By John Fitzgerald
The sideline activities at the Beer Festival are worth a mention too. The Queen of the Land competition attracted hundreds of women, each of them put forward by committees of adoring townspeople, villagers, or the occupants of obscure country lanes, woodlands, and hillsides around the county.
With their sixties hairstyles and dresses, they drew thousands of lusty looks and admiring wolf whistles from the multitude of first time and seasoned male beer drinkers. The ladies paraded in front of large open-air audiences, to thunderous applause and adulation.
A veteran car rally went down well too, if not exactly as well or as smoothly as the rivers of beer that flowed and gurgled down the throats of drinkers. Sixty-four vintage cars- or “old crocks” as cynical observers called them- rolled, rattled, and spluttered along the medieval streets, led by the New Ross Brass and Reed band.
The convoy of quaint vehicles arrived from Waterford on day one of the festival and headed towards the brewery, where they lay at anchor for the night. They were later driven through the City up to the Castle.
Quite a few of the drivers had dressed in period costume, each one to match the advanced age of his car. One flamboyant gentleman; attired in shimmy frock, beads, and flaunting a two-foot long cigarette holder, waved to the crowds and had people in stitches laughing at him. J. Shelly of Callan said the rally had given him with the biggest thrill of his life.
Another car carried a group of “Flower Power” singers who sang of peace, a perfect world, and free love. The latter concept was of course alien to Kilkenny in 1964.
A jittery looking machine, aptly titled “Crock of Ages” broke down in High Street and had to be pulled by Phil Dwyer’s jaunting car, an old reliable if ever there was one.
The oldest car on display was a 1907 “Nag” driven by the legendary Ossie Bennett of Tipperary hurling fame.
Finalists of the Beauty Queen competition also got to ride in the vintage relics of auld decency. Hearts palpitated…passions ran amok…grown men swooned or threw kisses at the provocatively dressed ladies who waved daintily at them like ambassadors of love.
The Mayor, P. Delaney, was delighted with the car rally and the standard of entry among the Beauty Queen contestants. “When I look at all these four wheeled historical bits and pieces”, he announced, “it reminds me of how far the motor industry has come in recent decades. We’ve made progress, thank God.”
Elsewhere in the city, two ballrooms were packed to capacity with dancing couples. There was racing and show jumping at Gowran, and a plethora of other events on the fringes of the city like boxing, wrestling, basketball, donkey races, and darts competitions.
But back to the beer tent…and the pubs of Kilkenny that extended opening time beyond 2 p.m. By midnight, thousands of decent citizens had consumed enough beer, according to a local newspaper report, to fill the historic Walkin’s Lough that used to flood Kilkenny in years gone by.
This advanced state of inebriation led to some memorable funny… and not so funny… incidents. As the witching hour passed, a lively fellow removed the tablecloth in the beer tent and leaped up on the table. Staggering in all directions, he asked everyone present to behold the greatest dancing performance of their lives.
He performed a Cossack dance that many drinkers found exhilarating and that made others slightly dizzy…such was the majesty and deftness of his foot work and body movements. “Japers…I thought I was in Russia there for a minute” was the verdict of one dewy-eyed drinker.
To be continued…