Nostalgia: A look back at TidyTowns through the decades as competition gets the go ahead for 2021

Nostalgia: A look back at TidyTowns through the decades as competition gets the go ahead for 2021

Clonakilty wins the TidyTowns competition in 1998.

Earlier this week the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD gave a firm commitment that the SuperValu TidyTowns competition will proceed in 2021.

The competition, like many other events this year, was scuppered as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The competition was just ready to be launched earlier this year when Covid-19 arrived.

TidyTowns presentation at Glounthaune, 1967.
TidyTowns presentation at Glounthaune, 1967.

“Unfortunately, like many other events that we hold dear, the competition did not proceed in 2020 as a result of the pandemic.

“This decision was taken in line with public health advice and in collaboration with the competition sponsor, SuperValu.

“This decision was made in April during the first period of severe restrictions when essentially the advice to everybody was to stay at home,” Minister Humphreys said, speaking in the Dáil late on Tuesday night.

The Minister said her Department is in regular contact with the almost 1,000 TidyTowns groups around the country.

“As we look forward to next year, I assure the Deputy and the House that there will be a TidyTowns competition in 2021,” she said.

Minister Humphreys said her Department is currently considering the format the TidyTowns competition could take next year.

“We may need to alter and adapt our approach to delivering the competition next year given the on-going constraints posed by Covid-19 but we can retain the ethos of the competition that has stood the test of time so well,” she said.

Her comments followed a question put to the Minister by Cork East TD Seán Sherlock who sought clarity on whether the competition would proceed in 2021.

Pictured in 1996 after Rathbarry won the TidyTowns competition, Mary O'Hea and Breda Hodnett, committee members.
Pictured in 1996 after Rathbarry won the TidyTowns competition, Mary O'Hea and Breda Hodnett, committee members.

The Labour Party TD said Minister Humphrey’s unambiguous reply was very welcome.

“There is no ambiguity from the Minister about the future of the competition in 2021 and the more than 924 applicants that will be there will be delighted with the news.

“It is a very genuine competition and the people involved are the salt of the Earth.

“They do so much for their community and it is such a valuable competition,” he said.

The national TidyTowns initiative was launched in 1958 by Bord Fáilte, now Fáilte Ireland, and was originally part of 'An Tóstal', a nationwide festival celebrating all things Irish. 

Blarney TidyTowns group, 2010. Picture Denis Minihane. 
Blarney TidyTowns group, 2010. Picture Denis Minihane. 

TidyTowns evolved from the original National Spring Clean Campaign, which ran between 1953 and 1957.

In its inaugural year, TidyTowns had just 52 entrants, however, it has grown year on year to see a record number of 924 entrants in 2019.

The success of TidyTowns also spawned many other initiatives at a national, county and local level.

SuperValu has been the principal sponsor of TidyTowns since 1992.

Pictured in 2010: Members of the Clonakilty TidyTowns group off to work in a happy mood after their Gold Medal award in the national competition. Included are from left: Judith Sheehy, John Loughnan, Cathy McCarthy, Anne Loughnan and Catherine Sutton. Picture: Dan Linehan
Pictured in 2010: Members of the Clonakilty TidyTowns group off to work in a happy mood after their Gold Medal award in the national competition. Included are from left: Judith Sheehy, John Loughnan, Cathy McCarthy, Anne Loughnan and Catherine Sutton. Picture: Dan Linehan

Speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday, Deputy Sherlock paid tribute to the supermarket chain for supporting the competition for 28 years.

"I acknowledge the role of SuperValu in the sponsorship in brings along with the State intervention. 

"Its impact is enormous and in the midst of Covid-19, the social value of this competition is highlighted even more," he said. 

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