Every community needs its champions and one of Ferns’ hard workers is Mary Gethings. Born and reared in North Wexford’s heritage hub, Mary loves Ferns, wildflowers, medical dramas, DIY, sustainability, photography and… well, loads of things, including making her own jams and chutneys!
Along with running Eco Evolution, a hydro power solutions company with husband Frank, Mary is involved in Ferns Tidy Towns, Ferns Community First Responders, and the Ferns Heritage Archive Group. She blogs, she Facebooks, she Instagrams, she goes to meetings, she …
“I started blogging and doing the marketing for Eco Evolution and became more interested in the environment through that,” says Mary. “Then, I joined the Ferns Tidy Towns committee seven years ago and I’ve been chairperson for the last three years.”
They won numerous awards last year alone – Gold Standard Award for participation in the North Wexford 2K clean Certificate in recognition of the contribution to NW2K clean by picking more than five roads; first prize in the photography competition as part of the North Wexford 2K Clean; Tidy Towns Regional Winner of the Irish Water Value Water Award in Best Small Town category; Keep Wexford Beautiful Environment Awards – Winner of the Value Water Award Village; Keep Wexford Beautiful Environment Awards – 2nd prize for Best Community Project that tackles and reduces the impact of climate change.
Not surprisingly, this takes huge commitment, and volunteers are out and about cleaning up the environs around Ferns every weeknight and Saturday morning from April until August. (Volunteers always welcome!)
Ferns CFR (Community First Responders) has been live since June 2016, supporting the National Ambulance Service in the Ferns, Camolin, Clologue, Ballyduff and surrounding areas. “I’ve always been interested in medicine – I’ve watched every medical programme known to man,” says Mary. She applied to join, was accepted, joined the committee, and became a co-ordinator, trainer and volunteer. “We work within a 5km circumference with two of us on call at any time.”
Seven weeks after going live, Mary’s mother, Bridie, had a heart attack and Mary was called into action. “My father rang, concerned, so I grabbed the bag and went there. Once I assessed it was safe, I administered 300mg of Aspirin,” she says. She rang 999 and the other on-duty first responder. “Aspirin minimises muscle damage to the heart by slowing down the clotting and decreasing the size of the forming blood clot.”
This was only Mary’s sixth call – “I’m sort of the family manager anyway!” – and Bridie, like most calls to the CFR, was at home at the time. “We’re called out for cardiac arrests, stroke, chest pain and choking,” says Mary, who, along with two other trainers, has also passed on CPR skills to primary school children, on family and friends programmes, and farm safety courses.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, Mary was recently crowned Queen of DIY by ARRO Home Garden and Build in a nationwide competition decided by public vote. She submitted a mosaic table, bug hotels recycled from hanging baskets, and upcycled furniture.
And, in October, Mary was named one of Bord na Móna’s Sustainability Heroes. Nominated by her son, Mark, he listed all of her sustainability work, including composting, her mosaic table, her involvement in the Tidy Towns and her home-grown fruit and veg.
“My father grew his own veg and when you read about the environment and the sprays used, well, I feel you have to grow your own – and they taste better!” Indeed, nothing goes to waste in Mary’s house, with the unripened tomatoes ending up as green tomato chutney. Elder flowers end up in elderflower cordial in the summer and elderberries in elderberry tonic in the winter.
And, Mary, she ends up helping out, with a drive now by the Ferns Heritage Archive Group to engage the public in the development and marketing of Ferns. In the meantime, she’s busy keeping in touch with daughter Christine in the UK and is quietly pleased that son Mark has just moved home from the UK.
Meanwhile, her garden out the back of her house is looking a little wild! “It’s bee friendly!” she laughs. No doubt she’ll get around to it – and it will be a haven of sustainability when she’s finished with it!
Interview: Deirdre O’Flynn