Farmers and river rescue volunteers joined forces today, watched by 100 locals, to rescue the now-famous castaway cow Rambling Rose and her little calf Sunday.
It was a rescue of two halves - first Sunday and then Rose were helped back to the mainland.
As the whole country now knows, Rose’s rambles landed her on a tiny deserted island in the middle of Breakey Lough in Co Meath two months ago. When exhaustive searches failed to locate her, famer Sean Kelleher gave up hope of ever seeing her again.
But Rose wasn’t done yet. A neighbour spotted her on the deserted island - so small, it doesn’t even have a name. She had effectively eaten the whole island’s vegetation in a bid to stay alive and had started on tree bark when she was spotted.
Neighbour Kevin Carolan and his three daughters took a boat over to the island to feed her - and discovered Sunday was there too, and thriving.
Today was D-day for reuniting Rose with farmer Sean, and introducing Sunday to life on the mainland.
“It was a great occasion to bring them back onto the mainland,” said Sean, who held Rose’s head as she swam back from her island retreat today.
Kevin and daughters Niamh, Rachel and Orlaith were also involved again, with 14-year-old Niamh recording the occasion in video and pictures for posterity (all pictures and video of today’s rescue used here with Niamh's kind permission).
A number of other locals and 12 members of Meath River Rescue also joined in the effort to reunite Rose with Sean’s 30-strong herd. Today would also mark the first meeting between father and son, as Sunday’s Simmental bull dad was said (by Sean) to be “anxiously awaiting the two”.
“We first harnessed Rose to a tree on the island so we could deal first with the calf,” said Kevin. “(Rose) might have attacked us if we hadn’t.”
Little Sunday’s front legs were tethered and in he went to one of two rescue boats brought along by the volunteers of Meath River Rescue. Minutes later, he was centre of attention across in the mainland.
Then, the rescue team headed back to the island for Rose, now restless and wriggling after she saw Sunday being taken away.
“We managed to usher her down to the water and got some floatation devices around her,” said Kevin.
“Once she was in the water and on her way to the calf, she settled down.”
Farmer Sean was in the boat pulling Rose along by her harness and holding her head, while the floatation devices supported her. After about eight minutes, they reached dry land. Rose lay there for a couple of minutes to recover her breath.
Rambling Rose, still wet from her swim, with calf Sunday by her side.
“Then she stood up, saw the calf and the two ran off up the hill,” said Kevin. “They stopped for a sec and looked back at everyone before walking off. It was lovely.”
*Anyone wishing to celebrate today’s rescue can join the team in The Jolly Old Cross of Cormeen after 9pm tonight.