Athy Lions Club is part of a worldwide organisation which prides itself on being the largest charitable organisation in existence. 39 years ago the first meeting to establish a branch of the Lions Club in Athy was held in the Leinster Arms Hotel. Kilkenny Lions Club hosted that meeting and soon afterwards Athy Lions Club was founded. The Club’s charter dated 29th June 1971 is now on display in the local Heritage Centre and it records the names of the 24 founder members of the Club. The first President of the Club was the late Des McHugh and happily 6 of those original members have maintained their membership of the Lions Club over the succeeding 39 years. Ken Turner, Michael Dwyer, Gerry Cleary, Johnny Watchorn, Michael Wall and Trevor Shaw are the longest serving members of the Club which meets every month in the Clanard Court Hotel courtesy of the Fennin family.
Last week at its November meeting the current President of Athy Lions, Paul Cunningham, presented Michael Wall with Honorary Life Membership of the Club. Tributes were paid to Michael who for many years was the Club’s treasurer and who also served a term as President of Athy Lions. Michael who comes from County Mayo and who recently celebrated a significant birthday (I’m not allowed to say what age he is) was in his younger days a dedicated and energetic member of the Lions Club. He is particularly proud of his involvement and that of his fellow Lions in helping to establish the first canoe club in Athy in modern times.
The Club Members also took the opportunity of extending good wishes to another great stalwart of the Lions Club, Johnny Watchorn, who is currently in hospital. Both Johnny and Michael have made significant contributions to the Lions Club over the years and in doing so have helped many local causes and charities.
Perhaps the most unique project undertaken by the local Lions Club was the development of the sheltered housing scheme in the grounds of St. Vincent’s Hospital in 1989. Other projects assisted include Sr. Consilio’s Cuan Mhuire, St. Vincent’s Hospital, the Order of Malta, the Travellers Club and Athy’s Care of the Elderly Committee. There are many other local charities which have benefited from the work of Athy Lions Club Members in organising events such as the Dream Auction to be held in the Clanard Court Hotel on Thursday 25th November. Starting at 7.30 p.m. with a wine reception and free admission the Auction offers an opportunity to buy a variety of goods, services and unusual items, many of which would make ideal Christmas presents.
Helicopter rides, computer training, dinners for 4 in the Dáil restaurant, tickets for All-Ireland Hurling Final are just a few of the 100 or more items which will be auctioned for charity on Thursday night. For racing fans a painting of Dawn Run, the winner of both the Gold Cup and the Champion Hurdle, will be of interest and for bibliophiles the sale of a signed copy of a Seamus Heaney book should prove attractive.
The work of the local Lions Club seldom receives publicity as much of the good work of its members is done quietly and discreetly. However, this is an occasion when publicity is actively canvassed so that as many as can will come to the Clanard Court Hotel on Thursday night and help make life easier for many local charities this Christmas.
Another Lions Club venture to note is the Annual Food Appeal collection which Lions Members and their partners will take up in local supermarkets between Thursday 9th December to Saturday 11th December inclusive. The proceeds of the Food Appeal go to the local St. Vincent de Paul Conference which is urgently in need of help and assistance to meet the evergrowing demands in these recessionary times.
I was in London last week and regrettably missed the funerals of Joe O’Rourke and Benny Anderson, two men with family links with Athy going back over many years. Andersons is of course a landmark in the centre of the town and well I remember how it formed the backdrop to the political rallies held in Emily Square at a time when such rallies preceded by marches from the Railway Bridge were all the vogue. Several members of the extended O’Rourke family were prominent in the War of Independence and some of those involved subsequently emigrated to America. Joe is survived by his wife Kay and children Brendan, Anthony and Linda and his brothers Dom, Frank and Christy and his sister Margaret. Benny is survived by his wife Vivienne and children John, David, Benny, Helen, Nuala and Michele.
To both families are extended our sympathies on their sad loss.