By Angela Medford with picture by Gerard Gough of the IRISH VOICE
It’s that time of year again when the Donegal Diaspora from around the world undertake the proud task of selecting their ‘Mary’—a young women who will represent their city, county or community at the annual Mary From Dungloe International Arts Festival 2019 (Féile Ealaíon Idirnáisiúnta Mháire an Clochán Léith 2019).
The excitement has been building worldwide, with Marys having been selected in the US, Ireland, Scotland and England. This year, the festival will also feature a Mary from India for the first time.
Everyone in the beautiful town of Dungloe—located on Ireland’s famous Wild Atlantic Way—are similarly excited and are looking forward to welcoming each and every Mary. This year, the festival organisers are taking the opportunity to rejoice in the richness of the town’s heritage, culture and traditions and the theme of this year’s festival is the celebration of Donegal women, past and present. All the events aim to highlight the natural talents of the people of Donegal, from music, arts, food and theatre with a fun packed programme that cavalcades the Marys, whilst ensuring the interest of each visitor is warmly met.
Glasgow has a very strong connection with Donegal and indeed Dungloe, and the Glasgow Selection Committee have always provided the festival with a ‘Glasgow Mary’ to proudly represent the city. This year, Mairead Gildea was chosen as the Glasgow Mary From Dungloe. Mairead was selected as part of Glasgow’s St Patrick’s Day Festival and is generously sponsored in her role by M Friel Limited.
Mairead is a 26-year-old primary school teacher from Glasgow’s south side. She has strong connections to Donegal as her mother hails from Burtonport and her father from Annagry. She is a young lady who takes immense pride in her Donegal heritage and has embraced this at every opportunity by attending events throughout the city and further afield. She has been a regular visitor to Rosses from a very young age and considers Donegal as a second home and feels truly blessed to be part of two communities. Mairead recalls fun-filled summers with her family and friends with the Mary from Dungloe Festival being the highlight of her holidays in Ireland. She fondly remembers watching the Marys throughout the festival and picking her favourite before the crowning ceremony and also the excitement she felt when meeting the Marys, noting that it felt like ‘meeting a celebrity,’ which of course she had!
Back in Glasgow, Mairead is very active within the Irish community, which has brought her a great deal of support and encouragement. The Glasgow Mary quickly undertook her duties by promoting the festival throughout Glasgow St Patrick’s Day events and was also hosted by many Irish bars in the city, which gave her the opportunity to meet her many supporters.
She is now looking forward to attending the upcoming Tír Conaill Harps GAA Family Fun Day, visiting Celtic Park and dropping in on Irish Language Classes. However, the highlight will be travelling to Dungloe to compete in the festival, which runs from July 25-August 5, where she will meet her fellow Marys and enjoy visiting local attractions and enjoying the entire Mary experience—something that has always been an ambition of hers. She will be no doubt hoping to end the festival as the 2019 Mary From Dungloe, given that the winner will be crowned by the legendary Daniel O’Donnell, a favourite of Mairead’s.
She has been touched by the heartfelt compliments and words of encouragement she has received and feels very honoured and privileged to represent Glasgow’s Donegal contingent.
- Angela Medford is part of the Mary From Dungloe Glasgow Selection Committee