DALLAS – Meghan from Dallas is now Mary from Dungloe.
Meghan Davis, 26, a native of Dallas who now lives in Norristown, recently won the Mary from Dungloe title at the 45th annual competition in Ireland.
Of the 10 contestants that advanced to the finals, Davis became just the sixth Irish-American to win. Davis was one of three contestants from the United States – the other seven were from Ireland.
"I was stunned," Davis said when she heard her name announced as the winner. "I really didn't expect it at all."
On the contest's website, the announcement of Davis' crowning stated:
"Meghan charmed the judges and locals with her charming personality and graceful beauty. Congratulations Meghan."
A graduate of the Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins and the Boyer College of Music at Temple University, Davis holds two degrees, in harp and vocal performance and also a master's in vocal performance. She traces her Irish roots to Cork and Mayo counties in Ireland.
Contestants came from across Ireland, London and the U.S. for the international festival that began in 1967.
Davis, daughter of Dwight and Molly Davis of Pioneer Avenue in Dallas, works as a freelance musician and vocalist. She teaches music, plays in an Irish band and sings in a professional church choir.
In 1990, when she was 4 years old, Davis traveled to Ireland for the Mary from Dungloe contest. Her aunt, Julieann Monaghan Gorman of Wilkes-Barre (now living in Connecticut) had won the "Mary of Wilkes-Barre" contest and a group followed her to the international competition. Gorman didn't win, but the trip left a lasting impression on Davis.
"That's when I saw harps for the first time and I knew I wanted to learn how to play one," she said.
And now Davis has come full circle – she has learned to play the harp and she has won the coveted crown that escaped her aunt.
Davis won the Mary from Philadelphia contest to earn her trip to Ireland.
Davis said the criteria to enter the contest included being of Irish descent and showing qualities of kindness and generosity which represent what Mary from Dungloe was like. Beauty counts "to some extent," as does talent, but it's not a requirement.
Contestants don't have to speak or perform, but most do; Davis played the harp and sang "Ave Maria." She was crowned with a Waterford tiara and received other gifts, prizes and 1,000 euros, equivalent to about $1,230.
Davis will return to Ireland next year for the contest, where she will crown her successor. She also is thinking about attending St. Patrick's Day parades in cities like New York.
In addition to her parents, eight other family members and friends traveled to Ireland to watch the contest.
"It was a great experience," Davis said.