12 December 2009

Skerries is magic

Skerries News ... visiting contributor in this month's bumper edition

Winter is a very special time here, writes Canon Patrick Comerford

Parting Words: Final say from a guest columnist each month

OVER the past six or seven months, I have added postings to my blog on my regular walks on beaches. And I have been taken aback by so many friends who leave Facebook comments asking why I prefer the beaches of Fingal – Skerries, Loughshinny, Rush, Portrane, Donbate, Portmarnock, Malahide – to the beaches south of Dublin.

It might be easy to answer that the M50 has brought Skerries nearer – it’s now only a 40-minute drive from Knocklyon. But then, I’ve never felt a complete southsider: I have deeply-planted family roots in Portrane, and I’ve enjoyed Skerries and the other north-side beaches since I was at school nearby in Gormanston in the 1960s.

Our teachers probably knew we skipped into Drogheda and Skerries intermittently; they would have been less understanding about those Saturday afternoons in Fingal’s Cave.

When I became the father of two sons I tried to pass on the joys of Skerries– albeit in a slightly different way. There were beachside walks, walks around the Martello Tower and Red Island, walks along the harbour, and – to the bemusement of their vegetarian father – there were even demands to go fishing.
Years later, they do not appreciate Saturday afternoon walks on the beach. But then, they would hardly want to do that in the depths of winter. Yet winter is a wonderful time in Skerries: the sea is swelling, the waves are high, the rocks are covered in foam, and the view out to the islands is made perfect by the sharper lights of winter afternoons. After a brisk walk in the crisp and biting sea-air, there’s less guilt about slipping into one of my favourite caf├ęs, bars or restaurants.

And Skerries is a spiritual place too – winter walks on the beach are always spiritually uplifting, and in the coming months I want to explore the connections with Saint Patrick and the monastic settlement.

If Skerries was south-side Dublin, my friends would be comparing it with Dalkey or Killiney; if Skerries was outside Dublin, they would be comparing it with Kinsale or Carlingford. In the meantime, I’m happy to keep Skerries as one of my cherished preserves. I’ll be doing some of my Christmas shopping here for hampers and wine in places I’ve already praised on my blog, and dropping in for the paper in Gerry’s, a coffee in the Olive, a drink in Stoop Your Head, or a meal in Tarragon.

– Patrick Comerford

Canon Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. His blog is at: http://revpatrickcomerford.blogspot.com

This essay and these photographs appear as the “Featured Contributors” column on the back page of the current bumper new year issue of Skerries News (Vol 22, No 10).

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