A total of thirty students from sixteen secondary schools in the county have been awarded Gaeltacht scholarships by Meath County Council.
The Máire Nic Shiubhlaigh and Mother Columba Gibbons scholarships were presented by Cllr. Seán Drew, Cathaoirleach of Meath County Council to students at a special ceremony in Buvinda House, on Thursday 26th May. The scholarship scheme honours Máire Nic Shiubhlaigh a founder actress of the Abbey Theatre and a leader of Cumann na mBán in Jacob’s Biscuit Factory during the 1916 Rising. Máire was also an employee of Meath County Council where she worked as a branch librarian in Laytown during the 1950’s.
This year marks the introduction of a new scholarship scheme for pupils attending DEIS secondary schools. These scholarships are named in honour of Mother Columba Gibbons (1875-1961)
Born Maria Gibbons in Castlepollard, County Westmeath, she and her four sisters were educated at Loreto Navan. Her brothers James and Edward entered the priesthood and Maria took her vows as a Loreto sister in 1906, taking the religious name ‘Columba’.Her sister Katherine was married to Seamus O’Doherty, a member of the IRB’s Military Council in 1916 and acting-head of the Supreme Council when it was reconstituted after The Rising. During the 1916 period, Columba composed a number of poems which epitomised the spirit underlying the Republican movement. One of those became the well-known ballad ‘Who Fear To Speak of Easter Week?’
A staunch supporter of the language revival movement, Mother Gibbons was the principal of Loreto Navan for more than 50 years and possessed a rare gift for imparting knowledge to her pupils. Éamon De Valera was a personal friend for many years, and when she died in 1961 the Irish Press recorded that Rev Mother M Columba Gibbons was ‘a member of a family which played a notable part in the spread of the ideals of Irish nationhood’. It was said of her that she was a nun by vocation and a republican by inclination.
Guest speaker Manchán Magan, thanked Meath County Council for honouring the memory of these revolutionary women.
“We know that many of the women who participated in the events of the revolutionary period were forgotten and I am delighted that they are now re-emerging from the shadows and taking their place alongside the more well-known names associated with that period in our history.”
Commenting on the scholarship scheme, Jackie Maguire, CE of Meath County Council said that the organisation was delighted to be able to offer these scholarships to students.
‘This is a wonderful way for Meath County Council to demonstrate our commitment to the Irish language. I am delighted to see so many schools represented, and I hope the pupils have a wonderful time in the Gaeltacht this summer. Ar aghaidh libh!’
Welcoming the expanded scholarship scheme Cathaoirleach of Meath County Council, Cllr. Seán Drew acknowledged the support of the local Creative Ireland programme and added
‘The scholarships provide recipients with a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the Irish language and by so doing acquire a great love for the language.’