James Coonan of Ballymore, along with two friends, Angus Craigie of Dunlavin and James (Jim) Wright from Co. Down, adventurers all, have embarked on a mission of mercy to Kenya on the African continent. It is a journey fraught with no less dangers (mutatis mutandis) than those suffered by the great explorers, Richard Burton or David JJvingston in the mid 1800s - wild animals roaming the plains - Tigers, Lions, Elephants, Hippopotami, stampeding Wildebeest - Scorpions and Tarantulas - these are but a fraction of the physical torments facing them by day, and night will bring no respite from the perils of Snakes and Mosquitoes. Add to those the threat from Man - idealists, thieves, brigands, cannibals and the xenophobic; diseases of the deep humid forest, raging rivers, the arid Kalahari desert, entering countries they may have to retreat from, hurriedly, because of political turmoil. Lastly the equally hazardous 'signposts turned the wrong way', devastating in so large a landmass.
To survive, their mental condition must necessarily be juxtaposable. Firstly, great bravery is required for such an expedition, so to refer to it as an adventure sets the mind to excitement, a constant awareness of lurking danger with a preconceived confidence that nothing is insurmountable. That is the mark of a true adventurer. When tiredness might eventually overtake even the hardiest and self-confidence has waned in the face of a growling male Lion but ten feet away, his open mouth a suitable chasm for the head ahead of him, the second part of the play must be staged in haste. Faith is played against fate, and the Lord is urgently reminded that the adventure is really a mission, and Divine inspiration now its only salvation. Thus liveth the Adventurer-Saint.
The Mission. One year ago, 2000, a 1989 Landrover was acquired by the Charities Committee of the Institute of Technology , Tralee, (ITT) and in association with Gorta, the main sponsors, it was agreed to totally re-condition the vehicle and donate it to the diocese of Nakuru in Kenya. It will provide another much needed form of communication, transporting equipment vital to the development of agriculture and the community in the diocese. It is the fourth Landrover to be donated to them through the good offices of Gorta, and the humanitarian commitment of Tralee RTC.
The task was undertaken and supervised by Dave Frizelle, Lecturer at the Agricultural Engineering Department of the college and the work executed as a practical exercise within the curriculum by the students, Angus Craigie being one of them. Special features had to be added in order that the vehicle would suit its new habitat - the climate and roadways of Kenya, with the addition of a longer wheel base. During the last stages of the re-construction, James and Jim joined Angus in Tralee, putting the finishing touches to it, adding such essentials as roll-bars, roof rack, front fenders, etc. While this work was being carried out, the financial exigencies of transporting the Landrover to far-away Africa loomed. Where was the money to be obtained for this great cause?
The three of them discussed the matter one evening in Moore's Pub in Grangecon and decided on a strategy. After offering to raise the funds for the project, further discussions' took place with the ITT Committee, and it was agreed that if they furnished the funds to transport the Landrover to Capetown, they would drive it north to its destination, at Nakuru, which Is about 100 miles north of Nairobi. That, however, was not all. They had to raise further funds to sustain themselves during their trek. Then it hit them really hard; who had not remembered they required return tickets?
When you have friends like Samantha Mackey, from Mackey's Equestrian establishment at Donard, Co. Wicklow, and you wish for miracles, look no further. She organised Gymkhanas and charitable events such as have not been seen since Pegasus last took to the air. With pub quizzes and every other conceivable means of procurement, the trio, given the help of all their friends countrywide, raised the £6,000 needed for transportation, and further monies required for their own expenses.
The Route Anyone who has read 'The Scramble for Africa' by Thomas Pakenham, will readily appreciate the changed state of affairs there between the 1880s and 1960s. There, Leopold, King of the Belgians, transferred the vast region of The Congo to his own personal property. The Kaiser vied with his cousin, Queen Victoria, in the out and out rape of that continent, while the French and Italians had their own side shows. Which of them could make Lady Africa lie still under their pillages? For a short but intense 80 years, the Nations of Africa suffered in the name of, and under these barbaric rulers. Neither social conscience nor Christian inheritance could allay the terror of their inhumanity.
Now, Africa has a chance and the will to modernise. Help is at hand in small but important fistfuls, just like the delivery of this Landrover. It is a huge step from the 1950s, when the Jesuit Missionary Fathers appealed for used stamps and silver foil from cigarette packages in support of their hardy efforts at that time. Franking machines put paid to that ruse and even the humble cigarettes are under attack from the anti-Africans. Hump the missionaries.
From Capetown, the crew will head north up through Namibia (old German S/W Africa), across to Botswana (British Behauanaland) including the Kalahari desert, over to Zimbabwe (Southern Rho-desia), Zambia (Northern Rhodesia) depending on warfare, otherwise through Mozambique (Portuguese Nyasaland), Malawi (British Nyasaland), Tanzania (British Tanganyika), finishing in Kenya (part of German East Africa, British to 1963) at Nakuru.
Peter Cregg is acting as their intermediary through the internet, and we hope to have two further reports on our Adventurers (Pilgrims) progress from him over the next two months. They expect to 'hit a town' every two weeks, and we will endeavour to keep our readers up to date with a travelogue on their affairs and the places they visit. Bon Voyage. M. Ward