18-year-old Sian Flatley will be behind the wheel of a 65-year-old Ferguson 35 (Gold Belly) tractor at this year’s London to Mayo Tractor Run.
This will be the Knock, Co Mayo native’s first time partaking in the event, which Extreme Tractor Runs, Kilkelly, Co Mayo have organised.
Their 2022 tractor run will start in London on April 24th, 2022, and arrive in Cong, Co. Mayo on April 30th, 2022.
According to organisers, the run will consist of 22 vintage tractors initially for the main part, and they expect more to join throughout the six-day event.
All funds they raise will go to Cancer Fund for Children’s Capital Appeal to construct a new Daisy Lodge facility in Cong, Co. Mayo.
In total, they will travel 833kms/522 miles, avoiding all motorways.
Speaking to That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, the St Louis Community School, Kiltimagh, student, who hopes to become a farm health and safety officer, said:
“I am taking part along with my dad, Aiden. We will be leaving London, and my boyfriend, Ruairi, is joining us in Belfast.”
“I am the only woman participating from Mayo, and I am also the youngest that will take part in the tractor run. However, I am not the only girl. I will be joined by Caitlin Mc Gonigle from Donegal.”
“I did not take part in the Dublin to Mayo event. However, I wanted to go, but unfortunately, I was too young at the time.”
“In 2020, I was in transition year and was going to do the London to Mayo trip, but the Covid-19 pandemic hit.”
“I am looking forward to this event. People are eager to get involved because Covid-19 put a stop to this event in April 2020. I am looking forward to meeting new people and seeing new places. It is a great cause, and fundraising is vital for such an important charity.”
Flatley became involved with the tractor run through the school’s calendar group, which TY year head, Mr Murt Dunleavy, spearheads.
The group donate money to three charities: at local, national, and international level every year and often, students donate money to Extreme Tractors Runs as their cause of choice.
This year’s group of TY students raised €1,000, which Flatley will hand over to organisers.
She explained that she could not thank Extreme Tractor Runs “enough for all the work behind the scenes”.
“Over the past two years, they have gone above and beyond, and this event would not be happening without them.”
“Anything I have been worried about, they have sorted for me in seconds. They have updated us with anything that has changed; I honestly cannot thank them enough.”
For this year’s run, Flatley is taking her father’s and his friend’s Ferguson, which they bought as a project.
According to the Mayo machinery enthusiast, the tractor was manufactured in 1957, and it has distinctive paintwork with a contrast of grey tinwork and wheels with golden casting.
“I am taking the Ferguson because all vintage tractors are going in the run. My favourite brand of tractor would have to be John Deere. We have three at home, a 6600, which is my own, a 6410 and a 6506.”
“Also, we have a Ferguson 35, which is the traditional red colour we all know to see and a Case International 856xl plus.”
Passion for farming and farm machinery
Flatley’s passion for agriculture stemmed from her two grandfathers’ interest in farming and her father’s passion for machinery. Peter and Tommy, have farms and her father is involved in agricultural contracting.
She explained that she grew up learning about machinery and farmers’ role in the food-producing chain.
Flatley said: “We should always respect farmers and what they do for the world. As GRASSMEN say: ‘NO FAMER, NO FOOD, NO FUTURE’. I live by this saying.”
“As for females that inspire me, my cousin Maggie, taught me that there is no such thing as a man’s job in a woman’s world,” she added.
“I did not grow up with a farm outside of my house, but it is two minutes down the road from where I live. When I was younger, I spent every day on a farm, and now I do not have much time as I am studying for my Leaving Cert.”
“I have spent most of my childhood on tractors and farms. Any chance I get, I am on a farm or on a tractor. Some type of a machine was always parked outside the gate.”
“I became interested in machinery as my father does bailing during the summer. I do all the wrapping for him and other tasks such as ploughing, harrowing, seeding, rolling, dicing, bringing in bales, slurry spreading, road sweeping and topping,” she added.
Flatley urges the public to row in behind this year’s event to raise “much-needed” funds for a “very worthy” cause.
Daisy Lodge in Cong, Co. Mayo, Ireland, is a respite centre for children with cancer. Currently, there is only one such centre on the island in Newcastle Co. Down, which sees some 500 families avail of this service annually.
Cancer Fund for Children can only provide 1 in 7 families from the Republic of Ireland with a short break, which has prompted a decision to build a second Daisy Lodge in Cong, Co. Mayo.
Flatley said there, “most likely” is no family in Ireland who does not know of someone who has availed of this support.
She added that it has “touched all our lives” in one way or another. For her, it is so close to home, as she explained further.
“My mother’s friend’s child, Jamie, has Down Syndrome. He first received a diagnosis of Leukaemia in March 2018 and completed his treatment.”
“Nine months later, Jamie relapsed, and he is currently ongoing treatment again for bone marrow and cancer of the eye.”
“He now has a double battle to face and is only thirteen. He is truly inspirational and is one of the happiest children I have ever met.”
“Jamie is an only child and is his mother’s Samantha pride and joy. Jamie is incredible and is incredibly special to my family, and we would do anything to help.”
“A respite place such as Daisy Lodge would mean so much to his family. I cannot stress enough how much you could be helping a child like Jamie and his family,” she added.
“No family deserves not to be able to get into a respite centre such as Daisy Lodge. This charity means so much to my family and I.”
“I cannot express how much children with cancer need Daisy Lodge. I honestly believe that this can make a difference for families like Jamie’s,” she concluded.
The public can support the cause by donating online via the run’s dedicated GoFundMe page.