Originally started in 1978 the Powley (an area in the hills surrounding Castlecomer) men decided, while playing cards, on St Stephen's day (Boxing day for British readers) to run off the Christmas excess by having a race over a cross country circuit. Not being the type of men that would be caught dead in a pair of Nike's or Addidas runners, let alone actually own a pair, the most obvious foot wear for this type of event was, yes you guessed it, WELLINGTONS.
Now the less said about the amount of alcohol that had been consumed prior to this momentous decision the better but the history books will record that Paddy Phelan became the winner of the first ever Wellington race.
1981 is a year remembered for many events (More about 1981 is available in another part of the site) but without a doubt the most sensational event was the Powley men bringing the Wellington race to 'comer (an affectionate abbreviation for the town of Castlecomer). Following an offer by local publican Jim Bollard to offer a perpetual cup to the winner.
The first Castlecomer Wellington Race took place over the Kiltown circuit on New Year 's Day 1981. The circuit is a demanding 5 km country road with two severe inclines and was an instant hit with the people of Castlecomer.
A number of important rules were decided upon and many of these still serve us today. Standard Wellingtons must be worn (no sawn off jobs)
Runners will be handicapped according to age and sex
All runners must register and have their card marked at the half way point
Walkers cannot win any of the race prizes except the best fancy dress prize.
Sixty-two people ran that year and £1,200 was raised for the "Lourdes Invalid Fund" and the first winner of the new route was David Farrell, the first Lady winner was Caroline Coogan.
From here the event blossomed and the following year 1982 saw the first float parade and the winning float was the "Pope Mobile".
The number of runners had increased to 230 and the amount of money raised was £3000 by its third year the number of runners was almost 400.
The monies raised each year have been donated to a wide range of local, national and international charities, unfortunately exact amounts are not available but estimates of €700,000 over the 35 years would not be too far off the mark.
In the early years a certificate acknowledging participation was given to all participants and the top ten men and women received trophies as well as the top three veteran men and senior ladies.
Then rosettes were given as a memento of the occasion and various county colours were used, a commemorative medal was given to participants in both the float parade and the race for the Millennium event on 1 st January 2000 and the 2016 event will celebrate the 100 anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising.
The event has spread wings and similar events have been held in New York, Sydney, Toronto, Weston Missouri and for the past number of years our twin town of Penvenan Brittany have held a Wellie Race on St Patricks Day.
The role of honour is:
Wellington Race Winners of the last Thirty Five Years
Year Personality Race Winner Ladies Winner Float Winner
1981 Martin Campion David Farrell Caroline Coogan No float competition
1982 L. Forristal Liam Murphy Mary Murphy The Pope
1983 Fr. Kearns Ollie O Neill Kay Doyle Monks
1984 Christy Heffernan Tom Lawrence Kay Doyle Shuttle
1985 Joe Lynch David Buggy Ann Bourke Powley Dew
1986 Kieran Fitzgerald Martin Connolly
1987 Fr. Ml. Cleary
1988 D. O Dualaing Martin Boran Mary O Shea Skehana Coal
1989 M. Tynan Tom Laurence Ann Walsh Comer Auld Times
1990 Liam Nolan Marty Connelly Agnes Brennan Day at Races
1991 Jimmy Magee Fergus Kealy Mary O Shea The Batchelors
1992 Denise Murphy Marty Connely Mary O Shea Firoda China
1993 Michael Carruth Tom Laurence Kathleen Boyle The Scouts
1994 M O Muircheartaigh Fergus Kealy Caroline Keane Gullivers Travelles
1995 Mick Dowling Jessie Nolan Roseligh Comerford Road to peace
1996 Ronan Collins Martin Boran Niamh Maher 007and a half
1997 Riche Kavanagh Billy o Neill Martina Brennan 1920's America
1998 David Mitchell Tom Hourigan Margaret Dillon Powley Utd. Men
1999 Martina Stanley Brendan Dukes Kate O Neill Firoda Fashions
2000 Jim Bolger Martin Kelly Lucia Brennan Sporting Heroes
2001 Andy Comerford Jim O Brien Eilish Hayes Firoda Book Club
2002 Ian Wilson Billy O Neill Eilish Hayes The Hilly Alliance
2003 Paul Collins Billy O Neill Eilish Hayes Treasure Island
2004 Maclean Burke Martin Kelly Eilish Hayes Celebrity Farm
2005 Orla O Shea Sean Dowling Laura Brennan The Boys From the Lots
2006 Brian Cody Michael Coyle Catherine Mc Donald Firoda Sports Academy
2007 Eileen Dunne Martin Kelly Breda Roche Firoda Six One News
2008 Nicky Brennan Michael Coyle Mary Burke Firoda Greenish Party
2009 Pascal Scott Michael Coyle Mary Burke/ Farrell Powley Vale Hard Times
2010 Derek Lynn Michael Coyle Breda Mulcahy Duffy's Circus
2011 Evanne Ní Chuilinn Michael Coyle Mary Burke James Bond 007
2012 Damien Tiernan John Feehan Breda Mulcahy Conahy Vintage Club
2013 Daragh Mc Cullagh Philip Fennelly Anne O Connor Flying Column
2014 Tommy Walsh John Feehan Teresa Agar Gaelic Mothers
2015 Helen Carroll Martin Mc Donald Breda Mc Donald Jurassic Park