It’s not every twelfth of July that a shout of ‘Up Mayo’ is heard from the assembled ranks of marching Orangemen, but this year might just have broken new ground.
Kevin Bourke, tireless advocate for the Irish diaspora and for the cause of Rehab, happened to be an invited guest at this year’s Orange parade in Portadown, Armagh. He was there on the invitation of former Mayor, Robert Turner and his wife, Barbara, old friends of Rehab, and was observing the four hour parade of dozens of marching bands, the Orange lodge members in full regalia, and all the pomp and ceremony of The Twelfth.
And then, out of nowhere, came the shout ‘Up Mayo!’, loud and clear, from somewhere within the serried ranks of unflinching faces marching by. And as a startled Kevin, unsure of whether he had heard right, scanned the crowd, a bowler hatted marcher raised aloft his furled umbrella, waving it welcomingly in the direction of the visitor, and repeated the acclamation, somewhat to the displeasure of the more po-faced of his marching brethren. The Mayo ‘fan’, it turned out, was Eric Speers, himself a former Mayor, and a man with long established links to County Mayo, not least after a lifetime of cattle dealing which made him a familiar figure at fairs and marts all over the west.
The unexpected salutation at that Orange march is typical of the many contacts forged between Kevin Bourke and the unionist community over the years, and there will be several of those friends in attendance at the Irish Diaspora Awards ceremony to take place at Hotel Newport on Friday, September 23. The awards are red letter events where the contribution of the recipients to the cause of the Irish diaspora is acknowledged and honoured.
The guest of honour at this year’s ceremony will be recently elected Dublin TD, Jack Chambers, who has strong Newport connections. He will present the Dr Kathleen Lynn award to Brid O’Connell and Siamsa Sraide, Swinford, who over the years has done remarkable work in welcoming home our emigrants and making their lives a little easier.
An award to the Brian Boru Club in Wigan will be accepted by Fr Pat McNally, PP of St Jude’s Parish in Wigan, and who is a native of Carrowniskey, Louisburgh. And by happy coincidence, the award will be presented by a fellow Louisburgh native, Councillor Michael Kilcoyne, chairman of the Castlebar Municipal District Council.
Tommie Duffy, a stalwart of the Irish community in Manchester, and now happily retired to Kilmeena, will present the award to Fr John Ahern, the Kerry-born priest who has done trojan work for the Irish in Manchester. The award is named the Patricia Mooney-Duffy Award, in memory of Tommie’s late wife, and among the guests will be John Brassil, TD, nephew of Fr Ahern.
The small but energetic committee behind the ‘Mayo Cherishing the Irish Diaspora’ has done immeasurable good work in extending the hand of support to those of our own exiled people most in need of help. Comprising Kevin Bourke, Brendan Mulvey, Marie Kerins, Harold McManus and Maura Kelly-Moore, they have organised countless holidays, fundraising, and social events for needy emigrants.
And pride of place at the upcoming event in Newport will go to a group of 50 from Birmingham, Liverpool, London and Manchester who will just be completing a week long holiday in Mayo from their base at the Lough Lannagh Holiday Village in Castlebar.