Festival has given me friends for life


Ciara Gallagher-Murphy

THE Mary from Dungloe International Festival 2022 was one of the best experiences of my life so far. I remember when I was younger looking up to all the Marys when I was over in Dungloe and to be able to participate was unreal.

First of all, I would like to thank my sponsors, especially Advanced Construction who do so much to help the Irish diaspora in Glasgow and the trip wouldn’t have been possible without their generous support. I would also would like to thank my work, Connollys Irish Bar, who have been nothing but supportive of me since I was chosen as Glasgow Mary in March and helped with my trip to Dungloe.

In the months leading up to the festival, I was able to attend many events to let people know all about the Mary From Dungloe Festival. The St Patrick’s Festival was my first event in the Merchant City where I got introduced onstage and got to go round and speak to loads of people—some familiar faces and people I was meeting for the first time. I also presented trophies at the Glasgow Feis for Irish dancing, attended the Tír Conaill Harps family fun day, went to the Whistling Donkeys and lots more.

On the Friday that the festival began, I was bridesmaid at my cousin’s wedding, therefore my arrival was delayed, which did make it slightly more nerve wracking arriving on the Monday knowing that the 12 other Marys had already spent two days together getting to know each other. Nevertheless, on Monday morning I arrived at Lough Meela Cottage at 8.30am a bit tired but excited for the week ahead. As soon as I arrived, we were all rushed on to the bus and headed for Glencolumbkille. Before I knew it I was playing the banjo and having the craic with the other girls.

The week absolutely flew in, from visiting the Crolly Distillery, Letterkenny Shopping Centre, the fashion show at the Waterfront Hotel, the family fun day, The Cope Dungloe, the gala ball, the parade and, of course, the crowning itself. Even to name just a few events it was a jam packed week.

The Supervalu family fun day definitely brought out the competitive side of the Marys. We started with the sack race where I was beaten to the finish line, coming in a close second to Donegal Mary, which she never let me forget! Thankfully, I redeemed myself in the running race and came home with a gold medal. Who said family fun days were just for kids? I think us Marys had the most fun there.

Another highlight was definitely the gala ball at the Waterfront Hotel. Gavin Boyle came up with the idea of us performing a ABBA melody flash mob after the dinner. So, the practices began on the bus. Some of us were tone deaf and others were great singers, but nonetheless we had great craic. Everyone, whether they could sing or not, got up and performed and the video got thousands of views on Facebook and thankfully no windows smashed with my singing.

Before we knew it the long-awaited Sunday arrived, starting with mass, of course, followed by the unveiling of Gay Byrne’s plaque at Ionad Tempall Chroine. We then went straight to the parade. I remember watching the parade when I was younger, but going down the Main Street on the float was so surreal. We all gracefully got onto the back of a lorry and headed for the top of the Main Street. There were hundreds of people lined up either side of the street cheering us on as we went down. I was able to see lots of people I knew and plenty of people we had met over the course of the week. We went down the Main Street and back up again and were definitely made to feel like celebrities by all the locals and tourists.

The nerves were then starting to build up on late Sunday afternoon as I was getting ready for the crowning cabaret. Hair and makeup starts at RCS at 2pm and the time flew in. We were then all glammed up and ready to take the stage. I was second on and delighted with that placement to be honest, because it didn’t give me enough time to overthink everything and meant I could support the girls backstage afterwards. It felt like I was onstage for about two minutes and I came off absolutely buzzing and delighted with how I performed. I was worried about playing the banjo with the big crowd, lights and cameras in my face but with the support of Kathleen and Hughie Boyle accompanying me, it went excellently. I probably would’ve gone up there again if I could have!

Throughout the week, all the Marys became so close that we were like a family and we all said, genuinely, that we would have been delighted if any one of us won it and that was shown through the night. The title of 2022 Mary from Dungloe went to the very well-deserved London Mary, Caitlin Finn, and I cant wait to see all that she does for the festival in the coming year.

The Mary From Dungloe International Festival was definitely a different experience from anything I have ever went through and I am so glad I participated in it. I have made plenty of new friends for life and we have already planned trips throughout the year to see each other and joked about doing it all again next year. I would like to say a big thanks to my family and the Glasgow Mary From Dungloe committee who have been so supportive throughout the whole experience.