Tuesday 20 October 2020

National Heritage Awards 2020: heroes and projects

The efforts of individuals, families and community groups across Ireland to preserve, protect and promote their heritage were recognised today at the National Heritage Week Awards 2020.

National Heritage Week is supported by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, and run in association with Fáilte Ireland. At the county level, National Heritage Week is co-ordinated and supported by local authority heritage officers, their colleagues and with numerous local heritage groups and organisations. With Covid 19 restrictions in play this summer, the 2020 Week was rather different to previous years but still embraced enthusiastically.

More than 770 heritage groups and individuals developed the 'Heritage and Education: Learning from our Heritage’ theme with online talks and exhibitions, videos, podcasts, slideshow presentations, blogs, websites, social media accounts, as well as small, restricted social gatherings. More than 850 projects were submitted and each was considered for an award.

The winners of the National Heritage Week Awards 2020 are:

  • The Heritage Hero Award: Christy Cunniffe from Clonfert, Co Galway: Christy Cunniffe has more than 30 years of involvement with heritage. Recently retired as the archaeological field monument advisor for Co Galway, during his time in the role Mr Cunniffe went above and beyond to work with local communities and assist heritage groups. He has worked with several villages to carry out heritage audits resulting in the identification of heritage sites; he was also involved with the Beara Breifne way, the Clonfert Conservation Plan and the forthcoming national heritage plan, Heritage Ireland 2030. His work in the Slieve Aughty uplands engaged local communities in Clare and Galway and promoted the heritage, archaeology and culture of this unique shared region. Mr Cunniffe is being recognised for his efforts to engage and include local communities and heritage groups, to spread his own knowledge and enthusiasm among those around him.
  • The Heritage on Your Doorstep Award: The Killeshandra Tidy Towns Heritage Group from Killeshandra, Co Cavan: This project sees the Killeshandra Census of 1911 being researched and used to sketch the town as it appeared at that time. The Killeshandra Tidy Town Heritage Group is producing sketches, old photographs and census records detailing the houses, shops, and public buildings and people who lived in the town. The result will prove a valuable resource for learning about the town’s cultural and built heritage and for genealogy research for visitors.
  • The Re-Learning Skills from Our Heritage Award: Johnny Shiels from Glenswilly, Co Donegal: Mr Shiels is a third-generation wheel wright and this project involves the restoration of a rate, old Donegal flax / wool spinning wheel. Assisted by his two sons, this project sees the passing of knowledge of wheel making and restoration across generations. Mr Shiels has used digital technology and social media to share the process of the restoration with a wide audience, and plans to engage with local schools to teach pupils about spinning and weaving, and to ensure continued interest in the project and the tradition itself.
  • The Heritage of Education Award: Rathmullan & District Local History Society from Rathmullan, Co Donegal: For this project, Rathmullan & District Local History Society set out to record the intangible heritage of schooldays, including the friendships; sports; games played; songs and lessons remembered; the customs and the ways of life in school and in the community. This was chosen to encourage a sense of connection which would involve the whole community. The first part of the project used their recently-created Facebook page to showcase the histories, stories and photographs of their townlands, and the group also produced a video based on earlier interviews with former pupils in the school from the late 1930s to 2005.
  • The Water Heritage Award: The Ellen Hutchins Festival from Bantry, Co Cork: Ellen Hutchins (1785-1815), born in Ballylickey, West Cork, was Ireland's first female botanist, with seaweeds being her specialist. This Ellen Hutchins Festival project involved the production of family-friendly resources enabling people to explore, understand, respect and protect seaweeds and the natural heritage of the shores of inner Bantry Bay. High quality multimedia items, including photographs and a video were included in the resources.

Commenting, Minister of State for the Minister for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD, said: “The annual National Heritage Awards offer important recognition of the tireless work undertaken by people – not just during National Heritage Week, but year-round – to ensure the story of Ireland’s heritage continues to be told in a meaningful way. I am delighted to see the interest and excitement generated by the Awards among communities across the country, and offer congratulations to all winning and nominated projects.”

He added that the Heritage Council's budget for next year has been increased by 51% (€2.5m).

The theme for National Heritage Week 2021 will be ‘Inclusive Heritage / Heritage for Everyone’.