Topic: Community August 20, 2018
Author: Neil Cubley
Tags: Stories

100 years in Tinahely

Bank of Ireland Tinahely Show

One of Donie Anderson’s border collies herding geese at the Tinahely Show 2018. Donie’s dogs herd the geese on his farm to their pens at night to help them avoid the foxes.


This year marks the 100th anniversary of our Tinahely branch in the heart of Co. Wicklow. In 1918, the year the branch first opened, the First World War was finally ending, Willie Clancy the uileann piper was born, and Limerick won the All Ireland Senior Hurling Final.

It is the only bank in Tinahely, today.

17 years later, in 1935, the first Tinahely Agricultural Show was held and soon became one of the biggest agricultural shows in Ireland.

That the show has now reached its 83rd year is down a mixture of respecting local tradition and introducing a few innovations along the way.

Bank of Ireland Tinahely Show

Tom O’Neill driving a traditional carriage at the Tinahely Show with piebald donkey.

Tradition and innovation

‘It’s always the event of the year for the area,’ says Colette Ryan from our Tinahely branch. This year, up to 20 staff supported the show. ‘They cater for all ages, groups and interests – country interests, you know. So you’ll have your ponies, your horses, your farm animals, and also your unusual animals.’

And, this year, those unusual animals include alpacas: An innovation in farming that has found a willing spokesman in Joe Phelan.

Bank of Ireland Tinahely Show

Joe Phelan (Alpaca Joe) pictured with some of his alpaca herd at the Tinahely Show. Joe’s alpacas produce high quality wool, are good guarding herds of sheep from foxes and dogs and can even be booked to appear at weddings were their speciality is ‘looking good’.

Alpaca Joe at the Tinahely Show

Joe Phelan works in Bank of Ireland in Dublin but, with a view to his upcoming retirement, Joe has invested in a herd of over 80 alpacas.

He breeds the alpacas to sell and generates cashflow to keep his alpaca business going by offering alpaca treks and by hiring them out as a special attraction at events. He brought some of his herd along to Tinahely Show to meet the crowds and to answer their questions.

The first question people ask is often ‘what’s the difference between an alpaca and a llama?’ ‘A llama would be about six foot tall,’ explains Joe, gesturing at the considerably shorter alpacas in the pen beside the Bank of Ireland stand.

‘Llamas have banana-shaped ears while alpacas have pointy ones. They are originally from Peru, Bolivia, Chile and both come from the same family as camels.’

Bank of Ireland Tinahely Show

Tractor pulling took place for the first time at Tinahely Show 2018.

Alpacas in Ireland

‘Do they cope well with the Irish weather?’ A lady asks Joe.

‘In Peru, they would be used to much greater extremes of weather,’ Joe explains. ‘They live at altitudes of between 12-18,000 feet and temperatures up there can hit +27 degrees Celcius during the day and then plunge to -20 degrees Celcius at night.’ So alpacas can definitely handle a wet winter’s day in Wicklow.

‘Alpaca wool has special properties that keep the animals cool in the heat and warm in the cold. Their wool is called fibre because it has a hollow structure and it’s this hollow structure that gives it its thermal properties. Alpaca fibre recorded a Guinness World Record, in 2017, as the finest fibre in the world.’

‘It is hypoallergenic which means it should produce fewer allergic reactions.’ As well as the wool fibre, Joe also offers treks with his alpacas from Kilruddery House in Bray, County Wicklow, and says that even some people who are allergic to horses are able to walk with the alpacas.


Bank of Ireland Tinahely Show

Teams compete at polocrosse. Polocrosse, a cross between polo and lacrosse, is the fastest growing equestrian sport in Ireland and came to the Tinahely Show for the first time this year. Teams on horseback have to score using lacrosse-like sticks to hurl the ball into nets at either end of the pitch.

Alpaca economics

‘Can you sell their wool?’ Somebody asks. ‘Is there a market for it here?’

‘The Alpaca Association in Ireland has a deal with two mills in the UK where we can sell our wool into them. The prices paid per kilo for the alpaca long fibre and short fibre are many times the prices paid for sheep’s wool.’

‘How often do you shear them?’

‘They are sheared once a year,’ says Joe. ‘We sheared all of ours in May except for Senan there who was booked for weddings.’ Joe points out Senan to the crowd on visitors to the Tinahely Show who look suitably impressed.

‘What does he do at weddings?’ Joe is asked.

‘He looks good,’ says Joe.

Bank of Ireland Tinahely Show

A rider watches a fellow competitor while waiting to take part in the horse show jumping at Tinahely Show.

How to shear an alpaca

‘Is there a special alpaca shearer?’ Asks someone who explains that they wouldn’t know how to go about an alpaca with a shears.

‘At the moment there are four in Ireland who go round from farm to farm,’ explains Joe. But they can be expensive enough to shear and that eats into the profitability of alpaca.

Joe goes on to explain that alpacas are now being used by sheep farmers to protect herds from foxes and especially from dogs whom the alpacas consider their deadly enemy. The questions keep coming for the Greystones man who has become a tireless advocate for alpacas in Ireland and he answers every one.

Bank of Ireland Tinahely Show

Riders performing a series of movements set to music at the Tinahely Show.

‘Every year you will find a new stall’

Colette Ryan has worked at the Show for the past 5 years for the Bank. Even though she says she is a ‘proud Wexford Woman living in Craanford’, Colette is familiar with a lot of the people and businesses that come to the show from across the South East. With a wide variety of stalls at the show and new ones appearing every year Colette says she ‘enjoys the Tinahely Show and being part of a town and community that come together to run a fantastic event every year.’

Find out more

The Tinahely Show takes place every August Bank Holiday. Find out more here.

All efforts were made to ensure that the information in this article was accurate at the time of original publication. The content of this article do not constitute financial advice.

Bank of Ireland is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

Topic: Community August 20, 2018
Author: Neil Cubley
Tags: Stories

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