Friday, 14 August 2020

‘The spiritual and physical
disarmament of all nations’
as an ‘essential teaching’

Shabbat Vectors by Vecteezy

Patrick Comerford

In my Friday evening reflections, I have often drawn on the Authorised Daily Prayer Book, with its introduction, commentaries and notes provided by the former Chief Rabbi, Lord (Jonathan) Sacks, or on Service of the Heart, published in London over half a century ago by the Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues in 1967, and edited by Rabbi John Rayner and Rabbi Chaim Stern.

The traditional Sabbath greeting from Friday afternoon is Shabbat Shalom (שַׁבָּת שָׁלוֹם‎), Peace on the Shabbat, or the Peace of the Sabbath.

But what does ‘peace’ mean within this context?

I recently came across the Columbus Platform, agreed by the General Conference of American Rabbis in 1937. They present their principles ‘not as a fixed creed but as a guide for the progressive elements of Jewry.’

It is interesting that this declaration was issued just two years before the beginning of World War II and immediately prior to the cataclysm of the Holocaust and Hiroshima. What they have to say about social justice and peace is very relevant to the world today.

When it comes to peace, they say:

‘Judaism, from the days of the days of the prophets, has proclaimed to mankind the ideal of universal peace. The spiritual and physical disarmament of all nations has been one of its essential teachings. It abhors all violence and relies upon moral education, love and sympathy to secure human progress. It regards justice as the foundation of the well-being of nations and the condition of enduring peace. It urges organised international action for disarmament, collective security and world peace.’

They go on to say:

‘Prayer is the voice of religion, the language of faith and aspiration. It directs man’s heart and mind Godward, voices the needs and hopes of the community and reaches out after goals which invest life with supreme value. To deepen the spiritual life of our people, we must cultivate the traditional habit of communion with God through prayer in both home and synagogue.’

Of course, the gender-specific language is very dated today. But they were before their time in so many other ways. ‘The spiritual and physical disarmament of all nations’ is an interesting concept as an ‘essential teaching.’

Shabbat Shalom

A ‘virtual tour’ of the 12
‘extreme’ points at
the edges of Ireland

Sunrise on the banks of the River Shannon in Athlone in the heart of Ireland … but what are the furthest extremes of the island? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I have to accept at this stage that I am not going to Greece this year, and – much to my regret – my holiday in Thessaloniki and Halkidiki at the end of August and beginning of September has now been cancelled.

Of course, I would prefer to be healthy this year, and hope to travel to Greece on a number of occasions next year, than to travel to Greece now and not be able to go there at all this year. And I would hate to find out that I had either brought Covid-19 with me to Greece or, instead, brought it back to Ireland.

Now, by way of compensation, I am planning 10 or 12 days in southern Ireland, visiting favourite places – and some new places – in counties Kerry, Cork, Waterford, Kilkenny and Wexford.

Living in Askeaton for the past three years or more, I have been able to visit parts of Ireland that might have been more difficult to reach in other circumstances, from the Aran Islands in Galway Bay to the extremities of the Kerry peninsulas.

What are the furthest extremes of Ireland that you have visited?

When we take the map of the full island and exclude offshore islands and rocky outcrops – ignoring Rockall and Rathlin for example – there are 12 ways of defining the extreme points of Ireland: the whole island; the Republic of Ireland, excluding Northern Ireland; and then Northern Ireland on its own.

On the cliffs above the Giant’s Causeway … the farthest north I have been in Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Four extreme points on the mainland of Ireland:

The extreme points of the mainland of Ireland, in clockwise direction, are:

North: Banba’s Crown at the tip of Malin Head on the Inishowen Peninsula, Co Donegal (Latitude: 55° 23′ 4″ N)

East: Burr Point on Ards Peninsula, Co Down (5° 25′ 58″ W)

South: Brow Head, near Mizen Head, Co Cork (51° 26′ 52″ N)

West: Dunmore Head, Dingle Peninsula, Co Kerry (10° 28′ 46″ W)

The geographical centre of Ireland is 8.85 km north-north-west of Athlone Town in the townland of Carnagh East, Co Roscommon on the west shore of Lough Ree.

It is interesting that the most northern point on the island is in the Republic of Ireland and not in Northern Ireland, that the point furthest east is in Northern Ireland, and the extreme points south and west are so close to one another (at least as the crow flies).

Mizen Head … the furthest south I have been in Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

I have not been to all these extremities. But the furthest north, east, south and west I have been on the island of Ireland to date are:

North: the Giant’s Causeway, Co Antrim (55° 14′ 27″ N). My most recent visit to the Giant’s Causeway was on 12 November 2016, when I was on a visit to the North Antrim coast.

East: Donaghadee, on the Ards Peninsula, Co Down (5.53° W). I was there in September 1998 to speak at the Annual Conference of the Church of Ireland Men’s Society in Donaghadee Parish Church on ‘The 1798 Rebellion and the Church of Ireland.’ During that visit I stood on the shoreline, with a clear view across to the coast of Scotland.

South: The furthest south I have been is at Mizen Head, visiting the lighthouse or signal station (51° 27' 00" north) on 21 May 2016. Earlier that same day I had lunch in O’Sullivan’s in Crookhaven (51° 28' 09" north), which claims to serve the ‘most southerly pint in Ireland.’

West: When I travelled through the Dingle Peninsula on 20 September 2017, I stood at the end of western tip of Slea Head (51° 28' 09" N), near Dunmore Head, looking at the Blasket Islands.

Looking out at the Blasket Islands from the western tip of Slea Head (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The geographical centre of Ireland, according to the Irish Ordnance Survey, is in the townland of Carnagh East, Co Roscommon on the west shore of Lough Ree, where the 8° Meridian West meets the 53°30' North Latitude. It is opposite the Cribby Islands and 8.85 km north-north-west of Athlone Town. Lecarrow is the closest population centre.

An alternative centre-point for Ireland has been placed, at a point 3 km south of Athlone in east Co Roscommon. So, if I have to place myself in the middle of Ireland, then I have been to Athlone many times, and on the shores of Lough Ree, and enjoyed a rink in Sean’s Bar, which claims to be the oldest pub in Ireland, and perhaps the pub in the heart of Ireland too.

Wicklow Harbour … probably the furthest east I have been in the Republic of Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

But I have not been to all the extremities of the Republic of Ireland either. They are:

North: Banba’s Crown at the tip of Malin Head on the Inishowen Peninsula, Co Donegal (Latitude: 55° 23′ 4″ N)

East: Wicklow Head, Co Wicklow (05° 99′ 78″); although, if the islands are included, the point furthest east is Lambay Island (06° 00′ 54″ W)

South: Brow Head, near Mizen Head, Co Cork (Latitude: 51° 26′ 52″ N)

West: Dunmore Head, Dingle Peninsula, Co Kerry (Longitude: 10° 28′ 46″ W)

The furthest north, east, south and west I have been in the Republic of Ireland to date are:

North: The furthest north I have been in the Republic is Redcastle on the Inishowen Peninsula, Co Donegal, when I was at an ordination in the late 1980s, or Arnold’s Hotel, in Dunfanaghy, when the then Bishop Michael Jackson invited me to speak at the Clogher Clergy Conference. So, I need to make some careful calculations to figure out this piece of extreme tourism.

East: Wicklow Town, the tip of Howth Head or the shores of Portrane, Co Dublin, looking out onto Lambay Island. I never managed to complete a boat trip from Skerries to Lambay Island one summer’s evening some years ago, and I have not yet walked out to the edge of Wicklow Town. So, once again, I need to make some difficult calculations.

South: Mizen Head and Crookhaven.

West: The end of western tip of Slea Head on the Dingle Peninsula.

Looking out at Lambay Island from the shores of Portrane (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The four extreme points of mainland Northern Ireland, excluding the islands, are:

North: Benbane Head, Co Antrim (55°15′ N)

East: Burr Point, Ards Peninsula, Co Down (5° 25′ 58″ W)

South: a point south of Greencastle, Co Down (54° 2′ N)

West: Bradoge Bridge, Co Fermanagh (8°10′ W), and the most westerly town in Northern Ireland is nearby Belleek (8°10′ W).

The four extreme limits of Northern Ireland I have visited are:

North: the Giant’s Causeway, Co Antrim (55° 14′ 27″ N)

East: Donaghadee, on the Ards Peninsula, Co Down (5.53° W)

South: The furthest south I have been in Northern Ireland is Kilkeel, Co Down (54.059°N), on the road from Rostrevor to Newcastle.

West: A point west Belleek, Co Fermanagh (8°10′ W), crossing the border on a minor road from Bundoran, Co Donegal, into Garrison, Co Fermanagh, around 1970.

Sean’s Bar in Athlone, beneath the shadows of Athlone Castle, claims to date back to 900 AD (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)