“Loughmacrory must be the NI Tourist Board’s best kept secret”
“This is Willie Mccarney’s blog today. Willie is inspiring as he takes on one challenge after another for good causes. A proud Lough Man and a gentleman.” Sean Curran, Chairman LCDA.
Run October Diary: Monday, October 23
The weather forecast for today was, once again, dry in the morning, rain in the afternoon. So, Una and I set off bright and early for Loughmacrory, Co Tyrone, the place where I grew up. In 1957, at the age of 19, I won a scholarship to train as a teacher in St Joseph’s, Trench House and headed for Belfast where I still live 60 years later. But, I still call Loughmacrory “Home” and come down to visit relatives as often as I can.
I recall once, before I left Loughmacrory, a stranger stopped me to ask directions. In the course of the conversation he remarked that “Loughmacrory must be the NI Tourist Board’s best kept secret”. He said he had never been in a more beautiful place despite having travelled the world. Now, having spent 16 years myself travelling the world for UNICEF, I have to agree with him.
We had arranged to meet Joey and Patricia who wanted to “walk the Lough” with us. Joey is our cousin and we count him and his wife Patricia amongst our closest friends. On arrival, I suggested that we go for our walk first – there would be time for coffee and a chat afterwards.
Joey then told us that (his uncle) Peter was going to join us. Peter and I are like brothers – inseparable since our first day at primary school when the principal asked me if there was anyone I knew that I would like to sit with. I said: “my cousin, Peter”. We both passed the first ever “11 Plus” and went on to grammar school together, where many of the teachers thought we were brothers, because we were so close. From there we went on to train as teachers. I told Joey I didn’t think it likely that Peter would join us today. Peter had just come through a pretty gruelling few years and, in my view, was not physically fit enough to “walk the Lough”. Peter didn’t agree. He said they were all honoured that I had chosen this as one leg of the “Run October” project. There was no way he was going to let me walk it without him.
Peter and I walked in front, so that we set the pace, reminiscing about old times. I showed Peter where I taught myself to swim by walking out until I was up to my neck in water and beginning to float, then doing the dog-paddle back to shore (Health and Safety how are you). We crossed a river, today in full spate, where I saw my first otter. I pointed out the area where I once came across two baby long-eared owls – I can still picture their beautiful brown eyes. I said that on one occasion, when taking a short-cut through Sir Hugh Stuart’s garden (with his permission) I came across some baby hedgehogs. Peter said he had met Sir Hugh on a number of occasions. Sir Hugh’s son, Nicholas, was in Peter’s class and, one day, Sir Hugh came to speak to Peter. He said he would like Nicholas to attend the religious education classes. Peter was surprised because Sir Hugh was not a Catholic. He advised Sir Hugh that, at that time, he was preparing the class for confirmation. Sir Hugh said he would like his son to attend all classes. Nicholas did exceptionally well and got high marks in a test at the end. He was bitterly disappointed when he learned that it would not be possible for him to be confirmed.
Peter and I were taken by surprise when Una announced that we had completed our scheduled walk. We advised Peter, before setting off, that our usual distance on weekdays was 1 mile. But, because I had already achieved the target of two marathons, he could turn back at any point – distance didn’t matter. None of us imagined that he would be able to walk for 2 miles.
Joey and Patricia invited us back to their house for coffee. A beautiful ending to what had been a memorable “walk the Lough”. Una and I agreed that this was one of the best walks we have had – a beautiful morning and the best of company.
Monday’s Steps 4649 = 3.28 km = 2.04 miles. This brings our running total to 55.98 miles.