Newry’s Greatest named

March 3, 2014

A packed and excited City Hall audience of more than 400 voters has decided Newry’s Greatest historical icon. Whilst listening intently to the presentations of seven local historians and using the very latest handheld electronic polling device to ensure fairness and balance, the public of Newry gave 17.5% of the vote to ‘The Russell Sisters”.

The Russells were three sisters from Killowen , Rostrevor, who entered the Sisters of Mercy in the 1850’s. Each of them rose to the highest positions in the order and founded between them virtually every primary school in the Newry area, as well as homes for the destitute.

The youngest, Mother Baptist, at the age of 25 was sent out to ‘Gold Rush’ California in 1854 as the superior of five other nuns. Over the following 43 years she established schools, hospitals, and refuges for women all over Northern California. A modern day icon of education, Sister Perpetua McArdle delivered the winning line among all seven presentations when she asked, “ Can anyone name any other Newry person who has a statue outside any State Capitol in the entire world?” Mother Baptist has a place of honour in bronze at the entrance to the State Capitol in Sacramento.

Speaking after the event, Sister Perpetua said, “There were no winners and no runners-up, there were seven wonderful stories told in quick succession by myself and my able colleagues. Everyone cooperated in preparing each other’s slide shows and rehearsing timings. The event went like clockwork.”

Brian Savage, the popular newsagent of Monaghan Street, said “The large crowd was entertained and educated and delighted. The whole event was a credit to the organisers and it was great to see that it was all done for the benefit of the Syrian refugees.”

£4,500 was raised for CONCERN Worldwide to assist the plight of the Syrian refugees at the event held on Friday 28th February.

The full programme of subjects and speakers were:

Fionn Mac Gorman 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 & 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, Sportsman championed by Donal O’Hanlon.

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. It is of course hoped that the event will be emulated by other areas in Northern Ireland.

An extra bonus was that one of Newry’s living greatest, Mr Paddy Maguinnes, now retired from CONCERN, gave an uplifting, informative and inspiring speech on his work around the world for the hungry and distressed.

For further information please contact Michael McKeown on 078 8050 4569 or Donal O’Hanlon on 077 3669 91889