“It all started at the ploughing match. I was up there for work and a friend was selling tickets for the autism unit in their local national school. So, I took 50 books and it wasn’t long before I had them all sold. I was selling tickets more than I was selling machinery. People started coming up to me and telling me that their child had autism. I came home to my wife, Anne and I said, ‘Look, Reece [our eldest son] has autism, we should be trying to do something ourselves.’

That was 2013 and Reece was in national school at the time. So, we ran the tractor run for seven years for the school, and we left them in a very good position.

A new site in sight

We then started up the project for Dunmanway. We are working towards a day care centre with respite accommodation; a home away from home for adults with autism. School is fine but once ?people with autism get to 18, there are limited services available. It is a long day at home for a lot of mothers and fathers out there. So that’s why we are doing it. It will be the first of its kind, as far as we know.

John and Mary McCarthy also known as JMC Parts, are behind the project and they donated the land. Now, our focus is on securing our charitable status number. Then we’ll apply for ?planning. Henry J. Lyons architects have come up with a design for us.

At this stage, we have met a good few politicians, Micheál Martin when he was Taoiseach, and Minister Anne Rabbitte was down this Christmas. The local county councillors have been supportive too.


The tractor run is getting bigger and bigger every year, as so many people are affected by autism. It is huge. When Reece was diagnosed, a person came to our house and told us what to expect. One of the most important steps you can take is acceptance. The tractor run is indirectly raising the conversation about autism.

The farming community is a very tight community and when you see tractors turning up for three and four hours on the day to Kilbrittain, it means a lot to us. Last Christmas, we had bad weather; dull, drizzle all day and still over 500 tractors turned up. There was over 40 to 50 vintage tractors in that.

We thought Christmas was a good time because contractors are finished and cows are not yet calving. It is usually the first Sunday after Christmas so people are edging to get out, especially the men. They just can’t wait to get out from the four walls. There are a lot of young fellas who aren’t into the hurling, football or soccer but they love their tractors. It’s like getting ready for the stations, they get involved, they make the effort to get the tractor tidy and ready for the new year.

Local support

We get great support from around the area. The Kilbrittain Inn make 500 breakfasts on the day and the Gardaí and coast guard are on hand. Our committee is brilliant; two lads are allocated to run the traffic side of things and we have 80 to 90 stewards in total for the event. Bridgestone tyres have come on board as our main sponsor and agri-businesses from around the country are great for contributing too. In total, this Christmas we raised €27,000. We have to raise €150,000 for the design and planning, so that’s our target.

Reece will be 15 this month and he is in Scoil Triest at Lota, Glanmire and loves it there. He’s kind and mad for hugs and kisses. He loves swimming and is the first up on a Sunday morning to go to Acton’s pool in Kinsale. He is so happy in the water; he blows bubbles and dives down to the bottom, holding his breath for so long that people start saying ‘Jim, Jim, Jim!’ and I have to tell them he is as happy as Larry at that. Afterwards, we go for chips and then back to Ballinspittle for his two bars of chocolate for the week. He’s made up with that.

Evan is our younger boy. He will be 12 soon - happy birthday Evan! He is tractor mad. I work as a sales rep with Farm Power Ltd, the John Deere dealership for Cork. I was away in America last week for work and he couldn’t wait for me to come in the door to see what was in the bags for him. They are very good and caring towards each other.

April is World Autism Month and it is great to be able to do something to help people with autism or who are caring for someone with autism. We keep to a routine and the good news is, there is a pool within walking distance of the new site in Dunmanway.”

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