|Mayo Bigwigs Gather for Convention
By Darlene Carlson
Taoiseach Enda Kenny got an early opportunity to meet his Mayo brethren
from all over the world when he attended a major worldwide Mayo convention
figures from Mayo expat communities all over the world descended on the
old county for the convention in Westport. ‘Power by Land and Sea – a Future
for our People’ was the theme of the world Mayo convention, attracting
more 100 overseas delegates from Mayo Associations worldwide May 27-29.
The county has long had an emigration tradition, and the worldwide convention
reflects a desire by expats to "give something back" to their native county.
"This is our 11th worldwide convention, and the previous conventions
have always had a theme of enterprise and employment. Given Ireland’s economic
difficulties in recent times, it is appropriate that this year’s convention
should adopt a similar theme," said Brendan Duffy of the Mayo Association
Dublin, jointly organizing the event along with the Muintir Mhaigheo Gaillimh
(Mayo Association in Galway).
"We are delighted that Mr. Kenny will be one of our guests, and it certainly
adds to the status of the event. It is a great source of pride for Mayo
people everywhere that we now have a Taoiseach from the county," he said
prior to the event.
The convention featured workshops on indigenous and multi-national enterprise
in Mayo, and will explore the prospects for energy creation being the key
to the county’s future.
President Mary McAleese performed the official opening on Saturday morning,
and all workshop sessions on that day were open to the public.
"We want to create discussion and debate on some of the key issues facing
the county of Mayo. It is one way we can give something back by prompting
public discourse, and hopefully some interesting suggestions will emerge,"
About the Mayo Worldwide Convention
· This is the 11th worldwide Mayo Convention
· The first convention was held in 1990 in Westport, Co. Mayo
· Conventions have also been held in Westport, Ballina, Manchester,
Buenos Aires, Boston and Philadelphia
Even Grace O'Malley would have come if she received an invitation. The
famed Irish pirate queen was born 1530 on Clare Island and died 1603. The
O'Malleys were a powerful seafaring family that traded widely and refused
to submit to English rule. A fearless leader, Herself O’Malley gained fame
on her own as a ship captain and brigand. In 1593, she met with Queen Elizabeth
I and was allowed to continue her exploits in Connaught.
Kelly, a Co. Mayo expatriate of 17 years, is currently living in Chicago.
A number of her family members emigrated to the U.S. before she came. She
is from Windy Gap, a town 10 miles outside of Castlebar. "I really miss
the mountains, wide open spaces and the friendliness of the people," she
said with deep affection of her childhood home.
For tourists to Co. Mayo, Kelly recommended visiting The National Museum
of Country Life in Turlough, which covers the years 1850-1950. The museum,
open for four or five years, is the only branch outside of Dublin," she
said proudly. The facility focuses on are the country’s rural economy,
fishing and local history.
Mary McAndrews also has roots in Co. Mayo. In 1883, her great- grandparents
packed up her 18-year-old grandfather and his eight siblings and emigrated
from Glencastle village near Belmullet to Erin Prairie, outside New Richmond,
McAndrews has traveled to Mayo several times, recommending that tourists
first drive along the region’s northern coastline. "It is particularly
dramatic with one of the most interesting places to see are the Ceide Fields.
Co. Mayo is very boggy, holding artifacts dating to the Stone Age.
"Mayo is impressive for its emptiness and its starkness as well as the
drama of the coastline," she stated eloquently. "It is really impressive
how big and open and empty it is." This extreme landscape is ideal for
a "Wild West" in western Ireland just like in America.
Irish playwright J.M. Synge wrote his Playboy of the Western World
based on the exploits of James Lynchehaun in 1895. A notable quote in the
play, "there's a great gap between a gallous story and a dirty deed." The
protagonist Christy Mahon brags that he killed his father, when actually
he only wounded him. A judge ruled at Lynchehaun's trial, "Your crime is
murder" for his mutilation of Mrs. Agnes McDonnell, an English woman, and
also his employer. Lynchehaun bit off her nose and poked out her right
eye while he burned her house to the ground after a disagreement.
Supposedly, after seven years in jail, Mahon fled to the United States
where he again goes on trial. The court decided that his crime was political
and he wouldn't be extradited. He returned to Achill twice and eventually
died in Scotland.
McAndrew said, "I've heard that story. As I say many times if it's true
or blarney both are good. I'm not sure if I believe all of that. The Irish
are pretty good at telling stories."
Jean Bills is not an expatriate, but has family on Achill Island, Co. Mayo.
"My greatest accomplishment is having four great children," she announced,
explaining that she worked full-time and raised them alone. Bills, founder
of Celtic Women International, really loves St. Patrick's Day. "My cousin
from Achill Island picks shamrocks and mails them to me before every St.
"On St. Patrick's Day, the whole island comes to a halt. Everybody goes
out for the parade and the pipe band. They have three pipe bands come together
and they all march to one church and then another church. At the first
church they gather outside and each band separately plays some tunes and
then they go inside and have a mass.
pipers serve in the mass. Then they come outside and get together and play
a couple tunes. Then they go marching down the road a good mile or two
to the next church and repeat. At the end, everybody goes and fills up
the bar. Now, it is the middle of the afternoon, they just drink and have
a good time. Eventually, people go home. The bands are still together.
Each band marches back to their own village where they play some tunes
and then go in their own bar."
"The festivities last all day long. I just think it's just perfect for
St. Patrick's Day," said Bills, reminiscing about her previous 29 trips