More than 100 cavers and cave rescuers will travel to Cahir, one of the country’s lesser-known caving regions, this October Bank Holiday weekend.
Kilcoran Lodge Hotel will host the AGMs of the Irish Cave Rescue Organisation (ICRO) and the Speleological Union of Ireland (SUI), marking the 30th anniversary of the event, known as SUICRO.
But this unique event is also open to members of the public with Saturday and Sunday evenings offering the opportunity for locals to learn about a world beneath their feet, meet the subterranean adventurers who have explored cave passages in South Tipperary, and learn about the voluntary rescue organisation tasked with underground rescue in caves and abandoned mines.
This is not the first time that Ireland’s cavers have visited South Tipperary. This event was held in the Clonmel Arms in 2001, and in 2013 ICRO held its major 24-hour rescue practice near Mitchelstown Cave in Cahir.
Mountains may have the monopoly in the region, but there are a number of spectacular caves in the Cahir and Skeheenarinky areas which have been used by people for various reasons for hundreds of years.
While Mitchelstown showcave is a huge attraction for members of the public who want to experience the underground while keeping their shoes clean, there are a number of wild caves which attract the more thrill-seeking types.
ICRO member and one of the organisers of this year’s event, Tim O’Connell, is from Wilford, between the villages of Ballingarry and Mullinahone. He explained why the area was chosen as the location for SUICRO 2014.
“Some of Ireland’s finest caves are in this area, in my opinion,” said Tim.
“The caves here are quite different from other regions such as counties Clare and Fermanagh, which would be the main caving regions in Ireland. These ones are geologically older, they are also muddier! But they are beautifully decorated with stalactites and other formations. In my opinion, the chambers here are the most spectacular in the country.”
This is a very special year in the caving calendar. As well as being the 30th anniversary of the event, the SUI celebrates its 50th anniversary, and it is 100 years since the birth of the ‘father of Irish caving’, Jack C. Coleman. Hailing from Cork, the late Coleman was a highly respected caver, geographer and archaeologist who wrote The Caves of Ireland. His cave and archaeology explorations and discoveries will be the focus of a presentation by Dr Marion Dowd and Dr Matthew Parks.But there is much more besides.
Iceland’s top caver Björn Hróarsson, who has discovered hundreds of lava caves in his career will also travel to Kilcoran, as well as Grzegorz Kuspiel, a Polish explorer, who has decades of international caving expeditions under his belt.
Cave photographer Axel Hack will share some of his incredible cave images from Europe and beyond, while Irish cavers will share their stories of the year’s adventures, including two fantastic discoveries of passages in Leitrim and Clare this year.
Anyone interested in adventure, exploration and caves, is urged to come along.
“One of my favourite quotes is: ‘Caving is the last opportunity for exploration for the person with modest means’,” said Tim.
“Each year, determined cavers find new chambers and passages in well-known caves, or discover brand new caves and this, to me is incredibly exciting. Finding a place never seen before is a very special feeling.
There are very few cavers in Ireland, we’d love to share this unique, beautiful, endlessly fascinating world which few are aware of, just under our feet,” said Tim.
Tim enjoyed his first caving experience in 2007, and now it is something that he and his wife Joanne Finnegan, who is from Kyle, The Commons, Thurles regularly do.
“Joanne dragged me on a tourist caving trip while on holiday in Hungary, which we both enjoyed immensely. On our return to Ireland, she contacted a group of active cavers in Clare, which ultimately became the Clare Caving Club, organisers of this year’s event.”
Tim is also involved in a new adventure company called Backwest Adventures which brings people on guided trips into the wonderful caves of the Burren, Co. Clare.
2014 takes place on Saturday and Sunday, October 25 & 26. Talks commence from 7pm each night and admission is free. For more information see caving.ie.Like any adventure sport, caving can present risks. Members of the public should contact the SUI (caving.ie) if they are interested in visiting wild caves in Tipperary.