AFTER being twice postponed by the pandemic, a convoy of 17 tractors was revving to hit the road from Mizen to Malin to raise funds for charity.
Travelling at speeds of not more than 20km/ph, the tractors – eight of which were driven by West Cork men and the rest by vintage tractor enthusiasts from a Meath club – covered the 669km in four days and raised more than €140,000 for Temple Street Children’s Hospital and the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust.
The West Cork group were responsible for generating an impressive €81,392.56 of that.
Leap man and participant Diarmuid French said the ‘Long Way Home Vintage Run’ experience had been ‘unbelievable.’
And he pointed out that incredibly, not even a single puncture was experienced by any of them over the four-day trip.
‘There wasn’t a dry eye to be seen when we reached Malin Head,’ Diarmuid admitted. ‘Grown men were just so emotional to have achieved it and it’s only now that we’re back home, and have it done, that we realise how big an undertaking it really was.’
Diarmuid, who owns a garage in Leap, is a big vintage tractor enthusiast and was contacted by fellow enthusiasts from Meath back in 2019.
‘We started talking about the trip then, and were ready to go in June 2020 and again in 2021,’ he said.
When they finally hit the road last week they were blown away by people’s generosity, Diarmuid said.
‘People were literally throwing money out their car windows at us, and we had our diesel sponsored for two legs of the trip as well.
‘We travelled from 6am to 6pm over the four days, and each driver had his own relief driver to avoid fatigue. Most of the tractors date from the 1960s and only two of them had cabs but luckily we had glorious sunshine for most of the way,’ he said.
Two trucks supplied by Tony O’Mahony, Bandon were waiting for them in Malin Head to bring them back home.
The West Cork team comprised Diarmuid, his brother James, Ciarán French (son of James) and Diarmuid’s father-in-law Denis O’Neill from Rosscarbery on David Brown tractors.
Paddy Ryan of Ballinascarthy drove his 1959 David Brown 950 and shared the driving with Timmy McCarthy from Skibbereen.
Michael Ryan shared driving duties with Joe Newman, Ballydehob aboard a David Brown 990, built in 1964. Denis Ryan and his son Paul shared the duties of driving on their David Brown 996, built in 1977.
Conor O’Sullivan from Clonakilty drove his 1964 Fordson Super Major and Ring native, Don Coakley, was his co-driver.
John Fleming of Butlerstown travelled with Eoin Hourihane and Innishannon’s Martin McCarthy made the trip on his Ford 4610 with Pat Kennedy.
This isn’t the first big tractor run Diarmuid has done. In 2017 he did a non-stop 500km run in 24 hours for the Air Ambulance, and another big run to Wales three years ago.
‘I just get great enjoyment from doing up something that’s past its sell-by date, taking it out on a run, and helping others at the same time,’ he said.
Diarmuid extended a special thanks to Gearóid Holland who helped promote the campaign, and said they’re already busy planning another run for next year.