Sunday 30th May 2021 dawned bright and breezy, a perfect day for my rescheduled fundraising walk to Dunmore East on behalf of the local RNLI lifeboat. The plan was simple enough in principle, to walk from Cheekpoint to Dunmore East, but as near to the water as possible. To make it more enjoyable I planned a few stops along the way with friends and acquaintances to learn something of the rich heritage of the area. And so, paying heed to the tides, I departed at a very late hour (for me) of 11.30am. Six hours later we walked into Dunmore East. Here’s a flavour of the trip.
My wife Deena was to provide the vehicle support and she also had some tips for fundraising including a bucket into which people who were minded could deposit a few quid. And although I had my doubts I thought it at least worth a go. Funds had already come in online, as I had planned to go the previous Sunday, but rain had put paid to that idea.
At the Crossroads at Cheekpoint a nice surprise awaited as my younger , bigger, brother Robert had decided he was going to join me. And lo and behold we had only started out and someone (Mrs Jacqui Power) stopped in a car and gave us €10 and then some walkers gave what cash they carried, and some man who follows me on twitter popped €50 into the bucket. Deena was right again!
Deena and her Dad and Mam were waiting at Faithlegg School to step a bit of the road with us, and soon after we met Damien McLellan who was my first organised guest of the day as we walked the Coolbunnia Rd and over the Hurthill/Hurtle/Whortle.
Several others made contributions as we wandered over the Hurthill, which was beautiful under foot and lovely and cool under the trees. As we walked down towards Passage a chap on a bicycle passed and doubled back to give a donation too. We turned off the road to head up over the Hill of Passage, from where we could look across to Ballyhack, where the Church of St James was on the hill. Medieval pilgrimage was an important aspect of local life and to know more check out Damien’s fine blog in History Ireland.
The views were spectacular in the sunshine off the hill, and visibe to the right in the photo below is St. Anne’s (Church of Ireland) Passage East. It was built in 1740’s on the site of an older church founded by the Knights Templar I believe. It was deconsecrated and sold in 1970’s. Now a private residence. I would have loved to have gone down the steps here to Passage and along the strand. But we were keen to go through Crooke.
Next stop was the ruins of Crooke Church and associated castle which has had an amazing history, built by the Knights Templars initially, taken over by the Hospitaller’s and I’m guessing wrecked after the arrival of Cromwell. Its reputedly the burial place of the Croppy boy – Geneva Barracks is only a field or two away. The iconic lancet windows still give a sense of its previous importance.
It was all sand and beach for the next few miles. And it was pleasent walking, as Breda managed to put the dispute about Henry to one side and regale us with stories of the Cockle Pickers, her parents and what it was like growing up in such a beautiful area and also raising her own children on the strand. Almost everyone on the Crooke Road and along the Barrack Strand gave us a donation and the walking was just grand under foot. A mile along we bumped into my sister Kate and her husband Ber and the way was lightened a bit more.
Woodstown Beach was very busy on the day and I’m sure we must have looked a strange bunch to all those children running around and parents cooking BBQs. According to Canon Power from his famous Placenames of the Deises says: Woodstown in Irish is “Tráig Mhílis – “Myles’s Strand” He elsewhere refers to Myles as an unknown but important man, possibly legendary (what I take to mean located in some of the old works like the legends of the four masters etc) As we approached the 12 KM mark, and the heat intensified, I’m not sure anyone was listening to me about Myles. But they were online, because as I went along and posted to Facebook and Twitter people kept on donating. A gentleman out walking the beach stopped us to put money in the bucket and to explain that he always supports the RNLI as they saved his life in the English Channel in 1978. As we approached Knockaveelish or Cnoc Mhílis – Myles’ Hill related to the man we mentioned previously, I was relieved to see Deena approaching, with a cheery wave and a flask of tea. And she also had some extra motivation as the teens and twenty-somethings decided to join in.
At Killea I kneel in the shade of the wall as I try to text ahead to let the troops in Dunmore know that we are nearly there. (The biggest challenge was actually trying to see the phone screen all day with the blinding sun) Apologies and many thanks to the kind lady who came over and asked about my health. I must have looked disheveled 🙂 The poor woman must have thought I was for the graveyard. A few steps down towards the village and Deena again approached us…cheery wave but no tea this time. But at least I knew we had a lift home.
Although the plan was now to meet Conor Donegan in the village to hear about the activities off the coast of Waterford in WWI, the crowds were such that we just had to keep on moving. Although by a lucky chance we happened to bump into the infamous Bob Desmond who told us all about what a wonderful place Cork is. We were delighted to get some shade and a break in the park while Aine Whelan gave us a short talk about the Great Auk, caught off the local coast in 1834. The bird is now preserved in Trinity College and represents the last recorded sighting of this flightless bird in Ireland. The species became extinct when the last known individuals were killed on a small island off Iceland in 1844.
And so into Dunmore and the lifeboat station. Due to Covid we needed to stay outside but it was with a real satisfaction and I must admit a fair bit of relief that we made it. 22 KM over 6 hours, although that included a lot of stops. The bucket had over €400 in it when counted, and online the figure was almost €900 and with the many others that made up Team Dunmore had managed to raise a really impressive €5,800
You can check out the team here. And if you enjoyed this virtual tour you can still contibute for another few hours. May is not over for a few hours yet. Many thanks to everyone who contributed to make the walk such a success, many thanks to all who made donations, who chatted to us along the way, and well done to all my team mates in Team Dunmore East. But ultimately many thanks to the fundraising committee of the Dunmore East RNLI and to the crew who do the real hard work. A walk on a sunny sunday is a meer walk in the park in comparison.
Here’s a few map ideas of the route