‘Rector in a Tractor’ visiting all 438 Church of Ireland buildings in 12 days

‘Rector in a Tractor’ Rev. William Orr will set off this Sunday afternoon in a New Holland T7.210 to visit all 438 Church of Ireland buildings in Northern Ireland.

By Joanne Knox
Saturday, 21st May 2022, 10:27 am

Rev Orr, the Rector of St. Mark’s church in Portadown, is taking on the tractor driving challenge to raise awareness and funds for the charity Sands.

Sands Northern Ireland is a volunteer-led group that provides support to bereaved parents.

They provide direct peer support to bereaved parents, work with local healthcare professionals to promote their access to Sands’ materials and training, and they raise awareness about stillbirth and neo-natal death to help break the silence about this tragedy.

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Rev. William Orr receives the New Holland T7.210 from Harry Burke, Burkes of Cornascriebe.

Sands support all bereaved parents who have lost their babies, before, during or shortly after birth.

One of Rev. Orr’s parishioners, Steven Guy, is the network co-ordinator for Sands in Northern Ireland, which prompted the rector to raise awareness of the group.

The ‘Rector in a Tractor’ challenge is just one of many being completed by members of St. Mark’s in the run up to the 200th anniversary of the church in 2026.

Rev. Orr is no stranger to tractors, coming from a farming background.

His family run a dairy farm in Rathfriland where he lends a helping hand whenever he can.

“We use New Hollands on the farm,” Rev. Orr said. “So, I went along to Burkes of Cornascriebe to ask if they would be able to help us out.”

Burkes very kindly agreed to supply Rev. Orr with a New Holland T7.210 for his tractor driving challenge across the province.

Rev. Orr has “driven tractors for years” and is hopeful the journey will be a relatively comfortable one!

“It’s a bit like putting slurry out, returning every half hour to refill. I’ll be stopping at each of the churches I come to, not just driving constantly.

“I will be stopping at every place to take a picture so I will get my legs stretched and some fresh air. It shouldn’t be too bad.”

The rector will be covering the length and breadth of Northern Ireland in 12 days, visiting Armagh, Newry and Warrenpoint during the first leg of his journey on Sunday.

At night, he will be staying in B&Bs or with some of the kind-hearted parishioners who have offered to put him up along the way.

He hopes to finish the journey in Rathfriland on Friday 3 June.

“The money I am raising will be divided, with half going to Sands and half going to St. Mark’s.

“I will be collecting on my way round. I’ve had a sign made with a QR code on it for people to find out more and with information on how to donate if they would like to.

“Of course, I will stop if I see anyone along the way who would like to donate.”

He continued: “I want to say a big thanks to Burkes, and to Patricia who has devised the whole route for me.

“It wouldn’t be possible without Steven, Sands, Burkes and Patricia.”

Members of the church have been extremely supportive and excitement has been building ahead of Sunday’s departure.

They will have a special family service in St. Mark’s, followed by burgers, before waving Rev. Orr off on his mammoth journey in the New Holland.

Parishioners and volunteers from the local Sands groups aim to meet Rev. Orr at as many churches as possible for a quick selfie, which will then be shared on the Sands Northern Ireland Facebook page.