Tribute to Castledaly woman to raise funds for Bóthar

A County Galway widower is commemorating the passing of his late wife by organising a major fundraiser in her memory.

Tom Mulkern and his late wife Mary from Castledaly were staunch supporters of the Irish charity Bóthar - which helps farmers in Africa and other developing countries become self-sufficient - since it was set up in 1991 by Irish farmers.

"We were passionate supporters of the charity which now sends cows, goats, bee hives, etc to Uganda," says Mr Mulhern. "In 1991 we were asked to sell a good in-calf heifer to Gort Lions Club to join a plane load of 70 in-calf heifers going to Uganda. Mary and I decided it would be a better idea to donate the heifer and also get involved in a fundraiser to help with the cost of the flight."

He bought the mother of the heifer, one of the Galway Herd which is one of the best herds in Ireland and the UK, from Robbie Lahiff in Cloone, Gort.

"Robbie's cows did not come cheap, they won every prize at the RDS Spring Show. I bought all I could afford and if I won the Lotto I would have bought the whole lot. The Lions' Club got behind us with a fundraiser.

"I booked the ballroom at Sullivan's Hotel in Gort and Kathy Durcan and her seven piece band - she was at the peak of her career at the time and a big crowd puller. She and her band donated their fee to Bóthar with the band members taking only travel expenses. I also got many of my friends to form a ceili band, the Elm Tree Ceili Band, and they played for free. Johnnie Sullivan said it was the biggest crowd at Sullivan's Hotel in his 25 years as proprietor. The event was a great success and raised €2,000 for Bóthar."

The Mulhern's heifer, Boycastle Princess 64, became the best milking cow on the charity's scheme.

"It went to a really poor widow and her six small children and produced 40 litres of milk a day which was a record. The woman sold the extra milk to pay for the education of her children. They would have died of starvation were it not for Bóthar and the generosity of the many farmers who gave a good in-calf heifer for the benefit of less fortunate people."

Mr Mulhern is now planning to recreate that special fundraising night 27 years later and raise much needed funds for Bóthar. The event, entitled "The Bands Play On for Bóthar" will take place tomorrow (Friday ) night at 8pm at Sullivan's Hotel, Gort. Tickets cost €10 and are available from the hotel (091 ) 631257 ) or Tom Mulhern (086 8752919 ).

"We will have the same two bands, the same venue, and the same four hours of good traditional music and Kathy Durkin's country and Irish band."

Sadly, Mary Mulhern will not be there to lend her support to the event. She passed away in April after a brief illness. Her husband chose the date of the fundraiser (October 19 ) because it was the nearest he could get to her birthday which fell on October 20.

The night will not just be an entertaining event which raises funds for a good cause. Tom also views it as an opportunity for him to publicly acknowledge the woman who helped him survive the loss of their eldest son, Clement, who died in a tractor accident in 1979, who encouraged him to indulge his passion for music, and who farmed alongside him, milking their substantial dairy herd whenever he travelled to the US, Germany, Switzerland, and France with his band.

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