Widower’s epic walk in late wife’s memory

Dermot Breen on his 1,000 km walk along the Camino de Santiago
Dermot Breen on his 1,000 km walk along the Camino de Santiago
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A widower from Omagh has written about his experience of walking the length of Ireland – a 700-mile journey which marked the completion of a trilogy of treks in his late wife’s memory.

Last year Dermot Breen, 58, walked from Castletownbere on the Beara Peninsula in Co Cork to the grave-side of his wife Jacqui in Ballycastle.

Following her death in 2015 Dermot walked the Ulster Way and in 2016 he walked the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain.

In 2017, he took a break from long distance walking to concentrate on writing and has since had two books published charting his physical and emotional journeys since he lost his wife of 28 years to ovarian cancer.

The father of two’s latest book ‘Exiles’ tells the story of the journey from Beara to Ballycastle which took him over nine weeks to complete. For much of the journey he followed a route taken by fleeing 17th century Irish chieftain Donal Cam O’Sullivan Beare.

Dermot said: “O’Sullivan Beare and his followers had to endure harsh winter conditions, getting lost in snow-covered mountains, almost constant attack by Royalist forces and severe injury and death. I in turn had to endure a blistering heatwave, getting lost in fog-covered hills and being attacked by herds of bullocks and suffering a demoralising injury that almost brought my walk to a premature end.

“I was only two weeks into my journey when I suffered a torn calf muscle while attempting to escape from a herd of cattle. I had to take a few weeks out to receive physio and allow my leg to recover before starting back.”

Dermot, who has raised over £42,000 for Cancer Research UK, said the term ‘exile’ could apply both to a fleeing chieftan and someone who has lost a soul mate: “After the overwhelming feelings of grief and anger have receded, you are left with a feeling of being exiled; obviously not from one’s home or one’s country, but from the life that you once had.”

Dermot’s book is launched in The Parish Centre, Ballycastle tomorrow and will also be available from Amazon.