BY SIOBHANN DUNN
From River Dance shows to live parades and Randox Gala dances the fifty-first Mary from Dungloe was one not to be sniffed at, and with two Glasgow representatives this year the Scottish visitors were out in force celebrating the festival of Irish music, heritage and diaspora.
2017’s reigning Mary, Alisha Medford, handed the Mary title over to Dungloe’s representative, Caroline O’Donnell, at the crowning cabaret on the festival’s final Sunday.
She explained that although the assumption of handing the title over is bittersweet, instead it was a duty to celebrate, saying, “Crowning the new 51st Mary From Dungloe at the crowning cabaret became a celebration for me, celebrating a new Mary joining the 50 strong before her and inviting another to begin her own journey of a lifetime.”
25-year-old Caroline O’Donnell from Burtonport had competed with another 13 ladies for the prestige title. Through the eight days they were wined in dined in some of the counties finest restaurants and visited its main attractions, including Glenveagh Castle and further north, touring the Derry walls, though the ladies were most frequently spotted in Dungloe’s Waterfront hotel, who hosted most main events for them, their families and festivalgoers.
Glasgow’s representative Jessica Tavern described the full itinerary as a complete world wind, noting, “Our day could range from attending Mass in the morning to kayaking in the afternoon, finished off by VIP treatment at a fashion show.”
Jessica, whose family are from Leitch, is familiar with The Rosses area of Donegal, spending many summers with family there, and she explained that this experience gave her a greater insight to what more the area had to offer.
“Each day was extremely busy with events however I got to experience so much whereby I would never have had the opportunity to do so otherwise,” she said.
Having two Glasgow representatives this year helped fly the Saltire in Dungloe with many followers seen waving Scotland flags at the parade on the final Sunday.
Jessica explained that having another Glasgow Mary (Alisha) helped to put her at ease.
“My nerves at the beginning of the festival were definitely put to ease by having the reigning Mary being from Glasgow,” she said. “I already felt like I had a friend from the beginning and it was great to get a true reflection of Alisha’s experience from the previous year so I was aware of what to expect.”
After the eight-action-packed days the title now resides with a local scientist, Caroline, who wowed judges with her passion for the environment and her eagerness to start a clean-beach campaign in a bid to rid over usage of plastics.
Her video party piece left the audience and those watching at home through TG4’s Facebook live feed in stitches as she described that her talents were few and far for the stage, and instead she wanted to show what it takes to be a Mary.
The short film has scenes of her racing through Dungloe trying to get to the crowning with, neighbour, Daniel O’Donnell, looking on and ex-Celtic goalkeeper, Packie Bonner taking a shot at her, as she fails to save it.
The humorous video has since gone viral on Facebook, helping to promote the festival furthermore. When asked was she a budding Spielberg she admitted it was her friend Shaun Doogan who captured and edited the footage, though Caroline herself played the starring role of the competing Mary.
Dungloe last held the title in 2011 and the town were delighted to have a local lady win. Alisha Medford herself explained her pleasure at the crown being taken by Caroline.
“It was a joyful moment for everyone involved in the Festival to have our wonderful Caroline O’Donnell, the Dungloe Mary, crowned he 51st Mary From Dungloe, and I am certain she will shine throughout her year and will promote our beloved festival so well”.