“On yer bike,” is not quite what coroners usually hear, but it is an exhortation that Cork City coroner Philip Comyn is bracing himself for this weekend as he undertakes a 220km charity cycle to raise funds for cancer research after losing three family members to the disease.
Mr Comyn (63) came up with the idea of the charity cycle at the funeral of his older sister Rosemary, who died just over a year ago on May 12th, 2021, after battling cancer for several years. He will finish the cycle on the anniversary of the death of his other older sister, Deirdre, who died on August 6th, 2019.
“I lost my two sisters, Rose and Deirdre, and my nephew Christopher to three different types of cancer in the last six years, and I thought it would be a nice idea to do something in their memory to help fund research plus I regularly come across the impact cancer can have in my work as a coroner,” he said.
“I first thought of it on the day of my sister Rose’s burial in May last year, but then I let it subside for a while, and then over Christmas I decided I better do something so I bought a bike and I’ve been in training since January, I might do 50km three days a week plus maybe 20km two other days.”
Mr Comyn’s original plan was to cycle from the home place of his late mother, Cherrie, at Groomsport on the Ards Peninsula in Co Down through Belfast all the way to Cork, but he had some doubts about his ability to do the 450km it would involve so he had to change tack.
“It would have been nice to cycle from Groomsport in recognition of my mother’s northern heritage, but I decided I had better be a bit more realistic in my ambitions, so I am cycling from my father’s home place of Kilconnell in east Galway, which is a bit more manageable at just over 220km.”
His plan is to complete the 220km trip from his late father, Andrew’s ancestral home at Ballinderry Park House in Kilconnell to Cork University Hospital in Wilton over two days, starting on August 5th and avoiding motorways but sticking to main roads as much as possible.
“I don’t know why this particular idea came to me, but it did — my late father moved to Mallow to set up his legal practice in 1948 so the only family we have left in Kilconnell are those that are buried there so this will be a nice way of connecting with family roots.”
Joining Mr Comyn on the journey will be his friends, Peter Boyle, Ger O’Sullivan, and Jim Ronayne who, like him, have been clocking up the miles on their bikes in preparation for the trip while his wife, Gwynne, will be driving the support car to ensure everything goes smoothly.
“We aim to leave it early — we will be cycling five or six hours each day, doing 20kp/h or so — there are some hills but it’s not too bad — one of the biggest hills and possibly the toughest challenge will be on the home straight up Wilton Road to CUH but hopefully we’ll make it up to Wilton alright.”
“I’ve set up a Go Fund Me page and all the donations will go to the CUH Cancer charity — I’m paying for the bike and the other equipment and the accommodation myself, but everything we raise will go to assist the great work that they do into cancer research at CUH.”
Anyone wishing to donate to the Galway-to-Cork charity cycle can do so by visiting his page.