Hello there

It’s been 12 years since I last wrote a letter like this… and its provenance goes back even further to a close but distant friendship that was forged down in West Cork, a quarter of a century ago.

Let me explain…

It was in Schull, all that time ago, that I first met Sam Nelson. He made an immediate impression, not only with his tall imposing presence but also with his kindly disposition, sprinkled liberally with a great sense of fun (and mischief). Not dissimilar to myself, for a self-employed 24/7 veterinarian from Portadown, the annual summer holiday pilgrimage to West Cork was restorative “manna from heaven” that brought Sam, his wife Miriam and his children back year after year. Our families enjoyed a great decade together before our children became teenagers and the pathfinding for our holidays diverged – but we remained close albeit distant friends over the years, meeting up when we could for golf and weekends together.

Last April, a black cloud appeared on the horizon when I received a call from Sam cancelling a planned visit to Clonmel because his doctors had found a tumour in his brain that they needed to investigate, “hopefully it’s nothing but we’ll have to catch up another time” was his characteristically positive outlook. Unfortunately, that catch up was never to be – the tumour was virulently malignant, unresponsive to surgery and I was stunned to learn of Sam’s death in the middle of June.

It was at his funeral in Belfast that Miriam told me of the absolute extraordinary care that Sam and the whole family had received at the hands of Marie Curie Hospice where he spent his final weeks. In fact, they were so moved by it, that an immediate decision was made that they were all going to embark on a marathon fundraising cycle down through Ireland from Malin head to Mizen head in June 2019 to raise funds for the hospice on behalf of Sam. When she asked me to join them, Miriam didn’t know that I had already planned (and have now done) that once-in-a-lifetime cycle last August and when I explained that, her response was “that’s great, you’ll be able to show us the way then!” – so the upshot is I’m off in June to do it a second time, but this time with fundraising in mind, as a tribute to my good friend Sam.

So, straight up, I’d like to ask for your help by making a donation and sponsoring my cycle to raise €9,000 for cancer care in Ireland. Cancer knows no borders and the sad truth is that we all know someone close to us that has had to deal with the illness…for me it was my own brother David who passed away in 2016 after bravely fighting a 10-year battle with the disease. For that reason, I’m broadening the scope of the targeted beneficiaries, so the funds raised can be split three ways, one or all of which I hope will resonate with you, they are:

  • Sam’s Marie Curie hospice in Belfast,
  • South Tipperary Hospice Movement, and
  • Breakthrough Cancer Research for exceptional research into poor prognosis cancer

Please know that I fully appreciate that you have a lot of conflicting demands from fundraisers, but I really do hope this appeal touches a cord with you – it would be great if you could join us in supporting this initiative. I have deliberately been very reticent in making any fundraising appeals over the last decade, mindful of the impact of the recession and the other demands people continually face (in fact the last time I did something like this was the very successful effort 12 years ago for the Kilcuan respite home in Galway). In that regard, please know that I fully understand if you choose not to support us at this time.

However, if this appeal does resonate with you, I would be really grateful if you could make your donation by cheque to ‘ROCG CSR’ (our Corporate Social Responsibility fundraising bank account where all funds arising from the initiative will be independently accounted for).  Alternatively, you can make a pledge now and we’ll organise getting the transfer details to send the funds to the ROCG CSR account – or just call the office and Rose will give you the necessary details.

A big hearty shout out of thanks for your generosity. Your donation will make a real difference to some family out there, just like Sam’s, trying to do the best they can in the challenging times that they find themselves – and you will have helped!

All the very best.


Or make Cheque payable to: ROCG CSR

Charities that are being supported:

We’ve been around as long as the NHS, and, over the last 60 years, we’ve been there for hundreds of thousands of families. We care for people living with any terminal illness, including cancer, motor neurone disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, heart failure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). 

We believe everyone living with a terminal illness should be able to get the most from the time they have left.  Marie Curie Nurses care for you in your home, when you need them most, day or night, providing hands-on care and vital emotional support. If you’re living with a terminal illness, they can help you stay surrounded by the people you care about most, in the place where you’re most comfortable.  Marie Curie Hospices offer the reassurance of specialist care and support, in a friendly, welcoming environment, for people living with a terminal illness and their loved ones – whether you’re staying in the hospice, or just coming in for the day.  And our trained volunteers and advisers are here for you when you don’t know what to do next or just need to talk.  We carry out research to help improve care and support across our services, as well as those provided by others.  We help everyone affected by a terminal illness get the information and support they need, whether you have an illness yourself or you’re a family member or friend.  We’ll be by your side with care and support every step of the way, bringing light in the darkest hours.

April 1990 marked the launch of South Tipperary Hospice Movement.  We are a community specialist palliative care service, providing support for people in South Tipperary/West Waterford, with an advanced incurable disease.  We support patients and their families in their own home as far as possible.  We aim to deliver the highest level of individualised care showing respect, compassion and dignity to all persons in our care.

We liaise closely with general practitioners and public health nurses.  We offer advice re symptom management. We aim for the highest possible quality of life for the patient and family.  We offer support to the extended family.  As part of our service we aim to enhance the psychological, physical, social and spiritual care of the patient.  We provide education to other professionals and interested groups.  We give continued support to the bereaved family and when necessary family members are referred to our Bereavement Councillor.

People believe that the worst day they, or a loved one, will have is hearing a cancer diagnosis. However, this is not the worst day. The worst day is when the doctor tells them there is no hope. They have tried everything. The cure for their cancer does not exist.

Breakthrough Cancer Research (Breakthrough) is working hard to make sure our family, friends and communities across Ireland have access to the best treatments for cancer and never have to hear the words, there is no hope.  Breakthrough is an Irish medical cancer research charity which was launched in 2011 to inspire and enable financial support for exceptional research into cancer in Ireland leading to more effective treatments for patients in Ireland and Internationally. Our focus is on:

  • funding world-class cancer research into poor prognosis cancer, which are poorly served by current treatment options
  • facilitating collaboration between scientists and clinicians across Ireland and Internationally
  • translating lab discoveries into new effective treatments for cancer patients today, tomorrow and into the future 

Thanks to your support we have invested over €4 million in cancer research, funding the efficient and effective development of new treatments for cancer. There is hope and that hope is in research!