Going the distance in memory of Ricky

April 25th, 2023 7:05 AM

By Emma Connolly

Ricky with his parents and sisters Padraig, Eileen, Claire, Caroline, Rachel and Joanne and friend Jack Swanton at a charity tractor run for Crumlin Children’s Hospital he organised in December 2021 with help from Skibbereen Community School and friends. (Photo: Anne Minihane)

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West Cork teen Ricky Barrett, who made a huge impression on everyone he met during his 17 years, has inspired an epic fundraiser taking place later this month, for a children’s cancer charity called Aoibheann’s Pink Tie

TWO young men are walking from the Viaduct, outside Cork city, to Skibbereen carrying 60lbs on their backs in memory of a beloved West Cork teen and to raise money for a cancer charity.

Henry Vins and Stephen Reilly will embark on the 50-mile trip at midnight on April 29th, and approximately 18 hours later, they plan to arrive in Skibbereen.

Called the 50/60 Challenge, it’s in memory of Ricky Barrett from Lissane, Drimoleague and will raise funds for Aoibheann’s Pink Tie.

Ricky (with his dog Buddy), is remembered as ‘a kind soul that touched the heart of everyone he ever came across.’


Ricky was diagnosed with cancer in 2016, when he was aged 10. He got the all-clear just over a year later after several rounds of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, and for a time life returned to normal, for him, his five older sisters and parents, until he relapsed in November 2018. 

A change in medication in December 2019 allowed him to spend more time on the family farm, cutting several loads of silage, to kit out his Fiat tractor aptly called ‘Precious’ with a new set of tyres, and visit the New Holland factory, among many other things. 

Despite his determination to fight his illness, tragically he passed away on the afternoon of October 14th 2022 at the age of 17. 

His sister Aoife said it was hard to sum her brother up. 

‘He was only 17, yet there weren’t too many people who didn’t know his name. After spending most of his childhood and his teen years battling something he should never have had to, he still managed to put a smile on his face,’ she remembers. 

Ricky’s big love was farming and he was in his element getting stuck into chores. 

‘If the sun had risen, that meant there was work to be done on the farm,’ Aoife recalled. 

‘His “Precious” Fiat was his pride and joy. There wasn’t too many tractor runs where that 70-90 wasn’t seen somewhere in the line-up,’ she said. 

‘He was strong and brave,’ said Aoife. ‘And he could also make you laugh. He was an incredibly hard worker and was always fairly certain about what he wanted. Even with all he had been through, he always wanted to give back to the charities that helped him and at the of 16, when he was in third year in Skibbereen Community School, he successfully organised a tractor run in aid of the oncology ward at Crumlin Children’s Hospital. He may have joked around, but at the end of the day he would have gone above and beyond for his friends and his family.’ 

Henry is Aoife’s boyfriend, and Stephen is his friend. Henry described Ricky as ‘a kind soul that touched the heart of everyone he ever came across.’ 

Aoibheann’s Pink Tie was set up in 2010 by Mick Rochford and Jimmy Norman after the tragic loss of Jimmy’s daughter Aoibheann to cancer, aged eight. During Aoibheann’s year-long battle, the family found little or no financial or practical support for children and their families.

The charity was formed in her memory to provide practical and financial support available to children suffering from cancer and their families.

‘Their services are truly a godsend but nothing runs on water and that’s where we come in,’ said Henry, a civil engineer from Louth. ‘For our weighted march, we’ll be carrying 60lbs which can be compared to six medium-sized bowling balls.’

The pals set an initial target of €5,000 which they’ve already surpassed. 

Stephen ReilFriends Stephen Reilly and Henry Vins training for their weighted march, when they’ll carry the equivalent of six bowling balls on their backs. ly and Henry Vins are embarking on their weighted march carrying the equivalent of six bowling balls on their backs.


‘It’s a reflection of how highly thought of Ricky was,’ remarked Henry. That was also obvious from the 400 tractors that turned out at a recent fundraising tractor run in his memory in Skibbereen. 

‘If anyone would ask him “how are you?”, the answer – no matter how bad he felt – would always be “delighted”, which was the kind of boy Ricky was. He was one of the hardest working teenagers there was and our walk will be part of his legacy,’ said Henry. 

Aoife added: ‘To see the kind of strong young man he was, and to have him as a brother, was and always will be, a privilege.’

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