Irish man’s ‘hairy moments’ on trek to Spain in aid of cancer research

Pilgrim’s progress: Portlaoise to Santiago de Compostela in memory of his beloved sister

An Irish pilgrim is walking more than 2,500km from his home in Co Laois to Spain to raise money for cancer research in memory of his sister.

Eamonn Culliton, who began his walk on April 4th from his home in Portlaoise to Santiago de Compostela, is documenting his trip in aid of Irish Cancer Society on social media. He estimates it will take him about three months to get to his destination.

“I am currently in the middle of nowhere on the side of a mountain in Wales,” he told The Irish Times.

“It took me three days to walk from Portlaoise to Dublin, where I got the ferry to Holyhead. I walked to Bangor, passed the foot of Snowden and now I am somewhere outside Minffordd.

“This walk is in memory of my sister, Alice McCann, who passed away from cancer during the height of the pandemic. I just wanted to do something because at that time due to Covid people couldn’t go to funerals. It seemed like her life was suddenly just gone so I wanted to do something to mark it, and this is it.”

Mr Culliton, an aerospace engineer in Shannon, has taken a sabbatical and has not put a figure on how much he wants to raise.

“I have always wanted to walk the Camino. Originally it was supposed to be walked from your house to Santiago de Compostela so I said I would try and do it how it was intended to be done. It is harder but I am also meeting more people as a result. Then there are the days when you only meet one person but that is what it is all about too.”

The father-of-two has been blown away by the generosity of the people he has met along the way. He has been put up in hotels and given meals.

Touched by cancer

“It has been amazing. I have had a few hairy moments when I got lost and it was getting dark, but I have always met someone to show me the way,” he said. “I was getting a bit down on myself the other evening when I came across a farmer and his wife. The farmer had lost his first wife at 49 to cancer. My sister was only 52. You meet people who have been touched by cancer everywhere and if not, they are going to be, and it gives me the strength to keep going.”

His route will take him to Plymouth on England’s south coast and then he will travel by ferry to France and walk from Saint de León to Biarrit and then through to Bilbao in Spain and along the Camino Way to Santiago.

Mr Culliton's journey can be followed on his Irish Pilgrim Facebook page and his YouTube channel The Pilgrim. Details of his fundraiser can be found at justgiving.com/fundraising/irishpilgrim

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