Fond memories were recalled and new memories were made on Sunday 30th July at the McElhinneys Golden Jubilee Banquet for the 50th Annual Mary from Dungloe International Festival.

Marys from past and present reunited in Dungloe at The Waterfront Hotel for a black-tie event to celebrate special moments from the festival over the years.

Festival winners and Dungloe Marys were all guests of honour, and they brought proud family and friends along to remember the golden years.

It was a chance for Marys to catch up and discover where life has taken them since appearing at the festivals as young women. Winners met with their successors to reminisce on the handing over of the crown and many women wore their sashes with pride on the night of nostalgia.

One Mary, Sarah Mulholland, even dusted off the dress she wore in 1994 when she was crowned a winner. It was vintage at its finest and just one of the pieces of memorabilia that girls have cherished from their days in the spotlight.


Sarah Mulholland, Mary from Dungloe 1994, in the dress she wore at her own Crowning Ceremony

Dungloe Mary 1975, Patricia Melly

Throughout the night self-proclaimed ‘Vintage Marys’ recalled wonderful memories from their days in Dungloe, including Celine Powell, the first winner in 1967.

Celine told host Gavin Boyle how she has been returning to Dungloe every year for 50 years to celebrate the festival. One year she said she will never forget was 1969, when she sat up to watch the first moon landing – just one of the many memories she holds dear from Donegal.

The first winner of the Mary From Dungloe title, Celine Powell sharing memories with host Gavin Boyle at The McElhinney’s of Ballybofey Golden Jubilee Banquet at the 50th Mary From Dungloe International Festival at the Waterfront Hotel, Dungloe

Stories of friendship and romance were shared, as well as renditions of songs and poetry. Past Marys proved their talents were still plentiful and their charisma still shined. Gavin Boyle also remarked that their beauty seemed to grow with the years!

1980 Mary from Dungloe Marie Coyle (Glasgow) summed up her experience and that of many Marys as “Having the best of fun with the best of girls.”

Máire McCole, who took the title in 1983, said she felt sentimental about last night’s event. “I’m even prouder now than I was all those years ago,” she said.

Maire McCole, first ‘Dungloe Mary’ title winner in 1983

The 50th Anniversary has brought some wonderful surprises to Dungloe already. Guests witnessed one such historical moment last night when the Emmet Spiceland band took to the stage.

The legendary trio were the inspiration behind the festival when they released the song ‘Mary from Dungloe’ back in 1967, and this week they have reformed for the occasion once more.

Donal, Brian and Mick gave the audience a captivating performance of the legendary song, which prompted many to sing along. The band gave guests a lively taster ahead of their reunion concert tonight (Monday 31st July) in the Waterfront Hotel.

Stunning fireworks lit up the night sky to close the evening, but the many Marys, friends and sponsors stayed to dance the night away to the Cufflinks Band.

The Golden Jubilee Banquet was one stand-out night in the busy schedule of this year’s 14 Marys, as they look ahead to their own Crowning Cabaret.

Photos copyright: Rachel McLaughlin for

2017 Crowning Cabaret Live Broadcast

This special anniversary event will be live broadcast for the first ever time by Donegal Daily, along with Jacksons Media TV. On Sunday August 6th, viewers all over the world can tune in as host Daniel O’Donnell announces the 50th Mary from Dungloe.

You will be able to see the live show online from 8pm (Ireland time) via Donegal Daily’s Facebook page, which can be viewed on your computer, mobile device and streamed on your television via YouTube.


Donegal Daily is also celebrating the anniversary year with an exciting competition!

We are offering readers and viewers a fantastic Irish holiday prize. One lucky winner will enjoy two night stay for two people in three hotels across Ireland with one dinner in each hotel:

  • Skylon Hotel, Dublin
  • Great Southern Hotel, Co. Sligo
  • Waterfront Hotel, Dungloe, Co. Donegal

To add to your three Ireland getaways, we are also giving away €1,000 spending money as part of the package.
That’s six nights away, three meals and €1,000!

All you need to do to enter is answer this question and text in your entry:

In which COUNTY is the Mary from Dungloe held?

To Enter: Text YOUR ANSWER followed by your NAME to 57252 for Republic of Ireland entrants (Texts cost €2), UK and Northern Ireland entrants can Text 88990 (Texts cost £1.50).

The competition lines are now open and you can enter as many times as you wish until 12noon on Monday 7th August.

COMPETITION: Win 6 nights B&B plus €1,000 to celebrate the Mary from Dungloe!