Old Lifeboat House, 1906 –2014.

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This was the lifeboat house in its heroic age, a century ago. The picture tells the story. The launch of the lifeboat was a momentous spectacle. Everyone came to watch, ladies in summer dresses, young men in flannels and knickerbockers, barefoot urchins, sturdy men in cork lifejackets. You can imagine the buzz of conversation and the clunk of the wheels on a fine Sunday morning. Fewer would have turned up to watch a launch in a howling gale with rain slanting in from the east and waves thundering on the Grey Mare Rock. Those were times of fear, when people strained their gaze seaward, dreading to learn what toll the sea might claim.

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The burly man with the beard, made burlier by his lifejacket, was Reverend Shegog, rector of Holmpatrick, a man who saw practical service to his community as an integral part of his vocation. My father, a child boarding with the nuns, looked askance at Reverend Shegog, because he was one of our separated brethren. In later years he admitted that the rector was indeed a mighty man, almost a giant in a child’s eyes. He would be pleased to see this image nowadays in bars and restaurants around the town. He would no doubt, raise a glass in honour of Reverend Shegog and indeed of the entire crew. Appropriate for a clergyman to become part of an icon.

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I became aware of the Lifeboat House sometime in the late forties. There was no lifeboat in it. I think there was turf stored there. It was a place of refuge in sudden summer showers, perhaps during a band recital in the newly developed park on the site of the ruined Coastguard station. One day there was a man painting murals. He painted freehand, covering the interior with Disney characters, Mickey Mouse, Goofy, the Seven Dwarfs, Snow White, Hollywood glamour and sparkling colour all over the walls. I was entranced. Not since Michelangelo put a few coats of paint on the Sistine Chapel, had anyone so totally transformed a plain barn of a building. Then came an ice cream counter with all the delights that a child’s heart could wish for. There were slot machines that disgorged endless streams of money, but only big people were allowed to use them. Our parents did not approve of slot machines, despite the wealth that flowed from them. There was pinball, with real pins and real steelers, not the etiolated shadow of pinball that children play on electronic devices nowadays. Table football  was played by young men with all the fervour and cheering associated with the real thing. Most wonderful of all was the jukebox, a marvel of automation and flowing chameleon lights. It was the most colour that I had ever seen. (You may remember the forties. It rained a lot.) It was a Wurlitzer. I thought that that meant it contained all the music in the Wurld.  My spelling needed attention. For a mere twelve-sided thrippenny bit you could command Doris Day, Jo Stafford or George Clooney’s auntie to pour out her feelings in song, the desires and longings of a generation yet to be labelled ‘teenagers.’ There was a song about a doggie in the window and a robin walkin’ to Missouri, but the less said about them the better. Woof woof. Sorry about that.

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The juke box, like all glamorous things, came from America. The music was practically all American, except for Ruby Murray and Bing Crosbie, who was Irish by popular acclaim.. They sang about other things besides mawkish love. I preferred the cowboy songs: Tex Ritter and High Noon, Slim Whitman whining about tumbleweeds and just about everything else; some other cowboy with a fear of being fenced in: let me wander over yonder, til I see the mountains rise. Guy Mitchell belted out a cautionary tale about a pawn shop on a corner in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and a very foolish man indeed. There was a recitation about shifting, whispering sands, a dead miner and the crafty Navajo. It was different. Tennessee Ernie Ford sang manly songs about fightin’ and trouble and diggin’ coal. One fist is iron; the other one’s steel. If the right one don’t getcha, then the left one will. Walk softly around Tennessee Ernie. I wanted to grow up and be tough like that but I didn’t want to have to listen to Nat King Cole groaning about falling in love and broken hearts. That stage came much later, but by then it was the whimpering Everly Brothers and their ilk. On balance, I preferred the ice cream. Let the big people pay for the music.

At that time, the top twenty hits were calculated on the sales of sheet music, not records. Sheet music! Then the market discovered  the buying power of teenagers. A succession of men with sufficient gravitas to ensure good behaviour, Charlie Grimes, Felix Murray and the ever cheerful Johnnie Murray, saw generation after generation of youngsters hang around the Pier Shop, as the building was renamed. It is important that young people have some place to hang around, some place to laugh, to strut on occasions, to talk and argue and learn a measure of tolerance, to gradually grow up. It is important also to be able to get in out of the rain and maybe offer a glass of orange juice to a girl you have feared to talk to, all summer long. Shaken, not stirred. The poet Yeats, was inspired to write his most famous poem, by a similar orange juice fountain, in a café on the Edgware Road. It was one of those glass containers with plastic oranges bobbing about. It made the sound of a trickling stream. I will arise and go now and go to Innisfree/ and a small cabin build there of clay and wattles made.  I was surprised that so lofty a  mortal as Yeats would frequent a café.   I was not surprised that a local wag applied for planning permission to Sligo County Council, for a small cabin of clay and wattles made, on an island in Lough Gill. He was refused. Anyway, Lough Gill has the most voracious midges this side of The Amazon rain forest. nevertheless Yeats caught in his poem, the longings of the human heart, for home and love and peace and of course, beans and honey, just as the Pier Shop/ Lifeboat House for a time, held our dreams and longings.

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Indomitable it stands against time and change. My children taught me how to play Western Gun and Pacman in there, the first, and my last, video games. Co-ordination of hand and eye and razor sharp reflexes. I lost. It is now a welcoming restaurant. We filled it recently with our children and grandchildren to celebrate our fiftieth wedding anniversary. They filled it with talk and laughter and agreeable noise. I know that Mickey Mouse and his friends are still there behind the wainscotting, a task for some future archaeologist to uncover and wonder at, as I did. I looked around at a building filled with love. It was better than Bill Haley. Better than Elvis, Lonnie Donegan, Hank Williams and Harry Belafonte. Better even than the great Fats Domino. Better than any juke box filled with endless music. Our parents would have approved. Even Reverend Shegog would have approved, to see the Lifeboat House so full of life..

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Confessions of a Latin Lover.

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We were watching B.B.C. television. The programme ended, with credits rolling up the screen at a speed that always makes it impossible to read them. Talk about a fleeting moment of fame. The credits paused. My little daughter asked me: “Who’s that person, McMillix? He’s in all the programmes.” So he was. I was a teacher of Latin at the time, a member of an endangered species, now almost extinct. I had to explain that this was the date. The B.B.C. being such an august organisation, had to write the date in Roman numerals. It was MCMLXXIX or 1979 to ordinary mortals. She nodded but I could see that she thought it a cockeyed way of counting. She was right.  They had no zero. They couldn’t ‘put down the three and carry the one’ over to the next column, as the decimal system allows. It’s simple addition. At least it was, until some educational expert decreed that children should write all the numbers in a line from left to right and add them up sideways. Even after LX years, it still makes me furious. If it ain’t broke etc. To give McMillix his due, he provided some great family viewing, before the proliferation of screens scattered families to all parts of the house.

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In earlier times we could have brought our children to the local amphitheatre, to watch some recreational slaughter—admission free, courtesy of some great general or politician. Bread and Circuses, the sure way to political success. As members of the proletarii, the people of no wealth except for their children, (proles/prolific/proliferation and so on,) we would probably have had to occupy the higher seats, further from the action, probably in direct sunlight, but at least the food was free.  There was always some good family viewing on at the amphitheatre. We could have watched battles between groups of gladiators, with plenty of gore spilled into the sand (arena). We could have cheered to see women fighting wild beasts, or being torn apart by them. We might have been privileged to witness the dismembering of prisoners and enemies of Rome by ravenous, exotic animals. The execution of children would have been a salutary lesson to our own.  Throw in a few Christians for a laugh. On a good day the Emperor might have graced the proceedings with his presence, accompanied by the great nobles and ladies of quality. It would have been a wonderful opportunity to impress upon our proles, the glory of Rome and why the gods decreed that Rome alone should rule the world.

The study of Latin and Roman civilization has been a staple of European education for centuries. Generations have marvelled at their achievements, their mighty works of engineering and architecture and the brilliance of (most of) their military campaigns. It was the Romans who defined patriotism, love of country, as a willingness to die for the fatherland. It is a privilege, a duty and a delight. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. That was Horace, the poet son of a freed slave. Wilfred Owen, in our time, saw the grotesque reality of that lie. It is difficult to contemplate much of Roman civilization, without revulsion. Similarly, the heir to the Roman Empire, the Church of Rome inspires revulsion at the pointless opulence of the Vatican, the expense of which, split Christendom in two.  It’s a cockeyed way to carry on the work of the crucified carpenter from Galilee. I met an old English soldier who had fought in Italy during the war. He told me that he lost all respect for Catholics, because there were vendors in Pompeii, selling pornographic postcards of the frescoes in that unfortunate town. He presumed that they were Catholic. You can hardly blame the Church for everything. They did good business with the Tommies. The Romans saw pornography as a commodity to be bought and sold like any other.

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This is Drumanagh, a promontory at Loughshinny, north of Dublin. A defensive ditch cuts the headland off on the landward side. The martello tower is a nineteenth century addition.  I saw the field just after it was ploughed, possibly for the first time ever. There was an avenue leading from the ditch to the tower, marked by the black remains of cooking fires. Every patch was strewn with animal bones, evidence of long-standing human habitation. I found a decorative bronze pin lying on the newly turned earth. My brother, an archaeologist, promptly confiscated it.  He takes a very dim view of treasure hunters and metal detectors. It was just lying there, your honour. Drumanagh attracts legends, treasure hunters, strollers, motor bikers, people with theories, occasional fly-tippers. Some say that Cuchulainn, ‘the Irish Achilles’ seized his wife, Emer, from Drumanagh. Some suggest a Roman settlement. Vikings?  All the theories are urged with great conviction. It would repay a full excavation. No matter who lived there, it was a formidable fort.

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(This cliff is outside the ditch but similar to the rest of the promontory.)

Agricola (farmer) is alleged to have said that he could take Hibernia in a week with one or two legions. Maybe he tried. Maybe the Romans got their comeuppance near Drumanagh. A legend tells how Fionn MacCumhail and his Fianna fought The King of the World.  A recent report describes a significant find, a massacre of what appears to be a Roman force, about two kilometers from Drumanagh. Don’t ask me where. It’s all at an early stage of investigation. It could turn out to be our own little Teutoburg Forest, where Varus and another Roman army over-reached themselves. There is a certain satisfaction in thinking so. Vae victis. Alas for the defeated ones.

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And yet– and yet. I still love the language. It permeates our daily speech. It is the language of the sciences, from botany to medicine. It has given the stars and the elements that compose them, their names. It is spoken, in its various modern forms, from the Black Sea to the tip of Tierra del Fuego and the high Canadian Arctic. Dan Quayle, on a tour of Latin America, lamented  that he had never learned Latin. Salsa sauce out-sells tomato ketchup in the United States, evidence of the re-colonisation of what was once Spanish America. I love its precision and clarity. An understanding of its structure is a guide to clear expression in the English language. It gave us the elegant Roman alphabet, where letters took their style from the turn of a mason’s wrist or the broad goose quill in the fingers of a scribe.

Is there not a contradiction in school teachers extolling the effectiveness of the short, stabbing sword as a weapon? Is there not a contradiction in  ‘blockbuster’ entertainment relying so heavily on blood and guts as family entertainment? Am I, in some small degree, also to blame? If so, mea maxima culpa.

I must have a word with McMillix, if I ever get to meet him.

The very model of a modern major general. Armistice Day.

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On Armistice Day it does no harm to contemplate  how our civilisation and many other civilisations, glorified the profession of war. Major General Sir Denis Pack has a c.v. that makes Horatio Hornblower and Jack Aubrey look like shrinking violets.  Every schoolboy would look at his garlanded tomb with a kind of envy. He personified courage and capability in the service of King George during the Napoleonic Wars. He took part in all the glorious campaigns, in The Low Countries, The Cape of Good Hope, Iberia and of course, Waterloo, under the command of the greatest of them all, the Duke of Wellington. Severely wounded nine times, he won glory for his country, by exemplary courage in the face of the enemy. What novelist would dare to tell such a story, without fear of being accused of absurd exaggeration? Would you not give your right arm for a testimonial like this. Many gave a great deal more.

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(Click on the image to read the inscription)

“Nay,” said Dr. Johnson, “Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier or for not having been at sea.” The posters derided the shirkers. “What did you do in the war, Daddy?” Dr. Faustus was tempted by the Devil with the thought of riding in triumph through Persepolis.  “Gentlemen in England, now abed, shall think themselves accurs’d whiles any speaks that fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.” It is no wonder that Olivier’s splendid  Henry V  was filmed in the middle of World War II, (in Ireland incidentally) to kindle patriotic spirit in the hour of England’s greatest danger.

The Napoleonic Wars were the last great wars to be  glorified without the awkward intrusion of photography. The Crimean War photographs and war dispatches, show a squalid and ill judged campaign where disease took more casualties than battle. Not much glory around.  The idiocies  and ineptitude of the high command were to a degree, disguised by glorious uniforms. The charge of the Light Brigade was extolled by a poet…. who wasn’t there. C’est magnifique, mais c’est ne pas la guerre.’ The Commander in Chief, Lord Raglan, (think sleeves)  a veteran of Waterloo, persistently referred to the enemy as the French. He meant to say Russians, but what the hell!  Lord Cardigan, who led the charge, spent much of his fortune on uniforms. He particularly forbade the wearing of spectacles by any of his officers. Ironic that the cardigan is identified with elderly gentlemen, probably wearing  glasses, reading quietly by the fireside. You would not throw one sleeve rakishly over your shoulder. Probably drop your pipe out of the top pocket.

The American Civil War produced a body of photographs that prefigure the horrors of World War I and Auschwitz. The Andersonville pictures show people deprived of any human dignity and denied any mercy, burrowing like rats, in the mud. Dr. Johnson was rebutting  Boswell’s observation: “I should think that where military men are so numerous, they would be less valued as not being rare.” Boswell, more than he could have imagined, was closer to the truth.  Photography shows the profligate waste of millions of lives in modern war. It shows the sinister beauty of weaponry and the apocalyptic destruction  now possible. In commemorations, the dead are accorded the honour frequently denied them in life. There is a melancholy glamour to remembrance ceremonies, where the paraphernalia of war is deployed to salute those slaughtered by war. Remembering does not necessarily lead to learning.

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A word or two from Carl von Clausewitz, distinguished Prussian general, who gave the subject some thought: “War is merely the continuation of politics/policy by other means.” Nothing to get too worked up about there. “War is therefore an act of violence to compel our opponent to fulfill our will.”  Call a spade a spade. “All war presupposes human weakness and seeks to exploit it.” A rich field for exploitation. “In war, the mistakes that come from kindness are the worst.”

Yet the inspiring stories from wars are the individual acts of courage and selflessness that keep a flicker of hope alive, that human beings are more than mere reptiles tearing one another to pieces in the primaeval mud. These are the stories that most demand remembrance. My father, as a boy, saw no glory. He saw a lot of mud and death. He spoke of small acts of kindness and courtesy, even from German prisoners. He went to no re-unions or commemorations. He retained no bitterness against any enemy and showed no delight in the breaking of nations. He wore his poppy occasionally in sad recollection of a terrible time. He spoke seldom, but tellingly, of what he had seen of human suffering and  the pity of it all, late at night as the fire was dying down. I can only try to imagine what he saw in the embers.

Wellington sat amid the ruins of Badajoz and wept for the fine men whom he had sent to  death and mutilation.

 After Waterloo, his greatest victory, he prayed to God that it would be his last battle.

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(Click on the image to enlarge.)

Chariot of Fire

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I went back to college the other night. There was a lot going on, a contest between a prophet of the Lord and the priests of Baal. Baal’s priests couldn’t get their fire to light to consume the sacrificial bull, whereas Elijah was so cool, he got his people to soak the pyre, dig a trench around it and fill it with water. Then he called on God to accept the sacrifice and Whumpff!  The bull was incinerated, to the dismay and confusion of the priests of Baal. We used to light fires on May Eve, the month of Baal tine. We consigned spuds to the embers. The Lord God of Israel would have refused the blackened offerings, but we munched them anyway. Baal might have been glad of them, as things didn’t work out too well for him. You have to marvel at Elijah’s confidence and certainty. People with such certainty are scary people. Take the prophets of Baal and let not one of them escape you. Bring them down to Kishon’s brook and there let them be slain.  There is a terrible modern ring to all that, especially in The Middle East. Israel is just as much in the news today as it was in Biblical times.

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Of course there were no pyrotechnics the other night. The Great Hall of what was once my college, is now The National Concert Hall. Margaret and her friends were singing Mendelssonh’s  Elijah. They filled the hall with mighty harmonies. It was, literally, a resounding triumph. The rafters trembled. A boy soprano stood up and faced the audience with extraordinary confidence, a precious commodity, invaluable in one so young. The mind wanders along by ways. Suppose Elijah’s fire had sputtered out. Did he ever suffer from doubt? General Gordon faced down the fanatical followers of The Mahdi with a swagger stick and force of personality. They killed him anyway.

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As my daughter was driving, we poured a libation or two at the interval, in honour of Elijah’s victory. This was a library in my student days. There was no great light shining above us then. There was definitely no bar.The Phantom of the Opera used to swing from chandeliers like this.  Why?  I always feel a small temptation to leap across the gap and shout defiance at the upturned faces below. But I suffer from slight vertigo and I have no cloak. You would be disgraced, in the chandelier swinging trade, if you had no cloak. I fear that I would come down in a shattering tintinnabulation of crystal into the room below. What an entrance! I like to think that I would be cool enough to sit up amid the wreckage and order a gin and tonic. I was never that cool. A fellow student once told me that he admired my quiet reserve and confidence. He misread the situation, mistaking inarticulacy for inner calm.

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The choirs returned, filing in, like the Bolivian soldiers in Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. (Newman and Redford, personifications of ‘cool’.)  The choir meant business. The orchestra returned with their heavy artillery. We were transported again to an ancient conflict between gods and prophets. I looked around at all the changes that had taken place since the time when I sat in that hall, scribbling desperately at exam time. The college was always undergoing renovation. The hall, a remnant of a great Victorian industrial exhibition, was cold and shabby. His word is like a fire and like a hammer that breaketh the rock into pieces. There was always hammering. A century’s worth of dust and soot drifted down on the scribblers below. Fountain pens became chimney brushes. There was a rhythm to it all: blow; write; wipe the nib; mutter; try to blank out the noise; concentrate. There was one student endowed with the confidence to stand up and shout: “Eff that bangin’…” He spoke for all of us. I love the tympani, the sounding brass, the strings, the deep, brown notes of the cello, the soaring voices. My soul was uplifted, as was Elijah in a fiery chariot. He had earned it. The choir earned their ovation. No dust descended.

Eric von Daniken was a popular purveyor of pseudo science in those days. He ‘proved’ to his own satisfaction and to the satisfaction of many, that the ancient gods and heroes were intergalactic travellers. Chariots of the Gods. Elijah was taken away in a rocket ship. It’s obvious, isn’t it?  There were flames coming out of his chariot. History is Wrong. What did I tell you? One afternoon in what was once The History Library, where the Treaty Debates took place in 1921 and 22, a lecturer produced a transistor radio and put it up to the microphone. ‘This is more important than any lecture,’ he announced. It was a live broadcast from Cape Canaveral of John Glenn orbiting the world . He flew with the confidence born of training and meticulous preparation. He flew for four hours and fifty five minutes, lighting up the darkness as he crossed the sky. Our hearts were lifted with him. He was no god but he was every inch, a hero. He still is. I remembered him the other night and raised a glass in his honour.

lo, there came a fiery chariot with fiery horses and he went by a whirlwind to heaven.

All credit to those who played a part in his flight, to Felix Mendelssohn, a son of Israel, the conductor, the musicians and singers who brought wonder and harmony to that old, dusty hall.

Clontarf, Breadfruit and The Bull. The Sands of Time.

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How Captain Bligh, the consummate navigator, would have loved Google earth! He spent some years dividing Dublin Bay into squares on a grid and charting the depths.  Invaluable work but not as interesting or exciting as a voyage to Tahiti. Nobody has filmed his patient measuring and sounding of the river estuary. No doubt his crew grumbled and muttered under their breath, but they never seized the vessel to sail away beyond the horizon with a boatload of beautiful Polynesian women. Leave that to Marlon Brando. No doubt there were days in February, when frost was blowing in the east wind,that they imagined how it would be to put their captain into a small craft and let him make his way to shore in Ringsend or the nose of Howth.  Nevertheless, every vessel that comes or goes in Dublin Bay, owes its survival, to some extent, to Captain Bligh and his patient crew, with their knotted strings and leaden weights.

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If I were a poet, I would stroll along Clontarf Boulevard, winding a string of vaguely related images and themes, with few verbs and sparse punctuation. I might even throw in the odd rhyme…Bligh…sky… Not bad….sea….free…viaduct…rhymes with?…rhymes with?..eh…Forget it.  My efforts would be published in slim volumes, bound in tooled Morocco leather. I would be laden with laurels, replete with plaudits. Careful with that alliteration.  Poolbeg… toolbag.  A bit leaden.  I’ll stick to the prose. I’m irredeemably pedestrian. It’s a nice walk all the same, on a fine October afternoon, when Dublin enjoys the last unexpected day of summer. I’d soon cure that with some obligatory gloom and despair, disgust and mortality. Do you remember Soundings,  the anthology we grappled with in school? Should have carried a health warning…youth is fleeting…time is fleeting..we are all doomed…we are all sinners.  Go for a walk down The Bull. On yer bike.

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Bligh went to Tahiti, to an earthly paradise, in the wake of Captain Cook, to get breadfruit plants to provide cheap food for the slaves in the West Indies. It made good commercial sense. Slave owners had their problems too, y’know. They had expensive life-styles to support. Palladian mansions  in Bristol or Bath don’t come cheap, y’know.  Gin and jesuits’ bark cost money. Bligh was the man. He had skill and a sense of discipline. He lost his ship, The Bounty, to mutiny. The breadfruit went overboard. He made his astounding voyage to the East Indies, fuelled by rage and a desire for revenge. It kept him alive.  It warmed his heart to think of Fletcher Christian ( a distant relative of Wordsworth, the poet,) swinging in the wind at Tilbury, like a black scarecrow. He was acquitted at his court martial, but lived under a cloud. His Britannic Majesty doesn’t like to lose a ship, y’know. He was sent to do invaluable, repetitive, boring work in Dublin Bay.

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Clontarf means The Meadow of the Bull. What encounter gave that meadow its name?  King Brian of the Cattle Raids, came here at Easter, a thousand years ago, to face down the Norsemen of Dublin. He prevailed but lost his life in the aftermath of battle. His son, Murchadh, drowned in the marshy mudflats of the Tolka. Captain Bligh read the waters of the bay and the burden of sand that flowed back to clog the river.  He designed a gigantic mud-guard, The Bull Wall. The sand began, grain by grain, to pile up against the wall.  He allowed the tide to flow under the viaduct and over the wall at its furthest extremity. Bull Island was born. Over time, it grew to become a cherished bird sanctuary and a playground for the people of Dublin. He accelerated the river, with a North and South Wall, to keep the channel clear. It worked.

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At around the time that the Norse longships explored the Atlantic, the Polynesian outriggers wandered over the vast Pacific, like spindrift on the great ocean waves. They traced these waves and currents, in legend and myth and on maps woven from plant fibres. They found small specks of islands on the tips of fiery submarine mountains. The Royal Navy could not find the Bounty mutineers, because Pitcairn had been incorrectly shown as East Longitude instead of West. Bligh would never have been guilty of such carelessness. This Easter Island moai, carved from a fiery rock,  was presented to Dublin by the government of Chile. Flanked by New Zealand flax and South American grass, from the two extremities of the Pacific, he stares out at the bay, as if waiting for the outrigger canoes to flicker on the horizon and waft to shore on the sands of Bull Island. Easter Island is in the region of Valparaiso.

Christy Moore sings about a voyage: ‘With no maps to guide us we steered our own course/ Rode out the storms when the winds were gale force…’   Margaret and I are fifty years married today. We have had some wonderful time with our family and some quiet time together, looking back at our voyage. We appreciate the bounty that we have received during that half century.

Tháinig long ó Valparaiso/ There came a ship from Valparaiso…

Now there was a poem. He writes about the kingdom of the sun,  a land of opportunity, a white city below the mountains, a voyage not yet finished, new vistas to be explored, new ventures,the persistence of optimism.  Our daughter rang, early in the morning: ‘Go and see the beautiful ship in the harbour.’ It is beautiful, Stavros S Niarchos, bound for Liverpool.

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It could have been The Bounty on her way home at last. I met an old sailor on my way. ‘I sailed on two of his ships,’ he told me. ‘His brother in law, Onassis, ran ships to South America.’  Ah! Perhaps our ancestors flitted away on a ship like this. We hope to see a film of their story in the not too distant future.  The old sailor was, for many years, a pilot in Dublin port, a man well versed in the lore of the sea and the language of maps. A good omen for the next fifty years. We sail on. (We could have used a few breadfruit trees over the years nonetheless, to feed our crew.)