Friday, 30 November 2007


The death of the Rebel Jesus

This is an unlikely Christmas song written from the perspective of a non-believer,and for all that is a very powerful corrective to the 'mild and holy' brigade who would still consign Jesus to His infant status , as a cooing baby in a cosy crib. At this time of year it is easy to forget that Jesus was a thorn in the side of the religious cant and hypocrisy of His day, and for His pains He ended up on a cross. They don't crucify well-meaning do- gooders as a rule ,usually that fate is reserved for the perceived Rebel and Revolutionary..." But if any one of us should interfere / In the business of why there are poor / They get the same as the rebel Jesus. " The song was written by Jackson Browne and first appeared on The Chieftains album The Bells of Dublin in 1991. The Rebel Jesus is a welcome change from the usual musical slush that prevails at this time of year, and confronts us with some awkward questions as to the implications of Jesus' life and mission for us today.You are unlikely to hear this one booming out as you trek the shopping malls this year, so if you want to rectify that, learn the song and sing it at full throttle as you go ! -GOSh.


All the streets are filled with laughter and light

And the music of the season

And the merchants' windows are all bright

With the faces of the children

And the families hurrying to their homes

While the sky darkens and freezes

Will be gathering around the hearths and tables

Giving thanks for God's graces

And the birth of the rebel Jesus

Well they call him by 'the Prince of Peace'

And they call him by 'the Savior'

And they pray to him upon the seas

And in every bold endeavor

And they fill his churches with their pride and gold

As their faith in him increases

But they've turned the nature that I worship in

From a temple to a robber's den

In the words of the rebel Jesus

Well we guard our world with locks and guns

And we guard our fine possessions

And once a year when Christmas comes

We give to our relations

And perhaps we give a little to the poor

If the generosity should seize us

But if any one of us should interfere

In the business of why there are poor

They get the same as the rebel Jesus

Now pardon me if I have seemed

To take the tone of judgement

For I've no wish to come between

This day and your enjoyment

In a life of hardship and of earthly toil

There's a need for anything that frees us

So I bid you pleasure

And I bid you cheer

From a heathen and a pagan

On the side of the rebel Jesus

Jackson Browne


A Christmas Carol

The Christ-child lay on Mary's lap,

His hair was like a light.

(O weary, weary were the world,

But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's breast

His hair was like a star.

(O stern and cunning are the kings,

But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's heart,

His hair was like a fire.

(O weary, weary is the world,

But here the world's desire.)

The Christ-child stood on Mary's knee,

His hair was like a crown,

And all the flowers looked up at Him,

And all the stars looked down .

Thursday, 29 November 2007



Before the ice is in the pools,
Before the skaters go,
Or any cheek at nightfall
Is tarnished by the snow,
Before the fields have finished,
Before the Christmas tree,
Wonder upon wonder
Will arrive to me!

Emily Dickinson


A Medieval depiction of the Nativity
Lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
By, by, lully, lullay.Lullay,
Thou little tiny Child.
By, by, lully, lullay.

O sisters, too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day;
This poor Youngling for whom we sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.

Herod the King, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day;
His men of might, in his own sight,
All children young, to slay.

Then woe is me, poor Child, for Thee,
And ever mourn and say;
For Thy parting, nor say nor sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.
This is one of the earliest extant carols in the English language, and is believed to have its origins in the Coventy Mystery Plays back in the 1300's. These Plays were populist dramas usually enacted out of doors which depicted scenes from the life of Christ. The Carol is a lullabye for the Infant Jesus midst the "raging of Herod" as he unleashes the slaufghter of the Innocents in an effort to destroy this new King! The soothing refrain "Lully, lulla..." is a kind of musical gift offered to the Infant , " this poor youngling for whom we do sing", a human succour for the threatened Child. The Coventry Carol sadly is not heard too often nowadays and the best recorded version of it that I have heard is by the late John Denver from his collection 'Rocky Mountain Christmas' - GOSh-

Monday, 26 November 2007


Frank and I share a warm Seasonal drink
on Christmas morning 2005 at Doonass

As regular Hermonites will recall I am often enthralled by my Uncle Franks prodigious memory for long ago learned pieces of poetry that he pulls from his hat like a literary conjurer,sometimes when you least expect it(see Mar21,June13,'o7 blogs). This morning I bumped into Frank as I was leaving a message at Bridie's (my aunt) place,and he was standing at his doorway on an overcast grey Monday chatting to one of his neighbours. Bridie and Frank live in individual apartments in the beautiful 19th century setting of Villiers Square which overlooks the Curraghour Falls and that famous landmark of Limerick, the Treaty Stone. Ironically enough Frank first saw the light of day just across the river at Castleview terrace, almost in view from his present abode. Stopping to exchange a few words with Frank we stepped inside and I spotted a newspaper supplement on Shakespeare lying on the table and of course our talk wandered down a literary path.I vainly tried to impress with a few remembered lines from sonnets I had learned at school, Frank listened patiently but I could see a more substantial rendition of the great Bards work was hatching in his head. He did not disappoint and in the pause you'd take for a breath he commenced...

Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee,
And for thy maintenance commits his body
To painful labour both by sea and land,
To watch the night in storms, the day in cold,
Whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe;
And craves no other tribute at thy hands
But love, fair looks and true obedience;
Too little payment for so great a debt.
Such duty as the subject owes the prince
Even such a woman oweth to her husband;
And when she is froward, peevish, sullen, sour,
And not obedient to his honest will,
What is she but a foul contending rebel
And graceless traitor to her loving lord?

The Taming of the Shrew Act 5 Scene 2

What a speech on a gloomy Monday in the shadow of King Johns Castle, a suitable setting for one of Shakespeare's dramas. Fortunately there wasn't a single female within earshot of this recitation and to all our fair-sexed readers I offer poetic license as my disclaimer! After his performance Frank reminisced about his sojournings in the area of The Globe theatre in London, visiting the birthplace of Dick Whittington (London's first mayor) and working beside the towering Saint Paul's Cathedral.Once again I am sent scurrying through the Internet playing catch-up to this mans phenomenal memory and grasp of our rich literary heritage!
Gerard O'Shea

Wednesday, 21 November 2007



In the mid 17th century Oliver Cromwell initiated one of the strangest pieces of legislation ever put before an English parliament-the abolition of Christmas! The act banning the Yuletide celebration was enacted in 1644 and diligently enforced up to 1660. Cromwell of course as well as being a Republican was also a strict Puritan and viewed all occasions of merriment with suspicion, and the debauchery and drunkenness surrounding the Christmas revelries in those days was an obvious target for the Reformers religious zeal. In our day it might be argued that the Christmas season has surpassed in sensuous excesses those days of yore in ‘merry’ old England, with the ‘religious’ side being relegated to a church service and the singing of carols on street corners. So the debate continues, as those who follow the One who is ostensibly supposed to be at the centre of it all, what are we to make of Christmas ?
I have long been a proponent of the Christian involvement in the festival on the basis that no matter how tainted it has become, at its centre there is still the remembrance of the Incarnation of the Invisible God, in the human form of a little baby born in Bethlehem. I listen carefully however to those who feel the whole business is irredeemable as a truly significant spiritual excercise, and every year I waver in my personal response to it all. The arguments against Christmas are fairly compelling both from a historical perspective and from a theological position. It might be helpful to address some of the myths that surround the modern festival of Christmas.

FALSE >We know the early Christian church did not celebrate any day as the birth of Christ, probably because birthdays generally were considered a pagan practise and were not part of the Jewish calendar of festivals. In fact it wasn’t until Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity in the 4th century that December 25 th was established as Christmas Day…"Christmas customs are an evolution from times that long antedated the Christmas period - a descent from seasonal, pagan, religious and national practices, hedged about with legend and tradition... In the beginning many of the earth's inhabitants were sun worshippers because the course of their lives depended on its yearly round in the heavens, and feasts were held at its return from distant wanderings. In the south of Europe, in Egypt and Persia the sun-gods were worshipped with elaborate ceremonies at the season of the winter solstice, as a fitting time to pay tribute to the god of plenty, while in Rome the Saturnalia reigned for a week...The exact day and year of Christ's birth have never been satisfactorily settled, but when the fathers of the church in A.D. 340 chose the day of the winter solstice which was firmly fixed in the minds of the people and which was their most important festival." (Encyclopaedia Britannica article Christmas page 642)

FALSE > It is most unlikely that this was the actual date of Christ’s birth for several reasons. The Gospel writer Luke tells us that at that time there were shepherds out on the hillsides minding their sheep (Luke 2:8), most unlikely in the wet and cold weather typical in December for that area. In those inclement conditions shepherds would have brought their flocks to shelter for the night, according to Luke the more appropriate time of year would be summer or autumn. Also Luke tells us that Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem to register in the Roman census (Luke 2:1-4), it would have been an administrative nightmare to organise a census in the dead of winter when many people had to travel long distances in the biting cold.

> Nowhere are we told in Scripture to celebrate the birth of Jesus, in fact the only event in the New Testament that we are commanded to commemorate is His death. The Apostle Paul writes…"For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, 'Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.'
"In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.' For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes . . . Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup"
(1 Corinthians 11:23-28). There is a fairly convincing counter-argument to this however as Jesus himself celebrated a festival that is nowhere mentioned in the Scriptures. The festival of Hanukkah or Dedication is not one of the feasts named in the Old Testament and yet Jesus apparently participated in it according to John 10:22-23. Hanukkah is a celebration of the victory of the Maccabees and the rededication of the Jerusalem Temple. It also commemorates the miracle of oil that burned for 8 days. This event took place after the last Old Testament prophet had written the scriptures. The scriptures were closed before this event, and thus, this Feast is extra-biblical. As Jesus was in the temple area where the feast was celebrated, He participated in Hanukkah.
Today, Christmas is celebrated next to Hanukkah. So while there is no command to celebrate Christmas the principle of taking part in an extra-Biblical festival is not of itself excluded.

> The celebration of December 25th was practised by the Romans from a tradition imported from Persia. Mithra was the Persian god of light and sacred contracts and in the 3rd century the Pagan Emperor Aurelian initiated the festival of Dies Invicti Solis, the Day of the Invincible Sun, on December 25. It is believed that Emperor Constantine was an adherent to Mithraism prior to his conversion and became instrumental in transforming the popular sacred day of his old religion over to his new-found Christian faith. Thus December 25th received a Christian make-over and became the date decided upon to remember the birth of Jesus Christ. Throughout all recorded history, in every culture and nation, the death and rebirth of the sun-god has been celebrated as a pivotal moment in religion. Naturally, this celebration occurs when the sun reaches its furthest distance from the equator and thus appears to "die away", and can it be a coincidence that this happens around 21st/22nd December, when Christmas-time begins? Tertullian, a Church historian observed as early as 230AD "By us, who are strangers to sabbaths, new moons and festivals, the Saturnalia, the feasts of January, the Brumalia and the Matronalia are now frequented; gifts are carried to and fro, new year’s day presents are made with din, and sports and banquets are celebrated with uproar."
YES >There are so many other aspects to Christmas that we could demythify…the tree…the crib…the mistletoe…the gifts…Santa…etc,. As I have said at the outset I have an ambivalent attitude to it all realising that our modern Christmas celebrations owe more to Dickens than the Bible and revolve more around the Mall than the Magi! However there is a side to the festival that gives me cause for hope, for many people it is a time to reflect on their lives and their families and perhaps in the maelstrom of shopping and partying there may yet shine a star that will pierce our darkness ,and lead us again back to the One who joined our humanity in the mystery of that night two thousand years ago. We see that warm Nativity scene in the glow of a mothers love, but also in the shadow of a cross ,upon which that baby Jesus would one day die and take upon himself our sins, opening up our way back to God. It’s a cliché but its true, Jesus is the Gift of Christmas and whatever adorns you tree next December 25th, without Him you are poor indeed.
Gerard O'Shea

Saturday, 17 November 2007



Hear my prayer, O heavenly Father,

Ere I lay me down to sleep;

Bid Thy angels, pure and holy,

Round my bed their vigil keep.

My sins are heavy, but Thy mercy

Far outweighs them, every one;

Down before Thy cross I cast them,

Trusting in Thy help alone.

Keep me through this night of peril

Underneath its boundless shade;

Take me to Thy rest, I pray Thee,

When my pilgrimage is made.

None shall measure out Thy patience

By the span of human thought;

None shall bound the tender mercies

Which Thy Holy Son has bought.

Pardon all my past transgressions,

Give me strength for days to come;

Guide and guard me with Thy blessing

Till Thy angels bid me home.

Charles Dickens

Friday, 16 November 2007



You Wanna Hear More...
A guy walks into a dentist's office and flops right down on the couch.
"Doc", he says, "Here's the problem. I think I'm a moth"
"Well", says the doctor, "That certainly is a problem, but why did you come into a dentist's
"The light was on."

Monday, 12 November 2007




O Love that wilt not let me go,

I rest my weary soul in thee;

I give thee back the life I owe,

That in thine ocean depths its flow

May richer, fuller be.

O light that followest all my way,

I yield my flickering torch to thee;

My heart restores its borrowed ray,

That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day

May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,

I cannot close my heart to thee;

I trace the rainbow through the rain,

And feel the promise is not vain,

That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,

I dare not ask to fly from thee;

I lay in dust life’s glory dead,

And from the ground there blossoms red

Life that shall endless be.

George Matheson

Matheson said about this hymn:

My hymn was composed in the manse of Inn élan ,Argyle shire, Scotland on the evening of the 6th of June, 1882, when I was 40 years of age. I was alone in the manse at that time. It was the night of my sister’s marriage, and the rest of the family were staying overnight in Glasgow. Something happened to me, which was known only to myself, and which caused me the most severe mental suffering. The hymn was the fruit of that suffering. It was the quickest bit of work I ever did in my life. I had the impression of having it dictat­ed to me by some inward voice rather than of working it out myself. I am quite sure that the whole work was completed in five minutes, and equally sure that it never received at my hands any retouching or correction. I have no natural gift of rhythm. All the other verses I have ever written are manufactured articles; this came like a day­spring from on high.

Saturday, 10 November 2007



The world seemed shocked this fall when it learned that Mother Teresa experienced several decades of spiritual dryness and a profound sense of being disconnected from God.
Doubleday published Come Be My Light, a collection of private letters to her spiritual advisers. In those letters, Mother Teresa compared her anguish to hell. She described her spiritual state, using words like "dryness," "darkness," and "torture." Such language brings to mind the "dark night of the soul" described by John of the Cross in the 16th century.
CT readers should also recall similar periods of feeling spiritually abandoned in the lives of great Protestants: Oswald Chambers and William Cowper, for example, and especially Martin Luther. It was not in Luther's monastic years, when he was struggling for acceptance with God, that he felt the absence of God most deeply. Like Mother Teresa, it was after his special experience of God's grace and after he wrote his watershed 95 theses that his periods of Anfechtung, his word for doubt, turmoil, and despair, came upon him. To discover grace is not to escape spiritual tribulation.
Here is a sample of how Luther wrote about his feelings of abandonment:
"God often, as it were, hides himself, and will not hear; yea, will not suffer himself to be found."
Luther described times when trying to preach or speak of Christ, "the word freezes upon my lips." He said, "Had another had the tribulations which I have suffered, he would long since have died." Luther's call to be a professor forced him to find a new approach to the Scriptures and, in turn, Christian experience. According to historical theologian Robert Rosin of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, the tools of Renaissance humanism liberated Luther from medieval philosophical categories and helped him move toward a more straightforward reading of the text. Luther discovered that Christians do not approach God through a logical ergo (as the Scholastics had done), but through a nevertheless. Luther learned from Scripture that Christians must look beyond their own experiences, feelings, and thoughts in order to contend for the faith.
The solution is to allow tribulation to drive you to prayer and Scripture and above all, to God's promises. Luther said:
When one is possessed with doubt, that though he call upon the Lord he cannot be heard, and that God has turned his heart from him, and is angry, … he must … arm himself with God's Word, promising to hear him. As to the when and how God will hear him, this is stark naught; place, time, and person are accidental things; the substance and essence is the promise.
Promise is a fundamental category in Luther's theology of salvation. In his Babylonian Captivity of the Church, he wrote:
For God does not deal, nor has he ever dealt, with man otherwise than through a Word of promise. We in turn cannot deal with God otherwise than through faith in the Word of his promise. He does not desire works, nor has he need of them; … But God has need of this: that we consider him faithful in his promises [Heb. 10:23], and patiently persist in this belief … [P]romise and faith must necessarily go together. For without the promise there is nothing to be believed; while without faith the promise is useless, since it is established and fulfilled through faith.

David Neff

-'Christianity Today' Nov.2007-


The Harvest Moon

The flame-red moon, the harvest moon,

Rolls along the hills, gently bouncing,

A vast balloon,

Till it takes off, and sinks upward

To lie on the bottom of the sky, like a gold doubloon.

The harvest moon has come,

Booming softly through heaven, like a bassoon.

And the earth replies all night, like a deep drum.

So people can't sleep,

So they go out where elms and oak trees keep

A kneeling vigil, in a religious hush.

The harvest moon has come!

And all the moonlit cows and all the sheep

Stare up at her petrified, while she swells

Filling heaven, as if red hot, and sailing

Closer and closer like the end of the world.

Till the gold fields of stiff wheat

Cry `We are ripe, reap us!' and the rivers

Sweat from the melting hills.

Ted Hughes

The Harvest Moon
The flame-red moon, the harvest moon,

Rolls along the hills, gently bouncing,

A vast balloon,Till it takes off, and sinks upward

To lie on the bottom of the sky, like a gold doubloon.

The harvest moon has come,

Booming softly through heaven, like a bassoon.

And the earth replies all night, like a deep drum.

So people can't sleep,

So they go out where elms and oak trees keep

A kneeling vigil, in a religious hush.

The harvest moon has come!

And all the moonlit cows and all the sheep

Stare up at her petrified, while she swells

Filling heaven, as if red hot, and sailing

Closer and closer like the end of the world.

Till the gold fields of stiff wheat

Cry `We are ripe, reap us!' and the rivers

Sweat from the melting hills.

Ted Hughes

Wednesday, 7 November 2007


If, like me you have a fascination with the origin of words and phrases then you should enjoy this latest addition to the Dew stable , ‘Sayings'. The material for this is taken from a little gem of a book that I bought many years ago called ‘Lock, Stock & Barrel ! - Familiar sayings And Their Meanings’.From time to time we’ll put a few of the more interesting entries on the Dew blog for all our silver-tongued readers.


Above BoardTo be ‘above board’ is to be honest and open to view ; the opposite is to be secretive, hidden from sight and by association fraudulent. The term comes from the card table (the board) at which cheats would drop their hands below the table, in order to change their cards to form a more favourable hand. When all play is ‘above board’ there can be no suspicion of trickery

Namby - Pamby…Ambrose Phillips was a poet who died in 1749 and whose verse was ridiculed by more accomplished poets, like Alexander Pope, for what they regarded as its childish sentimentality. Pope was one of the poets who coined the name ‘Namby-Pamby on Ambrose Philip’s name and the nickname has stuck in the language as an adjective describing anything weakly sentimental and insipid.

Pouring Oil On Troubled Waters…Seafarers have known for centuries that oil poured onto the surface of the sea will reduce the violence of the waves. The term acquired its metaphorical use in the middle of the nineteenth century when it was first used to describe the use of calming words and behaviour to restore harmony after argument or an outburst of anger.

Running The Gauntlet…Those who ‘run the gauntlet’ are assailed or criticized on all sides. When the expression was first used in the seventeenth century it took the form of ‘running the gantlope’, gantlope being a word ed from two Swedish words gata meaning a ‘passage’ and lop a ‘course’. ‘Running the gauntlet’ was initially a form of punishment used in the Swedish armed forces. Two lines of men were drawn up facing each other and each man was equipped with a truncheon or rope’s end with which he had to beat the man being punished, who was made to run down the narrow passage between them. In time gantlope changed its spelling and adopted the form of ‘gauntlet’, which of course is a type of glove.



Life and Death
Some time ago a programme on the radio caught my attention. A young woman was discussing a diet that eliminates all animal products and their derivatives, in order to avoid animal cruelty. What stirred my interest was her passion for the phrase that she repeatedly sneaked into her argument. She said, "In this day and age, with all our technology and experience with life, it is preposterous to embrace the concept that something must die so that I might live!""Something must die that I might live." It is an impenetrable notion—disparaging and hopeful at once, and perhaps as this young woman points out, altogether problematic for the human mind. Soren Kierkegaard applied this difficult idea to Christianity. He reasoned that Christ was the Son of God specifically because He stayed up on the cross and tasted death. "But Humanity cannot grasp the divine mind," he explains. "It would rather conclude that He was the Son of God, if only He had come down from the cross." Indeed, our minds struggle with the need and purpose of Christ's death—Christ himself cried, "Father, is there any other way?" Yet then He added, "Not my will but Yours." Perhaps the truer struggle here originates less in the why's and how's of the mind, but more in the will of the heart that does the asking. In his book The Kingdom of God in America, H. Richard Niebuhr said, "We want a God without wrath who took man without sin into a kingdom without justice through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross." This is worth thinking about. With our earthly clay do we mold into our minds a God little more than man-like dictator, concerned more with good duty than with Goodness; timely tribute than Eternal truth? And wouldn't it be easy to offer this God a place in a sin-stained soul that claims it doesn't really need Him? Yet how can we believe in a God any greater than can stand up in the small boxes we've drawn around Him? The God whose footsteps and fingerprints trail through your life is by no means a faceless, Christless God, but The God willing to suffer the darkness of death so that you and I might experience Life. That Christ's death has given us the possibility of life is the essence of Christianity. His words pursue human hearts into the depths of eternity: "I came that you might have Life and have it abundantly." Can you accept this?

Saturday, 3 November 2007


Not the real Coco
but a close resemblance


There is now no one
On dark nights
To act as sentinel
On Iona Drive,
My old Guardian friend
Has left his post
Once and for all.

No more wag-tailed hellos
Or giddy frolics
Dolphin-like skitting at my heels
As I went to get a biscuit.
Coco at seventeen
Has left this road
And all the roads of earth
And gone elsewhere
Perhaps, for further cheerful service !

Our doggy emissary
Left in the twinkling of an eye !
In the wettest of summers
The darling of our street ,
Fell asleep at last
To well earned rest.

Gerard O'Shea

Coco was a feature of the landscape around here over the last several years,originally flanked by his terrier friend T.J. He was a real tramp of the roads and loved passers-by often joining them on walks around the North Circular Road,whether invited or not! He left his original owners and hooked up with a more amenable neighbour many years ago,deciding for himself at which address he would reside. Many a nocturnal homeward walk was brightened up by the re-assuring emergence of Coco from his kennel, tail wagging exuding welcome and friendliness in equal measure. He had the habit of walking non-chalantly in the middle of the road and as he aged and his hearing deteriorated it was feared that he might one day succumb to an oncoming car. Mercifully Coco died peacefully during the Summer closing his eyes for the last time,after a lifetime of loyalty and companionship to his owners and being a gentle and cheerful presence for those of us who passed his 'patch' on the entrance to Iona Drive.-GOSh.

Friday, 2 November 2007


Another actual letter written by a child to God,
collected in Carmel Reilly's book 'Dear God'

My dog is very old and she has been ill a lot. We keep going to the vet. I know it costs a lot of money each time.,though my dad says we can keep looking after her.

But the vet says she is not happy any more and we should maybe have her put to sleep. I keep saying I don’t want her put to sleep,we have to keep her alive. My dad says I have to decide because he doesn’t want to do it if I don’t agree.

I know I’m going to have to let her go, because it is not right to keep her alive when she isn’t happy any more.

I will tell them tonight,but I want you to look after her when she dies and I want you to know she is a very special dog and I love her a lot.



Starlings at full throttle!





I heard the swoosh first
Causing me to look up,
And in the Novembered sky
Beheld the rush of starlings.

As one, they winged from tree to tree
Busily dining on berries
And leaving in their wake,
The aftershock of frenzied flight.

Not for the weak-hearted
These dare-devil fliers,
Darting at the speed of light
Between this world
And somewhere else entirely.
Gerard O'Shea

Thursday, 1 November 2007


The Great Stalactite at Doolin

Took flight from the city over last weekend to visit the little townland of Doolin on the west coast of Clare. Doolin has become a musical Mecca for lovers of traditional music from all over the world since two brothers Pakie and Miko Russell put it on the map back in the 1960’s. Playing flute and fiddle the Russells became the focal point for musical 'seisuins' in O’Connors pub in the heart of the village, and while the musical pioneers are deceased ,the tradition of impromptu gatherings continue as we discovered on our Sunday night excursion to the landmark hostelry.A fiddle,uilean pipes,concertina and melodeon spun tunes out into the packed pub ,alternating between dizzying jigs and reels and sean-nos laments stretching back to sorry tales of Ireland's greatest tragedy ,the potato famine of 1847. We were even treated to a song celebrating Doolin itself
“I never will forget the first time that we met
As we listened to the songs and the stories
There was magic in the air
In the Banner County Clare
Long ago when we first met in Doolin…”
Of course the real delights of that part of Clare are found outside in the glorious coastline with the mighty Atlantic pounding wave after crashing wave against the rocky shore. Walking out from Doolin Pier and looking across to the Aran islands there is a real sense of the terrifying majesty of the sea at its rawest and untamed. And again by the rocky shoreline at Fanore the spectacle of the ever-heaving sea fills one with awe and wonder. In the shadow of that ‘terrible beauty’ the human frame no matter how lofty or self-regarding is put into a context reminiscent of man himself in the light of Eternity. Perhaps this is the truest perspective against which we should “number our days” and live our lives , cognisant of the bigger picture. The coast road from Lisdoonvarna to Ballyvaughaun with its twin companions of the sea on one side and the Burrens limestone hills on the other, brings out the poet and philosopher in all but the stoutest of souls, I think!
Yet another delight of this brief trip was a visit to The Doolin Cave, boasting the longest stalactite in the northern hemisphere at 6.54m (20 feet). The Cave was discovered back in 1952 known as Pol-an Ionian but has only been commercially developed as a tourist attraction in the last couple of years. To facilitate access to the stalactite, low-level rock blasting and drilling had to be carried out with the risk that the vibrations and shock-waves could have dislodged the stalactite from the roof of the cave. Thankfully this did not occur ,and the feature is now on course to becoming a major attraction in the region.
Accompanied by our guide a group of seven entered the cave through a small gate and descended the 125 steps to a distance of about 80 feet, where we were provided with hard-hats for the rest of our subterranean trek. The interior is adequately lit by a main supply source which is just as well, as the guides torch seemed to be on its last legs and required several belts from him to resuscitate it back to life ! The passage which leads to the stalactite is narrow and quite low in places,even I managed to bang my hard-hat once or twice as we progressed onwards. We were guided to the viewing rail in pitch darkness and at the flick of a switch the splendid site of the stalactite came into view ,to the assembled oohs and ahhs of our group. The stalactite resembled a pale marble chandelier hanging from the cave roof, appearing rather eerily luminescent midst the surrounding darkness of its cavernous home. A thing of beauty indeed and an introduction to the mysterious world beneath our feet.
So ended our brief interlude on the west coast, endued afresh with the wonders of creation and the genius of the human spirit. By the way I can heartily recommend O’Connors farmhouse B and B for anyone wishing to spend a few days in Doolin, O’Connors for pub and grub and for a coffee in a pleasant musical ambiance the Magnetic Reel music café ,all situated within a 10 minute stretch of each other.
Gerard O'Shea