Business Irish

Thursday 23 November 2017

Oona Linehan

Tireless charity worker who came up with Ireland's Biggest Coffee Morning, which has raised more than €30m

Every year in September, one of the biggest events in the charity fundraising calendar is held –Ireland's Biggest Coffee Morning. This year – its 21st – it was held on Thursday, September 19. Sadly, a key figure was missing – Oona Linehan, the woman who came up with the concept. After a short illness borne with humour and acceptance, she passed away peacefully at home last Monday.

Throughout her adult life, this stylish and charming woman was passionate about helping others – something that her early life gave little indication of. As her daughter, Pippa Quigley, revealed in her tribute at the funeral service in St Therese's Church, Mount Merrion, last Thursday, in her youth she was something of a tearaway – she was expelled from boarding school at Roscrea three times and was engaged three times before settling on her beloved husband, Stan, who survives her.

She was also passionate about fashion and fast cars, and was in her day one of Ireland's first women rally drivers.

After marriage she had three daughters and in name became a full-time housewife, but immediately began to immerse herself in charitable activities. In the late Sixties and early Seventies she welcomed young, frightened, unmarried pregnant girls who had been shunned by their families into her home, providing love and comfort for them for the duration of their pregnancies.

She lost her eldest daughter, Bethanne, to cancer when she was only nine, a loss she carried for the rest of her life, but she channelled the heartbreak into helping others needing support to care for loved ones wishing to die at home.

She teamed up with Christina Noble when Christina was raising funds to help the street children of Vietnam – two ladies who shared the same passion for helping others, but also an enthusiasm for life and laughter.

During the horrendous aftermath of the crisis in Rwanda, she worked tirelessly to gather children's clothes and shoes, which filled a number of freight containers and made a difference to the lives of thousands. During that time, Oona's home was awash with hundreds of black sacks of donated clothes, and she went through every one to make sure nothing shabby or dirty was sent in the name of the Irish people.

Just over 20 years ago, Oona became involved with the Irish Hospice Foundation – she was voluntary chairperson of the fundraising committee for many years and spent several years on the board of directors. She was the brains behind a number of fundraising activities that all these years later are still annual events. By far and away the most significant is Ireland's Biggest Coffee Morning, Oona's own idea, which she brought to the foundation and nurtured and developed. To date, it has raised more than €30m – a staggering achievement. This was recognised at a ceremony last year marking the event's 20th anniversary at Our Lady's Hospice, Harold's Cross.

All who came in touch with this amazing lady were invigorated by her energy, enthusiasm and sense of fun. A light may have been turned off, but somewhere out there she continues to sparkle.

Oona is survived by her husband, daughters Pippa and Etain, and her five grandchildren, Jack, Charlie, Ben, Beth and Sophie.

Sunday Independent

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