Charlie Bird said “we never know what’s around the corner” after reaching the summit of Croagh Patrick this afternoon, where he was greeted with applause and cheers from his fellow climbers.
As he and his wife Claire reached the top of The Reek, he raised his climbing pole in joy and gratitude to the crowd.
“I love every single one of you, I mean it,” he said. “Always stretch out the hand of friendship.”
He said “something amazing” has happened since he was diagnosed with motor neuron disease (MND) last year.
The former RTÉ broadcaster (72) came up with the idea of climbing Croagh Patrick on the side The Late Late Show last year. Climb with Charlie has now raised over €1million for the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association and Pieta House, with thousands of people taking part in climbs and walks across the country.
“I had a crazy idea when I told Ryan Tubridy I wanted to climb him.
“My great colleague Jim Fahy wanted to climb this mountain with me but passed away,” he said, referring to the late RTÉ Western correspondent, who died in January.
“Everyone has their own personal mountains to climb. We never know what’s around the corner,” he added.
Charlie admitted he didn’t know how long he had to live but said he will continue to extend the hand of friendship.
“People were so generous at Climb With Charlie. I have been touched by incredible kindness. There were amazing volunteers who helped.”
His wife Claire expressed her joy at reaching the summit and thanked everyone.
Late Late Show Host Ryan Tubridy took part in the climb with his former RTÉ colleague and said: “Well done Charlie. We are all happy to be here, we love Charlie Bird very much. This whole thing came from Charlie.
“Today is Ireland at its best, a country that has been in the shadows for two years. We got up to be counted.
“Everyone has different reasons for being here. We will never forget what we did here.”
Singer Daniel O’Donnell was visibly touched by Charlie’s performance and wiped away tears. He sang a Bruce Springsteen song that was played at Charlie and Claire’s wedding.
“It’s a privilege to be here,” he said.
“I was on The Late Late when Charlie talked about his dream of climbing Croagh Patrick.
“Charlie’s journey was incredible. He brought stories from all over the world. There isn’t a story Charlie ever told that would top it today.”
He said Charlie united Ireland and that Russian President Vladimir Putin could learn from him.
“One man united Ireland and another man divided the world.
“Charlie is amazing, if only we could do it differently for you. We are in awe of you,” he added.
Cervical cancer activist Vicky Phelan had hoped to take part in the climb alongside Charlie. She had said that while she couldn’t be there in person, she would be there in spirit.
Family members including her father and mother, sister, two brothers, nieces and nephews and friends took over the climb for her.
However, she spoke by phone at the summit: “Fair play Charlie, you made it to the top.
“Doing what he does and gathering everyone around him. I’ve never seen anything like it, what he’s doing considering his condition is amazing.”
Five candles were lit – for those affected by the conflict in Ukraine, for Vicky Phelan, for those who have a terminal illness, for those who must scale their own mountains or face adversity, and for all those fighting the pandemic Have helped.
A local pipe band played Dawning of the Day after Charlie reached the top.
Architect Dermot Bannon said earlier this morning as he set out on the climb it was a day to make you proud to be Irish.
“It was very emotional and powerful to see how Charlie approached this.
“I feel very privileged to be here, it’s a big national event.
“I think today is all about a united country standing behind people who suffer in silence.”
Fine Gael TD Michael Ring praised “the difficult climb” Charlie made as “inspiring”.
He told that Irish Independent: “Charlie has touched the hearts of many people across the country.
“He has given a boost to the charities and to all the families who are going through difficulties at the moment.”
Many familiar faces took part in the climb, including RTÉ’s George Lee, TV presenter Baz Ashmawy and Met Éireann forecaster Joanna Donnelly.
George said “a bird doesn’t fly on one wing” and said “the support of the Irish people is the second wing that will help Charlie up the mountain”.
“It’s so important to make the day go well for Charlie, his energy and positivity is amazing. It’s so impressive.”
Also taking part in the climb was Stephen Sheridan from Cavan Town, who arrived at The Reek with nine friends.
He said he climbs the mountain for his sister Collette, who is battling breast cancer.
“I was touched by what he said The Late Late. I wanted to climb to support my sister.
“I sadly lost my mother, Anna May, and my sister, Rosaleen, to brain cancer.
“Every family in the country is affected by disease and we are doing this for them.”
By now Murrisk local Martin Gill had already scaled the mountain as many made their way and his family arrived to greet him at the bottom.
“I wanted to do it out of solidarity,” he said. “I started at 6am but it got a lot busier as I got down.
“My three kids were waiting for me downstairs with my wife, which was lovely.”
Fundraisers are taking place across Ireland today and tomorrow, but also in the US, Australia and the United Arab Emirates.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/we-never-know-what-is-around-the-corner-inspirational-charlie-bird-reaches-top-of-croagh-patrick-41513496.html Climb with Charlie: Charlie Bird is ‘amazed’ by the support as hundreds join him on Croagh Patrick