Award Recipents 2014
MAYO PERSON OF THE YEAR 2014 – Mr JOHN WALKIN, Ballina. His is a story of turning personal adversity into something good for the county for Mayo. In 1962 while playing Gaelic football a knee to the temple badly damaged his eyesight. Overnight a champion runner and a newly-wed found it a struggle to walk down the street. Fishing would be his salvation – and after a trip to Blacksod bay – he was hooked. He could see not only the enjoyment that fishing could bring the individual but also the hidden potential of fishing for Mayo. He had the innate business and marketing sense to realise that Mayo could be put on the European and world angling map. In 1977 he brought the World Boat Sea angling championships to Killala Bay – the first time it ever came to the West of Ireland. On four occasions John helped Mayo host the Irish National Master Boat Championships. He threw himself into promoting sea angling – ending up at one stage chairing four different clubs at once. For 15 years he was chairman of the North Western Regional Fisheries board during which time he launched a €3m fisheries management and development plan for the river Moy. His love of that river led to a campaign to eliminate commercial fishing on the river making it a successful tourist attraction. In 1998 ill health struck again – he suffered a massive heart attack which required open heart surgery. Again he turned this setback into positive action for his local community. He founded the Ballina branch of the west of Ireland cardiology association Croí. In 2005 he led the campaign which kept the North Western Regional Fishery board offices in Mayo when it was threatened by the government with being moved to Galway. In 2010 he chaired the final meeting of the North Western Regional Fishery Board before it was subsumed into Dublin. After 15-and-a-half years in the chair fittingly he closed it with the announcement of a €1m refurbishment of salmon weirs. He is a man never afraid to get back on the horse after ill health; a man with a vision for his community which was ahead of its time; A man who could see how conservation could combine with business to create sustainable jobs; And a man who is a loving husband and a father. The winner of the 2014 Virginia Gallagher Mayo Person of the Year Award, for his 40 years of tireless work for the county is John Walkin of Ballina.
Mayo Meitheal of the Year Award 2014: St Attracta’s National School Mayoral Campaign, Charlestown. In a recession it is more important than ever for communities to come together. The winner of the 2014 Mayo Meithal of the Year Award showed real fighting spirit that involved everybody in a local community. By tirelessly fundraising for St Attracta’s national school this year’s winners showed a concern for the young people of the school that was not only admirable but also replicable in other communities. Judges for this award were impressed by the combination of people power, hard work and a sense of fun that brought together young and old to work towards a common goal. Using a simple but brilliant idea Charlestown saw three amazing candidates running for the prestigious title of mayor of the town. Each of the candidates and their election teams got stuck in and showed how a small town hit by the economic downturn and emigration could come together to help a national school in dire straits. No single act – whether it was a table quiz, a race night, a cake sale, an Ice Man challenge – was enough alone to win this year’s Meitheal. But added together raising €50,000 to invest in upgrading St Attracta’s was a great achievement. Brian McDermott, school principal, Fr Johnston, chairman of the school’s board of management – and the three candidates for mayor who were all past pupils of St Attracta’s – Val Lenehan, Paddy Colleran, and Declan Casey – embodied can do attitude. The legacy of the Mayoral race is that people not only showed they could do it but that they are prepared to team up again to help their local community. Judges felt that the St Attracta’s Mayoral Campaign fundraising drive and determination revealed a town that realised it was not just a group of individuals but was a real community. The people of Charlestown showed such positive energy that no problem was going to stop them. They are deserving winners of this year’s Mayo Meitheal of the Year Award.