George Gleeson being presented with his award by Pat Reddan, with Dave O'Hora and Aine Fitzgerald Picture: Adrian Butler
GEORGE Gleeson, who is out on his bike seven days a week ensuring the Limerick countryside is kept postcard perfect, has scooped a prestigious award for his civic endeavour.
The Ballyclough native has made it his mission in life to keep his own stretch of countryside litter free.
The retiree, instead of gardening or golfing, cycles up and down his road each day picking up any litter he finds along the way.
The 75-year-old doesn’t seek the limelight, instead he heads off quietly each day on his bike with just his thoughts and his big rubbish container to keep him company.
“I’m out there on the road and I could feel an award coming on,” he joked this Monday afternoon at the Clayton hotel in the city when he was presented with a crystal vase for his selfless work.
George has taken responsibility for a five kilometre stretch of road near where he lives in his quest to keep the countryside clean and inviting. He has been following the same regime since 2006. He heads off with his cycling helmet on his head and his big plastic container.
“It is a 25.5 litre plastic container. It was for a sterilising agent. You cut the top off it and leave as much of the handle on as you can and you fill that up with rubbish,” George explained.
The local authority supply plastic bags which George carries in his pocket.
“When the container is full, which can happen twice on the round, I empty it into bags and place them in at the side of the road into the bushes and I can collect them later in the car and the council take them away once or twice a week.”
When asked if he has any idea how much rubbish he has collected over the years, George smiles and says he hasn’t a notion.
“It’s a good way of exercising,” he insists.
“When you look up the road on a fine day and it’s clean, that’s the reward,” he smiles.
George is battling back against the scourge of motorists and pedestrians just tossing their unwanted waste on the side of the road.
Some days the rubbish is lighter than others.
From 1960 to 1975 George worked on ships - English, Irish and Greek ships. He came back in 1975 and worked at the Ballygirreen Aeronautical Radio Station in County Clare.
“A first cousin of mine up the road, Vincent Toomey, and a man up the road, Robert Coll, got involved also in the collecting of rubbish. Vincent Toomey’s wife, Kathleen, is involved as well. My system of cleaning on a bike has spread through Scandinavia,” he smiles.
George is married to Mary and they have four children Christine, Monica, Susan and John.