New wheelchair bus a ‘dream come true’

They jived, they waltzed, they answered quiz questions, they had public collections and all the time they feared they would miss the bus.

They jived, they waltzed, they answered quiz questions, they had public collections and all the time they feared they would miss the bus.

Not to worry, though, they reached their target. And last Friday, at Joe Mallon Motors, Abbeyleix Road, Portlaoise, the Irish Wheelchair Association Laois Branch received the keys of their brand new and much needed bus, a gleaming Renault Master.

Anthony Mallon formally presented the keys to Branch Chairperson Patsy Lane. Mallon Motors supplied the bus and Primo of Ferbane adapted it for wheelchair purposes. The total cost was €50,000.

MC at the well-attended and representative function was Eugene Lacey. He was the bus fundraising Project Manager.

He noted: “In these times it was a tall order to try and raise €50,000. But, thanks be to God, our dream is coming true today.”

Dances in the Castle Arms Hotel, Durrow, courtesy of Joe Murphy, were among the methods of generating cash, Eugene explained. Bands played for free.

Were romances also generated? “Some people were sweating,” Eugene replied, smiling, “but I’m not going to go into all that.” Incidentally, he himself is an accomplished drummer. So he had a good view from on stage.

Eugene welcomed everybody to the gathering and said it was great to see such a turn-out. Among the attendance were three founder members of the IWA Laois Branch, Eamonn Salmon, Clonaslee, and Anna May Dunne and Irene Hade of Portlaoise.

There, too, were Sean Hade and Tim Keane. In 1982, they with the late Kevin Dwyer, led a group of Prison Officers who donated a Datsun Urvan bus to the Laois Branch. At that time, the cost, including fittings, was £7,000.

A very happy man at the function was driver Derek Alcorn. He wasn’t sad to say goodbye to the old bus, a 1998 Volkswagen.

Patsy Lane thanked the people of Portlaoise and Laois for supporting the fundraising effort, which included the annual Good Friday table quiz in Clonaslee. She also thanked former Junior Health Minister John Moloney for securing National Lottery aid for the new bus.

After presenting the keys, Anthony Mallon said it was great to see local businesses and everybody coming together to support a local project. Rector Rev Stanley Monkhouse and Fr Tom O’Connor CC blessed the new bus.

John Moloney conceded that without the voluntary contribution, the level of services and support for organizations like the IWA would be minimal if they were depending on the state.

Cllr Willie Aird fondly recalled the late Jimmy Foynes who had served as Chairman of the IWA Laois Branch, and said nearly all Laois towns were now wheelchair friendly. By the way, Joe Mallon Motors is located on a site that was once part of the Aird family farm.

Another near neighbour at the function was Danny Marum. Also present, from just up the road, was Pat Reddin, representing Beechfield Health Care. Located at the National Enterprise Park, it has products well suited to wheelchair users.

There, too, were IWA stalwarts Johnny and Maura O’Brien. Notable absentees were Paddy and Lena Connolly--they were in Lourdes.

Among the refreshments at the function was a specially-made cake supplied by Kelly Lou Cakes. Kelly Ging, the proprietor, is a granddaughter of well-known Portlaoise businessman Joe Ging.

Brian Bonham of the Rotary Club, Sergt Tom Walton, Joe Murphy, Padraig Clancy and Connie and Mary Thompson of Durrow--these and others were among the people thanked by Eugene Lacey for helping the bus fundraising project.