Feis medals mystery at Nazareth House PS

MEDAL FIND!. . . . Pupils of Nazareth House Primary School pictured with some of the medals discovered concealed in a trophy cabinet at the school yesterday. Some of the find dates back to early Feis Doire Colmcille days with one, inscribed Aileach Feis. Front from left are Claire McElhinney, Finn Curley-Hannaway and Shauna Ennis. Back from left are Molly McShane and Piaras Casey. 0105JM28
MEDAL FIND!. . . . Pupils of Nazareth House Primary School pictured with some of the medals discovered concealed in a trophy cabinet at the school yesterday. Some of the find dates back to early Feis Doire Colmcille days with one, inscribed Aileach Feis. Front from left are Claire McElhinney, Finn Curley-Hannaway and Shauna Ennis. Back from left are Molly McShane and Piaras Casey. 0105JM28

Nazareth House Primary School is well known for its success at various feiseanna throughout the years but a recent discovery at the school has unearthed a feis mystery.

School principal, Paul O’Hea, was making some room in the school’s trophy cabinet for pictures from the school’s recent show, ‘Jungle Book,’ when he found dozens of old medals.

The medals, some of which could be up to 100 years old, appear to be from an old competition known as Feis Ailigh - a feis held annually in Buncrana until the 1960s.

Explaining how he found the medals, Mr O’Hea said: “I was looking through the school’s trophy cabinet and removed an old cloth at the bottom of the cabinet which is used to prop up the trophies and I found all these boxes of medals.

“Most of the medals are printed ‘Feis Ailigh’ and have a picture of Grianan Fort on them.

“There is no other information on them except some of the boxes have the name of a jeweller in Dublin who must have made the medals,” he said.

The principal also said he does not know how old the medals are but added that some appear older than others.

“I also found some old Feis Dhoire Cholmcille medals but they don’t appear to be as old as the Feis Ailigh medals. Some of those appear to be quite old but they are in good condition,” he said.

Mr O’Hea also said he would like to find out more information about the Feis Ailigh competition and the medals.

“At Nazareth House we have had a long association with Feis Dhoire Cholmcille but I had never heard of Feis Ailigh before.

“I’m not sure when it was held or when it finished so it would be interesting if anyone out there had any information on this competition so we could find out more about these medals,” he said.

Feis Dhoire Cholmcille had been held in Derry since 1922 and attracted competitors from across the north west. Many competitors from Derry would also have travelled to Buncrana to take part in Feis Ailigh. Buncrana no longer has a feis competition and the main Inishowen feis is now Feis Domhnaigh, which is held in Carndonagh.

Pat MacCafferty from Feis Dhoire Cholmcille visited the school to look at the medals and said it is an interesting snapshot of feis history. “Nazareth House have a long history at the feis going back to when my father was involved in the 1950s. It was good to see the collections of medals from local feiseanna from Derry, Buncrana, and Strabane. Some of the medals looked quite old,” he said.