It may have had its origins in the farming community but the ethos of the voluntary youth organisation Macra na Feirme has changed over the years.
Rathkeevin Macra, one of the county’s busiest clubs, was founded in February 1959, when all of its members were involved in farming. Over 50 years later its members, who are aged from 17 to 35, come from urban and rural areas and from all walks of life.
The club, which undertakes charity and community projects as well as organising social outings, is now hoping to attract new members.
“We need new members for the club to continue to be successful”, says one of its members Emma Flynn. “Recently as a club we have agreed to change our name to Clonmel Rathkeevin Macra Na Feirme. Our aim is to branch out and embrace new members from Clonmel and the surrounding areas”.
As part of that recruitment drive, and as a celebration of the last half century, Clonmel Rathkeevin Marca is holding a Memories Night for past and present Macra members at Barne Lodge, a few miles outside Clonmel on the Cahir Road at 9pm on Friday, May 25th. It’s hoped to put together a scrapbook of memories from different Macra events and it would be greatly appreciated if those attending could bring along photos or articles for the scrapbook. Food and entertainment will be provided on the night.
“The club has something for everyone whether they’re married or single”, says another member, Michelle Keating.
Boasting a membership that attracts people from all walks of life is regarded as a huge advantage, as it brings new ideas and visions. “This has made Macra a more dynamic organisation”, say Emma Flynn and Michelle Keating.
The club - with its headquarters at Rathkeevin Community Hall, beside the school - is actively involved in Macra events. Competitions that it participates in include public speaking and impromptu debating, performing arts and culture- based activities such as the FBD Capers Competition, the Amateur Drama Competition and the National Talent Competition.
Rathkeevin has been successful in reaching many All-Ireland finals such as soccer, ladies soccer, volleyball, debating, welding and the young farmer of the year. Clonmel Rathkeevin Macra has won the Club of the Year award in South Tipperary and only last February reached the All-Ireland finals of the Kerrygold Club Questiontime Quiz.
However there’s so much more to the club. Last August it organised the clean-up of the old cemetery in Newchapel, Clerihan and also raised funds for the Know Your Neighbour weekend.
Last November Clonmel Rathkeevin Macra teamed up with Slievenamon Macra and Fethard Macra for a charity carwash at The Showgrounds Shopping Centre in Clonmel to raise funds for a defibrillator for the shopping centre, a hugely successful venture that was enjoyed by all.
It also has a busy calendar of sports events to keep members active throughout the year including tag rugby, volleyball, indoor soccer, basketball, bowling and Gaelic football. Activities are organised to encourage team building skills within the club, such as go karting, paintballing, bowling, quad biking, horse riding, trips to the cinema and social nights out.
Last September South Tipperary Macra organised a great weekend of surfing in Lahinch and socialising in Lisdoonvarna at the matchmaking festival. In October members enjoyed a trip to a Munster rugby match in Thomond Park, followed by a night out in Limerick.
Every member has an opportunity to travel with Macra. Clubs can take part in county exchanges in Ireland or abroad and young farmers can work on placement worldwide through Macra. Clonmel Rathkeevin Macra and Slievenamon Macra enjoyed a recent weekend trip to Edinburgh.
Individual members from Rathkeevin have represented the county in Miss Macra, Mr. Personality, Miss Blue Jeans and Queen of the Land competitions. Last October Alma Maher represented South Tipperary in the Queen of the Land held in Tullamore and this year Michelle Keating from Clonmel Rathkeevin Macra will represent the county in the same competition.
Alma Maher and Kevin Byrne are currently serving on the county executive.
The club was founded by Michael Maher, who was the local agricultural advisor at the time. The idea came from the Winter Farm School, which was held in the hall during the winter of 1958/1959. Rathkeevin Macra Na Feirme was inaugurated on the 3rd February 1959 and the first officers of the club were Eddie O’Donnell (Graigue), chairperson; Luke Hally, secretary; John Hanrahan, treasurer and the late Thomas O’Reilly, president.
New members are always welcome to join and anyone interested should contact Michelle Keating at 085-7790550 or Emma Flynn at 086-3472285, or find Clonmel Rathkeevin Macra on Facebook for more information.