SURVIVING a major heart operation two years ago spurred green-fingered Coagh man Mr Gordon Bell to turn a new hobby into a money spinner for charity.
Close to death, Gordon attributes Royal Victora Hospital surgeon Mr Mark Jones as saving his life by performing a vital triple by-pass operation.
However unwilling to forget the massive impact this had, Gordon discovered a new lease of life and decided to give something back as well as improve his fitness.
He decided to grow lots of vegetables on a 3/4 acre plot near his home. The then sold the produce via a local store and raised the princely sum of £1250.
Despite being a sheep farmer all his life, 63-year-old Gordon had never attempted to grow anything before his operation and discovered a talent as well as raising the cash for Belfast’s RVH.
His first attempt saw him growing potatoes, peas and beans which he was able to sell through Mrs Joan Harkness who owns the local shop in Coagh.
“When she heard I was growing all the vegetables she offered to sell them for me,” said Gordon who was out tending his crops all summer and harvesting right up until October.
“When you are out digging with a spade it is hard work but it helped get me well. It is a great activity and it is great to be able to help people and give something back. It gives you something to aim for,” said Mr Bell. “It’s a great buzz.”
“I am not a natural gardener,” he said adding that he really enjoyed being outdoors.
“Everyday is a bonus to me. I have never looked back,” he added.
Mr Bell said he was astounded at the response he received from an article in the Mid Ulster Mail last year when he proposed growing the vegetables for charity.
“I couldn’t believe the support I received. I can’t thank the Mail enough. It just snowballed after that article,” said Mr Bell.
And he paid a special tribute to Mrs Harkness from Coagh who, he said, had worked very hard to help him sell all the vegetables.
He also thanked everyone who had bought the vegetables and helped raise the money for the RVH.
However the greatest tribute went to Mr Mark Jones, the surgeon who performed his life-saving operation. “I have got to know him very well. He is a great man and a billiant surgeon as well,” said Mr Bell.
Already this year he has planted daffodil and tulip bulbs so he can grow flowers to sell in the spring and raise even more cash.