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Charity pays tribute to late schoolteacher

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Kathleen Cullen with the inspiration behind her Marathon run in 1984, John Treacy

Kathleen Cullen with the inspiration behind her Marathon run in 1984, John Treacy

Kathleen Cullen with the inspiration behind her Marathon run in 1984, John Treacy

A leading Irish overseas charity will be 'forever grateful' to the remarkable contribution of a retired Rathdangan schoolteacher who was one of the first major supporters to the cause, it's CEO said this week.

Self Help Africa chief executive Ray Jordan described Kathleen Cullen, who died last week, as 'one in a million,' and said that her early support for the charity, co-founded by Hacketstown, Co Carlow priest Fr. Owen Lambert had paved the way for others to follow.

In 1984, Kathleen, inspired by the Los Angeles Olympic Games achievements of John Treacy, undertook her first ever Dublin City Marathon at the age of 49. She raised a staggering £200,000 to support Self Help, a newly formed agriculture-based overseas charity that had been formed to support victims of famine in Ethiopia.

And she rolled back the years when she raised tens of thousands more by reprising her achievement at the Dublin Marathon in 2004. She was 69.

'We will be forever grateful to Kathleen for the support and the faith that she showed in Self Help in those early days. It was an important time in the life of the charity, and her support was hugely valuable,' Mr Jordan said.

Self Help Africa is now one of Ireland's largest overseas development organisations working to support food production in some of the least developed countries in the world. The organisation is the chosen charity of the IFA, and today invests up to €25m annually in its work.

The idea to raise much needed funds for the dire situation over in Ethiopia came about after Fr. Owen Lambert returned from East Africa, making an appeal on behalf of the people over there. Kathleen came up with the suggestion of running the Dublin Marathon. She also described a trip she took to Ethiopia as a 'real eye-opener.'

The morning after she completed the Dublin Marathon in 1984, Kathleen was responsible for bringing 80 children over to Wales by ferry, departing at 8 a.m.

Kathleen was well-travelled and spent time living and teaching in Wales, Dublin, England and the United State, while the Philippines and Brazil are just two other countries benefiting from Self Help Africa that Kathleen also visited.

One of her favourite past-times was hillwalking, and by her own estimation, she had climbed most of the mountains in Ireland.

Kathleen passed away quietly at Dunlavin Nursing Home.

She is survived by her sister Ann and brother Peadar, sisters-in-law, brother-in-law, nephews, nieces, grandnephews, grandnieces, cousins, relatives, neighbours and friends.

She is predeceased by her parents Patrick and Mary, her sisters Brigid and Marion, and her brothers Patrick and Cathal.

Her burial took place on Thursday at Cranerin Cemetery.

Wicklow People