National Enterprise Town Awards: Callan

We are profiling all the towns to enter this year’s National Enterprise Town Awards. Today we are looking at Callan in Co Kilkenny.

Callan is a handsome market town in Kilkenny, it has over the last ten years become a more vibrant and interesting place to live due to its indefatigable sense of community and its keen interest in the arts.

“Through the arts, sport and civic outreach with the support of the business community there has been a marked turnaround in the fortunes of Callan.”

Located 16km south of Kilkenny, the town was founded in 1207 and gets its name from the High King of Ireland Niall Caille who drowned in the nearby river, now named the King’s River, while trying to save a servant.

The town is notable as the birthplace of Edmund Ignatius Rice, founder of the Irish Christian Brothers and the Presentation Brothers and the town also has links with American business tycoon Asa Griggs Candler’s family and the Coca-Cola Company. Ireland’s Poet in Exile John Lock was born in Callan and the town was the location for the filming of Neil Jordan’s film Breakfast on Pluto with Cillian Murphy and Liam Neeson.

Bouncing back

During the downturn Callan suffered like many small towns with a loss of inhabitation, business and residential, from its town centre and with a disenfranchised community and youth.

However, through the arts, sport and civic outreach with the support of the business community there has been a marked turnaround in the fortunes of Callan.

The Kilkenny Leadership Partnership has been involved in part funding the Bridge Street project and The Big Chapel X, an adaptation of the historical novel by Callan-born writer Thomas Kilroy.

The Arts Council of Ireland supports the local KCAT Arts Centre and one off projects in the town including Courtyard Screen and many architectural studies and workshops.

Callan Co-op has supported traditional skills workshops and Tidy Towns initiatives that cross over with theatre projects.

The Droichead Family Resource centre provides courses and support systems for many of the most vulnerable in the town’s community, including the elderly and foreign nationals, with coffee mornings and English-speaking classes run by volunteer teachers. It also hosts Callan’s Men’s Shed charter with a Women’s Shed on the way.

Fennelly’s of Callan has been at the heart of many civic engagement celebrations such as the street feast and the launch of the Callan Town Plan.

Mention should be made of the Westcourt Industrial Estate which, among other businesses houses Callan Bacon employing over 200 workers. Other prominent local businesses include Duggan Steel just outside the town in Goatsbridge and Ballymac, Leenore Paints in Tullamaine and Maguire Transport (Haulage)based in Kilbride.

If Callan is successful in the NETA competition it aims to put the funding toward making the town more sustainable and function better for all, including a comprehensive smart parking system with a new pedestrian slip, trees and planting and electric points built in to draw the parked car away from Bridge Street and Green Street and make the town centre more pedestrian and cyclist friendly and to develop these common spaces with trees and pollinators.

The aim is this would contribute to the destination effect, with the centre being a safe, pleasant place to be, business would thrive as would the town’s wellbeing.

Published by John Kennedy (

Published: 24 September, 2019