CORK woman Clara Harte made it to the polling station in Timoleague with nine minutes to spare after a host of people she had never met before rallied around to help in her epic quest to get home to vote.
She was expecting a straightforward trip when she left London on Friday morning but a series of unexpected events would have dashed her hopes of voting, were it not for the incredible kindness of strangers.
The first sign of trouble was when she reached Holyhead by train, planning to get a ferry shortly before noon.
“There was a whole group of people travelling to vote, but we were told that 11.50m ferry no longer ran, the next ferry was 2pm,” Clara said. “I started freaking out because it wasn’t going to get in until 5.15pm and I didn’t know if I could get down to Cork in time.
“I tweeted and posted on the Abroad For Yes Facebook page and asked if anyone was driving to Cork and there was a flood of responses with people trying to get me a lift. I had looked up the 6pm train and regular tickets were booked out so someone on the group booked me a first class ticket!”
It seemed like everything would be fine but there was further problems lying in wait.
“When we got on the ferry we were told there was a 45-minute delay,” she said. “I notified the group and asked if there was any way I could get off the ferry early.”
She enlisted the help of a baffled but friendly truck driver to ensure she was one of the first off and someone on the Facebook group arranged to have their boyfriend waiting at the port with a motorcycle, in an effort to get her to the train station.
“I hoped on the motorbike and we flew down the quays, his girlfriend was waiting at the train station with my train ticket printed off but we had no chance, it was ten past six when we got there and the train was gone.”
Incredibly, yet another stranger stepped in to save the day.
“The group had arranged a fallback plan, a woman called Maire Brophy volunteered to drive me to Cork, she met me at the Luas stop.”
When Clare’s family heard what was happening, her father drove up to meet them at Thurles at 8.20pm and got her home with minutes to spare.
“I was shaking when I got there, I couldn’t believe it! My family thought I was crazy, they were just like ‘what is going on?’ But at that stage I felt I owed it to everyone who helped me, I had to vote. The number of people who helped, it was so inspiring and amazing. It was completely worth it!”
Not that she had long to reflect on her epic voyage and the result, she was on the road again before 6am to get the 7.20am flight back to London for work on Saturday.