Families celebrate winners in 69th Texaco children’s art competition

Youngest entrant ever to win a prize, Neal Gallagher (1) was the star of the presentation

Young children tend to enjoy copying the actions of their older siblings. This was very much the case for Carrickfinn, Co Donegal, brothers Charles and Neal Gallagher, who both scooped prizes in the 69th Texaco Children’s Art Competition.

According to their mother, Orla Gallagher, an art teacher at St Columb’s College in Derry, one-year-old Neal “insisted” on entering the contest after five-year-old Charles completed his painting, entitled “Moo Moo Rua”.

It all worked out in the end. Neal became the youngest entrant to ever claim a prize, third place in the under-six category, and was the star of the prize presentation, proudly showing off his picture which had been framed to go on display at the Morrison Hotel in Dublin.

Charles finished one place ahead of Neal in the same category, with Zoey Kennedy from Ennis Art School taking first prize for her work, “JoJo”.


Lending credence to a theory that artistic ability may be genetic, Jerry Luo, from Dublin 15, came second in the nine to 11 years category and is also the son of an art teacher.

A pupil at Swords International Education, he received his prize for his work “The Lizard”. Jerry previously won certificates of special merit for his entries – alongside his younger sister, Jane.

“I started a long time ago,” Jerry told The Irish Times as his sister nodded in agreement. Their mother, Lan Chen, said she encouraged the children to paint because “they were too active”.

First prize in the category went to 10-year-old Lilia Litwin, a pupil at Gorey Educate Together National School, for “My Self Portrait”. Third prize went to Solange Kawara (11) from Knockanean National School, Ennis, for “The Lonely House”.

The overall winner of the competition was Antrim native Charley Bell, a 16-year old student at Methodist College Belfast, who also took first prize in the senior 16-18 years age category. Her winning work, for which she receives a prize of €1,500, is entitled “Curiosity” and is a detailed portrait study in coloured pencils.

The final adjudicator and chairman of the judging panel, Gary Granville, Professor Emeritus of Education at the National College of Art and Design, described Charley’s artwork as “a most impressive piece and a deserving winner among entries of the highest quality”. No stranger to the competition, Charley won special merit awards in 2020 and 2021.

Charley told The Irish Times she was planning to take art for her A Levels and, maybe, study art in college – all going well.

Amy O’Brien (17), a pupil at Presentation Secondary School, Mitchelstown, Co Cork, who won second prize in the 16-18 years category for “The Bond”. Third prize went to Co Wexford student, Sarah McLoughlin (17), a pupil at Bridgetown College, for “The Points Race”.

In the 14-15 years category, first prize was won by Ailbhe Treacy (14) from St. Mary’s Secondary School, Nenagh, Co Tipperary for “Me And My Mam”. Second prize went to Megan Hogan (15), from Gaelcholáiste Phort Láirge, Ballygunner, for “Emotions Of A Lifetime”. Third prize was won by Alexandra Buzova (15), a pupil at Shimna Integrated College, Newcastle, Co Down, for “Babicka”.

In the 12-13 years category, first prize went to Sabrina Morgan (12) from St. Patrick’s High School, Keady, Co Armagh, for her artwork entitled “Burnt Out”. Second prize was won by Cavan student Lana Gallagher (12) from St. Aidan’s Comprehensive School, Cootehill, for her work entitled “My Grandad Eddie”. Third prize went to Farragh McGeary (13) from St. Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon, Co Tyrone, for her work entitled “Don’t Tell Mom”.

In the seven to eight years category, first prize was won by Emily Acheson (eight) from Gaelscoil Iarfhlatha, Tuam, for her self-portrait. Second prize went to Sara McHugh (seven) from Ennis Art School, for “The Waterfall”, with Mary Kate Conlon (seven) from Scoil Naoimh Éanna, Carrickmacross, taking third with “The Runner”.

In Category G, reserved for entries from young artists of all ages with special needs, first prize was won byJames Moonan (17), a pupil at the Arthouse, Drogheda, for his self-portrait. Second prize went to Emma Comber (17), from Catherine McAuley School, Limerick, for “It’s In The Eyes” while third prize was claimed by Co Tyrone student Katherine Harkness (14), a pupil at Cookstown High School, for “Sunset in Portstewart”.

The Texaco Children’s Art Competition has an unbroken history dating back to 1955. Past winners include artists Graham Knuttel, Robert Ballagh, Bernadette Madden, Dorothy Cross, fashion designer Paul Costelloe and artist and former broadcaster Thelma Mansfield.

Other notable past winners include former minister Ruairí Quinn (a four-time winner); communications consultant and broadcaster Terry Prone; former trade union chief David Begg; actress Jean Anne Crowley; musician Ethna Tinney; Trinity College Professor of Contemporary Irish History Eunan O’Halpin; and the late novelist Clare Boylan.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist