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FOLLOWING on from last week’s introduction to this column, week two and our second stop on this 52-part series brings you back in time to 1968. So what were the main talking points in the Banner County 50 years ago? Ennis journalist Cian O Broin delves into the archives…

Rose Of Tralee winner Eilleen Slattery

The Rose of Tralee competition spear-headed Irish beauty on all our television sets through the latter half of the 20th century. Embodying a culture refined through strong personalities, the competition has provided sustenance to Irish communities across the globe as to what it truly means to be an Irish woman. In 1968, Eileen Slattery from Clarecastle took the fabled crown, being the first Clare woman to do so. In its infancy, the competition comprised of 23 finalists from seven counties. The competition took place in Tralee’s Ashe Memorial Hall and was presented by the late Terry Wogan.
At the time, Eileen was working as a hostess at Bunratty Castle and her newly acquired notability afforded her the opportunity to travel. First place claimed the opportunity of a lifetime with a world trip accompanied by a £100 cash prize, a nice cosy sum at the time. Interestingly, Eileen’s motivation to participate was fashioned in fate whereby after having her tea cup read she was foretold of her imminent future in entertainment and of its prosperous nature. Her instinct guided her towards the Clare Rose in Lahinch and the rest is history.

Jim Fitzpatrick is an Irish artist that gained notoriety through the years for his traditional Celtic artwork. His most prominent piece of work stems from a chance meeting with the iconic revolutionary Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara in Kilkee, County Clare in 1962. Jim held a summer job there at the time and was in awe at the presence of such an internationally revered leader. Che had a stopover at Shannon Airport and was killing some time in Kilkee where he deliberated with the young Jim Fitzpatrick over his Irish ancestry.

che guevara

This encounter inspired Fitzpatrick to create the iconic red poster of Guevara in 1968, one year after his death. This image would become one of the most iconic in history, symbolising freedom, political uprising and the power of socialism.
In retrospect, it was the seaside resorts of County Clare that took the limelight in 1968, with the Darlin Girls from Clare and the story of Che Guevara’s quiet adventure to the west, not to liberate any people but simply to free his pint from a glass.

Ennis saw its philanthropic roots strengthened with the formation of Clarecare in 1968. Originally operating under the title of Clare Social Service Council, Clarecare was espoused through the wilful minds of Mr Joe Boland, County Manager, and Dr. Michael Harty, Bishop of Killaloe. Its main aim was to co-ordinate the various voluntary organisations in Clare with special emphasis on care for the elderly. The initiative gradually grew into the large boots it fills today in our local community, extending its helpful hand into matters relating to families and children in need. On November 12, 1968, Clarecare held its inaugural meeting operating as a parish-based organisation with 23 affiliates. Its history can be traced back to an office on O’Connell street in 1968, with just one employee operating as a clerk typist.

Darlin’ girls from Clare
We all know Miltown Malbay as a bustling seaside town. The faintest hint of sunshine and it’s beach towels at the ready. In 1968, the sandy white shore wasn’t the only attraction that pulled people towards the coast. The Darlin’ Girls from Clare was a widely known festival that kicked off the Spanish Point Holiday Season. People gathered in their thousands to commence the festival, welcoming the 14 girls from Ireland and England all with some sort of affinity to the Banner. Qualification came from winning dance competitions across Ireland and England. The festival then in its fifth year was seen as a roaring success and added to the communal vibe of the seaside resort. Streets lined with musicians and dancing, the official Darlin’ Girl was announced at midnight during the middle of the festival. Maura Barry from Kilmaley takes the crown, winning a trip to the United States.

Look out for next week’s edition of Reeling in the Years in Clare where we will delve back in time into 1969.

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