In the wake of tragedy, Geraldine Mullan’s adopted town of Moville wrapped their arms around her. Now, she is returning the love and support. The plan is blooming beautifully.

The Mullan Hope Centre opened in Moville last weekend. It’s a community space and ‘hub of positive energy’ in memory of John (aged 49), Tomás (14) and Amelia (6) Mullan. They lost their lives on August 20th 2020 when their car entered the water at Quigley’s Point.p

Every day since has been a struggle for Geraldine, the sole survivor.

“It’s hard to believe it’s a year since I held them, since I kissed them and I hugged them,” Geraldine told Donegal Daily/Donegal Woman.

“That for me is a constant battle, but the love and support that I’ve got for the community has enabled me to keep going.

“I’m not going to belittle the fact that I am struggling, and I am heartbroken and that’s not going to change. It’s about giving back to the community.”

Tomás, Amelia, Geraldine and John Mullan

Since last October, Geraldine sensed a ‘deathly silence’ at John’s former business, the Moville Garden Centre, which is located beside her house.

John had put his whole life into the business and Geraldine couldn’t stand to see it lying idle.

She set about transforming it into something truly special for adults and children alike. Many late nights and phone calls have resulted in the creation of a space that will serve the community family of Moville. It launched with a Farmer’s Market last Sunday, and in the weeks to come, it will be a safe outdoor space for community groups/projects. It is hoped that music, sports, fitness, mindfulness and all sorts of wellbeing activities can be hosted there.

Sunday was bittersweet for Geraldine. The village turned out in support of the project launch and to honour the life, love and joy of a beloved father and brother and sister.

“The three people I really wanted there are the three that weren’t there,” said Geraldine.

“It’s because of John, Tomás and Amelia that we had the great turnout and for that I am very humbled.”

The Mullan Hope Centre opening, 4th July. Photo: Nicola Kelly Photography
The Mullan Hope Centre opening, 4th July. Photo: Nicola Kelly Photography

For those there, it felt as though the three were also looking down on them, keeping the sun shining over Moville while rain fell elsewhere.

“They kept the clouds apart and they got me through the day,” said Geraldine.

The Mullan Hope Centre is now like a seed, Geraldine notes, just as John would have helped people plant and nurture their seeds to grow over time.

What would they have said about the project taking root last Sunday?

“I’d like to think they would have given their thumbs up,” said Geraldine.

“Tomás and Amelia would have said ‘Well done Mammy’. John would have said ‘Good on you, my Galway girl and keep it going’.

“I know John would have been proud of everybody that came and supported me and made the day a success. Amelia and Tomás would like the idea that their friends would be able to take a stall at the kids’ farmers market.

“It was lovely to hear kids running around because I have nothing but good memories of Tomás and Amelia laughing and playing in the garden centre.”

The Mullan Hope Centre opening, 4th July. Photo: Nicola Kelly Photography
Geraldine and her parents open the The Mullan Hope Centre. Photo: Nicola Kelly Photography
Geraldine and her mother Margaret at The Mullan Hope Centre. Photo: Nicola Kelly Photography

Geraldine hopes that Tomás and Amelia’s friends can also find comfort at the centre in their grief journey.

“Hopefully it will be a place where we all can find a bit of solace and peace and hope going forward,” she said.

This month and next, Inishowen will be alive with colourful sunflowers, planted in honour of the sunshine that John, Tomás and Amelia brought to people’s lives. The Redcastle Village Sunflower Festival has been turned into a memorial event for the Mullans. Families have been planting stunning chains of sunflowers along the roadside to create happy scenes and share happy memories of the family.

John and Tomás took part in the competition last year. Geraldine has harvested the seeds from their flower and now 150 sunflowers are growing strong in the Mullan Hope Centre. Visitors have written thoughts, wishes and prayers to attach to each flower.

Come August, at the time of the anniversary, there will be rows of sunny yellow sunflowers at the centre and all along the Foyle. It’s just one way that the community has kindly kept Geraldine and her family in their thoughts.

The Mullan Hope Centre opening, 4th July. Photo: Nicola Kelly Photography
The Mullan Hope Centre opening, 4th July. Photo: Nicola Kelly Photography

“There is something beautiful about Inishowen,” says Geraldine. “People respect you if there are days when you are not able to speak or not in the form. They will give you a gentle nod and walk on. And then there are days when they know that you need them and they’ll stop for a cup of tea.

“Moville is a beautiful place and they have just wrapped their arms around me. And I know 10 years from now I’ll be able to pick up the phone and say I’m not in good form. There’s someone there always.

“John would have always said that. It’s the community spirit and the community hub. I would like to think the Hub of Positive Energy will give back hope.

“Nobody knows what’s going on behind closed doors. I’ve got my journey but with this pandemic there are a lot of people with their fears and anxieties. Getting out there, getting up to do a project or course or coming to the market, listening to Ceolann play, I hope will help kids and adults to combat the stress of this past year.

“We are stronger when we are together.”

Young musicians perform at the Mullan Hope Centre opening, 4th July. Photo: Nicola Kelly Photography
The Mullan Hope Centre opening, 4th July. Photo: Nicola Kelly Photography

Geraldine is immensely grateful to everyone who helped make the vision for the Mullan Hope Centre become a reality.

“It’s not just me, there’s no way I would be able to do this without a very good committee behind me, the volunteers, those who have given their time and energy to help us open up,” she said.

Geraldine has returned to work part-time as a nurse at Letterkenny University Hospital. Being busy helps, but she finds that the more time that passes, the harder it is.

Over the past year, many have called Geraldine an incredible person for her strength to go on. To this, she says that it’s all about love: “I’m not strong, I’m not incredible. I struggle every day. I am who I am because of John, Tomás and Amelia, because of the love I got from them every day has made me the person I am. John showed me what true love was. The unconditional love I got from Tomás and Amelia, it’s what gets me up each day.”

Family is where life begins and love never ends, Geraldine says, and now she is sharing her family’s love with others. The Mullan Hope Centre is about giving back the love she received this past year. There will be a lot more work and a lot more fundraising to do, but there’s hope and a caring community there to give the seed ground to grow.

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Photos: Nicola Kelly Photography