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Yesterday morning, Sunday 27 June, Translink staff in Newry surpassed their own fundraising target when they casually pulled a 13 ton double decker bus filled with a healthy number of passengers through the station grounds on what was a scorcher of a day.

All hands to the rope to bring fundraising for Rathore to over £11,000. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
All hands to the rope to bring fundraising for Rathore to over £11,000. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

The staff set out late last year to raise £10,000 for a bus for Rathore School in Newry and already they have surpassed their target with over £11,000 raised to date and more to come in.

Driver and Translink Newry Spirit Ambassador, Bronagh McDonnell spearheaded the fundraising campaigns for Rathore. The campaign was meant to begin a year and a half ago, but the pandemic put paid to her plans and it was only in December 2020 that things really started in earnest.

The teams who pulled the Double Decker through Newry Bus Station. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
The teams who pulled the Double Decker through Newry Bus Station. (Image edited) Photograph: Columba O'Hare

Bronagh said "I got in touch with Rathore School approximately a year and a half ago, when they asked me would I host a coffee morning for them to raise money for a minibus. I decided I would but then because of the pandemic it all fell through, but last Christmas I decided we'd have Christmas jumper day and I would get in touch with Rathore School and have the fundraiser for them.

"We got in touch with the Parent and Friend's Association. Ann McElmeele was my contact. She told me their plight about a minibus and I thought, why couldn't Translink in Newry against all odds raise £10,000 and help them on their way."

Their first event was a Christmas Jumper Day, then an Easter raffle and then they had a 24hr sponsored walk from Newry to Warrenpoint which raised £2600.

Bronagh explained "I did the walk from Newry to Warrenpoint because a few years back I had found an old picture in Edward Street of a Bus Pull that was done 40 years ago to the day. It always captured my eye and I thought I'd love to be part of something like that. So I thought I want to do the bus pull this year, but we couldn't have a bus pull from Newry to Warrenpoint due to health and safety so we did the sponsored walk from Newry to Warrenpoint instead."

Visitors to Newry Bus Station to watch the fundraising drive. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
Visitors to Newry Bus Station to watch the fundraising drive. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

Translink staff have a lot of connections with Rathore. Bronagh explained "We have drivers that have children at the school, have had children at the school and a driver who's wife works at the school. Because it serves both communities right up to the age of 19 we thought, right Rathore School is just out on its own, helping all the special needs children."

Another fundraiser was a motorbike run that took place 20 June and it raised £ 3100. "I did a bit of cooking bacon butties all round for it and we got great sponsorship from Lynas. We had a great turnout for that but our big event was the Bus Pull yesterday." said Bronagh.

Explaining the organisation of the bus pull Bronagh added "There's a boy at work, Christopher McBride, the strong man, He was the first person I approached. I said Chris, I need you for the bus pull because you're gonna be strong. I did think at the start, we would be pulling it a few miles."

Chris spent over £300 on a harness, ropes, shoes and equipment and he and other staff had a few training sessions on Sunday mornings.

Christopher McBride does it all by himself. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
Christopher McBride does it all by himself. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

They thought instead of making it just a bus pull, they would make it a fun competition between two rival teams and have prizes followed by a barbecue for staff and families afterwards.

Bronagh added "Today we have over £4000 raised from the Bus Pull alone and we have actually surpassed the ten thousand. Really and truly in six months time we have £11,000 raised."

Another team pull the 13 ton bus along. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
Another team pull the 13 ton bus along. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

Local businesses paid £100 to sponsor windows on the bus and Bronagh spent today driving the bus with their logos on it for a bit of advertising for all the businesses who supported them.

Enjoying the day at Newry Bus Station charity bus pull. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
Enjoying the day at Newry Bus Station charity bus pull. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

Scorcher

Bus driver Terry Byrne took part in the first bus run forty years back in 1981 and also took part yesterday. Explaining his memory of that day Terry said "We pulled a bus from this same point here to Warrenpoint for the Gateway Club and it was a scorcher of a day like today too"

Bus Pull Sponsors

Dunnes Stores
Modern Tyres
Tan City
P&R Wholesale
Mc Evoys Monaghan St
Doc Sol
East Ocean
Elliot Trainor Partnership
Mc Parlands Hardware
Fintan Flood Limousines
Nupack
Smet Building Products
Railway Bar
Newry Computer Centre
The Coffee Station
Around a Pound
Ryan Cullen Hair
Bridge End Bikes
Mc Cooeys
Grounded Coffee Shop
Messages, Cards and Gifts
E.B. Gas
Clanrye Taxis
Quay Point
Children's Parade @ toners
Michael McCaul Signs
Paddy Mathews A1 Safety and Workwear.

Bronagh would like to thank all the people who took part in the bus pull and all those who helped organise what was a fantastic day for all concerned.

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