One of Inishowen’s best-kept secrets has been unveiled this week in loving memory of a special family.
As the sun shines on Quigley’s Point, a ‘Field of Hope’ is blooming bright and beautiful.
The two-and-a-half acre field of sunflowers was planted and nurtured by grieving mum Geraldine Mullan. She was the sole survivor of a car accident at Lough Foyle which killed her husband John, 49, and children Tomás, 14, and Amelia, six.
As the second anniversary of the tragedy approaches on 20th August, Geraldine will open the flower-filled field to the public to spread hope, smiles and solidarity with anyone who has experienced loss.
The field is located between the R238 and Lough Foyle. To the left is a joyous yellow sea of sunflowers. To the right is the water which claimed the lives of Geraldine’s husband and children.
“My heart is still broken and next week is going to be very tough,” Geraldine told Donegal Daily. “Being in the field and working and seeing the fruits of the labour has been therapy for me.”
Inspired by her husband John, who ran a local garden centre, and by Amelia, who loved sunflowers, Geraldine and close friend Catherine Carlin set about transforming the land six months ago. Local man John McCarron owns the field and normally uses it for barley, but Geraldine and Catherine convinced him to take a leap of faith and let them, and their ‘sunflower fairies’, work some green-fingered magic. The result is a beautiful scene which would look the part on a French or Italian postcard.
“My John would be proud of my gardening skills,” Geraldine said. “The sunflowers need the care and attention.”
The Field of HOPE will be open to the public on Friday 19th – Sunday 21st August. Families will be able to walk through a carefully crafted maze that spells the word HOPE. That is Geraldine’s motto – ‘Never Lose Hope’.
Geraldine, who works as a nurse in Letterkenny Hospital, says the sunflower project has given her strength as the months go on.
“It’s hard to believe that it is two years. It feels like five minutes and eternity in the next breath. I have to keep going for the four of us,” she said.
“Next weekend I will be there in the field, hopefully seeing families and seeing their smiles and that will get me through. I want people to cherish every moment, and never lose hope.”
The opening coincides with the Mullan HOPE Centre Sunflower Festival 2022, which was formerly named as the Redcastle Village Sunflower Festival. Over the past two summers, people along the Foyle have planted chains of sunflowers to brighten the roadside and encourage happy memories of the Mullan family.
The sunflower symbolism is not only a tribute to John, Tomás and Amelia, but it’s also Ukraine’s national flower. Geraldine is happy for the flowers to be seen as an extension of a warm welcome to those who have arrived in Inishowen this year.
Anyone who visits the Field of HOPE is invited to take whatever comfort they need from it.
Geraldine said: “Everyone has their own worries and stress and hopefully when they walk through they’ll get a little bit of solace and peace. When they walk through the maze they can remember people they have lost or remember John, Tomás and Amelia. It will be lovely to see people coming together and hopefully the weather will be on our side.”
Parking and traffic management plans will be in place for the weekend and visitors are kindly asked not to cut the flowers in the field, as some pre-bunches will be available on site.
For updates and more information on the Festival, please visit: The Mullan Hope Centre