17 May 2022

WATCH: The day the Lord Mayor of Belfast met the Mayor of Moville

Grace Bannister and Sadie Skelly formed a great friendship following visit

As a woman at the heart of her community, with her community in her heart, Sadie Skelly's year as Mayor of Moville will live long in the memory.

One of its many highlights was the 1981 official visit of the first female Lord Mayor of Belfast, Grace Bannister, to Moville at Sadie's invitation.

Herself the first female Mayor of Moville, Sadie (née McColgan) extended the invitation to Grace and her husband, Jack, when she learned they were coming to Inishowen for the wedding of their nephew, Trevor Bannister, and local woman, Ann Killen.

Sadie and Grace formed a great friendship following their initial meeting and Sadie subsequently led a delegation of Donegal dignitaries on a reciprocal visit to Belfast City Hall, at Grace's invitation. It included business people and representatives of the then Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal Tourist Board.

Grace Bannister served as Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast in 1975 to 1976. In 1979, she was appointed High Sheriff of Belfast and in 1981, she was elected as the first female Lord Mayor of Belfast, beating Paddy Devlin and Stewart McCrea.

Recalling her Mayoralty with a smile, Sadie said her catchy election slogan had been, 'Vote for the only mare in the race', as the other five candidates in the election had been men.

She said: “The Mayor of Moville was a fundraiser and the groups I raised money for were the local football club and Care of the Aged.”

However, long before she became Mayor of Moville, Sadie began her working life by attending the first catering college in the Great Northern Hotel in Bundoran. Following that, she went to London to work as a bus conductor on London Bus.

When she returned home to Moville, Sadie worked in Keaveney's Hotel, the Fort Hotel, the New Park Hotel and the Strand Hotel, before she retired.

Sadie said: “On the morning of Grace and Jack's visit to Moville, a group of people met her at Muff and we had a cavalcade down to Moville, where she met members of the football club and Care of the Aged down at the Caiseal Mara Hotel. It would have been McNamara's Hotel at the time.

“The owner, Michael McNamara, was in some of the photographs which my son Donal posted on Facebook recently. Brendan and Agnes Keaveney were also in the photographs. Brendan was a member of the Tourist Board as well as being a hotelier. Also in the same photograph were Rodger and Greta Rawdon.

“Rodger would have organised all of the horse racing in Moville years ago, as well as vintage car rallies. Raymond and Jean Boyce, the owners of the New Park Hotel, were also there to meet Grace and Jack.

“Before Ann and Trevor's Wedding, we took Grace and Jack down to the Fort Hotel in Greencastle, where the owner, Brendan Keaveney, gave them a tour of the Fort and told them all about the history of the area. It was a great day all in all.”

Sadie's community involvement continued on long after her year as Mayor of Moville. In later years she was involved in the Friends of Letterkenny Hospital.

She added: “As my year as Mayor was coming to a close, I organised a dance, which raised money for the Moville Youth Football Club.

“Fr Tom O'Gara, who was the Curate in the Parish at that time, founded that club. Fr O'Gara was Involved in Youth Club.

“He started up Moville Youth Football Club to give boys who came up through the youth club the chance to play. The team won the League and all, but, unfortunately, it disbanded in later years when Fr O'Gara died.”

However, Sadie's love of sport was passed down to her family. Her sons Donal and Liam and their families are very much involved in soccer and football to this very day.

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