Two Irish teachers have been catapulted to celebrity status in India thanks to a bizarre chain of events involving the Donegal football team and an honourable rickshaw driver.
Elaine O’Leary from Limerick and Annette McGroary from Donegal made primetime news on four TV stations in Bangalore — which has almost double the population of Ireland — last week after their heart-warming encounter with an ordinary, decent rickshaw driver called Mr Nathan.
Two days before Donegal lined out against Tyrone in the Ulster championship last week, the pair took to a shrine in Frasertown armed with some green and gold paraphernalia, hoping to bring luck to Annette’s county team ahead of the clash.
They left their camera along with a homemade Donegal T-shirt behind in a local rickshaw. It may sound like a simple lost and found case but the tale behind their reunion with driver Mr Nathan and the Canon camera was beamed into millions of homes across the southern Indian city last week.
“We were on a day off from our volunteer work here so we went off for the craic, to get a few funny photos and videos in support of the Donegal team who were playing last Sunday,” explained Elaine. “We went around the temples and put Donegal-coloured flowers on the shrines and lit incense.
“Green and gold are the colours of India as well so we were joking that the whole of Bangalore had gone green and gold for Donegal. The rickshaws are also in the Donegal colours and we did a video of the rickshaw driver saying ‘C’mon Donegal’.
“But with all the messing, didn’t Annette leave the camera in the back of the rickshaw... I had the video of the driver and you could see the number plate in it. He was a really nice man and was having a laugh with us. We showed his picture to all the other auto drivers and couldn’t find him.”
The rickshaw driver was also going to great lengths to return the camera to the Irish teachers volunteering with a charity who works with people with disabilities, HIV and leprosy.
“Eventually Annette sent the video to the Frasertown police,” Elaine said.
So when the driver walked into Frasertown police station in Bangalore he was instantly recognised by the detectives.
“The police then tweeted the whole story about the honesty of the driver and how the police connected us. We were on four TV stations. It is priceless. They were very proud of the honesty of the driver. India Independence [day] is coming up and they are all very proud of India at the moment.”
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