A GRANDMOTHER of nine from Donoughmore swapped dancing for abseiling during the pandemic to raise funds for a very worthy cause.
When Mary Lynch, age 72, had to give up her beloved social dancing because of Covid-19 restrictions, she was lucky that she had something else to fall back on... abseiling down a 200ft tower.
Mary, who lives in Nenagh since she married her late husband Frank, whom she met when they worked in Blarney Mills, has raised in excess of €13,000 for the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association over the years.
“I took up dancing 10 or 11 years ago,” explains Mary.
“I loved it and I went to all different places like Templemore for instance. Then Covid-19 hit.”
The virus put a stop to Mary’s gallop.
“Yes. I missed the dancing a lot. I held a social dance in the Scouts Hall in Nenagh for my 70th birthday. It was a great success and through the dance I raised funds for the Motor Neurone Association.”
But she took up a new hobby to raise funds for the Motor Neurone Association instead, didn’t she, in memory of her mum?
“My mother, Julia, was diagnosed with Motor Neurone disease,” says Mary.
“She complained of her hands being numb and then her legs were affected so she had to use a wheelchair to get around as she got weaker.
“It was thought she might have arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. When she was diagnosed with Motor Neurone, it was the first time we had heard of it.
“Mam passed away in 1993. My sisters in Donoughmore started fund-raising for the Motor Neurone Association then, holding coffee mornings and cake sales and I used to go down to help out.”
Mary discovered a more novel way to raise much-needed funds for a cause close to her heart.
“Six years ago, I abseiled from the top of Croke Park with my sister.” says Mary.
“We got talking one weekend with the folk in the office in Dublin. We all thought the younger members of the family might do it, but they deleted themselves. So it was Esther and me.”
What was it like scaling down a near-vertical height with a double- rope coiled around the body and looking down to earth?
“Esther said afterwards, ‘that’s it!” recalls Mary, laughing. “I think that was enough for my sister, but I really enjoyed it.”
Mary wasn’t fazed by the mentally challenging heights.
“I wasn’t afraid at all,” she says.
“And I knew I was doing it for charity. I thought about the donations and what the money could do for the patients.
“They give you a helmet and gloves and take you up. Then you come down! I enjoy the buzz.”
Mary abseiled down Croke Park twice and she recently climbed 244 steps to the top of Skyview Tower in Smithfield, Dublin, with her niece Julie Twomey.
The pair took the faster route down as family and friends looked on, no doubt with their hearts in their mouths.
“My sister Marian got an email from Smithfield in Dublin about the abseiling event,” says Mary.
“It was a 190ft drop down. My sister was more nervous than me, so Julie decided to give it a go.
“And I thought I’d give it a go too as it might be the last throw of the dice for me.”
Mary, a seasoned abseiler, was able to advise her niece.
“I told Julie about all the steps to get to the top of Skytower,” says Mary. “She has great confidence in me and I told her to take her time if she was nervous about the steps.”
The two were ready for the big day, Saturday, October 30.
“I slept OK the night before,” says Mary.
Was she nervous?
“Again, I kept thinking of all the generous donations for the Motor Neurone Association,” says Mary.
“There was a great buzz that morning and that gave me a high. All the other participants were younger than me.
“There was a great crowd doing it for the Motor Neurone Association.
“Julie was great as we climbed all the steps. She made me stop to catch my breath and we got to the top OK. Julie went down first and then me.”
Mary kept her nerve.
“There was a ledge in the wall and I hit off it and I was in the sitting position. I had to try to straighten up to abseil down and I managed it. Everyone below was laughing and cheering.”
Mary took a deep breath when she reached the ground.
“I was delighted to have done it,” says Mary.
She still has a few dices to roll.
“I hope to go back to the social dancing if the old legs stay going,” says Mary, who lost her husband, Frank, when he was 58.
“He was very involved with the Credit Union and he had the gift of the gab!” she says of Frank.
Will she return to the mighty heights that she has already scaled?
“At the tower in Smithfield, the girls in the Motor Neurone Office said, ‘Goodbye Mary, see you next time!’”
It won’t be any surprise to see this lady descend from lofty heights in the future.
“You know, it’s great to be able to do it,” says Mary.
“My sisters watched me come down from the top of Skytower and their stomachs were churning. There’s no way I’d get them to do it. But time will tell.”
Mary is a mighty woman.
“I was collecting donations for the Motor Neurone Association from the local schools,” she says.
“The teachers said I was a mighty woman!”
She and Julie have raised almost €3,000 to date on their idonate page.