Amherst Irish Association
Cumann Gaelach Amherst

Annual Margaret Maher Award

Margaret Maher Award 2020

On Sunday, Oct. 18th, 2020, the Amherst Irish Association held the first newly-restructured Margaret Maher Award ceremony via Zoom. The gracious recipient, Rosemary Caine, is a renowned musician, playwright and performer here in the Pioneer Valley. Born at Ardee in County Louth, Rosie has been gracing the stages, both large and small, in the Valley for decades. She is presently at work on a piece involving Emily Dickinson and Margaret Maher.

This AIA event was highlighted by live performance. Michael Haley, as Lady Wilde herself, offered personal perspective of Rosie and her career, while introducing a number of fanciful character “tributes” played by members of Wilde Irish Women, a stage and musical group founded by Rosie. Member Brooke Steinhauser, Program Director for the Emily Dickinson House, acted as co-host for the program, which included video reviews of past performances and a photo montage of players.

The beautiful wooden Margaret Maher Award was designed and handmade by Al Ladd, a magnificent woodcrafter and a musician of Le Chéile, which has performed regularly with the AIA following of in-person events. Al, a man of many talents, has been featured as well with other members in their own AIA events.

Boston Consul General Laoise Moore presented the award to Rosie virtually, it having been given to her in person several days ago. Consul General Moore was the presenter at last year’s Margaret Maher Award competition. Amongst her remarks, she offered, “I’m delighted that you are awarding this year’s award to somebody who really has done so much to dedicate her life and her considerable talents to the promotion of Irish music and history and the Arts, and in such an interesting and enjoyable way.”

So, once again, congratulations to Rosie and we look forward to seeing what she has up her sleeve next! Well done!

You can watch a video recording of the program on YouTube by following this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ivz6gIeVcEs. You can also find previous AIA videos posted by searching for the “Amherst Irish Association” while on the YouTube page or by following this link: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=amherst+irish+association.

You can find out more about Margaret Maher by following this link: /files/Brief_history_Margaret_Maher_2017.pdf.


MARGARET MAHER ANNUAL AWARD 2019

It is with great pride that the Amherst Irish Association announces the winner of the Margaret Maher Annual Award 2019, Margaret Andrews. The Award is named after the Irish immigrant from County Tipperary who served the Dickinson family in Amherst, Massachusetts for thirty years. First prize in the competition is a free trip to Ireland. This was a short essay competition open to any resident of the Pioneer Valley on the topic Ireland: What interests me and why.

We welcomed submissions from those with or without any ancestral connection to Ireland.

The award ceremony was held on Sunday, October 20th at the Unitarian Universalist Church on North Pleasant Street. Finalists Margaret Andrews, Bob McMaster and Tony Ryan were each present to read their own essays.

2018 Award Winner Ken Johnston

To begin the event, 2018 Margaret Maher Award winner Ken Johnston was on hand to offer his personal reflections (with photos) of his remarkable journey while in Northern Ireland this past April, walking a civil rights trail from Belfast to Derry. Ken’s walk, accompanied by friend Daniel Shipp, was noted by Northern Irish media as well. You can read about that by following this link: https://www.derryjournal.com/news/american-pair-retracing-original-civil-rights-march-1-8893209.

Bob McMaster began by reading his essay regarding his ancestor Hannah McGurk, and her tribulations both before and after her immigration to America in 1849. Margaret Andrews then described her own remembrances of Ireland in the past and her hopes to visit again. And Tony Ryan offered his thoughts about growing up as an Irish-American and his own experiences in Ireland.

2019 Award Winner Margaret Andrews with
Boston Consul General Laiose Moore

Following the readings, the Boston Consul General of Ireland, LAIOSE MOORE, awarded first place to Margaret Andrews! As the winner, Margaret will receive a free round trip ticket to Ireland as her first prize. Each of the runner ups also received a gift for their participation in this year’s competition.

You can see additional photos of this exciting competition finale by following this link: /gallery/39/0/October-20-2019.

Margaret Andrews, Bob McMaster, Tony Ryan,
Laiose Moore & Ken Johnston

CONGRATULATIONS to our finalists Margaret Andrews, Bob McMaster and Tony Ryan! THANKS also to 2018 Award Winner Ken Johnston for traveling back to Western Massachusetts from Pennsylvania to be with us that day. And a VERY SPECIAL THANKS to Boston Consul General Laiose Moore for attending this year’s event and agreeing to judge the competition.

Boston Consul General Laiose Moore, AIA Co-Chair
Íde O’Carroll & members of the UMASS Irish Dance Group

And, as always, we appreciate our musicians (Gary Bernhard & Al) and Delia Mahoney and members of the UMASS Irish Dance Group for their spirited step dancing session!

You can learn more about the life of Margaret Maher, as related by AIA Co-Chair Íde O’Carroll, by following this link: /files/Brief_history_Margaret_Maher_2017.pdf.

You can also watch a recording of the entire event on October 20, 2019 in the YouTube video below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJgAcJI3f4Q.


MARGARET MAHER ANNUAL AWARD 2018

The AIA is happy to announce a winner in the Margaret Maher Annual Award 2018, Ken Johnston. The Award is named after the Irish immigrant from County Tipperary who served the Dickinson family in Amherst, Massachusetts for thirty years. First prize in the competition is a free trip to Ireland.

This was a short essay competition open to any resident of the Pioneer Valley on the topic Ireland: What interests me and why

We welcomed submissions from those with or without any ancestral connection to Ireland.

The award ceremony was held on Sunday, October 14th at the Unitarian Universalist Church on North Pleasant Street. Finalists Denise Barberet, Ken Johnston, Conor McMahon and Nora Turriago were on hand to read their own pieces.

Ken Johnston began by reading his essay which compared the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s to the civil unreast in Northern Ireland during the same period. To personally honor the movement here in America, Ken walked a 400 mile path across the deep South which was covered in local media. He hopes to make similar walk across Ireland to honor their commitments to civil rights peace there as well.

Runner-up Conor McMahon described the work of his great grandfather WRE Murphy, former Deputy Commissioner, in establishing the largely unarmed Garda Siochana, Ireland’s police force, which translates to mean “The Guardians of the Peace.” Runner Up Denise Barberet described her research as she has attempted to find the origin in Ireland for her immigrant great grandmother Annie Donaghy. And Runner Up Nora Turriago spoke about her attraction to Ireland beginning with an early fascination with “Riverdance,” her experience teaching English in Spain, and her reflections on Irish immigration.

Nora Turriago, Denise Barberet, Conor McMahon & Ken Johnston

Following the readings, 2017 award winner Monica Caggiano offered an audiovisual presentation describing her own trip to Ireland earlier this year. Monica’s essay described personal life-changing events in Ireland which influenced her to work establishing sports teams for groups who do not have the financial or organizational resources to support such activities.

While all the essay submissions this year were outstanding, the Awards Committee chose Ken Johnston’s as the winner. Ken will receive a free round trip ticket to Ireland as his first prize. Each of the runner ups also received a gift for their participation in this year’s competition.

You can see additional photos of this exciting competition finale by following this link.

CONGRATULATIONS to our finalists Ken Johnston, Denise Barberet, Connor McMhaon and Nora Turriago!

Learn about the life of Margaret Maher, as related by AIA Co-Chair Íde O’Carroll, by following this link!

You can watch a recording of the three finalists reading their submissions and the award of their prizes in the YouTube video below:


INAUGURAL MARGARET MAHER ANNUAL AWARD, 2017

The AIA is happy to announce a winner in the inaugural Margaret Maher Annual Award, Monica Caggiano. The Award is named after the Irish immigrant from County Tipperary who served the Dickinson family in Amherst, Massachusetts for thirty years.

This was a short essay competition open to registered undergraduate students from any of the Pioneer Valley colleges on the topic Considering Ireland: What interests me and why

We welcomed submissions from those with or without any ancestral connection to Ireland.

On October 22nd, the awarding was held at the Unitarian Church in Amherst. Finalists Heather Brennan, Monica Caggiano and Samantha Haddad each read their essay submissions for the audience. Vice Consul General Susan Geraghty Krusell was on hand, representing the Consul General of Ireland’s office in Boston, to select the winner…Monica Caggiano, a student at the University of Massachusetts/Amherst! Monica’s essay described personal life-changing events in Ireland which influenced her to work establishing sports teams for groups who do not have the financial or organizational resources to support such activities. Her first prize is a paid round trip ticket to Ireland in 2018!

Finalists Samantha Haddad, Heather Brennan and Monica Caggiano
Finalists Samantha Haddad, Heather Brennan and Monica Caggiano

Runner-up Heather Brennan, a student at Amherst College, spoke of her desire to become a writer, her interest in Irish literature and her plan to visit Ireland's National Library, Writers' Museum and other key Irish literary sites. Runner-up Samantha Haddad of Mt. Holyoke College spoke of her ambitions and efforts to date to support the cause of Women’s Rights in Ireland. Both women received a set of the complete works of Emily Dickinson, presented to them by Brooke Steinhauser, Program Director of the Emily Dickinson Museum here in Amherst.

You can see additional photos of this exciting competition finale by following this link.

Our hearty congratulations and best wishes to all three of our finalists!

And special thanks to Vice Consul Susan Geraghty Krusell for selecting our competition winner and to Program Director Brooke Steinhauser representing the Emily Dickinson Museum!

Learn about the life of Margaret Maher, as related by AIA Co-Chair Íde O’Carroll, by following this link!

You can watch a recording of the three finalists reading their submissions and the award of their prizes in the YouTube video below:

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