A great idea for raising funds for Cancer Care and Coronary Care took place in Inishowen on Sunday and Monday this week (2nd and 3rd of December).
Early on Sunday morning, a very cold wintry morning I might add, we got up and got ourselves organised for a day out photographing and filming the "The Wile Goose Chase"
Arriving at the tiny hamlet of Glengad just before 12.30 when the walk was to begin, we were met by a small crowd of local people who had turned up to support the walk.
I spoke to one of the organiser, Majella McDaid to find out how it all came about and she told me of two local people who had died at the start of this year, one from cancer and one from a heart attack. The small community was saddened by their loss but instead of wallowing in their sadness they decided to turn it into a positive and the idea for fund raising began.
They ran a barndance, an American Wake and they bought a number of goose eggs, marked each one with a number and then took bets on which would hatch first. Later they sowed corn which would feed the geese and they had a "Corn Cutting Day" where people came to see how corn would have been cut in days gone by ~ no tractor to pull machinery but rather a very fine young carthorse owned by one of the organisers, John McColgan.
The resultant corn did duly feed the hatched geese, all thirty one of them, and they were raised at an old thatched cottage, the property of Majella McDaid. This thatched cottage now serves as a meeting place for the community to decide on their fund raisers and on Sunday there was a lovely smell of burning turf coming from the old chimney stack on the cottage.
The "Wile Goose Chase" (wile being the pronunciation of wild here in Donegal) was taken from old times too when farmers would walk their geese to market (and in some cases, to boats leaving for the UK). A farmer and his dog would walk his flock of geese the many miles into a local town where there was to be a mart and as in those days, the organisers of the "Wile Goose Chase" prepared their geese for the journey by first walking them through some warm tar and then into sand to give them a kind of rough sole on their feet thus ensuring that their feet would not be sore after such a long walk.
I counted 24 geese gathered and ready for the walk and was told the other seven were taking the easy way to Malin and travelling in the back of an old cart which was being pulled by the carthorse and which would walk with the people gathered the four and a half miles to Malin.
The plan was that the geese would be kept overnight in Malin and complete the final stage of their walk the following day (Monday) to be sold at the mart in Carndonagh and all funds from the sale would go into their fundraising pot ~ which up to the weekend totalled some €18,000!
I noticed the geese were all wearing high-viz tubes on their necks ~ something that seemed to annoy some of them if their pulling at it was anything to go by. I asked Majella was that was about and she said it was to do with the "Be Seen, Be Safe" garda and R.S.A. campaign which encourages people to wear high-viz jackets when out walking.
We stayed around in the freezing cold for a while to take pictures and also film a short interview with me and two of the organisers (we will add this to youtube shortly).
Once they had set off we took ourselves off to nearby Culdaff to have lunch ~ and some very much needed warmth ~ in the famous McGrorys. You can read about that lunch HERE.
After a couple of hours we headed over the road to Malin town expecting to be there ahead of the geese and expecting to have to wait around in the cold but were delighted to see they were already there.
On the green in the centre of Malin the geese were enjoying food and water and making much of their arrival back on grass (which geese love) and the addition of feeding & watering. Some of the geese were even attempting, in vain, to get into the water boxes.
There was much flapping of wings and loud "honking" as the geese revelled in their freedom and excited children were running around after them and having photographs taken with them.
The walkers and organisers had mostly all taken themselves off to a local bar where tea and sandwiches awaited but for one of them, John McColgan (jnr) this had to wait as he was left taking care of the carthorse, Dora. The children took the opportunity to be up close to such a big horse and she stood quitely, accepting the tiny hands petting her huge muzzle. I commented on how quiet she was and John confirmed that she is indeed a very docile horse. She had only recently been trained in harness to pull a cart and had taken to it no bother.
It was by now very cold and the rain which had threatened all day but thankfully held off for the walk, began to fall so we took our leave and escaped into the warmth and cover of the car to head back home.
As we were leaving the green in Malin we noticed two people "walking" two tiny ponies out the road and of course, camera every ready, I wanted photos of them. We drove out the road after the girls walking the ponies and asked if I could get photos. They agreed and we pulled over into the carpark beside us to get the pictures.
The ponies are called Barcley and Poncho and were decked out with their Christmas red "reindeer ears" which made them look even cuter than they already are. I asked about the ponies and Bronach McClean (one of their walkers) told me that they are miniature Shetland Ponies and that one is 5 months old and the other 6 months old. Which is roughly the same age as the geese we had just left.
Bronach and her friend Aoife Ferguson (the other girl in charge of the ponies) posed with Barley and Poncho for the photographs and Bronach had a little bother with a rather lively Poncho who seemed to be the naughtier of the two foals, stamping his tiny hoof! (Photographs below the Wile Goose Chase photos below).
So between a "wile goose chase", good food, and Shetland Pony foals we had an unusual but still fun Sunday out here in beautiful Donegal.
UPDATE: The mart. Majella emailed me to tell me that the goose who got the highest bids achieved a remarkable €260.
If you wish to donate to Cancer Care or Coronary Care in Donegal go to the "Wile Goose Chase" facebook page HERE.
(Click on any of the photographs below to enlarge).
A google map below shows you the area of County Donegal we were in.