Belfast schoolgirl Amelia nails all-Ireland Spelling Bee title
A high-flying young Belfast girl is buzzing after being crowned the all-Ireland Spelling Bee winner – even though she'd never even heard one of the words in the competition before.
Amelia McDowell (11) won the grand final of the Eason Spelling Bee in Dublin yesterday.
The St Therese of Lisieux Primary pupil beat competition from more than 1,000 schools to win the title for Ulster.
It was held at the RTE Radio Centre and broadcast live on presenter Ryan Tubridy's 2fm show.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph after stepping off the bus from Dublin yesterday, an excited Amelia expressed her delight.
"It is such an achievement for me," said Amelia, who writes her own short stories and poems, which she hopes to get published.
"I love reading and writing so much, it is great to get this recognition.
"I was a bit nervous but I was delighted to see so many of my school friends and their parents had made the journey down to Dublin to support me – some had even made banners.
"There were a few words that made me a bit nervous, such as 'malapropism', which I had never heard of before.
"But I just took my time and sounded it out... trying to pretend I was reading it in my head."
It has been quite a year for Amelia, who achieved NI's joint highest transfer test score.
She also passed her grade four piano exam and received her school's Writer's Award. And to top it off, RTE 1 is making a documentary about her Spelling Bee journey, to be broadcast on August 31.
Mum Gina said she was extremely proud of her daughter, who starts her first year at Belfast Royal Academy in September.
"Amelia has always loved to read and write," she said. "She is surrounded by books at home.
"I think a love of reading is a gift. At school she is an advanced reader and it has been quite difficult to get books that are challenging but contain suitable material for her age.
"Her teachers have also been a great influence and support." St Therese principal Patricia Reid said: "We are exceptionally proud of Amelia and thrilled at her success.
"Even if she hadn't won, she is still a winner in our eyes. We wish her all the best in her post-primary school."
Talent runs in the family – dad Michael McDowell played policeman Billy in BBC Northern Ireland comedy Give My Head Peace.
Catherine Cahill, brand manager at Eason, said: "Congratulations to Amelia being crowned the 2014 Eason Spelling Bee All-Ireland Champion.
"This year we had over 1000 schools take part, that's one in four schools in Ireland, and the standard has simply been exceptional.
"We can proudly say that this year's competition has exceeded any other year and was the best Spelling Bee competition yet."