20 March 2011

Walking the East Pier in Dun Laoghaire

Sunset and dusk at Dun Laoghaire Harbour this evening (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Patrick Comerford

This is one of my weeks as canon-in-residence in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. I preached at the Cathedral Eucharist this morning, and then five of us went to lunch in the Silk Road Café in the Chester Beatty Library, including the Revd. Canon Liz Beasley, Canon for Ministry Development in the Episcopal Diocese of Hawaii, who read the Epistle.

Later, I returned to the cathedral for Choral Evensong, which was also a memorial for the victims of the recent earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Ambassador Derek Leask and Dr Margaret Daly-Denton in Christ Church Cathedral this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

There was a strong representation from the New Zealand community in Ireland, as well as the families of the two Irish victims of the earthquake. New Zealand’s Ambassador to Ireland, Mr Derek Leask, who is also the High Commissioner in London, brought a message from the Prime Minister, and Dr Margaret Daly-Denton, the New Zealand theologian and scripture scholar who lives in Dublin, gave a moving address that included personal stories from Christ Church Cathedral in Christchurch.

The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Councillor Gerry Breen, the aides-de-camp of the President and the Taoiseach and officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs were present, as were diplomats from the Australian, British, Chinese, Japanese and US embassies.

It was a privilege to be chaplain to the Ambassador of Japan, Mr Toshinao Urabe, and in Margaret’s address and in the prayers led by the Revd Garth Bunting we were reminded of the sufferings of the people of Japan following the recent earthquake and tsunami.

Swans on the Grand Canal at Portobello Harbour this evening (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Following a reception in the cathedral crypt, two of us stopped briefly to admire the swans at Portobello Harbour on the Grand Canal and then headed out to Dun Laoghaire for a walk on the East Pier. Coincidentally, as we drove out, Julie Parsons was talking on Myles Dungan’s History Show on RTÉ about her present research into the history of the families of the Mariners’ Church in Dun Laoghaire, where her grandfather, the late Canon George Chamberlain, was the Rector from 1925 until 1965.

When King George IV visited Dunleary in 1821, the town’s name was changed to Kingstown, and the present name, Dun Laoghaire, only dates from 1920.

The harbour at Dun Laoghaire has two huge granite piers – the East Pier, which is a mile long, and the West Pier, which is even longer. The two piers enclose a space of 250 acres and the two arms have protected ships in the most adverse of weather conditions. It cost over £1 million to build at the time and more than 600 men worked on the project.

I had spent all Saturday in bed, trying to recover from a bad reaction to the steroids I have been prescribed for the symptoms of my sarcoidosis, and feeling sorry for myself had spent Saturday afternoon and evening on the couch, watching the three last rugby internationals of the Six Nations Championships.

I had missed my weekly beach walk, and was feeling a little claustrophobic. As we headed out along the East Pier, the spire of the Mariners’ Church, along with the spire of Saint Michael’s and the clock tower of the Town Hall were clearly visible along the skyline – this must have been the last sight of Ireland for so many emigrants, and the first view for those returning home on the Holyhead ferry.

Evening lights reflected in the deep blues pf sky and water in Dun Laoghaire this evening (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

It was now about 6.30 and the sunset was filling the sky and the harbour waters with beautiful pinks, oranges and purples. We walked to end to see Howth on the other side of Dublin Bay. Walking back, the waves were lapping gently against the south side of the east wall, and the lights along Glasthule were reflected in the deep blues of the darkening water.

It was a calm and peaceful evening, and by 7 the temperature was still 12. It was possible to be cheered in the belief that summer is on the way. It was so different from the reports we heard this afternoon from Japan and New Zealand. And I was prayerfully thankful for where I live, without the fear of earthquakes and tsunamis.

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