BY JACKIE KEOGH
A 500k walk along the Beara-Breifne Way by two Australian sisters proved to be a journey of discovery, a tribute to lost loved ones, and a means of raising funds for a cancer charity in their hometown of Queensland.
The historic Beara-Breifne Way runs from the tip of the Beara Peninsula to the Breifne area of Co Leitrim, but these women – Jennifer Rooks (61) and her sister Sue McGann (57) – decided to do it in reverse, because they wanted to finish the journey in their ‘home county.’
Jennifer explained to The Southern Star that her great grandmother Ellen O’Sullivan, a native of Skibbereen, went to Australia in 1879. But that’s not what brought them to Ireland when they first visited two years ago.
‘A friend at home, an O’Sullivan, suggested we visit her relatives, also an O’Sullivan, in Castletownbere,’ said Jennifer. ‘That was the original connection and when we came here, we met clan chieftain, Michael (Ed) O’Sullivan, who suggested we, ‘Walk the walk’.
‘I was thinking “I’m 60. I can’t do that”. But when I went back to Australia I mentioned it to a few people and they all thought it was a good idea. Then my sister, Sue, who is four years younger than me, agreed we’d do it. But we decided there had to be a reason,’ said Jennifer. She said the walk was done in memory of their late brothers, Kerry Charles and Lloyd Charles, as well as their two deceased brothers-in-law, John Rooks and Denis McGann.
Early on, they got in touch with Cancer Queensland and they helped them set up a cancer site. A blog written by the sisters makes for fascinating reading.
At the outset, Jennifer and Sue pledged to raise ,000AUS, but on Monday, the eve of their departure, they confirmed that they had raised more than double that – ,000.
Sue and Jennifer started their journey in Leitrim on June 25th and after averaging 20 or 30k a day, plus some rest days, they arrived in Castletownbere on Monday, July 25th.
‘We completed 15 months training in Australia but nothing could have prepared us for this walk and the hospitality we received,’ Jennifer told The Southern Star. ‘We met some tremendous people along the way. Some people walked with us and helped us with our maps. They even printed them out for us. The last day was the hardest. Three local people came to meet us at Adrigole. I’m sure they took us up some extra hills that we were not prepared for. It was hard but when we came down the other side of Hungry Hill there were people there waiting for us. The reception was fabulous. It was a good way to end the walk.’