A Belfast man has embarked on an ‘unlikely pilgrimage’ in memory of his wife, a former teacher at Greenisland Primary School.
Dermot Breen began a fundraising walk earlier this month in an effort to raise funds for Cancer Research UK.
Perhaps I could honour Jacqui’s memory and help save others by walking further than Harold FryDermot Breen
His wife Jacqui, who taught at the Carrick school for 25 years, passed away in January following a courageous battle with the disease.
Dermot will be following a 627-mile route along the Ulster Way in a fundraising venture inspired by a well-known novel.
“Jacqui and I loved the book ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ by Rachel Joyce, which we both read a couple of years ago before Jacqui was diagnosed with cancer,” he said.
“In the book, the main character sets off unexpectedly one morning to walk a distance of 627 miles to visit an old colleague who is terminally ill with cancer. It sounds depressing, but it is ultimately an uplifting story.
“Last Christmas I give Jacqui a copy of the book’s sequel. It turned out to be the most inappropriate choice of present in the history of mankind as it was largely set in a hospice! Thankfully she didn’t mind too much. What she did love were the words that I had written inside the cover of the book: “I would walk even further than Harold Fry if I thought it could save you”. She knew that I was never a great walker and our walks together were always shorter than she would have liked because I generally ran out of steam much sooner than she did. So she really appreciated the sentiment behind my words.”
Unfortunately, there was no saving Jacqui, and she passed away just a few weeks after Christmas on January 18, 2015. “However, a seed was planted in my head,” Dermot added. “Perhaps I could honour Jacqui’s memory and help save others by walking further than Harold Fry. When I began looking at possible walking routes in Northern Ireland, I couldn’t quite believe it when I discovered that the complete Ulster Way route is actually 625 miles long! The decision was made for me in an instant.
“The challenge I have set for myself is to walk the entire Ulster Way, but starting and finishing at Greenisland Primary School. This will add about 5 miles on to the route thus ensuring that I will have walked even further than the fictional Harold Fry! I plan to walk an average of about 15 miles a day and so it will take around 40 days to complete the entire route. However, it simply won’t be possible for me to devote 40 consecutive days to the challenge, so instead, I intend to complete it in blocks over the summer.”
Having begun his walk on June 12, Dermot hopes to complete the venture by early September. “My objective is to raise as much money as possible to support the fight against the awful disease that is cancer,” he said.
“It turns out that 625 miles actually equates to 1,000 kilometres, so my challenge has become 1,000 kilometres for Jacqui, or ‘1000K4J’ for short.”
Visit www.facebook.com/1000k4j to see regular updates on the progress of the walk or for details of how to donate.