Monday 21st November, 2016

Killarney looking Good/Tidy Towns presented the Volunteer Award 2016, to Environmental and and Human-rights Advocate, Tom Roche for his voluntary work in organising the Killarney Celebration of Trees events which took place from Thursday 19th to Friday 27th May 2016. Tom who is a native of Tullamore founded Just Forests in 1989 to create awareness of Ireland’s reliance on developing countries for our tropical timber and the impacts of that international trade. He now resides in Killarney.

One of the main events of the week saw the people of the greater Killarney area create a new World Record Tree Hug, when 1977 adults and children hugged 1977 trees in Killarney House & Gardens. Other events of the week which Tom organised included talks on the priceless contribution trees make to society by RTE broadcaster and environmentalist Duncan Stewart.  Internationally-renowned arborist and writer/publisher,Thomas Pakenham of Tullynally Castle, gave a fascinating account of his global travels and ‘meetings with remarkable trees’. Both talks took place in a packed room in the historic Muckross House in Killarney National Park.

He also brought Fr. Sean McDonagh, well-known Columban Missionary and outspoken critic of the Catholic Church’s response to climate change to Killarney to mark UN International Day of Biological Diversity on Sunday 22nd May, with a talk on biodiversity and God’s Creation. During Fr Sean’s presentation well-known singing priest Fr Ray Kelly sang “Halleluiah” by the late Leonard Coen, as well as a number of other ‘Creation-centered’ songs of praise to God, to a very appreciative audience. The event took place in the newly re-furbished Killarney House.

Another major event organised for the Killarney Celebration of Trees week included a ’Sound of Wood’ concert which links our love of music to the trees that provide the ’tone woods’ for the making of our beautiful musical instruments-many of which are on the brink of extinction. A packed St. Mary’s Church of Ireland heard well-known local Killarney School of Music members under the baton of Padraig Buckley and local harpist/vocalist Marina Cassidy play music with a tree/nature focus which was very warmly appreciated by both the local and the visiting audience members. Local Killarney poet Liz Ryan, gave a beautiful rendition (in English for the foreign attendance) of the 18th century lament Cill Chais – Cad a dhéanfaimid feasta gan adhmad? Tá deireadh na gcoillte ar lár…  – while Marina Cassidy played the haunting lyrics on her classical Irish harp.

Other events organised and run by Just Forests founder Tom Roche for the Killarney Celebration of Trees week included the hands-on Wood of Life exhibition in Killarney Public Library. The Wood of Life is a primary and post-primary school development education (DE) resource that helps pupils to understand Ireland’s role in global deforestation and associated Climate Change and human-rights issues. The Timbers of the World collection of over 800 of the world’s most commercial timbers was seen for the first time in public in over 40 years when a number of information/education panels developed by Tom went on display in Killarney Outlet Shopping Centre and received great comments from the attendance.

Chelsea Flower Show winner and ecological landscape gardner, Mary Reynolds, enthralled a packed Killarney House when she spoke of her passion for bringing ‘nature’ back into our gardens. The recently released film ‘Dare To Be Wild’ is based on Mary’s life as a wildlife gardner.

The great success of Killarney Celebration of Trees 2016,  would not have been possible without the enormous support and goodwill of Killarney Tidy Towns, Killarney Mountain Meitheal and the 100 PLUS volunteers that facilitated the health and safety requirements of ‘people-management’ during the World Record Tree Hug,” stated Tom. For more information on Killarney Celebration of Trees please see