Kilkenny go for the double double

It is a great feeling when Kilkenny is in the winners enclosure. It has been a long wait. We haven’t won since 1985. A huge amount of work went into preparation. The reward finally came. The 29-year drought ended. I refer, of course, to Kilkenny’s recent big win, the 2014 Supervalu Tidy Towns competition.

From 1953 to 1957 a National Spring Clean was organised. Such was the success that Bord Failte launched the Tidy Towns competition in 1958.

Ireland was a fairly drab place. Photos of streets do not feature hanging baskets of multi- coloured flowers all over the place. There were no roundabouts ablaze with colour to welcome motorists to towns. Well-kept window boxes, or indeed any window boxes, were a rarity. It was a different kind of austerity from the one we are enjoying now.

But there was no canned beer waiting for some lout to discard the container without thought. Soft drinks in plastic bottles had not yet been unleashed on us. Children still collected the glass bottles and brought them back to the shop for pennies. Bars of chocolate did have wrappers and silver paper, but most kids didn’t have more than one a week. They were treats, not food. We were thinner, with somewhat less littering opportunity.

The Tidy Towns is not just about litter. It is about generally improving the environment to make it more pleasing to live in. Travelling around the country, it is extraordinary to see the voluntary work that takes place alongside the various council employees beautifying and cleaning up their locality. On Saturday mornings I see hordes of Bennettsbridge residents out with their trowels and black bags. I saw a similar ‘meitheal’ making huge improvements in Clondalkin. It is going on all around the country, and we are all the better for it.

That said, we are still afflicted by two groups of people who are functionally blind to their environment. The first group like to keep their cars reasonably litter free but think it is perfectly acceptable to roll down the window and chuck out bottles or pizza cartons.

Smokers have a blind spot. They wouldn’t dream of chucking a cigarette pack on the street but think nothing of stubbing out a butt and saying it is ‘biodegradable’! Some smoking drivers park and neatly empty their ash tray on the pavement despite the fact that there are litter bins in every garage in the country.

Such is the Kilkenny passion for the Tidy Towns that the county was bedecked with black and amber flags for weeks celebrating our success. And these doubled as encouragement for our hurlers to continue another successful tradition.

So back to business. Keep up the work and the standards and this time next year we will be celebrating the two in a row. Twice, hopefully !

John Masterson writes for the Sunday Independent