27 July 2017
Before moving to Asketon six months ago, I was back in Wexford regularly, for walks along the beaches like Kilmuckridge, Ballymoney and Courtown, walks by the banks of the River Slaney, rambles around Bunclody, Ferns, Enniscorthy and Wexford town, or strolls along the Quays of Wexford.
Although I was born in Rathfarnham, spent part of my childhood near Cappoquin in west Waterford and went to school at Gormanston, near Drogheda, the important, decisive years of growing up and maturing were spent in Lichfield and Wexford, and I still feel very much at home in both Wexford and Lichfield.
When Wexford and Waterford were playing a recent hurling match, I was told I was being very tribal about Wexford. Ancestral roots go very deep indeed, and for the past six months I have missed the way Wexford is so easily accessible from Dublin.
If you can imagine Wexford, Dublin and Limerick as three corners of a triangle, then for me the most difficult side of the triangle when it comes to travel by public transport is the one linking Limerick and Wexford.
On Wednesday [26 July 2017], I was invited to two parts of the wedding of a former student – the wedding service in Saint James’s Church, Crinken, near Bray, and a reception in an hotel in Enniskerry, Co Wicklow. What was I to do with the six hours in between?
From Bray, it is only an hour to North Wexford, and soon two of us were stopping to buy fresh Wexford fruits – strawberries and raspberries – at Green’s Berry Farm in Tinnock. Those plump fresh ripe strawberries are unique to the sunny south-east, and there is no comparison with the forced, limp imports found on many supermarket shelves. What happy memories I have of the Strawberry Fair, which marked its 50th anniversary in Enniscorthy this year.
A few minutes later we were in Gorey, wondering whether we might stop there for lunch, and whether Gorey still had a Greek restaurant. But I had forgotten how busy this part of north Co Wexford can be at this time of the year. Summer brings a large number of people from south Dublin to the beaches of north Wexford, and Gorey becomes a thronged shopping town.
We found no immediate parking, and decided to continue on, remembering that there was once a Greek restaurant in the old creamery in Ballycanew called Papa Rhodes.
The restaurant took its name not from the Greek island of Rhodes, but from its former chef and proprietor, Ormond Rhodes (‘Roddy’) Hickson, who once ran the place with his wife Maureen. But it seems to have been closed for a years now now, since about 2013 or 2014, and we continued on the road, through Castlebridge, to Wexford.
Wexford is always a beautiful sight to behold, even under grey skies and in a light rain that were more appropriate to mid-autumn than to mid-summer. The water was sparkling along the Quays, and from the bridge along the skyline I could pick out the Opera House, the spires of the Twin Churches in Rowe Street and Bride Street, the Friary and Saint Iberius’s Church. Tucked in the there somewhere is the house I once lived in on High Street.
I was last in Bunclody in January and the previous November. But I think I was last back in Wexford Town during the Wexford Festival in October for a lecture by John Julius Norwich. When you have experienced so much growing up in one place, every detail is etched on your memory, and every change is noted and catalogued in the recesses of memories and emotions.
We drove through the town for a while, and then headed out to Ferrycarrig for a late lunch by the banks of the river at the Ferrycarrig Hotel. I had planned a short stay here in January, but those plans changed with the move to Limerick.
On the decking outside, a clown was entertaining children and small family groups. The estuary of the River Slaney, which looks like a lake at this point, was placid and soothing, and as our meal came to a close, the grey skies turned to blue.
We lingered here a little longer, enjoying the peaceful setting by the Slaney. We had talked about going back into Wexford for a walk around the narrow streets, but instead we drove along the banks of the Slaney, through Enniscorthy, Ferns and Camolin to the sandy beach at Ballymoney.
The day was beginning to close in, there was a light rain, and only one person was swimming in the sea. I went for a walk alone in the rain, and felt I hand the beach and the sea to myself, to think, to reflect, to pray.
But time had caught up with us. Within an hour, we were back in Enniskerry for the wedding reception. I am back in Askeaton, Co Limerick, this evening.
The Calendar of the Church of Ireland is often very limited and narrow, and so it is difficult at times to find opportunities to proclaim how we are maintaining the living tradition of the Church, that continues long after the apostles and early Irish saints who dominate this calendar.
The Church of England, in the calendar in Common Worship, has much broader and more inclusive approach. Today [27 July], for example, Common Worship provides for a commemoration of Brooke Foss Westcott, Bishop of Durham, Teacher of the Faith, who died on 27 July 1901.
Westcott was born near Birmingham on 12 January 1825. He was a student at Trinity College, Cambridge, BA in 1848, was elected a Fellow of Trinity College in 1849, and was ordained deacon in 1849 and priest in 1851.
He left Cambridge in 1852 to become an assistant master at Harrow. There he earned a reputation as a lecturer and scholar, and published a series of scholarly works on the Bible. He wrote commentaries on the gospel and epistles of Saint John, and his History of the New Testament Canon (1855) was for many years a standard work in biblical scholarship.
His reputation led eventually in 1870 to his election as Regius Professor of Divinity in the University of Cambridge, a position he retained even after being named bishop of Durham in 1890.
At Cambridge, he worked with the Dublin-born theologian and Biblical scholar, Fenton John Anthony Hort (1828-1892), and his friend from schooldays in Birmingham, Joseph Barber Lightfoot (1828-1889), in leading a revival in biblical studies and theology.
Westcott and Hort collaborated on an influential critical edition of the Greek text of the New Testament. The Westcott-Hort New Testament appeared in 1881 after nearly 30 years of work and became a major source for the English Revised Version of the Bible published the same year.
Westcott was influential too in the field of Anglican social thought. In 1889, he convened a conference of Christians from all over Europe to consider the arms race. From this conference emerged the Christian Social Union, with Westcott as its president.
Westcott also played a significant role founding the Clergy Training School in Cambridge, later renamed Westcott House in his honour.
In 1890, he was consecrated Bishop of Durham in succession to Lightfoot. His social concerns found other outlets in the promotion of missionary work, which he supported enthusiastically as bishop, and in the mediation of the Durham coal strike in 1892.
He died at Auckland Castle in Durham on this day in 1901.
you have prepared for those who love you
such good things as pass our understanding:
pour into our hearts such love toward you
that we, loving you in all things and above all things,
may obtain your promises,
which exceed all that we can desire;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.