Willie braves elements to uphold Reek Sunday tradition

The Reek Sunday pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick may well have been postponed last weekend. However, Longford man Willie Healy was among those who completed the climb.
For almost fifteen years, Longford man Willie Healy has climbed Croagh Patrick each year, and despite the cancellation of the Reek Sunday Pilgrimage, last Sunday was no different.

For almost fifteen years, Longford man Willie Healy has climbed Croagh Patrick each year, and despite the cancellation of the Reek Sunday Pilgrimage, last Sunday was no different.

Atrocious weather conditions saw the annual Pilgrimage being cancelled for what is thought to be the first time in living memory, but that didn’t deter Mr Healy or the other climbers who took on the challenge despite the warnings.

“It’s always a difficult climb,” Mr Healy told the Leader last Monday, pointing out that older people often do it, while others prefer to undertake the climb barefoot, which he has done himself on a number of occasions.

Mr Healy acknowledged that the weather had caused some issues - the glass panels from the oratory at the mountain’s summit were damaged, among other things - but he remained adamant that the Pilgrimage should not have been cancelled.

“I don’t think anyone has the right to call off an event that’s going on so long,” he stated. “It’s a traditional event, it should be outside the control of other people.

“It’s unique,” he claimed, adding that while it can be dangerous and challenging at times, “it shouldn’t be subject to the normal kind of rules and so on”.

Having taken off at approximately 2pm, Mr Healy revealed that the walk was no more difficult than in previous years. The weather greatly improved as the day went on, he said, but it was quieter on the mountain than it would be on a regular summer’s day.

“It’s like every event, you have to cope with weather situations.

“They either delay a while or they take some action but they don’t cancel it, that’s the way I look at it.”

Describing the annual Pilgrimage as a ‘phenomenon’, Mr Healy concluded by saying, “There has been this growing idea or focus on Croagh Patrick as a kind of outdated, dangerous situation in recent years, so I’m not surprised they took an opportunity to drive the hammer on it [last Sunday].

“It has been building up to this.”