Tory Island has always being renowned for its rich storytelling tradition and for the gifted and skilled storytellers it produced. If the results of a recent national literature competition for secondary schools are anything to go by, then it seems that a younger generation of Tory islanders have inherited the older generation’s mastery of storytelling. There are only seven pupils in the islands school, yet three of these students managed to take the top awards in a national Irish Language literature competition sponsored by Údarás na Gaeltachta.
Sixteen year old Lauren Ní Bhaoill won the overall national prize for her short story ‘Coimeadí Uimhir a hocht’, fourth year Ciara Ní Dhubhgháin won the Eibhlín Ní Cháimhsí Memorial Award for the best entry from Donegal for her short stóry ‘Deich ndóigh le múinteoir a mharú’ (Ten Ways to Kill your Teacher), while Áine Máire Nic Ruairí won the best essay in the 1618 year old age group for her essay, ‘Ag iascaireacht i dToraigh (Fishing in Tory)’.
The poet Aifric MacAodha, who judged the competition, said the entries of the Tory Island pupils “exhibit masterful storytelling abilities and the stories themselves are rich and imaginative, possessing both poignancy and power”. Not to be outdone by their Donegal compatriots, pupils from Pobal Scoil Gaoth Dobhair and Pobalscoil Chloich Cheann Fhaola in Falcarragh also swooped a number of the national awards They took seven national awards in total between them, while twelve other pupils from secondary schools in Donegal received special recognition.
An award ceremony was held in Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta, Gaoth Dóbhair this week where the lucky recipients received their prizes. Speaking at the ceremony, Micheál MacAoidh, Arts officer for the Donegal Gaeltacht, praised the pupils for the high standard of the entries and gave particular praise to the teachers “who were the ones who inspired and encouraged the pupils to write, and without whom there would no competition”. Mr MacAoidh said they “would ensure that the strong, rich and vibrant Irish language literary tradition in Donegal would continue to blossom”. He gave particular praise to Noel Ó Gallachóir, principal of Pobalscoil Gaoth Dobhair and his staff, Máire Chlár Nic Mathúna, principal of Pobalscoil Cholmcille on Tory island, and to Karen Ní Fhrighíl and Carmel Curran, the Irish teachers in Pobalscoil Chloch Cheann Fhaola in Falcarragh. These teachers, he said, “put in trojan work and continually inspire and encourage their pupils to produce writing of imagination and strength”.