08 Oct 2022

Major island hopping event to raise awareness of mental health and suicide in their community

Funds to help fund additional counselling services and ongoing counselling services from Gemma’s Legacy for Hope

Major island hopping event to raise awareness of mental health and suicide in their community

Among those promoting the event are Peter Rodgers, Fr. Pat Ward, Eileen Rodgers, Mary Rodgers, Joseph McMenamin, Bridget O’Boyle. PICTURE: Mary Rodgers

Burtonport is set to host a “Blessing of the Boats” before a flotilla of boats set sail to island hop off Donegal, to raise awareness of mental health and suicide in their community.

West Donegal has seen a considerable number of suicides in the area in recent times and this has prompted local man John Joe McBride, the founder of Gort na Sade Seals, to create a mental health awareness day for the entire community. It will be held on July 25.

Along with his cousin Seamus McBride and a team of local volunteers involved with “Gemma’s Legacy of Hope”, a foundation that was set up following the tragic death of local girl Gemma Boyle, they came together to see if they could organise an event that would raise awareness of mental health in West Donegal.

After a period of poor mental health Gemma died by suicide in February 2020.

Commenting on behalf of the Gemma’s Legacy of Hope Foundation, former MEP and T.D. Pat the Cope Gallagher said, “We live in one of the most beautiful parts of the entire world and over the years and especially in more recent times, our small communities have been devastated by the number of young people, we know and love, that have taken their own lives.

"Families have had to suffer the devastation of this silent killer disease, and we now as one community need to stand in solidarity as one and to let everyone hear, very loud and clear, that there are listening ears and supports available to anyone who may be suffering in silence, right here on our doorstep. It’s unfortunately too late for those that have gone, may their souls rest in peace and our hearts go out to their families. If we can set out to save a life or lives from here on, this event will be worth it.

"Before the flotilla sets sail, Fr. Pat Ward and Fr.John Joe Duffy along with the Burtonport Choir will perform a "blessing of the boats” and “blessing of the candles" at Burtonport Pier at 12.30pm before the boats set sail.”

The blessing of the boats is a time honoured tradition that goes back many centuries into the sea of legend and tradition and will be a fitting tribute on the day. 

A full health and safety protocol will be in place and everyone attending must abide by social distancing and Covid-19 Restriction rules at all times throughout the day." 

The event organiser John Joe McBride added, “We thought it fitting and appropriate to start the day off with a song from Imelda May “It’s Good to be Alive”. 

After the Blessing of the Boats, The Float for Hope Boat Run, will depart from Burtonport Pier and sail to Arranmore.

Food and refreshments will be available and then on to Tory (weather permitting).

The Tory Hotel will have food and refreshments available also for anyone who wants to purchase. Then they sail back from Tory to Bloody Foreland along the stunning coastline, sail through Inishsirrer, Inishmeane, Gola, to arrive at the east side of Donegal airport between Ranafast and Braade, returning back, passing Bunbeg harbour, back out to Gola, sail inside Inishfree Lower along Carrickfinn beach, Mullaghderg beach on to Kinncalagh and continue along Cruit Island through Owey and finally sail back to Burtonport Pier."

"To finish off the day's events, small sailing boats with weatherproof candles on board can be purchased at the pier on the morning of the 25th from 9am.”

These will set sail on the waters as it gets dark at Burtonport Pier and on Arranmore Pier at the same time later that evening, with local musicians playing at both slipways, and the chosen song to finish off the day's events will be Everybody Hurts by REM. 

“This will give us all a beautiful vision of hope, prayer and remembrance. It’s so important to remember our loved ones and give hope to us all for the future,” commented John Joe McBride.


The aim of this day is to promote mental health awareness in west Donegal, and also to raise funds to continue to help fund additional counselling services and support the ongoing counselling services available in the office secured by Gemma’s Legacy for Hope in Dungloe. 

After the organisers reached out to their local community and organisations, the response has been overwhelming. The paramedics, Sheephaven Sub Aqua Diving Club, doctors, nurses, gardai, church leaders, surfers, paddle boarders, Dungloe fire brigade perssonnelt, rally drivers, bikers, vintage auto clubs, Gaelic footballers, soccer players, surfers, kayakers, cycling clubs, golfers, anglers, local Bands, the Arranmore Lifeboat, the coast guard, members of the Civil Defence and many more will all be in attendance. 

The Arranmore Ferries will travel with musicians on board, to keep everyone entertained. It is advised that pre-booking by donation should be done in advance to secure a seat. If anyone has a boat, and would like to join in on the day, and obey all water safety rules, they are more than welcome. It is expected that there will be 60 boats joining in on the day. A donation per boat entry would be appreciated. 

Smaller watercraft are not to travel to Tory, selected larger boats (RIB) are the preferred craft for off shore run. This is not going to be a high speed run to Tory, and there will be a speed limit 20 knots. All passengers should dress in water resistant warm clothing, and must have life jackets and all craft have to carry enough fuel for a five to six hour round trip.

Smaller craft and ferries will return from Arranmore Lighthouse and stop off in Arranmore Island. Island maps can be arranged for anyone who is interested in island tours. Local Restaurants and bars will be open for business.

All Updates will be posted on the Facebook Page:

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