22 October 2020
By Tom Collins
‘Heritage Heroes’ from County Cork celebrated at National Heritage Awards 2020
In relation to Cork:
- The award for best project in Cork City has been claimed by Ruti Lachs, for his project, ‘Cork Jewish heritage virtual walk’.
- This year, the Water Heritage Award was won by the Ellen Hutchins Festival from Bantry, Co Cork for their project ‘Explore the shore: Seaweeds of inner Bantry Bay’.
The efforts of individuals, families and community groups from County Cork to ensure the preservation, protection and promotion of Ireland’s built, natural and cultural heritage were recognised this week (back on Tuesday) at the National Heritage Awards 2020. Hosted by the Heritage Council, the event took place virtually and was presented by RTÉ broadcaster, Anne Cassin.
To take account of restrictions on gatherings due to COVID-19, rather than focusing on the organisation of in-person events this year, more than 770 heritage experts and enthusiasts developed projects around this year’s theme of ‘Heritage and Education: Learning from our Heritage’. Comprising online talks and exhibitions, videos, podcasts, slideshow presentations, blogs, websites, social media accounts, as well as small, restricted social gatherings, more than 850 projects were submitted. Each one was considered for a National Heritage Week Award.
This year, the Water Heritage Award was won by the Ellen Hutchins Festival from Bantry, Co Cork for their project ‘Explore the shore: Seaweeds of inner Bantry Bay’. Ellen Hutchins (1785-1815), born in Ballylickey, West Cork, was Ireland’s first female botanist, with seaweeds being her specialist. The Ellen Hutchins Festival project involved the production of family-friendly resources enabling people to explore, understand, respect and protect seaweeds and the natural heritage of the shores of inner Bantry Bay.
Above: In related content: From YouTube here is a 2018 video about Hutchins:
The National Heritage Week Awards were also expanded this year to include an award for the best project in each Local Authority across the island, with the Bantry Historical and Archaeological Society claiming the prize in County Cork. Their project, ‘Bantry Historical and Archaeological Society’, looked back at all the events they have organised over the past eleven years for National Heritage Week, and showcased their work and the rich heritage of the Bantry area to new audiences.
The award for best project in Cork City has been claimed by Ruti Lachs, for his project, ‘Cork Jewish heritage virtual walk’. Ruti is Jewish musician who moved to Cork from Kerry three years ago. The ‘Cork Jewish Culture Virtual Walk’ is a video and webpage exploring some of the history and culture of the Cork Jewish community. The project is also a runner-up for the Heritage on Your Doorstep Award.
Above: From YouTube here is the award winning 2020 video
The volume and variety of projects received this year reflects the dedication of individuals and communities to capture, celebrate and share Ireland’s rich and varied heritage.
The winners of the National Heritage Week Awards 2020 are:
- The Heritage Hero Award: Christy Cunniffe from Clonfert, Co Galway: Christy Cunniffe has more than 30 years of involvement with heritage. Recently retired as the archaeological field monument advisor for Co Galway, during his time in the role Mr Cunniffe went above and beyond to work with local communities and assist heritage groups. He has worked with several villages to carry out heritage audits resulting in the identification of heritage sites; he was also involved with the Beara Breifne way, the Clonfert Conservation Plan and the forthcoming national heritage plan, Heritage Ireland 2030. His work in the Slieve Aughty uplands engaged local communities in Clare and Galway and promoted the heritage, archaeology and culture of this unique shared region. Mr Cunniffe is being recognised for his efforts to engage and include local communities and heritage groups, to spread his own knowledge and enthusiasm among those around him.
- The Heritage on Your Doorstep Award: The Killeshandra Tidy Towns Heritage Group from Killeshandra, Co Cavan: This project sees the Killeshandra Census of 1911 being researched and used to sketch the town as it appeared at that time. The Killeshandra Tidy Town Heritage Group is producing sketches, old photographs and census records detailing the houses, shops, and public buildings and people who lived in the town. The result will prove a valuable resource for learning about the town’s cultural and built heritage and for genealogy research for visitors.
- The Re-Learning Skills from Our Heritage Award: Johnny Shiels from Glenswilly, Co Donegal: Mr Shiels is a third-generation wheel wright and this project involves the restoration of a rate, old Donegal flax / wool spinning wheel. Assisted by his two sons, this project sees the passing of knowledge of wheel making and restoration across generations. Mr Shiels has used digital technology and social media to share the process of the restoration with a wide audience, and plans to engage with local schools to teach pupils about spinning and weaving, and to ensure continued interest in the project and the tradition itself.
- The Heritage of Education Award: Rathmullan & District Local History Society from Rathmullan, Co Donegal: For this project, Rathmullan & District Local History Society set out to record the intangible heritage of schooldays, including the friendships; sports; games played; songs and lessons remembered; the customs and the ways of life in school and in the community. This was chosen to encourage a sense of connection which would involve the whole community. The first part of the project used their recently-created Facebook page to showcase the histories, stories and photographs of their townlands, and the group also produced a video based on earlier interviews with former pupils in the school from the late 1930s to 2005.
- The Water Heritage Award: The Ellen Hutchins Festival from Bantry, Co Cork: Ellen Hutchins (1785-1815), born in Ballylickey, West Cork, was Ireland’s first female botanist, with seaweeds being her specialist. This Ellen Hutchins Festival project involved the production of family-friendly resources enabling people to explore, understand, respect and protect seaweeds and the natural heritage of the shores of inner Bantry Bay. High quality multimedia items, including photographs and a video were included in the resources.
Commenting, Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD, said: “The annual National Heritage Awards offer important recognition of the tireless work undertaken by people – not just during National Heritage Week, but year-round – to ensure the story of Ireland’s heritage continues to be told in a meaningful way. I am delighted to see the interest and excitement generated by the Awards among communities across the country, and offer congratulations to all winning and nominated projects.”
Referring to the €95.5m for heritage announced in last week’s budget – an increase of 51% on 2020 – Minister Noonan continued, “I am delighted that the Heritage Council will receive an additional €2.5m next year to develop and grow its programmes, including its supports for communities who care for our heritage.”
About National Heritage Week: National Heritage Week is co-ordinated by the Heritage Council as part of European Heritage Days – a joint initiative of the Council of Europe and the European Union in which more than 40 countries participate each year. The main aim of European Heritage Days is to promote awareness of our built, natural and cultural heritage and to promote Europe’s common cultural heritage.
National Heritage Week is supported by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, and run in association with Fáilte Ireland. At the county level, National Heritage Week is co-ordinated and supported by local authority heritage officers, their colleagues and with numerous local heritage groups and organisations. Collaborative partners include the Office of Public Works; the Local Authority Water Programme; the Irish Landmark Trust; and the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland. Supporting partners include RTÉ Supporting the Arts and The Irish Times. See heritageweek.ie.
About the Heritage Council: The Heritage Council was established under the Heritage Act 1995 with responsibility to propose policies and priorities for the national heritage. It works in cooperation with a range of agencies, communities and individuals to promote education, enjoyment and understanding of our national heritage. See www.heritagecouncil.ie.