Denis Barrett of Meitheal Mara, Rachel Lucey and William Cooper, of CorK Life Centre, with Cathy Buchanan of 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 in Cork. Photo: Michael O’Sullivan /OSM PHOTO

Cork Life Centre honoured with Meitheal Mara Gradam

One of Cork’s most cherished education bodies received a special award recently from Meitheal Mara.

For over 20 years, Cork Life Centre has provided second level education to Cork kids who might otherwise fail to complete mainstream education.

As part of their curriculum they provide a broader education to young people, allowing them to explore their own strengths and interests and encouraging them to try new experiences including working with Meitheal Mara.

The Gradam Meitheal Mara was presented to Cork Life Centre last week 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.

Meitheal Mara wanted to highlight 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. For us, this is a celebration of how young people can flourish given the right soil and Meitheal Mara is a rich garden.”

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.”