THOUSANDS of people travelled via Cork Airport, Kent Station and Cork’s bus station this summer.
Travelling can be stressful. Navigating airports and stations can fluster even the most seasoned of travellers, so it’s no wonder that personal belongings are often lost at airports, and on trains and buses.
Every item that turns up in ‘Lost and Found’ has an owner and story behind it. Yet, the majority of items held in Lost and Found departments are never reclaimed.
It seems people think that if they have lost their belongings en route to their final destination, they will never get them back.
But Cork airport, Kent Station and the bus station at Parnell Place all have dedicated personnel who keep lost items in secure rooms, where they are tagged and categorised, in the hope they will one day be reunited with their owners.
Bernard Dooling and Dave O’Sullivan work in Car Park Services at Cork airport. Managing the Lost and Found department is just one of their many responsibilities.
Items found in the airport concourse are locked away in secure rooms. These are full to bursting with jackets, walking sticks, umbrellas, surfboards, hurleys, golf-clubs, books, suitcases, gear-bags, vinyl records, skateboards, fishing rods, hats, buggies and cuddly toys. Even a car battery was found in the airport car park.
In a separate area, smaller, more expensive items are locked away in a set of drawers. These are stuffed full with phones, jewellery, Kindles, sunglasses, watches, fitness trackers and wallets.
Dave explains how he and his co-workers deal with a new item that has been brought to Lost and Found.
“We have a computer system where we log all our items. Every item found is categorised. We include a description of the item, along with the date it was found, where it was found and who found it. If an item is returned to its owner, we log the owner’s name and the date they ollected it,” said Dave.
Because so many items remain unclaimed, the airport’s policy is to move items from Lost and Found after three months and a day. However, Bernard explains that some items are kept for a longer period.
“We keep items like engagement rings or items that could be of sentimental value, or expensive items, like an iphone, for longer periods of time, just in case the person who lost it does come back at a later stage and tries to find it.”
Copious amounts of glasses and sunglasses are found. If these are not reclaimed by their owners, they are donated to Kinsale & District Lions Club. Unclaimed clothing is donated to the charity, Balance.
Anything between two and 20 items could be found in Cork airport in a single day. The team has reunited items with travellers from all over the globe and received many ‘Thank-You’ letters from people.
Bernard says: “People are so thankful when they get their items back. It’s lovely to receive a ‘Thank-You’ letter but we don’t expect it. We’re simply doing our jobs. We treat all items as if they were the same value. Cuddly toys are as valuable as anything else found.
“If a child loses their favourite cuddly toy, it can’t be replaced. Parents worry that they’ll have sleepless nights because the child’s teddy or fluffy tiger or cuddly shark or stuffed koala bear with one arm and one eye missing has been lost.
“The cuddly toys are definitely the best items we reunite with owners. The children are so appreciative,” he added.
Some unique items left at Cork airport this year have included a giant birdcage, a mobility scooter and bottles of Holy water brought back from Lourdes.
Bernard says: “The ladies that lost the Holy water were so grateful to be reunited with it. Many of them told us they will say prayers for us because we kept the bottles for them in Lost and Found.”
Staff at Kent station have, likewise, come to the aid of pilgrims who have mislaid items. Pat Healy, depot man at Kent station, recalls helping a lady who was travelling from Cork to Lourdes with a group of friends.
“I was working a train to Dublin many years ago. Normally, after a train arrives, we go through it to pick up any litter or items left behind. I picked up an envelope and there was about two thousand punts in it. I was about to take it to Lost and Found when an old woman got back onto the train in a panic, saying she lost her money.
“She was delighted to get the envelope with her money back. She was thanking me, thanking the Lord. She put her hand into the envelope and I thought, maybe, she was going to fish out a few quid for me, as a ‘Thank-You’ for finding her money. Instead, she pulled out a miraculous medal, handed it to me and said, ‘Thank-you very much,Sir, and may God bless you’.”
Liam Hogan is in charge of Lost Property at Kent station. The shelves of the Lost and Found room at the train station are lined with clothes, umbrellas, books, school assignments, suitcases, Stetson hats, skateboards and all sorts.
“People mainly leave things under the seats on the train”, says Liam, “or, they fold up the table with their belongings still on it and leave them behind.”
Liam enjoys reuniting lost items with their owners.
“A lot of people are mighty grateful to be reunited with their belongings. It’s nice to be part of that,” he said.
Staff at Kent station go above and beyond the call of duty to help passengers who have mislaid their belongings. Supervisor at Kent Station, Siobhan Horgan tells a story about how a staff member, Paul Carroll, helped a woman find some important documents she had left on a train.
“When a train comes in, the lads go through the train and pick up all the litter left behind by passengers. One day, they got off the train after cleaning it and a female passenger was in a panic. She had left her adoption papers on the train. Everything was in rubbish bags and had been put into the compacter. Paul climbed into the compacter and went through every bag to find her adoption papers,” said Siobhan.
Patsy Daly and Suzanne Carley work in the Travel Centre at the train station. Both women have helped reunite owners with their lost possessions. Suzanne said: “It’s hard to believe but lots of people lose their hearing aids. I remember one woman, in particular, who lost her hearing aid. When she rang us, I had to shout down the phone because she couldn’t hear me.”
Patsy said the amount of wallets lost is unbelievable. She advises passengers to “put your mobile number in your wallet. Write your mobile number on your valuables. It will make it so much easier for us to find the rightful owner”.
This message is echoed by Martin Walsh, Regional Operations Manager — South for Bus Eireann.
“At Bus Eireann Cork, we come across thousands of items of lost property each year.
“We take great satisfaction in reuniting customers with their lost items but, very often, it can be difficult to find the owners.
“It would help if people put their contact details on important personal items so that we can contact them easily.”
With school and college also having resumed this month, Martin added: “It is critical that schoolchildren label all of their personal belongings, so that if they are lost, they have a much better chance of getting them back.”
Contact details for Lost and Found:
Cork Airport: Telephone 021 431 3131 and press 3 for Car parking charges and Lost property.
Kent Station: Telephone 021 450 6766. The Lost and Found is open Monday to Friday from 7.00 to 10.20 and 12.20 to 13.20.
Bus Eireann Capwell Bus Depot is open Monday to Friday from 2pm to 3.30pm. Telephone 021 455 7116.