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Roy and Peter go the extra mile for Northern Ireland Hospice

28 October 2017

The emotional story behind why friends Roy and Pete are embarking on a tour of Europe's major cities... in an £800 Ford Ka

Construction worker Roy Lucas is currently putting the final touches to plans for an ambitious road trip to Europe next month in an £800 Ford Ka with best friend, Peter Davies.

But behind all the last-minute preparation and anticipation lies a very poignant reason for his travels - the venture is a tribute to his inspiration and his hero - his dad Ernie who died in May this year.

"My dad had terminal cancer and was diagnosed about two and half years ago so we had plenty of time to prepare for what was to come," says Roy, who lives in Lisburn with wife Alison (30) and their two-and-half-year-old daughter Emily.

"He was so brave throughout and a true inspiration to us all. Unfortunately, in January he was diagnosed with brain cancer and his condition became rapid."

Two weeks before he passed away on May 8, Ernie was moved to hospice care at the Somerton Road in Belfast.

"I've never seen a place like it," says Roy. "It was amazing and so welcoming. Everyone from the doctors and nurses to the cleaners made us feel welcome and as cliched as it sounds, everyone always had a smile on their face. It was a happy place to be under very difficult circumstances.

"Nothing was too much bother for the staff. If I was sitting with dad or couldn't sleep, they made us a cup of tea at 3am.

Roy recalls that in the last two weeks he spent quality time with his dad and his mum Angela.

"Dad and I would go to the coffee shop and talk for ages. He was a very smart, well-educated man and had an opinion on and could talk about everything.

"We talked a lot about Brexit as it was in the news all the time. About borders and travelling. By this stage I had told dad I wanted to do something to thank the hospice for the work they do. He was in full support as he was so content and calm there, and knew he was being well looked after.

"One of the ideas we talked about was travelling all over Europe and visiting the different hospices in different countries and making people aware of the work they do.

"Dad loved this idea and got very excited and animated about it. That is one of the last conversations I had with dad. After that he became very weak and was medicated so he was sleeping a lot.

"He passed away in the early hours of the morning. He was surrounded by his family and it was very beautiful and peaceful. We couldn't settle and we all ended up in his room at just the right time.

A month after losing his father, Roy started to think seriously about how best to honour that promise to his dad - and help raise money for the hospice as well.

"I really wanted to raise vital funds for the hospice which costs millions to run every year and is free to everyone," he says.

"So Peter and I bought an old Ford Ka convertible for £800 and began planning our trip. We decided we would visit the 16 countries in Europe with hospices in them. Dad and I talked so much about this trip and about how cancer doesn't stop at borders, but is prevalent everywhere.

 

"Every hospice across Europe is offering the kind of services and support we received and we want to mark that by visiting them.

"It may seem like a madcap idea travelling around Europe in a beat-up old Ford Ka convertible, but I know it is what dad would have wanted me to do".

Roy and Peter's Great Tour begins on October 28 and they plan to make a total of 16 stops in 14 days. Roy said: "As regards our route, we will take the ferry over to Cairnryan and drive to the Glasgow Hospice. We will then go to Cardiff and London before travelling from Dover to Brussels. Stops then include Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Croatia, Slovenia, Venice, Milan, Zurich and Paris, and then we get the ferry home to Dublin.

One stop-off point will undoubtedly churn up mixed emotions for Roy.

"Berlin will be a difficult one as I had planned to take dad there for his 70th birthday, but sadly he got sick and couldn't make it.

"But I will be taking some of his ashes with me - so I can say dad and I made it to Berlin".

To make a donation to Roy & Peter's Great Tour, visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/the-great-tour