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Wednesday 24 May 2017

Ash forces Cole to burn up the road

Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

The volcanic crisis proved to be a headache for the majority of down-on-their-luck airline passengers -- but not when you are former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

While tens of thousands of Irish air passengers were left stranded due to the sulphurous cloud, Bertie was taking to the skies.

With a little help from his property developer associates.

Mr Ahern was in the UK for a business meeting in his capacity as a director of Parker Green International last week when the crisis struck.

Although his office had arranged for him to travel home by ferry, Britain's leading property developer company stepped in.

The firm, which has appointed top business and political leaders to help its continued global expansion, booked a helicopter to whisk Mr Ahern back to Dublin.

Mr Ahern was able to fly under the cloud of volcanic ash and make it home safely within a matter of hours.

However, Ireland's King of Jazz, Paddy Cole, was not so lucky. The musician spent a gruelling four-day bus trip getting home after he was stranded in Portugal, where he was on a golfing holiday.

Mr Cole was one of a group of eight Irish golfers, all members at the Knockanally golf club, who had been staying at the San Lorenzo golf club, in Faro, Portugal, when the ash cloud brought flights to a standstill. The musician from Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, then decided to load up his clubs and make the arduous trek home by bus and ferry.

As Mr Cole explains: "We decided to take matters into our own hands and hire a coach last Sunday morning. We left at half seven, then got into Spain that night at 8pm," he said. "We slept for a few hours and then continued on again the next morning across the border and into France.

"We stayed in a hotel that night and the next day boarded the Oscar Wilde ferry from Cherbourg to Rosslare and then got a bus to Dublin from there."

The showband legend said the group kept their spirits up "with jokes and stories" and credited the support along the way and random acts of human kindness for keeping them positive.

"The Joe Duffy Show, ShannonSide Radio and East Coast Radio followed our progress for the entire journey. And little things such as the captain of the Oscar Wilde turning around for 60 delayed passengers who were left at the port really kept us upbeat."

But he said the lowest point came when he was chatting to his grandchildren back home: "I just wanted to get back to my home comforts. I think we'll all be sticking to home soil from now on for our golfing outings," he laughed.

The musician was disappointed to have missed a choir charity night that he had organised but the Paddy Cole and the County Sligo Golf Club Male Voice Choir group event has now been rescheduled to take place on May 14.

Meanwhile, Irishman Willie Walsh, who heads British Airways, has been credited with putting an end to the 'over-reaction' of the authorities to the nightmare volcanic crisis.

The defiant airline chief took to the skies to test the affects of the ash on its aircraft -- effectively defying the blanket ban on flights.

The disruption to flights had been costing airlines worldwide €150m a day.

Sunday Independent

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