Sea pole memorial, Skerries and Loughshinny.

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In the darkness before dawn, you will hear the sea from almost anywhere in Skerries. It is there like a distant drum-roll, so much part of our lives that we often don’t notice it. Listen for the cry of a gull soaring on the wind,a sound of home, a cry like a rusty hinge. Notice the ‘chink chink’ of an oystercatcher patrolling the sand, in his never ending quest for food. In times gone by, when a schooner or wherry arrived in the bay, returning from a fishing trip or foreign voyage, a crewman shouted her name, to alert the family to the news of a safe homecoming. In the concavity of the bay, the cry echoed. The word spread. Families rose from their beds or left what they were doing, to hurry to the harbour to greet the returning travellers. For the moment, anxieties were put aside. For a while the fear of rolling, ever climbing, ever tumbling waves and gaunt black rocks, could be forgotten.

Think also of those names that ceased to be called, of the families that lay awake at night, listening and praying and gradually letting go of the last few shreds of hope. There were no boots on the path; no children roused from sleep. Those names found a harbour only in private griefs and fading folk memory. Some are recalled on weathered, lichen-covered tombstones. Many are washed away and forgotten.

A train rumbles in the distance. The lights of an early morning car light up the window. Traffic begins to claim our attention. The radio with the ominous news of the day, the all-pervading music, the chatter of correspondents, fills our ears. The concerns and tasks of the day press in upon us. We think of our plans and anxieties. We look out of the window. The sun is rising over the islands, like a blessing. Jet trails fill the morning sky with iridescent geometry. People are going places. A cup of tea wouldn’t go amiss. A new dawn, with new hopes and new plans. We take up the work of the day. It is good to be alive.

This week Skerries was filled with music. It was the week of the splendid Soundwaves music festival. The night sky was filled with fireworks. Small children gazed up in wonder and some apprehension. The streets are strewn with fallen leaves but also the seeds of new life. Skerries was also filled with memories. Two dedicated young men gave us a lasting blessing. They restored the sea pole as a monument to all those lost at sea over the last three centuries. They have their own deeply felt reasons for bringing all those half forgotten souls to mind. We owe them a great debt of gratitude. Their generosity has enriched us as a community. Already people are drawn, by shared memories, into conversations. Yesterday our President spoke eloquently of solidarity and of how we live in the shelter of one another.

On September the 29th 2013, the names of the lost were called aloud. In spirit they have come again to harbour. May they rest a little more peacefully, wherever they lie.

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