IN the region of 2,500 people turned up at a field in County Limerick at the weekend to watch a 13 tonne digger being excavated from the ground.
The Annacotty Excavator Challenge which raised over €10,000 for charity saw an O&K RH4 excavator which had been stuck in the mud since 1995 raised out of the soft boggy ground and brought to a recycling centre. The excavator became submerged while draining the land in 1995.
As part of the challenge which took place on land at the back of Walsh Plant Sales in Annacotty from 8am on Sunday, the public were asked to guess how long the endeavour would take - in the end it took just short of 12 hours to complete the task.
“There was no stopping once it started. It took 11 hours and 50 minutes. We were doing it under floodlights in the end,” explained Frank Ryan from Fedamore who was one of a group of local plant-hire contractors who organised the fundraising initiative.
Once freed from the soil, the digger was pulled some 200 metres to solid ground before it could be lifted onto a low loader lorry to be taken for recycling. It had been hoped to use a crane to lift the excavator but weather conditions made it impossible. “We couldn’t get a crane to come in, the ground conditions were too bad,” Frank explained.
“From the start of the challenge to getting it up on the ground only took maybe 15 minutes but then you have to shorten up the ropes because the winch could only pull so much rope on it and then you would have to unwind it again and pull again and so on. It’s alike a reel of thread – there is only a certain amount of thread that will fill a reel. It’s a balancing act. The most important thing is it went off safely,” he added.
The endeavour was a full team effort in what were difficult ground conditions. A total of 25 people from Limerick, Tipperary and Clare were involved in the salvage effort which culminated in the digger being cut up into 12 pieces and taken to Hennessy Metal Recycling in Templemore which handed over €3,000 for the digger. Gerry Ryan, plant fitter from Doon was named the ‘man of the match’ for his leadership qualities.
Once the challenge was completed, the organisers received a call asking them for their assistance in completing a similar endeavour in County Clare. “The boys went off celebrating on Sunday evening and the next thing on Monday morning a man rang us to know if we succeeded and he asked if we would do another one in Bridgetown and we said we would if he gave a donation to charity – we hit on, it only took us an hour and he gave us €1,800,” said Frank.
Over €11,000 has been raised so far from the two events. A number of worthy charities are to benefit including the Haiti Fund, Niall Melon Township Trust, Milford Hospice, the Mid-West School for Hearing Impaired Children in Rosbrien and Newport Day Care Centre.
Meanwhile, the Mid West Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association also did a collection on the day.
The organisers would like to thank the landowner for his assistance on the day and if anyone is interested in organising a similar endeavour for charity they can contact Frank on 0872574239.