Methven was painted green at the weekend as the Tara Trust celebrated all things Irish with ‘The Opuke Gathering’, at the Mt Hutt Memorial Hall, Methven Rugby Club and The Dubliner.
The weekend festival started last Friday with over 300 people attending gathering, an open to all, ticket sale event, celebrating traditional Irish music, culture and sports.
The following day, Irish football took centre stage, with two matches played.
The first was GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) football and the second a match of hurling, which is Ireland’s national sport.
The teams came from Christchurch to take part at the Methven rugby grounds.
McKenna’s won both matches, beating the Celtic Wolfhound’s, 5-8 and 2-6.
In among that was entertainment for the children in the form of a cultur club, teaching the Irish language and the tin whistle.
After the match, proceedings moved to the Mt Hutt Memorial Hall as the evening festivities continued with plenty of musicians travelling in from all over the South Island, in particular from Christchurch. Plenty of fiddles, whistles and violins set the atmosphere to really get into the theme of the day.
There was also a small and intimate concert performed by Rennie Pearson, followed by a Ceilidh, the traditional Irish dance. A notable mention for Methven local, Viv Barrett, at the age of 93, was probably the best dancer on the night.
Methven’s local pub, The Dubliner, rounded off the weekend on Sunday evening, continuing the celebrations. The Dubliner owner Karen Manning played an integral part in making the celebrations possible.
Karen joined the Tara Trust as the national coordinator a year ago and was heavily involved in making the weekend a success. Her role is to support and promote Irish arts, cultures and projects.
Making her the connecting person for the two New Zealand islands for the Irish community.
It’s a job she thoroughly enjoys as she can find out what’s happening in the various different communities and put it out on social media, so everyone can connect together like one big family. Also, when situations arise the Tara Trust is there to support when needed.
“We were overwhelmed by the amazing response from the surrounding communities, and we hope to do it all again next year, making it an annual event. It was such a success; we feel we can hold it annually.
‘‘It was ahuge mixture of all the local communities from Methven, Ashburton and all the surrounding areas. Plus, a lot of Irish came down from Christchurch to join our Irish community here”.
Nearly $5000 was raised over the weekend through ticket sales and an auction held by Dame Lynda Topp for Irish rugby jerseys from the provinces of Ireland. All the proceeds will go to Tara Trust to help continue the immense work they do.
The weekend’s events were off the back of a previous St Patrick’s Day celebration where the trust held a luncheon at parliament in Wellington. Welcoming Ireland ambassador Jane Connolly to New Zealand.
She was in Methven for the gathering and also provided a speech in the evening. She was also accompanied by Ashburton deputy mayor Liz McMillan, and councillors Tony Todd and Richard Wilson.
With 20 percent of New Zealand’s ancestry coming from Ireland. It wasn’t surprising to see the huge numbers of people flock and participate in the weekend’s events. Indeed, it was also very encouraging to see the rest of the community soak up the festivities, in what was a delightful and educational weekend for the Methven township, for all things Irish.