06 August 2011

The value of remembering the past

On the terrace at Relish in Bettystown this afternoon, looking down on the beach and out to the Irish Sea (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Patrick Comerford

The rain held off in Merrion Square this afternoon until ... until it was my turn to speak at Irish CND’s annual commemoration and remembrance of the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945.

The other speakers were the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Councillor Andrew Montague, a Labour Councillor who was elected Lord Mayor last June, and the Ambassador of Japan, Mr Chihiro Atsumi.

Councillor Montgomery also laid a wreath of chrysanthemums at the foot of the cherry tree, which was planted in Merrion Square by the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament over 30 years ago on Hiroshima Day 1980.

Patrick Comerford with (from left) David Hutchinson-Edgar of Irish CND, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Councillor Andrew Montague, and the Ambassador of Japan, Mr Chihiro Atsumi, at the Hiroshima Day commemorations in Merrion Square

We shared umbrellas as we spoke, listened to Japanese music, laid wreaths and kept a moments silence in memory of the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

But the rain brought it all to a swift and early close. In a posting on his Facebook site, the composer Raymond Deane said this was a “very moving ceremony ... with an appropriately atmospheric downpour (our nuclear umbrellas went up).”

I stayed on in the rain for interviews with RTÉ television and radio. But it was good too to meet people there from Irish CND, Pax Christi, AFrI, the Peace and Neutrality Alliance, the Japanese and Indian embassies, and many old friends and seasoned campaigners.

By then the rain had cleared, and it seemed a good idea to two of us to go for a walk on the beach and the savour the few summer moments likely to be available this weekend.

But when we reached the junction for Skerries and Balbriggan, a heavy black cloud appeared to be covering most of coastal Fingal, and it appeared to be a good idea to continue on to Laytown and then to Bettystown, where we got a table in Relish by one of the windows with an enviable view looking down on the beach and out across the sea.

On the beach in Bettystown, Co Meath, this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

By the time we had finished a delightful, tasty and well-presented late lunch, there was less than a drizzle outside, and the skies were beginning to turn blue. On the terrace outside Relish, with blue skies and blue seas, it was possible to imagine I was back in Greece again.

Down on the beach, we walked a mile or so north towards Mornington, and then back again. The tide was in, the sand was golden and soft, and the sun was gently massaging my face. If I only we had real summer weather here this would be a perfect place for long, sunny, summer afternoons.

The Yew Walk in the grounds of Gormanston Castle is a unique feature dating back hundreds of years (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

We collected the Guardian and the Economist in Donovan’s supermarket, before heading back to my old school in Gormanston, for a walk through the Yew Walk. This is a unique feature in front of the castle and school buildings. The Yew Walk is a foliage-enclosed triangular area that dates back hundreds of years, and leads to the graveyard, where several Franciscans, both priests and nuns, as well as some students – including teachers and students from my days in Gormanston in the 1960s – are buried.

Remembering the past can be horrifying or edifying, a reminiscence or a reminder, mere sentimentality or a recommitment to values received and inspiration for living life today and the future.

A sign of the times? A van on the M1 outside Balbriggan this evening (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Canon Patrick Comerford is President of the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (Irish CND)

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