Mayo's Forgotten Famine Girls Committee win Mayo Association Dublin Meitheal Award - Visit North Mayo

Westport businessman Cathal Hughes, who has been named the Virginia Gallagher Mayo Person of the Year for 2019 by Mayo Association Dublin, will be joined by Mayo’s Forgotten Famine Girls Remembrance Group – Mayo Association Dublin Meitheal Award winners –  and Sara McFadden (the Young Mayo Person of the Year 2019) to receive their awards at The Yew Tree Ball in Dublin’s Ballsbridge Hotel on Saturday 9 February.

Mayo Person of the Year, 2019: Cathal Hughes

It is the first occasion that a Westport person has won the award since its inception in 1964, making it a very special win. Cathal Hughes is known as a man of characteristic humility and understatedness.

The independent panel of judges of recognised the depth and breadth of his contribution to Mayo with regard to the economic life of the county, from taking over the family business in the 1970s during a difficult economic time and turning around the fortunes of the company that set in stone the incredible success of Portwest today, providing employment to over 300 people in Westport.

Now, together with his brothers Harry and Owen as part of the Hughes Group, they successfully operate Hotel Westport and the recent purchase of Westport House in 2017 meant that the people of Westport could continue to enjoy the amenities of historic Westport House for the next generation.

Over the years Cathal has also been a prolific charity campaigner. As one of the original founders of the Mayo Roscommon Hospice Foundation, his prior role as chairperson of the Foundation at a critical time of the inception of the charity and his current role as co-patron alongside former President of Ireland Mary McAleese, his contribution to healthcare in Mayo and the treatment of end-of-life care has been immense.

The award also recognises his contribution to the improvement of education for the children of employees in Portwest’s global operations and, in particular, his deeply personal campaign raising awareness of carbon monoxide poisoning following the tragic loss of his son Padraig on Christmas Day 2008.

The judges noted that through his determination, vision, hard work and influence, he has played an integral role in the development and improvement of Westport as a town and tourism destination. This contribution has set him apart as this year’s worthy winner of the ‘Virginia Gallagher Mayo Person of the Year Award 2019’ by Mayo Association Dublin.

Mayo Association Dublin MEITHEAL AWARD 2019 – Mayo’s Forgotten Famine Girls

Mayo’s Forgotten Famine Girls Remembrance Group is the recipient of the 2019 Mayo Association Dublin Meitheal Award for the recognition and dignity it gave to a group of women who were forced to leave Mayo in very difficult circumstances.

Mayo’s Forgotten Famine Girls’ Remembrance Group, chaired by Mayo historian and author, Terry Reilly, demonstrated the power of people working together with a common purpose in the best tradition of the Meitheal (the concept of a community coming together at harvest time and the application of co-operation to social needs).

Tasmanian-born Dr Christina Henri pictured during a 2019 visit to Ballina where she placed a bonnet on the head of the Famine Orphan Girl statue on Pearse Street. Dr Henri is the founder of the Roses from the Heart memorial tribute project in Australia which uses the bonnet as a symbol of the women transported to Australia. Dr Henri’s visit was facilitated by the Headford Lace Group, who, with Ballina Costume Company, made 15 bonnets for the project. Photo: Mayo Forgotten Famine Girls Memorial on Facebook.

They rolled up their sleeves to overcome obstacles and delivered a very worthy project that will endure and add immeasurably to the history of Mayo and its people. The project connected with many parts of the world, forged many bonds and has the dynamic to grow and grow.

This group has demonstrated the ability to make things happen by doing without state aid. The scale of the project culminated last year in the four-day commemoration event in Ballina to remember the 137 Mayo girls who were transported to Australia, with the unveiling of a Memorial Statue and a Commemorative Quilt embroidered with the names of the forgotten girls.

This along with other events was remarkable and has created a fitting connection between the women, their home county and their descendants, with particular regard to their contribution to Australia.

Mayo Association Dublin Young Person of the Year, 2019: Sara McFadden

The 2019 Young Mayo Person of the Year is Sara McFadden from Turlough. Sara, who was born with Albinism and Nystagmus which means that she is visually impaired, does not believe that having a disability should define you.

This belief and positivity was instilled in Sara by her parents Sandra and Keith McFadden. Proving her specialists wrong, she has broken the mould. With a family background of competition in Motorsport, at the early age of six weeks Sara was introduced to the sport by her parents.

The fact that she was told at the age of 12 that she would never be able to drive has not held her back. Her positive can-do attitude simply allowed her to create another way to participate in her dream by becoming Ireland’s first visually impaired Motorsport Navigator for tarmac rallying.

Sara was chosen by the independent panel of adjudicators in recognition of how she overcame the adversity of her condition and for the example she sets for young people particularly those who face personal challenges.

From L/R: Pat Diamond (Mayo’s Forgotten Famine Girls’ Remembrance Group), Association's President Eddie Melvin and Bernie Finan (Mayo’s Forgotten Famine Girls’ Remembrance Group).
From L/R: Pat Diamond (Mayo’s Forgotten Famine Girls’ Remembrance Group), Association's President Eddie Melvin and Bernie Finan (Mayo’s Forgotten Famine Girls’ Remembrance Group).
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See ‘Yew’ at the Ball

The award winners will be honoured at Mayo Association Dublin’s Yew Tree Ball on Saturday 9 February in the Ballsbridge Hotel. Tickets (costing €100) are on sale on or through any committee members.

Mayo Association Dublin is delighted to announce that this year’s charity partner for the event is Mayo Roscommon Hospice Palliative Care Service and all the proceeds from the bumper draw on the night will go to this very worthwhile charity.

The Awards will be hosted by MWR’s news and sports broadcaster Angelina Nugent.  The black-tie awards gala will incorporate a pre-dinner prosecco reception with a gin bar (sponsored by Connacht Whiskey Distillery) followed by a four-course meal. Music on the night will be provided by Simon Casey and his band.

Tickets are still available for the Yew Tree Ball – either online or from treasurer Michael Kealy by emailing [email protected].

For further details contact Grace Heneghan [email protected].

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