Local man sets off from Kilkenny Castle on 32-county vintage tractor run for organ donor awareness

Mary Cody


Mary Cody



Local man sets off from Kilkenny Castle on 32-county vintage tractor run for organ donor awareness

Paul Palmer setting off from Kilkenny Castle

The Mayor of Kilkenny, Cllr. Peter Cleere and European Transplant Games medallist Emma O’Sullivan from Ballyragget were among a large gathering of supporters who turned up at Kilkenny Castle on Saturday (28th July) to mark the start of The Ferguson 20/32 Challenge 2018.

They were bidding farewell to local man, Paul Palmer from Ballyouskill, as he prepared to set out on a 1500 kilometre sole voyage around Ireland on his vintage 1955 Ferguson 20 tractor to raise organ donor awareness. 

Motivated by the plight of a relative who is in organ failure, Paul Palmer committed to increase organ donor awareness and support the Irish Kidney Association by employing his hobby for vintage tractors with this novel initiative which will involve him stopping for photos and distributing organ donor cards in towns and villages along the way. His slow arduous journey will take more than a month to complete on his vintage tractor which travels at a maximum speed of 25km per hour.

Hitched onto the 63-year-old Ferguson 20 tractor is a beautifully crafted wooden wagon which was specially made by Paul with the help of his brothers John and Jimmy and some loyal friends and will provide his nightly accommodation for his self-funded expedition through the 32 counties of Ireland.

The historic Kilkenny Castle offered a magnificent backdrop for Paul’s departure event with his vintage tractor and wagon branded with signage promoting organ donation in situé. Paul was flanked by his loving family including his wife Frances and daughters Rachel, Gemma and Grace. Watching on were most of his 15 siblings and their families as well as friends and supporters including a large contingent from his local village and also some curious onlookers including tourists who just happened upon the event.

Kidney transplant recipient Emma O’Sullivan (nee Walsh), from Paul’s neighbouring village Ballyragget, turned up in team kit wearing her two bronze medals which she won while representing Ireland at the European Transplant and Dialysis Sports Championships in Sardinia, Italy earlier this summer. Also, in attendance were representatives of the Irish Kidney Association, the organisation charged with the promotion and distribution of the donor card in Ireland, including members of its Laois and Kilkenny branches.

Offering some words of encouragement to Paul, Mayor of Kilkenny Cllr. Peter Cleere said, “the Challenge you are undertaking is truly inspirational and I commend you on your decision to help spread organ donor awareness across the 32 counties in such a novel way.”

At the departure event Paul thanked all those people who supported him and offered encouragement including his wife Frances and three daughters, his brothers John and Jimmy and friends Eddie Sherlock, Pat Comerford and Ger Dunphy as well as the Irish Kidney Association for its support. He also acknowledged the OPW and Kilkenny County Council for granting permission for his departure event to commence outside on The Parade and then progress to inside the picturesque Castle grounds before he was finally to set off on his voyage at 1.30pm on Saturday 28th July.

Paul said, “I hope that I can help to make a difference for all those people in organ failure and that by doing this challenge I can inspire people to make the decision to support organ donation which will result in more lives being saved through transplantation. Having seen the impact of kidney failure on a relative and how it impacts on the extended family, my wish is that by helping to spread awareness that I can offer hope to them as well as to the hundreds of families north and south of Ireland with relatives on transplant waiting lists for kidneys, hearts, lungs and livers, that their lives can be transformed through organ donation.”

“As far as I am aware never before has this kind of challenge taken place in Ireland travelling throughout all 32 counties on a vintage tractor.  I hope that my vintage Ferguson 20 will not let me down and the weather is favourable as it doesn’t provide shelter. I’ll be grateful to communities and individuals including farmers and vintage enthusiasts who offer me their hospitality along my journey and I’m confident some will allow me to park up at night on their properties. I’ll be happy to show up at Vintage fairs and other festivals, if invited, should they happen to fall within my route plans.”

Paul’s journey will head south from Kilkenny first and he plans to take in a friend’s wedding in Charleville in Cork on August 2 before he makes his way around the rest of Ireland including Northern Ireland’s six counties in a self-funded expedition before eventually reaching his final destination, his local village Ballyouskill, over a month later.

Paul will be distributing organ donor cards and be photographed in towns and villages he passes through and will share his experiences along the way on social media including the Facebook page, ‘The Ferguson 20/32 Challenge 2018’.

A week before Paul set out on his journey, The Ferguson 20/32 Challenge 2018 was launched at The Wheel Inn in Ballyouskill. At the launch Paul explained, “my passion for vintage tractors was sparked many years ago when my late father bought a 1950 Ferguson which I really enjoyed driving on the family farm.  I was the second last child in a family of 15 siblings and we all had to find our own way in the world and I became a builder, but I kept up my interest in farming, machinery and vintage tractors.  I still enjoy making hay the old fashioned way with my old tractor. By doing so it connects me to the land which is very self-fulfilling and therapeutic”.

“When approaching my 50th birthday I had resolved to doing something worthwhile and to try to make a difference. I was motivated to take on this challenge as I was mindful of the plight of a relative who has been undergoing dialysis treatment while waiting for a kidney transplant.”

Anyone wishing to make a contribution to Paul’s Challenge with proceeds going to the Irish Kidney Association can do so directly to the Irish Kidney Association on Facebook via the following link www.facebook.com/IrishKid neyAssociation/ 

Organ Donor Cards can also be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association tel. 01 6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050. Visit website www.ika.ie/card     You can also indicate your wishes to be an organ donor on your driver’s license which is represented by Code 115.