GALWAY barman Colm Farrell, known affectionately by friends as The Hazzard, has recently embarked on a fundraising journey that will see him walk 5,000 miles through 86 counties, from the Northernmost tip of Scotland to Lands End, in aid of anti-suicide charity Console UK and Ireland.
The likeable Tuam native, who has himself lost several friends to suicide, is on a mission to raise awareness of the issue. On Monday July 22 he set off from Caithness, at the very tip of Scotland, with nothing but a rucksack with clothes inside, a Galaxy tablet which was donated to him for his travels and a mobile phone.
This is Colm’s third walking adventure; back in 2011 he spent 85 days walking through the 26 counties and raised several thousand euro for Pieta House, the Centre for Prevention of Self Harm and Suicide, and in November 2012 he headed off on a 32 county walk which finished in March 2013.
The 46 year old will make his way down to Wales and then across into the English Counties, and reckons that it will take him around 11 months to complete. Walking an average of 15-20 miles a day in all kinds of weather, he is relying on the kindness of strangers for food and accommodation.
Attempting to reach a town or village by evening before dark, he then settles himself in a bar or cafe and sends out an alert on social media that he is looking for a bed for the night. As well as the power of social networks, word-of-mouth means his request generally spreads like wildfire. It’s Day 16, and so far Colm has only had to pitch up his tent once.
Speaking from Keith in Scotland, he said: “From about 6pm, my Twitter account goes crazy. Sometimes I get an offer of a bed within an hour, sometimes it takes six hours, but I always get one in the end.”
Asked how he thinks he’ll cope during the cold winter months ahead, he said: “Ah, I’ve walked through the winter in Ireland before, so if I can do it there, I can do it here! Sure I’ve started now, I can’t go back, can I?!”
Colm wants to spread his message in the UK as well: “Suicide, particularly in younger men, is a huge problem in Britain as well as Ireland. You have thousands of people in the UK committing suicide every year. The problem is also bigger than it seems, because certain cases, such as people who have drowned or been found at the bottom of a mountain, go down as ‘misadventure’ when in many cases it’s not.”
Colm remembers one house he stayed at last year during his walk around Ireland: “I was talking about my walk to this lovely couple who had put me up for the night, and they said ‘Do youwant to hear our story?’ It was heartbreaking. It transpired that three of their children had taken their own lives.”
He added: “Console does a great job in Ireland in Ireland for people who are self=harming and considering suicide. They’re now in London and are doing the same for people over here. Young people need to know that suicide is not the way out, and that there are people they can talk to. It needs to be seriously addressed by our politicians, not ignored. It should be discussed within the education system, so that children are aware of mental health issues form a young age.”
If you or someone you know can help Colm on his latest journey, get in touch with him on his Twitter account @hazz66 or Facebook at www.facebook.com/colmpfarrell .
Colm’s fundraising target is €5,000.00, and he has so far raised nearly €800. If you would like to make a donation in support of his amazing challenge, log on to Colm’s fundraising page using the following link: http://www.mycharity.ie/event/colm_farrells_event.