EVERY year the town of Ennis transforms itself into a field of golden yellow for Daffodil Day as the county capital embraces the annual fundraiser for the Irish Cancer Society, writes Jessica Quinn.
Volunteer fundraisers can be seen on almost every corner selling bunches of the spring flowers as well as other items in aid of the charity’s flagship fundraising day which is always generously supported locally.
Behind this monumental effort has been a dedicated volunteer committee, many of whom have been involved with the charity for more than 30 years.
After decades of service to the community, the organising committee are taking a well deserved retirement and they are encouraging others to take up the mantle to ensure that Daffodil Day in Ennis continues to be as successful as ever for the charity.
Daffodil Day was brought to Ennis in 1989, one year after its initial launch in Dublin, by Michael Guerin Snr and following his passing, that baton was taken up by his son Michael Jnr.
Michael Snr’s daughter Ann Guerin explains that her father wanted to raise funds for cancer support after she herself became ill aged just 21.
“Dad said to me at at the time, if you get through this I want to give something back. He got involved in fundraising for Cahercalla with Sr Alma, starting with two beds and it grew from there. He got the first syringe driver out there.
“They had garda cycles, fashion shows, so many different groups got on board with the fundraising, then he heard about Daffodil Day. It was just such a lovely concept and since he and the rest of the committee started it here it just got bigger and better every year and has given so much help to so many people.
“There is always such a buzz around the town on the day, and people are just so kind. Some people stop and tell us they are donating because a son, daughter, brother, sister, parent or friend had experienced cancer, it just goes to show you how cancer has affected so many lives.”
In the early days Michael Snr was joined on the organising committee by his wife Mary, Mary McAllister, Ann Moroney, Cora Moloney, Pat Crehan and Maura Tobin with more volunteers joining the endeavour as the years went by.
Involved with the fundraiser since it first came to Ennis in 1989, Mary McAllister recalls some of her memories of her involvement, including some stellar photographic appearances in The Clare Champion.
“I was one of the first people in the Height on the first morning of Daffodil Day and as time went by we had so many people helping out in all parts of the town. Myself with Ann Moroney started dressing up with the bonnets and baskets and we would go from shop to shop, which was fantastic because people were so generous, they were just unreal.”
She adds, “There was a lot of hard work that went on behind the scenes that people don’t realise. We had to order all of the stuff and make sure we had enough, arrange the West County for the launch, they were always very good to us.
“The flowers had to be picked, we had really generous people who used to let us go to their premises and pick the daffodils, there would be whole avenues of flowers. We were in Ruan, Crusheen, Ballyalla, Clarecastle, Barefield all over the place. John Kelly came to take photographs of us for the Champion in some of these locations, with the photos often on the front page ahead of Daffodil Day which was brilliant.”
The Guerin family home in Ennis has been the hub of activity for the committee for more than three decades. Mary Guerin, wife of the late Michael, recalls how flower pickers from all over the county would drop off their daffodils at the home to be prepared for sale by the charity.
There the family, committee and other volunteers would bunch the flowers with Mrs Guerin making sure everyone had what they needed, including of course, endless cups of tea.
So how did she feel about her home being taken over by a sea of flowers? “I didn’t mind it at all,” she smiles. In more recent years generous neighbours Chris and Breda Tufts have allowed the volunteers to use their garage to create a ‘conveyor belt’ system making it easier to prepare the flowers.
Joining the fundraiser a few short years after they first started Daffodil Day in Ennis was Mary Roche who describes her time volunteering as “unreal”.
“Daffodil Day is always amazing in Ennis, the scenery is like a sea of daffodils. It became almost like a religion for us to get involved, it became something we just did every year.”
She recalls the generosity of local businesses in supporting the fundraising volunteers.
“I remember Cahir’s pub, the Derrynane, were very good people and they would make sure all the volunteers on the street could come in and have a bowl of soup or tea, then the Snack Shack did it for years also. We had people giving us out hot whiskeys. We had great fun, we used to love it. We had so much support from so many different businesses and groups.
“I used to start at the house and move along O’Connell Street raising funds, and then go to The Clare Champion offices and the girls would send us upstairs and the boys would be having their tea around the big table with a 2lb pot of jam on it. Then we would stand outside the Cathedral and catch all the people coming out of mass.”
The national launch of Daffodil Day was always a highlight for the volunteers. Mrs Roche remembers one of the last she attended before the pandemic with her good friend the late Cora Moloney.
“The last time I was in Dublin for the launch, we were supposed to be having our photograph with whoever was there to represent the Munster groups. But we wouldn’t go with the lady who was there for that, we wanted a picture with Marty Morrissey, so we got that,” she laughs.
With the organising committee now winding up, Michael Jnr is encouraging others to step in and run the event locally.
He praised the outgoing committee of Claire Howard, Ann Guerin, Mary Guerin, Mary McAllister, Mary Roche and Ann Moroney for their dedication to the cause as well as all of those who have supported Daffodil Day and the Irish Cancer Society in Clare.
He particularly pointed to the “Trojan work” of those had been involved with Daffodil Day since its earliest days in the county saying, “What they have done for more than thirty years is amazing, they’ve left a huge legacy behind them.”
He also expressed gratitude to all of volunteers who have been involved and to all those who have supported them over the years.
Irish Cancer Society CEO Averil Power has also paid tribute to the local volunteers as they wind up the committee saying, “On behalf of all at the Irish Cancer Society and the people we help, thank you to the Ennis Committee for your unwavering support and commitment to Daffodil Day for the past 35 years.
“We are sad to see such a driven and successful committee retiring, but you leave behind a wonderful legacy and will be sorely missed. We are so excited to be able to get out on the streets to see once again the amazing support the people of Clare have shown to date.
“We appeal to the kindness and generosity of the public to ensure that the wonderful work of this committee can continue. If anyone would like to take up the reins to make sure Daffodil Day is as big an event as ever in Ennis, we would love to hear from you and our team can support you. Cancer takes so much from so many and Daffodil Day 2022 is the day we take back together.”
Daffodil Day is a great opportunity for everyone to make a big difference in the lives of people affected by cancer in Ireland, the society outline.
“The Ennis Committee has been an integral part of making Daffodil Day the success it has been for the past 35 years. They leave behind an amazing legacy which is a testament to their hard work and an incredible show of solidarity for anyone affected by cancer throughout Clare.
“To keep this legacy alive we need your help. We call upon the public to offer their support and help raise much-needed funds for our vital services. Volunteers are urgently needed to organise Daffodil Day this year. We need people who can help in any way they can!
For further information on how you can help, please contact Mary Murray at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 087 7936499.” at email@example.com or call 087 7936499.”