Amidst the tragedy and hearbreak of the events at Lough Ree, the generosity and sheer spirit of Portadown has shone through.
Nothing encapsulated this more than the way the entire town rallied in support of an appeal to help the rescuers and volunteers leading the search for Daryl Burke.
Two vans, laden with food and supplies to help bolster the rescuers and volunteers at Lough Ree, rolled out of the town on Tuesday evening and early on Wednesday morning.
The town was totally united in its determination to thank – and feed – the legion of volunteers in County Westmeath who worked beyond the call of duty.
Volunteer rescuers saved the life of Markethill man John Trimble, came so close to saving Richhill man David Warnock, and searched all week in their bid to find Portadown man Daryl Burke – all members of Portadown Pikers.
Lifeboat crews, divers and other volunteers have worked during daylight hours, and have earned the heartfelt thanks of families from Portadown.
Many, with friends, have watched in admiration as the rescuers have toiled non-stop.
And the members of the Hodson Bay Charity- who have fed and generally cared for the volunteers – have also been carrying out vital work.
But supplies have been running low, and on Tuesday, a Facebook appeal by local woman Lynn Maxwell – whose brother Floyd Hobson and Daryl have been close mates for years – set the ball rolling.
She simply asked for items like tea, coffee and food supplies to be left at the various community centres, and the Facebook Page went viral. Hundreds turned up at most of the town’s community centres with supplies.
The first van – driven by Karl Black and Darryn Causby - left from Brownstown Centre in the afternoon.
And at 4am on Wednesday, another van – filled at Killicomaine Centre – rolled out, with David Taylor and Neill Robinson at the wheel for the 100-mile, three-hour journey. The van was supplied by the local charity Portadown Cares.
Said Lynn, who was receiving at least 100 boxes at Killicomaine, “It’s fantastic. I didn’t think it would mushroom like this.”
Mayor Mark Baxter was helping at Killicomaine. “This is the true Portadown,” he said. “People of all classes and creeds have been bringing in boxes and it’s totally cross-community.”
Tracey Jenkinson from Portadown Cares said, “We’re linking up with the Hodson Bay Charity. Everyone down there has done such a wonderful job and we’re delighted to be forging links with them, which we aim to continue after the job is done.”
A list of centres involved included Corcrain Redmanville Community Partnership, the BEST Centre in Brownstown (Deramore Drive), Edgarstown Community House, Parkmore Community Association and Ardmore Recreation Centre in Armagh. There was a bucket at Halifax in Portadown, Killicomaine shop and Portadown Cares. Edenderry Community Development Association has donated fuel vouchers.
Portadown Pikers Club has also invited people to make donations to the families via their website at http://portadownpikers.co.uk.