Imbolc Festival crowns Nelly for 2015

Imbolc Festival marks the beginning of Spring. In times gone by, there were approximately 22 festivals on the Slieve Bloom Mountains. The Slieve Bloom Association aims to revive 4 of the Celtic seasonal festivals. The others are Bealtane, Lughnasadh and Samhain. The Imbolc Festival was revived by The Slieve Bloom Association in 2013. There are many customs associated with Imbolc festival. The custom associated with the Slieve Bloom Mountains is the milking of a goat on the Bracket Stones on Spink Hill above Cadamstown. This age-old tradition is reputed to bring richness, prosperity and a good harvest.

Jack Pilkington from Pilko's Pet Farm, Daingean, Offaly with his goat Nelly and Johnny Rigney, Chairman of Slieve Bloom Association with Ginny. Ginny was passing the crown to Nelly for Imbolc 'Milking of the goat' Festival 2015 at Spink Hill near Cadamstown, Offaly on Sunday 1st February.

Jack Pilkington from Pilko’s Pet Farm, Daingean, with his goat Nelly and Johnny Rigney, Chairman of Slieve Bloom Association with Ginny. Ginny was passing the crown to Nelly for Imbolc ‘Milking of the goat’ Festival 2015 at Spink Hill near Cadamstown, Offaly on 1st February. – Photo, Kathleen Culliton

Disaster strikes for Imbolc Festival

Less than a week before Imbolc was due to take place, the festival was put in jeopardy when it was discovered that festival star, ‘Ginny’ the goat, was unable to produce milk. And there can be no Imbolc Festival without a milking goat, so the search for ‘Imbolc Festival’s Next Great Goat’ began on social media spreading to local and national newspapers and radio.

Nelly to the rescue

What followed was a nail-biting week on whether the Imbolc Festival would get a replacement milking goat for ‘Ginny’. At the 11th hour, Jack Pilkington (16), who manages Pilko’s Pet Farm in Daingean, Offaly and Ronan Farrell came along and saved the day with ‘Nelly’ the goat.

With huge relieve to the organisers, the festival, now in its 3rd year, could go ahead. On Sunday 1st February, with beautiful weather for the first day of Spring, many people gathered at Cadamstown. The large group left Cadamstown to hike up to the Bracket Stones on top of Spink Hill. Johnny Rigney, Chairman of Slieve Bloom Association welcomed everyone. ‘Ginny’ checked ‘Nelly’ out to make sure she was up to the mark and they were decorated with garlands and coloured ribbon. Johnny started off the ceremonial milking, demonstrating how it was done and everyone was given the opportunity to try their hand at milking ‘Nelly’ and churning the milk. Mick Dowling spoke about the meaning behind the custom and added a few yarns to entertain the crowd.

Slieve Bloom Association Imbolc Festival 2015

Some of the crowd that attended Slieve Bloom Association’s Imbolc Festival 2015 – photo, Kathleen Culliton

Afterwards the group along with ‘Nelly’ and ‘Ginny’ descended the mountain for refreshments at Swan Café in Clonaslee. A most enjoyable day was had by all and the association would like to thank all those who came along especially ‘Nelly’ from Pilko’s Pet Farm. This year the Slieve Bloom Association are celebrating their 40th anniversary. For more information on the association, upcoming 40th celebrations and other events, like us on Facebook, find us on Twitter @Slieve_Bloom

Jack Pilkington – Pilko’s Pet Farm

Jack Pilkington at just 16 years old is already a very enterprising young man. A 5th year student in Chólaiste Choilm, Tullamore, he started Pilko’s Poultry 3 years ago. Since then he has developed a pet farm, Pilko’s Pet Farm. Just last year he was awarded as being one of the best start-ups in Offaly. The farm has a lot of animals with cows, sheep, pigs, boars, goats, horses, donkeys and more exotic animals such as emus and lamas. Bookings for Pilko’s Pet Farm can be made for parties and school tours. The next open days for the farm will be in Easter. Find them on Facebook or email

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