Milltown was missing its Rector for a week – the last and windiest week of May – but he wasn’t on holiday. Conall’s sister had signed him up for a fund-raising cycle from Mizen to Malin Head, not the direct route but with lots of windy detours, so that the ride lasted 700 kilometres, about 100 km a day. There were high moments: enjoying an escort of gardai, and a fire brigade escort into two towns, Bundoran and Donegal; arriving in Malin village to a welcome of clapping adults and children let early out of school, with open-air refreshments in the Diamond. But mostly it was tough, dogged pushing with exhausted limbs, freezing feet and a sore, calloused bottom, unthinkable only for the spirit of the group: Ní neart go cur le chéile. Read more
You may remember the wind that week, unrelenting and charged with rain. Some stages were especially demanding: facing into a force 9 gale and lashing rain on the road down the Shannon estuary to Kilrush; climbing the Burren hills on the road to Kinvara; and the last fifty metres up to Malin Head. It was blissful to arrive each evening, for a meal together, a look back on the day and briefing for the morrow, then a night’s sleep in preparation for the off-we-go whistle at 9 a.m. There were no accidents, no casualties; instead, friendships that survived the pain of trying to sleep a couple of feet from somebody with a loud snore.
These 40 volunteers, two thirds of them men, were raising funds to train guide dogs for the blind. Four blind people joined the peleton, riding on tandem bikes behind a different volunteer pilot each day, quite a tricky operation, especially going down a steep hill. Training a single dog costs about €20,000 and several years of carefully gradated stages. The results are life-transforming for blind (and in recent years also for autistic) people. But as always in these sponsored outings, the real difficulty is not tough cycling or mountain-climbing or whatever, but begging the cash from your family and friends and anyone who will back you.
At the end of it all Conall is still short of his target (€1500), so you might like to click the link and contribute.