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The Venue

28 June 2018

David Puttnam, Mary Nally & Jim Callery honoured by RDS

RDS Honorary Life Membership awarded to film producer David Puttnam, Third Age Founder Mary Nally and founder of Strokestown Park Jim Callery at a ceremony in Ballsbridge

Digital champion Lord Puttnam, founder of the charity Third Age Ireland, Mary Nally, and Jim Callery of Strokestown Park and National Famine Museum, were all recognised for having a significant impact on Irish society at a ceremony in the RDS today (Thursday June 28) at which they were awarded Honorary Life Membership of the RDS. The three recipients follow in the footsteps of Peter Sutherland, Seamus Heaney, Martin McAleese, Catherine Day and many more who have been recognised with this award.

RDS Honorary Life Membership honours persons of distinction who have made a significant contribution to Ireland, over and above their normal employment.

RDS Honorary Life Memberships were presented by RDS President Bernie Brennan.


Film producer, digital champion, education advocate and climate change campaigner are just some of the titles that can be given to Lord David Puttnam, who has lived in Skibbereen for almost 30 years. Following a successful career in film, he has given time to UNICEF; the World Wildlife Fund; and a range of museums and galleries, including the Science Museum.

In 2012, he was appointed as Ireland’s Digital Champion contributing to the development and implementation of the Government’s National Digital Strategy and the introduction of the School’s Digital Champion Programme. He is also dedicated to the digitisation of rural communities, having been closely involved in founding The Ludgate Hub in Skibbereen.

His work in the House of Lords has focused on Education, the Media, Climate Change and most recently Brexit where he has been championing the cause of the 80% of young people who voted to remain.


Jim Callery is responsible for the unique position and the restoration of Strokestown House which he acquired in 1976. Jim has invested millions of his own money, along with help from European Union funds, in the conservation of the house, preservation, cataloguing and exhibiting over 50,000 documents, refurbishment of many artefacts and restoration of the grounds and entrances. Many of the documents found in the house relate to the plight of communities at the time of the Famine, which was the catalyst for the establishment of the National Famine Museum by Jim in 1994. Strokestown House and the National Famine Museum was for 35 years been almost entirely funded by private philanthropy before being operated by the Irish Heritage Trust.

In May 2017, Jim was awarded Europe’s top honour in the heritage field – a prestigious European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra Award for the “restoration and establishment of the world-renowned National Famine Museum & Archive which has been the largest act of private philanthropy for cultural heritage in the history of modern Ireland”.


Mary Nally founded Third Age Ireland 30 years ago benefitting thousands of older people annually throughout Ireland. Today it has over 3,200 volunteers working variously as listeners, tutors, IT facilitators and befrienders. In 1997, Mary set up the Senior Help Line, Ireland’s only telephone listening service for older people, provided by trained older volunteers. This model was so successful that Esther Rantzen established Silver Line UK working from the same blueprint.

By 2006, it was becoming clear that large inward migration was creating tensions and new issues of isolation in both rural and urban communities in Ireland. Third Age responded by advertising free classes in conversational English available at its centre. Exceeding all expectations, there are now 107 branches throughout Ireland with over 1000 tutors offering classes to thousands of students from over 60 countries worldwide.

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