Father and son to embark on 400 mile tractor run

Joe and Paul Molloy getting geared up for their fundraising tractor run
Joe and Paul Molloy getting geared up for their fundraising tractor run

Faced with travelling from Mizen Head in Cork to Malin Head in Donegal, not too many people would choose a standard tractor as the preferred mode of transport but that’s exactly what a farmer and son from Kirley, near Maghera in Co Londonderry intend to do.

Joe Molloy, a beef farmer and his son Paul, a chef and farmer, are undertaking the mammoth three day journey to raise funds for two deserving charities with the overall target of raising £10,000.

What prompted two local farmers to think of such a thing?

Joe is no stranger to fund raising and over the years has collected a significant amount of money in aid of Kilronan Special School in Magherafelt. Perhaps unusually, Joe has no particular connection to the school, but he has always admired the work done by the staff in helping children with all kinds of learning difficulties. His first foray into fund raising for Kilronan was the auctioning of a cow from his own herd with the sale proceeds going entirely to the school but ever since any money he has raised has come from tractor road runs. He decided last year that he’d like to make an extra special effort in 2017 and hit on the ideal of driving his tractor, a 4WD Valtra, the entire length of Ireland. He talked to Paul about the idea who immediately pledged to support his dad and asked if he would consider allocating some of the money to a charity close to Paul’s heart.

The stillbirth and neonatal death charity, Sands, exists to support anyone affected by the death of a baby, to improve the bereavement care received by parents and families, and to influence policy makers and promote research to reduce the number of babies dying. Unfortunately, Paul has had direct experience of the support provided by Sands, having lost his infant son Jack only a few minutes after his birth in 2014. Paul acknowledges the support that Sands provided to him and Jack’s mother Colleen was invaluable at the time, including helping Paul and Colleen to gather special mementos of Jack.

Plans are well advanced at this stage for the epic journey. Thankfully, Joe will not have to drive the tractor to Cork to start the trek. A neighbour and good friend, Paddy Fullerton, has agreed to transport the tractor to Cork on a low loader. The plan is to travel to Cork on 16 March before setting off on the journey on St Patrick’s Day. Why St Patrick’s Day? “It’s the 17th in 2017 – I’ll not forget it!” Joe says with a smile. Joe and Paul intend to travel up the west coast to Donegal, a journey of well over 400 miles. Travelling in a tractor provides its own challenges, not least the need to avoid motorways and the absence of a sat nav!

Joe and Paul have taken a fairly novel approach to fund raising. Virtually every penny raised to date has been on the back of Joe or Paul calling with neighbours, friends and other acquaintances. They have spent the last two months calling at houses and explaining their plans. Joe acknowledges that there is probably even more potential out there to raise more money but he is uncomfortable asking for donations from people who don’t know him or how he operates. It has now got to the stage that whenever Joe calls at a house, the people just hand over the cash without him even having to say why he is there! Will he reach his target of £10,000? Joe smiles and professes to be “quietly confident”. Notwithstanding the direct approach to fundraising, Paul has set up a webpage and anyone wishing to contribute can go to http://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/paul-molloy-3 or can make a donation at Apparo Restaurant, Draperstown where Paul can be found when he’s not farming.

Although Joe has never driven the tractor such a distance from home, he’s no stranger to long hours on the tractor seat. By his own admission, he’d much rather drive the tractor than a car.

What’s been the record journey to date? Another smile from Joe: “One year, we spread slurry for four days and three nights without the tractor ever being switch off!” Looks like the trip from Cork to Donegal won’t be much of a challenge after all!