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My Tipperary Life: Interview with Thurles Panto Societies Tommy Kennedy

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My Tipperary Life: Interview with Thurles Panto Societies Tommy Kennedy

Tommy Kennedy pictured with fellow castmates Johnny Fogarty (Capt. Shock) and Mary D. Ryan (the Sultana)

Tommy Kennedy takes to the stage as 'Professional Pirate' Shmee in Thurles Community Panto Societies production of Sinbad running from December 29 to 31 at The Source Arts Centre. Tickets are on sale now.

What's your idea of a perfect day, or perfect weekend in Tipperary?

This is a difficult one. We are Ireland’s largest inland county. The closest thing we have to a coastline is probably Dromineer. This is a huge body of water. I’ve been told by a gentleman who runs tours on Lough Derg that all the water in the lakes of Killarney would fit in Lough Derg! A warm summers day cruising Lough Derg on the ‘Kwee -E - Two for a couple of hours with stop offs in Garrykennedy, Killaloe or elsewhere before returning for lunch in a nice café in Nenagh. A short trip in the afternoon to climb Keeper Hill for beautiful views of the surrounding countryside before returning in the evening for a creamy pint of Guinness in De Burcas pub in Thurles!

Who has made the greatest contribution to Tipperary in your lifetime - and why?

Tempting though it is to dwell on our sporting heroes, the fact is that we have produced too many to single out one! Given how much Ryanair has revolutionised air travel for everyone it is hard to look beyond Tony Ryan.

What's your first Tipperary memory?

Only two days ago I was in Tesco’s, Thurles and my first memory returned to me. A great many years ago this was the site of Joey O’Connor’s Superstore, Thurles. I have a vivid memory of escaping the clutches of my parents and setting myself the challenge of walking the length of the store. I can remember wondering how much longer I had to walk as it seemed to me and my short little legs to go on and on and on…

What's your favourite part of the county - and why?

It is hard to look beyond the environs of Clonmel due to the many wonderful walks along the Knockmealdowns, the Comeraghs or Slievenamon. On a bright, warm summer’s day it is close to heavenly.

What do you think gives Tipperary its unique identity?

I take a perverse pleasure in remarking how many borders with other counties we possess. For the record it’s 8! Cork, Limerick, Clare, Galway, Offaly, Laois, Kilkenny, Waterford. If we were of a certain disposition we could feel under siege! One other subject requires highlighting. As a keen supporter of the performing arts I am immensely proud of the number of small community groups sprinkled liberally throughout the county and the success they have attained in competitions over the years.

Do you have a favourite local writer or author?

Another difficult one! I am a huge admirer of Roscrea’s George Cunningham and his new book ‘From Gentry to Genetics’ (about Dovea Cattle Breeding centre) is a wonderful work to highlight just one of the many contributions he has made to the history of Tipperary. However, I must opt for Des Marnane. His lectures and books on the history of our great county are legendary. His books on the history of Cashel and Tipperary Town for example are must-reads for anyone from those parts with even a small interest in local history.

What's the biggest challenge facing the county today?

Writing as a Thurles person, the greatest challenge facing the county is industrial jobs. Almost 20 industries have closed in Thurles over the past 35 years with few replacements. Considering the quality of students graduating from our wonderful Secondary Schools and Third Level Colleges this is a shame. A similar pattern applies to other Tipperary towns such as Tipperary Town, Cashel, Roscrea.

If you had the power to change one thing in, or about Tipperary, what would it be?

I would love to change what I wrote for the question above. We are losing far too many talented people due to migration or emigration.