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Former councillor narrowly escapes blaze at family home

A FORMER member of Clare County Council says he is lucky to have escaped with his life, after a fire destroyed his family home in Clarecastle.

Bernard Hanrahan, an active member of the community and former Fianna Fáil representative on the local authority, awoke in the early hours of last Sunday morning to find his home in flames. He told The Champion that if it wasn’t for the fact his dog alerted him to the danger, he might not have escaped the blaze.

Bernard, who lives alone in the home where he was born and raised, credits his faithful bison frise with saving him. “It was around 5am when I heard Daisy barking,” he said. “She wouldn’t normally be looking to get out until around 7.30am. I knew something was wrong. I got up and then heard a bang. I thought straight away that someone was trying to break in. When I got close to the kitchen, I was hit with a blast of flame and smoke. I tried to put the fire out, but I had to get out of the house.”

The alarm was raised and three units from Ennis Fire Station rushed to the scene. “The fire fighters were just mighty,” Bernard said. “They tried to save the newer part of the house. The place is a write-off, though, and there’s so much smoke damage. It’s devastating.”

Despite the loss of his cherished home, Bernard is conscious of how fortunate he is. “I was lucky to get out,” he said. “Daisy is the one who saved me. Only for her I mightn’t have woken up at all and I know that an awful lot of people tragically don’t survive if their house goes on fire.”

Now staying with his daughter Rhona, the long-time community activist, is counting his blessings, while keenly aware of the memories he has lost. “There was lots and lots of memorabilia connected to my mother and father and all of that has been lost,” he said. “My late wife, Margaret, would have helped me to build that up over the years. I was born and raised in that house and it was my home for around 70 years.”

Since the blaze, calls of solidarity and support have been reaching Bernard from around the world. “There is such an amount of goodwill out there,” he said. “I have really been overwhelmed with people offering me all kinds of help as well as a place to stay. I have wonderful children and my son was down from Mayo in a hurry to help out. Just today, I got a call from the US offering sympathy and support. The amount of goodwill has been unreal. There is nothing that can be said or done, at this stage, but I will be forever grateful to everyone who has gotten in touch with offers of help.”

Bernard has admitted that recent days have been tough. “I have had a few dark hours, but my grandchildren have kept me positive and you have to count your blessings.”

The advice that the former councillor is offering now to anyone living alone is to consider getting a dog. “I’ve been living alone since my wife passed away six years ago,” he said. “We had a lovely dog that was killed not long after Margaret passed away. I then got Daisy and she has been a really faithful companion. If there’s someone outside the door that she doesn’t know, she’ll bark for Ireland. My advice to anyone living alone would be to get a dog.

I wouldn’t part with Daisy for a million dollars.”

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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