A 22 years old University graduate from Edinburgh has been crowned the 43rd Mary from Dungloe.
Jemma Ferry took the title at the festival’s crowning cabaret in Co Donegal on Sunday night where i102-104 DJ Dave O’Connor, 26, was on stage to interview the girls.
Wearing a beautiful long nave blue sequence dress, Jemma told Dave how she had a fabulous week with the other fourteen contestants from around the world and the lifelong friends she has made.
“It’s been a fabulous week and a great festival. I’ve been coming to the festival since I was a baby and watched all the Marys on parade every year,” she told host Dave.
Jemma recently graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a MA (Hons) degree in History and Classics. During her time at University, she studied Roman and Greek civilisations in her Classics course and covered many different periods of history. Some of her favourite history courses included 'American History', 'Irish in Scotland since 1800' and 'Early English Modern Witchcraft'.
As her on-stage party piece she played the violin and a piece entitled ‘Mallaig Sprinkling Song’.
When the winner was announced a visibly shocked Jemma was greeted and hugged by the other contestants before last year’s winner Kate Ferguson from Derry crowned her the 43rd Mary from Dungloe.
“I still can’t believe it. I’ve been coming to the festival since I was a little girl and always wanted to be a Mary. It was an amazing experience and all the girls were really lovely. To wear the Edinburgh sash and to be crowned the winner is just fab. When I heard my name I thought I was watching if from afar and asked myself was this really happening to me,” she said.
Her parents Paddy and Fiona, her granny Agnes Brown, sister Orla, brother Patrick and boyfriend Paul Mc Kay rushed on stage to congratulate her.
Singer Daniel O’Donnell was also in the audience cheering on his niece Mags O’Donnell who represented Dublin and he also joined Jemma on stage to congratulate her.
Her dad Paddy said: “I’m really delighted and so proud of Jemma. I thought she was a wonderful Edinburgh Mary all week and she performed so well on stage and we’re all really proud of her.”
Paddy has dedicated 25 years selecting Edinburgh representatives for the festival and said this was a great end to his 25 years.
“This makes it extra special. Years after year we had an Edinburgh Mary at the festival and after 25 years having my own daughter win the title is really so special,” he added.
Show host Dave said: “I was really impressed with all fourteen girls and the judges had a really difficult job. Jemma was a popular choice. She showed her personalities and her talents on stage,” he said.
She was presented with €1,000, Newbridge jewellery and Galway crystal among other prizes and gifts and the 43 years old festival medallion.
Her escort for the weekend was Dublin based Garda Tommy Byrne who said she was a winner from the start. “She is a lovely girl and I’m not at all surprised she took the title,” he said.
This is the third time for Edinburgh to win in the festival’s 43 year history. In 1997 Heather Stewart took the title and ten years later Kerry Sweeney was crowned the winning Mary.
This year’s Little Miss Mary from Dungloe Lara O’Donnell, 8, from Burtonport, Co Donegal was also on stage to greet the winner. Lara is the second in her family to take the title - her big sister Aoife won it in 2000.
“I’m really happy to be the Little Miss and the girls are all really nice. I was on the float with them in the parade and I really liked it,” she said.
Her escort is Joey Donald, 11, from nearby Kincasslagh.
The festival was dogged with bad weather for some of the events but a huge crowd turned out over the last weekend and took part in the festivities.
Co-ordinator Tricia Gallagher said: “We are delighted with the selection. Jemma is a beautiful and personable girl and I’m sure she will be a fantastic ambassador for the festival, for Dungloe and Donegal. The girls were all really great this year,” she said.