GAISCE, the annual awards bestowed upon young people by the president of Ireland, gets its meaning from the Irish word ‘great achievement’. In Co Carlow this year, there were only two recipients of gold Gaisce medals – Tommy Monahan and Barry Brennan, who are both members of the First Bagenalstown Baden Powell Scouts.
“This truly was a great achievement by Barry and Tommy,” said scout leader Ann O’Halloran.
Ann accompanied the duo to a special awards ceremony that was held in Dublin Castle, at which they were presented with their gold medals by President Michael D Higgins.
“The president was such a gentleman; he made time to meet all the recipients personally,” Ann explained. “It was such a special occasion. You don’t really realise how important the Gaisce Awards are until you’re there.”
Tommy and Barry had to reach personal goals in five categories over a 12-month period to achieve the accolades.
Barry (23), who’s the son of Mary Jo and Joe Brennan from Newtown, Bagenalstown, has been a member of the scouts since he was just six years’ old. To win the medal, he completed a 52-week literacy course with Ann O’Halloran being his mentor. With Jamesy Salter from the BEAM Services Centre as his mentor, where Barry also works, he learnt how to swim and is now so competent that he’s considering entering the Special Olympics competition! Barry, who’s a senior patrol leader with the scouts, spent a week in France with the scouts, while he also went trekking in Carlingford, Co Louth to complete his Gaisce challenges.
Twenty-two-year-old Tommy only joined the scouts six years ago when, according to Ann, “he was a total natural. He took to it straight away”.
The Trinity College student hails from Old Leighlin and is the son of Mary and Michael Monahan. As part of his Gaisce challenge, he took up playing the bass guitar as part of the new skills category and is now playing in a band. He also took up weightlifting and, in the adventure category of the competition, hiked in Canada and walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain.
Only 61 people in the entire country received a Gaisce award, making Tommy and Barry’s achievements all the more special.
To celebrate their win, the Bagenalstown scouts hosted a party last week, during which other scouting awards were bestowed upon the members.