Frank Brandon’s Column

How a chance meeting led us to the footprints of a historic walk

Our man Frank on a fascinating chance meeting in the village, the sad passing of Creggs RFC legend Frankie Pettit, and a rare (since the pandemic struck) evening with friends…

 

It’s Sunday morning as I write, and you could be forgiven for thinking that you had been magically transported to the Costa del Sol or the Algarve or some other well-known foreign sunspot. But even though the tar is melting on the road and Factor 30 is hardly strong enough to protect our pasty Irish skin, I was still in Creggs, and heading off early before the heat really gets up to do a few laps of the lovely Rugby Club walk.

As I headed off, my brother Kieran and I noticed a couple sitting on the Mary Lynch memorial bench, but we didn’t pay much attention to them. However, when we finished our laps almost an hour later, we saw they were still there and so we started to have a little chat with them. It transpired that they had travelled from Ennis in Clare to meet up with and morally support a young lady from Cork who had taken it on herself to do the legendary fourteen-day march undertaken by Donal Cam O’Sullivan Beare and 1000 of his supporters way back in 1603.

The 500km walk takes you from the Beara Peninsula in Cork across six mountain ranges, along the banks of the River Shannon, through counties Roscommon and Leitrim, and finishing up in the Co. Cavan village of Blacklion – home now of the famous chef Neven Maguire. However, in the days of the original walk, there was no need for a celebrity chef – food was very scarce, the walk was undertaken in horrific weather conditions, and by the time they made it to Blacklion, only 35 of the original 1000 plus had survived.

Thankfully for Ruth Ni Riada (the girl who had started out on the walk three weeks earlier) things were a bit less difficult, and as she arrived in Creggs her party had swelled to six just for the one day. She was joined by the Ennis couple Ruth and Pat McInerney, Chris McInerney from Kilkishen in East Clare, Margaret McInerney-Riada from Connemara, and Seamus O’Riada, brother of the walker Ruth, who had travelled up from Cork. The couple from Ennis knew my brother, The Rasher (Declan), and we marvelled at the coincidence that the two people they met in Creggs happened to be his brothers. After a little chat they all headed on their merry way.

(Some years ago, I remember Donncha Ó Dúlaing doing the same walk, but of course he did it with cameras in tow and turned it all into a hit television programme).

As to my experience the other day, it was refreshing to meet this lady from Cork. She told me that during lockdown she would often be on her own (like so many people) and used the resulting loneliness and solitude for reflection. Only for accidentally running into us, no one would have known anything at all about her marathon journey. She had no agenda. She was not collecting for charity or doing it for any commercial reasons, but simply doing it because she wanted to, and as I wished her well on the remainder of the trip I have to say I admired her greatly, particularly after the toll my four laps in the early morning sunshine had taken on my aged and aching bones.

I forgot to ask her about any of the logistics of her journey (that’s why I never got a job as a reporter with the People), as to where she used to stay and stuff like that, or even if you can follow her on social media, but in the absence of all that information, at least we know she got as far as Creggs, and hopefully she will make Blacklion this coming week and have a well-deserved meal in the sun outside Neven Maguire’s – she will have more than earned it by then.

 

‘Three cheers for Frankie P’

On Friday evening last, news began to filter through of the death of Frankie Pettit. For all of us who were involved in Creggs Rugby Club since its inception way back in 1974, it truly was the end of an era.

As a fledgling rural club, by 1977 some of our senior players realised that we needed to get some more direction off the field. A number of them headed off to Ballygar to see if Frankie Pettit and Joe Daly would come on board, and to the great delight of all in Creggs both of them said they would. Forty-four years later and it’s true to say that the arrival of both men changed the fortunes of the club. Without their input, the club would not be the highly respected and highly thought of place that it is today.

A few years ago we lost Joe Daly, and this week Frankie has followed him to his eternal reward. It’s fair to say we have lost another true legend and stalwart of our club. For many years after every winning or losing session, we would finish up with the rousing call, ‘Three cheers for Frankie P’. As we say goodbye to him, we know that we’ll never forget him, and for one last time, let’s hear it – ‘Three cheers for Frankie P’.

To Dympna and family, I extend my heartfelt sympathy on your huge loss. May he rest in peace.

 

And finally…

Finally for this week, on last Friday afternoon in the sweltering July  heat, Rachel Morgan (daughter of our next-door neighbours Tommy and Eileen) got married to Thomas Fox in our local church (St. Mary’s, Kilbegnet).

Covid regulations meant that only fifty people could attend the actual reception, but a number of the immediate neighbours, including Carol and myself, stood outside the church so we could see the happy couple as they emerged into the beautiful sunshine. Tommy and Eileen had very kindly organised a socially distanced outdoor garden party for all of us neighbours. We had a lovely, lazy couple of hours, meeting some people we’d barely seen for eighteen months because of Covid, having the chat, and eating some lovely food – and in my case, having some very badly needed liquid refreshments. I have to say it was a really enjoyable afternoon, and in a peculiar way it showed us once again how big of a disaster Covid has been, and how much it has interfered with normal everyday social interaction.

As for Rachel, who looked absolutely stunning, and the very dapper Thomas, all we can do is wish them every health and happiness in their future together, and pray that good fortune follows them always. In the words of an old Irish blessing – ‘May the road always rise to meet you, and may the wind be always at your back’.