The 2011 Manchester Irish Festival has presented a special award to an 86-year old Catholic woman, Mary Walsh, an Irish dancing teacher from Edgeley in Stockport.
Miss Walsh has been teaching Irish dance for the last 69 years in St Edwards Church Hall in Rusholme, Manchester.
She was presented with a special award at the VIP launch of the Irish Festival at Manchester Town Hall on Friday March 4 by co-chair Kevin Fitzpatrick and the Lord Mayor of Manchester, councillor Mark Hackett.
Ms Walsh is the one of the few remaining teachers in Manchester and possibly in Britain to betaught by the Gaelic League who is still teaching Irish dance. She still runs a class every Friday night and Saturday morning. The energetic teacher set up the St Edwards annual Irish Dancing Feis in 1950, which is now established as one of the longest-running Irish dancing competitions in Britain.
She donates every single penny from the tuck shops, raffles and admission monies to the St Edward’s church, the Little Sisters of the Poor Care home and Catholic pilgrimage charity, Flame. Kevin Fitzpatrick, festival co-chairwoman, said: “I hope I am still able to dance like Mary when I get to 86, she is a real role model for the Irish community and has dedicated her life to promoting Irish culture in the city. It is only right that the festival, did something to recognise her achievements.” Miss Walsh commented: “I was flabbergasted and over the moon to receive the award, no one had informed me that I was to receive one.”
A second award was presented to Brian Kennedy, the organiser of the annual St Patrick’s Day parade which this year is celebrating its 21st anniversary.