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July 2013 Winner - Patty Candy & Rita BarryLocal heroes Patty Candy and Rita Barry

July’s local heroes are next door neighbours Patty Candy and Rita Barry, whose unstinting work over a 40-year period has truly enhanced the appearance of Maple Lawn in Ballon. According to the awards judges, Carlow Nationalist editor Conal O’Boyle and Talbot Hotel general manager Ken Battigan: “Patty and Rita’s love for their village sees them out keeping the Carlow side of Ballon looking impeccable. They are definitely local heroes in our book.”

For almost 40 years now, they’ve lived beside each other in Maple Lawn, Ballon, and in that time their friendship has become stronger. Their children grew up together and because their houses are semi-detached, they even joke that they live under the same roof. One of the cementing factors in their unshakeable friendship is their mutual love of Maple Lawn and the award-winning roadside garden they created together.

In winter, spring, summer or autumn, the pair can be seen by the side of the main Ballon-Carlow Road as they tend the long stretch of flower beds, shrubs, trees and lawn. They go about their business with a quiet determination and face whatever the weather throws at them. Their love and dedication to their estate in particular, and Ballon in general, make Patty and Rita July’s Local Heroes.

“Patty and Rita are not attached to any group or organisation and do this for the love of their village,” explained Mike Dawson, Ballon resident and Nationalist correspondent, who nominated them for the award. “They’ve done this work for as long as I can remember and still continue to do so, even though they’re now both approaching 70! They’re out every week working there. They’re such a fixture on the side of the road.”

Patty and Rita are used to working in all kinds of weather and to motorists beeping their horns at them to say hello.“Yes, people do beep their horns at us and we wave back,” Patty laughs, then adds in a complicit tone that half of the time they’ve no idea who they’re waving at!

The autumn months see the pair getting the beds settled down for winter, when many of the garden plants go to sleep. When spring comes around, the bulbs they’ve planted stir with life and the colour slowly comes back to Maple Lawns. Summer is more demanding, but Rita and Patty aren’t ones to shy away from work.

It’s taken the two women almost 40 years to get the garden – with its shrubs and borders – to the finery it now enjoys.“We do it because we love it,” Patty says, summing up their passion so succinctly.And as for herself and Rita? “It’s been nearly 40 years and we haven’t had a row yet. We get on well with each other; you couldn’t have a better neighbour,” Patty concludes.

Carlow’s Local Heroes is a monthly awards initiative from The Nationalist in association with the Talbot Hotel. It aims to recognise and celebrate local people who have won the respect and gratitude of their friends and neighbours through their work in the community

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