Ronan Collins with Big Band and Singers is returning to play the Celtic Ross Hotel in Rosscarbery on Saturday, February 10. The show, which is in aid of the Ethiopia Deaf Project, will this year feature Gina Dale Haze and the Champions and Joe Dolan’s Classic’s such as ‘You’re Such A Good Looking Woman’,’The Answer To Everything’, ‘It’s You It’s You It’s You’ and much much more.
Ronan, who has has visited Ethiopia on a number of occasions with Self Help Africa, is really looking forward to returning to West Cork to play in Rosscarbery in support of the Ethiopia project, which is making a significant difference to lives of deaf people in Ambo in Ethiopia.
Many deaf children in Ethiopia don’t get access to education and when they do it is usually in an environment that does not understand their particular communication needs, especially the need for sign language. This results in the children feeling very isolated and stigmatised. Without proper supports, even those lucky enough to attend school often end up failing and leave early.
The event in Rosscarbery is being organised by Miriam O’Regan, a member of the Ethiopia Deaf Project. Miriam has two adopted children from Ethiopia, one of whom is deaf. “Miriam is an extraordinary woman and I’m delighted to be doing something in support of a charity that is fundraising to help deaf children in Ambo Ethiopia,” says Ronan.
After four years of fundraising, the Ethiopia Deaf Project succeeded in opening the Ambo School for Deaf Children in 2012.
“A recent visit to rural villages has brought an additional 30 children to the school,” says Miriam, “but these children have nowhere to stay, no money to pay rent or to feed themselves. They are desperate for a chance at an education, but more than that, they are desperate to be able to communicate.
“One of the hardest things we learned was that these children did not even know their name. Imagine never knowing you had a name,” says Miriam passionately.
“We desperately require a boarding house so we will be able to take in more children and also keep them safe. Our focus is to maintain the school and support the children attending it as best we can but our dream is to build the boarding house. With your ongoing help we will be able to make this dream come true!”
A drummer with Dickie Rock in the 70s, Ronan has played every hall in West Cork, which is another reason he’s really looking forward to returning to play in Rosscarbery.
A recent health scare has made the DJ appreciate life even more and, at 65, he has no intention of retiring. “I like to think I’ve rediscovered my determination,” he admits.
In July last year, Ronan very suddenly lost all feeling in his legs and became paralysed from the waist down. Doctors initially thought he had suffered a stroke but it turned out to be a benign cyst pressing on the nerves in his spine.
“It was a very scary time,” he says. “On Thursday morning I was perfectly fine but that evening I had ‘jelly’ legs and by Friday morning I couldn’t walk.”
Ronan was brought by ambulance to the A&E in Connolly Hospital and was later transferred to Beaumont Hospital for an MRI. He was operated on at 5am on Sunday morning. “Thankfully the operation was a success and I’m very well now. Although my legs still aren’t 100 per cent, they’re getting better every day.”
Ronan’s ordeal was captured on camera for RTÉ2’s four-part documentary series ‘Trauma’. The film crew happened to be in Beaumont filming at the time he was admitted. “I wasn’t happy about the filming at first when they asked me,” he admits. “I didn’t want my demise, if that was what was going to happen, to be in the public eye.” However, a couple of hours before the operation, Ronan agreed to be filmed, so long as he had the right to veto it before it was aired.
“It was a positive result, a benign cyst, so I feel very lucky,” says Ronan, who returned to work after only five weeks. Although he still has difficulty walking long distances, Ronan is working very hard at his rehabitation and goes swimming every morning.
“This experience has made me more appreciative of being able to move around. I don’t take that for granted anymore.
“I’m back doing the Reeling in the Showband gigs and I’ve a new contract with RTÉ. I’m going to be around for a few years yet, which is very heartening.
“My wife had a serious back operation last year, which was also a success, so we’re both looking forward to having a good year in 2018.
“And I’m very happy to be in a position to support Miriam and the Ethiopia Deaf Project again this year.”