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Ireland’s ‘heritage heroes’ celebrated at National Heritage Awards 2019

The dedication of individuals and community groups across Ireland to the preservation and promotion of Ireland’s heritage was recognised on Thursday, 6th February at the National Heritage Awards 2019. Hosted by the Heritage Council, the special event took place at the Royal Irish Academy and was presented by RTÉ broadcaster, Anne Cassin.

The National Heritage Week Awards highlight Ireland’s ‘heritage heroes’, and showcase the most engaging and innovative National Heritage Week events. The theme of National Heritage Week 2019 was Pastimes | Past Times, with projects and events reflecting how the use of free time has evolved as part of Ireland’s culture and heritage.

This year’s winners include an event exploring the history of one of Ireland’s look-out posts from the Second World War; an interactive simulated ‘wildlife crime’ event for children; a two day heritage and pastimes themed radio programme project; a pop-up exhibition exploring the influence of Carlow native and Patron Saint of Europe, St Columbanus; and the efforts of a family of heritage heroes from County Offaly.

The diverse range of innovative projects from this year’s winners reflects the outstanding efforts of individuals and communities to capture and celebrate Ireland’s natural, built and cultural heritage.

The winners of the National Heritage Week Awards 2019 are:

The Heritage Hero Award: The Egan Family from Birr, Co Offaly. The Egan family are responsible for the survival of an extraordinarily rare, intact furnished farmhouse, near Birr, Co Offaly. They hold tours during Heritage Week every year to showcase the cottage with its wonderful fixtures and fittings. Bread was baked in the family tradition during the Heritage Week tours. Visitors to the cottage commented on the generosity and heart-warming hospitality of the Egan family and their appreciation for their traditional farmhouse as they shared family memories passed on from one generation to the next.

The Hidden Heritage Award: ‘Look-Out Post 76: An hut ar ghualainn an chnoic’ at Bloody Foreland, Co Donegal, organised by Vincent Breslin. This project explored the built and cultural heritage associated with Look-Out Post 76, which was constructed and occupied during ‘The Emergency’ (1939-1945). The event was narrated in Irish and shared previously undocumented stories from the families of men who had served in LOP (Look-Out Post) 76, alongside stories gathered from the local community. The event gave a unique insight into the role that the LOPs and the Marine Coastwatching Service played in defending Ireland’s coastline during this period in history. It featured a commemorative ceremony, where families of men who had served in the Coastwatcher’s service during this period were presented with certificates; and a small exhibition.

The Heritage Communities Award: ‘Rosses Radio: ‘Stories, Music and Traditions of Donegal’ in the Rosses, Co Donegal, organised by Rosses Radio. This project comprised two full days of heritage and pastimes-themed radio programming, bringing together heritage groups across the Rosses in west Donegal, and broadcast to Donegal Diaspora worldwide. The programming featured live interviews with local people engaged in heritage projects, new documentaries, features on local National Heritage Week events, and the history of the Donegal music scene, and sports.

The Cool for Kids Award: ‘Clara Bog Visitor Centre (NPWS); ‘Wildlife Detective for Kids’ at the Clara Bog Visitor Centre, Co Offaly, organised by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. This dedicated children’s event involved a group field exercise during which participants were invited to help solve a simulated ‘wildlife crime’. Each member of the group was allocated a role in investigating a mock unlawful hunting incident on Clara Bog Nature Reserve and was presented with a series of clues to help solve the crime. The event focused on promoting knowledge and respect for wildlife conservation, the importance of protecting Irish species and habitats, the Wildlife Act and the role of Wildlife Rangers at Clara Bog.

Le Chéile san Eoraip Award: ‘Myshall Muintir na Tìre - St Columbanus and the idea of Europe’ in Co Carlow, organised by Myshall Muintir am Tire, Carlow County Museum and the Myshall Community Centre. This lecture, entitled "St Columbanus and the Idea of Europe", presented by Dr Alexander O'Hara, and pop-up exhibition explored the influence of St. Columbanus, the Patron Saint of Europe, and native of Myshall, Co. Carlow; and the start of what became the European Union. The pop-up exhibition included photographic displays of intercultural visits between members of Myshall Friends of Columbanus, and Friends of Columbanus Francaise and Italy, with a focus on the Columban Way, which stretches from Myshall to Bangor, through England, France, Switzerland, and on to Bobbio in Italy.

Chairperson of the Heritage Council, Michael Parsons said: “I am delighted to host today’s National Heritage Awards and to have the opportunity to meet some of the people involved in bringing our rich and varied heritage into the heart of their own communities, making it both relatable and relevant for modern audiences. I hope others will be as inspired as I have been, by the projects and activities showcased at our awards ceremony today. The Heritage Council remains firmly committed to growing and strengthening National Heritage Week and today’s event is a testimony to its success. I commend all of those who participate in this wonderful event.”

Chief Executive of the Heritage Council, Virginia Teehan added: “It is an honour to provide a platform, through National Heritage Week, for individuals and communities to demonstrate their dedication to preserving and promoting Ireland’s heritage. Every year, we are overcome by the levels of enthusiasm and commitment to showcasing our shared heritage. I would like to congratulate not only the winning and shortlisted organisations, but all those who were nominated and involved in the organisation of National Heritage Week events. By embracing the value and beauty of our heritage we are ensuring its conservation for future generations.

“I am also delighted to share the theme of National Heritage Week 2020 – ‘Learning from our heritage’ – which will focus on heritage and education. Planning is already underway to celebrate our education heritage, and we encourage people to learn something new about a heritage site in their own community, or to learn a new skill to help them live more sustainably.”

More information on the National Heritage Week is available at www.heritageweek.ie.

Details of all National Heritage Week Awards 2019 winners and runners-up