Faith among others responsible for mother’s fortitude

Faith among others responsible for mother’s fortitude Geraldine Mullan, who lost her husband, John, son Tomás (14), and six-year-old daughter Amelia in a drowning tragedy in Lough Foyle in August 2020.

Tragedy is inevitable in life but how one responds is up to each individual. The response of Geraldine Mullan in Moville, Co. Donegal has inspired many across her parish but also the country. During the summer of 2020, Geraldine’s life took a turn for the worst when she and the car she was travelling home in with her family had left the road and entered Lough Foyle just when they were coming into the village of Quigley’s Point. Twenty minutes down the road would have seen Geraldine home with her loving husband John and two children, Tomás and Amelia. She was the only survivor.

I wanted to give it back to the community. I want it to be a hub of positive energy”

Geraldine is known in her local parish for turning this tragic event and experience into a positive by setting up the Mullan Hope Centre. Her husband John was a talented gardener and was known in the area for running the Moville Garden Centre. Despite being a respected oncologist nurse, Geraldine insists that John would have possessed a lot of patience when it came to her gardening skills. Between these two things, Geraldine took some initiative: “I wanted to give it back to the community. I want it to be a hub of positive energy.”  The Hope Centre hosts a number of activities and initiatives: “We have craft evenings every month, and we also have a farmer’s market. There are many people that use the space. John would love all the stuff. We have many youth groups up like the Donegal Youth Service. We would have a mixture of everything going into the Autumn,” she said.

Geraldine finds faith to be something that gives her hope, saying: “Everybody’s got their own faith and we all believe in something. For me, my faith is important. The Hope Centre is something that has brought people together and we have different cultures and different faiths. It’s also a place where people can have a coffee and listen to music. Many people will say that they bought this or that for John”.

Geraldine Mullan at the Hope Centre.

Geraldine also possesses an immense amount of faith in her day-to-day life: “Every day is a new one. I’ve had to learn coping mechanisms. I will look to John, Amelia and Tomás for help, on birthdays and on anniversary days, I’ll take it a little easier. If you can be kind to yourself, you can be kind to others.” A shrine remains where the crash happened for her family. “It means there’s something there to mark it. Amelia loved rainbows, there’s a stained glass of rainbows there with all the colours of the rainbow. We put flowers there for the anniversary. I do have to pass it on my way to work every day. It’s a funny thing fear but I do have to go to work and pay the bills,” Geraldine said.

Geraldine specialises in cancer treatment when it comes to her nursing career and has for 29 years while being in nursing for 21 years. She said: “I got an interest in cancer care and did my post grad. I probably get more from the patients than they get from me. Without John’s support, I couldn’t have done it.”  In terms of John’s passing, she finds great support at Letterkenny Hospital from her fellow nurses. “Since the accident, they’ve been so good to me at work. It’s about community, they’re always so welcoming. It’s a good supportive environment, and they’ve been supporting me. They will help on the tough days whether it’s going for coffee or lunch or even just a little nod,” Geraldine said.

She also attributes her courage to practicing her Catholic faith: “I love the rosary. I’ll be at Mass here in Moville on a Sunday. I would have also done prayers with the kids. Tomas would have been an alter server. In Galway [where Geraldine originates from] we would have went to Mass in town. It was part of who we were. I always go when I’m home.”  Geraldine still says the rosary after all these years.

I used to have a fear of the water. I wouldn’t have been confident but it’s a reminder of the good times… me and John’s first date would have been at Stroove beach”

Geraldine stresses how much the community has meant to her and the Moville GAA club: “I actually played camogie in the Caribbean when I was a nurse out there. I played Gaelic football as well.”  Naturally, Geraldine got involved in the GAA club where she now considers home, saying “Amelia would have been playing for Moville. She actually had a match ten days before the crash. I’ve kept up the membership, they have the Amelia Christmas cup now in her honour. I usually help out at that.”


Geraldine has just returned from Dubai where she spent the week with some of John’s family, a week where Tomas would have been doing his leaving cert. Now home, Geraldine will keep up one of her favourite pastimes times despite swimming in 40 degrees heat in Dubai last week – sea swimming in Donegal. Geraldine said: “I used to have a fear of the water. I wouldn’t have been confident but it’s a reminder of the good times… me and John’s first date would have been at Stroove beach” in Greencastle, Donegal. Geraldine also sees the social benefits of sea swimming. “There’s a group of women that go down.. all different ages, shapes and sizes… we have a group chat as well named The Mighty Mermaids, we meet up every week, every Saturday morning – I’d never go by myself though. I’ll meet up with a few of the lads too and go for a swim as well,” she said.


In keeping with her reputation as a particularly resilient woman, Geraldine will be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro on Tomás’ birthday and in aid of Children in Crossfire. For her training, she will be using the Inishowen head, an 8km loop on the Inishowen peninsula on the northern tip of Donegal. For now, it’s back to work next week before she gets the shopping in this evening as well as taking in her two dogs – “I must keep going, I must keep pushing.”