John to tackle 485-mile tractor trip for hospice

A WOKING man is to drive a 70-year-old tractor 485 miles to his sister’s farm in Ireland, a trip for charity that he had to abandon at the last minute two years ago.

In December 2019 the News & Mail reported that John Leane was putting the final touches to the seven-day expedition on his 1952 Ferguson.

John Leane on the 1952 tractor that he will be driving 485 miles to Ireland

“I retired from work in April 2020 and was all ready to go off in the August and then Covid and lockdown turned up and we couldn’t even leave the house,” John said last week.  “We had everything planned: the route, the campsites, the ferries.”

The idea was that John would be followed by his wife Halina in their camper van, which he would use for overnight stops.

“Once it had all calmed down last year we thought we’d have one more stab at it and started putting it all into place,” he said. “We’ve been able to use about 90% of the plans we made previously.”

John will be sponsored to raise money for Woking & Sam Beare Hospices and Pieta House, an Ireland-based suicide and self-harm crisis and suicide bereavement service. Before the abandoned trip, he set up a Just Giving page, which has so far raised more than £4,000 for the hospice and about £400 for Pieta House.

The new departure day is this coming Sunday – almost two years to the day from the abandoned 2020 trip.

John will be using minor roads at an average of 60 miles a day, aiming to arrive in Knocknagoshel, in County Kerry, southwest Ireland, a week later. He aims to catch a ferry from Pembroke in South Wales to Rosslare in Ireland at the end of day four.

Before he retired, John ran a vehicle servicing business from Poole Road, Woking, and has made repairs to the tractor engine himself.

“It’s looking really good and I didn’t have to do too much work to it,” he said. “I’ve done it all now. I have driven it for 60 miles in a day and it was absolutely fine, although it was pretty tiring.”

John’s family hails from Knocknagoshel, which has a population of around 800. His parents moved to London to find work after the Second World War.

He has lived in Woking since he and Halina married 43 years ago, when they were living in London.

The couple have four children, who grew up in the area, mostly St John’s, and went to local schools.

John is confident his “Fergie” will be fine on the journey, but is sure how he will handle bad weather, as the vehicle does not have a cab.

He had only acquired the tractor in 2019 and originally intended to give it to his sister, but now seems reluctant to part with it.

“One of my friends says I should auction it when I get there but I don’t know if I want to say goodbye to it that quickly after all the effort,” John said.

John will be setting off from the Woking & Sam Beare Hospice in Goldsworth Park at 11am, with the Mayor of Woking Cllr Saj Hussain in attendance to wish him well on his journey.

Visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/john-leane for details and to make a donation.

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