02 Jul 2022

Longford musician Barbara Dowling completes Lough Ree paddle fundraiser for huge 'Christmas in June' concert

Barbara Dowling reflects on her recent Lough Ree paddle adventure which she undertook to help raise funds for a massive 'Christmas in June' concert she is organising in aid of Brain Tumour Ireland. The concert will take place on June 22, 2022 in the Waterford Institute of Technology Arena. Kerry native Barbara (52), who lives on Saints Island, Newtowncashel is a classical clarinetist and peripatetic woodwind teacher who had the honour of been the first female to serve in the band of the Western Command

It’s done, and what a day, Lough Ree has been conquered by the most ad hoc group of people. Due to inclement weather about to hit the lakes on Saturday September 25, the paddle was brought forward to Sunday 19, the safest window for this challenge.

A 7am start from Lanesboro beckoned. A chilly, calm morning was had with perfect conditions, that allowed us to watch the sun rise with us, as we headed off.

Firstly, I have never laughed as much, ate as little or worked as hard as that day… it was and still is surreal… I genuinely cannot believe what was achieved. Three months training, and the length of Lough Ree was accomplished, all 31.1 km of it!

While being one of the most ludicrous things I’ve ever done, it has added some incredible memories to my medical journey.

Different islands, finding the deepest part of the lake, the choppiest part, dropping the paddle while the others laughed and threatened to leave me there, singing full volume, laughing at everything, stories being told, the rain storm that blew in, the ring cushion for the last stage and the pure and total serenity of a water feature that only the luckiest people have on their doorstep.

This certainly couldn’t have been accomplished without the backbone of a few people. Firstly, David McCormack (Ballymahon), am I glad you were out there with me. Thank you for having faith in me and for joining me, it must have been torturous for you having to go at my pace!

Owen Casey (Newtowncashel) and Mattie Flanagan (Athlone) - best pair of support boats anyone could have. Oisin Dowling (Saints Island) was the co-pilot with Owen where he acted as chief photographer and entertainer.

Nothing was an issue to these men; they were godsends and a massive thank you seems unfitting.

Then there were these two - Chris Hayes and Ger Daly from the Garda Water Unit. “What music do you want Babs?”

“Christmas music of course” was the obvious reply and we sang along to Christmas numbers playing out of the Garda boat, while the rest of the lake population probably thought the world had mixed up its seasons.

As for Paul Dowling (Saints Island), who was our road support, we were fed, watered, minded, loaded up, rigged up and that’s after he’d walked the length of sections of the royal canal during training and had the patience of a saint when I was flustering around the place sorting out different routes and changing them while out on the water. Again thank you doesn’t seem enough.

To those that came in to see us arrive back in Athlone, again a monstrous thank you (sorry we landed earlier than expected!) You made the homecoming special. Friends and family like these are rare and special.

As for everyone else who went out of their way to follow the social media posts about the day’s antics, and those who donated to this amazing organisation, I honestly can’t find the right words again other than say the target was €5,000 and now stands at €6,030. You should all be extremely proud of yourselves.

All expenses for next year’s Christmas in June Concert have been met. Once the official launch date is arranged, you’ll be hearing a lot more about this.

For Brain Tumour Ireland, this is a huge stepping stone for next year’s project and hopefully besides raising money, the shenanigans over paddling has created a huge awareness for people about this incredible charity.

Lastly, “I’m doing a thing”; if anyone even hears me whisper that phrase, a hurl between the two eyes is to be administered!
Thank you everyone.

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