Sunday, 6 December 2015
‘Advent winds’ and old friends in Wexford
at the launch of Historical Society’s journal
These islands have been struck by Advent storms that have wreaked havoc throughout the weekend.
The experience has been a little milder on the east coast, with the bright blue skies of Friday afternoon returning this morning [6 December 2015] as I headed to Wexford late in the morning after a long working week and a long working weekend.
In our tutorial group on Saturday morning [5 December 2015], we were discussing the poetry of John Betjeman, and the opening lines of his poem ‘Advent 1955,’ written 60 years ago, came to mind:
The Advent wind begins to stir
With sea-like sounds in our Scotch fir,
It’s dark at breakfast, dark at tea,
And in between we only see
Clouds hurrying across the sky
And rain-wet roads the wind blows dry
And branches bending to the gale
Against great skies all silver pale
The world seems travelling into space,
And travelling at a faster pace
Than in the leisured summer weather
When we and it sit out together,
For now we feel the world spin round
On some momentous journey bound –
Journey to what? to whom? to where?
The Advent bells call out ‘Prepare,
Your world is journeying to the birth
Of God made Man for us on earth.’
I was on “some momentous journey bound” this morning, for I was going to Wexford for the annual dinner of the Wexford Historical Society, followed by the launch of the latest and 25th edition of the Journal of the Wexford Historical Society.
The skies were blue, the grey clouds were turning white, there was a sparkle on the sea off the Wicklow coast, and the fields were a bright green.
On the edges of Ferns, roadworks before reaching the cathedral caused the only delay on the journey. But even this forced wait offered an opportunity to appreciate the bright scenery, and it was possible for a moment to imagine that this was early spring instead of a bright break in a stormy, wet winter.
Before lunch in the Slaney Suite in the Talbot Hotel, there was short opportunity to walk around the narrow streets of the town that I lived in up to the mid-1970s and that still feels like home.
The reflection in the waters of the Crescent were a reminder too that Advent is a time for reflection and preparation in advance of Christmas.
At lunch, I found myself sitting at a table with Councillor Joe Ryan of Labour, who is also a Maynooth graduate, and Brendan Culliton, secretary of Wexford Historical Society and who reminded me that he had been a close friend of my brother.
The room was full of friends and former colleagues, including Nicky Furlong, Hilary Murphy, Celestine Murphy, Michael Freeman, Helen Skrine and Jarlath Glynn.
The latest Journal is the 25th edition and so it is milestone both for the Wexford Historical Society, and for the editor, Celestine Murphy. In her Editorial, Celestine recalls that the first edition was published at the prompting of the late Dr George Hadden, founder of the Old Wexford Society, almost half a century ago in 1968. The first editor was Dr Ned Culleton, and later editors included William Igoe, Brendan Culleton, Billy Colfer, Hilary Murphy, Nicky Furlong and Celestine Murphy.
The latest edition was launched by Peter Prendergast, a former government press secretary, who is now living in Wexford.
My paper in this 2014-2015 edition of the Journal is a study of a former Rector of Kilscoran and prebendary of Ferns Cathedral: “Henry Bate Dudley (1745-1824): the ‘fighting parson’ who retained an affection for his County Wexford parish” (pp 44-63).
The other contributors include: Nicky Furlong, John Patterson, David Ian Hamilton, Hilary Murphy, Bernard Browne, Kieran Costello, Tom McDonald, Alice McDermott, Mark Power, Greg Devlin and Dr Tom Ryan. Tom Ryan’s paper on the early occupations of the proposed nuclear power station at Carnsore brought and our conversations after lunch back many memories of anti-nuclear and political activism in Co Wexford in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
It was dark when I left Wexford and headed back once again for Dublin.