By Jimmy Rhatigan
TODAY, Wednesday, we salute the unsung heroes of Storm Emma.
While a majority of us were in cosy beds or snuggled in front of blazing fires, local volunteers provided a near 24/7 professional rescue service.
Brave men and women ensured our ill and elderly had basic supplies, ferried care workers, including nurses. to work and dared the byways and boreens of greater Kilkenny to help people in need.
A storm threat, raging snow, ice, bitter cold and treacherous roads failed to dampen the spirits, resilience and courage of our local volunteer force called Snowbusters.
Kilkenny’s answer to TV heroes, The A Team, did decency, courage and pride of place proud as they repeated the feats of their foundation in 2010, the year of the big freeze.
The Snowbusters were born to help and rescue and that they did with gusto and unselfishness during a collection of days when Mother Nature snarled at our city and county and indeed on all of our country.
With the support and generosity of local businesses, our team of wonderful men and women highlight the fact that good guys can win tough battles and that while modern Ireland has its ills and many selfish people, it also has admirable numbers of super heroes of passion.
Chief co-ordinator, Lillian Holohan of Coon, Muckalee and her team that includes Ray Brophy, Tony Coy, Eddie Hughes and Billy Coogan in Castlecomer are proof positive that we have many fantastic men and women of honour in our local community.
In the early days of their tour of duty, the Snowbusters concentrated on getting supplies to peripheral family homes in particular and to the aged and ill.
Fuel, food, water, bread and salt for footpaths were the main deliveries.
When snow fell, they focused on getting people to their homes, bringing carers to houses to look after the ill, ferrying nurses to hospitals and medication to those dependent on prescription drugs.
Freshco Pharmacy on the Dublin Road opened to help with prescriptions, DeLoughry’s Garage near Aut Even Hospital extended opening times to provide paraffin for families with oil heaters in Kilkenny City and Thomastown.
Areas covered included a wide terrain between Windgap and Urlingford, Moneenroe, Goresbridge and Inistioge.
“We are really grateful to our volunteers who used their own vehicles at their own expense, took time off from their jobs and did out city and county proud,” Tony Coy told The Reporter.
“The entire operation was a team game that ensured that everything possible that could be done for our community was achieved so that there were no injuries or fatalities.
“Many groups did Trojan work including our Defence Forces who showed pride in their uniforms as they cleared footpaths and busy thoroughfares to make life safer for pedestrians.
“In 2010 when we started, our volunteers spent some €4,500 of their own money on fuel for their vehicles. This time everyone has been unbelievably generous. People like Colin Ahern of Marble City Fuels donated free briquettes and Ray Brophy of Freshco kindly gave food free of charge. We was real community kindness in action and we were privileged to be at the coalface.
“We had a brilliant and very diligent co-ordinator in GAA woman, Lillian Holohan of Coon, Muckalee and our team of drivers was always ready for action.”
The full list of driver volunteers is Ray Brophy, Tony Coy, Eddie Hughes, Gerry Gaule, Jason Thompson, Alan Smithwick, David Dargan, Billy Coogan, Castlecomer, Derek Devoy, John Phelan, Ravannagh and Liam Cassin, Clara.”
Lillian Holohan said that for safety sake, it was always vital to know where volunteers were at any particular time and to ensure that two people were never sent on the same job.