Saturday 4th October 2003
Brendan shakes hands with new world record
By Conor Kane
- Shaking hands with someone is an action which doesn't cost us a thought - but to shake hands with over 14,000 people in the space of just eight hours is a different matter. However, that's exactly what a Fethard man did last week at the National Ploughing Championships, and all to raise money for a very worthy cause.
Macra na Feirme member Brendan Morrissey managed to set a new world handshaking record between 10am and 6pm on Wednesday at the ploughing venue in Ballinabrackey, County Meath. With a speed, which any electioneering politician would envy, he pressed the flesh with an amazing total of 14,169 people. That's one hand every two seconds.
"It was tough enough going", he recalled afterwards, "but the crowd were good. Most of the people that passed through went at speed and didn't bother with the formalities; they appreciated what we were trying to do."
Brendan, who lives at Cashel Road in Fethard, first got the idea for the world record attempt when his grandmother, Peg Morrissey, passed away. "The Alzheimer's Society were very good to her before she died and then I was just sitting there shaking hands at the funeral and it came into my head that I could do this and give something back."
Contact was made with Guinness World Records who duly sent him several pages of instructions and guidelines in relation to any possible record attempt, including rules about what exactly constitutes an official handshake. Last week, everything was done in accordance with these provisions and a file with reports from independent observers, photographs taken on the day and press clippings will be sent to the records verification office. “Hopefully, we'll make it into print, but a record has been set anyway”, says Brendan.
Luckily, Wednesday proved to be a fine day weather-wise and Brendan's effort was helped by the fact that a record crowd of over 75,000 turned up for the ploughing championships. Although he would have it that this was all because of the handshaking... “We went up on Tuesday to have a look at the stand and have a look at the layout and we were getting very worried because the crowd seemed to be a bit slacker than usual. But they all came on the Wednesday and it was way above what I've ever seen there before. My excuse is that they read about the record attempt and all wanted to be there!”
The Macra na Feirme stand hosted Brendan's project, with Paddy Rock and Eoin Coffey spreading the word around the ploughing venue by microphone throughout the day. In order to raise money for the South Tipperary and Meath Alzheimer's Society branches, sponsorship was collected beforehand while a competition was also held on the day, inviting entrants to estimate how many hands would be shaken, and buckets were also used to collect money.
“It all went very well and I'd say we raised a couple of thousand anyway. It was our first time out and we were just really dipping our toe in the water to see how we'd get on. Maybe we'll do it again or do something else like it. It was a novelty and my way of giving something back to people who are doing voluntary work to help people with Alzheimer's.”