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“For many people Irish dancing is a simple part of life, but not for us. We are a family at O’Shea Chaplin Academy, and we will always keep a special place in our hearts for Mary and remember her on this day,” said Rita O’Shea through tears.

These words echoed throughout the silent gym of Saugus High School during the presentation of the Open Championships Under 14 awards ceremony at the Irish Heritage Feis on Sunday, June 14.

Rita O’Shea, founder of the O’Shea Chaplin Academy of Irish Dance has maintained an international reputation as an accomplished choreographer, teacher, adjudicator, and examiner for over fifty years.  Lisa Chaplin McAllister, ADCRG, Brenda Crossen Finn, ADCRG, Kathleen Boutin, TCRG; Maura Masterson, TCRG; and Sharon Reidy, TCRG are all former students and champions of Rita’s and have since joined her as teachers. 

The O’Shea Chaplin Academy hosts its annual Irish Heritage Feis during the second weekend in June.     

Mary Lynch O’Sullivan, a former champion dancer of the O’Shea Chaplin Academy, died of cancer last year at age 47. A memorial trophy will honor the winner of this competition every year at the Irish Heritage Feis. Dancing friends and family members of Mary came to the feis to watch this presentation and remember their dear friend and her love for Irish dance.

The winner of this competition was Siobhan Francoeur from the O’Shea Chaplin Academy. Siobhan’s mother, Debbie, danced with Mary under Rita’s instruction. 

“I feel honored to have won this memorial award. The turnout of Mary’s family and friends to the presentation shows how Irish dancing can create a bond that lasts a lifetime,” says Siobhan, who is decked out with bleach blonde curls topped with a bedazzled evergreen headband.

The O’Shea Chaplin Academy fosters Irish culture and heritage while emphasizing the importance of self-esteem, teamwork, friendship, and love for Irish dance. Though many aspects of Irish dance have evolved dramatically, the friendships and bonds remain a constant.