Birthday present with ‘stile’ for Mourne woman


Left to right Niall McGovern (Geda Construction), Leza Pierson, Sean Milligan (NI Water), Brian Rooney (Thomas Rooney & Sons), Alice Whittington (RPS), Martin Carey (Mourne Heritage Trust)


When it comes to choosing the perfect 50th birthday present how many of us would think of an old wooden ladder from the Mournes? But that’s exactly what Wee Binnian Walkers’ member, Roisin Johnson thought of for her dear friend Leza Pierson who celebrated her milestone birthday on 4th May.

Annalong native Leza loves nothing more than escaping to the mountains and enjoying the tranquillity of the Mournes whenever she gets the chance and walking friend Roisin decided that a stile from the birthday girl’s favourite place would be the perfect 50th gift.

Roisin contacted Mourne Heritage Trust (MHT) who own and maintain the stiles, in the hope that some of the old wooden steps were being replaced as part of NI Water’s Mourne Wall Restoration Project. As luck would have it there was one stile - the Bog of Donard – that was in good enough state to transport without falling apart and with help from NI Water’s contractors, the stile was removed and delivered to Leza in time for the 50th celebrations.

Presenting the stile to Leza and Roisin, Martin Carey, Chief Executive of MHT said: “Mourne Heritage Trust was delighted to be able to mark Leza’s special birthday with the Bog of Donard stile. Leza clearly loves the Mournes and she and her family have worked tirelessly raising money for the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team. The presentation of this memento from the Mournes is a fitting tribute for all her fundraising efforts.

“The stiles in the high Mournes play an important role in protecting the integrity of the Mourne Wall, helping visitors to cross it safely without disturbing the hand-placed stones. Had it not been for the fact that some stiles were being replaced as part of NI Water’s Mourne Wall Restoration Project we wouldn’t have been able to donate this very ‘stilish’ gift. The Bog of Donard was in fact the only stile that stayed intact after its removal and we are delighted that it will now be given pride of place in Leza’s garden. I would like to take this opportunity to thank NI Water, their contractors, GEDA and local stone mason Brian Rooney for their help in getting the stile to the birthday girl.”

Leza’s friend Roisin Johnson who was behind the surprise present said: “In the relatively short time I've hiked with Leza I am totally in awe of her. “She who was taken from the hills by Mourne Mountain Rescue with an injury that would curb most people’s mountain going only to return to the Mournes and repay the team in spades. 
“Leza is the most selfless person I've ever known and never complains even though she has a very demanding 24/7 life with caring responsibilities. Her recreation and relaxation is her mountains. Many of Leza's friends are turning 50 around this time and heading off on wonderful exotic trips. Leza accepts that she has not the freedom to do so and is she spending her day climbing Binnian, the mountain nearest and dearest to her.”

Roisin went on to explain how the idea for getting the stile came about: “Some weeks back we were hiking in the Mournes when Leza spotted the stiles being replaced. She wistfully and, with tongue in cheek to some extent, suggested I get her one for her garden as it would simply be the best present ever. Little did I think I could, but I got Mourne Heritage Trust’s number and they and the Mourne Wall Restoration Team have been fantastic in supporting this mad quest!”

The last word went to Leza. “I love the Mournes and I particularly love the stiles! I take pictures of them every time I am up and my friends were sending me photos of them asking had I got one yet. I secretly hoped Roisin or someone could get me a stile, but I didn’t really believe it. I will love looking at the stile in my garden and thinking of all the pairs of feet that have climbed over it on their Mourne adventures over the years. This has made a girl’s dream come true. Dreams do come true.”