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History of the Kelly Kettle

Brothers Patrick & Seamus Kelly (company Directors), are proud to be the fourth generation of 'Kelly's' to bring you their popular kettles and camping equipment.  Following in the footsteps of their father Padraic, grandfather Jim & great-grandfather Patrick, the Kelly brothers continue to develop the 'Kelly Kettle' Brand and bring you their loyal customers, new and exciting products & gear.

The 1890's
The first kettle dates back to the 1890's to a small farm on the shores of Lough Conn, County Mayo, Ireland, when a young Patrick Kelly (Great grand-father of the current Co. Directors), a small farmer and fisherman, developed his first kettle from Tin after a cold winter of tinkering and experimenting in a shed. The kettle worked extremely well but burned out from regular use on Lough Conn when Patrick was fishing for Trout & Salmon the following summer. After going through a number of Tin kettles, he developed the kettle in copper and this was found to be much more durable. News of his kettle spread among local anglers and it received wonderous looks from anglers visiting from the U.K.

Jim Kelly with Welsh Anglers,1964Jim Kelly with Welsh Anglers,1964
Jim Kelly with Welsh Anglers,1964

The 1950s & 1960s

Patricks son, Jim (Grandfather of the current Directors of the company) became a famous angler & boatman/ghillie on Lough Conn. Renowned for his speed at boiling water in the kettle, Jim always had a kettle with him when fishing.

The Kelly Kettle was now becoming popular with fishermen in the west of Ireland where the speedy kettle produced boiling water for hot drinks on wet & windy days.

At this time, the business was still only a 'hobby' during the winter and there was only one size kettle (what would now be the 1.6 ltr 'Base Camp' Aluminum Kettle) available and these were only ever made to order.

Padraic Kelly Brewing Up, 1975Padraic Kelly Brewing Up, 1975
Padraic Kelly Brewing Up, 1975

The 1970s

Faster & cheaper transport brought ever increasing visitor numbers to Ireland throughout the 1970's & 1980's.

As a result, more and more visiting anglers, primarily from the U.K. & Germany, were exposed to the Kelly Kettle for the first time.

With increasing numbers of visiting anglers requesting the kettle to be added to their camping gear, it became apparent that something needed to be done with regard increasing the production of the kettle.

In the 1970s Padraic Kelly (father of the current directors) implemented modern manufacturing techniques but the business was still very much a 'Cottage' type business.

Over time a second size Aluminum kettle was produced (the small 'Trekker' model) and aluminum cook sets were added. It was still a very small family business, but with Padraics reputation as a ghillie and angler on Lough Conn and his regular appearance as a member of the Irish Trout Fly-Fishing team, word of the kettle as started to spread.

Later, with the advent of the Internet, news of the Kelly Kettle would spread intenationally around the globe to the U.S., Canada, S.Africa, Japan, Australia, etc.

Jack Charlton with Padraic Kelly & Bob Church, Lough Conn, 1990sJack Charlton with Padraic Kelly & Bob Church, Lough Conn, 1990s
Jack Charlton with Padraic Kelly & Bob Church, Lough Conn, 1990s

The 1980s & 1990s

Prominent Anglers who were fans of the kettle were Jack Charlton (seated middle) and Bob Church (kneeling on the right).

Jack (RIP) was part of the England national team that won the 1966 World Cup (Soccer) and managed the Republic of Ireland national Soccer team from 1986 to 1996 where they enjoyed great success.  A keen angler, Jack was a regular visitor to North Mayo, Ireland and fished on Lough Conn & the River Moy as often as his busy schedule would allow. 

Bob (RIP) was angling royalty in the U.K. and invented an incredible number of flies, designed to catch reservoir rainbows in both competition and leisure angling as well as the big browns that usually roamed the depths. Bob was a true pioneer of trout angling and ran a highly successful Fishing Distribution business - when he wasn't fishing himself!

In this picture, Padraic Kelly is making the tea.  Current directors Seamus & Patrick Kelly were young anglers and boatmen at the time and just out of shot of this picture! 

Seamus & Patrick KellySeamus & Patrick Kelly
Seamus & Patrick Kelly

The Present

Patrick & Seamus took over the helm of the Kelly Kettle Company in 2005 and brought their respective Commercial Banking & International Marketing experiences to bear on the business. We quickly developed the Pot-Support, Medium 'Scout' Kettle - both in aluminium. As a very small family business that was pretty stagnant, we felt it was vital to obtain feedback from our customers to see what products they really wanted.  It quickly became apparent that demand internationally for aluminium product was dropping fast!  Aluminium cookware really was going out of fashion at an alarming rate.  Instead, we saw an increasing demand for Stainless Steel items, particularly in countries like the U.K., Germany, Japan, U.S.A. and Canada.  Now with neither the tradition, expertise, nor tooling (no funds to buy the tooling either!) to make steel kettles, we were faced with tough decisions.  Either watch the business die slowly as demand for aluminium products continued to drop. Or 'bite the bullet', remortgage our homes and invest heavily in the business and try and produce steel kettles. Thankfully, we went with the second option.  After significant investment, lots of searching and trial & error, we were finally able to produce our first Stainless Steel 'Base Camp Kettle which proved hugely popular and in truth, probably saved the 'Kelly Kettle' business from extinction.  Stainless Steel Cook Sets and a steel version of our pot-support followed soon after as we moved away from Aluminium accessories.  

All three sizes of our kettles are now available in Stainless Steel as well as Aluminium.  In summer 2014 we launched a stainless steel Hobo Stove accessory to allow easy cooking over the fire bases of our kettles.  We have also introduced our popular Camping Cup set, Camp Plates, bundle 'Value Deal' offerings, a green Whistle for our kettles which sounds off when the water boils and some Sporks.

We launched a variety of high quality Tents, Tarps, Sleeping Bags, Rucksacks in May 2021 which are proving popular with outdoor enthusiasts.

Some of the 'Kelly Boys'.Some of the 'Kelly Boys'.
Some of the 'Kelly Boys'.

Some Things Never Change

So the tradition of using the kettle as a method of boiling water at lunchtime, goes back to the 1890's in the West Coast of Ireland and the design has changed little since it was first introduced. Lough Conn was, and still is, famous for its free rising brown trout and fresh run Salmon from the River Moy system. During the fishing season, local angling guides keep watch for the small pillar of smoke on the lake shore which indicated that a fellow ghillie already had a 'brew' on! A hot cup of tea or soup awaits anyone who lands and the Kettle is boiled repeatedly as additional boats laden with anglers arrive. Tradition dictates that both the angling guide and his guests (usually 2 anglers to his boat) together gather dry tinder for the kettle from the lake shore. It's a ritual really! Then, the guide will quickly boil up the kettle providing fresh tea / coffee for the anglers. In return for his hospitality, the boatman/guide received lunch and perhaps a drop of whiskey from the anglers! ;-)
To this day, the Kelly family still provide a Boat Hire & Ghillie service on Lough Conn, Co. Mayo. Visiting anglers are as intrigued today as they were some 125yrs ago with the speed at which the water can be boiled.  Through word of mouth, these anglers have spread word about the kettles worldwide.
Today, our Kettles are used around the world by all types of outdoor enthusiasts such as Anglers, Explorers, Kayakers, Hill Walkers, Car Campers, Scouts, Hunters, Gardeners, Festival Goers, Fun family picnics, and is considered a vital item in Emergency Preparedness & Survival Kits.

Now considered an essential piece of camping equipment, the Kelly Kettle is a centerpiece in most campsites and is a guaranteed conversation starter! If you have seen one in action, you will understand why.

Proud of our history, we are always on the look out for interesting stories from the past and present regarding our Kettles and look forward to receiving them from you, our valued customers.