21 years a-growing for daffodil day fundraiser

In 1994, two women raised what was then a phenomenal £360 for a Daffodil Day coffee morning.

21 years a-growing for daffodil day fundraiser

This morning, in the village of Ballyvourney, Co Cork, the 21st anniversary of that charitable fundraiser will be held in the local Abbey Hotel.

Both woman who started the event have since survived breast cancer.

Fionn McSweeney, at the time, enlisted the help of Mary O’Connell whose local pub had been the first venue.

Along with friends, they have since raised thousands for the Irish Cancer Society.

The pair, however, are also bowing out today as organisers of the event. “It would be great to see some new blood taking it over. It’s up and running and there’s not a huge amount of work involved,” says Fionn.

Mary said: “I hardly knew what Fionn had been talking about at the time. What’s a coffee morning? It was unknown then.”

The first day, 21 years ago, made £360 — about €450.

“I think we were surprised. The door kept opening and kept opening,” Fionn says. “Every single year built on the year before.”

“On top of that every year, there was another family struck with cancer,” says Mary. “So you had a whole new group of people coming in to support the cause.”

Over the years the duo have lost friends — people who helped, supported, and donated prizes.

“An awful lot of people are not going to be there for year 21,” Fionn says.

Fionn’s dad had died of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. She picked Daffodil Day for its connotations of spring despite its serious nature.

For a long number of years both women did the baking. “I did all the sweet stuff and Mary did the scones.”

Mary recalls: “You could come for the morning and enjoy the company. There was no emphasis on a collection. It was a coffee morning, a social occasion.”

The fundraiser topped €4,000 at its peak while €3,100 was collected last year. “I felt guilty because the fund wasn’t diminishing in direct proportion to the amount of pressure people were under financially,” Fionn explains.

Shops gave tea bags, sugar, milk, local businesses sent prizes for the raffle, cheque or cash from a whip around. The venue was changed to the local hotel 12 years ago after O’Connells Bar closed.

“It was very homely,” says Mary who came from Inchamore, Coolea. “Women, who didn’t drink a lot in the early days, would get tea and currant cake, on the house. The coffee morning fitted snugly into that ethos.”

Fionn said: “There’s no doubt that having the venue in Mary’s was the makings of it.”

Fionn was diagnosed with cancer in 2009 and on Daffodil Day, that year, was in the middle of chemotherapy.

Last year, on Daffodil Day, Mary was diagnosed. “But here I am today after coming back with a clear sheet,” adds Mary.

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