On Wednesday 28th of July a small ceremony was hosted at Meitheal Mara to honour Cork Life Centre. The Life Centre has not only supported and delivered second level education to the young people of Cork for over twenty years but has also endeavoured to provide a broader education to young people, allowing them space and time to explore their own strengths and interests; and encouraging them to try new experiences.

The Gradam Meitheal Mara was presented to Cork Life Centre in recognition of the opportunities that they have opened up to young people to enjoy and learn from Ireland’s maritime culture.

Gradam Meitheal Mara is an award that is presented to individuals or organisations that have made a significant contribution in maritime culture or heritage over an extended period of time. Previous recipients include Paddy Barry for his numerous ocean-going sailing expeditions aboard Saint Patrick and Northabout and Tom MacSweeney for his lifelong dedication to maritime journalism.

Clare Hayden (Front Right), Meitheal Mara; Sam Lynch, Claire Roche & Don O’Leary, from Cork Life Centre, pictured at the presentation of the 2021 Gradam Meitheal Mara award at the Meitheal Mara community boatyard.
Picture: Michael O’Sullivan

In honouring Cork Life Centre, Meitheal Mara have acknowledged the incredible work the Centre has done in making rowing, sailing, boat building and seamanship accessible to their students. Clare Hayden, manager of Meitheal Mara’s Bádóireacht youth programme said:

‘It has been a privilege to work with Cork Life Centre over the past seven years. In that time I have seen many of their young people progress from being absolute beginners in boats to a point where they are accomplished mariners. To see them blossom in confidence and composure as they gain boating skills has been extremely impressive. For some the challenge has been to compete in the Ocean to City rowing race, for some it has been to take part in an international sailing voyage and for some the challenge was to simply sit in a boat on Day One. But to work with these young people as they step outside their comfort zone and explore their own capabilities has been an absolute pleasure. The fact that the young people can do this as part of their school curriculum is testament to the innovation and foresight of Don, Rachel and their team at Cork Life Centre’

Don O’Leary, Director of Cork Life Centre said:

‘It is a beautiful honour for all at Cork Life Centre to receive Gradam Meitheal Mara. For us it marks the wonderful relationship we have built with Clare, Seamus and all at Meitheal Mara over many years. As with any honour that might be bestowed on our Centre, this award belongs to our extraordinary young people. The team at Meitheal Mara in partnership with our young people and staff have created opportunities for connection with Cork’s maritime culture and to build practical, teamwork and life-skills. As noted by Clare this only works when young people stretch themselves and step up to take the opportunities to grow. For us, this is a celebration of how young people can flourish given the right soil and Meitheal Mara is a rich garden.’

Don O’Leary, Cork Life Centre; Cathy Buchanan, Meitheal Mara; Rachel Lucey, Cork Life Centre; Denis Barrett, Meitheal Mara, and Deputy Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr John Sheehan, pictured at the presentation of the 2021 Gradam Meitheal Mara award at the Meitheal Mara community boatyard. Picture: Michael O’Sullivan

In addition to Cork Life Centre’s name being added to the list of previous recipients on the Gradam plaque, the Centre was also presented with a beautiful handcrafted sculptural piece from the Meitheal Mara workshop. Created by workshop manager Séamus O’Brien the award features a currach carved in pear wood with base and detail in teak and tigerwood. In presenting the award Denis Barrett, Chairperson of Meitheal Mara, said:

‘Cork Life Centre is an inspiration to all who are committed to equality of opportunity, and to the potential that each person has to participate and thrive in their learning and educational experiences. We are delighted to present the Gradam Meitheal Mara to the Life Centre Team, to recognise their long term and ongoing committed work to bring young people in a shared mission to benefit in their personal, team and community development through activities on the water, through working in teams, gaining traditional boat building skills and through sharing experiences of our city’s maritime culture. The young people who have the Life Centre support have given leadership to Meitheal Mara through the Bádóireacht Youth Council. This is one example of how we have worked together on a shared mission’.