He’s best known in Derry for years of working in the local community, but Fergal Barr admits he’s less well known for being a redhead.
In August of this year Fergal will aim to prove his ‘c-red-entials’ and leave his car keys at home before setting off on a mammoth 300-mile journey on foot from Derry to Crosshaven in Cork.
Crosshaven is the home of the world’s largest Redhead convention, and Fergal is determined that although the convention is taking a break this year, he can make the journey to the spiritual home of the Redheads and in the process, raise €5000 for the Irish Cancer Society.
Last week, he got the backing of Derry’s Mayor, Hillary McClintock, who is supporting his efforts.
Fergal took time to outline his reasons for what he’s described as a “Crazy Charitable Crusade” at the launch of the ‘Redhead300’ at the Guildhall on Thursday past. At the launch, the Mayor extended her gratitude and best wishes to Fergal as he embarks on his journey.
Speaking at the launch, Fergal said: “I’m a big fan of the Irish Red Head Convention – a permanent fixture in my social calendar - and have been going there since 2012 particularly when I discovered that an old friend of mine, whom I hadn’t seen in quite a number of years was indeed the ‘King of the Red Heads.’
“I thought it sounded like a great bit of craic and a chance to catch up with my friend. It proved to be more than that, a wonderful festival, the best little festival on the planet, and many of us just keep coming back - in many ways we have become very much part of the red family. I was a red myself at one point – most people can’t even imagine me with hair if I’m honest never mind red hair!’
“Two years ago it was the 25th anniversary of a fundraising walk I undertook to the Irish Peace Institute in Limerick and so the idea of undertaking another major challenge, while I’m still fit enough to do so came to mind. The convention works hard to raise money for the Irish Cancer Society and somehow a fundraising-walk to support their efforts seemed not only novel but inevitable. And as I always go to the convention it I just thought, why not walk to it instead of driving.”
“Unfortunately, the convention is taking a break this year but that hasn’t deterred Fergal from undertaking the journey. And while it has echoes of his walk to Limerick back in 1990, he is determined to not complete the walk on his own this time.
“I had planned to complete the walk last year which of course would have meant arriving at the start of the convention but I didn’t want to wait another year or two. And yes, I hope that on this occasion I won’t be walking on my own this time. Back in 1990 I was on my own from Strabane onwards and that was at a time when there was no internet, mobile phones, e-mails, etc and I had to make arrangements by letter and sometimes phone on the day of departure from each town just to arrange accommodation. I had no safety plan, no support vehicles and very few people knew I was doing the walk. It was a bit Forrest Gump-esque in many respects. I just organised it and started walking.
“This time will be very different because a team of three will undertake the walk. We’re still recruiting the team so if anyone is interested they can let me know. We also have a support car – locally Richard Turner Cars has kindly agreed to support us. Over the next couple of months all the other necessary measures to support the walk will be put in place.”
The walk commences on Saturday August 5 and will make 13 stops in total including Ballybofey, Donegal, Sligo, Roscommon, Thurles and Cork. Fergal hopes that the aptly-named ‘Redhead300’ will raise at least €5000 for the Irish Cancer Society.
Those who would like to support the walk in any way, by being part of the Walking Team or with things like accommodation, equipment and gear, , marketing, promotion and communication or being part of an Advisory Group that Fergal would like to set up to oversee the walk you can drop a mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find full details at: www.thekingisalive.wixsite.com/redhead300 or like and share the Redhead300 Facebook page.