Relay event promises to be an emotional weekend for McGlinchey family

Candles of remembrance
line the track at last year’s
Relay for Life event.
Photo: Clive Wasson

By Paddy Walsh

WHEN the lively tones of ‘All God’s Creatures Have a Place in the Choir’ ring out at the A.T.U. Campus over the weekend of Relay for Life, it will resonate for one family in particular. And indeed for those performing it.


And if he was there, John McGlinchey would have been singing it with more gusto than most as a member of the Survivors Choir.

“It was his favourite song. And not just that but he loved the Relay and the craic that went with it,” his daughter, Maeve, maintains

A true survivor he was up until his passing in March 2023. But undoubtedly his spirit survives and once again he’ll be remembered fondly at this year’s Relay which takes place on the weekend of May 25 and 26.

Maeve and family didn’t enter a team for last year’s event given it was so close to the passing of her father.

“But we were there to watch it and the Luminaria was really emotional as it always is and last year it was particularly so for us”.

John and his family have been involved in the event almost from the initial one back in 2012.

“Pretty much since the start. The first year we were there was to gauge what it was like,” Maeve relates.


And what it was like impressed them, so much so that they entered a team for the 2013 Relay for Life event.

That team went under the name ‘Claire’s Bluebells’ – named after Maeve’s aunt Claire McGlynn from Raphoe who had succumbed to cancer.

“The reason we called it that was because she had a great love for bluebells so we thought it was very appropriate.”

In subsequent years, the team became ‘The Minnions’. We change our name every so often and I suppose we’ve always been known as the dressing-up team.”

The team is made up of family members including grandchildren and great-grandchildren. There’s ten of us in our immediate family for a start. There’s a good big gang of us and it’s always a bit of fun.”

Back in 2019, the team entered under the name ‘John’s Toy Barn’ after the characters in Toy Story. “My father was Woody and as usual we were all dressed up for it.”

This year, the team will go under the name ‘Woody’s Round-Up’ – but as a mark of respect to John, nobody will take on the role of Woody, Maeve reveals.

Cancer was to enter John McGlinchey’s life twice within the space of a quarter of a century.

He had a brush with the disease originally in 1999 when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and underwent chemotheraphy at

St. Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin and radiotherapy in St. Luke’s. “He had had a pain in his face and was treated for a sinus infection. But he was sent to Sligo and it was diagnosed there.

“Fortunately it was caught early and he was cleared a year later and all thanks to research which shows its importance,” Maeve remarks. ‘Dad was always stressing how important research was.”

John had undergone a trial chemo process having been asked would he be willing to participate. “And he told them, ‘I’ll take anything.’ He had a very positive attitude and that helped him through it.”

But 24 years later, the illness was to return in another guise – a routine colonoscopy showing up signs of cancer in the bowel.

A subsequent scan showed that it had spread to his liver. “He had nine chemos to begin with and flew through them with no side effects. And then he got the PICC line in and then he got home. And it was the public health nurse who came out and took it off and flushed it out.”

But the liver element was to ultimately prove fatal and on March 15, 2023, John finally lost the battle.

But not the respect and love he held not just among his family but among the entire Relay for Life community.

Meanwhile, Maeve and her family will continue to honour his memory and support the cause.

She has many fond memories of Relay for Life. The music and the craic and the engagement with the other teams.

As for the continuous trek around the track during Relay, Maeve refers in particular to the participation at night-time. “It’s a long night with no sound to keep you going, The first year there was music for the whole night but then that was stopped and it was quiet and somehow that made it harder to do the walk.

“I remember one of the years there was a school taking part and they had music on their phones and we walked with them and it kept us going until the morning.

“The first year we did it we were up all night and all day. We nearly needed three days off work to recover,” laughs Maeve.

But Relay for Life offers no hardship for the team though the pain of loss will nevertheless resonate throughout the twenty-four hours.

And they’ll no doubt sing along to ‘All Creatures Have a Place in the Choir’ when Donal Kavanagh and the Survivors Choir take to the stage.

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