There were big crowds and lots of colour for the 51st annual Birr Vintage Parade on Sunday afternoon.
Filled with a large number of vintage cars and vehicles, floats, dancers, bands and colourful displays, the Parade lasted for about an hour and reached the high standards set by previous Birr Vintage Parades over the years.
Unfortunately, the long tradition of it rarely raining during the parade didn’t continue this year, and the heavens opened during the last ten minutes, with the rain becoming quite heavy, which resulted in many people running for cover.
Never mind. The event was still a success and a testament to the strong and invaluable community spirit in Birr.
Mary Larkin has been MC of the Parade for many years. She does a great job every year and this year was no different. She began her commentary by pointing out that the success and longevity of Birr Vintage Week is due to a large number of people including the committee, friends and volunteers who give up their time, amazing funders and sponsors at all levels, and the clubs, societies and venues who host events throughout the week.
She thanked the County Council, the Gardaí, Birr Municipal District, Civil Defence, and the Red Cross, among many others. She thanked the major sponsors including Grant Engineering, Leigh Hollywood and Birr Lions Club.
Mary said it’s a totally new committee this year under the Co-Chairs of Cailin Keaveny and Danielle Rock Kealy. She said the committee has a tough act to follow but she was sure they would be able to do it.
After this short intro, the up and coming Baritone David Kennedy, from Eyrecourt, sang Amhrán na bhFiann.
Co-Chair Cailin Keaveny said a few words. She wished everybody a happy and enjoyable Vintage Week. She thanked the organising committee for putting in so much hard work. “We are pretty much a new team and we have been on a steep learning curve!” Cailin also thanked the Syrian Refugees for assisting with the organisation of the festival. “They have been absolutely amazing.”
The MC urged everyone to stay on after the parade in the square or on Green Street, “where there will be a great buzz. The very enjoyable Food & Craft Fair will be taking place on Green Street with its wide range of arts, crafts and cuisine. I want to also strongly recommend Vintage Luminaries which is taking place every evening from 10pm to midnight. This heritage trail with a modern twist is captivating. The Window Wonderland is another fabulous idea and brings a magical atmosphere to the streets.” She urged everyone to get involved and experience these things.
Then the Parade got underway following its traditional route along Castle Street, Main Street and Emmet Street.
After the Colour Party, there followed the magnificent McLaren Steam engine from 1892, owned by the Cavanagh family, and looking in fantastic condition; Patrick O’Brien from Eyrecourt on his 1922 butcher’s bike with his singing dog; Donal Boyd driving his magnificent team of six horses and carriage; Paul and Sinead Boyd and family with their two ponies and trap; Eugene King’s 1952 Hillman Minx (a very rare car and in excellent condition); and Declan Good’s 1954 Riley car (also in great condition).
A number of Dan Coolahan’s cars followed. Dan has been the owner of a fleet of impressive vintage vehicles for many years and displays them every Vintage Week Parade. This year he displayed a 1975 Daimler, a 1964 Rolls Royce, a fabulous looking 1938 Aston Ascot; a 1927 Morris Minor; a 1916 army truck, and a 1935 Vauxhall Light.
Next up were the Camcor Riders on their five motorbikes (“The young boys in the crowds will love these magnificent machines!” the MC enthused. She also praised the Camcor Riders for their charity work).
After this, Dance It Out passed the Reviewing Stand. They have been holding hip hop and jazz dancing lessons in Birr since January.
The Special Olympics athletes from the area were in the Parade as well. They achieved great success at the Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi last March and got a warm response from the crowd.
Other participants included: the Absurdist Pipe Band; a samba band from Edgeworthstown; John Burke with his trailer of turf coming home from the bog; Colm Garahy on a 1941 motorbike; Tom Garahy on a 1940 army motorbike; the Black Bull Threshing Festival with another outstanding float (the float’s theme was based on the play “The Field”. The Threshing Festival is taking place on Sunday August 25); Bill Shaw with his 1959 David Brown tractor and a gypsy caravan; Richard Grant’s 1961 Hillman Minx; an MG car which took part in the 1966 Monte Carlo Rally; a samba band called Funky Pirates (from Drogheda); Billy Scully and his tractor which was pulling a trailer of vintage implements; two clowns on stilts (Shane and Derek Constable from Kerry); an International Titan tractor from 1917 (many of these tractors were imported into the United Kingdom during World War One. They cost £390 and were a popular tractor. Their production ceased in 1922); Joe O’Neill and his 1955 Austin Devon; Michael Keegan and his 1975 Vauxhall (“Cars younger than 30 years are called Classic cars,” the MC told us, “whereas cars older than 30 years are called vintage”); Clonmel Youth Marching Band; Paddy Cahill in a 1952 Ford Anglia; Brian Farrell in a 1977 Bentley; Padraig McIntyre in a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle; and a fabulous Birr Tidy Towns float called “Save our environment”, which featured upbeat music and dancing.
As usual there were a number of categories and winners during the Parade.
Best Float: The Black Bull Threshing Festival.
Best Vintage Car: Dan Coolahan’s 1927 Morris Minor.
Best Club: South Offaly Special Olympics Club.
Best Classic Car: Eithne Garahy’s 1960 Morris Minor 1000 Convertible.
Best Vintage Tractor: Kieran Garahy’s 1927 International Titan.
Best Vintage Motorcycle: Tom Garahy’s 1940 BSA M20 Motorbike.
Best Children’s Group: Dance It Out.