retrospective commentary from Madge Irving – guest at The Cnocnafela Centre

To keep the pot boiling…Monday, July 24, 2006 retrospective commentary from Madge Irving – guest at The Cnocnafela Centre.

I’m trying to remember what we talked about – we talked about our general impression of Ireland this really our first visit –and probably the fact that we hadn’t made a visit previously in the same way that we didn’t really feel free to got to south Africa until after the fall of the Apartheid regime – so we deidn’t really feel free to come to Ireland until we felt that there was some sense of peace coming.

We felt it was a good thing to do to come to a country that’s struggling – in the way that Ireland has done.

We talked about my brother’s marrying a girl from the Lisburn area which I believe is a very…it’s near Portadown and it’s a very dyed in the wool area and we talked about the fact of the two sisters who went to Australia as my sister in law did –and sort of broadening their outlook and the sisters and the family when they went out to Australia to visit there was a lot of arguments over the dinner tables about what was going on in Northern Ireland.

We talked about how my brother came home on sabbatical with his two children that he’d adopted in Australia

He was unwilling to visit northern Ireland at first and how his brothers in law who were dockers in Belfast thought he was just a wimp.

He did eventually visit but he put restrictions on like not taking the care an not going in Belfast city and things like that and we believe that he did eventually earn the respect of his brothers in law because at his father in laws funeral – they had come to call him the doc’ (he was a doctor) and he was instrumental in trying to bring some peace within the family because one of the son’s n the family was going with a girl who was a catholic. Her father wouldn’t initially go to the pub with her for a drink as part of the father in law’s wake. My brother was instrumental in bringing that around and I think he felt good about that.

Our feeling about Ireland has been one of…we’re so positive about it – we feel a great affinity with the Irish people – we feel that they’ve just been so kind and nice to us.

We feel that although they are earning their living through tourists – we felt that there wasn’t a sense of greed that we’ve felt in other parts the world.

We talked about walking around the walls of Derry –and looking out on the Bogside and the Fountain area- seeing all these flags and the red, white and blue kerbstones and capstones – I mean – I made my hair stand on end just the thought of it all – the images that we had from television and some of these names recreated in our mind – mostly images of hate and rage and violence as well as strength and stoicism and forgiveness

But you know it’s really difficult for us to think about it all and we wonder why

And then we turned away from the view over the Bogside and there was a beautiful little church of Ireland church – it was just a haven of peace and tranquillity and it was just so nice

We also when we were in the south of Ireland – we just simply went to the local Catholic church. We had decided we wouldn’t take part in the Eucharist because we thought that’s what Catholics would want from us but in fact the parish priest talked about this being a family meal and he invited every baptised christen to join and so we felt able to perform and take the sacrament along with our roman catholic parishioners there – we just can’t see what’s the deal.

We’re very impressed by the centre here that we’re staying at and it’s a community run place

We told you when we were trying to attend a dance that it was too late for us but the gentleman there who had worked so hard to get the playing fields going and the social club and things there – he was just so proud and wanted to show us round all that he’d done and one of the things he talked about was that they had chosen…they had their football jerseys but if the lads were heard to be in town in anyway using the football jerseys in the wrong way they would be barred from the club for a couple of months and I thought that was great and I realise that he was talking about a new football strip that was orange and green and yellow and we thought gosh – if they went into Kilkeel or around Kilkeel…we saw villages which had red, white and blue and you know that made me start to think and I thought gosh I’m getting like this

But our whole experience of Ireland as of now has been very positive and I was actually asked to take the mid week service at a church because you know we’re very ‘church people’ and I just spoke on my reflections of Ireland and asked about not knowing where the truth was and did my truth have to be…if the truth I found was different from somebody else’s truth – did that make him wrong? Y’know – was my right making him wrong – I don’t see that necessarily. I may believe something different from somebody but I don’t see that necessarily makes him right.

But I was able to tell the people how wonderful we had found Ireland and encourage people to come because there was quite a few people there who had experienced some of the repercussions of the troubles and had thought about going back but hadn’t yet done so. So I’m hoping that I’ve done my little bit for Ireland generally and I would just like to wish you well in your work for the people of the Mourne area and I would be delighted if anything that I’ve said can contribute in any way. I hope we’ve covered the sort of areas I’d discussed.

The only other thing that I want to say are that we visited a protestant church after we left you (it wasn’t Kilkeel – it was the next place on…) and we just happened to be passing this church at 10.50 when it was just going in and you see – because of that – we jus walked in because it is our normal thing to go to church on a Sunday and it was a very lively wee church – lots of young people around and they had all the modern things – it felt more like our home church to be honest than the mass had done – but I did notice in the intimation that it said that the monthly..erm the weekly lunch would on the week of the twelfth would be held everyday and the minister talked about it being a witness and I’m thinking ‘is that…that’s the twelfth July – the twelfth week we called it…and it thought – well – you know – what kind of witness is this? It just raised questions in my mind and that was in our mind all along – just questioning why and we looked at the Falls area and we drove through Shankill and up the Crumlin road and we stopped and asked direction and realised that people there just seem to be the same as anybody else but at the back of our minds all the time is this ‘why’ and ‘what would this be like when there’s bombs, marches and things’.

We personally as Christians found it difficult not to be judgmental with people – we realise we don’t live in this situation and therefore we can’t really comment on it but – you know – we do go about it wit our eyes open and think deeply about things and personally we would pray that the beginning that Ireland has made towards peace will go on and that people will be able to recover. We wish you very well in your project and we hope that it will help towards that process and just to be a little creative although it’s not my own creativity, I have just been reading a poem by a chap called Gordon Murray and it’s Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego. I don’t know if you know but that’s three people who were reputed to be in a fiery furnace – it’s from the book of Daniel in the bible. And I thought It was just quite interesting – I’ll read it to you anyway

Unscathed they said they were
I saw them after
It’s not a word I’d use
The first stepped into the real world again
Sweat ion his brow
Fear perhaps the cause
The next staggered as he came
The third moved in a dream
we touched – cold he was
I was astounded
Though not so much as they
Doctors examined them – there is no doubt
All three are quite unscathed
A few sight difficulties
As though they’d stared at the sun
But otherwise quite unscathed
The report dealt with no more than the physical details
We – the young man spokesman for all three)

We should like to state he says
That in future
We wish to be known by our formal names
A pause
Ananias, Azarius and
He seems to search for it
Misail – Meithrael
He exhales loudly
The press conference is quite unusual to say the least

The king – Nebuchadnezzar in a sudden vote face

Next day dismisses his advisors
I saw the three many times afterwards
They led quite normal lives
But I would not say of them that they were unscathed
No –certainly no unscathed
They had been through fire

I hope you don’t think that that’s too far off the wall but I thought that it just had a hint of something about it that you might be interested in. So I hope that this would be acceptable to you. I hope it’s nto too late and all the best in your project. Bye for now

three sides of peace – a response – Dave

three sides of peace
go wandering into hell

and here’s the joke
that goes with it

one side has the biggest fear
(refuses a slow drive
through a beautiful city)
this celtic headstone
is the father of the sequence

another wakes onto the
wrong side of the bed

and gets refused its rightful
way of beingness –
(familial love)

the third side in this building block
are the brothers
(they share the same train of thought)
they mock side one

the three meet up –
like a pyramid – pointed
but still without what’s needed
to keep the pyramid in shape

side one is accidental healer
maybe un-intentional
but still
– unstitches knots
then threads the
way forwards

what’s done is followed through
side two
and three
and one
come up for air

the inner breath is wary
shackled with scars

the outer walls look fine
and dandy
built for force nine gales

what’s left upon
prescription pad’s
invisible to naked eye
but still it hurts

(with thanks to the Rev Gordon Murray for the use of his poem)