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National Heritage Awards 2021 pay homage to Ireland’s heritage heroes

National Heritage Awards 2021 pay homage to Ireland’s heritage heroes

1,055 projects by more than 863 groups, families and communities competed for this year’s awards despite Covid-19 restrictions

The strenuous efforts of individuals, families and communities across Ireland to preserve, protect and promote the nation’s built, natural and cultural legacy received recognition at the National Heritage Awards 2021 ceremony that was held on 20 October.

Mix of online, in-person and community projects

The online event, hosted by the Heritage Council and presented by RTÉ broadcaster, Anne Cassin, showcased the most engaging and innovative projects from National Heritage Week 2021. Because of Covid-related restrictions on gatherings, this year National Heritage Week saw a mix of online, in-person and community projects.

Heeding the call of the Heritage Council to ‘open the door to heritage’ and celebrate local heritage for the first time, more than 1,055 projects by more than 863 groups, families and communities enrolled on the Heritage Week website and were considered for an award. Projects were evaluated on the basis of their local reach and community engagement, approach to awareness-raising, use of resources to inform their work, and the level to which they involved different age groups.

For the first time in the history of the awards, this year’s edition included a Wild Child Award, sponsored by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth. The idea was to recognize the project that was most instrumental in encouraging children and families to explore the heritage in their locality.

Award recipients

The winners of the National Heritage Awards 2021 are:

  • Heritage Hero Award: Patrick Boner from Burtonport, Co Donegal.  Boner received recognition for his outstanding and tireless contribution spanning over 20 years to the preservation, conservation, and promotion of heritage in west Donegal. He is the author of ‘The Story of The Cope’, an acclaimed social history of Templecrone Agricultural Co-operative Society; a passionate proponent of the digitalisation of archives; takes part in and promotes online many local projects, and has organised field trips and boat tours to islands in the region. A firm believer in shared knowledge, Boner has donated part of his extensive personal collection of items, maps, photographs, postcards and documents to the County Archives, County Museum, and Central Library.
  • Sharing Heritage Award: Cahir Women's History Group from Cahir, Co Tipperary. The Daughters of Dún Iascaigh, known for their historical walking tour, have celebrated the contribution women have made to Cahir with a new walking tour, available via an online map, and the overnight installation of 24 temporary plaques throughout the town.
  • Heritage for All Ages: Ballyshannon Regeneration Group from Ballyshannon, Co Donegal.  The group created a video ‘A Virtual Saunter Down Ballyshannon’s Historic Mall’ to showcase the buildings of historical, economic, social or cultural significance on The Mall, Ballyshannon. The project video was based on older people’s stories and books, documents, pictures, and photographs borrowed within the community. Young people were invited to recite poems and sing songs.
  • Heritage Newcomers: Colmcille 1500 Kells from Kells, Co Meath. From June to September 2021 the monastic town of Kells celebrated the 1500th anniversary of the birth of St Colmcille. To mark the occasion, the Colmcille 1500 Kells projected vibrant imagery at historic locations which highlighted the connection between the town and the Medieval saint and featured the iconography, artwork and symbols first displayed in the Cathach, a 6th century manuscript allegedly penned by St. Colmcille himself. Non-heritage groups were successfully engaged in the project and organisers offered self-guided and guided tour of Kells, exploring the illuminations.
  • Water Heritage (sponsored by the Local Authority Waters Programme - LAWPRO): Suircan Community Forum from Clonmel, Co Tipperary. The Forum, through their heritage project ‘Citizen scientists’ water sampling project on the River Suir’, recruited some 30 volunteers to undertake training and take water samples at key points along the river and its tributaries. The aim of the project was to highlight water quality and its effect on river health.
  • Wild Child: Kerry Archaeological & Historical Society, Kerry County Museum and Kerry County Council from Co Kerry. The organizers invited all primary schools in Kerry to explore local heritage and share their discoveries. Nine schools submitted their projects in spite of Covid-19 restrictions. A short video showcasing the students’ work was shared during National Heritage Week 2021.
  • The special County Award recognised the most successful project in each local authority across the island. Oideas Gael won the prize in County Donegal for their project, ‘Mapping the Heritage of Gleann Cholm Cille Parish’ which focused on the creation of an interactive digital map of minor place names in the parish.

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