INTEREST ..........colourful fascinating characters,shipwrecks and surprising visits.
Drunken Hollywood hell raisers revolutionaries, genteel English authors, tragic sunken ships can you find these landmarks on your visit to Kilkee?
Richard Harris ( Dickie )
Born in Limerick, Richard Harris, the actor, grew up visiting Kilkee every summer, he is remembered by the locals for excelling at Rackets and chasing pretty girls, later returning with fellow Hollywood actors to go on mammoth drinking and carousing sessions around the town!
Find his bronze statue at the Pollock Holes where he is immortalised playing Rackets the game he loved. Russel Crowe and Danny De Vito were among the many who came to Kilkee to celebrate his extraordinary and colorful career.
How did a Cuban revolutionary end up in Kilkee? He was fogbound on his way back from a meeting with ………… in Russia with time to spare he hopped in a taxi and asked the driver the best place to visit.
Arriving in Kilkee and enjoying the local hospitality, a local man sketched this extraordinary striking visitor on the back of a beermat and the legendary image of Che was created. Every year this is celebrated every September with the “Che Do Beatha” festival, when Kilkee turns into Little Havana for the weekend with music and dancing, cigars, and rum.
Kilkee was immensely popular in Victorian England as a holiday destination for the well-to-do. Visitors would take the air, parade along the Promenade, and listen to music around the elegant bandstand. Can you find the house where Charlotte Bronte spent her honeymoon?
Sadly due to its location, Kilkee has witnessed several tragic shipwrecks, you will find memorials to honor those who were victims of the Wild Atlantic seas in several places around Kilkee, a reminder to us all to respect the mighty ocean.
A panoramic of Kilkee’s horseshoe bay would be incomplete without the seaside town’s distinctive Westend ‘White Walls’.
Where the Marine Bay Road rises to Clifton Terrace along Kilkee’s West End, the stone wall, separating sea from street level, grows taller. Onto the stony beachside face plastered and painted four separate white walls.
Beneath the white walls is the sandy beach on which the game of Racquets is played. Few would see this surface, cleaned or ruined twice a day by the Atlantic tide, as an ideal court for a totally unique game, but Racquets has been played on these walls for over a century.
Racquets is, in many ways, similar to squash. Using a tennis racket, you hit a small bouncy ball up against the wall. Teams play in pairs, attempting to return the ball off the wall, within the tramlines and beyond the reach of their opponents.
Unlike squash, however, the charm, skill and quirkiness of the Kilkee game lies in the ball’s unpredictable (and at times cruel) bounce on the court’s sandy surface.
The game has been popular with generations of Kilkee locals and holidaymakers, including some famous alumni. Irish actor and musician Richard “Dickie” Harris, popularly known for his role as Dumbledore in the first cinematic instalments of the Harry Potter saga, is said to have won the competition four times in a row, from 1948-1951, and was immortalised in a statue playing the game he loved next to popular swimming spot the Pollock Holes.
In recent times, the Racquets walls have taken on a newfound significance along Kilkee’s bay-line view. Cuban revolutionist Che Guevara, who stayed in Kilkee’s Strand Hotel when his plane between Havana and Moscow was grounded at Shannon airport, has been painted in a mural on the first wall, in the iconic stencil first outlined by Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick. Guevara is reported to have wanted to see the sea, no doubt wanting to see the same North Atlantic that he would have looked upon from his own seaside town of Tavarà, Cuba.
Despite fond memories of the game, a lapse in the organisation of the competition in the noughties put the game’s legacy in danger of becoming a forgotten memory. Luckily, the competition was reformed, wise old heads recalled the rules and, soon after, the Michael Kenneally Perpetual Trophy was located. The cup is a brilliant relic to one of Kilkee’s most longstanding and popular pastimes.
In the preceding 5 years, a great deal of credit must be given to Limerick local Eoghan O’Byrne, who has revitalised the competition and, in the meantime, created a formidable winning partnership with partner Paul Conway.
Warm thanks is also due to Clare County Council for the upkeep of the white walls, so exposed to the elements, keeping them painted and plastered brilliantly white.
Having found a record of precious winners, and noticing the mixed nature of the names on the honours list, male and female teams, the competition from this year and for future years will be a mixed event.
It’s fantastic that in recent times the annual Kilkee Racket’s Tournament has been reinstated in Kilkee’s summer calendar. The tournament will take place again in 2022 on the bank holiday August.