Spare a thought for those busy at work over the Christmas

December 24th, 2019 11:50 AM

By Emma Connolly

Rachel Fellows will be working in the injury unit in Bantry Hospital on Christmas Day. (Photo: Andy Gibson)

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Dr Rachel Fellowes, from Aughadown, will be working in the local injury unit in Bantry hospital this Christmas and says it’s a time of year she enjoys being on duty

‘OUR unit is open 8am-7.30pm every day of the year. We have a very democratic roster, and generally nobody takes annual leave on Christmas week, so we try to share duty over the holiday season. This year I am working the weekend before Christmas and up until 7.30pm on Christmas Eve. I will miss out on spending time with my brother and his family who are coming for the weekend, and will have to be extra organised for cooking, as there won’t be much time for preparations on Christmas Eve.

It will be bedtime for my children when I arrive home from work, but there will be time for a story and a cuddle. I frequently work Christmas Day, and then we usually transfer the celebrations to a day when I’m off. My children are aged five, seven and nine, so seeing them opening their presents is an important time for us all, and it’s not good to have to rush it! The kids love to help out with dinner preparations and we go for a big walk in the afternoon.

Apart from missing my family, I actually enjoy working on Christmas Day. There is a very festive atmosphere in the hospital, and the meals are even better than usual! The chef serves scrambled eggs with smoked salmon for breakfast, and Christmas dinner and all the trimmings at lunchtime.

There is always a spirit of camaraderie among colleagues and patients, but this is particularly evident at Christmas. We endeavour to make the day as pleasant as possible for our patients, many of who may be facing a difficult time or missing their families and home comforts. Many of our colleagues are from overseas, and as they cannot be with their folk, they can enjoy the day with their work family.’

Alan Crowley from Castletownshend joined the Defence Forces in 1996 and has 23 years’ service. He is currently serving overseas with the Irish contingent as part of the Kosovo Force (KFOR). This is his seventh mission abroad and he’ll be on duty this Christmas.

‘I AM currently working in the Public Affairs Office at the Kosovo Force Headquarters Camp in Pristine. Christmas Day will actually be quite relaxed and it won’t be a full working day. There will be an opportunity to have Christmas dinner with many members of the other nations deployed to the mission and also, as routine on Christmas Day, we will meet and greet the commander of the Kosovo Force who will of course be visiting troops. There’ll be a chance to contact home for all the Irish personnel of course.

From an Irish perspective, of course we will all gather at some point at the Irish facilities to have a chat amongst ourselves and to be addressed by the senior Irish officer in Camp. During the evening time, the military camp will be adorned with a variety of Christmas decorations and lights and of course, there will be various activities and festivities for the troops, including activities organised or members of the local population kids and schools.

What I’ll miss most will be the genuine Irish Christmas dinner. However, I will be home on leave on December 28th, so they might just have to keep it in the microwave until then!

In the meantime, Happy Christmas to my mother Frances in Castletownshend and father Denis in Skibbereen. Also, quick shout out to all those other members of the Defence Forces from the West Cork area, in particular a fellow Castlehaven man named Lieutenant Colonel Niall Buckley (Irish Air Corps pilot) and family, who I grew up with and also completed my military training with in the Curragh Camp in 1996/1997.’

Cork soldier Sergeant Brendan O’Connell from Cill na Martra is marking his fourth Christmas overseas as part of the BN
UNIFIL (Lebanon)

‘WE are very busy at the moment and will have operational commitments on the day, such as patrolling. But, once our duties are finished, the plan is to have dinner with my platoon. There’s always a great atmosphere overseas on Christmas. The cooks always have an excellent dinner for us and there is a great spirit around the camp.

Of course I will miss my wife Claire the most, and I would also like to say Happy Christmas to all my family and friends at home. See you all in the New Year!’

Mark Maguire from Courtmacsherry is a captain with Maersk Line shipping company, and will be on call 24/7 this Christmas Day but has a pudding brought all the way from West Cork to enjoy on the 26th!

‘I AM the captain of a container vessel which at the moment is sailing between the eastern Mediterranean, Far East and the Middle East.

We will be flat out Christmas Day. We arrive in port in Saudi Arabia at 2am where we will have to discharge and load a few thousand containers before sailing again at 5pm. I’ll be on the bridge from around midnight to berth the vessel. After some formalities with local law enforcement, I’ll be off to my bunk around 4am or 5am for a few hours. Things will kick off again for me at around 3pm as we ready the vessel for sailing. I’m always on call anyway 24/7, so there’s not much time to dwell on things.

Our crew will be working all day so we have postponed our Christmas party until the 26th. That way we’ll be in open sea and everyone can relax and enjoy some part of it without interruption. The Christmas movie will be Die Hard, of course!

Foodwise, we go all out! It’s buffet-style – all you can eat. Turkeys, hams, beef, fish, lobsters, salads, all the trimmings, cake, Christmas puddings (brought from home in my suitcase) – you name it. Our cooks do a brilliant job every year. There’s no booze as it’s a dry ship.

Some will be able to rest for the day after that, others will have watch-keeping duties. The ship doesn’t stop. We have a multinational crew of 24 so we’ll try to cater for everyone. For some here it’s a religious holiday, for others, it’s a break from the norm. When you spend up to nine months straight on a ship, all distractions are welcome.

Home in Courtmacsherry are my wife, my parents and sister and my nephew and niece (who is studying to go to sea too) and my boy Fionn. I’ll see them in March and wish all those at home, abroad and especially those working at sea, a wonderful Christmas.’

Sgt Conor McCarthy is a West Cork native, based in Bandon. He’s on duty on the 25th and 26th, and is urging people to remember the lonely people at this time.

‘WE know well in advance if we’re working for Christmas or not so we’ve plenty of time to plan ahead.

Like everyone else, we’d prefer not to be working, but we’ve signed up to the job so know there’s a good probability of it happening! It comes around to everyone so you have to roll with it.

I’ll be on duty this Christmas Day from noon to 10pm. My wife and I have four kids so Santa will be visiting our house and I’ll  see all of that excitement before I head off and will probably call to see my family as well.

My wife is a nurse and she’s actually on duty as well in Clonakilty Hospital that day. I’ll be gone before she gets home but we’ve lots of family nearby to help out.

My mother-in-law is doing dinner this year and I’ll get to enjoy it at some stage – heated up later that evening, or maybe the next day!

We do have cooking facilities at work and I’ll bring something with me but, to be honest, it’s just another day for us and we’ll carry on with our duties as normal.

There’s lots of us in the same boat on duty in Bandon that day and like every other day of the year, when we come to work we’ve no idea what’s going to happen.

It can be busy but we’d be hopeful that people will enjoy the festivities and enjoy the family day.

We would ask, though, if people can call to the elderly or the vulnerable or those who might be lonely to do so. It would mean a lot to them.’

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