Killarney Regatta - a Sporting Event Steeped in History

Killarney has a rowing tradition dating back to the 1800s and old records would appear from the time to indicate that the annual Killarney Regatta races were the only sporting events of note in the lakeside town and hinterlands.

T.F Hall's History of Boat Racing in Ireland makes reference to a regatta being held on the famous lakes in 1830 and the Tralee Chronicle of Monday August 5th 1947 reports that dispite the famine, a regatta was held off Innisfallen island on a course to Darby's Gradens, rounding a buoy and returning to the Island, and goes on to discribe the atmosphere as follows: "on shore groups of well dressed people wandered through the delightful passes with craft of every hue in the rainbow swarming around the jutting creeks and angles of the island."

Lough Lein Rowing Club (now St. Brendan's) was credited with organising a regatta on the lakes in the late 1800s with crews named Drapers(now Commercials), Bakers, Grocers, Carpenters and Plasterers competing with Drapers dispite Bakers being favourites.

In later years crews from the local hotels competed against each other at the annual regatta. Clubs such as St. Brendan's, Commercials, Aghadoe(now Fossa) and Muckross were all founded in the 1800s and it is on record that Muckross may well be one of the oldest rowing clubs in Ireland as there is some information available of the club competing at costal regattas during the mid 1800s. Flesk Valley and Workmen were formed in the mid 1920s and St. Finan's(now defunct) was formed in 1952.

Over the past 30 years major changes have been taking place in the sport, particularly in the whole area of added competition and while the annual regatta was the entire focus in earlier years, crews from Killarney now compete regurlarly and with much success at regattas all over Ireland and also oustide the country such as the Royal Henley Regatta and Eton.

In recent years oarsmen such as Paul Griffin, Sean Casey and Cathal Moynihan have been members of the Ireland crews which have competed with distinction at the Olympic Games which has really put Killarney on the world sporting map. With the siting of the National Rowing Centre on Inniscarra lake it has made it more attractive for crews from Killarney to compete in the national event and they have been achieving much success at national level in recent years.

In relation to the local scene, little has changed with the passing of time and today, families remain embroiled in the partonage of the clubs which their fathers and grandfathers supported in years of yore. While the scene may have changed from Innisfallen, Cahernane and the Lake Hotel (where hundreds watched Dublin University and the University of Penlsylvania battle it out in 1901) to the picturesque surroundings of O' Mahonys Point, rowing is still a most popular sport in Killarney with the boys and girls of Muckross, Fossa, Workmen, Flesk Valley and Commercials battling it our for the supreme honours on regatta day like Tennyson's 'Babbling Brook' "... men may come and men may go, but Killarney's regatta will go on for ever ..."

John Kelly