11 June 2011

Memories and shipwrecks in the summer sunshine

Blue skies and blue waters at low tide in Bettystown this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Patrick Comerford

I was one of the speakers this morning at a memorial service for deceased members of staff of The Irish Times. The service took place in the Unitarian Church, Saint Stephen’s Green, and the other speakers included: Father Michael Commane, a Dominican priest who also writes for The Irish Times; the Revd Bridget Spain of the Unitarian Church; Maighréad Medbh of the Humanist Association; and Wesley Boyd, former Diplomatic Correspondent who later worked for RTÉ; and Deaglán de Breadún.

There was music from Josh Johnston, who played Carolan’s Concerto on the piano and the Inerlude from Fauré’s Pelléas et Mélisande on the organ, and Michael Cruite, who played traditional airs on the uileann pipes, including Tabhair dom do Lámh, while Eugene McEldowney sang The parting glass.

It was moving to hear John Moran read out the names of so many friends and colleagues from the past. And it was good to see so many living friends and colleagues too. This is the second year John and Deaglán have organised this service, and it is probably as important for the memories of the living as for remembering the dead.

Later, some of us adjourned to O’Callaghan’s Hotel on the corner of Harcourt Street and Cuffe Street. The conversations could have gone for hours ... perhaps they did. But two of us decided to head off for a late lunch and a walk on the beach.

We drove north to Drogheda, and then back south onto the Julianstown Road before turning into Bettystown. Despite some of the weather forecasts, it was a warm, sunny afternoon, and despite some white clouds the sky was a beautiful blue, even though the rain of the last few days is threatening to return tomorrow with lower temperatures too.

After picking up the Guardian and the Economist in Donovan’s, we had a very late lunch in Relish, looking out onto the lengthy, broad spread of sand that stretches from Mornington to Laytown.

Relish is located in a terrace of houses overlooking the beach, immediately south of the Neptune Beach Hotel in Bettystown. The village of Bettystown first developed around the mid-18th century house originally called Marino. It was later renamed Neptune Lodge, and was an hotel by the 1840s. It has been substantially rebuilt, and is now known as the Neptune Beach Hotel.

After a delightful meal, as we walked on that generous, ample stretch of beach, there was a lone kite-surfer, a few brave swimmers, and families in clusters, enjoying the late afternoon sun and the low tide – and one man in a cart drawn by two horses, plying along the shoreline but attracting no custom.

There was a clear view north as far as the Mountains of Mourne on the Co Down coastline.

The tide was out, the sea was a variety of blues, and the sun was sparkling on shards of sand and the little pools and rivulets left by the receding waters.

Bits and pieces of the wrecked Eilean Glas are scattered along the strand between Bettystown and Mornington, but are visible only at low tide (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Because the tide was so low, I noticed the shipwreck on Mornington Strand for the first time. The Eilean Glas, which was registered in Stornoway, ran aground while carrying a cargo of salt and was stranded here on 1 May 1980.All efforts to refloat the coastal trader failed and it was broken up on the spot.

But one large portions of shipwreck and smaller, scattered bit and pieces from the Eilean Glas are visible on the flat sands only at low tide. I wonder whether they pose a risk to unwary swimmers and kite-surfers when the tide is in.

We spent almost an hour walking in the sunshine, before driving back into Dublin through Laytown, Julianstown, and along the coast road through Gormanston, Balbriggan, Skerries and Rush.

I’m back in Rush, Skerries and Blabriggan tomorrow for Sunday services in the three churches – Kenure, Holmpatrick and Saint George’s. I just hope the threatened rain holds off until later in the day.

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