The Douglas Hyde Foundation honored Congressman Brendan Boyle; Margaret Molloy, Global Chief Marketing Officer at Siegel+Gale and Founder of #WearingIrish; and John Saunders, CEO of FleishmanHillard and son of famous Irish language author Cathal Ó Sandair. 

On Thursday, November 21, supporters and friends of the Douglas Hyde Foundation gathered for the first time to celebrate the honorees of its inaugural gala.  

Honoree John Saunders and his wife, Jean. Image: David Gannon.

Honoree John Saunders and his wife, Jean. Image: David Gannon.

Founded in 2016, the Douglas Hyde Foundation aims to develop and support programs that realize Hyde’s vision: to promote the revival and use of the Irish language in Ireland, the United States, and throughout the Irish Diaspora.

Honoree Margaret Molloy addressing the crowd. Image: David Gannon.

Honoree Margaret Molloy addressing the crowd. Image: David Gannon.

As such, their first honorees embodied the ideals of Ireland's first president in their enthusiasm for the promotion of the Irish language in the US. Speaking to their own family history and to their hopes for the future Congressman Brendan Boyle; Margaret Molloy, Global Chief Marketing Officer at Siegel+Gale and Founder of #WearingIrish; and John Saunders, CEO of FleishmanHillard and son of famous Irish language author Cathal Ó Sandair, were the much-applauded honorees on the evening, with entertainment provided by the superb Gavan Ring. 

Congressman Brendan Boyle speaking with Conradh na Gaeilge President Dr. Niall Comer. Image: David Gannon.

Congressman Brendan Boyle speaking with Conradh na Gaeilge President Dr. Niall Comer. Image: David Gannon.

Ba IONTACH an phribhléid domsa casadh le Renate Rohlfing i Nua Eabhrac aréir don chéad @hydefound Gala! Oíche den chéad scoth a bhí i gceist! @Cuanbos @CnaG @IseultNiRinn @MargaretMolloy @MRMartists
😁🇮🇪🎉🇺🇲☘️ pic.twitter.com/Mh9YLLNNvm

— Dr Gavan Ring (@GavanRing) November 22, 2019

This was the first such gala to be held by the Douglas Hyde Foundation since its launch in October 2018. 

Douglas Hyde Foundation Project Director Cuan Ó Searadáin. Image: David Gannon.

Douglas Hyde Foundation Project Director Cuan Ó Searadáin. Image: David Gannon.

Dedicated to promoting the cultural vision of Ireland’s first President, the Douglas Hyde Foundation will place a special emphasis on projects that will strengthen the Irish language and deepen the links between the Irish diaspora and Ireland, themes which were central to Hyde’s life.

President of Conradh na Gaeilge Dr. Niall Comer, Congressman Brendan Boyle, and Vice Consul General Eimear Friel. Image: David Gannon.

President of Conradh na Gaeilge Dr. Niall Comer, Congressman Brendan Boyle, and Vice Consul General Eimear Friel. Image: David Gannon.

Born in 1860, the young Douglas Hyde grew up in Roscommon, which was still recovering from the ravages of the Great Famine. His family hoped he would follow in the footsteps of his father and become a clergyman, but Hyde was fascinated by the culture that surrounded him and learned the Irish language from older members of the community. Hyde’s interest in the Irish language, and his conviction that its survival was key to the future of Irish culture set the pattern for his own life and changed the course of Irish history.

The Douglas Hyde Foundation awards. Image: David Gannon.

The Douglas Hyde Foundation awards. Image: David Gannon.

After spending the 1890-91 academic year teaching at the University of New Brunswick in Canada, Hyde visited New York for the first time in June 1891. While in New York he visited an Irish language class in the Bowery, and inspired by the efforts the Irish in New York were making to pass the Irish language on to the next generation, began to plan how the Irish language might be saved in Ireland itself.

Image: David Gannon.

Image: David Gannon.

In July 1893 Hyde was elected the first President of The Gaelic League, Conradh na Gaeilge, which was determined to ensure that the Irish language would continue to be spoken in Ireland. The Gaelic League transformed cultural attitudes in Ireland, winning new respect for the Irish language, encouraging its teaching in schools, promoting the teaching of Irish history, music and dance, and even promoting the economic development of Ireland. The 125th Anniversary of the foundation of the Gaelic League, and its impact on Ireland was celebrated in 2018 as Bliain na Gaeilge.

Ard-Rúnaí Chonradh na Gaeilge Julian De Spáinn. Image: David Gannon.

Ard-Rúnaí Chonradh na Gaeilge Julian De Spáinn. Image: David Gannon.

Douglas Hyde’s leadership of the League was highly successful. He was charismatic public speaker and writer, and championed the cause of the Irish language and Irish culture wherever he went. One of his most remarkable achievements was his triumphant tour of the United States in 1905-06, during which he spoke in over 50 cities, dined with President Theodore Roosevelt twice, returned funds which he had raised in San Francisco to help rebuild the city after the devastating earthquake there, and was celebrated as the unofficial leader of the Irish.

David O'Sullivan (right) Executive Director of the Ireland-U.S. Council presenting the award to John Saunders. Image: David Gannon.

David O'Sullivan (right) Executive Director of the Ireland-U.S. Council presenting the award to John Saunders. Image: David Gannon.

Hyde was appointed the first Professor of modern Irish at the newly established National University of Ireland in 1909, and after the new Irish constitution was ratified in 1937, Hyde was the popular choice to be Ireland’s first president.

At his inauguration, Taoiseach Eamon De Valera addressed Hyde, recognizing the deep significance of the establishment of the Irish presidency:

"Mr. President, on behalf of the Irish nation, on behalf of the living, those who dwell at home as well as our kin beyond on the sea, on behalf also of the dead generations who longed to see this day but have not seen it, I salute you.  You are now our President, our head, freely chosen under our own laws, inheriting the authority and entitled to the respect which the Gaels ever gave to those whom they recognised to be their rightful chiefs, but which for centuries they denied to those whom a foreign law would enforce upon them.  In you we greet the successor of our rightful princes, and in your accession to office, we hail the closing of the breach that has existed since the undoing of our nation at Kinsale."

Honoree and founder of #WearingIrish Margaret Molloy. Image: David Gannon.

Honoree and founder of #WearingIrish Margaret Molloy. Image: David Gannon.

The Douglas Hyde Foundation plans to support projects which will enrich Irish identity across the globe, educate about Irish culture and the Irish Language, secure and promote Irish Language archives, promote Douglas Hyde’s cultural legacy, and help develop Irish Cultural Centers.

Raffle prizes up for grabs from Hyde Whiskey. Image: David Gannon.

Raffle prizes up for grabs from Hyde Whiskey. Image: David Gannon.

In April 2019, the inaugural Douglas Hyde Scholarship was awarded to Aislinn Moloney at the Big Apple Feis to enable her two spend weeks attending Coláiste Aoidh Mhic Bhreifne in Teileann, Co. Donegal. 

You can find more information on the Douglas Hyde Foundation here. 

Honorees John Saunders, Margaret Molloy, and Congressman Brendan Boyle. David Gannon