Friday, 27 June 2014

   After a particularly good sleep and the best part of a full English breakfast, as we parted on the morning of Thursday 23rd May I promised to write of course, but in fact we met again later that morning, as they were heading for a market in Newry on the same southbound train as me; they told me to try to visit the Church of St Martin de Porres in Dublin. Before reaching Drogheda I also had an interesting conversation with a fellow of Irish heritage but Mancunian by upbringing, who told me that an 80 year-old Japanese mountaineer was reported to have scaled Everest. This was in the context of a conversation about the value of stubborn determination, as exemplified by David Livingstone; sometimes disparaged as fanaticism or obsession, but often by people who achieve precious little besides running down the accomplishments of others. This fellow on the train also related how his life had been saved by a Glaswegian doctor, who had had to overcome considerable opposition to his ambition to pursue a career in medicine, because there was no tradition of it in his family.

   Back in Drogheda I visited St Mary’s church again, then spent some time updating my diary in a café opposite. Next door to St Mary’s was a little bookshop, but looking for a booklet about St Rita of Cascia to send to Abraham and Sarah, I was told to go to St Augustine’s on the other side of the river, where there is a statue and special devotion to her. After Mass there, and finding some good prayer cards of St Rita, on the way out of Drogheda I also had a fruitful visit to the museum at the Millmount Fort, finally getting a fuller picture of Drogheda’s significance in the history of Ireland. Besides St Oliver Plunkett’s story which I’d learnt about at St Peter’s, one obviously has to know something about the 1649 massacre and the 1690 Battle of the Boyne[1]. A guide who took me round the fort’s reconstructed tower told me additionally that Cromwell enslaved a significant number of native Irish who were not put to the sword after the siege of 1649, sending them to the Caribbean plantations, and the fort was also the target of shelling by troops of the Irish Free State during the Civil War in 1922.

Church of the Nativity of Our Lady, Naul.

   Later than intended, I set off from Drogheda along the R108, the old road to Dublin, along which James II came with his defeated army in the aftermath of the Battle of the Boyne. About 16kms later I arrived in Naul (known locally as the Naul), where I called into Killian’s Bar for something to drink, but also because I had to try to make at least one telephone call, to a long-lost cousin in County Tipperary who had been in contact by email. This was the context in which I was lucky enough to meet some of Killian’s Bar’s extraordinarily friendly clientele. First I was spontaneously lent a mobile by authentic Naul person ‘David’ (some of the others were ‘blow-ins’ – ie people who’d ‘blown in’ from elsewhere), in order to phone my cousin and leave him a message. Then I was told not to pay for the glass of squash I’d asked for. Then David offered me a place to stay, in a cabin with a made-up bed in his garden… I was bought a pint of a certain well known variety of stout… presented with a fantastic complimentary plate of chicken sandwiches… bought a second pint… and given 50 euros for Mary’s Meals by someone with whom I’d been discussing St Rita of Cascia and the trials of giving up smoking. The almost overpowering sense that Christmas had come early was reinforced a) by the sight of twinkly lights illuminating a tree on the street when we came out of the pub, and b) by a bowl of Christmas pudding – which had been made earlier that day – that I was presented with by David’s wife when we got back to their house! Some of these people found themselves with copies of Child 31 in their DVD collections, and I also gave a cuddly toy Father Christmas (ie St Nicholas of Mira, obviously) to David and his wife, which seemed to be popular with the baby granddaughter they were looking after at the time.
St Nicholas of Mira
Another of Naul’s claims to fame is that it is the birthplace of Irish Rover Seamas Ennis (1919-1982), broadcaster, virtuoso player of the Uilleann pipes[2], and safe-guarder/collector of Irish folk songs and other traditional music from across the British Isles.

   Before leaving Naul on the morning of Friday 24th May, commemorative of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, I paid a visit to the church, very unusual in being dedicated to the Nativity of Our Lady – a devotion far more often found in Orthodox countries. Heading off then towards Dublin in glorious sunshine, I pocketed a golf ball that must no doubt have issued from the nearby Hollywood Lakes Golf Club. Later I got a bit lost, having falsely assumed that the acronym in ‘Our Lady Queen of Ireland NS’, stood for ‘National Shrine’; eventually I realised it stands for ‘National School’. Lunch was memorable because a wee, but not so cowrin’ nor tim’rous mousie came to within a metre or two of where I was eating, boldly sallying forth to try and nab a piece of bread. As usual there were goldfinches in attendance that day, and some of the first bullfinches of the walk.             

[1] The defeat inflicted by the army of William of Orange on that of the deposed James II led the latter to go into exile, never to return.
[2]The national bagpipe of Ireland. Ennis could be called an Irish Rover by dint of his having presented a BBC radio programme, As I Roved Out, in the 1950s.

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