Sunday, 20 May 2012

Beach huts, crumbling mansions and a Victorian feat of engineering

A trace of beach huts in a wall painting on the beach at Bettysotwn, Co Meath, this afternoon ... a taste of the Essex coast? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Patrick Comerford

A long working week that continued into a long working weekend came to a beautiful conclusion this morning [Sunday 20 May 2012] as I presided at the Community Eucharist at 11.30 a.m.

This is the Seventh Sunday of Easter – or, as I described it in my introduction, the in-between Sunday, the Sunday between the Day of Ascension and the Day of Pentecost, when we can bring together our fears anxieties of the present with our hopes for the future.

As we brought the teaching part of the academic year to a close, we said goodbye to some students, but also looked forward to new phases in their ministry.

Sun streaming through the overhanging trees along the arched avenue on Piltown Road in Bettystown, Co Meath, this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

I took a break this afternoon, and went north to Bettystown, on the Co Meath coast. On the way into Bettystown, I stopped to photograph the sun streaming through the overhanging trees forming an arched avenue in Piltown Road.

The high cross in Reilig Mhuire near Bettystown, Co Meath (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

A little further on, at Reilig Mhuire, there was an interesting high cross behind the unusual circular arrangement of graves.

Above the graves, the trees in the cemetery were decked with wind chimes that rang softly as a multitude of birds, including robins, bluetits and blackbird flitted between the branches.

Later I heard of the sad decay of nearby Piltown House, hidden at the end of a long avenue. This once-elegant Victorian house was badly damaged by fire in recent years, but is now on the market.

By 3.30, I was sitting to a late lunch at a table in Relish. This wonderful restaurant at the end of the terrace of houses at Bayview, has breath-taking views across the sandbanks to the long beach below, stretching south to the estuary at Laytown and north to the Boyne estuary at Mornington.

The food here is always delightful, and the place is deservedly popular, often turning away potential customers who have not booked in advance. This afternoon, all the tables in the two rooms in this former fisherman’s cottage were busy.

Sun and water in reflections on the beach in Bettystown, Co Meath, this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

After lunch, we went out onto to the sandbanks at the back of Relish and down the steps to the beach for a walk on this long white sandy coastline.

The promised sunshine never burst through, but the tide was out and there were wonderful reflections in the ripples and rivulets left behind. The only spoiling feature is the way Meath County Council continues to allow cars to drive on this beach, with young men displaying their bravado and trying to prove how macho they are racing on the sand and doing “doughnuts.”

On a wall above the beach, someone has imaginatively used bright primary colours to create images of beach huts – a taste of Clacton, Southend, Mersea and the Essex coast, perhaps.

An old post box from the reign of King Edward VII in the wall of the gate lodge near Bettystown (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

On the road out of Bettystown, I came across an old, pre-independence post box in the wall of the gate lodge of a long-disappeared country house.

We drove up through Mornington and along the banks of the River Boyne to Drogheda, and under the arches of the Boyne Viaduct. This 30 metre high railway bridge was the seventh bridge of its kind in the world when it was built in the mid-1850s and was then seen as one of the wonders of the age.

The Boyne Viaduct in Drogheda ... the seventh bridge of its kind in the world (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

The bridge was designed by Thomas Telford’s collaborator and friend, Sir John MacNeill (1793-1880), who was the great Irish railway engineer of the Victorian era. Before the viaduct was built, passengers between Dublin and Belfast had to make their way through the streets of Drogheda from the stations on either side of the river.

The viaduct has twelve stone arches on the south side, and a further three on the north side. The central pratt truss bridge was originally made of three iron spans that were wide enough to carry two tracks, but these were replaced when the bridge was refurbished in the 1930s.

It is difficult to get a full view of the bridge, but I stopped on a height opposite Saint Mary’s Hospital and close to Drogheda Station to try to photograph the viaduct. I must return to Drogheda again and also look for the remains of Piltown House outside Bettystown.

Meanwhile, there are promises of sunnier weather later this week and Pentecost to look forward to and to celebrate

How shall I sing that majesty?

Salvador Dali: The Ascension (1958) … from the cover of this morning’s booklet for the Eucharist

Patrick Comerford

Today [Sunday 20 May 2012] is the Seventh Sunday of Easter, the Sunday after Ascension Day, when we are caught in that intermediate time between the Ascension of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.

This morning, I am presiding at the Community Eucharist 11.30 in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and the readings, hymns, Collect and Post-Communion Prayer reflect the fears and hopes of that “intermediate time.”

The readings are: Acts 1: 15-17, 21-26; Psalm 1; I John 5: 9-13; John 17: 6-19.

We are singing four hymns this morning:

1, The processional hymn (Hymn 259): Christ triumphant, ever reigning, by Michael Saward.

2, The Gradual (Hymn 263): Crown him with many crowns, by Matthew Bridges.

3, The offertory hymn (Hymn 468): How shall I sing that majesty, by John Mason, to Kenneth Naylor’s tune, Coe Fen. We are using all four verses of this hymn, and not merely the three in Irish Church Hymnal, and I hope when this hymn is sung at my funeral, all four verses are sung, and that this tune is used.

4, The Recessional hymn (281). Rejoice the Lord is King!, by Charles Wesley.

An icon of Christ in an antique shop in Thessaloniki … from the cover of this morning’s booklet for the Eucharist (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

The Collect:

O God the King of Glory,
you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ
with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven:
Mercifully give us faith to know
that, as he promised,
he abides with us on earth to the end of time;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Post-Communion Prayer:

Eternal Giver of love and power,
your Son Jesus Christ has sent us into all the world
to preach the gospel of his kingdom.
Confirm us in this mission,
and help us to live the good news we proclaim;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and a canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.