Charlie’s climb captures the heart of the nation

Comment & Opinion

ON LOCATION Charlie Bird and his wife, Claire, and their dog, Tiger, were welcomed to Murrisk and Croagh Patrick last week by Fr Charlie McDonnell, ADM of the Westport parish, and Westport-based Garda Inspector Denis Harrington.

Public support becomes wind beneath Bird’s wings

Just a few weeks back, renowned journalist Charlie Bird went on the Late Late Show and gave a very candid interview to host Ryan Tubridy about his diagnosis with motor neurone disease.
The honesty and realism of the interview struck a chord with viewers, and since then Charlie has received huge support from the public in his fight against the debilitating condition.
The former RTÉ journalist admitted that the outpouring of public support has helped him cope with the distress of the terminal diagnosis. “I have found peace, I really have,” he said. “I cried every day. I don’t cry now.”
He also said that ‘Croagh Patrick and its history has lifted my spiritually’, and that the aim of his climb is to awareness about people suffering from terminal illnesses or those ‘going through a hard time’. A host of famous names have now given their backing to the event, which will fundraise for the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association and Pieta, Ireland’s national suicide-prevention charity.
His reiteration on last Friday night’s Late Late Show of his intention to climb Croagh Patrick has been met with an even greater swelling of support from the public.
It may be the case that numbers on the mountain on April 2 will have to be limited, but Charlie has come up with a workaround. He is encouraging anyone who wishes to become involved to scale another mountain or hill on the day and donate whatever they can to the campaign.
The media veteran paid a visit to Mayo last week, meeting up with Westport-based curate Fr Charlie McDonnell at the foot of the Holy Mountain to discuss his climbing plan for April 2.

Special delivery
Friday’s Late Late Show also had another strong Mayo connection when the Clew Bay Pipe Band opened the show and one member, Nicole Gannon, had a special delivery from her pupils at Scoil Phádraig in Westport, where she is the Sixth Class teacher.
All of the pupils at the school decorated footprints with their names and messages and gave them to Ms Gannon to give to Charlie, to show they are fully behind his plan to climb Croagh Patrick.
The pupils also wrote a letter to Charlie, and he posted a photo of it on Twitter, saying: ‘This is the letter I received from The Pupils of Scoil Phadraig in Westport. Just look at the amazing last paragraph. Maybe I will come to Westport sometime after the 17th of January and walk the daily mile route with you. You are Brillo’.
That last paragraph from the schoolchildren reads: “From Monday, January 17, each day, every class in our school will take turns to walk the Daily Mile route around our school until you come to Croagh Patrick in April. We will be walking with you in spirit. We will post some photos to keep you and us motivated. Our school motto is ‘Ar Aghaidh le Chéile’ – going forward together, which we think is a very nice thought to share with you for the weeks ahead.”
It is clear to see that Charlie’s climb is having a big impact on young and old, and we are sure to hear much more about it in the coming weeks and months.
The Croagh Patrick pilgrimage has been severely impacted by Covid over the last two years, but hopefully as we emerge from the pandemic, hundreds will be able to accompany Charlie on his climb this April, putting ‘The Reek’, as the mountain is known locally, back on centre stage.
All of us here at The Mayo News wish Charlie Bird, his wife Claire and all the organisers of the climb the very best in the coming weeks. Charlie can most definitely be sure of a warm Mayo welcome when he returns to take on the Reek.

For more on Charlie Bird’s climb and his April 2 fundraiser, visit and follow the #climbwithcharlie hashtag on social media.