a Fancy Dress Competition. With food for the youngsters first and then a barbecue and dancing  for the adults it was truly a night to remember.


Ballon Community Centre,  opened in 1976 got a major revamp in 2013. A two storey extension was built to the left of the main hall and included a foyer, kitchen, changing rooms, toilets and showers as well as meeting and storage rooms. The main hall was upgraded and extended and will be used for indoor sports, bingo and dancing. The revamp cost in the region of €660,000 of which €470,0000  come by way of a grant from Carlow County Development Partnership. A loan for €150,000 was secured from the Diocese and will be paid back over an eight year period.


James Freney from Co. Kilkenny was a most famous highway man of the 1740s and thus was named the ‘Irish Robinhood’.  This man’s story was told by the Hedge School Master at the Heritage Week event hosted by Ballon Improvement Group and held at Slí na Sceach at the Forge Restaurant, Kilbride Cross, in August . The re-enactment of an 1800s Hedge School themed of Irish history, nature along the Slí na Sceach, art, song, dance and all sorts of creativity. The tasty lunch consisted of local floury boiled potatoes, butter and milk, all fresh and delicious food.


Nature Camp 2013, the Ballon Improvement Group’s three day camp for children from 5 to 12 years was held in August. Children connected with nature at Altamont Gardens, Malone’s Fruit Farm and at Slí na Sceach. Activities over the three days included fun and games, worm workshop, nature walks, interactive talks, fruit picking, fruit grow and eat session, stone art, plant potting, insect identification, singing and dancing .


Ballon received its first ever prize in The National Tidy Towns Competition in 2013.

With an increase of 9 marks (up from 265 to 274) the village was awarded a prize of €500 as winner of the County Carlow Endeavour Award given for the most improved entry in the county since last year.  

Ballon village won first prize in the Carlow Pride of Place competition for towns and villages with a population between 500 and 1,000 and with it a cheque for €700. As a result the village was short listed for the overall award which it won last year but had to give best to Clonegal this time. St  Peter and Paul’s School, Ballon won the best overall National School in County Carlow award and received a cheque for €400.

For the sixth consecutive year Maple Lawn was adjudged the best housing estate in the Borris Electoral Area and won a prize of €400.


Tús, the Community Development Scheme run by Carlow Development Partnership, carried out a programme of mapping and recording graves and headstones in Kellistown Graveyard. The burial records of this graveyard were destroyed in the Public Records Office fire in 1922.