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Geraldine Burke and her daughter Aoife who are making face masks at home in Whitegate and selling them locally to raise funds for Raheen Community Hospital in East Clare. Photograph by John Kelly

Crafty Whitegate ladies turn talents to fundraising masks

TWO crafty Whitegate ladies are putting their skills to good use by producing a range of handmade fabric face masks, and raising funds for Raheen Community Hospital in the process.

Mum and daughter Geraldine and Aoife Burke, who have both studied textile design, have made over 150 masks to-date and the items, which are machine washable and have a slot for filters, are available in local shops.

Once the road map for reopening Ireland was announced, and guidance provided recommending the wearing of face coverings in settings like shops and public transport, Geraldine and Aoife drew on their design and crafting skills and began to get creative. Raheen Community Hospital is a facility that is close to the hearts of everyone in East Clare and for the Burkes, it is particularly special.

“My father-in-law, Billy Burke, was in Raheen for nine years,” Geraldine explained. “He was a wonderful man, with a larger than life personality. The care he received at Raheen was just amazing. The place is very special to everyone in the local area. Billy passed away eight years ago and, whenever we can, we raise funds for the hospital.”

“It’s our go-to charity,” Aoife agreed. “It’s great to be able to give something back and to show our support for Raheen Community Hospital.”

Geraldine, who is originally from Dublin, came to the Banner County, after marrying a Clare man and after 20 years in Ennis, moved to East Clare. For the last ten years, she has been involved in crafting and it’s a hobby she is delighted to be able to share with Aoife. “We actually studied textile design together in Dublin, along with my aunt Marian from Donegal,” Aoife explained. “I had some health issues which meant I had to stay out of school for a while. The course was one weekend per month, and it meant I would work at my own pace. I then went on to study at Ballyfermot Senior College.”

Currently working in London, as an au pair for a leading Irish actress, Aoife returned to Ireland shortly before the lockdown and has been delighted to be able to spend her time producing something which will have so many benefits to the local community. “Between mum and myself, we’ve always got some kind of craft on the go,” Aoife explained. “Once people started hearing about the re-opening and the wearing of masks, that’s when we started to think about what we could do. At first, we were making masks to send out to family and friends and it took off from there.”

At this point, the ladies have nailed their technique and have an assembly line up and running. “I look after the first three steps,” outlined Aoife, “then I hand the pieces to mum and then we finish them together.”

Currently, the masks can be purchased at Mike Treacy’s shop and Mary’s (McDermott’s Xpress Stop). The ladies can cater for small orders by post and the best way to place an order is to email thecraftybarge@gmail.com.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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