MONAGHAN MAN RECEIVES MAYO AWARD IN MANCHESTER
Monaghan footballers were overwhelmed by Mayo at the weekend, but in Manchester, Mayo gave an honorary award to a Monaghan man. Tommy McKenna, a native of Longfield, Carrickmacross, was singled out by the Mayo Association for giving over thirty years’ service to the Irish Community Care charity in Manchester. Tommy said he was delighted to have been named “Mayo” man of the year. He was presented with a commemorative crystal bowl by the Manchester Mayo Association President Marcella Wilkinson and Chairperson Patricia Gallagher. He was joined by his family at the event: his wife Regina, son Tom and daughters Siobhan and Regina.
Tommy is a very successful businessman, having set up a civil engineering and building contractors company after emigrating to England in 1954. At one stage he also owned an entertainment venue called the Ardri Ballroom. He would bring over performers such as Big Tom, with their showbands. It was thanks to his sponsorship over the years that many bands were brought over from Ireland to take part in the annual St Patrick’s Day parade. Tommy still has brothers and a sister in the Carrickmacross area and returns a couple of times a year to Longfield, where he has a house.
Irish Community Care was founded by Tommy and other members of the Irish community in 1985. The charity now has two centres in Cheetham Hill and Levenshulme, staffed by ten people and a team of fifty volunteers. The centres provide a wide range of services, offering advice and information and providing outreach support, including to the travelling community. The charity runs a bereavement service and also gives support to survivors of institutional abuse. It also runs a reminiscence project, collecting stories about the experiences of emigrants.
One of the first to congratulate Tommy on his award was another emigrant from Monaghan, Fr Paddy McMahon, who comes originally from Drummully, Emyvale. Fr McMahon attended Edenmore school followed by St Macartan’s College in Monaghan, before being ordained. He has been based in Manchester since 1968 and one of his first assignments was a parish in Old Trafford, where Manchester United football club is situated. Over the years he became friendly with a number of the people at the club, including former manager Alex Ferguson and he has been following the Red Devils ever since.
He is now parish priest at nearby St John’s in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, where the late Matt Busby lived. Sometimes Fr McMahon says prayers at Mass for United and he has been known to give out the Premier League results at the end of Saturday vigil Masses. Despite the rivalries between the clubs, he has also welcomed to his church Manchester City supporters and occasionally one of their players. Fr McMahon helped to form the Monaghan Association in Manchester around 1975 and is still President of the group.
The Irish community in Manchester is now busy preparing for St Patrick’s Day. The Manchester Irish Festival is Europe’s biggest Irish Festival outside of Ireland. The city will be turned Green and Red on Friday 6th March at 8pm for the launch of a special promotional event sponsored by Mayo County Council. The annual Irish Festival runs from Friday 6th for a fortnight and features over 200 events. They include headlining gigs from Nathan Carter, The Script, Noel Gallagher, and Young, Gifted & Green.
For more information about any of the events in this year’s Manchester Irish Festival visit: www.manchesteririshfestival.co.uk.
Note: These pictures are copyright B. O’Brien. My thanks to photographer Bernie O’Brien in Manchester for giving permission to use these photographs, which I used in the article in this week’s Northern Standard (see Carrickmacross News p.35).