An Taoiseach and Greenway landowners receive prestigious honours
AN Taoiseach Enda Kenny was added to the roll of honour in the long history of the Mayo Association in Dublin on Saturday night. Around 850 people were present in the Burlington Hotel for the auspicious occasion which always marks the social highlight of the year for Muintir Mhaigh Eo in the city.
Enda was greeted with a standing ovation as he came forward to accept the accolade which he described as probably the “second most important award that can be given to me.”
He told the large gathering that the first award was that which came his way last February. “It is difficult to surpass the trust placed in me by the people of the country by my election to the office of Taoiseach. But this award of the Mayo Person of the Year comes from our own, ourselves, and I am deeply appreciative of that and humbled. I shall carry it with pride around the world. I draw strength from it, I draw consolation from it.”
In a thoughtful and measured acceptance speech, he referred to the personal pride he felt in accepting the award on behalf of all present and those departed (an obvious reference to his late parents Eithne and Henry and many other friends as well). He had special words of thanks also for his wife Fionnuala and family.
He quoted George Washington, the first President of the USA, who once said the most cherished virtue of all was “the character of an honest person”. He intended to bring that to bear on his life. And he concluded with a quote from the Mayo anthem, The Boys from the County Mayo, when he recalled the great line of its author Tom Dunleavy of Kiltimagh, ”Don’t show the white feather wherever you go”.
At the outset, he joined in the words of congratulations to the Great Western Greenway Landowners on their award and described the Greenway as having already achieved “iconic status”.
Dr Jerry Cowley, speaking on behalf of the Meitheal award winners, the Great Western Greenway Landowners from Westport to Achill, said they were greatly honoured by the award. “This award is of great significance to us all who live along the Great Western Greenway. It is recognition by our peers of our past, present and future commitment to ensuring the continuing success of this great project.
“I think it is appropriate tonight that we remember also all those who went before us, who travelled along this former railway track over the 40 odd years the railway was in operation . Many were economic migrants, Mayo people seeking a better life, a life free from poverty and hardship.
“No matter where they ended up they never forgot where they came from, and supported those at home from afar, as documented in emigrant remittances.
“We also remember those who didn’t return, and tragically, some returned in coffins to fulfill the dark prophesy of Brian Rua Ui Cearabhain when the first and last trains on this line carried coffins back to Achill. We remember the 32 young men who were drowned when a sailing hooker capsized in Clew Bay whilst on the emigrant trail to Scotland and whose coffins were taken home on the very first train to travel to Achill in June, 1894.
Forty three years later in 1937, the last train to Achill carried the coffins of the ten young men of the ‘tatie-hoking’ squad who died when the padlocked ‘bothy’ they were sleeping in, burned down at Kirkintillock in Scotland.
“Tonight among us, we have a former ‘tatie-hoker’, Patrick Gallagher, in his 89th year. Patrick completed the circle of emigration from Coraun to Scotland to St Brendan’s Village, Mulranny, together with his sister Mary, after many years of emigration.
“They were two of the 1,350 other older Irish emigrants who were assisted by Safe-Home, located in Mulranny, to return permanently to secure accommodation in whatever county they originated from.”
Dr Cowley, at the outset, congratulated An Taoiseach on his award and wished him well in the times ahead. He also complimented County Manager Peter Hynes and his excellent team of Padraig Philbin and Anna Connor for their hard work, as well as Kathleen Fergus and Tom Carolan.
A number of senior politicians were present for the celebrations including Minister Phil Hogan from Kilkenny and Minister Pat Rabbitte, described by Enda as “that stalwart from Ballindine”. Mayo deputies John O’Mahony and Michelle Mulherin and Senator Paddy Bourke were also in attendance. Also present were several previous winners of the award including Professor John Hegarty, Seamus Caulfield, John Grant, Pat Jennings and Frank Harrington. Music for the night was provided by Mayo’s own Brose Walsh Band who kept the dancers happy on the floor into the late hours.
More on the Mayo Awards night in Dublin will feature in People and Places in next week’s issue of The Mayo News.