Holmpatrick Cove, Skerries. 2nd Invitation to Walk the Land. Bank Holiday Monday, 30th October 2017 1p.m.

Walking the land has long been regarded as essential to an understanding of what happens on a farm and what must be done to ensure a positive outcome. The same can be said of the proposed development at Holmpatrick Cove, Skerries, granted full planning permission by Fingal County Council last January. The first public walk on the land was on October 8th, when several hundred people came along to see what is proposed. Many had never visited this area of Skerries before. They were astonished by the spectacular views that opened up before them. There was well-nigh unanimous support for the venture which offers much needed amenities to Skerries and the surrounding area: a ready-to-go coastal walk and training pitches for young people; a hotel; a swimming pool and gymnasium, all fully accessible to the public, plus an outstanding housing development by Baufritz, one of the leading builders of Eco housing in Europe. There was widespread dismay and disbelief at the fact that An Bord Pleanála had, after seven months of deliberation, denied permission for the scheme to proceed.

For any who were unable to visit Holmpatrick Cove on October 8th, a second general invitation to walk the site, is extended for  the Bank Holiday, Monday, October 30th. The entrance is not far away: 22 metres from Shennick Green open space, 128 metres from the nearest house in Downside Estate and 24 metres from the bus stop at Shennick Estate, all integral parts of the urban  area of Skerries town. This leads you onto the Coastal Walk, an objective of Fingal’s Development Plan since the 1970s, which can be realised by the Holmpatrick Cove Plan, at no cost to the Council or to the taxpayer! You will see the site for the proposed hotel. There is no hotel in or close to Skerries, noted in the Tidy Town report as a major gap in the social fabric of Skerries.

 

 

 

You will pass the site of the proposed, ready-for-use training pitches, very much desired by the sports clubs of Skerries and offered at no cost to the Council or to the taxpayer. The houses nearest to these training pitches stand at an average distance of 120 metres from the site. None of the occupants of these houses made any objection to the development of Holmpatrick Cove. The houses of the principal objectors stand between 150 metres and 305 metres from the pitches. Nevertheless, the Bord Pleanála refusal maintained that children playing on these pitches during daylight hours, (as there will be no flood-lighting)could cause inconvenience and damage the enjoyment of their houses by the occupants. As for the coastal walk, the objectors’ houses  are at an average distance of 310 metres from the coastal walk. My apologies for burdening you with statistics but compare the three main sports clubs, G.A.A. Soccer and Rugby Clubs whose pitches (flood-lit) are surrounded by housing estates that stand as close as 20 metres to the main pitches. Does anyone demand that these clubs should be removed? On the contrary, most residents  regard these clubs as valuable assets and good neighbours, encouraging healthy activity among hundreds of young people and as major contributors to the social capital of Skerries.

    

Consider if you will, the enormous benefit of the coastal walk, projected by the Council to go to Loughshinny, Drumanagh and Rush and even further. This would undoubtedly become one of the great tourist attractions of Fingal.

As pointed out at the last walk on October 8th, there have been campaigns for a swimming pool in Skerries for at least 40 years. There is no swimming pool in North Fingal. Holmpatrick Cove offers a swimming pool to serve the schools and general public for this area–again at no cost to the Council or to the taxpayer. You might like to read that again…no cost, either financial or environmental. The rigorous Environmental Impact Statement, the Archaeological and Ornithological Surveys show conclusively that environmental and cultural considerations have been at the forefront of this development. Yet permission was refused on foot of objections  from  a few individuals living close to the site.

Judge for yourself. You may read these objections (public documents) on the website of Fingal Planning…search planning applications online. F16A/0085, as you may study the plans, the history of this application and other correspondence under Documents. You can click on the last entry on the panel  CLICK HERE for the some details of the appeals against the Council Grant of permission, the BordPleanála decision and inspector’s report. Fingal PLo6F.247928  (Public documents.) If you are wearied, frustrated, angry or curious from all this reading, come along to Holmpatrick Cove on Monday next, Bank Holiday Monday 30th of October, take in the views, breathe the fresh air and give your imagination free rein to picture what could be here and has as yet, been denied permission by An Bord Pleanála against the wishes of your elected Council and the many people who signed the petition, as you can still do, in support of Holmpatrick Cove. Assemble at Shennick Green to  start at 1p.m.

 

See also the splendid photographs in Skerries News and videos on the Holmpatrick Cove Skerries  facebook site.

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See For Yourself: Holmpatrick Cove Support Walk. Sunday October 8th at 1.00. p.m. to 3.00 p.mm. Rugby Club Steps, White Wall, Shennick Green

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These are a few views from the proposed Holmpatrick Cove Coastal Path. It is probable that most people in Skerries and the wider Fingal area, have never seen this vista. Up to now this view has been available only to a privileged few—-who object to the lands being made accessible to the general public. Please come and see what could be achieved here by the Holmpatrick Cove Development—-already granted full planning permission by Fingal County Council, your democratically elected Council. Do not allow this amazing opportunity to be lost to you, to your children and to future generations. Bring your camera and be delighted.

Battle of the Somme. July to November 1916

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A letter writer to The Times wrote in 1916, “the dum dum bullet has no place in civilised warfare..” Quite right too. Another complained about the neglect of marksmanship and rifle skills. Close-quarter fighting with the bayonet was extolled as the ultimate test of manliness. So there you have it. Bagpipes, military bands and footballs. The Good Old Days. No mention there of car bombs, proxy or otherwise, explosive suicide vests, poison gas, flame throwers, napalm, defoliants, nuclear bombs, depleted uranium, murder of hostages, ethnic cleansing, biological warfare or famine. Civilised warfare has gone to the dogs.

I heard an interview with a British mercenary at the outbreak of the Balkan wars. He was ‘in the service’ of Croatia. “This is the only place in the world where I can shoot people legally,” he declared with some pride. He need never be short of career opportunities. He may, by now, have taken part in some squalid victory parade. He may even have been awarded some medals.

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Light the touch-paper and retire. The beauty of gunpowder is that you can strike from afar. Even a low born peasant with a firearm can strike down a noble knight, without facing him in combat.  The Chinese claim the credit for devising the first explosives, hundreds of years before the idea took root in Europe. It would have been fine if they had confined the invention to fireworks and bangers to celebrate the new year and other festive occasions. However, the periodic insanity that we call war, made it impossible to resist raining fire from above on enemy armies, cities and anyone within range. Great civilisations celebrate peace and prosperity, the arts, poetry, architecture and science and then, like Samson, they pull the whole damn structure down on their own heads. War sentiment comes to the boil and bursts out, to general flag waving and cheering crowds. The history, as they say, is written by the winners. They are the ones in the right.

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Civilised warfare. Only the horse seems to realise how mad it is. Look at his eye.

A Franciscan friar, Berchtold Schwarz, a follower of the gentle Saint Francis of Assisi, devised the formula for the black powder that revolutionised warfare. A mediaeval woodcut shows him at work, with The Devil whispering in his ear. There was no need for Lucifer to trouble himself. The fascination is there deep down in the human psyche, the desire for ultimate power over others. It’s in every political fanatic,  every psychopath, jealous lover, fearful householder waking in the dark at some sudden noise or master strategist marshaling his armies for an assault. Children play Cowboys and Indians. The cowboys are the good guys, or at least, they used to be when we played it up in the ballast pit. Keep the faith and keep your powder dry. The good guys are always quicker on the draw.

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When Gulliver explained the wonders of artillery to the king of the giants, outlining the benefits that could flow from battering down the walls of the strongest fortresses and dismembering the inhabitants cowering within, the king was furious. He called Gulliver a despicable insect and warned him never to mention the subject again. Gulliver was puzzled that so enlightened a king could not see the manifold benefits of gunpowder. He missed a good opportunity for some civilised victories.

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In 1914 the great civilisations of Europe went to war. Historians, a century later, are still arguing as to why. After a few weeks of advance and retreat, the reasons became irrelevant. Old ways were thrown aside. Barbarism and callous disregard for life became mandatory. Civil life was dislodged. Agriculture became impossible in the war zones. Starvation followed quickly. Men learned to live like rats in holes in the ground. They learned to live with rats in holes in the ground. Entire economies were deflected to the service of the war. The first naval battle of the war took place off the coast of Chile on the other side of the world, as the warring powers sought to secure access to the nitrates vital for the manufacture of explosives. The guano birds were making their contribution to The Great War. 2008_0808daffs0232

It is said that one definition of madness is to repeat the same action while expecting a different outcome. After two years of carnage the generals hit upon a master plan. On July 1st, in fine summer weather, young men climbed out of their trenches at dawn and advanced at walking pace, across a few hundred yards of No-Man’s -Land, in the face of German machine-gun fire. The images still haunt our consciousness. The machine-gun is a wonderful invention, ‘a weapon to cut the enemy’s throat at a thousand yards.’ It is beautiful in its simplicity, a weapon that practically fires itself. No marksmanship required, its field of fire overlapping with the neighbouring  machine guns, all firing at knee height to achieve maximum effect. There was no great break-through on the Somme. Five months later the tacticians and strategists were still sending young men over the top all along the Somme battlefield. The machine guns were still hammering away. The memorials make dismal reading. This five-month battle will be remembered in many moving ceremonies on July 1st when the myths of The Somme will be recalled, with the resolve that it must never be repeated. There will, no doubt, be gun salutes, parades and marches. No, nothing like that could ever happen again. We have much better explosives nowadays.

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My father was there as a young boy, carried along by the prevailing enthusiasm. I think of him often, almost a child, the same age as my eldest grandchild. He lay all day in a soaking shell crater, feeling colder and colder as his life blood leached into the flinty soil of Beaumont Hamel. Some German prisoners, pressed into service as stretcher bearers, carried him back to the trenches. He laughed in later years, recalling the German officer ‘with his bloody monocle!’ ordering his men about even on top of the parapet, as sporadic bullets whizzed around. ‘I reached out with my good leg and pushed him into the trench, pompous sod!’ The men lost no time in following him.  It snowed that evening on the trenches, on the skeletal trees,  on the craters and on the wounded,  on the dead and on the rubble of what had once been Beaumont Hamel. The Battle of The Somme petered out.  The generals went back to their maps. Better luck next time. More committed use of the bayonet perhaps.

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On returning from France in 1919 he went, not surprisingly into the bar at Euston Station to wet his whistle, as he invariably said.  He was hailed by a doctor named Healy of the R.A.M.C. a member of a notable Skerries family. They had not seen each other since infant school with the nuns in Skerries. “Ah Tom,” called his old classmate across the crowded bar. “Did you have a good war?”  I suppose the answer is ‘Yes’ insofar as he survived, unlike the millions who didn’t.  No thanks however to the ingenious Chinese or to the good friar Berchtold Schwarz.

Radio Days. Imagination and The Force.

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Flanagan’s Force

To peer at the glowing valves in the back of an old-style wireless was like looking at a futuristic city, the sort of place the Treens lived in on Venus. You could imagine them flying from skyscraper to skyscraper in their machines and The Mekon of Mekonta hovering around on his brain-powered tea tray. The Treens were almost human, although green but The Mekon, also green, was practically all head. The Treens obeyed his every command because he was so, well, brainy. I really wanted one of those hover trays but I wouldn’t have had the brain power to drive it.  After a certain age the ability to fly through deepest space in a cardboard box or on a bin lid, powered by imagination alone, sort of deserts you. You may of course, sit in the box and make appropriate noises but long before you reach Alpha Centauri, your family will have sent for the good people in the white coats. When adults are described as ‘well grounded’ it is considered a compliment, not a disability. We Earthlings are unavoidably ‘earthbound.’

You might see the Manhattan skyline, all lit up and buzzing with energy. That was where so much music and talk came from. By reaching around to the knob at the front, you could cut off the energy. Wheeeoooo chunkk! Manhattan died. Turn again and the city came back to glowing life.This was a guilty pleasure as we were expressly forbidden to interfere with the wireless. Even the smallest valve is vital to the life of the whole apparatus. The Old Man might have to go down, in high dudgeon, to Oisín Thornton’s shop for a new valve, or to Bernie Clancy to have the whole blasted thing repaired. High Dudgeon may sound like a charming little village in the Cotswolds but it isn’t. My Old Man was there on many occasions. It was not a tranquil place at all. Certainly not in 1940 when his wireless exploded with the surge of the new electricity. The Force was not with him on that occasion. Blasted E.S.B. At least I wasn’t responsible that time.

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Grid Force

Static was the curse of radio, as it came to be called. I believe that the fizzing and flickering on old televisions after ‘shut down’ is the echo of The Big Bang, the reverberation of the creation of the ever expanding Universe. If so, the Big Bang must have occurred somewhere near Skerries, because we got it all the time on radio and later, on television. Amateur wiring and dodgy DIY fuses probably didn’t help. Multiple adapters from a single plug created the perfect electrical storm. Nevertheless the static emphasised the wonder of the whole business. Practically every programme sounded like a dispatch from Nazi occupied Europe,where some brave resistance fighter pedalled  furiously on a bicycle-powered generator to send vital information over the airwaves. Fine tuning was required to locate your favourite programme through the blizzard of static. The needle jerked along the dial from Athlone to Hilversum to Frankfort in search of a clear signal. The needle was powered by strings winding around little wheels. There was a green tuning ‘eye’ that promised clarity. We lived in hope. Sometimes it paid off.

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Force filched from the wind

Always at breakfast time, we got Dvorak and his Slavonic dances from the Home Service, courtesy of the BBC Northern Ireland Light Orchestra. There was Lift Up Your Hearts, a short inspirational talk just before the eight o’ clock news. One of the themes remained with me:……..a clergyman in some far-flung outpost of Empire saw a young shipping clerk supervising coolies as they carried bags of rice up gangplanks and into the hold of a freighter. The sun was hot, even in the early morning. The young man, clad in white, with his sola topee and clip board, was tallying the bags as the coolies struggled up the plank and ran back down.  “Juldi! Juldi!” said the young clerk by way of encouragement. The clergyman saw him in the late afternoon, still tallying and encouraging the sweating coolies. The young man looked exhausted. Even the mad dogs and all the other Englishmen had taken refuge from the heat. ‘”You’ve had a long day,” I said. “Keep your chin up”. The young man smiled in response. He straightened up and carried on with renewed vigour. It is amazing how even the simplest kind word can make such a difference.”‘ He never thought to lift up the hearts of the coolies. Blasted natives. “Juldi! Juldi

The Old Man always encouraged us in the morning: “Get a move on. There’s Lift up Your Effing Hearts. Get out of bed and get off to school.” He improved after a cigarette and a cup of tea. Piiip! Piiip! Piiip. Eight o’clock. Boots on the floor. “Here is the News.(in no particular order)…..Korea, Mau Mau, Cyprus, death of Stalin, The Middle East, (always The Middle East,)King Farouk, Nasser, Suez, Hillary and Tensing, Glubb Pasha,Makarios,Kenyatta, inflation, Budapest, Cold War, Kashmir, Bikini atoll and the hydrogen bomb…” That was before ‘bikini’ took on a new resonance to disturb the tranquility of growing boys. They were only talking about nuclear devastation  and the end of life on Earth.

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Sometimes there was good news; news to make young lads, leave their breakfast,  jump up and down and yell in sheer delight. Sixty years ago, almost to the day, through the firestorm of static, all the way from Melbourne, came the commentary on the Olympic 1500 metres final. The ‘man from Eire’, Ronnie Delaney came through the field, the greatest milers of the day, Landy, Hewson, Lincoln, Tabori and a handful of luminaries, to carry off the gold medal for Ireland. In the apparently relentless and grim Fifties, his achievement stills shines out. The Force was with him that day. I still cheer when I see it on video.

I think it was even better though, on the wireless.

The Cross. Agincourt 6oo. October 25th 2015

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It would be remiss not to comment on the 6ooth anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt (25th of October 1415). If I were to neglect the opportunity I would have to wait another century to get a similarly significant date. Because of its place in literature, this battle took on an importance not accorded to other English victories of that dismal war. ‘Gentlemen in England now abed…..will think themselves accursed they were not here to share this day with us…  It’s stirring stuff, the template of martial valour, no matter where you come from.  And then a hero comes along….according to an ad on television. It could be an ad for pizza or mobile phones or, as in this case, for a video war game for nerds. The knight wears golden armour and rides an armoured steed, a classic hero. A hero leads and inspires. Sometimes he achieves the almost impossible, over-riding considerations of right and wrong, self preservation and most of all, common sense…Once more into the breach, dear friends…….for Harry, England and Saint George. King Henry carries the Cross of Saint George, the flag of England, secure in the knowledge that he has been chosen by God. His men wear the broad red cross on their coats. God and the saints supported this raid. No doubt  the French called on God to assist their efforts also, as do most armies in time of war. There are no atheists in foxholes.

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Eleven centuries before Agincourt, Constantine’s soldiers inscribed the cross on their shields, following a vision in the sky… In this sign you will conquer.  He conquered and the cross became the most powerful symbol in European history. As part of his new dispensation, sovereignty over all islands was granted to the Pope. This had implications for Ireland in later years. Everywhere you look in Ireland you will see crosses. There are Celtic, Coptic, Greek, Maltese, Lorraine, Saint Brigid’s, Russian and many other variations on what was originally a Roman device for torture and execution. The ‘tree’ on which the convict was killed, became a symbol of triumph.

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It was the symbol of the Crusades, a symbol that still inflames enmity in Muslim societies. You see it in the national flags of many nations. The Red Cross organisation uses the reverse of the Swiss flag as its symbol. In some countries it shares its principles with The Red Crescent organisation, although the humanitarian impulse is the same. There has been an tendency in societies influenced by the Christian heritage, to put crosses on mountain tops  and in prominent places. In more recent years there has been a push to remove such symbols in the name of secularism and parity of esteem. It comes across as an attempt to erode the past, to blot out the things that gave western civilization, for all its faults, much of its identity. The Taliban,when they destroyed old statues, did not do it in the name of parity of esteem and tolerance.

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It was customary after the annual Blessing of the Boats, for the crews to bring all comers on a trip around the bay. It was an adventure for small children to embark on a fishing boat for a free trip. One fisherman commented to me that he couldn’t understand why the blessing had to be done annually. “It’s not like anti-foulin’. It should only have to be done the once’t.” The blessing held anyway, as the gravely overloaded boats returned safely every time. The late Jimmy Duff took it upon himself to erect a tall cross on Saint Patrick’s Island for the Holy Year 1950. He loaded it onto a trawler and we small boys went aboard for the ride. Unfortunately we sat on the cross as it lay on the deck. “Get off! Get off! Show some respect. Good Christ! Good Christ! Get ashore at once.” He muttered some less than pious remarks under his breath, about young people and their lack of respect. We were sinners, it appeared. We went ashore smartly. The cross stood tall on the island for some years. The owner of the island frequently railed against Jimmy’s impertinence in not asking permission. “He should be effin crucified on it,” he was inclined to remark to anyone who would listen. I don’t know what became of it. It was gone before the Hippies arrived in an attempt to settle on the island in the late 1960s. Maybe an easterly gale knocked it down. I don’t think the Hippies would have survived there either.

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The cross on Holmpatrick Church was originally  Celtic, with a circle in the centre. When it was replaced, during repairs to the steeple, the story goes (Apocryphal of course, after so many years,)a contribution was made by a Catholic  publican and his customers to pay for ‘a Catholic cross on a Protestant church.’ It was said in jest, but maybe he hit on what the cross should stand for, good neighbourliness and a good landmark. Kevin Duff did the work, carrying the stones from the quarry on his bicycle and lifting them into place by block and tackle. Except for the bicycle, he worked in the tradition of the master masons of the soaring mediaeval cathedrals.  The cross has outlived Jimmy’s wooden one on the island by a generation or two.

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The relentless rain and frost erode the stone crosses, washing away the depictions of the Christian story, just as the modern world erodes the imprint of the Christian story. My daughter’s friend went into a jeweler’s shop in London to buy a cross and chain as a present. The assistant was most helpful.  She had a wide selection. “Do you want one wiv’ a little man on it?”  Where do you go from there?

Early Morning Ninja

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Tom Hoare made a balcony railing for us thirty eight years ago. Wrought iron, shot blasted and rust proofed. It’s almost as good as the day he installed it. I have given it a dab of paint once or twice over the years to fight off the effects of sea air, salt and rain. I like it. It chimes when you strike it in a certain way. It used to be possible to play the opening bars of Blueberry Hill on it, but  the few coats of paint put a damper on that. When we slept in a different room, the railing gave notice of night-roistering offspring climbing over it to avoid detection….boooom..ah… boooom…ah… a soft reverberation that travelled to where we lay. Heh heh. A spider lurks in hiding, his palps gauging every tiny vibration of the web. Gotcha! I’ll talk to him in the morning. He’s home safe. Go back to sleep.

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Insomnia gives opportunities to review old and current concerns. I asked Tom to put a bit of a flourish on it. The good people of Verona added a balcony to Juliet’s house. You couldn’t have Juliet’s house with no balcony. The tourists would be up in arms. But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?  It is the east and Juliet is the sun….  ‘We paid good money to see Juliet’s balcony. Didn’t we Ethel? Have to have a bloody balcony…’ I worried about small children climbing over the railing. ‘They can’t,’ said Tom. ‘They’ve nothing to put their feet on.’  It was true. A few curlycues at the top for the spiders, but it has been infant proof for two generations. In the pre-dawn gloom I reviewed a host of worries. I’m good at that. Health, failures, opportunities not taken, finances, jobs to be attempted, offence given, offence taken, political upheavals, wars, the death of the Universe. Then the eastern sky lightened. It was like balm to a bruised consciousness. It happens on most mornings, the greatest show on earth. Roll up! Roll up! I could see the earth rolling towards the light. I could almost feel the vertiginous movement.

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Then I saw the Ninja at work. back and forth like a shuttle in a loom. He set stays and braces to steady his web. He tested the tension. Palpable tension, as the cliché merchants say. Round and round he went, in a dizzying spiral, paying out the sticky silk. Why does he not get stuck in his own glue, hoist with his own petard? Amazing footwork. Two feet at the back give forward propulsion; two at the front grab on; two on either side are for ordinary walking. Why then does he not move like a crab? A moth blundered into the structure. It flapped around, threatening to destroy the entire net. The spider leapt out and cut it free. It is very difficult, as you know, to catch a moth. You can buy camphor balls and make your clothes smell like an old teacher in September, trapped in his suit, timetable and syllabuses ( syllabi ?) You can buy cedar balls and hurl them at the moth, but he will munch on happily through worsted, serge and even Donegal tweed. The Ninja repaired his web and waited like a true fisherman.

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I thought of friend remembered not and benefit forgot…I thought about the countless millions of creatures even then, stalking their prey, in undergrowth, at water holes, from the air, on the world wide web, in early morning meetings in boardrooms, the hunters  and the prey. The Ninja took a wandering fly, a creature almost helpless in the light breeze.He sprang upon it, delivered the coup de grace and immediately began to wrap it in silk, to be enjoyed later. He rolled it with his forelegs and palps, tucking it into a neat parcel. There was a pretty girl in Bewleys of Westmoreland Street, a lifetime ago, who wrapped bags of coffee in little brown paper parcels and tied them with string. I watched her fingers. I was entranced by her dexterity. I really wanted to say something charming, something to ensnare her in a web of eloquent compliments. ‘ I really admire your dexterity.’ Maybe not. ‘ I love the way you loop the string and snap it with a flick of the wrist.‘ I have never been able to do that. Butchers were able to do it, even though they had knives enough. Grocers could do it. I said nothing. Flick! ‘There you go, sir,’ she said, smiling. ‘Three shillings, please.’ I was cut adrift. I blundered away like the moth. Why did I remember her at that hour of the morning? Tom Hoare told me that he trained as a blacksmith down in Westport. ‘I came up here in 1941, the year of the foot-and-mouth.’  That was the year of my birth, a few hundred yards up the street from where he worked amid the clangour of steel and the blaze of welding torches. I am possibly the last survivor of the variant disease of foot-in-mouth. Probably better that I didn’t release my eloquence on the pretty girl in Bewleys. I went away with my coffee, Kenya Coarse Ground and a vague feeling of inadequacy.

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The light intensified. It insisted. I began to count some blessings. One: the Ninja was outside the window. Two: no infants have fallen through the railing so far. Three: I had some stitches snipped yesterday by a doctor with nimble fingers, after a successful operation. Four: I actually feel pretty good. Five: the beloved occupants of the house are still sleeping peacefully. It might be time to put a dab or two of Hammerite on Tom Hoare’s handiwork and maybe get another thirty eight years out of it.

Ah found mah thriyell on Blueberry Hiyell

On Bluebery Hiyell, when Ah found you…

Good ol’ Fats Domino.

 

Proposal for the Inclusion of Skerries on the Ancient East Trail.

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The ‘Bishop Window.’

Sent by Pope Celestine in 432 A.D. Patrick arrived with some few companions, at the island that still bears his name, close to the picturesque town of Skerries in Fingal. This was his first landfall on his return to Ireland, where he had once laboured as a child slave, tending sheep on the Hill of Slemish. He came to convert to Christianity, the people who had once captured him from his home in Roman Britain. The magnanimity and courage of this man, whose community had long been ravaged by Irish raiders, is astounding to contemplate. His earlier experience of Ireland had been one of suffering and loneliness. He survived by dint of faith in God and determination to escape. He returned as a bishop of the Roman church, not to exact revenge but to change Ireland forever. Wherever the Irish have settled around the world, the name of Patrick is honoured and venerated as the Apostle of Ireland. His mission began in Skerries.

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Of the many legends that grew up around the story of Patrick, the first one began here. The imprint of his foot can be seen in the rock at Red Island where he first stepped ashore to begin his work. A more colourful version is that he leapt in fury from his island, to challenge the Skerries people over the theft of his goat. Such was the force of his anger that his foot sank into the rock on impact. He was too late. The goat had been killed and eaten by the Skerries people. The thieves denied their guilt and all knowledge of the goat, whereupon the animal inside them bleated loudly, giving the game away.

This episode was a source of embarrassment to Skerries people for sixteen hundred years. The taunt “Skerry Goats” caused many an altercation with neighbouring villages over the centuries. In 1988 a plaque depicting the goat was placed on Saint Patrick’s Church in Skerries, by way of restitution to the saint for the theft and in recognition that the goat has become a much loved symbol of the town and its societies and clubs.

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Everything that was ours, was restored to us because of God and our invaluable friends.

Scholars maintain that the influence of the island church remained strong after Patrick’s time,despite it having been the likeliest location of the first Viking raid in 798 A.D. Saint Malachy convened a major synod on the island in 1148 A.D. to discuss re-integration of the Irish church with the Roman system of discipline and organisation. In the thirteenth century the monks moved to the mainland and rebuilt their monastery at Holmpatrick, beside the present Holmpatrick Church. An Ogham stone commemorates Peter Mann, the last abbot at the time of the Reformation and destruction of the monasteries.

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                                                                                                                                                               Holmpatrick Church.

Patrick’s last resting place is Downpatrick, nestling beside the Mourne Mountains, clearly visible from the island where he began his great mission. It is as if he had almost completed a full circle in his life’s pilgrimage.

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A sad footnote to the story of Patrick is the destruction of his crozier. It was long preserved at Ballyboughal, (The Town of the Staff) near Skerries. It was believed to have miraculous powers. It was removed to Armagh and later to Christchurch Cathedral in Dublin. In 1538 Archbishop Brown of Dublin ordered that the staff be stripped of its gold and jewelled ornamentation. He then publicly burned the wooden staff as a relic of old superstition.

Further suggestions for a Saint Patrick  Heritage Centre.

Map and images of places closely associated with Patrick’ mission, with lines radiating out from Skerries: Tara, Slane,Croagh Patrick, Lough Derg, Armagh etc.

Panoramic map of the world, with radiating lines showing how his influence started in Skerries. Show world landmarks ‘Greened’ for Saint Patrick’s day.

High definition images of early Christian churches and relics, as a compendium of the Christian influence introduced by Patrick and others.

Images of High Crosses, The Book of Kells and other illuminated manuscripts.

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Patrick at Tara.

CGI images and model of the ruined monastery on the island.

Aerial views of Skerries Islands.

Live camera feed from nesting sites on the islands.

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Arrival of the clergy and plenary session of the Synod of 1148 (file pictures)

With the development of an Ancient East Trail, based partly on the historical riches of Ireland’s Early Christian Monuments, it would be logical to celebrate Skerries as the starting point and fulcrum of Patrick’s mission to change the Irish people. Without his efforts the ‘Island of Saints and Scholars’ might never have come about and our history would have been  the poorer.

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