Meet Betty and John Breen, an ordinary couple who open up their house to the Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle fundraisers every year, adding to the magic.
Betty is unsure of how the tradition began, but thinks that many years ago her mother in law (who was a local midwife) set up a table outside her house on the side of the road for the passing cyclists taking part in the charity cycle and so a tradition was born. Betty and John were married in 1983 and decided that they would continue this tradition – little did they know a small charity cycle in 1983 would become the biggest one day fundraising event in Munster with over 11,000 fundraisers taking part every year.
For those of you who want to sample some of John’s and Bettys hospitality on the 2nd of July, their house is in an area known as Kelly’s Cross, five miles past Sneem village and about 35 miles from Killarney.
We spoke to Betty to ask her how she got involved, what she enjoys most about what she does every year and more…
Betty, how did it all start?
I wouldn’t know the very start of it! Myself and John, a local man from Kelly’s Cross, got married in 1983. We just decided to carry on a tradition as his mother did previous to that.
When do you start getting ready for the event?
I start preparing 2-3 weeks beforehand. We start off with small things such as tidying the kitchen, getting the seats and tables ready.
What do you offer to cyclists?
We have tables there where cyclists can grab a breather, we offer people water and we have toilets cyclists can use too. While cyclists were always using our bathrooms, now we are provided with portable toilets too. We got 12 portable toilets last year!
We leave the house open so if any of the cyclists are tired they can come in and lie down and have a little rest. At that stage many are exhausted! Our house has always have been a bit of a halfway house.
Who else does it with you? Who would be helping you on the day?
All the neighbours and kids in the neighbourhood come to help. People who are visiting or those who have a holiday home in the area would join us too.
My little three neighbours, 3 little boys Shawn, Padraig and Michael Casey who are triplets are doing it with me for their third year along with their sister Catriona. She’s 11 now but has been coming to help me since she’s been a little child.
She’s also a great Irish dancer. Last year Catriona and a few local girls danced for all the cyclists – it was beautiful.
What do you like the most about the cycle?
It’s a local thing – it brings all the neighbours together. A day before the cycle the kids come down with loads of balloons and decorations and they all stay for a sleepover. It’s a great time for all the local kids.
I love that you meet people not only from all over Ireland but from all over the world. They like coming in here. Down the years there were several people who called down during the year to say thank you for looking after them at the Ring of Kerry.
We enjoy everything we do our end. It’s our part of doing bit of a charity work.