The Fethard Medieval Festival recently won a heritage group award in the Munster Express / Dooley's Hotel, South East Heritage and Culture awards. A representative group from the festival committee travelled to Waterford last Thursday night to receive the award. Dermot Keyes of the Munster Express was MC for the evening and the opening address was given by the Mayor of Waterford, Cllr. Mary Roche.
The Mayor set the tone for the evening in her very upbeat, positive and enthusiastic speech. She emphasised the importance of heritage and culture in the life of the region and how they can play a role in the growth of tourism. She then finished by commending the award-winners for their contribution to the heritage and culture of the South-East.
The presentation of the awards began with a mini-interview with Dermot Keyes, whereby each group got the opportunity to talk about their work. The Fethard Festival Committee was represented by Joe Kenny (Community Council) and Terry Cunningham (Historical Society) and they were first to be interviewed. They explained how the Medieval Festival in Fethard came into being as part of the Walled Towns Day celebrations which now form an integral part of Heritage Week. Terry explained also how fortunate we are to have 90% of our walls still standing and what a unique feature this is in contrast to other Irish walled towns. Terry also referred to the long-standing tradition of carnivals in the town and how the medieval festival can be seen as a natural successor to the parades of former times. Joe pointed out that without the funding we receive from the Heritage Council and Tipperary South County Council, it would not be possible to run the festival. It is also important to acknowledge that the festival is very much a community effort with input from groups such as the Boy Scouts, Rugby Club, Macra, GAA, Country Markets, Church of Ireland and Tidy Towns committee to name but a few.
We are also fortunate to have the on-going support of our local Heritage Officer, Labhaoise McKenna, as well as access to an incredibly talented group of local artists and craftspeople who bring such a wealth of accomplishment to our event. And finally, most importantly, we must acknowledge all those who come along every year to participate in the parade and to support all the events down by the Wall.
The guest speaker for the evening was Senator David Norris who proved to be erudite, witty and very, very charming. He spoke about his hopes of becoming the next President of Ireland stating that he would see it as the culmination of his political career. He pointed out that, if elected, he would, in fact be the very first truly independent candidate to attain that office because he is without the support of any political party.
On a lighter note, when we met him later on in the evening he said he is really looking forward to visiting Fethard and seeing the Town Wall. We promised him a warm welcome and a guided tour. So watch out, one of these days there may well be a presidential candidate going walkabout!
In conclusion, the Festival Committee is delighted to have received the group heritage award and we would like to gratefully acknowledge the Munster Express and Dooley's Hotel Waterford for their on-going commitment to the heritage and culture of the South-East region. We came away from the evening inspired by the enthusiasm, commitment and sheer talent of all those we met and it gave us renewed vigour for the year ahead.