An intrepid cyclist is re-tracing the 2,600km route of an 8th-century Irish missionary – all in aid of helping a young Kilkenny man improve his mobility.
Tom Dunne, who rambled on foot around Ireland 15 years ago in aid of Chernobyl children, is making the journey to help raise funds for a new wheelchair minibus for the Camphill Community, Callan, and especially Nicky Langton, a young man who likes to travel, too.
Tom left home in Bray on September 3 and made his way to Aghaboe, Co Laois. It was from there that Saint Fergal, then Abbot of the monastery, set out in 742 on a journey that brought him to Salzburg, Austria, where he became bishop and stayed for 40 years. Fergal’s exact route isn’t known, nor how long the journey took him, but after cycling for more than five weeks through Wales, England, France, Switzerland and into Austria, Tom is getting close to his destination.
There are many echoes to Tom’s trip. St Fergal was one of a number of early Irish Christian leaders who brought the faith to the heart of Europe. And 1,200 years later, it was a medical doctor from Vienna, Dr Karl Konig, who came with a group of Austrian refugees at the start of World War II to found the Camphill Community that dedicated itself to the care and support of children and adults with special needs. Beginning in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, in 1940, Camphill established its first community in Ireland in 1954 and now there are 18 centres in the Republic and four in Northern Ireland.
“My cycle in its own small way aims to continue a long-standing link between Austria and Ireland,” said Tom, who spends a portion of every year as a ski instructor over there. The science graduate has also enjoyed experience in careers from pizza restaurant proprietor to teacher of English. Another coincidence is that on the day after Tom finished his walk around Ireland in 1995, his sister gave birth to his niece, Shauna, who has Down’s Syndrome. Now Shauna has inspired him to make this huge effort for people with special needs. Camphill Callan has an 11-year-old mini-bus that is in serious need of improvement. Nicky Langton, a native of Kilkenny and a full-time wheelchair user, needs a better mode of travel and the community has made that a priority.
So, as Tom is on the final stretch of his journey he is still seeking help to reach his other goal – to gather €5,000 toward an up-graded vehicle for Nicky.
Donations can be made at www.mycharity.ie/event/tom_dunne_cycle and cheques can also be sent to Camphill, The Workhouse, Callan.