Home is the hero - Donegal Person of the Year 2016 raised shoulder high in Ardara

Bear hugs, kisses and an odd quiet word as south west Donegal comes out to say "well done" Stephen

Michael Daly

Reporter:

Michael Daly

Email:

editorial@donegaldemocrat.com

Home is the hero - Donegal Person of the Year 2016 raised shoulder high in Ardara

Shoulder high: Donegal Person of the Year 2016, Stephen McCahill as he arrives back home to his hometown of Ardara. INDD 2301 HComing 1 MVB

There were wonderful scenes this afternoon in the crisp, cool sunlit air of Ardara as the newly announced Donegal Person of the Year, Stephen McCahill, was lifted shoulder high.

Having driven from Dublin, he was quickly surrounded by his people and the instinct of the warrior football kings of old clicked in when he was lifted off his feet. There were shades of 1992 and a night when big Anthony, brought you know what 'back home'.

It has been a wonderful weekend for Stephen and his family and for the people of Ardara who have seen one of their own recognised on what is now a national platform for his work in the community.

A warm welcome home for Stephen and Marietta from young Melissa Boyle and Patrick Gallagher with piper Peter Daly. INDD 2301 HComing 10 MVB.  All photos by Matt Britton.

Without meaning to sound disrespectful, one way to describe Stephen’s local contribution is to suggest he is in everything but the Christmas Crib. There's very little he doesn't have a handle on locally.

It’s the remarkable scope of his contribution (which you can read below in this article), from the Parish Council to the GAA club, which sets him apart and makes him richly deserving of this honour.

He follows in wonderful footsteps, a quick glance at a smattering of previous winners - Canon James McDyre, Daniel O’Donnell, Brian Friel, Moya Doherty- gives you some idea of the exalted company he is now in.

Welcome home Stephen - as he arrives back in Ardara.

At a wonderful night in Dublin where Stephen’s selection was announced, there were tributes paid to the 2015 Person of the Year, hotelier Deirdre McGlone and praise was lavished on Stephen for his myriad contribution to his local community and south west Donegal in general.

Piped into Ardara by Peter Daly this afternoon there were emotional scenes as friends greeted him on the street; it was clear that his home place is hugely proud of him. A massive banner of congratulations and green and gold bunting bedecked the street as Stephen took it all in his stride.

Local radio station Owenea FM were there too and the news that he was 'on his way, had arrived home and was chatting all and sundry' made for wonderful local radio.

Well he is the chairman of the 'Cup O'Tae festival! Stephen with Patricia Gallagher. INDD 2301 HComing 2 MVB

And what of those who were there? They were of all ages, some shyly coming forward to shake his hand, others offering a bear hug, whispering a quiet pride-laden word in his ear.

This award doesn't happen by chance. With a history that goes back to 1935, the Donegal Association in Dublin is a serious organisation who have always put great thought into their selections and those who have been picked know just how special such recognition is.

I always think back to Daniel O'Donnell's reaction when he was selected. Daniel has done it all and awards for him are not scarce, but to this day he benchmarks his 'DPY' award as hugely significant because it 'came from his own people'.

There is something very special about being recognised by your own and for Stephen this selection, in its own way, is a 'thank you' for the thousands of unseen hours he has given to so many organisations as a volunteer.

Stephen McCahill will be inaugurated as The Donegal Person of the Year 2016 at the Annual Gala Ball on Saturday, 4th March in the Regency Hotel, Drumcondra, Dublin 9 and, if the reaction to his selection since last night is anything to go by, tickets will be like gold dust.

A warm welcome for Stephen in his hometown from Conor and Claire Molloy. INDD 2301 HComing 4a MVB

About Stephen McCahill

A native of Glenties, Stephen has endeavoured through various roles and initiatives to positively promote Donegal and  in particular Glenties, Ardara, Portnoo and Killybegs as an area in which to visit, work and live.

He is steeped in his local community and the list of groups, committees and clubs he is involved with and his remarkable contribution to his local area in a voluntary capacity, is frankly, astounding.


Stephen is the third in the family of Packie McCahill and Eileen (nee Gallagher) from Ardara, Stephen’s mother still resides outside Glenties. He was born in 1959 and grew up in Glenties and attended St. Columba’s Comprehensive School in Glenties and the then Regional Technical College in Letterkenny.

Stephen worked with Lyons Tea as a national sales representative and later became a quality control officer with Moracrete in Clondalkin. In 1981 Stephen moved back to Donegal where he took up a position as quality control manager with Campbell Seafoods in Killybegs and spent six years with the company, he later worked with Joey Murrin as a marketing manager. In 1991 Stephen set up his own company Glenard Fish which organised the sales of fresh fish.

Stephen is still involved in the fishing industry in Killybegs. Stephen is married to Marietta and they have two children, Steven and Gemma. Stephen and his family reside outside Ardara.

Aine Slowey, whose father recently passed away soon after proposing Stephen for the Donegal Person of the Year, made a wonderful and understandably emotional speech. !NDD 2301 HComingf 3 MVB


Promote Donegal


Stephen has endeavoured through various roles and initiatives to positively promote Donegal and  in particular Glenties, Ardara, Portnoo and Killybegs as an area in which to visit, work and live.

Ardara was voted The Irish Times Best Village to Live in Ireland in 2012. It is because of volunteers like Stephen who work so hard in promoting Ardara that the town was awarded such an accolade.

Stephen was one of the founding members of the Cup O’ Tae Festival and is currently Chairman of the Cup O’Tae Festival Committee. It was a new festival for new May Bank  Holiday in 2001 and 15 years later it is still going stronger than ever.

Stephen with his brother Peter and sisters Patricia and Angela in Ardara on Saturday. INDD 2301 HComing 6 MVB


Website


In 2015 Stephen assisted in the rebuilding and redevelopment of the Ardara Town Website. He is a member of the Editorial Committee of ‘Duchas’ which saw the second edition launched successfully before Christmas replacing the annual Parish Magazine ‘Dearcadh’.

Stephen was instrumental in the setting up of an editorial committee for ‘Duchas’ which was first published in December 2015.

He is Chairman of Ardara Traders’ Association, this group runs and supports a calendar of festivals and events each year in Ardara which has earned it the title of the ‘Festival Town’. Among the festivals which the Traders’ Association support are the Ardara Country & Western Music Festival, Ardara Walking Festival and St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Ardara Wild Atlantic Way Week, The Johnny Doherty Irish Traditional Music & Dancing Weekend  and The Matchmaking Festival.

Stephen with his nieces Orla and Caoimhe Murray and Aoibhinn McCahill on the Diamond in Ardara. INDD 2301 HComing 8 MVB


GAA

Stephen is heavily involved in the GAA Club in Ardara who recently hosted the Comórtas Peil na Gaeltachta in 2015. He was club treasurer for fourteen years and club chairman for four years.

He remained in the role of chairman for the construction and completion of state of the art dressing rooms, function rooms, a new pitch, flood lighting, disabled facilities and a 250 seater stand.

The All Ireland Gaeltacht Finals was a huge event which involved welcoming, accommodating and entertaining numerous teams and hundreds of supporters to Ardara. Stephen was instrumental in organising this event.

At the request of the Donegal GAA County Board Stephen McCahill was asked to manage the Sam Maguire Cup in 1992 and again in 2012. During this time he coordinated the distribution of the cup. This was a most demanding role given the huge demand for Sam Maguire through the length and breadth of county.

Great neighbours and friends. Claire O'Reilly from the Nesbitt Arms Hotel delighted to welcome Stephen back home to Wrdara. INDD 2301 HComing 5 MVB


Heritage Centre

Stephen is Chairman of the Ardara Heritage Centre and the Ardara Community Centre and was  former chairperson, secretary and PRO of the Ardara Parish Council.

Stephen is involved in the famous Corner House Pub in Ardara where he ensures that guests not only enjoy Irish hospitality and traditional music but where they are introduced to local people, local knowledge and local information.

It is evident from Stephen’s involvement in the many committees and projects mentioned above that he has spent much of his adult life giving freely of his personal time to keeping his local area alive and vibrant.

He has helped develop and sustain tourism, heritage, culture and rural life through numerous projects, festivals, initiatives and enterprises. He has helped to highlight and promote all that is good in our county.

* Stephen McCahill will be inaugurated as The Donegal Person of the Year 2016 at the Annual Gala Ball on Saturday, 4th March in the Regency Hotel, Drumcondra, Dublin 9. This promises to be a very special night with the excitement already starting to build after the announcement on Friday night! Tickets are limited so please contact 087 1367061 to reserve your tickets or they are also available online at www.donegalassociation.ie.

** The Donegal Democrat, which has worked closely with Stephen for more than 30 years, shares in the delight at his selection and we send our best wishes to him, his wife Marietta, their family and the broader 'Ardara family' on this wonderful honour. Our special thanks also to 2015 winner Deirdre McGlone for her wonderful work in 2016/2017 and her always fantastic warm welcome for us here at the Democrat.

*** Finally our thanks to the Donegal Association in Dublin and in particular Siobhan Shovlin who provided the profile on Stephen which is published here.