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Tribute to Orla O'Rielly by Gwen Bastian

One week has passed since the unthinkable happened, and Orla was so suddenly and cruelly ripped from this world. There is nothing I can say that hasn’t already been said, between stories shared at the wakes, tributes on social media and in the news, and the eulogies at the funeral. Anybody that knew her or even met her once will talk about her smile, friendliness and generosity. Her willingness to help, her infectious enthusiasm and her obvious dedication to those she cared for. The hundreds and hundreds of people who came to pay her respects to her family and fiancé Jimmy, and the size of the guard of honour, say more than I ever could. However, I’ll give it a go.

We met through TREC, as many others did, and my first memory is of traipsing through the Donegal countryside whilst Orla translated for me – I thought I’d landed in a different country, as I couldn’t understand a word! I met many other wonderful people up in the hills of Donegal, all obviously good friends of Orla’s, which said a lot about her. TREC really took off with all their help, but it was Orla’s drive and commitment that really developed the sport there, as it has since done for North/ North West TREC as well. As a coach, trainer, traceur and organiser, she spent many, many days working on behalf of TREC Ireland, travelled all over the country to help at events, and even got to compete the odd time, on Molly, Ted, Ri and most recently, Baxter. She took on national events, the position of Public Relations Officer, and Young Rider Chef d’Equipe – no matter what was asked, she never said no, even if she already had 1000 things on her to do list.

We spent many hours putting clipboards together, had endless cups of tea (or glasses of wine) while we sorted through data sheets, measured routes, planned courses or did training for treccies (I saw such beautiful parts of Ireland thanks to her knack for finding super venues). We drove around Donegal and Cavan in Jerry, got soaked, covered in weird flower pollen, ate some very posh and nutritious lunches in the middle of the woods whilst walking a potential POR route, did some Irish dancing on a footbridge in the dark whilst being eaten by midges, and most of all, laughed and giggled through it all. I learned about ‘glar’ ‘googie pieces’ and bands I had never heard of, talked about weddings, houses, families, food and holidays…

A better friend nobody could imagine. She brought so many people together. As Serena said to me, Orla was a lot of people’s best friend – because that is how much love she had to give, and how absolutely huge her heart. Her heart had space not only for all her family and friends, but also for all the young people she took care of. Now this heart of mine aches at the thought of a life without her, not dancing at her wedding and not sitting with a pint of cider the day after, the day she was so looking forward to, starting married life with her soul mate, Jimmy.

On behalf of TREC Ireland, our deepest sympathies go to Orla’s parents, Brian and Helen, better known as Daddy and Mammy O’Reilly to the horsey folk, her sister Maeve and brother Shane, and of course Jimmy, her wonderful fiancé, who has become a part of the TREC family. Our ‘middle man’, now that our ‘middle woman’ is gone.

RIP Orla O’Reilly, you were one in a million and will never be forgotten.


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