A VERY Happy New Year to one and all, and hopefully you had a great Christmas, and behaved well.
The start of 2022 was a busy one for the sporting side of Fingal as we had two totally different fund-raising ideas on the one day.
The first saw a second part of the traditional Christmas Day swim, when bike fan Holly Smith braved the chilly seas in Loughshinny to raise much-needed funds for the MCI (Motor Cycling Ireland) medical team, and the second saw the Loughshinny Motor Cycle Supporters Club play a big part in the ‘Keep Her Lit For Lar’ charity run.
Sunday December 29th 2019 saw one of the most innovative charity efforts in Fingal, when a number of local clubs and businesses got together to organise the “Fionn’s Parade of Lights” that was a resounding success, in memory of a young Fionn Anderson from Balrothery.
The event raised well over €40,000, and it saw the people of the towns that the cavalcade passed through, turn out in their droves to support the event.
In all more than 200 vehicles took part, with tractors, trucks, motorbikes and cars, decorated in lights, and it was a sight to behold.
There has been an awful lot of water under the bridge since then, for so many people who have suffered during the pandemic that struck the world since the end of 2019, but for the McGuinness family from Rush it was also a terrible time.
Rolling back the clock to 2019, to the parade, well-known Rush farmer Laurence “Lar” McGuinness stood at Loughshinny Cross watching the spectacle pass, and at the same time he was in the middle of chemo after being diagnosed with cancer, but the then 43-year-old faced the battle head on, and was determined to get through it with the help of his wife Maeve and their children.
Lar was one that realised in his short life the importance of help and charity, and after losing a close friend to suicide his family thought that the parade that raised all the valuable money a few years ago would be a great way to bring the farming community that Lar was such an important part of, together, and in the process raise more valuable money for charity, and also be a fitting tribute to him.
The McGuinness family sought the help of the organisers of the original run, and they decided to have another run, and dedicate it with the slogan that Laurence was so fond of, “Keep Her Lit For Lar”.
I arrived at the entrance to Country Crest, and I was blown away with the turnout that I could see, and there was also an awful lot of vehicles down the road in the heart of the Country Crest, as well as the Man O War GAA Club.
I caught up with one of the main organisers and spokesperson Shane Garry who said: “There are four charities to benefit from the run, and they are Laura Lynn, Aoife’s Clown Doctors, Friends of St.Lukes, and an organisation that was special to Lar - Skerries Youth Support Services, that also covers Balbriggan, Rush and Lusk areas.
“The event was coordinated with the help of the McGuinness family, along with the Hoey family from Country Crest, the Man O War GAA Club, Fingal County Council, the Loughshinny MCSC, FBD Insurance, Macra na Feirme, An Garda Siochana and other local organisations.
“We also have the Marshalls that are supplied by each of the towns the parade passes through, as well as the bucket collectors, who are also vital to the success of the day.
“Already we have surpassed the total that we got from the original event, and before we started today, we had over €40,000, so we will definitely see a good payout for all the charities, and you can see for yourself the massive turnout, which is great.
“I will be leading about five minutes ahead of the parade with Garda support, just in case there is any problem and we need to divert, but the actual parade will be led by Maeve McGuinness, the wife of the late Lar, on her tractor.”
I caught up with Maeve McGuinness as she prepared her powerful Fendt tractor, which was adorned with thousands of sparkling lights, and she was looking forward to the event.
“Laurence watched the event two years ago, and really loved it. Just two weeks after his funeral, his brothers said we will have to organise a tractor run or something like that in his memory.
“Patrick and Johnny were talking to Aidan, and they in turn got in contact with Michael Hoey, and the Hoey family have been absolutely brilliant. From there a committee was set up and that was it until today.
“Being originally from Kilkenny where we were dairy and sheep farmers, we would have had one tractor, and one trailer, and that was it, so when I started going out with Laurence I was coming in with four or five, and what we would call gentlemen farmers, but I discovered there was nothing gentlemanly with that type of work, with potatoes, grain and strawberries. Ah man, it was a different world.
“We only got married in October 2015, but we met in 2006 at a clay pigeon shoot in Courtlough, so that’s where it all started. We are lucky to have three beautiful children. They are Caoimhe who is 12, Dareon and she is 10, and we have Aideen who is two.
“We were told when Lar started treatment in June 2017 that our family was complete, and while it normally is during treatment, he was like “King of the Jungle” when we found out that I was pregnant, as he was off treatment for six months at the time.”
I asked Maeve what were her thoughts on the event, and was she proud of the turnout.
“Its brilliant, the whole McGuinness family, neighbours, and the farming community of Lusk, Rush, and all the local area, and to be honest we are blown away with the response, of help, donations, people giving up their time, and to see the turnout here is just fantastic.
“We hope that during this terrible times that we are having as a country and community, that the people will turn out to show their support.
“With the money that is in already, it is amazing to see the charities benefit from this, especially St Lukes, and for the Skerries Youth services that was so close to Lar’s heart, it will be special, and if we can get to €50,000, wouldn’t that be great.”
Well, Maeve led off the parade along with other members of the McGuinness family, and as I watched it leave Country Crest you could still see the lights leaving the yard of the famous local company, over an hour after it started.
“I skipped down to the ‘Ladies Stairs’ to watch it snaking its way from Skerries towards us, and the large crowd that had assembled there were excited to see it weave its way towards us. On its arrival the excited sounds of those watching, the blowing of tractor horns, and the loud air horns of the trucks, blended in with the chilly January start to the new year.
There was great support from local hauliers as well, including the Bentley family from Lusk, Jones Transport in Rush, Caffrey International from Ashbourne, and Hendricks European.
There were a selection of motorbikes, campers, and even The Stig got in on the act.
The run finished back in the Man O War, and with the adherence to the current Covid restrictions, the raffle and the winners of the various awards were announced via a live Facebook presentation, that also announced the raffle winners. There were over 50 of them, and these results are also on the page.
The winners of the various categories were as follows:
Best Vintage Tractor Thomas Bertram, Best Tractor Gerard Hartford, Best Motorcycle Garry Moran, Best Classic Car Noel Ruigrock, Best Truck Noel Bertram, and the best Fancy Dress went to Jim Faulkner.
The whole organisation of the event was a credit to those involved, and it was plain to see from the turnout, the respect that they had gained from their previous efforts in 2019.
There were almost 600 vehicles signed on to take part, and as we go to print there is over €100,000 already donated, which is just amazing, and donations are still coming in.
The Idonate page will be open until the end of January, and donations can be made at www.idonate.ie/KeepHerLitForLar.
Take a bow guys, you deserve it.