THE five musketeers — or should that be whisketeers? — meet every Thursday night in their local, The Cave, in Garryvoe Hotel.
“We have a few drinks and a bit of a chat together,” says Kieran Mullins, who lives nearby.
The banter is good, the cráic is 90. Then, one Thursday night last year, a tiny acorn was planted.
“We were chatting away as usual when the head barman, John Lawlor, suggested we grow a beard for November and give the proceeds to Marymount,” recalled Kieran. “We said, why not? Let’s go for it. The lads were game-ball and we raised €2,400 for Marymount.
“Every family is touched by cancer everywhere, and we thought we could contribute to the great service that Marymount provides to sufferers and their families.”
Kieran lost his best friend, John Walsh, to cancer, Multiple Myeloma, last November after he battled the disease for nine years.
“We were life-long friends,” said Kieran. “Marymount stepped in towards the end when John was being treated in hospital in Cork and Youghal, and at his home in Garryvoe.
“Marymount offered him support when he needed it most. John was very popular here in east Cork. Everybody would have known him.
“Shaving off the beards for November — called Movember — was a buddy thing and all the lads got on board for the cause.”
Kieran and his four pals, who all live locally, Kenneth O’Rourke, Francie Higgins, Seamus Cronin, and James Walsh, all took up the challenge.
Did Kieran sport a beard before?
“I had a beard about 30 years ago,” he says smiling. “It’s a bit of a change to have one now.”
Their wives weren’t that impressed with the bearded results. The general consensus was that they were a no-no going forward!
“I didn’t like it at all,” says Kay Cronin. “The beard just didn’t suit Seamus. But he was great to grow his beard to raise funds with the lads for Marymount.”
Last Friday, December 1, was D-Day and the five pals gathered in the back bar in Garryvoe Hotel to have their whiskers shaved off by the experienced hairdresser of 28 years, Sandra Morrissey, whose hair studio, Styles, is in Castlemartyr.
“It’ll take all of five minutes to shave off each beard,” said Sandra, lining up the first client, James.
“It’ll be my first shave in two and a half years,” he replies, caressing his beard one last time. “I might keep it off now for a while.”
James also takes part in the Christmas swim for charity. Last year he halved the proceeds between Marymount and the Children’s Leukaemia unit in the Mercy Hospital.
“Marymount keeps coming up again and again,” he says. “It is a great cause. Fortunately, I have never had to experience the services of Marymount but I’m very familiar with the great work they do.”
Was he nervous shaving off his pride and joy?
James replied: “Ah no- — it’ll grow back quickly again.”
Sandra said: “I think they are great to get together to raise funds for such a good cause. I lost my own dad to cancer in 2010. He received palliative care from Marymount, they were marvellous to us.”
Ken, a dad of three, seems to be sporting the most impressive beard, but the Clonakilty man had a secret weapon.
“Ah yes, I used Colin Murphy Beard Oil from Clonakilty,” he says. “He makes natural handmade beard oil and it is the business for grooming the beard and for growing a healthy beard.”
It seems a shame to lose the healthy beard.
“It’s all in a good cause,” says Ken, smiling. “People have been very generous with their contributions. The gang at Keary’s, where I work, were very supportive. My uncle, Declan O’Rourke, who passed away in 2010, availed of the facilities of Marymount in the old building. Uncle Declan got great care there.”
What did his children think of daddy’s beard?
“My eldest asked me, where are all the white bits coming from?” said Ken, laughing. “I told her it was from running around after ye!”
Seamus Cronin never sported a beard before. He won’t miss it now Sandra has shaved it off.
“Look, it was a good thing to do,” said Seamus. “I will be glad to be rid of it though.”
Marymount looked after his father-in-law when he was very ill. “Kay’s Dad, Joe Twomey, was cared for by Marymount. It is a beautiful, calming place. Joe was looked after so well there. I was happy to get on board with the lads for Movember.
Francie reckons he is ‘much prettier’ without his beard. “I’ve had moustache for 47 years. I think that’s going to be shaved off too. It won’t be long before it grows back again. It’ll be back in a week. After a week or two when the beard came into its own, it was fine. It was itchy at first!”
Francie added: “Everyone, somewhere, has been touched by cancer. Our contribution will go towards the great work they do.”
The beards are no more. Sandra’s work is done. But baby; it’s cold outside.
The men might miss the protection of their Movember beards? They laugh.
“It was just the Thursday night guys getting together, doing something for a good cause,” says Kieran.
How much have the five musketeers raised?
“So far, we’ve 2,500e in the kitty,” says Kieran.
“We still have some collecting to do during the week. Then we can present the cheque to Marymount. We plan to do Movember again next year and we think it will be even bigger.”
The Movember Foundation Charity aims to increase early cancer detection diagnosis, and effective treatments, reduce the number of preventable deaths and encourage men to be aware of family history of cancer and to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
Movember, the movement for men’s health, encourages men to sport a classic moustache for 30 days, to rally to the cause to get people talking about men’s health projects.