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27/07/2021

Carlow man who invented the iconic Rooster potato at Oak Park has passed away

Rest in Peace

Carlow Carlow Carlow

Harry receiving an Honorary Degree from UCD in 2016 (Source: Teagasc)

Carlow man, Harry Kehoe, who invented the iconic Rooster potato, has passed away.

Harry, a retired Teagasc employee of 37 Sycamore Road, Rathnapish and formerly of Rathvilly, died on May 29 at his home.

Sadly missed by his loving wife Maura, sons James, Martin, Henry and Anthony, daughter Sandra, daughters-in-law Lilia, Anne-Marie and Una, son-in-law Ronan, grandchildren Laura, Aoife, Ciara, Martin, Harry, Charlie, Louis and Brian, brothers-in-law, sister-in-law, nephews, nieces, relatives and friends.

Reposing in R. Healy & Son Funeral Home Pollerton Castle, Carlow on Friday from 4pm concluding with prayers at 8pm. Removal on Saturday morning to the Church of the Holy Family, Askea to arrive for funeral Mass at 11am.

Burial afterwards in St. Mary’s Cemetery.

In an interview with the Irish Independent in 2016, Harry talked about inventing one of the world's most famous potatoes. 

Rooster was one of more than 35 potato varieties bred by Harry and his team at Teagasc, Oak Park. Since its launch in 1991 Rooster has become the dominant potato in the Irish market accounting for 60% of the market.

"Developing potatoes is a slow and thus expensive business," Harry told the Irish Independent. It takes at least 15 years to develop a new variety and at least 20 before it is established.

"You never know when a variety is going to be successful. It could take as much as 100,000 seeds or you might get one out of 100. If anything showed a weakness, you just dumped it and started again," he added. 

Born on June 10, 1935, on a farm in Rathvilly, he attended primary school locally, then Ballyfin College followed by UCD, graduating with a degree in agriculture in 1958.

He began his working life in 1959 as a scientific officer with the Department of Agriculture in Athenry, Galway, where he met his future wife Maura, before joining An Foras Talúntais (later Teagasc) to work on plant research.

He arrived in Oakpark in December 1960 and in the following years, the team led by Harry developed more than 35 varieties of potato.

He would remain there for over 40 years until his retirement in 2003.

Harry was conferred with an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science, in recognition of his lifetime’s work as a Plant Breeder. The conferring took place in UCD in September 2016.

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