The Ballsbridge Hotel, Dublin was transformed into a sea of green and red last Saturday night which saw the Mayo Association Dublin celebrate their annual awards gala The Yew Tree Ball.
Over 450 guests attended in glamorous style to honour the 2019 award winners. On arrival guests were treated to a sparkling prosecco reception as well as a stylish Concullin Gin bar, generously sponsored by the Connaught Whiskey Company Limited, before being seated for a four course meal.
The awards winners Cathal Hughes, Sara McFadden and the Mayo’s Forgotten Famine Girls Remembrance Group were triumphantly welcomed individually to the room by Paul Sammin, former chair of the association, accompanied by officers of the association.
Paul opened the proceedings welcoming dignitaries and guest present, including the Australian Ambassador to Ireland, Richard Andrews and his wife, Vice Admiral Mark Mellet, TD’s Dara Calleary and Lisa Chambers, Senators Rose Conway Walsh and Michelle Mulherin, Cathaoirleach Blackie Gavin as well as many councillors.
The glittering black tie event included a raffle of over 60 prizes worth well in excess of €10,000 generously donated by businesses in Mayo and Dublin. The association chose Mayo Roscommon Hospice Pallative Care Services as its charity partner for the event. Martina Jennings CEO of Mayo Roscommon Hospice presented a specially commissioned moving video showing the important work carried out by the Hospice and their fundraising goals in building the palliative care units & talking to Angelina about their work. The proceeds of the bumper envelope draw on the night were donated to their cause.
The inspirational Sara McFadden from Turlough added another award to her growing collection. The 17 year old was awarded the Young Mayo Person of the year Award by committee member Dr Mona McGarry, presented Sara with a bursary cheque for €1000. Sara received the award for the example she sets for young people particularly those who face personal adversity, who herself has become Ireland’s first visually impaired rally car navigator.
Historian and author Terry Reilly accepted the Meitheal Award on behalf of the Mayo’s forgotten Famine Girls Remembrance Group presented by President of the Association Eddie Melvin, a proud Ballina man. The work of the group in commemorating the life of Mayo’s 137 forgotten famine girls gave recognition and dignity to a group of women who were forced to leave Mayo in very difficult circumstances. The scale of the work undertaken in their project was remarkable and created a fitting connection between the women, their home county and their descendants with particular regard to their contribution to Australia.
Guests were also treated to a haunting emotional rendition of Brendan Graham’s song “Orphan Girl” performed by the choir of St Mary’s Secondary School Ballina followed by his popular hit “You Raise me Up” conducted by their teacher, Regina Deacy.
The big award of the night was the presentation of the prestigious Virginia Gallagher Mayo Person of the Year award to Cathal Hughes. Interviewed by MC Angelina Nugent, it was obvious to all he was a very deserving winner with his passion for Mayo and a clear vision for Westport and the integral role he has played in its development as a town and tourism destination.
He described the challenges of business in the early 1970s from postal strikes to bank strikes and also described about the decision to purchase Westport House. He also spoke about the challenging personal campaign he fought to change the laws on Carbon Monoxide detection. After a six year battle of many doors being closed to him, the laws on the mandatory requirement for Carbon Monoxide alarms in homes was finally changed.
He also spoke about the pride he felt in the presence of Mayo Roscommon Hospice as the charity partner of this year’s Yew Tree Ball & described how he was involved as a founding member along with the Westport Lions Club. He received the award to a standing ovation in the room & joined the roll of honour as the first Westport winner of the award since its inception in 1964.