THE THREE leading ladies of Carlow shared the limelight at last week’s Chamber Business Awards, with the Arboretum’s Rachel Doyle scooping the Lifetime Achievement Award and Kathryn Thomas being named Ambassador of the Year. Chamber president Eileen Brophy presided over the glittering event that saw the cream of Carlow business come together in Visual’s George Bernard Shaw Theatre to celebrate the county’s entrepreneurial spirit.

A total of 26 awards were presented on the night, which, in the words of Eileen Brophy, “aims to highlight and recognise the great businesses, communities and individuals across Carlow in so many sectors”. This year saw a 40% increase in overall nominations and the awards introduced five new categories, including family business of the year, a sustainability award and the newly-minted President’s Award, which was presented to MSD and accepted on that firm’s behalf by Yvonne Jones, last year’s chamber president.

Eileen joked that the awards had reached a new level by receiving a nomination from Maine, USA, “but unfortunately this fell slightly outside our catchment area!”

And she reminded the packed theatre: “Business is not always easy and, given the current confusion that continues to reign in our closest neighbour, the environment is ever-changing. But rest assured: with the passion, strength, innovation and skill that is in this room, Carlow will prevail!”

Pictured at the annual County Carlow Chamber Awards in Visual last week were broadcaster Kathryn Thomas, Eileen Brophy, president of County Carlow Chamber, and Rachel Doyle, founder of The Arboretum in Leighlinbridge

Among the big winners on the night were Codd Mushrooms, which picked up the overall Business of the Year Award, PDS Planning and Design Solutions, which was named Outstanding Small Business of the Year, and Burnside Autocyl, the Family Business of the Year.

Ambassador of the Year Kathryn Thomas congratulated the audience on their ability to keep working away during the recent difficulties caused by uncertainty over Brexit. And she promised: “Any chance I get to support Carlow, I will. And please don’t be afraid to get in touch. I have a fair following on Twitter and Instagram and I’m always willing to give a shout out where it’s well deserved. I’m immensely proud and thank you so much for this award.”

Rachel Doyle was the hugely popular winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award, getting a standing ovation from her peers. Accepting the award, Rachel highlighted a few milestones on the Arboretum’s journey from its humble beginnings in her back garden in Leighlinbridge 40 years ago to the world-beating business it is today. And she paid tribute to the role played by her husband Frank in the Arboretum’s success.

“It’s a great honour to accept this prestigious award but I do so on behalf of Frank, my husband, who has always been there with me for the last four decades. I like the old saying that ‘Behind every good man there’s a good woman, and behind every good woman there’s a good man’. Well, that’s us – we make a great team.”

And she concluded: “Through the years we’ve received many accolades, both nationally and internationally, but there’s nothing that gives us more pleasure than recognition on our own turf!”

The MC for the evening was the ever-bubbly Eimear Ní Bhraonain, whose upbeat and entertaining style kept the event flowing smoothly, swiftly and enjoyably.

The reception ceremony on arrival was once again hosted by the Carlow Brewing Company and Walsh Whiskey Distillery, with delicious food provided by Gaelic Escargot and Lennons@Visual.

Printed in Carlow Nationalist 1st November 2019