Lung Cancer Survivor’s Vintage Crusade Hits the Road

At the launch of the Castleisland Vintage Run at The Halfway Bar in Ballymacelligott were from left: Pat Mangan, Noel O'Connor, Frank O'Connor and Pádraig McCarthy. ©Photograph: John Reidy
At the launch of the Castleisland Vintage Run at The Halfway Bar in Ballymacelligott were from left: Pat Mangan, Noel O’Connor, Frank O’Connor and Pádraig McCarthy. ©Photograph: John Reidy

A man who told his doctor he cracked 365 matches a year during a near life-time of tobacco addiction eventually lost a lung to cancer in 1999. However, he lived to tell the tale and is fighting back.  Noel O’Connor is organising another of his ‘vintage runs’ around his native Castleisland next month.

The third annual Castleisland Vintage Run is due to take place at 1pm on Sunday, June 8th from The Halfway House Bar in Ballymacelligott.
While tractors will make up the main body of the cavalcade, vintage cars and bikes will also be welcomed.
Moss Trant of the Kerry Vintage Club has hooked up with Noel and he will also have people to cast an eye over the vehicles and they’ll have trophies on offer for the best restored vehicles on show on the day.
It was in 1999 that Noel O’Connor’s doctor asked him how many cigarettes he smoked each day. Even after pondering on the question Mr.O’Connor couldn’t give him a definitive answer.
“I can’t tell you that doctor,” said Noel. “But I can tell you how many matches I cracked every week. “That’s impossible,” the doctor said to me and he sizing me up.  “I cracked seven matches every week, doctor  – and I lit one fag off the butt of another,” the farm worker told his horrified physician who was preparing him for the removal of one of his lungs at the time.
“I had the left lung burned out altogether as I was smoking about 120 Gold Flake and Sweet Afton every day of the week. I’d light one off the other all day and night long since I was about 11 years of age,” said the now 64-year-old Noel who realises that he’s an amazingly lucky survivor of his life threatening predicament of 15 years ago.
“I was given the choice of having the lung removed or going underground at that time. After I recovered I swore that if I got the chance to do something for the people who saved my life I’d do my best to raise funds for them. That’s why I’m organising the ‘Castleisland Vintage Run’ on Sunday, June 8th from The Halfway in Ballymacelligott. We’re looking for vintage tractors or cars to join us and raise funds for Breakthrough Cancer Research at the Cork Cancer Research Centre. We’ll be travelling through: Farranfore, Currow, Scartaglin and Castleisland and finishing back at The Halfway again. We’ve an entry fee of €10 per vehicle and we’ll be collecting along the run as well,” said Noel
Having learned a tough lesson on the harms of smoking Noel now say that he’s ‘Blue in the face’ from trying to get youngsters he comes into contact with to give up or stay away from fags altogether.  Noel O’Connor can be contacted on 087 330 1079.