Historians go head-to-head to find Newry’s ‘greatest person’
Tuesday, 25 February 2014
SEVEN renowned local historians will battle it out in Newry Town Hall this weekend to determine who is Newry's greatest ever person.
The huge fundraiser for Concern Worldwide is to raise funds to help the estimated two million Syrian refugees who have fled the country due to an escalating civil war that has already claimed the lives of around 100,000 people.
Up to 500 voters are expected for this spectacular fundraising event and they will use handheld electronic voting devices to decide who is the greatest - and it's set to be a tense affair with some of the town's former most influential figures going head-to-head for the prestigious accolade, and they are:
* Fionn MacGorman and the Abbots of Newry, Agrarian reformers and commercial innovators, championed by Dr Mary Goss.
* Richard Castles and Co, builders of the Newry Inland Canal, championed by Paul Hoben.
* Francis Carvill, entrepreneur and philanthropist, championed by Michael McKeown.
* John Mitchel and John Martin, writers and politicians, championed by Francis Gallagher.
* John Grubb Richardson, industrialist and social engineer, championed by Ross Chapman.
* The Three Russell Sisters, social reformers, championed by Sister Perpetua McArdle.
* Sean Hollywood, Civil Rights leader, actor and sportsman championed by Donal O'Hanlon.
Each historian has selected their candidate from the array of historic characters who have contributed to the social and economic development of Newry and district and also to the welfare of society at home and abroad while continuously bringing honour to the local area. Each speaker has 12 minutes to argue their case.
Donal O'Hanlon, one of them organisers of the event and arguing the case for Sean Hollywood on the night, told the Democrat: "The idea initially came from Paul Hoben who ran the event on a smaller scale about six months ago.
“Michael McKeown thought that it was such a great idea that he wanted to do it on a bigger scale and to do it in aid of Concern, specifically for Syrian refugees.
“We narrowed it down to seven people or groups simply because it would be easier to manage that number on the night. We're very excited about it, especially as we are using this electronic system and we'll have one of Newry's greatest living persons, Paddy McGuinness, also here with us on the night."
In addition to the hiring of the sophisticated electronic voting system, professional projection equipment is being sourced to ensure clarity of the audio visual presentations that have been prepared by the champions.
The organisers are keen to emphasise that all recognised amateur historians in the area were asked to nominate and champion a character with the proviso that the nominee was deceased.
The result of much canvassing was that the programme was settled by the seven volunteers that will perform on the night and it is hoped that the event will be emulated by other areas in Northern Ireland.
An extra bonus is that one of Newry's living greatest, Paddy McGuinness, now retired from Concern, will be in attendance after a mayoral reception in his honour prior to the event.
Tickets for the event - which takes place at Newry Town Hall on Friday (February 28) at 7.30pm - are priced £10 (students £5) and are available at Carlin's Records, Savages of Monaghan Street and CRASH Services in St Mary Street.
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