Belfast Telegraph

Omagh charity walker dons boots again for 620-mile trek in memory of late wife

By Brett Campbell

An Omagh man is preparing for a third 1,000km (621 miles) walk in memory of his wife who lost her battle with cancer over three years ago.

Father-of-two Dermot Breen (57) has already walked a gruelling 1,000km stretch of the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain following the heartbreaking loss of his wife Jacqui in January 2015.

She passed away just 10 months after a shock diagnosis.

Dermot, who now lives in Belfast, has also walked the entire Ulster Way route but after catching his breath in 2017, he is now gearing up to tackle the rugged Ireland Way trail - starting on June 20.

He said: "I thought that I had perhaps finished with my long-distance walking.

"However, when I learned that the Ireland Way finished up in Ballycastle, I just felt compelled to get my walking boots on once again."

The seaside town has special significance for the former deputy chief of the Health and Safety Executive NI, who retired soon after Jacqui passed away.

"She was reared there and her ashes are interred in Ramoan Parish Church at the top of the town where she now rests," he added.

"It's a very special place for me and it will be very fitting, and perhaps a little emotional, to end the walk there."

The route, which stretches from Co Cork was established late last year.

It was created by Caroline Allen who wanted to recreate the essence of the Camino de Santiago by linking up existing walking routes to create a continuous path from the south-west of Ireland to the north-east.

Dermot, who hopes to cover over 20km every day of the six-week trek, said the timing is also significant.

"I aim to reach Ballycastle by August 1, which is the date on which Jacqui and I were married 31 years ago," he said.

"It seems to me that I was destined to do this walk."

He usually marks the anniversary of Jacqui's death by embarking on a mini pilgrimage from her grave to Knocklayd in the Antrim Hills which was one of her favourite spots. But after a snowy winter, he plans to switch that short walk to August 1.

"She really loved those mountains," he said.

Dermot has published two books which chronicle his more arduous journey through grief, and donates the proceeds to charity.

"I have found walking - and reflecting and writing about it - to be very therapeutic," he said.

"It's important to process things in this way."

His latest book, The Man with the Camino Tattoo, was inspired by a French pilgrim who left a lasting impression on him when the pair met on the Spanish trail.

The body ink artist was so moved by Dermot's story that he designed a tattoo to commemorate the walk which is now a permanent fixture on Dermot's right shoulder - and the reason behind his new nickname.

Dermot hopes to bring his fundraising total for Cancer Research UK to £40,000.

People can donate by searching 1000K4J on JustGiving.com or through buying Dermot's book.

Belfast Telegraph

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