A pilgrim’s physical and spiritual challenge…
North Belfast to South Belfast…the long way!
It seems strange to write about an event in my life which happened nearly ten years ago. On 1st May 1990, I left my Quaker meeting in Frederick Street, with the task of walking to the other Quaker Meeting in South Belfast. The two meetings are about four miles apart but I was going the long way - round the coast of Ireland, which is over two thousand miles. It took me ninety-six days, arriving back in Belfast on 4th August.
The motivation for my journey came from two different sources. A friend had sent me, a few years ago, a little pamphlet entitled 'Steps Toward Inner Peace'. It was about an American woman who walked across her country several times without money or possessions. At the age of forty-five she gave away all her worldly goods, even getting rid of her name; for the rest of her life she was to be known as 'Peace Pilgrim', which was printed on her tunic. Her vow was to, ".....remain a wanderer until mankind has learnt the ways of peace." She walked more than twenty thousand miles, carrying in her blue tunic her only possessions. She crossed America for nearly three decades bearing the simple message, "This is the way of peace; overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth and hatred with love".
Peace Pilgrim talked about peace between nations; peace amongst groups and amongst people; and the most important - inner peace. Penniless and homeless and walking with no backing whatsoever, Peace Pilgrim touched the lives and hearts of countless thousands of Americans. Many others were inspired by her message and her lifestyle. She literally lived her beliefs. Having read other books about this remarkable woman and listened to her message on tape, I talked of this to other Friends. One of these Friends, Sandra King, visited my home about six months before I was due to retire from night work in the post office. Over lunch, Sandra asked me if I had anything planned for my retirement. I told her I hadn't. She said, "Why don't you do something like Peace Pilgrim?". I cannot remember how I responded but the more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that I would go on such a journey. The thought of walking around the coast of Ireland appealed to me; a seed was sown.
The other source which motivated me was that I would be making few demands on the earth's resources, as I would be using muscle power and not sending toxic gases up into the stratosphere. I have had a concern since I was a young man that we were not treating the earth with respect. Other races of people such as the native Americans; Eskimos; Aborigines and the people of the rain forests, have a respect for Mother Earth and leave the earth as they find it. I have contributed to the depletion of the earth's resources, as I have gathered around me in my home the usual gadgets. As well as the minerals used in the manufacture of these objects, there is also the electrical power needed to make them work. Of all of these, the motor car is probably the greatest 'guzzler' of the earth's wealth. The emission of gases is having an effect on humans, animals and also plant life and causing the ice to melt at the poles. So in leaving all these gadgets behind me, I felt that I would be walking gently on Mother E arth for three or four months.
During the last six months of my working life in the Post Office, I was continually thinking of my journey. I can remember sorting mail and if I came to a postcard of Ireland, I would immediately flick it over to see if the view was some part of the coast. If it was, I would project my thoughts to wondering when I would be there and where I might shelter. Other thoughts would race through my head, as I would daydream, only to be awakened by the supervisor telling me to , "Keep the hands going!", as I had stopped sorting.
As well as my working duties I was usually the only first-aider on duty. In the first-aid room, where I might prescribe a tablet for a headache or bandage a cut finger, I noticed a calendar hanging on the wall. I remembered the weeks backward from the date I was due to retire (19th July) and each time I had a 'patient' in the room, I would point to the number of weeks on the calendar before my release date. So at midnight on my birthday (a concession to employees) I arrived home. I was starting a new phase in my life and some of my thoughts were about my journey.
I was prepared to leave Belfast penniless, with the hope and faith that people I met would give me food or shelter. But unlike Peace Pilgrim, I had not the faith to journey without possessions. I would carry clothing to protect me from rain; maps and writing materials; ground-sheet; sleeping-bag and other accessories. Just in case I couldn't find shelter, I would bring a one-man tent. I would make a small wood-burning stove and hopefully find scrap wood, the burning of which would contribute little to the pollution of the atmosphere.
Coinciding with the decision of walking round the coast of Ireland, was the notion of pushing a small truck to carry my belongings. Few of my F/friends agreed with me, as they thought I would get used to carrying a rucksack. They said I would get used to the weight and it wouldn't tax my strength the same as pushing a truck. I am usually 'open' to other people's advice but on this occasion I wasn't convinced by their arguments. I usually share with Adeline (my wife), any notions or ideas, because she is not as impetuous as I am and I value her judgement. However on this occasion, I had made up my mind to do the journey before I talked it over with her. Her response was not negative. After some time she asked me pertinent questions and before long I felt my enthusiasm was shared by her.
Even though I would have no money, I would have a little box with British and Irish stamps, so that I would be able to write home often. I wrote a short article in a Quaker magazine (Friendly Word, published in Ireland bimonthly), telling Friends of my journey and asking anyone who lived on or near the coast, for hospitality. Over twenty Friends responded, offering me shelter. Some of the accommodation was in holiday homes but unfortunately they might not be present when I would call.
The most important preparation was to get fit for the journey. Most days I would walk a little circuit from my home to the embankment of the river Lagan, a distance of two and a quarter miles, which had a fairly steep gradient. I timed myself and tried to walk the circuit in forty minutes. This I did at least two or three times a day. Other times I walked to Belvoir Forest Park and by keeping to the same paths, recorded my times when I got home. On both these circuits I tried to break my previous best time. I am a believer in the theory that, "if it ain't hurting, it ain't working". Then I set my sights further afield. I walked to Lisburn by the Lagan towpath and returned by bus. After some time I was able to walk to Lisburn and back. On another occasion I walked to Bangor and had lunch with my sister, her husband and Adeline, (who had travelled by bus). I did this journey keeping to the coastal path. The thought occurred to me that the next time I would be on this path, it would be the last of my journey, if everything went to plan. I also walked to Raffery, about fourteen miles from Belfast, to meet my grandchildren coming from school. I can remember driving to Raffery on a different occasion and Adeline recording landmarks at each mile, which made the journey more interesting when I walked the fourteen miles.
All the training had me fit but the long distances were not on a continuous basis. I had read accounts of various long distance walkers who had all found that legs, feet and body started rebelling at the routine, if there were no rest days. My training was not consistent with long walks, as I had other commitments. Two of these were preparing the truck for the journey and making a wood burning stove. At the back of my garden I had the steel panels of an old oil tank, which I decided to use for the stove. It was a slow task to cut the steel with a hacksaw as I didn't have a grinder. But after using a few blades and losing some sweat, I had the pieces cut; two for the sides 8" x 12" and ends 6" x 6". The side pieces were again cut to leave legs at either end 2" long. When the work was completed I was pleased with my sturdy wood burning stove. I had one negative thought when I weighed it and found it was nine pounds! However I dismantled it and found a cloth bag the shape of a large envelope to take the bits and pieces. It fitted neatly and wasn't going to take up much space.
The truck was similar to the type used to carry a bag of coal or cylinder of gas. The bracket or shelf at the bottom would carry a cool box. I attached another shelf on top of the cool box to carry ground sheet, tent and sleeping bag. Again I attached another shelf to carry my rucksack with all my personal effects. Just below the handles of the truck, opposite the rucksack, I fitted a strong basket type container to hold the wood burning stove, water container, box with bits and pieces for any repairs and a polythene bag for maps. Regarding the propulsion of the truck, I thought I might extend the tubular hand-rest with copper tubing, which I bent with a pipe vice into the shape of a shepherd's crook. Each extension would rest on my shoulders but be covered by foam insulation to cushion the weight on my shoulders. After loading the truck with some weights, I tried this innovation but realised that if there was a bump or hole in the road, the crook shafts would leave my shoulders. To rectify this pr oblem, I attached a leather strap to the end of the tubing and secured a buckle about 6" further down the tubing. I put the truck into my car and headed for the Lagan towpath, where I was able to find a couple of cement blocks to resemble the weight I would carry on the truck. I set off with the shafts resting on my shoulders and the strap securely buckled. I had only travelled a short distance, when I had negative thoughts about the whole idea.
Every step I took was having a jarring effect on my shoulders. It was as if I was towing something that was either pushing or pulling my shoulders. I was beginning to doubt if the idea of pushing or pulling a truck was a wise one but I knew I would be taxing my strength if I was to carry all my gear. I sat down by the Lagan and had a quiet time to reflect. After a short rest, I walked back to the car, pushing the truck as it was meant to and behold, it just flew along! That little incident made me realise that one shouldn't try to modify something that has stood the test of time. I then cut the round ends off the shafts, which meant that I had two positions to push it along and this proved to be invaluable at times.
If I was to travel like Peace Pilgrim, I knew I might be hungry at times, so I disciplined myself to fast for twenty-four hours, just to see if it would have any side effects. I didn't notice any. I have continued fasting for a day each month since then. As well as sitting down and enjoying a meal after a fast, I feel it is good to give my digestive system a rest. During this time I feel in closer communication with Children of God in nearly half our planet, who suffer the pangs of hunger continuously.
Among my F/friends, I felt varying degrees of support for my journey. Having never done anything physical, some F/friends thought it was silly to try such a feat, others were concerned that I would push myself to the limit. It was strange that the person who gave me most encouragement, was an eighty-eight year old Friend - Everard (Toby) Spence. When he heard what I had in mind, he told me that I would complete the journey. His enthusiasm and support were shown in different ways. Firstly he gave me books written by people who had travelled around Ireland and secondly, the use of his cottage in Donegal. But it was the gleam in his eye when he talked, when he would continually say, "You'll do it!", which gave me most encouragement. Sadly Toby died about four years ago.
In his new year's message, Cardinal O'Fiaich spoke of a concern for the environment world-wide. I wrote to him congratulating him on his sermon and told him about my concerns. He wrote back thanking me for my letter and asked me to visit him. A date was arranged in early April and I spent a pleasant evening in conversation with him. He invited me back to tell him something of my journey but sadly he died a short time after my visit.
I also wrote to Roger Garland, a TD in the Dail, representing the Green party. I thought he would be in sympathy regarding the environmental aspect of my journey. I also asked if he could get me permission from Irish Lights to rest overnight in lighthouses but he wrote back explaining that there were certain conditions attached to my request. Firstly I could only seek hospitality in manned lighthouses, the rest being automatic, with families living in them. Secondly, I would need to give twenty-four hours notice of my arrival. He gave me four maps of the coast of Ireland and I was grateful for his help.
By now I had only a few weeks to go before I would be on my way. The time was spent with fairly regular exercise and getting the garden in order. I briefed Adeline on some of the tasks which I regularly did myself and hoped she would manage. F/friends were calling to wish me well and it was pleasing to receive letters of support. A neighbour insisted on giving me £5 to hide in my truck in case of emergency. I couldn't reason with her, that this would not be my idea of travelling penniless. Rather than hurt her feelings, I took the money and gave it to a Friend who had kindly offered me the use of her cottage in Donegal. I explained the circumstances in which I accepted the money and asked her to leave me a few items of food to eat and possibly take away with me.
I started attending Frederick Street Quaker Meeting in June 1974, five years later applying for membership and being accepted into the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). When I refer to a friend with a capital 'F', it means they are members of the Society, and when I write 'F/friends', it means Quakers and non-Quakers.
1st May 1990: A good Friend, Betty McElnea, called at my home around ten o'clock, to bring Adeline, myself and the truck with all my gear to Frederick Street. Betty and Bertie, her husband, have been close Friends since I started attending Frederick Street Meeting. My truck was similar to one that Bertie used for delivering heavy gas cylinders. Betty gave me a present of a jacket to wear in cold or wet weather. The list of other things she gave are too numerous to mention, except for the little silver mileometer which I attached to my ankle to record the distance travelled.
At 9.30 am, a short meeting for worship was held by eleven Friends, before I set off on my pilgrimage around the coast of Ireland. This was a very emotional meeting as they wished me God's blessing on my travels. It was an extremely hot day - a day for lying on the beach - not walking at a steady pace along hard roads. The truck had already gone on to Greenisland, where I made a stop at Dr Robert's for refreshment. He had been our family doctor and a good friend when I had TB in my early twenties. I left him after lunch and made my way to Carrickfergus. On the outskirts I saw a man with about eighteen children at a bus stop. Thinking he was their teacher and they might be interested, I stopped as he appeared to be reading the sign on my truck. It turned out he was the caretaker of the school and was putting the children on the bus.
On getting to Carrickfergus castle, I rested on the wall. A bunch of young lads with tattoos, some might call them tearaways, stopped and asked me about my journey. They wished me well and I was glad to have talked to them. On moving off I passed a number of people sitting on wooden seats on the promenade, who had to peer round to see me. As I approached, they stared straight ahead and I wondered if they thought I was collecting money or maybe evangelising.
The kerb edges were difficult to negotiate before Kilroot but worse was to come before Whitehead. The footpath was less that fifteen inches wide and with telegraph poles, this necessitated walking on the road. This was very tiring and with the hot sun made me so thirsty that I drank all of my fruit juice. The rest of my way to Whitehead was uneventful until I arrived there, and found I had omitted to fill my flask and water-bottles. On passing a house with an open door, I rang the bell to ask for a drink. I left the truck on the road in full view of the window but although someone peered through the curtain, no-one came to the door. I had some negative thoughts, which I put to the back of my mind - perhaps she had had an unpleasant experience. On further I encountered a woman with a baby in her arms and on asking for a drink, she filled my flask. By this time I was hungry and looked forward to the sandwiches Adeline and Betty had made, together with a nice hot drink. On uncapping the flask I disc overed water, which although it was cold, tasted like nectar.
As it was still very hot, I decided to change my socks, which I did by the roadside and had just travelled on a short distance when my foot started to ache. This was going to be my first blister! I decided to stop and eat and I chose a very old cemetery, which although it was locked, had a stile in the wall over which I climbed. I removed my socks to let the air cool my feet and saw signs of a blister on my other foot. After eating I decided to have a look at the headstones which always fascinate me, and I walked along the grass verge in my bare feet. As I stood near a large ivy growing on a wall and reading the inscription on a gravestone, there was a loud fluttering in the ivy. This caused me to jump, as I wondered if I was on holy ground. This was no ghost however, but a large wood-pigeon, which had been sitting on its' nest a few inches from my face.
I moved off towards the lighthouse, which was about seven miles away. When practising walking at home under normal circumstances, I could cover this distance in about two hours. But with the handicap of the truck (and blisters) and the hills I was now encountering, this was a different ball game. Uphill was putting pressure on the soles of my feet, downhill was putting pressure on other parts of my feet. These hills were not 'one in four' but could have been 'one in five', as cyclists were dismounting halfway up. I thought of Adeline, whose parting words earlier in the day had been, "Remember this is a pilgrimage, not a marathon!". Worse still was to follow, as the weight of the truck pushed me back two paces. I reached the summit eventually, to find the journey downhill nerve-racking, as the truck was now pulling me.
I had been on the road nine hours and had only been approached by the lads in Carrickfergus. This did not cause me much concern, as I felt that people nearer home would not show much interest in my signs, and it might be different the further I got from home. The flask of water had long been drunk and I was very thirsty. As I approached a man standing at his cottage door, he came to the fence and read the signs on the truck. I asked him for water and he quizzed me about my journey and appeared to be interested in environmental issues. I said my journey was a kind of pilgrimage and I would not be making demands on the earth's resources. He said, "If it is a pilgrimage, then you must be a Christian?". I told him I was a Quaker and he said, "It's the same thing". I was gasping for a drink and didn't want to continue the discussion, so he went off to get the water which tasted beautiful. He tried to press a £1 coin into my hand but I hope he was not offended when I told him that I hoped to remain penn iless during my journey.
By this time I was making slow progress towards the lighthouse. My spirits were flagging as I pushed up the next hill. On reaching the summit, I saw a sight for sore eyes - and feet!. Ballylumford was belching out dangerous smoke from its' chimneys. I know the dangers from these stacks and yet it was, at that moment, like going to Mecca or being shipwrecked and seeing land. Although there were more hills to climb, knowing I was near my destination, raised my spirits. A car stopped and a woman with children offered me a lift. I thanked her and on refusing told her what I was doing. I wondered where the woman would have put the truck, as it was a small car.
At last I was on private property and on making my way up the drive, two men came to meet and welcome me. One of them, on inspecting the truck, said it should have large wheels with a broader base and that to have only one set of handles would be stronger, where two had been attached to ease the fatigue. I listened to this after having had an emotional day and now tired, thirsty and craving food. At last I was shown to my room and on taking the necessary gear from my truck, went to the kitchen. The engineer who had inspected the truck, now wanted to talk about my journey. I had difficulty talking or eating as the saliva in my mouth was non-existent, I craved a drink and yearned for tea. At last the kettle was filled, tea was made and I drank three cups in quick succession. During the night I drank lots of water, as I felt I must be nearly dehydrated. The lesson I learned from day one was: carry a supply of water.
My friend now suggested that I return to Larne by ferry. When I refused his kind offer, he said he knew the ferryman and would ask him to give me a free ride. I again refused and told him I intended walking round the coast where it was possible. He left me at ten o'clock to go to bed, as he was on watch at two o'clock, saying he would see me in the morning. As I was over tired I slept badly but was wakened to find a good breakfast prepared for me. He sat down and referred to our previous conversation and asked would I at least let my truck travel on the ferry? I readily agreed and thanked him for his suggestion, dismissing any negative thoughts I'd had about his comments about the defects of the truck.
On discussing my journey with the other lads at the lighthouse, I found they couldn't understand why I hadn't encouraged publicity. They thought going round Ireland was a feat in itself and without money, quite an achievement. I said publicity at that moment would put extra pressure on me. On leaving, I gave them a handout. They asked for an extra one to take to the local paper if I was agreeable, to which I said yes. On leaving the lighthouse, I set off on my journey round Islandmagee, carrying only a plastic bag containing sandwiches, two containers of water and a flask of tea. (I had learned my lesson from the previous day).
As I had been able to do four miles per hour in practice, I thought fourteen miles to Larne, would get me there between one and two o'clock. My feet were very painful but worse was the stiffness in my calves as I climbed a fairly steep incline towards Brown's Bay. My thoughts went back to seaside outings here, as this was a popular place for Belfast children. The ice-cream shop was there but I had to pass on by as my pockets were empty. On the three mile gradual climb, the soreness in my legs had not eased and I blessed the lighthouse man for taking charge of the truck. I passed a road on the left leading to Portmuck which I did not take, as on a trip recently with two aunts, had found it a cul-de-sac. I soon realised I had taken the road I was on the previous night, when I had taken a photo of some schoolchildren. This would not have happened if I had remembered to bring my map, which was in the truck. My pace had slackened and as I made my way along the middle road a young woman pulled up and of fered me a lift which I refused. Had she offered this because she thought I was in pain, or did she think nothing of offering lifts?
I remembered the incident the previous day with the pigeon in the cemetery and I thought I'd like to take a photo and try out my telescopic sights. One can miss something in a car travelling at forty or fifty miles per hour, but you would think it impossible to miss a cemetery at a walking pace but at that moment I had no interest in anything other than getting to the Link Road, where I would rest and have some lunch. I set a time for this by counting telegraph poles. At this prearranged (in my mind) spot, I sat on the grass with legs stretched out and took off my shoes. I wrote a short note to my family, thanking them for their support and encouragement. By this time it was 12.30 and I gave up any hope of being on time in Larne. The ferryman could leave the truck on the quay-side. When I raised myself in an upright position and went to move forward in the sweltering heat, the pain in my legs was excruciating. I thought my joints had seized and the tears ran down my cheeks. I was in a bad way. I hobbled along at a snail's pace, until the pain eased. The journey was uneventful; as someone with a plastic bag doesn't attract attention.
When I eventually arrived at the ferry crossing, my truck was there with several men standing around, apparently showing some interest in it. The ferryman was full of enthusiasm and told me about a 'green' event in the area. Apparently there is a paper mill nearby and the residue from this flows into ponds close to it. During a dry spell the water becomes stagnant and the people living near to it were affected by the vile smell. The company no longer use the ponds and they are all stocked with young fry. Where does the residue go now? Directly into the sea, as evinced by the 'green' water on which the ferry floated. Not being an expert on water pollution, I expect this method is the lesser of two evils, but I didn't think the fish around Larne would enjoy it.
I struggled into Larne to visit Father (now Bishop) Pat Buckley, where I had been invited to stop for an afternoon. I was greeted by an Alsatian and a Doberman; fortunately the owner was also there. To some people Pat Buckley might be a radical priest, just as to some I might be a radical Quaker, but on life's journey, people who stick out from the herd, enrich my life. While I was enjoying a large cup of tea and biscuits in the homely kitchen, he asked how I was and what could he do for me? When I told him I was pretty tired and my feet were playing me up, he offered me a bed for the night, but I said I would like to move on. On asking how far I could travel I replied, "Five to six miles". There was a family he knew about six miles away but the last mile would be a stiff climb. He must have seen the agony on my face, as he said he would take the truck. I agreed with gratitude, whereupon he made a phone call and after some light hearted banter, he put the phone down. He told me this would be an un usual experience for me, as Bridget O'Lynn was a special person. He then asked if I needed any other help from him, and I knew even though it was only the start of my journey, that I was going to get support on my travels. I realised then that my burden was too heavy, so I jettisoned the tent, pots, washing-up basin and four books. Father Pat told me he would deliver them to my home in Belfast. He gave me some addresses round the coast where I might call. His mother, who was up from Dublin for his birthday, also gave me an address in Sligo. At half past five I said good-bye and thanked Pat Buckley for all his help. The thought crossed my mind was, "Where else would I get such hospitality?" How wrong I was!
On approaching my next stop my hosts, who had seen me climbing the steep road, came out to meet me. I was brought into a large kitchen-cum-living room and introduced by Bridget, my hostess, to her brother who was blind and slightly retarded, as were two sisters who told me about their activities at the day centre they attended. I have never been in such a happy home. After a cup of tea, I was given a large dinner and it included meat. I decided to forgo my vegetarianism, except where my hosts were vegetarian. During the evening I listened to the happenings of this unusual family. Bridget had given one of her kidneys to her sister and as I listened, I felt privileged to be among them. I was asked where my next stop was and upon explaining that Corrymeela was too far to do in one go, Bridget asked if I could make it to Cushendun, as she had a niece there. A phone call arranged my next stop.
The next morning, when I appeared after a good night's rest, I found the family had breakfasted and Bridget was weighing and making up lunches for her brother and sister. When she finished this, she started to shave Barney; but before finishing this, had to escort her sister out to the bus. I finished shaving Barney, who was being called for later, as he went to a different day centre. A young man arrived with a child whom Bridget would take to play school, as the parents worked out. Bridget walked with me to the junction where we parted and I would go on to Glenarm.
This road met the coast road north of Ballygally where I had left it the previous night. The main reason for this was that it was a steep descent, whereas the one I was taking had a gradual descent and would be easier on my blistered feet. My pace on leaving my hostess was slow, as the calf's of my legs were tight and walking required much effort. This did not stop me admiring the beautiful countryside all around, with such a variety of green. My legs had now loosened up and the traffic was light on the road. As I went through Glenarm I encountered a group of young lads, drawing maps and taking notes. As they were curious to know about me, I stopped to talk. The teacher who was on the other side of the street with more boys, was watching but did not join us. Perhaps I should have made contact with him.
Carnlough was just a few miles away and a picnic area on the shore side looked a suitable place to rest, have something to eat and finish my letter home. My pen ran dry and I noticed people at the next table were glancing in my direction. I decided to give them my leaflet and ask loan of a pen, which they were willing to lend. Some few minutes later the only male of the company approached and when I offered the pen back he told me to keep it. I was hoping for some response to my leaflet or perhaps a chat about the environment but all he said was, "Is there still a Quaker Meeting in Frederick Street?". When I said there was, that ended the conversation!
The letter was posted in Carnlough, where we had a meal with two friends the previous week. The next village was a long way off. The sun was shining in a cloudless sky and my feet were sore, so I decided to change my shoes. I changed to the expensive trainers given to me as a Christmas present; but hadn't walked the distance between two telegraph poles when I had to stop and change back to the old ones. It would appear that changing shoes is not the answer to sore feet. The inlets and bends around the coast which appeared so beautiful, now seemed to take longer and longer to cover; but at last Waterfoot was in sight and I knew Cushendall was only two miles away. These two miles seemed like four as I turned every bend, but at last the town was in sight and I passed through looking for a sign for Cushendun. I knew I was on the right road and asked a young man how far my destination was. His reply was, "Six miles". I had hoped it would be less as that would mean two and a half hours more travel befor e I would reach my hosts, as my rate of travel was flagging by the hour. As I turned a bend shortly, I found a sign saying not six but four miles. I felt quite put out at the young man for giving me incorrect information. Some distance on another sign said, 'four and a half miles'. I began to feel quite annoyed. I was offered lifts and although I was going at a snail's pace, I struggled on.
At last a village came in sight but as I got nearer I discovered it was not my destination. I passed a pub and the woman at the door, upon reading my sign, asked if I would like a drink. This was like asking a drowning man if he would like a life belt. I chatted for a while and started off again. On looking across the street I saw a couple of people I knew. I shouted over to them but they appeared not to recognise this character now sporting a grey beard. When they did recognise me, there were fond embraces and they were interested in what I was doing. Jackie, who had been a colleague in the post office, kindly pushed the truck for a while and it was good catching up on the five years since we met. He is a traditional fiddle player and I bought a bodron from him for Christine As we were walking along a car pulled up. It was my host who wanted to put the truck in the car, but as this would have been an awkward manoeuvre, and we were quite near his house I refused his kind offer. Another reason was that Jackie was enjoying pushing it, at least for a short distance.
My host, Stephen O'Hara, and his wife and daughter welcomed me to their estate house, owned by the National Trust, which had no extensions and all the houses very uniform. After a hearty meal, the amounts which would have done a ploughman, we moved to the living room where a large turf fire was blazing. Although they were very interested in my journey, I knew I had to retire as my body had taken a pounding for the last few days and sleep was not far away. I crawled into my sleeping bag on the 'deck' and wakened around eight a.m. During breakfast, Stephen said he was taking a day off to get repairs done to his car. He had arranged with his stepfather to take my truck in his trailer up a three mile corkscrew road out of Cushendun, on the Ballycastle road. The kindness I was finding was overwhelming - first the lighthouse men, then Father Pat and Bridget, and now Stephen and his family. While I was eating cereal, I was asked what way I wanted my egg cooked and although I said cereal was enough, I was t old I needed an egg to keep up my strength, whereupon I got two eggs. Stephen took me round the village, showed me the road and told me I could have an hour's start, so I knew it was in my interests to cover as many miles as possible. My pace was slow however, as my legs and feet were painful and I realised I had walked too far the previous day; but the thought of the short distance to Corrymeela made me push on and I was grateful for the offer at Cushendun. I used to get mixed up between Cushendun and Cushendall but have now solved the problem; as, when I got to Cushendun I was quite literally 'done'.
As I neared the top of this corkscrew road I could see Stephen's parents waiting with my truck in the trailer of their car. This was a kind and thoughtful act, as it saved me time and energy. I thanked then for their kindness and continued along the road to Corrymeela. This was a dismal part of my journey as there were no encounters on the long stretches of the road. Indeed there was even an absence of wildlife at Ballypatrick forest which went on for miles. This is a coniferous forest which doesn't lend itself to vegetation or wildlife.
Leaving the forest behind, houses, farms and cultivated ground were more pleasing to the eye, so I stopped at the roadside and had a snack. A few miles on I saw a sign for Corrymeela which was just a short distance away. On this narrow road I found it necessary to have a rest as there were steep gradients.
I received a warm and loving welcome from the staff and volunteers at Corrymeela, who wanted to talk to me. Yvonne, who worked in the office, gave me a parcel which had been posted by Julia Darmon and Nance who worked at Quaker Cottage. The parcel contained a pair of heavy woollen socks and a warm message, wishing me well. I suppose it was because of my physical state that I became emotional and tears were running down my cheeks. Yvonne noticed this and guided me to the room where I was to sleep that night. It was a thoughtful act as I needed time to be on my own. This room was usually occupied by the Reverend John Morrow.
I had been to Corrymeela a few months previously, for a weekend, which was attended by politicians and community leaders from the North, and had a long chat with Paddy Harte, a TD from Donegal. At that weekend I told John Morrow of my intended journey and it was then he told me that I could use his room. He gave me a slot in their news magazine which possibly helped to contribute to my warm welcome.
I was born of Presbyterian stock and for most of my adult life was an infrequent attender. As a teenager I was more akin to the strong liberal tradition which Presbyterians held over 200 years ago. Sadly I feel that tradition is nearly non-existent at the present time. People have become so entrenched and blinkered that they can't see the other persons point of view. Fortunately there are people in the Presbyterian Church like John Morrow and Ray Davey. I have a great admiration for those who still hang in there and voice their opinions. Sometimes I wonder if I took the easy path when I started to attend Frederick Street Quaker Meeting. These were my thoughts as I sat in John Morrow's room on a beautiful sunny day.
I made my way down to the water's edge and sat on a large boulder to bathe my feet in the sea. I wrote a letter to Adeline, telling her of some of my exploits. Later that night, some of us met in the Cree which is the place of worship. I experienced a sense of awe, feeling this was a holy place where pilgrims from all denominations met in communion with each other. After I said a few words, Ray Davey gave me his blessing and Micheal Earle supported me with his prayers.
As the main building at Corrymeela is of wooden construction, every visitor is made aware of the danger of fire, hence the importance of fire drill. A group of young male teenagers arrived from Belfast to stay for the weekend and another group were expected from Dublin. I retired to bed about 11 p.m. as I was going to have a long journey to Portstewart the next day. The kitchen staff had given me permission to make my breakfast in the kitchen as I had intended getting up about 7 a.m. Around one o'clock in the morning, the Dublin lads arrived, having been delayed. I was wakened from my slumber as they were a noisy lot and it was few hours before the noise ceased and I got back to sleep. At about 6 a.m. the fire alarm went off and the staff roused everyone and we had to vacate the building. We were moved into a fairly new stone building and waited there for the fire-fighters. One of the engines came from Ballymoney and the men made a careful inspection of the building, and then discovered that one of the Dublin lads had activated one of the sprinklers. They were given a strong lecture and reprimanded. By this time it was 8 a.m. and I had only had a few hours sleep.
The kitchen staff were now preparing breakfast and allowed me to have my breakfast in the kitchen. On vacating my bedroom when the fire alarm went off, I stepped over a parcel containing a large selection of sandwiches, fruit, crisps and drinks which the volunteers had contributed to the feast I would have on the road to Portstewart. I was deeply moved by their generosity and thanked them for their kindness.
As there was a steep climb out of Ballycastle, I resorted to pulling the truck, which I found required less effort. Rathlin Island looked very beautiful and I could see it for many more miles. There was a gradual climb to the rope bridge at Carrick-a-rede and a cyclist dismounted and greeted me. He questioned me about my journey and we chatted as we walked along. I was to have many experiences like this, as cyclists, joggers and walkers often stopped to have a chat. It seemed that people in this category have an affinity with other road users who use only muscle power. My friend was interested in my concerns and what I was trying to do. By now we had reached the entrance to the rope bridge and as there was a steep down grade shortly which would not lend itself to much conversation, we rested on the roadside. He began to ask questions about Quakerism and said he knew about our peace testimony. I told him of aspects of Quakerism which were important to me and he said he was an atheist. He though t it was interesting that we were able to converse much easier than if he had been a "Born Again Christian". I told him I shy away from fundamentalism, as I like to work things out for myself. When I said I believe there is that of God in everyone, I felt he had difficulty with that. I then asked if he thought there is a God spirit within the both of us, he replied, "Maybe". We shook hands and I said perhaps we have more in common than he imagined.
The descent was very steep as I made my way to Ballintoy, where the little white church near the coast looked very special and I was able to take a photo of this beautiful view. On the road to Dunseverick I decided to have lunch and as I enjoyed the lovely food from my friends at Corrymeela, I held them in my thoughts. I wondered also about my cyclist friend, as it was a good encounter.
There is nothing to see of the Giant's Causeway from the road, so I gave it a miss, as I had been there on different occasions. At Portballintrae I called at the home of Hugh Bass, who I knew would not be there but hopefully his daughter Rosemary and her family would. Rosemary was one of the Friends who came to Frederick Street at the start of my journey. As no-one was at home I stretched out on the small lawn at the front of the house, with just a railing between me and the footpath. People were passing and as I closed my eyes I was aware that someone had stopped, perhaps to read the signs on my truck. I heard one woman say to another, "He's a right idiot". I had difficulty in not laughing.
The rest revived me a little until I realised I still had more than a third of the journey to complete. In my favour was the terrain, which had no hills on the road to Portstewart. It was good to linger awhile at Dunluce Castle as, on other occasions when passing, I was driving in the car. As I made my way through Portrush, there was a small section of the road marked, 'one way traffic'. Unknown to me, Julia and Nance, who had already sent me a present to Corrymeela, had driven from Portstewart to meet me and were on the other section of the road, so we missed one another.
By now this long walk was having it's effect on me, as this would be the longest distance since I left home and I'd had very little sleep at Corrymeela. I had only about three or four miles to travel but every step was agony as my legs ached. On the outskirts of Portstewart, I passed Juniper Hill caravan site and someone called my name. This was Muriel Jess, a Bangor Friend, who was staying in her caravan for a few days. Being absolutely exhausted, I was delighted to see Muriel who gave me coffee which tasted like nectar. Her kindness didn't stop there as she drove me to my next stop for the night, saying she would collect me the next morning to take me back to her caravan.
Julia had arranged my stay with the Marriotts, who I hadn't met previously. Stewart was at home but his wife was at a show in Belfast and I didn't meet her until next morning. They were a friendly couple and I enjoyed meeting them. After breakfast Muriel called and on the way back to her caravan we called at a newsagents to buy the Sunday News, as Pat Buckley had written about my journey. I was amazed at the length of the article. When I had visited him he had asked if he could write about me in this local paper.
Muriel had a friend staying with her and they were going to Meeting in Coleraine and staying out for lunch. A salad was left for me, so I could do as I pleased until the evening. I rested until late afternoon and then decided to go for a walk but found my legs were stiff and painful and I walked along like a match stick man. The pain didn't leave as I made my way back to the caravan and I knew I had pushed myself to the limit the previous day. I could only hope I would feel better the next day.
Muriel and Nancy arrived back and we had an evening meal together, chatted and read until being weary, I went to bed. After breakfast next morning Muriel's sister Sylvia, a Lisburn Friend, arrived with her young grand-daughters who were staying at Portballintrae. Joe and Edna Kennedy - Brookfield Friends, also arrived from their caravan on the same site and we had a meeting for worship and Friends gave me their blessing. The most memorable part of the gathering was the input of the two children. When I had the truck loaded the two girls walked with me to the entrance of the caravan site and stood waving until I was out of sight. It was a special weekend and I felt blessed to have Muriel Jess as a friend.
On the outskirts of Portstewart a car pulled up on the far side of the road and two people got out. I recognised Joe Greyson and his wife, friends from Belfast who have a country home nearby and knew of my journey. I was given some food which was appreciated. The road to Coleraine is straight, with fast traffic and I didn't see much of interest. There were no encounters. A few miles out of Coleraine I visited the Peace Farm, where Matt Kirkham, who had worked at Quaker House in Belfast, was now a volunteer. He showed me around and introduced me to other volunteers. Children are brought to the farm from both communities and among other activities, enjoy looking after the animals. The farm was down a lane about a quarter of a mile from the road and had been in existence for about five years. Matt told me he was having a holiday in Galway and would maybe meet up with me.
As I journeyed on, there was not so much traffic on the road and the countryside was very pleasing to the eye. I saw a sign for Castlerock which I knew was on the coast but on a closer inspection of my map, looked like a 'dead-end'. I decided to give Castlerock a miss and was glad when a man near Downhill told me that the coast road from Castlerock was only passable to back-packers.
Benone was just a short distance away, where I was going to stay at Felicity and Clem McCartney's house. They and their family were on holiday but I had been told where to find the key, so that I could look after myself. I had known Felicity since I had started attending Frederick Street, and we were good friends. I would have enjoyed their company but it was good to have a quiet time on my own. After making something to eat, I wrote to Adeline before retiring to my sleeping bag.
Even though I slept well I lay until nearly ten a.m., as I knew I was going to Limavady which was only about twelve miles away. I had washed some clothes on my arrival and found they were now dry. After lunch I set off for Limavady and had only gone a couple of miles, when I passed a house with a garden below the level of the footpath. It contained a miniature Irish cottage with a thatched roof and I stopped to look. The owner of the house came out to greet me and told me he had built the cottage, so I asked him to take a photo of me sitting beside it. I look like an Irish Leprechaun! I told the McCartneys about my 'find' which they had never seen, proving how much more you can see when walking rather than when driving a car.
The forest on the hillside at Benone had a good mix of deciduous trees which were in full leaf with various shades of green. A few miles further on, a man in a car stopped when he read the writing on my truck and seemed really interested in my journey as he also had concerns about the environment. I gave him a leaflet and he wished me well. I walked a short distance and sat down on a grassy bank to have a snack, when a cyclist approached and handed me a bag of fruit. This was the man in the car who had spoken to me earlier. He had gone home and read my leaflet. What pleased me more than the fruit, was that he came looking for me on a bicycle.
On this part of the road I met Steve and Sue Williams, who were staying with Ray Neill in Donegal. Ray is a member of South Belfast Meeting and I have known her since I started attending Friends Meeting. It was good to see Sue and Steve who had accompanied me a short distance from Frederick Street and were now interested to hear how I was faring. My daughter Jennifer had arranged for me to stay with her friend Laura in Limavady. She and her son lived with her father who had a small grocery shop. I was made very welcome and in a short time was enjoying their hospitality.
Later that night, Laura's brother, Danny, called with his children and drove me to a nearby forest park where I had a fine view of Magilligan Point. He was involved in an environmental group in Derry, who were highlighting industrial pollution in the city. Danny said that some of these international companies 'move house' when the pressure from local people gets them bad publicity, and move to third world countries, where opposition will be stifled. He also told me that he was having a porch built at his home and was insisting that the builder use native soft timber in its construction. His argument being that he could afford to have the wood replaced if it rotted, and not going to have hard wood which might come from a rain forest when there was an alternative. It was great to be with Danny and I hope we will be forgiven for the pollution caused in driving me to a vantage point just to see the view.
Back in Limavady we all gathered for a cup of tea and the television was switched on for the news. The headline was that Thomas O'Fiaich had died of a heart attack at Lourdes. The family were shocked at the news as I was, having visited the cardinal in Armagh a couple of weeks previously, when he had invited me back on completion of my journey. This truly was a memorable day. I thought of the man on the bicycle giving me fruit, meeting Danny with his environmental concerns, then sadness that a wonderful day should end with the news of the cardinal's death.
After a hearty breakfast I thanked the Holmes family for their generosity and left. The weather forecast was not good and I could see dark clouds overhead. My wet gear was going to prove useful as it started to rain before I left the town, and got heavier as I walked. There were no encounters as people were either indoors or driving past in their cars. On this stretch of road I had two mishaps. The first was the loss of the mileometer strapped to my ankle, which Bertie and Betty had given me. This was the first time I had worn over-trousers so perhaps the buckle became loose. I was annoyed as I had set it accurately after a lot of practice and found it very useful. The second was not noticed until I stopped for lunch in a bus shelter. The rain had leaked into my cool box and the food in the bottom was floating around. My lunch was sodden bread but the fruit was all right The rain had eased off and I thought of taking off my wet gear. Fortunately I didn't, as a large lorry sent a puddle of water over me and the truck. Needless to say I muttered a few un-Quakerly words.
Later I stopped at a field which was more like a bowling green. Parts of it had no grass because sections had been lifted to provide instant lawns, mostly at newly built houses. I was interested to see two men rolling up a piece of lawn just like a piece of carpet. The road was now dry and the sun was shining in a clear sky. I stopped at a bridge with a fast flowing river running beneath it and rested. I feel there is some therapeutic value in resting beside moving water.
I was now approaching the city which has two names, depending on which side of the religious divide one owes one's allegiance. As a Quaker I try to bridge this divide, so I'll alternate when referring to this city. In Londonderry I would be staying with John and Diana Lampen, English Quakers who had lived in Derry since the early eighties. They were both involved in reconciliation work at political and community level. On the outskirts of Londonderry I was interested to see mature gardens with beautiful rhododendrons, which reminded me of home. I have four different species which I wouldn't see in bloom due to my travels.
As John Lampen knew my route, he had come to meet me. It was good to have company while walking, and soon after Diana appeared with the two children, who helped to push the truck. We crossed the Foyle at Craigavon Bridge and it was noticeable that there was a real buzz about Derry. Not long after we arrived at the Lampen's home and tried to dry out the food in the cool box. I left some of it for Diana. Perhaps there was a lesson to be learned here; going on a pilgrimage, one should only carry enough food for one's immediate needs. Diana very kindly gave me a plastic bin bag and thereafter I kept the cool box in it.
After a meal and much talk, John left to attend some function and I told Diana about the pains in my legs which occurred early in my journey, although thankfully they were not so severe since I left Portstewart. I imagine I wasn't looking too good by now, as I had over a week's growth of beard and was probably tired-looking. Diana asked if I would like healing and I was pleased that she offered, so we sat opposite each other and held hands. It wasn't like other spiritual healing where there is no dialogue between the persons involved; Diana asked me questions and I responded. The session lasted a short and valuable time.
The next morning we chatted over breakfast and Diana tried to contact a nun who lived in a convent in Moville, but without success, so she said, "Just go forward in faith, I know you will be looked after". This was going to be the first day of my journey when I didn't know where I was going or who would give me shelter. I left the Lampens fully refreshed in spirit and body, the pains were almost gone in my legs and I felt very positive. I have to be honest, and I'm sure Diana would agree, that the pains leaving my legs was because of the continual exercise. However I'm positive that the 'healing' put me in the right frame of mind to go forward in faith, as Diana said.
As I made my way to the coast road, I was amazed at the industrial development of Derry. I can remember that in the thirties, shirt making was nearly the only industry carried on in Londonderry. The women worked in the factories and the men stayed at home and looked after the children. As I leave Derry the score is Londonderry 4 - Derry 4.
A few miles on I stopped at the side of the road to write up my diary and also write to Adeline. I had only put pen to paper when a man stopped to chat. He wasn't very interested in what I was trying to do but wanted to talk about himself. I listened for about five or ten minutes and then decided I would have to move on. The coastal road to Moville is fairly level, so the truck was easy to push. I try to walk on the shore side of the road as I like looking at the sea and the variety of birds on the foreshore. I saw some Herons who always fascinate me by the way they stand like statues until they see a fish and then with lightening speed catch it.
About a mile past Quigley's Point I saw a sign outside a farm which said, 'Organic Potatoes for Sale' and a man standing close to the sign asked what was written on my truck. He asked me many questions and then invited me into his house where there were six or seven people, his wife and mother among them. They were having tea and I was invited to join them to eat a good variety of bread and scones, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I told Albert (the farmer) that I was evacuated to the country during the war and I can remember when farmers would rotate crops, i.e. one year grass, next year potatoes and the following year cereal. Nowadays the same crop is grown each year and excessive quantities of artificial fertiliser used , which sometimes pollutes the rivers.
Albert was quick to assure me that there was no artificial fertiliser on his potatoes. The whole family joined in the conversation, asking me questions and wanting to know where I was going to sleep that night. When I said I didn't know, they asked if I could walk as far as Moville and if so would I sleep in the Methodist Church hall. I agreed and asked if it was all right to just present myself and Albert offered to write a letter of introduction. He wrote a short note and left the table to go upstairs, while I stayed with the family. Then he returned and offered me a handful of punts. I was very moved by his kindness but refused saying I hoped to stay penniless while I journeyed on.
He thought I should have publicity for my pilgrimage and told me there was a pirate radio station half a mile up the road and thought they would be glad to hear my story. This was a good encounter and I was reminded of G Hughes's book, 'In Search of a Way'. On his walk to Rome, he said there were times when he was with people who were good and kind and he hated leaving them, but he hoped he was leaving something of himself behind and bringing something of them with him. I certainly brought something of Albert Thompson with me. Before we parted he asked me to, "give his organic potatoes a plug on the radio".
I found the radio station, which consisted of corrugated huts joined together. One was the interview room and the other the broadcasting room. I presented myself in the interview room and told the man behind a desk something about myself. I gave him one of my leaflets which he didn't read but brought it into the broadcast room where the other man sat. I don't think he read the leaflet either. I listened to a recording of Paddy Riley, followed by one of Dolly Parton and then was handed a microphone and the only introduction from the 'disc jockey' was, "Here is an interesting man, who is walking round the coast". I tried to say something about my journey for a few minutes and hoped there would be a response from 'Terry Wogan', but there wasn't any. I told the listeners that if they were in that area, I hoped they would buy Albert's organic potatoes which I don't think pleased 'Terry'.
I started off again on a different tack and again was waiting for some response from the disc jockey, but again there was none, so I again mentioned Albert's spuds. That was evidently enough because the 'mike' was taken from me with the retort that Albert Thompson would have to pay if he wanted commercial advertisement on their radio station.
I left the broadcasting station behind and chuckled all the way to Moville. I found the Methodist Church and the clergyman's home close by. The man who opened the door told me he was the father of the minister, who was in Londonderry with his wife, who was expecting a baby. So I presented Albert's note and the man said he knew him. A kitchen in the church hall was my bed for the night. Before going to sleep, I held all the good people I had been with that day in my thoughts.
In the morning I had apple juice over my cereal as I had no milk and very little bread. When I called at the minister's house to thank him for use of the hall, the clergyman was at home and told me his wife had a baby girl. I wished them all well and was soon on the road to Greencastle, where a woman dismounted from her bicycle and we had a long chat. I enjoyed seeing the trawlers in the harbour at Greencastle; some were being repaired which is a very exacting skill, as men's lives depend upon it.
I walked on to Dunagree Point, where I saw the lighthouse caretaker (this is not a manned lighthouse). There were then only about six manned lighthouses and I had permission to stay in them. Other lighthouses might have a caretaker and sometimes families lived in them. The caretaker at Dunagree Point had heard about me and invited me into his home, where he gave me soup and bread, for which I was thankful. Neil told me I had come too far up the coast as it wouldn't be possible to walk round Inishowen Head with the truck. He said I would have to walk back to Greencastle and head inland.
I found this road and soon was having to push and pull the truck because of the steep hills. This exercise used up my energy, as although I had a good supply of water my supply of bread was nearly exhausted. After a steep bit of road I stopped at a little cross roads for a rest when I heard a car in the distance and it stopped beside me. The occupants, two men and a woman at first spoke through the window of the car and then they got out and chatted to me. They had been cutting turf a mile down the road and left it stacked to dry out for winter use. I couldn't make out what the relationship was; it could have been two brothers and a sister or husband, wife and son. They were roughly dressed and were all heavily built. When I said I had left Belfast without money, they asked me how I got food, so I told them people gave me food when I needed it. The woman went over to the car and brought me some sandwiches and a couple of buns for which I thanked her. She then said it would only take them ten mi nutes to get home and return with more food. I was touched by her kind offer but told her I was quite happy with what she had given me.
There were more steep hills to climb before I got to arable land which I hoped would be near the coast. On a stretch of road I saw a man working in his front garden. When he saw me coming he went on working but giving me an occasional glance. I was becoming street-wise, as I thought, if someone was working in the garden and left when they saw me coming, it might be because they imagined I was begging or else I could be a problem for them. Consequently, when I saw the way this man was reacting, I felt it might be a good encounter. As I got nearer, he kept looking, and then greeted me. We talked about my journey and he invited me into the house to meet his wife, Kathleen.
I was surprised to hear that they both worked in Limavady. As the crow flies it was fourteen miles from Greencastle to Magiligan Point, but they had to travel through Derry. We sat talking for some time and then I was invited to join them for a meal, or rather a feast, and I enjoyed being with John and Kathleen. When they asked me where I was going to sleep that night, I said that someone earlier had suggested there were huts at Kinegore Bay and John told me I would be safe there. Before I left, Kathleen gave me a loaf, margarine, cheese and fruit. I was overwhelmed by their generosity.
Kinegore Bay was not far away but when I saw the gradient, which was about one in four down to the huts, belonging to a sub-aqua club from Derry, I decided to leave the truck at the top of the hill. A Spanish galleon was discovered in the bay some years ago and they are still diving to the wreck. I asked one of the lads if I could sleep in one on the huts and after asking his friends I got permission to stay, so went back to retrieve the truck. As it was getting dark before they left, I had to decide which hut to use. They had a bench seat about fifteen inches wide which was too narrow for sleeping but as the floor in all of the huts was dirty there was nothing else but to sleep on my back on the bench. The door was corrugated iron as was the hinged window which I closed, and tried to get into the sleeping bag without it touching the floor. It took some time to get to sleep as I was afraid I would roll onto the floor.
However after about an hour's sleep I was wakened by a car being driven down to the beach. I lay there thinking all sorts of things; perhaps there was an arms cache close by; maybe it was a training area or was it drug smugglers? Then a radio was turned up full blast with heavy metal music (so called) and I was wide awake. I opened the window a little, only to discover a couple dancing round the car. This went on to three a.m. before they left. I was tired but as sleep was now impossible found myself out on the beach, which was clean, at sunrise. I had a flask of hot water to make tea which I enjoyed. I tried to sleep on the beach as I was glad to get out of the hut, but couldn't; at least I was resting my body.
It was a hard pull up the road from the beach and I was glad to get to the top. Looking at the map I couldn't see any road close to the coast, so I decided to take the nearest one that would lead to Culdaff. As I walked along I saw a tractor approach and signalled for him to stop. I asked the driver if this particular road led to Culdaff. There was no response from the farmer and he just kept looking straight ahead. I thought maybe he was hard of hearing so this time I shouted my question. He shouted back, "I hear you, I hear you". Obviously he had been thinking and I had been impatient. He got down off the tractor and with a stick, started drawing a route to Culdaff on the caked mud on the cab of the tractor. He told me there was a road on the left about half a mile away which I wasn't to take, and similar advice about a road to the right. I thanked him and started off again. About a mile up the road there was a sign post with Culdaff marked on it. It seemed that when I asked for directions, some people give too many details and I had difficulty storing all the information. The signpost also gave the mileage to Moville and my thoughts went back to the night I stayed there, when a little baby was born in the household. Yet it was just two nights before, that I learned of the death of Thomas O'Fiaich. 'The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away'.
The back road to Culdaff was sparsely populated and I was enjoying the quietness and the fresh morning air. I often thought of this little village in Donegal during the preparations for my journey. Back in the early seventies, the family spent a memorable Easter with a group of friends at McCrory's Hotel. We all did our own thing during the day (walking, fishing, hill climbing or playing golf) but at night we gathered in the lounge of the hotel. John Joe McCrory, the owner, would bring his family of girls onto the stage to sing in harmony, with Adeline joining them once. It was a delight to listen to and everyone enjoyed the entertainment.
About eight years later myself, Adeline and Christine were staying in Dunfanaghy and decided to finish our holiday at John Joe's. There was no difficulty booking in as we were the only guests. After a good meal at night we went for a walk and then visited the lounge to revive memories of two very enjoyable nights. There was only one old man in the room and no entertainment. We waited for a long time and then sought out John Joe to ask if his family would be singing that night. He stared at me in amazement and said, "Mister, they are all married and scattered over the world!". The moral of the story is that nothing stands still; you may have your memories, but on return, don't expect things to be the same.
A few miles from Culdaff, I asked a woman in her garden to fill my flask with hot water, which she kindly did. About a mile farther on I sat down on the roadside and had something to eat, including a couple of buns the turf cutters had given me the previous day. It wasn't a very busy road, so I stretched out and in no time was fast asleep. I slept for nearly two hours and felt good in comparison to the previous night. I was totally revived and in no time was in Culdaff. I had visualised meeting John Joe again and maybe getting a shed or hut at the back of his hotel, to spend the night, it was only about one o'clock and it was too early to stop walking. After the good rest I felt I could walk another fifteen miles.
As I approached the hotel, I could see it had all changed. It was now a fast food cafe, with lots of gaming machines. It was closed for lunch, so I didn't know if it was sold or perhaps the family were running the business. I walked on again, thinking that everything changes, mostly not always as we would like.
The road to Malin was easy and I was able to keep up a good pace. I liked the well kept grass square in the centre of the village. The road to Malin Head would necessitate walking to the light house and back again, so I decided to give it a miss. My remit was to walk the road close to the coast. At Carndonagh I chatted to a lorry driver, who was amazed that I had walked from Kinnogoe Bay that day. This appeared to be a prosperous area around the town with lots of colourful gardens.
When I was preparing for my journey, I thought of the things I would and would not do. I would stop and visit travelling people on the roadside. I would not seek shelter in a farm that had intensive or factory farming. I grieve for hens in cages with hardly room to move and for sows which are tethered all their lives. They are all creatures of God.
I was introduced to my Quaker icon, John Woolman, in the form of a book an English Quaker living in Dunmore East, gave to me in the early eighties. Woolman was born in America in 1710 and as a young man did many unusual things. He left the security of his home to go to live among the Native Americans, 'to see what he could learn from them'. That sentence really shook me. When I was a young lad, part of my entertainment was going to the cinema to see 'Westerns' in which the Indians were always depicted as the 'baddies' and the cowboys as the 'goodies'. Nowadays we recognise and respect the importance of native culture. We also learn form the wisdom of their writings.
Another aspect of Woolman, was his abhorrence of slavery. In those days it was quite common for prosperous Quakers to keep slaves, so part of his ministry was to visit these Friends and tell them in a gentle way, that it was not God-like to own another human being. He didn't sleep in a house where the owner had slaves but instead slept outside. This unusual man spoke out against injustice in a quiet way and touches many people nearly three centuries later.
I had been trying without success to find a place to shelter on the road to Ballyliffin. Even though no-one was refusing me, there was just no-one at home. I knocked on the door of a house which had a hay shed at the back and a young girl aged about eight answered. I asked if her mother or father was at home and she replied that they were at Mass. I said I was looking for a place to sleep and thought the hay shed would be suitable. She answered, "Sure, that would be all right but I told her I wouldn't stay without her parents permission. She seemed disappointed until I told her I would return if I didn't find anywhere. I was slowly learning the reason I was getting no response at some houses was that the occupants were mostly at Mass.
I walked almost the whole way through this village which was like a ghost town as the houses were empty, and then decided to go back to the hay shed to wait for the family's return. However before I could do this, the door of a cottage opened and a woman asked if I was looking for someone. I said I was looking for a place to sleep. Telling me to wait, she went to ask her teenage children if they agreed, and then invited me in. She then showed me the sitting room floor and asked if I could sleep on it. The three teenage children came in to speak to me and we sat in the room chatting. Mrs Sexton told me she and her family were lapsed catholics - it's an ill wind that blows no good. The girls made me something to eat and the son, Kevin told me he was at college n Letterkenny and I was welcome to stay with him in his rooms. I thanked him and hoped we would meet again in Letterkenny but if I arrived there in the early afternoon I would walk on, as I wanted to cover as many miles as possible. When I tol d Mrs Sexton that I would like to get away early next morning, she said her baby grand daughter always got them up early.
I arranged my sleeping gear and in a short time was asleep. I wakened about eight a.m. and everything was quiet, with no sound from the baby. I wrote up my diary and a letter to Adeline; and still no sound. By now it was after nine and I was tempted to make something to eat but decided to wait. It was nearly ten a.m. before someone surfaced and then we had breakfast. When I was leaving Mrs Sexton gave me a loaf of bread. I didn't want to take it as they were a poor family but she insisted and showed me a cupboard full of loaves. She said the bread was past its sell-by date and she got it cheap for the hens. She was a character and I enjoyed being with her and the family. Before leaving, I thanked her for her kindness and hoped to see Kevin in Letterkenny.
Outside Ballyliffen, on the road to Buncrana, a young lad caught up with me and asked if he could walk with me. I was glad of his company and as he pushed the truck, was interested to know how far I walked each day. He told me he walked ten miles with his grandfather, taking cattle to market. After a while my chum left me and I travelled a few more miles before stopping for lunch. Mrs Sexton's bread tasted all right and I'm sure the hens also enjoyed it. There is a song entitled, 'What a difference a day makes'. I was thinking, 'What a difference a week makes' ! Last Sunday at Portstewart, I was walking like a match stick man and feeling slightly worried and a week later I was feeling fit and positive as I covered the miles.
On the road to Buncrana I met the Lampens from Derry, and enjoyed a tin of beer in a field nearby, as they told me all the news. They said I would be welcome at the Meithal Community on Inch Island which was about fifteen miles away. John also gave me an address at Ramelton, where I could get shelter. I appreciated the help and support the Lampens gave me and we said good-bye.
I was soon on the outskirts of Buncrana, the streets of which were crammed with day trippers and I had difficulty getting through the crowds. When clear of the town a car stopped and two women alighted. They asked me some questions about environmental issues and told me they were members of Earth Watch (the Irish equivalent of Friends of the Earth). They asked me questions about Quakers and when we had finished talking, offered me money. When I refused and told the reason why, they asked if I would like some food and gave me a couple of packets of biscuits and some cake.
I thought there must be a stock car track at Buncrana, as some of these cars were being towed with long ropes. This meant that the second cars were weaving from side to side and on one section of the road, one of these cars nearly touched me, consequently I was frightened and angry.
Inch Island has two causeways leading to it and I used the one nearest Buncrana. By now I was tired and was disappointed to learn from a passer-by that the Meithal Community was at the far end of the island. The road was hilly, which taxed my strength. Judging by the welcome I received one would have thought they were expecting me. Usually at mealtimes the food is all eaten but tonight there was some food left, so I enjoyed a hearty meal with a salad and a good selection of vegetables. The community was self-sufficient and grew most of the food they ate.
I was given a nice room and enjoyed talking to and playing games with the children. I also spoke to most of the folk on an individual basis and this I found interesting. Some were just travelling around; others were on the dole; one man taught at a college in Derry. There were two couples with children and the rest were single. The next morning after breakfast, Martina told me she would drive me to the causeway and I gladly accepted the lift. I thanked everyone for their kindness and hoped the community would thrive.
After I walked over the causeway and had gone a short distance, I saw my first traveller and stopped at his caravan, with his wife and two children inside. He had a display of old pine furniture which he restored and tried to sell. After we talked for a while, he asked me into the caravan where his wife made tea, but I didn't have anything to eat. They told me about their lifestyle and how they are ostracised in the community. I didn't ask but am sure they are almost totally dependant on the state, as I don't think there would be much demand for his furniture. They were pleased that I had stopped and talked. When I was leaving, I thanked his wife for the tea and said as I didn't need anything to eat having just had breakfast I would be grateful for a couple of slices of bread to eat later. They insisted that I take a full loaf, which shows that poor people are always the most generous.
On the main road I stopped at the Catholic church which is at the foot of the road leading up to Grianan of Aileach, a favourite stopping place when driving from Belfast to Donegal. I like the architecture of the building, which is designed to resemble a large stone circle. I went into the church and had a quiet time, getting pleasure from the stations of the cross, which are beautiful. I sat in the grounds of the church to make sandwiches with the bread the travelling people had given me.
This is an uninteresting road with fast moving traffic on the way to Letterkenny. I had few encounters but a good rest after lunch. The road to Rathmullan branches off at the suburbs of Letterkenny, so luckily I didn't have to walk through the town as it is not one of my favourites. It was early afternoon and I realised I wasn't going to see Kevin Sexton as he had said it would be evening before he would be there. I asked Adeline to write to his mother to explain why I wasn't able to wait for him. (Adeline kept up a correspondence with people who had given me shelter).
On the road to Rathmullan I decided to try to walk to the address that John Lampen had given me. This road was narrow in parts and there were no footpaths, which made walking difficult. After a couple of hours walking I saw the estate but not the house as there was a long rough road up to it. I had thought it would be Tuesday before I arrived here so John had not informed Araminta Swiney of my coming, so she was surprised to see me on her doorstep. I told her I was a friend of John Lampen and gave her his note of introduction. I was asked to wait outside and in a few minutes was invited in and shown a bedroom. I thanked her and said I would be sleeping on the floor as I did in other houses. Changing her mind, she then said that as I was not family she would prefer if I slept in the barn or loft which was 'L' shaped.
There were bales of straw scattered around so I gathered these together and made myself a bed. I looked down on the farm yard below and saw ducks, hens and a couple of geese, all looking as if they had been spared many Christmas executions. I had eaten a short while before and food wasn't a priority, so I went for a walk round the estate. I had returned to the loft and was writing up my diary when someone called from the farm yard and my hostess invited me into the house to meet the land steward and his wife. I was given tea and cake which the steward's wife had baked.
The conversation was interesting but I soon excused myself and returned to the loft to finish writing. Again I heard a voice calling and was again asked into the house to find the visitors gone and I was given bread, scones, a large piece of cake and cheese. Miss Swiney told me that she might not see me the next morning, so I said goodbye and thanked her for her kindness.
In the morning, as I was lying in the loft, I was aware of a noise above my head and to my surprise and delight there were swallows' nests close to the ceiling. The birds were flying in from all directions as there were no doors, just window frames with no glass. I lay on the straw bed and marvelled at this scene. There were nests close together with young birds waiting to be fed and during this time the parents were flying back and forward. I was so close to them, yet they were not afraid. It was a truly memorable day at Miss Swiney's estate.
At the Meithal Community, Paul had written a note to the Rev Brian Smeaton and told me I should call with him. There was no response when I knocked on his door and a neighbour said that it could be some time before he was back. I asked if she could oblige me with some milk and she gladly gave me some in my container. I then went back to Brian's porch and had breakfast. There was a great selection of 'anti' slogans on the wall and I was amused to read some of them. I should think that such slogans are not usually to be found in the porches of most Church of Ireland Vicars, but Brian would stick out from the herd. I was sorry I missed him.
I had been in Ramelton many times and think it is one of the nicest seaside villages in Ireland. The well painted warehouses look attractive even though they may not be in use, also the beauty of the trees, with their well leafed branches dipping into the sea. Leaving Ramelton behind I was now on the road to Rathmullan, a nice road which skirts Lough Swilly. A cyclist who was travelling down the west coast to Limerick stopped to ask a few questions and I told him he would probably be there before me. When passing the Fort Royal hotel in Rathmullan, I recalled the previous July, when I brought all of the family here for a long weekend, as I had just retired. I remembered the scrumptious meals and I wished now I could be asked in for one - even a boiled potato - I was missing them!
Passing alongside the Swilly, I saw three or four large fish tanks where the salmon were flailing about. The tanks are overcrowded and even though the fish are doing their best to escape, the large nets were curtailing their freedom. In my estimation these tanks are a blot on the landscape. The road left the coastline and went inland over a very hilly area that taxed my strength. At the end of this road I turned right for Portsalon only to find another long, steady, steep climb, worse than the previous one. When I reached the summit, I could see that the gradient down was even steeper but thankfully shorter.
I stood there waiting as two cyclists came up the hill, at times using the whole width of the road. They stopped when they reached me and checked their stop watches, as they were doing time trials. We then had a chat and they were amazed to hear I had pushed the truck up the hill. They also found it hard to believe that I had left Belfast two weeks previously with no money. One of the lads was going to give me money but I explained my reason for refusing so one of them gave me a bunch of bananas. I said that a couple would do but they insisted I keep the lot. I felt bad about this as I knew that hill climbing trials require a lot of strength and the bananas would have given them energy. When we parted they shook my hand and said, "Fair play to you". I was deeply moved.
I next consulted a map giving directions to Rosemary and Elizabeth Calvert's holiday home. They both are members of Frederick Street Meeting I have known for many years. Rosemary's directions were easy to follow and I collected the key to their house from a neighbour. It was a long time since I was in a home on my own, so I was looking forward to pleasing myself. I began to unload the truck and in a short time the place looked so untidy, I hoped the sisters wouldn't appear! After I had made something to eat, the next important item was to do some washing. I had washed 'smalls' in Benone and Moville but there were larger items that needed attention. After this was done, I looked at their books and found one of interest. I really appreciated being on my own and after a good night's sleep, looked forward to my travels.
In my introduction, I mentioned that a neighbour insisted on giving me £5 for an emergency and I couldn't convince her that taking money was not going forward in faith. At Meeting I told Rosemary the predicament and gave her the £5, asking her to leave a few tins in the cupboard, which I might use or take with me, and this I did. After leaving the home hopefully as I found it, I returned the key to the neighbour and thanked him for supplying me with milk. When I say I don't ask for anything, that is not exactly true, as although I don't need milk in tea or coffee, I do need it on cereal. Sometimes I had to use juice but preferred milk.
I didn't know where I would be staying that night, so there was no urgency to get started. Portsalon had some lovely memories of visits when the children were small. I liked the colour of the fine beach which even on a cold day has a glow to it. I have been told that it is unique in Ireland. So I lingered for a while and just enjoyed a quiet time. The most unusual aspect of the Fanad peninsula for me is the texture of the grass. I'm not sure whether it is because of the soil or the proximity to the sea. However it always reminds me of a giant golf course with lots of little ponds. There was a lovely freshness about the place and I enjoyed walking the little roads which are close to the sea. I passed a school with noisy and boisterous children in the playground, some of whom came over to speak to me.
In the late afternoon after I left Fanad, I realised I was on the same stretch of road I had travelled going to Portsalon. This was confirmed by a tall man who crossed the road to greet me and said he had seen me walking along the same road the previous day. We got talking and he was interested in different aspects of my journey and asked me to wait until he ran over home to get his camera. We took photographs of each other with the truck and he then produced a pad and pen for my name and address, so that he could send a photo to Adeline, which he did. He then enquired where I was going to sleep that night and I said I had thought of walking to the bakery on the shore of the Broad Water near Millford. My friend thought this wasn't a good idea as I wouldn't be comfortable there. He said a better place would be a caravan site down the road, with flats and other accommodation, but I explained that I couldn't go as I had no money. However he said he knew the site owner and I wouldn't need money.
As soon as I entered the caravan site, I recognised it as one we had camped at before Christine was born. At that time it had a fish and chip shop as well as other shops in the square and also a donkey, which amused David and Jennifer. There were many changes in the area, with a fine house in the square which had 'Office' on the door. With some trepidation I rang the bell and asked the lady who answered if she had a shed or some place where I could shelter. She asked me to wait and came out with keys in her hand and together we walked across to a flat which she opened and said, "Would that do you?". I was overwhelmed by her kindness. As I was unpacking, Mrs McElhena came back and said, "As you have no money, you will need these for the meter". She gave me two fifty pence coins.
I just had to sit down and have a quiet time of thankfulness. I hadn't mentioned that my friend, whose name I didn't know, had sent me, as I thought that would have put pressure on Mrs McElhena. I also thought of the faith my friend had in Mrs McElhena that she would look after my needs. I imagine that it is not often that local people hold business people in their area in such high esteem. I will remember my friends words, "Mrs McElhena is a decent woman".
I heated a tin of soup that I had brought from Portsalon and enjoyed the last of the bread in the cool box. After an enjoyable meal, I did some chores and then went out for a walk. It was a nostalgic moment to look around and recall memories of a pleasant holiday over thirty years ago. When I got back to the flat, Mrs McElhena came over to ask at what time I would be leaving in the morning. When I told her I would like to leave early, she said she was not an early riser, so I should just close the front door and put the key through the office letter box. Before going to bed I wrote a letter of thanks and shared some of my thoughts with her. In the morning I put the letter in the office letter box along with a leaflet of my journey and fifty pence, which I hadn't used.
I left Kerrykeel and it took a little over an hour to get to the bakery at the foot of Mulroy Bay, near Millford, I had often seen this bakery with large flocks of swans being fed by the employees. As I got nearer the bakery I had doubts about asking for bread, but I had eaten only cereal for breakfast, so this was to be the first time I asked for food. Perhaps I was being somewhat devious as I approached a couple of men at a loading bay and started a conversation. A man who was feeding the swans from the large wooden platform came over to join us and very shortly I was offered bread and cakes that were slightly damaged. I thanked them but still had a slightly guilty feeling. I thought of Peace Pilgrim, who never asked for food, but perhaps when she said she never asked for anything, their immediate response was to give her something. This was the reaction of people I encountered since I left Belfast.
I liked the look of Millford, which was a tidy village with white walls and old fashioned shops. A couple of miles out of Millford I was walking through a nicely wooded area with tree branches touching each other from either side of the road. A car travelling in the same direction stopped and to my surprise there were two Garda inside. One asked me what I was doing, so I turned the truck round to face them as the notice was self-explanatory. However that didn't satisfy them as they asked for identification. Although I had letters and some writings, I just said I hadn't got any ID. Keeping a straight face, I said that my driving licence was at home, as I didn't think I needed it to push a truck. I don't think they appreciated my Northern humour. They sat muttering to each other and eventually drove off. I thought ten minutes before that I was 'on top of the world', then a incident like that and I felt deflated. It seems our moods are controlled by people who can make one feel either elated or depr essed.
It wasn't long however before I put the Garda out of my mind. I stopped at Cranford to have lunch and enjoyed the 'damaged' bread the men at the bakery had given me. A great standby for making sandwiches was the glazed pineapple that Sue and Steve had given me on the first day of my journey.
My plan for that day was to get to Portnablagh which was a long walk, so I was on the road again after lunch. Soon a cyclist going in the same direction got off his bike and walked with me. This suited me fine as I enjoyed the 'crack', and was covering miles at the same time. This chap was English, retired like myself, and he and his wife were staying in a caravan in Portsalon and he liked to cycle for an hour each day. We said good-bye and parted. It was a nice road to Carrigart, with things of interest and glimpses of the sea. Going through the town I met people trying to read the notices on the truck and I usually tried to stop until they had finished reading, as they walked past. Some would smile, some make a comment, others would ask a question and some would just walk on.
The road to Creeslough made pushing easy and a good surface on the road easy on my feet. I asked a teenager who was standing in the porch of a house if he would fill my flask with hot water and he took it but was back in a very short time. When I got near Creeslough I decided to stop for something to eat as I had only eaten once since Kerrykeel and was glad to rest. I poured the water from the flask over the tea bag and knew immediately it was only lukewarm. I had negative thoughts about the teenager but not to worry, there was a house nearby and it wasn't long before I got hot water. While I was sitting at the roadside a van pulled up and the driver told me he had seen me at various places over the past week and was amazed at the distances I had covered. When he heard how I had been existing, he offered me sandwiches left over from his lunch. When I accepted, he also gave me a tin of beer.
Portnablagh was only five or six miles away but I knew the road was very hilly and my strength would be taxed. The road had a good surface, but that was all in it's favour, as I was like the 'Grand old Duke of York', either up or down. The road seemed endless and it was tough going, finishing my day's journey with so many hills to climb. At last the house I hoped to say in for the night was in sight. We had been at the Stewart's B&B five or six times and I knew there were outbuildings and an old caravan at the back of the house. When Mrs Stewart came to the door, she didn't recognise me as I looked somewhat bedraggled and now sported a beard. Her husband then came to the door and luckily remembered me. When they heard my request they asked if the caravan would do, which was pleasing to hear and before long I moved in with the truck. There was a hole in the roof but that didn't unduly worry me. I just moved to the other end of the caravan. It was about eight o'clock and Mr Stewart was working in one of the outbuildings, so I went to see what he was doing, which was repairing a wooden sheep dip. I had never heard before of a wooden sheep dip but he said it worked quite well. Even though I gave him a hand, for which he was grateful, I didn't see it working.
I was asked into the house for supper and saw the news on television. At home I usually listen or watch the news programmes, so was pleased to be asked in as the last time I saw the news was in Limavady. We talked for a while and then I excused myself and went out to the caravan. It had been a long hard walk and the next day would be even longer, so I wanted to get a good night's sleep. I was tidying my gear in the caravan next morning, when there was a knock on the door and it was Mr Stewart with a fully laden tray. There was cereal, two eggs, toast and wheaten bread and I thought--to get breakfast in bed or a room in an hotel would cost extra. Here at the Stewart's I was getting the full treatment from these kind people. They came out to see me before going to work and asked me if there was anything more I needed. I admitted I was taking one of the hard boiled eggs with me, thanked them for their kindness and they left.
It wasn't long before I was on the road again as I hoped to get to Bunbeg that night and from looking at the map I knew it was going to be a hard day's walking. Dunfanaghy to Portnablagh is a very short distance, so it was not a problem getting from one to the other, but the road to Falcarragh had many hills, though I kept up a steady pace. I stopped for an early lunch and enjoyed the sandwiches which the man in the van at Creeslough had given me. Falcarragh is a busy town with plenty of activity but it does look untidy. I didn't linger here but continued on the road to Gortahork, where a group of very young school children were being escorted by their teacher and when they saw me coming, waited until I caught up with them. The teacher spoke to me and the children gathered round, being curious to know what I was doing, so I spent a little time with them.
At Meenaclady, I stopped with a young man who was sitting outside a pub and he invited me to join him. He bought me a drink and said he was going to work the next day at Sellafield. As he had worked on the land and looked a healthy man I wondered how he would look in a year's time. I was glad to rest a while and told him about my journey. He asked me a few questions and seemed impressed by the distance I had travelled. As it was time to go, I thanked him and told him to tell the management at Sellafield to stop dumping their waste in the Irish sea. Further on I saw a woman cutting her lawn with a hand mower and volunteered to finish it if she would fill my flask with hot water, so we both benefited. The road to Bloody Foreland was getting very barren, with sheep grazing everywhere on open land. One of the sheep followed me for some distance and I thought it would have made a good photo; 'The shepherd leading his sheep'. It was a beautiful clear evening and the view at the Foreland was spectacular. I could see Tory Island and lots of smaller islands and tried to visualise what the headland would look like in gale force winds.
Looking at the map, I knew I was going to have a similar experience as the previous night, except that it was those last five miles that were so tough. Tonight the distance would be more than double and the hills steeper, so there was only one thing to do; take a deep breath and get going. As expected there were few sections of level road but the view across the sea was a distraction. I had walked for about and hour when a car stopped and a young couple got out and appeared interested in what I was doing. After questioning me they offered me money but as usual I refused and thanked them. However I asked them to ring my contact for that night and tell him where I was on the road, and explain that it would be a couple of hours before I got to Dunbeg. In a very short time a car pulled up and Maitiu O'Murchu, a member of Bishop Street Meeting in Derry introduced himself and his son Liam, who was with him. Maitiu checked the mileometer at Bunbeg and told me the distance was four miles. When I told him i t would probably take me about an hour and a quarter, he said he would see me in Bunbeg.
At Derrybeg I noticed a group of teenagers standing in a doorway on the other side of the road and as I passed, one of them shouted over, asking me what I was doing, so I signalled them to come over and join me. Standing on the footpath with seven or eight people might be intimidating at times but with this group of boys and girls I felt at ease. They didn't know anything about Quakers but were interested enough to ask sensible questions. I would have enjoyed talking to them for longer but I had to meet Maitiu. When I was leaving they all clapped me on the back and one girl gave me a hug. It seemed as if I was walking on air after this encounter. As I passed a hotel on the other side of the road a man came running over to me and offered me money. There must be something about a man pushing a truck that makes people want to give him money.
I arrived in Bunbeg on time and was glad to see Maitiu, who put the truck in his car and brought me to his home. I was shown to my room and after a wash and change of clothes I felt good. Mardi, Maitiu's wife was in Belfast, and when she came home, Maitiu drove me to Bunbeg where he bought me a drink in a nice old fashioned hotel. When we got back to Maitiu's home we had something to eat and talked for a while before going to bed. Looking at the map, I would think that today was my longest walk. I had difficulty getting to sleep; possibly I was too tired. Maitiu left me back to Bunbeg and when I got to Dunglow I was to keep to the road closer to the coast and he would meet me again between seven and seven-thirty that evening, and bring me back to his home for a second night. I knew that this was not environmentally friendly but I hope I will be forgiven.
There wasn't much activity around Bunbeg, but it was my first time in the area and I could see some interesting things. One was a sign for a hydropower station and the other sign pointed to an airport nearer the coast. I didn't actually see it but I would imagine that a Jumbo jet would have difficulty landing. The road was close to the coast which meant the hills were not taxing my strength like the previous night. Near Kineaslough a large limousine, with white ribbons on the bonnet, slowed as it passed and inside was a bride who gave me a big smile and a wave, which I returned. A few miles further on I came to Kineaslough and could see the church where the wedding was taking place. Seemingly the tradition is different to the North as all the cars had white ribbons.
I decided to have lunch and rest on a nice grassy bank close to the sea, and in a short time I was fast asleep. I don't know how long a wedding ceremony lasts in Donegal but I was wakened from my slumbers with the noise of car horns. It seems another Irish tradition that all the cars follow the wedding car continually blowing their horns. This seemed to go on indefinitely, so they must never have heard of the "Noise Abatement Society", in Donegal. I was glad to see them go.
The road to Burtonport was narrow in parts and there was a lot of traffic. I tried to walk against the flow of traffic, where there was no footpath and if I came to a blind corner, I always crossed over to the other side and then back again to be against the flow. I passed the road leading down to Burtonport and remembered going over to Arran Island on the ferry. The area was familiar to me and I saw a sign for the Rosses, which is unique to Donegal. There is something special about the area, so I hope the council will restrict any further building. At Dunglow I followed Maitiu's instructions and kept to the coastal road which was quite uninteresting, with few houses. After seven p.m. I found myself looking around as every car approached, and was glad when he appeared.
We loaded the truck into the car, then Maitiu put a chalk mark on a nearby telegraph pole, and when asked what he was doing, said he was marking it so that he would know where to leave me in the morning. I said nothing but wondered if a micrometer screw gauge might not have been useful! We went back on an inland road to Bunbeg and I was shown places of interest. Mardi had a lovely meal prepared and it was good to be with the family. I had a good warm refreshing bath before retiring to bed.
In the morning Mardi returned the clothes she had washed and ironed for me. After breakfast, I thanked her for her kindness before setting off to find the chalk mark!! As I sat in the car with Maitiu, I reflected on how I had met him for the first time on Friday night, when he came out to meet me at Bloody Foreland and now felt I had known him for a long time. I realised that so far on my journey no one had done so much for me. The chalk mark was still on the pole and in a short time the truck was ready for the road. We hugged each other and Maitiu left me.
The road was as uninteresting for the next seven or eight miles, as it had been the night before. Then I saw something which raised my spirits; Sean Rafferty, with a beaming smile, was approaching on this lonely road, and he walked with me for some distance, then suggested we have lunch. As I wondered what was in my cool box, Sean produced a bag of sandwiches and a tin of beer. They were for me, as he was going back to their caravan to have lunch and then Martie and the children would walk from the caravan to meet me.
I was now leaving the uninteresting part of the road and coming to Lettermacaward. I imagine this is the name of the area as I didn't see anything that resembled a village. In this area I met Martie and Dawn Marie only, as Mark their son had stayed behind with his dad. I had known Martie almost since I had joined Friends. We had been on the same committee for a number of years, so we had lots to talk about. Dawn Marie also joined in the conversation and asked me questions about my journey. I have noticed at times like this, when I walk with someone I don't have interaction with passers-by. As we neared the caravan, Marie pointed to an island close to the shore, which when the tide was out was accessible from the sandy beach, but one had to be very careful. She told me about a frightening experience with her labrador dog, when they were cut off by the sea.
I played games with the children and afterwards we went into the caravan and enjoyed the 'crack', followed by a delicious meal made by Martie. In the early evening, Sean decided to leave for Lisburn with the two children, as they had to go to school. Martie and I walked along the beach with Honey the dog and then returned to the caravan. We talked for a while until it was dark and I went to bed. Unfortunately Honey was missing and Martie was out looking for her until the small hours of the morning. That was the first mishap; after breakfast Martie gave me a fine selection of eats for the cool box, before leaving me in the caravan and heading for Belfast. She had difficulty starting the car and when she eventually got it going, there was a funny sound from the fan belt. She was away when I remembered she hadn't given me the key, and I spent about half an hour searching for it. However a worker on the site said he had keys and would lock the caravan later. I was very apprehensive about leaving, but a short distance away I met the site owner and he told me Martie had given him the key, also her car had a broken fan belt which he had repaired. I sighed with relief.
It was a doddle of a walk to Ardara, where I was going to stay in Toby and Kathleen Spence's cottage. This was only about five or six miles away and even then it was situated on the near side of Ardara. Perversely, it seemed when I had a short journey, the home I was looking for was on the near side of a town or village and if I had a long day, it was the opposite. I arrived at the Spence's in time to make my lunch.
In my introduction I mentioned that Toby was enthusiastic about my journey and I thought he would be pleased to know I was having a meal in his cottage. I had been told that the Gallaghers, who lived in the adjoining house, would look after me, and she had the place cleaned and aired. They both came over to welcome me and although I didn't need anything to eat I would have been grateful for a potato. I had plenty of time and I would have enjoyed cooking a meal for myself.
I decided to do some washing and as it was a fine day with a light breeze, I left the clothes on top of a low hedge to dry. As I had the cottage to myself, I settled down to write letters and bring my diary up to date. I then cooked one of the concentrated dinners which Betty McElnea had given me, and opened a tin of beans from Portsalon and heated half of them. The other half could be kept in the tin until next day. For afters I had one of Martie's yoghurts. When I was washing up and tidying the room Mr Gallagher came in, which is his usual practice when Toby is there. We sat down and talked about things in general and he told me a little bit about himself. After some time I decided to walk up the lane to get a view of the sea but my visitor declined to come along. I thought it was a pity the cottage was not on higher ground so one could get a view of the sea. Anyway beggars can't be choosers!
I intended to rise about seven o'clock but slept in and left at nine and was out of Ardara before ten o'clock. It took me an hour and a quarter to get to the top of the hill out of the town. I celebrated with half a bar of Martie's chocolate. Once I had conquered the long hill out of Ardara, I was compensated by an easy push to the coast road. I didn't go to Glencolumbcille, as I would be retracing my steps. A short distance along the coast road to Donegal I stopped and had lunch, given to me by Martie. It consisted of cheese, potato farls, hard boiled eggs and bananas, so I was well provided for. The clothes I had washed the previous day were still damp, so I hung them around the truck to dry, so I guess I must have looked like a walking clothes line!
After Dunkineely, at the little village of Bruckless, I saw an old church with a round tower and in the grounds, three or four men were working. I was going to ask them questions about the tower until I saw a well dressed woman and child outside a shop on the other side of the road. She appeared to be waiting for a bus, so I decided to ask her instead. When I got closer I realised to my amusement that they were dummies modelling Aran clothes, so I stopped and took a photograph. The owner of this factory shop came out and invited me into the shop and gave me coffee and chocolate biscuits. A short distance down the road, a man approached me and said he had read an article in the Donegal Democrat, written by my friend Maitiu. I had just moved off when a car pulled up beside me and the woman driver enquired if I was Gordon Kelly. She introduced herself as May Morrow, saying I was going to stay in her home that night. This overnight stay had been arranged in Belfast by my good friend Bertie McElnea who then owned a bottled gas outlet. May Morrow and her daughter (who lived in Belfast), had come to Bertie's shop to buy a cooker. They saw a suitable cooker to meet the daughter's requirements, were happy with the price and the sale was made. During the conversation Bertie realised May was from Donegal and on enquiring discovered she actually lived in Donegal town. Bertie offered them a further discount if May would give me a night's lodging, to which she agreed. Thank you Bertie!
Near Mount Charles I found a nice grassy bank to have a special meal. Today was my younger daughter Christine's, birthday. I had previously told her of a 'hidden cache', so that she and her mother, sister and our grand-daughters could celebrate the occasion at around 5.30 on that day. I had saved a few special treats which included some of Martie's goodies, a tin of fruit salad, cheese, a small tin of salmon and some yoghurt and had spread them out on the grass. I then had a quiet time before eating and held my family and all my good F/friends in my thoughts. While I was eating, a man approached me and introduced himself as Doctor Curran from Killybegs and said he was there to give me encouragement as he had read the Donegal Democrat and was very enthusiastic saying that what I was doing would prolong my life. He knew something about Quakers as he had good friends in Killbegs who were Quakers. This was one of my better encounters since I had left home.
A sign for Donegal town showed four miles, and May Morow's home was a mile on the far side. It was seven o'clock and I still had five miles to travel. Donegal town looks prosperous with good shops and fine buildings, but I didn't delay walking through it, and was soon glad to see the house where I was to stay. It was an old house with plenty of character, well painted with mature trees. I met May's father who lived a short distance away, but as it had been a long day, I was glad to get into my sleeping bag, after I had a shower. In the morning I met Eric, May's husband, who had been working with his sheep the previous night and I hadn't seen him. After breakfast we took photographs and as usual I thanked my hosts and said good-bye.
I was now on the busy road to Ballyshannon which I was glad to leave for the road to Rossnowlagh. I had heard of this place before as it was associated with peaceful Orange marches. There was a magnificent beach which I thought would be popular in the holiday period but on that particular day was deserted except for a couple of people out walking their dog. Close to the sea were two very large hotels which appeared to have very little activity around them, perhaps at the weekends there would be more people in the area.
There was also a Franciscan Friary with some cars parked close to the building, and a shop which had the usual knick-knacks. I got talking to the two women behind the counter and gave one of them my leaflet. After she had read a few sentences she brought me into the entrance hall and asked me to wait. I looked around this beautiful building, a little on the ornate side but the wood, plaster work and stained glass windows were of a high standard. As I stood beside a statue of St Francis, the thought came to me that perhaps my lifestyle for the past three weeks was close to his way of life. Then the woman returned with a Brother and when she went back into the shop he asked me some questions. As we chatted he told me about his life and the different monasteries he had been in. He knew something of Quakers and the work they had done in the Irish famine. We had an interesting chat and then he asked me if I would like something to eat and when I said I would be delighted, he asked if I wanted to eat i n the dining room or take the food with me. I said I would prefer the latter, whereupon he left and then returned with a large sliced loaf and a tub of margarine. I was appreciative of his kindness and we shook hands and he wished me well. Before leaving I took a photograph of this good man.
When I was back on the road I wondered if I should have gone to the dining room to meet the other brothers instead of bringing the food away with me. My only excuse is that I was so hungry I preferred eating on my own. The previous day I had two good meals, whilst today I had only an apple and a piece of cake. As the bread was frozen, I put it on top of the truck and hoped it would thaw very quickly. I'd got hot water in my flask, so decided to stop and eat and experienced eating bread that was still half frozen, although with honey and cheese I was able to make some sandwiches. Before I ate I had a quiet time and was thankful for my friends generosity; even though the meal was simple I was physically and spiritually renewed. I felt I had been arrogant about my lifestyle being closer to St Francis and realised I had met a Godly man.
It was an easy walk to Ballyshannon with little traffic on the road. There was a lot of activity in the town and a lot of rubbish lying around; I assumed it had been market day. Ballyshannon is one of the few towns in Ireland which has a steep hill as its main street.
I was soon on the road to Bundoran which is wide and straight, fortunately with a good footpath, which kept me away from the fast traffic. I wasn't tired when I got to the home of May Friel and her sister Kathleen Morgan. Eileen Carragher, another sister, is a close friend and neighbour of ours and had arranged with them before I left home, for me to stay with them. We sat chatting and in the course of conversation it transpired they knew the owner of the shop in Bruckless, where I mistook the models for mother and child. May went into the kitchen saying, " I'm sure you're hungry", and in a short time she produced a loaded plate with a large steak. It was an enjoyable meal and I felt very refreshed. Kathleen had invited two visitors to meet me later in the evening, so I thought a change of clothes would be in order. After a good wash and fresh clothes, I hoped I looked presentable to the visitors. I enjoyed telling the 'gathering' about my journey so far, as I like talking about humorous events and making people laugh. After more tea, I excused myself and said good-bye to the visitors.
May and Kathleen both got up to see me off next morning. I was given a good breakfast, which kept me going until lunch time, with fruit and hard boiled eggs to take with me, which is always a good standby. As their home is on the near side of Bundoran, it seemed like a two mile walk before I was out of the town.
In my introduction I thanked Roger Garland in Dublin, who sent me four maps of the coast of Ireland. Some might wonder why I needed maps, as the roads are clearly marked, but I found myself continually referring to them, as it broke the monotony of travelling the roads and not meeting anyone. At a certain time of day I would look to see how far I had travelled and would compare it with the distance travelled the previous day at the same time. As I travelled the west coast I would look at the map of the east coast to see what towns or villages corresponded. Today I can put away the map of the north which is badly dog-eared and start on the one for the west coast.
The road to Sligo is very straight and it seemed motorists didn't pay any attention to speed limits. I was glad to leave this road and walk to Mullaghmore which I had visited in the early seventies, when it was a picturesque little village, with a convent, hotels, two pubs and a couple of shops. Now there are flashy bungalows, caravan sites in abundance, and there doesn't seem to be any restriction on development. I didn't enjoy walking on the main road, and even less in Mullaghmore.
Before approaching the main road again I stopped and had lunch which consisted of eggs, plenty of bread and fruit which I enjoyed. After a short distance I had to stop as a large flock of sheep were coming out of a field, going towards Sligo. I waited until the farmer had gathered them together and walked along with him. His wife was at the front, standing guard at the lanes or openings. When the farmer saw an opening on the other side of the road he asked me to get in front of the sheep and stand at this lane, then walk on to keep the sheep moving. I did this until I got to a gate leading into a field where the sheep had to go. 'A new experience'.
Before I got to Grange. I stopped at a house and asked to have my flask filled, and then moved on to visit Yeat's grave, where I looked for a quiet place to have a rest and a snack. I wasn't able to do this, as a touring bus full of people arrived and interrupted me, so I moved on to another place and dined. Like many other towns in Ireland, Sligo has expanded, with the wider and larger bridges replacing narrow ones. I was now looking for and had to ask directions to Temple Street, where I was to meet Katie Curran. (When I had called with Pat Buckley in Larne, his mother who was staying with him, suggested that I call with Katie Curran in Sligo).
I found Temple Street and knocked on the door of a small terrace house to be greeted by a tall, elderly woman. She showed me into her small parlour and asked if I would like to stay and I agreed that would suit me very well. Katie was very friendly and we had a chat about my journey. We then sat down to a lovely meal which she had prepared. Katie told me she had no time for Pat's radical Catholicism and for that reason, if I was a friend of his, she had doubts about letting me stay. It caused her a lot of heart searching and prayer, but once we met she felt we had a lot in common. I didn't know, nor want to know why her friendship with Pat Buckley had ended.
Katie had been a widow for many years and didn't have children, She had been a teacher in England and became interested in and learned a lot about Quakers. After the meal, Katie took me next door to meet her neighbour Rita and her husband Sean, who were very good to her, and she looked on them as family. Rita was a woman possibly in her fifties and Katie was in her eighties so the relationship between them was like mother and daughter. We sat chatting for some time and Rita told me Sean worked for 'Telecom' in Sligo. Later someone remarked that I looked tired, so I excused myself and retired to the parlour and with the truck in the room, it was somewhat crowded.
After breakfast Katie gave me food for the cool box and said she was going to walk with me through Sligo. She showed me her church, where she attended Mass every day, as she was a devout Catholic. We then went to the newspaper office where I left the truck in the entrance hall, as the office was on the first floor. Katie told me not to leave my camera on the truck, and put it in her bag. I was introduced to a reporter who asked me a lot of questions and I gave him my little leaflet. As we left the building Katie continued to walk with me, but soon said she had walked far enough and would go home. We both held hands and as I looked into her eyes I said, "I will remember you", and we parted.
On the road at Strandhill peninsula I could see Queen Maeves's grave which Katie had told me about, at the top of a steep hill. I stopped for lunch and opened the bag of food Katie had given me. Among the good things was a tin of salmon. Of all these gifts I felt the salmon had some significance as it could have been kept for a special occasion. I know I felt that our meeting was that special occasion and I hoped that Katie did also. On my arrival she had some doubts about letting me stay, yet when we parted I felt Katie and I were friends. I hope and believe our meeting had a healing effect on her as she was able to let go of some of the hurt she had been carrying within her. I was given this little sentence on my travels:
"You are my friend, if you allow me to have a friend who might not be your friend".
Katie didn't want to be my friend because of my friendship with Pat Buckley. Her attitude was changed by our encounter, and we remained friends for the rest of her life.
As I'm writing about my pilgrimage nearly ten years after the event it is difficult not to mention the people I met, as some friendships have continued. Adeline and I have had several trips to see people who were kind to me. Some are still good friends while sadly others have 'passed on'. Possibly I feel I have much to say about Katie Curran as the encounter was important to both of us.
Adeline wrote to people who gave me shelter and Katie reciprocated, sending a copy of the Sligo Champion newspaper, with an article in it about me. She also composed a poem about me and had it published. Katie was kept up to date with my progress and was doing research into Quaker history in the area, of the important work done by Quakers during the famine. The summer following my journey, we stayed overnight at Katie's and Rita, together with another neighbour, were invited to meet us and see photos of my journey. On one occasion she visited and we continued corresponding and called with her for a number of years. When her eyesight was failing and she was rather frail she went into a nursing home but left after a short time. Katie being tall and well built, complained that she was only getting the same amount to eat as small people. Katie died suddenly two years ago. She had only a niece who was in a convent and who didn't know our address or phone number, so we were unable to attend the funeral, which saddened us. Katie was a good and generous woman.
The Strandhill peninsula contains some fine properties and the area is well wooded. In some places the road skirts the sea and it was sad to see so much litter spoiling the area. Three young girls walked with me for a short distance before I joined the main road to Dublin. Thankfully this was only for a short distance, as the traffic was dense and very fast. I was then glad to be on the road to Ballysadare. In this town was a fast flowing river with man made steps for salmon to have access to the upper reaches of the river. On the outskirts of the town, I rested and had something to eat and soon began to look for shelter for the night. A short distance along this road I came to a large Catholic Church, where the road widened to about four times its previous width, looking more like a car park. On the edge of this area was a lovely thatched cottage with a few out buildings.
Knocking on the door of the cottage, I was greeted by an elderly woman who seemed slightly hesitant about me staying. However she showed me a disused byre asking if it would be suitable and I said I would be glad to have it. As I would be leaving early in the morning I asked if she would fill my flask with hot water and she agreed to do this. Evidently it had been years since there had been a cow in the byre which was to be my bedroom. The cement floor was very clean and the walls were bright white. I left the top half of the door open and did some writing and read a newspaper which I had found on the roadside. Some time later on hearing activity outside, I looked over the door to see the woman watering the plants and flowers around the house. She was filling the watering can at the outside tap when I asked her if I could help. She was frightened and let out a yell, asking me who I was. When I told her she had given me permission to stay in the cow byre, she said she hadn't, and it must have been her sister. She then calmed down and I helped her to water the plants, and as we chatted she told me she had worked in Belfast some years ago.
When we had finished and it was still daylight, I went to the outside tap and gave myself a 'cat's lick' of a wash. I then retired and spread the mattress and sleeping bag out on the floor. I had slept on straw, lino, carpet and wood but this was the first time I slept on cement. I was tired and fell asleep quickly, only to wake some hours later in a cold sweat. My right arm and leg were 'dead' and had no feeling in them, and for a minute I thought I had taken a 'stroke'. I was relieved and thankful however to feel the circulation coming back in my limbs. Evidently I had slept too long in the one position and because of the cement the blood had difficulty in circulating. After that experience I seem to subconsciously not lie in the one position too long. I had difficulty getting back to sleep, woke very early and loaded the truck. I wondered if I would have long to wait before I saw the lady of the house, but when I opened the byre door I discovered the flask. Either she had left the flask the p revious night or else she was up early.
As I thought she wouldn't want to see me again, I closed the door and started along the road to Easky, where I would breakfast outside. A field with a gate set back about six feet from the road appeared to be a good place to eat, and I had just finished when I saw a man walking across the field towards me. This was the farmer who had been looking at his sheep and he stopped with me. I expect he didn't often see a man with a truck, eating his breakfast outside at eight o'clock in the morning. We got chatting and he asked where I had spent the night. I told him where I had slept and how I had frightened the woman at the water tap, not realising it was her sister. He told me that one of them sleeps in a caravan at the bottom of the back garden and that there was no communication between them. The mystery was solved!
I had an encounter on the road to Templeboy, when a man at a post office wanted to give me punts. I wished someone would offer me money when I was outside an ice-cream shop as I had a craving for it and would ask for a '99'. This was a nicely wooded road with few hills and I was enjoying the walk. I knew Ronnie and Patsy Brown were coming to meet me, so I was hoping that every car that passed would be theirs. I stopped for lunch in a nice little area close to the roadside, where a trickle of water flowed into a shallow pool. I left the truck on the road so that it would be visible to Ronnie and Patsy.
Lunch over I decided to stretch out for a snooze, as cement floors don't lend themselves to a good night's sleep. I was aware of cars passing close by, then one slowing and stopping. A quick glance showed me it was my friends. So I lay down again and let Ronnie take a photo of me, supposedly asleep. I was delighted to see them and be brought up to date with events in Belfast, and recounting my adventures to them. I enjoyed a few delicacies which Patsy had brought and wished I hadn't already eaten. Ronnie started attending Frederick Street a few years prior to my journey and we met occasionally in Belfast for lunch. Patsy who is Catholic, attends Frederick Street with Ronnie after Mass, and I feel our Meeting has been enriched by their presence.
I suggested they drive on along the coast road about five or six miles and start looking for a B&B with farm buildings attached, where I could stay the night. I had walked about four or five miles when they returned and handed me a card for a B&B where they had booked in for the night. Ronnie asked if I would compromise and allow him to pay for dinner and breakfast and as I didn't want to be too dogmatic, I agreed. I passed through the village of Easky, which is famous for its Atlantic 'breakers' and attracts sail boarders. In a very short time I saw 'Atlantic Breeze' where I was to stay, and Anne the owner welcomed me and showed me to a room. When I protested and said I would be happy in the hay shed or outhouses, she said if she got more guests, I could use the hay shed and if not I could use the room. I was very happy to agree to her offer. Ronnie and Patsy appeared shortly, as they had gone for a drive round the coast. After a sumptuous dinner, consisting of fresh salmon and all the tri mmings, we went back into Easky and spent a short time in the local pub.
As usual I slept on the floor, so at least that would save on the laundry bills. Next morning after breakfast Ronnie went to pay the bill, only to find that Anne wouldn't take any money for my dinner or breakfast. By this generosity I felt she was supporting the reason for my journey. I said good-bye to Anne and her family and thanked her. As I paused to look at her well kept garden I knew the birds would give Anne pleasure. We decided to go to Mass in a chapel about a mile away, so Ronnie and Patsy drove on and I was to join them in the church. When I arrived I was unable to get in because of the large crowd, so I stood along with them and listened to their conversation, which consisted of sport and football. No one spoke to me and I was glad to see Ronnie and Patsy when the Mass was over. When Patsy asked why I hadn't come into the church, I said it was full, as there was a large number of men standing outside. She laughed and told me there was plenty of room inside and that it was an Irish tr adition among young men to stand outside and pretend to their mothers that they had been to church. It's a stupid man who doesn't learn something every day!
Ronnie and Patsy left, saying they would meet me on the road to Inishcrone. Meanwhile she had shopped for scissors and a packet of needles for me. I was puzzled by the purchase of the needles, as I wasn't going to do any sewing, but then remembered mentioning that I had lost my scissors in the early part of my journey. I was continually getting blisters on my feet and had also mentioned using thorns from the hedges to puncture the blisters, hence the needles. She must have thought my type of surgery wouldn't pass the B.M.A. Included with these two items was a selection of food brought from Belfast.
I was sorry to see these two friends leave as I had enjoyed their company and generosity. As it was a holiday weekend up north they had combined meeting me with a holiday trip south. There was little traffic on the road to Inishcrone which is a busy seaside town with shops for day trippers. It was about midday and there was little activity about. I could visualise what it would be like in the afternoon. The tradition of going to Mass on Saturday night means that people don't get up early on Saturday morning. Consequently there is little traffic about until the afternoon.
Before I got to the main road to Ballina, I found a quiet spot to have lunch and enjoy a rest. Ballina is a fine town and I stopped to sit on the wall overlooking the river Moy, which flows into Killala Bay. A man who stopped to read the notices on the truck, told me he was a lecturer at Queens University and knew Desmond Neill, a south Belfast Quaker and a good friend of mine. This man's name was Frank Harman and we sat chatting for a while and he asked me questions about my journey. He then said I would be welcome to stay at his home in Ballina that night but as it was only late afternoon, I would hope to keep on walking for a few more hours. I thanked him and he wished me well.
I had only walked a short distance when a car stopped, a man got out with a video camera and pointed it at me. A young woman then approached and asked questions. Perhaps she was part of the 'crew' but I had negative thoughts about the event. However he gave me a bag of chips which I enjoyed. On the outskirts of the town as I was passing a woman washing her car, she spoke to me and said her son lived in Bangor and she also knew Frank Harman, who I had met coming into the town. She invited me in for tea but I wasn't hungry, having eaten the chips a short time ago. When she asked where I hoped to stay that night I said Killala and she said there was a youth hostel there where I could possibly get accommodation. When Leaving I asked if I could have one of the pastries I hadn't eaten, to eat later. She emptied the contents of two plates into a bag, even though I said I would have been happy with the bun. As I know Peace Pilgrim would not have asked for the bun, I tried to justify my request as I hadn't eaten anything with the tea she had provided.
The road to Killala was uninteresting and I was glad of the company of a cyclist, who walked with me for a couple of miles. He told me things of local interest and I already knew a small contingent of the French Army had arrived here during the 1798 rebellion. I found the youth hostel which was situated in well wooded grounds on the outskirts of the town, and the house could have been built in the last century. I was greeted by Cathy MacNeill, the warden who had no qualms about my not having any money or being in membership. I was shown into a large dormitory with bunk beds and when I asked if I could have the lower one, I was told I would be the only person in the room and could use whichever one suited me. After I had unpacked I was invited into the kitchen, where there were three or four hostelers round a table, on which was a large bowl of whelks. Along with this tasty sea food, was wheaten bread and butter, which was very enjoyable. It was good to meet and talk with these young folk who came f rom different countries. Later on they invited me to come with them into Killala, but thanking them I declined, as I had no money.
I slept well in the large room and had breakfast with two young Germans, then loaded up the truck. When doing so I saw a car coming up the drive and two well dressed men alighted and came towards the building. They looked like inspectors from the youth hostel association and I hoped if they were, Cathy would not be in trouble for letting me stay. I passed them on the road out and was soon on the road, not seeing Cathy again. I arrived in Killala, a fine town with an interesting harbour and lots of mature trees. On the outskirts of the town a man approached and in the course of conversation I mentioned I hoped to stay with Michael Viney. Upon hearing this he told me Michael Viney's wife used to own a chemist's shop in Killala.
Before I got to Ballycastle it started to rain and as I was hungry I wondered where I could shelter. Seeing a house with a large porch I asked the owner if I could shelter there and have lunch, which I did. When I was at the youth hostel, Cathy told me about a dig near Ballycastle, which was led by Noel Dunne, a friend of hers, who I should make myself known to. Noel kindly brought me round the settlement, which dates back five thousand years and it was interesting to think that people would choose to live in this very exposed area.
The rain had cleared and I was pleased to see a spectacular coastline. The cliffs were sandstone, so there was much erosion, leaving behind stunning rock formations. There were caves in the cliffs which became 'blow-holes', during storms and high seas from the Atlantic.
After this marvellous coastline the road went inland to Glenamoy, through bog land, with a small river running alongside. Along the way rubbish was dumped on the side of the road and in some places in the river. This indiscriminate dumping both annoyed and depressed me. I was still in this mood when I got to a small village and saw a telephone box. I thought I would talk to Adeline and as I had no money asked the operator to reverse the charges, but there was no one at home, so still feeling 'down' I walked on. It was a long time since I had eaten. so I sat down at the side of the road and opened the cool box to find the food I had been so generously given. I thought of the friends who had donated it and the distance I had walked, carrying it.
At the short meeting for worship at Frederick Street, Adeline said at times I was to look back to see the distance I had travelled, and that would give me enthusiasm to journey on. After having something to eat and having a quiet time the cloud of depression lifted, and I travelled on. I don't think it was only the indiscriminate dumping of the rubbish that made me unhappy but the fact that during the month I had been walking I had been staying with people I knew. While during the next month, I would be calling with people I didn't know; just knocking a door and hoping someone would give me shelter. So possibly fear of the unknown could be affecting my mood, as I didn't have faith that I would be looked after.
It was about seven o'clock when I reached Glenamoy and called at a large bungalow which had sheds at the back. The man who answered the door refused me a place to sleep and told me there was a youth hostel nearby. I asked him if it was far up the road, to which he replied, "Two miles". Even though I was tired, I knew I could walk another two miles. However I saw a farm close to the road and asked the farmer's wife if I could sleep in the hay shed and I was grateful that she gave me permission. The hay shed had three open sides and bales of hay lined the bottom. As I was afraid the soil on the floor of the shed might be damp, I spread a few plastic bags on the ground and put my sleeping bag on top. The farmer's wife asked me into the house, where her husband was having his tea and sandwiches by the fireside. He signalled to me to sit at the other side of the fire and I was given sandwiches and tea. While we talked I looked at his feet, which were bare, with his big toes twisted across the other toe s. To say they were dirty would be an understatement, they were black. When he had finished eating he spat into the fire between each sentence. This was a lesson for me, if people are good and kind and give me food and shelter, I have to accept their codes of hygiene. So from that night, if I had to drink from a cracked cup or saw something that offended my sensibilities, I ignored it and was thankful for kindness.
Back at the hay shed, a young collie dog was tied to a support at the other end of the shed and after stroking it, I left it and it barked after me. In a short time I was asleep but unfortunately every time I moved, the plastic bags rustled, alerting the dog, which barked and wakened me. After that I tried not to move which meant I didn't have a very satisfactory night's sleep. I made two mistakes that night. Firstly I should have slept on top of the bales and not used the plastic bags. The second was not sleeping close to the dog, who might have got used to my company. I was invited into the house by the farmer's wife and was given two duck eggs for breakfast, one of which I kept for lunch. I thanked these kind people and they wished me luck on my journey.
A short distance away was a coniferous forest on either side of the road. This type of forestry does not appeal to me as the ground below the trees is dead, there is no other plant life, and an absence of birds and other wild life. I read some time ago that a concentration of these trees can make the rivers and lakes sterile, and saw evidence of this in Norway many years ago, when it was possible to look into a lake roughly twenty feet deep and see to the bottom. It wasn't enjoyable walking this part of the road. The noise of dogs barking continuously got louder, and through an opening in the trees I could see a large wooden building and knew by the noise that there were quite a few dogs in the building. Farther on there were more buildings and this time I could hear horses neighing. There was a high fence around the whole area, which had large gates. On meeting a workman on the road I asked him what was going on behind this fence and he told me it was an experimental station for testing drugs on a nimals, mainly horses. I had been depressed the previous day by thoughtless dumping, now I was angry when I thought of what might be going on in those buildings.
I was glad to leave the forest behind but it was difficult not to think about the animals. As I walked on it was good to see crops in the fields and the animals enjoying the lush grass. I was going to Belmullet in the hope of finding a place to rest. My friend Betty McElnea had been there some time ago to bury an aunt, and she said the undertaker who also owned the local pub was very kindly and might be able to help. There is a causeway to Belmullet and I enjoyed being close to the sea. In the town I found the pub which had a wreath in the window; this is quite common in similar establishments in the west of Ireland. I asked the woman behind the bar if I could speak to the owner but as he was out and wouldn't be back for two or three hours, she asked if she could help. I told her about my journey and asked if there was a shed at the back where I could shelter. Sadly there had been a terrible tragedy and his son had been drowned at sea; his daughter and her children were now living with him and she didn't think there were any sheds at the back. I said I was very sorry to hear about his son, and in the circumstances would continue with my journey. Walking to Belmullet and back again was a blessing in disguise, as I was to find out next day.
I walked back to Bunnahowen and stopped at the first farm house and was offered the use of an empty stable. I could see a Connemara pony in the field and bales of hay, which I knew would be a suitable bed. The farmer came over and asked would I like to come with him across the field to inspect the stock. The pony came over to us and the farmer stroked its neck. It is interesting to see animals being curious, and the fact that the pony was not afraid, showed it was well cared for. I told him about being evacuated to a farm during the war and now had a fondness for farm life. I saw the stock and when we returned to the house he invited me in for tea. The table was set with an assortment of bread, which was all I wanted. However a plate with two fried eggs and bacon was set in front of me and I tried to put to the back of my mind that I had a duck egg for breakfast and one for lunch. It was quite an achievement to clear the plate. We chatted over tea and they were interested to hear some of my adven tures. They asked about life in Belfast and the farmer's wife said she knew that Quakers had done good work during the famine.
When a motorbike stopped outside the house and their son came into the room, I expect he wondered who I was. Before I left the house I was invited in for breakfast next morning. I went over the road to the stable and very soon I had moved four bales of hay to make a comfortable bed. I wrote up my diary before going to sleep and enjoyed the comfort of my hay mattress. Next morning as I crossed the road to the house, I was hoping I wouldn't have eggs for breakfast. I was pleased my prayers were answered, as I was given a large bowl of porridge, toast and marmalade. The kindness of people never ceases to amaze me, these people were no exception and I thanked them sincerely for all they had done. As so often happened the farmer's wife wanted to give me two punts.
After I left this farm, the habitation ended. I passed a large lake but still there weren't any homesteads until I got to Bangor. Even then there was only a row of cottages and a couple of shops. I have already said it was a blessing in disguise that I went to Belmullet. If I hadn't, I would have passed the farm at Bunnahowen in the afternoon and as this was an uninhabited area, I would have had to go another eight or nine miles to Bangor. The road continued for another six or seven miles and on that stretch of road, Telecom workers invited me into their van for tea. A young lad of fourteen caught up with me and we walked to Bangor; he was good company and as he asked questions about my journey, I gave him one of my leaflets. I walked on about fifty yards and looked round to see him sitting on the verge reading the pamphlet. As it was a long stretch of road I kept looking round at him to find him watching me, we both waved. It was a good encounter.
About three miles from Mallaranny, I stopped to eat and when I got moving again, I could see an enormous bright light on the horizon. The further I walked the brighter it got. When I got within a mile of it, I saw that it was a newly built hay shed with galvanised metal shining in the setting sun. As I got nearer the hay shed I saw a man with a donkey and cart working in a field. It had been newly seeded and he was lifting stones which were on the surface and putting them into the cart. He stopped working and came over, asking what I was doing. When I told him I had walked the coast roads from Belfast he then asked where I was going. As I was looking for a place to shelter, he pointed at a hay shed and asked if it would do. He told me to call with his mother and let her know he had given permission to stay in the hay shed, which was about one hundred yards away.
His mother welcomed me and asked me in for tea but as I had already eaten about an hour previously, I thanked her and declined her offer. She then said to come over about eight o'clock and have a meal. The hay shed was closed on three sides, so it was easy to make myself comfortable. While writing up my diary, I reflected on the past couple of hours and what I thought was a dazzling light on the horizon turned out to be the shed where I am now resting. I felt as if I was guided here. I thought of the bible story and how the three wise men were guided by a star. I was brought back to earth by a knock on the door and Mrs Cafferkey asked me over to the house for tea. I was often amazed at the variety of food which poor people offered me. One would have thought they were expecting an important visitor. When I had finished this fine meal, Mrs Cafferkey told me that the spring tide comes right up to the door and that she had been a widow of thirty-four years. The two things were tragically connected; her brother-in-law had come over from England for a holiday with lots of money, and took her husband to the local pub and bought him a lot of drink. In the early hours of the morning, someone drove her husband home and left him on the road. Unknown to him in the darkness, the spring tide was fully in and he must have tripped and fallen into the water and drowned. His wife Bridget wakened the next morning to find her husband not in bed , when she looked out of the window, the tide had receded and her husband lay drowned a few yards from her home. She was six months pregnant at the time and had three other young children. Her son who befriended me, was born three months after his father's death and was still with her, although the others were in England.
Her neighbours were very generous, and people who were in the area on holiday would call and offer her money. As the son was thirty-four I calculated that the tragedy must have happened in 1956. As there was no common market at that time, there would not have been generous benefits for the poor family. It wasn't appropriate to engage in small-talk so I excused myself and went back to the shed. I lay awake for some time thinking about the hardship this woman had known. I felt the generosity she had been shown years ago was now being reciprocated. In the morning after a good night's sleep, I had a cold wash from the water barrel I had seen the previous night. When I was loading the truck Mrs Cafferkey knocked the door and kindly asked me over to the house for breakfast. I joined her son at the table, and a heaped plate of cooked food was set in front of me, and another for her son. I had been used to a dish of muesli in the mornings and now I had to tackle this mountain of food. I had eaten about half my breakfast when Mrs Cafferkey appeared with another large plate of food, asking if I wanted any more, but I said I was having difficulty eating so much. After her son took more, she sat beside the fire and ate her breakfast. I realised some time after that this would be a tradition among farming families years ago; the men would be fed first and the women would wait to see what was left, before they ate. They depended on their husbands or sons to do the heavy work, so the men had to get adequate food.
This was a memorable encounter. I thought of something Diana Lampen had told me in Derry, "When remarkable things happen, don't say they were coincidences, but God-incidences".
I'm sure this was a 'God-incidence'. I thanked Mrs Cafferkey and her son for their kindness and they wished me God's blessing. I talked to many people on the road; one young man who was unable to communicate because of learning difficulties, walked along with me and was happy to do so. I was leaving Mallaranny behind and my companion was still with me, as I didn't know where he lived. Fortunately a woman coming the other way knew him and she offered to take him home. It was over five hours that day before I felt hungry, as my heavy breakfast took a long time to digest, so when a young woman boiled water for my flask and asked me into the house to make me lunch I refused and said I had food in my cool box which must be eaten, as it wouldn't keep fresh. She gave me an apple and an orange which I appreciated.
I was now looking for Furnace Lough and a young man called Russell Poole, who worked on a salmon research centre there. I didn't know Russell but knew his father David, who is a Dublin Quaker. I found a road sign-posted Furnace Lough but hesitated because it was rough and I wondered if there was a better road. Just then a camper van with a young family inside, pulled up. They had seen the signs on my truck and said they were English Quakers on their way to Achill Island. They asked if they could help, so I asked if they would drive up the rough track to see if Russell Poole was at home. Ken Butterfield drove up to investigate and his wife stayed to talk. I enjoyed meeting her and shortly Ken returned to tell me that Russell was expecting me. The Butterfields offered to drive me to the research station but I refused saying I was happy to walk. After about an hour I regretted not taking the offer as it was tough going on this rough road full of pot holes and loose stones. Russell was glad to see me and said I could wash my clothes, as he had some work to do.
My washing done in the bath, I hung it up to dry. The house was owned by the fisheries Commission and was fairly basic, but was ideal for a young man living alone. Russell told me he had to retrieve fishing gear he had been using the previous day, and asked if I would like to accompany him in the land rover. He drove for about eight miles and at a little inlet on the coast he pointed to a little boat anchored a short distance off shore, on which was his fishing gear. This for me was a new experience travelling on a foreshore covered in loose stones but the land rover just rolled over them. We rowed out to the boat and collected the fishing gear. We stopped in Newport for some provisions and I admired some fine stone buildings in the town. Back at his home Russell put his stock of food on the table and asked what I would like for an evening meal. On hearing I was happy to share whatever he chose, the only preparation needed was a tin-opener, and with lots of nice bread we enjoyed a good meal.
When I told Russell about the night I sheltered in a stable at Bunnahowen which had turned out to be a blessing, he told me about other areas where I might have a problem. With the help of a red felt tipped pen, he marked the roads where there is none or very little habitation. I appreciated this practical help and also the address of his uncle in Timoleague, as he thought I would be welcome there. The next morning I was driven down the rough road and said good-bye to Russell, thanking him for his hospitality. It was a bit of a diversion to have travelled around with Russell, and I felt the rest was good for me.
Newport was just eight miles away and it didn't take me long to get there. I was able to move on quickly to Westport because the road surface was good and the hills not steep. Westport attracts a lot of visitors and the day I got there was no exception. I had difficulty walking on the footpath as it was so crowded. As I sat on the wall overlooking the river flowing through Westport, I got chatting to an American tourist who had been visiting in the area before. I asked if he had been 'up north' and he said he would wait until we had peace. I paid a quick visit to the rest room nearby and asked him to keep an eye on my truck. Before I got out of Westport I had to negotiate a very steep hill, having to pull the truck and make frequent stops. It was the steepest hill I encountered in any town on my travels and I was glad to get to the top.
The road to Louisburg was quite picturesque and enjoyable, as it skirted the coast and at times branched inland to wooded areas which are now in full leaf in contrasting shades of green. I stopped on the road near Croagh Patrick and chatted to some people who lived close by. I imagine that at certain times of the year there are hundreds of people in this area on pilgrimages. Apart from the steep hill out of Westport, it was easy walking but as I neared Louisburg I knew I had 'clocked up' many miles since leaving Furnace Lough and was feeling tired. I stopped for a rest and had something to eat. Before I left home I had read an article in the Irish Times by Michael Viney which impressed me. I wrote telling him I concurred with his article and of my impending journey. He wrote back wishing me well, and inviting me to stay at his home when I got to Louisburg. I was anxious to know how much further I would have to walk and got varying opinions as to the distance from passers-by. Some said three or four miles, some five or six miles and one said about seven. However I knew I was on the right road and there was nothing for it but to keep walking.
Before I left Louisburg, I had a long chat with a local man who told me that a few weeks previously, a group of native Americans in full regalia walked to Doolough to commemorate those who had died in the famine, also that native Americans had sent food and money during that time. This was a revelation to me, and I told this man that John Woolman an American Quaker, lived among the American Indians two hundred and fifty years ago, to see what he could learn from them. I was sorry that we couldn't linger any longer and I think the feeling was mutual. I was told that the road ended a short distance after Michael Viney's house, so it was just a case of 'following my nose'. I asked everyone I met how far it was to the house , as the road seemed endless and I was tired. When I was getting nearer my destination, a man on a tractor said if you see a B&B you have gone too far. I chuckled at these directions and made sure I didn't go as far as the B&B.
I had a warm welcome from Michael and Eithne Viney. After a good meal Eithne went to bed, as they rise around five a.m. to do their writing, so I felt rather guilty by arriving late as it was nearly nine p.m. After sampling Michael's wine I also retired to bed. Next morning we chatted over breakfast and I said how much I admired their lifestyle. There was a pile of drift wood outside which Michael had gathered on the shore, and this gave them heat during the winter. They had a large vegetable garden which provided them with vegetables, which had to be protected from the strong gales. It was good to see well-feathered healthy chickens in the hen run, and I felt these people were walking gently on the earth even though they had a small car. I had walked about seven miles to get to their home and Michael reminded me that the road didn't continue round the coast, and as they were going to Letterfrack they convinced me that I wouldn' t be cheating if I took a lift part of the way. Eithne replenished my food store for which I was very thankful. When they asked me where I was going tonight, I said it was in the lap of the gods, so Eithne suggested I should call at Kylemore Abbey as the nuns in the school might give me a shed or a room. Michael gave me the name of a friend at Tully Cross.
We were back on the road I'd been on the previous day, then on an inland road where Michael pointed to uniform ridges on the hillside which had been potato drills, dating back to the famine. It was difficult to imagine how a hostile area, such as it is now, could have supported families one hundred and fifty years ago. Before we got into Leenaun we stopped and lifted the truck off the roof rack, and I said good-bye and thanked them for their kindness and hospitality. I was very moved that these good people should be concerned where I should stay that night. They also gave me the name of two famous people, who they thought would give me shelter.
It was a beautiful sunny morning as I walked near Killary Harbour which is supposed to be the deepest inlet on the Irish coast and it was idyllic to sit on a ridge and look down at this natural feature. There were many tourists around and I talked to a man and wife, who come to Ireland every year. I had talked to many visitors who all had different reasons for coming to the west on holiday, and as this man had no children of his own he loved coming to Ireland where he could stop and talk to children. He said it would be impossible to do this in England, as the mother would probably snatch the child away. I said I also enjoyed making friends with the children.
Further on I decided to stop and have lunch and a rest. I had been anticipating what Eithne had put in the cool box, and to my surprise, as well as welcome food, was a small bottle of Michael's wine. I had a feast but decided to keep the wine for a special occasion. A good rest was necessary to keep the batteries charged; as on the previous day I had walked over thirty-five miles, the longest distance I had walked in one day. I slept for almost an hour and wondered what passers-by would think to see the truck parked on the road and me sleeping beside it.
In the late afternoon I saw Kylemore Abbey from a distance and wondered if I would be staying there that night. Kylemore Abbey is a fine building situated in beautiful surroundings with a large lake and lots of mature trees, and is a very prestigious girl's school run by nuns. I rang the doorbell to be greeted by a small, elderly, plump nun, to whom I told my story, and asked if there was a possibility of my sleeping in a shed or a room. She said there wasn't anything suitable, and as there were only women there I might not be safe! I was amused at her sense of humour. I was asked to wait and in a short time she returned and gave me sandwiches and a litre of milk. I enjoyed meeting this little nun and wasn't too disappointed at not getting a room, as there were lots of tourists about, and I would have preferred a quieter place. The area around Letterfrack is very beautiful. It had been bog land until an English Quaker had decided to give more than money to relieve the famine. He hired about eighty workmen to drain the bog land and planted thousands of trees. He built a large plain house and farmstead and in time the house became a monastery and then a community craft shop.
After Letterfrack, it was about three miles to Tullycross and the home of Niall and Marion Herriott. I was welcomed by Niall, who was at home with his three children while Marion was at work. I had a pleasant time playing with the children and talking to Niall, who had travelled over Ireland setting up shellfish farms, which seemed to be a growing industry. This principle of farming which is environmentally friendly with no cruelty involved, appealed to me. The west coast lends itself to shell fish farming because of the numerous bays, inlets and disused harbours. Some time later Marion came home and no doubt was surprised to see me and even more surprised to learn I was staying overnight. It was good to have a meal with the family and listen to the children chattering. Later that evening we played Trivial Pursuits. The children's ages ranged from about eight to thirteen and the older girl won easily, while the boy retired saying it was too difficult - I should also have retired. However it was a happy time with the family. Marion gave me a book about the history of Letterfrack with which she was involved, having done some research, and made a contribution. She thought I would be interested in the part the Quakers played during the famine. All the family, including the children, Eva, Sean and Caroline were at the breakfast table, making it a lively affair. Niall offered to drive me back to Letterfrack, so I said good-bye and hoped the children would do well in their exams. I thanked Marion, who had a quiet comfortable manner, for her kindness.
I had only walked a short distance to Letterfrack, when there was a heavy shower which didn't last long, and I took shelter under the trees. On the road to Clifton a tour coach stopped at a scenic view and some of the passengers got out with the courier, who asked me questions. I could see the other passengers watching from the bus, so I gave the courier my leaflet and she said she would read it over the intercom. A young American took a photograph of me to show to her Quaker friends back home. Shortly after that encounter, a Garda car stopped and a very pleasant policeman wished me luck. Another car stopped and this couple were interested in my journey, the woman especially, as she had been a 'Greenham Common' demonstrator and had lived there for a short time.
I liked the look of Clifton although there were the usual trashy shops, but it still retained its old world charm which was very pleasant. About a mile outside Clifton, Niall appeared again with his daughter and gave me a large packet of digestive biscuits. I was delighted to see them again. The coast line was very rugged and in places the sand had blown off the beach onto the road. A man driving a Mercedes stopped to say he had seen me in Letterfrack in the morning, and was amazed I had walked such a distance. His brother, a priest, lived at Glin on the Shannon estuary and if I called he might give me shelter. Another car pulled up, and the driver who had also seen me earlier offered me money, and when I refused said he would look out for me in Roundstone and buy me a drink. When I arrived there I was more interested in finding Tim Robinson, one of the people with whom Michael Viney was friendly.
At home I have a travel book entitled 'Irish Countryside', in which Tim Robinson has contributions about Connemara and the Burren, and also did documentaries of these areas for television. His home to which he welcomed me, was a fine stone building on the pier in Roundstone, and his office and shop were on the ground floor, with the living accommodation above. From this floor, he had a marvellous view from every window. We chatted about his work which was making detailed surveys of different areas of the west, also maps, and this was most interesting. I was now beginning to feel tired, so Tim brought me down to the book shop, where I found a suitable place to sleep. My body was now used to sleeping on hard surfaces, so I felt well rested next morning. After breakfast he gave me a tin of sardines, fruit and a bar of chocolate for the journey, for which I was most grateful. He was very interested in my journey and said he would put an article in the local magazine.
I stopped in Cashel to look for Phillip Jacob's country home, but he wasn't there. Phillip is a Dublin Quaker. There were two young men doing some work but as they didn't ask me in I decided to move on. There was a fishing research centre in Cashel and Russell Poole had told me to make myself known to John who worked there. I stopped to heat one of Betty McElnea's stews for lunch and shared it with John. We chatted for a while, then I decided to walk on and hadn't gone far when it started to rain. It was necessary to put on wet gear and because of this, by the time I got to Carna I was very tired. I looked round the village and tried the Convent of Mary for shelter but was told to try a hostel in the village. When I found the hostel, I could see it was privately owned, and the owner, a man of my own age, didn't respond to me. He actually said I was daft to leave Belfast without money.
When standing outside the building, I saw a large shed on the other side of the road. Fortunately this was owned by people who lived next door to the hostel. When I asked if I could stay in the shed the owner said yes, and that I could leave my wet gear and truck inside. She then invited me into her house for tea, and when I discovered her father-in-law owned the hostel, I didn't mention the conversation I'd had with him. As the rain slackened off I decided to return to the shed and write up my diary. Bridget said she would call me when the evening meal was ready. In about an hour I was called over and met Eamon her husband, and the rest of the family. Eamon owned a large boat which carried heavy goods to numerous other islands. In the course of conversation he said he needed medical attention, although whether it was because he'd hurt himself on the boat, or had a health problem, he didn't say.
When the washing up was done and the place tidied, a group of people called to go out to a social evening together. They didn't appear to be in a hurry as they sat down and chatted, asking interesting questions; it was a happy gathering. They then began to talk in Gaelic and I sat listening and even though I didn't understand, I felt they weren't discussing me. Before they left, Eamon's father came over from the hostel, but didn't have any conversation with me. The Mylotte's and their friends left and I went back to the shed, where I had a selection of mattresses for my bed. There was also furniture from the house which was being refurbished as a B&B.
After breakfast next morning Bridget gave me bread for my journey for which I thanked her, and also for rescuing me the previous day when I looked like a drowned rat. I left Carna feeling grateful to Bridget and Eamon but was sorry I had called at the hostel. Sometimes in my travels I find women and young people more sympathetic than men, especially of my own age.
I was now walking through a beautiful area with little inlets, small ponds and short grass, clothing the islands. I had a few encounters with people who were enthusiastic as to what I was doing. A Swedish woman on a bicycle stopped and wanted to hear about the 'Troubles' up north. Sometimes I didn't hear any news for days and then I would hear about some terrible event or atrocity which made me sad. Sometimes people I met gave me food and I was able to stop on the roadside and have a picnic and rest awhile.
I have already said that Michael Viney gave me the names of two famous people, who might give me shelter. The first was Tim Robinson and the second Noel Browne, a T.D. for many years in the Dail. There was a controversy in the fifties over his 'Mother and Child' Bill, when he was Minister for Health. He stood for many years as an Independent T.D. in Dublin and was elected every time. I was now going to meet this man who interested me greatly; as 'one who sticks out from the herd'. That day, the thought of meeting him spurred me on and when I saw a post office in the Inveran area, I asked the post mistress where Noel Browne lived, and discovered it was not far away. She then asked me why I wanted this information and when I told her I was hoping to meet him and was looking forward to the visit, she informed me that I wouldn't be able to see him as he was on holiday in Greece. To say I was deflated was an understatement. I found when I looked forward to some event or meeting it sometimes didn't happ en, and if I went forward in faith, good things did happen.
A short distance away, I saw a B&B with outbuildings and the owner offered me one of the buildings which had been a stable. After making a meal, I went out for a walk towards the sea, but the rain came on and I made a hasty retreat. As there weren't any bales of hay in this building, I reckoned I would be sleeping on the cement floor. I slept well and wakened early, and as there was no activity about the house, decided to move on and have something to eat on the way.
As I got near Spiddle I saw a man working in his garden and asked if he would fill my flask with hot water. We talked a little and then he invited me into his home and instead of only hot water he gave me a meal. His wife worked in Galway and the children were at school. He was a professional horse trainer and travelled all round England and Ireland, to various race meetings. He was going to give me a 'tip for the day' when he remembered that I had told him that I had no money. He suggested giving me something until I said, that I may have other weaknesses but that wasn't one of them. We sat talking and he enjoyed hearing some of my adventures. My flask was filled with hot water, my thanks given, and I was on my way to Galway.
On the way I met a Quaker family from Dublin. Galway is the fastest growing city in Ireland and the suburbs extend beyond Salthill. I found this area overcrowded with large hotels and almost every other house a B&B. The centre of the city has a real buzz about it, with a good mix of young people creating a cosmopolitan atmosphere. The road to Oranmore was mostly dual-carriageway and walking on the busy roads wasn't pleasant. Michael Cormican, who was a doctor in Galway hospital, had written to a Quaker Friend of mine asking for information about Quakers and this had been passed on to me. I was then invited to the home of Michael and his wife Fiona in Oranmore, and was glad their home wasn't on a busy road, but some distance from it.
I got a warm welcome and Michael showed me a great variety of trees he had planted at the back and front of his home. Fiona had prepared a nice meal and soon after she decided to go to bed, as their baby was only months old and likely to waken early. Michael and I sat talking, as he was interested to know more about Quakerism and I tried to answer his questions. Mine was no 'blinding light' conversion, as I had attended Quaker Meeting for over five years before applying for membership. I explained that Quakers don't have a creed, and this suits me as I like to work out my own spiritual path, appreciating guidance from numerous sources. This could be the bible; or other spiritual books or perhaps something on the television or radio; ministry in meeting or prompting from within. Sometimes Friends who stimulate our thoughts and have concerns about what is happening to our planet, and people suffering more than ourselves.
Michael said he no longer attended the Catholic church and was in a spiritual vacuum, so perhaps Quakerism was the answer. I believed he was a caring, thoughtful young man and hoped I had been of some help to him. I didn't see Michael next morning, as he was away to hospital before I wakened. After breakfast with Fiona, she asked if she could put any of my clothes that needed washing in the machine. It was now about nine o'clock and I thought this would be quicker than washing by hand, even though newer machines go through a full cycle. It was around half past ten when the machine allowed me to retrieve my washing.
After thanking Fiona, I was soon on the road and at Kilcolgan took the one that hugged the coast. This road was busy with traffic and as there was no footpath, I had to be careful. I kept going until I got to Kinvara, where I stopped to sit and rest and have lunch. Dongory Castle was just round the bay and I was pleased to see the care that had been taken to restore the castle to it's former glory. I have a great admiration for the expertise of stone masons, who can match the skill of masons of many centuries ago.
I had been to the Burren many times but always in a car and now was looking forward to seeing it at a walking pace. Before reaching the Burren, I walked through pleasant countryside, with neatly kept farms. I sat down on the neatly kept grass outside the driveway of one of these. The farmer came along to talk to me and I told him about my journey and how I had been travelling since 1st May. Once again I was asked where I was going to sleep that night and I said I hoped to get around Black Head. He told me that the first farm past Black Head was owned by Joseph Casey, who would give me shelter. When I asked why he was so sure he said, "He's a decent man". After thanking him for this information I felt elated; it was a beautiful evening; I was close to the sea and had a continuous view of the Burren.
It was quite a long walk to Black Head, and getting round the curve of the headland, seemed endless. The expected farm did not materialise until I walked another two or three miles. I told Joseph Casey about the farmer I had met near Ballyvaughan (who had such confidence that I would get shelter). He showed me a large hay shed with machinery and an old combine harvester and asked if it would do. Thanking him I said it would be fine. I decided to sleep under the old harvester, where there was plenty of straw. I was arranging my sleeping gear, when Joseph arrived with a large jug of tea, cheese and tomato sandwiches and fruit cake, which he carried in an open shopping basket. The Ballyvaughan farmer was right, he was a kind and decent man. Before crawling into bed under the harvester, I noticed a ladder against the back wall and on each rung a hen was roosting. There was a rooster as well and all were asleep as it was now ten o'clock and past their bedtime.
It wasn't long before I was fast asleep, only to be wakened about four o'clock by the crowing of the rooster. The noise was deafening and I found it nearly impossible to get back to sleep. I went over to the house for breakfast, having been invited the previous night by Joseph. I hadn't met Mrs Casey when I arrived but had the feeling she was responsible for the tea and sandwiches. They had a large family of healthy children and I enjoyed being with this kind and happy family. My thanks seemed quite inadequate in the circumstances.
I was in high spirits as I walked the coastline and admired the spectacular Burren. As I stood in awe, I could almost imagine this resembled the surface of the moon. I had just moved on when I noticed the truck was hard to push as it sagged to one side. My first puncture, and I didn't have a repair kit! There was a farm nearby with a fairly steep hill up to it, so balancing the truck on one wheel, I pushed it up the incline. The farmer's wife greeted me and when I told her my problem, she brought her husband out and when he looked at it, said he didn't have a repair kit. I asked if there was a garage or general store where I might get one and he informed me there was one about three miles away. I knew I couldn't push the truck that distance on one wheel but then their son, who was just out of his bed appeared, and asked what the trouble was. He said he would get a repair kit and went off in the car. He was back in about fifteen minutes with the kit and in a very short time had the wheel off and th e puncture fixed. While I was waiting, his mother cooked breakfast for me which was an effort to eat, as I had eaten at the Casey's about an hour previously. Their son, who worked in London and was on holiday told me he would be offended if I offered him money for the repair kit. All I could say was how grateful I was for their help.
When I write about the kindness shown to me by all the people I encountered, I hope that I don't sound cynical. I am continually amazed that people would give a stranger shelter or a meal and in most cases both, as well as food for my onward journey. I hold all of these children of God in my thoughts as I wander on and feel blessed to be in God's wonderland in this part of Ireland.
After Doolin I had a very steep climb which necessitated me pulling the truck and taking frequent stops to rest. The car park at the Cliffs of Moher had been extended and to my thinking, commercialisation has spoiled this area. The road to Lahinch was busy but there was a footpath most of the way and I was able to make good progress. The town was very busy with tourists and there was a golf tournament taking place which added to the crowds. On the road to Millton Malby I was beginning to feel tired. It had been a long walk from Black Head and I had the anxiety of the puncture as well as the steep climb at Doolin.
Jo Phillips, an American Quaker, had offered me hospitality and the only information I had was that she lived near Milltown Malby. I asked passers-by and people working in gardens but no-one seemed to know where Jo lived. After a long stretch I knocked on a door and the man who answered told me to go to Milltown, so I gritted my teeth and kept walking. Within a short distance a car stopped and the driver asked if I was looking for Jo Phillips and said Jo had sent him out to look for me. I had passed the road leading to Jo's house. Putting the truck in the boot of the car we headed back the way I should have gone. I had negative thoughts about the man who gave me the wrong directions.
All this was put behind me when I was given a warm welcome by Jo. Her home is at the end of a long narrow road, leading to the sea, with a marvellous view of the Atlantic. Food wasn't important as we had so much to talk about; this was spiritual food. Jo had been to Ireland for a holiday in the seventies and had returned the following year having resigned from her teaching post in America. She lived in a farmhouse for a year, while her house was built. Like myself Jo is a convinced Quaker and we have a mutual Friend - John Tod, who lived in Waterford for many years. I told Jo my motivation for walking round Ireland had come from a letter in which John Tod enclosed a little booklet called, 'Steps Toward Inner Peace'. I have already written about Peace Pilgrim in my introduction. Jo asked if I knew where John Tod got this little booklet and when I said I didn't, she told me she had sent it to him. I was lost for words and I looked at this woman and thought that in an indirect way, she was responsibl e for my journey. God works in mysterious ways.
Next morning I told Jo that I intended to walk to Loophead lighthouse and asked her to ring and let them know. I knew I couldn't walk all that distance in one day (forty plus miles). Jo suggested staying two days with her and I readily agreed. If I walked into Milltown Malby and continued to Loophead, I could calculate the distance I had travelled. After walking nine miles I would then return to Jo's. She offered to drive me the distance I had already walked, the next day, and leave me on the road at a comparable spot. It was late afternoon when I arrived back at Jo's and she informed me she had invited a friend called Mary Murray to meet me. We would have dinner together, which Jo had prepared and which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Later that evening Adeline, Bertie and Betty spoke to me on the phone and I was pleased to talk to them. I was relieved to hear Bertie was bringing new tyres for the truck when they came to Limerick. Mary didn't stay long after the meal and Jo and I had a great conversation. She lived in Ireland after her house was built until her health deteriorated and then was advised to return to America and reside in Ireland only during the summer months. As she lived a few miles from the town, a Volkswagen 'Beetle' was her form of transport. She drove to the Quaker Meeting in Limerick on Sundays and this lasted for a few years until a friend gave her a lift. We could have talked longer but we were both tired and I was glad to get to bed.
The following day my most pressing need was to get the truck into the 'Beetle'. I had to unload the gear from the truck and put it in first which was a struggle, and finally I managed to squeeze into the car. We had calculated I was entitled to have eighteen miles shown on the speedometer before I started walking. So when everything was secured back on the truck, I said good-bye, gave Jo a big hug and we both went our separate ways. This was the beginning of a wonderful friendship. The following year Jo and her friend Maire Malone from Ennis, came to Belfast and we toured north Antrim and Donegal. Each year since then, we call with Jo and sometimes stay with Maire. In 1998 Jo was at the centre of a celebration, giving an interview on RTE at Carnamon. This was in memory of James McDonald, her great, great, grandfather, who was an officer in the 1798 rebellion. Jo discovered this by accident and spent many years researching the history of James.
On the previous day, as I had clocked up eighteen miles, I had no encounters which was no surprise. I knew if I wasn't pushing the truck I would look just like anyone else out for a walk. As I noticed previously, there was little traffic on the roads on a Sunday morning. Jo had driven me to within five miles of Kilkee which was a busy seaside town, with fast food shops. I stopped by the roadside to eat the sandwiches Jo had given me and read a lovely poem she had written, which was very moving.
A few miles on, a man asked if I was Gordon Kelly, as he had been speaking to me on the phone from Loophead lighthouse. He lived three miles along the road from the lighthouse and asked me to call at his home. I had no problem recognising it as there was a model lighthouse on the pillar of the gate. Brendan Garvey and his wife were kind and generous, feeding me and giving me food for my travels. He told me he was retiring from Irish Lights after a long time of service and I would be possibly the last visitor to the lighthouse, as the work was nearly completed in making Loophead fully automatic.
A few hours later, I called at a house for hot water and was invited in and told to sit down and watch the football. I wasn't interested, I just wanted hot water, but instead of bringing back my flask, this man gave me a plate with potatoes, bacon and cabbage. People are so very kind but as I had eaten a good meal at Brendan's, I wasn't really hungry. I ate the meal out of courtesy but it wasn't easy. So often on my journey I yearned for potatoes, now I could hardly eat them. My host told me he worked in Ennis and that he had nursed his mother for many years and now he was lonely and seemed glad of my company. I thanked him and he wished me well. It was about six o'clock and I could see the lighthouse and thought I would be there in about an hour; this proved to be wrong as I didn't arrive there until half past eight. When one thinks about it, a lighthouse can be seen for many miles at sea, so also it must be seen on land from a long distance. I didn't expect to see Brendan at Loophead, as he wasn 't on duty but he would call. When I arrived I was greeted warmly and shown a room, and as a meal was being prepared I took a stroll round the lighthouse. I was impressed by the skill men had many years ago in erecting a fine building like this. The man on duty had finished cooking and I was hoping he wouldn't offer me share as I had eaten enough for one day. Luckily he didn't ask me, but instead emptied a pressure cooker about three quarters full of stew onto a large oval plate and finished it. I had never before seen such a pile of food on one plate.
I wasn't sleeping when Brendan knocked the bedroom door and told me he had left cereal and bread to make toast in the kitchen, for the morning. There was evidence all around that the lighthouse was about to become automatic. As I walked down the main drive I could see cables everywhere and thought of the men who would be made redundant. A short distance away, the road was very close to the sea, and I was close to the mouth of the Shannon and could see Kerry Head.
I moved inland and saw an elderly farmer, who was standing in his front garden and who spoke to me as I got nearer. When he asked what I was doing, I told him about my journey and that I had stayed in Loophead the previous night. He invited me into the house where I met his wife, daughter-in-law and a baby, but the son was at work in the fields. Shortly the wife, who was sitting by the fire said to her daughter-in-law, "Give him tea". I thought she spoke rather sharply to the young woman. I was called to the table and said I just wanted tea; the farmer's wife sat beside me. I explained that it wasn't long since I'd had breakfast at the lighthouse. There was a wheaten bannock on the table and I asked the young woman if I could have a couple of slices to take away. She smiled and proceeded to cut the bread and when she had two slices cut the farmer's wife put her hand on top of the bannock, preventing the daughter-in-law from cutting any more. I felt very embarrassed for her as I thought she would h ave liked to have given me another slice. When I was leaving I tried to convey my thanks to the young woman for her generosity by shaking her hand. She sprinkled me with holy water, which I thought was a nice gesture.
That encounter stayed with me for a while, as I thought of young women coming to live with in-laws and not having any authority. Thankfully this tradition is dying out and sons taking over farms now have separate accommodation.
As I approached Carrigaholt, the heat was exhausting and it seemed as if everyone was indoors in this sleepy village. There was no activity as I walked down the middle of the road, reminding me of a Clint Eastwood film, where he was on horse back riding through a town in which there was going to be a 'shoot-out'. A young lad, who said he was seven, caught up with me and we chatted as we walked along. He was coming from school and as he didn't live far away, couldn't travel on the school bus. I said good-bye to him and had only travelled a short distance when a loud 'bang' made me jump. There was a 'blow-out' in one of the tyres and a gash an inch long. This was serious and a puncture outfit would be useless. I started to walk with all the weight on one wheel which had very little thread on it. It took a lot of effort to balance the truck and I knew I couldn't go very far. I had just walked round a bend in the road when I saw a large shed with mechanical tools inside.
There was a caravan outside the shed and the owner, John Daly was in it. When I told him I had a problem and showed him the burst tyre, he said, "That's no problem". I then said I had another problem and when he asked what that was I told him I had no money. He then replied, "That's no problem either". He then proceeded to put a patch about the size of a fist on the tube, he then found an old tube and made a gaiter for the tyre. While he worked he asked questions and showed great enthusiasm for my pilgrimage. He told me to go to the local radio station in Ennis and tell them about my journey, and perhaps give him and his garage a 'plug'. For the latter reason I was glad to go to the radio station. As the repair seemed successful I hoped it would hold until Bertie arrived. Another God incidence!!
Two miles before coming into Kilrush, I tried without success to find a place to rest for the night. The town was deserted as the people were either at home or in the pubs. Ireland was playing in the quarter finals of the world cup. I tried two or three houses with sheds, and then came to one with a lean-to, which the owner said I could stay in. It was completely open except for the roof, so I hoped it wouldn't rain. My bed was the cement floor, so I tried to make myself as comfortable as possible. The dog belonging to the owner made sure he was a comfortable as possible by lying on top of me! In the morning, as I was packing the truck the owners left without speaking to me.
I couldn't have breakfast as I had no milk, so I started on my way. While walking close to the Shannon, I saw two men drift-netting for salmon, in a boat close to the shore. They appeared interested to see me and when I told them where I'd slept the previous night and didn't have any breakfast, they offered me milk. There was small fire on the foreshore on which they made tea and I had a cup, with some biscuits. I was grateful for the milk, as I still had muesli. I went over to them to give them a leaflet and they called me back and one of them offered me a bundle of punts, which I refused, so they then offered me a salmon. I thanked them for such generosity but couldn't take it as I said I had no means of cooking it. The other man then cut it in two and said someone would cook it for me. A good encounter!
Next midday I passed a grocery store and was going to ask the owner if he would give me a loaf for the half salmon, but changed my mind. Further on I knocked at a farmhouse door and asked the woman who answered if she could cook me two salmon steaks and in exchange for some bread, she could have the rest of the salmon. When they were cooked she gave them to me along with three slices of bread. I felt this was a poor return for the salmon - only three slices of bread. My annoyance was not so much for myself as the boatmen, who had been so generous and would perhaps have expected someone else to show the same generosity.
As I walked on, the road was beautiful with lush growth, and the Shannon looked magnificent from different levels. The heat was sapping my energy from continuous walking uphill. At Kiladysert I lingered for a while as it had old world charm, with many mature trees. About a mile from Ballynacully, a man alighted from his bicycle and as we got chatting, he seemed interested to hear about my travels. He asked me where I was going to sleep that night and I said I was hoping to find a place in Ballynacally. He told me the name of a pub in the village which had sheds at the back, and if I mentioned his name, he was sure I would be all right. I enquired his name before he left and as it was a most peculiar name I had to keep repeating it as I walked into the village.
I remembered his name but when I looked, there were seven pubs and I couldn't remember the name of the pub. I went into the first one to ask if the owner had a shed at the back. He wasn't able to help but suggested the school shelter which I said would be fine, but what would the Garda do if they saw me? He assured me the Garda were never in the village. As I made my way to the school shelter I could hear children shouting in the playground. As I walked into the area, children of all ages came running over to greet me. Was I like the Pied Piper or did they think I was a Punch and Judy man? They gathered round me and all of them seemed to be asking questions at once. I told them where I came from and that I had walked all that distance without money. They wanted to know how people knew I was hungry and I had no answer to that. I moved into the school shelter and they gathered round again, asking me more questions.
When they heard I was going to sleep in the shelter, one four year old sitting beside me asked what would I do if I wanted to do a 'wee wee'. It was such a joyful gathering. Then one child disappeared, to be followed by another and another. In a little while one returned with a bag of sandwiches and an orange. Then another arrived with sandwiches and fruit and a third child brought me similar gifts. I was overwhelmed. These children thought or knew I was hungry and told their parents, who responded by sending me gifts of food. To me this said a lot for the parents, as well as the children. One of the girls who had brought me sandwiches told me she lived in the pub, where I had talked to her father. Then two mothers arrived, one with a spina bifida girl in a wheelchair, and talked to me. Other mothers arrived and we had a good chat about my pilgrimage, and Quakers. The children were noisy and I could hardly hear but the mothers let them enjoy themselves. About ten o'clock they all left and some of the children promised to get up early to see me off. Aoife Griffen, whose father owned the pub and who had brought me sandwiches asked me to write to her when I got home. This I did and addressed it to her but thanking everyone in the village. I called at her father's pub a year later and she showed me my letter which she had pinned to the wall inside the pub.
Before I went to sleep, I thought of that day's events, which was surely one of the most memorable. In the morning, one mother, who lived opposite the shelter, brought me food for my breakfast. When I had gathered up all my gear and was leaving Ballynacally, the children came out to wave. As I waved back, the tears ran down my cheeks. I found a place nearby where I had breakfast and enjoyed the sandwiches I had been given.
In the afternoon I came to the main Ennis to Limerick road and turned left for Ennis. I had promised John Daly, who repaired my tyre, that I would go to the radio station and perhaps be allowed to speak about my journey. My main reason for going however was to give his garage some publicity. By doing this I walked five extra miles and it was two hours before I was back on the road. I didn't think the interviewer at the commercial radio station was very sympathetic and I didn't particularly like his attitude. I thought his questions were not relevant and I may as well be at home with my wife. The interview was taped and was to be broadcast between six and seven p.m. Under the circumstances I didn't bother asking anyone if I could listen, as I was walking to Newmarket-on Fergus.
On the outskirts of the town, an elderly man who was standing at the front of his house, spoke to me and said he had read about me in the Irish Independent, and was quite enthusiastic about what I was doing. He kindly filled my flask and was interested to hear I had slept in the school shelter. I asked if there was a similar place nearby. He said that there was a school and a catholic church a short distance away. When I got there I saw that they were about half a mile from the main road. The school shelter had two large cardboard boxes which had been flattened and would help to cushion me from the cement floor. A mass was being celebrated in the church so I decided to wait in the car park. When it was over some people went to their cars while others hung around. I stood near this group until the priest came out of the church and after speaking to some people, he came over and asked if he could help. I asked his permission to sleep in the school shelter, which he said was fine by him, as long as I was happy sleeping there. We got chatting and he asked me questions about my journey and I shared some of the special moments with him. He told me he had seen me on the road, so I gave him one of my leaflets.
The location of this shelter was entirely different from the one at Ballynacally. It had been in the middle of a village with children and activity all around. This one was in a quiet country area, with few houses about. I made use of the cardboard and spread my sleeping bag on top of it. After I had written a few pages of a letter I noticed two young girls, about ten years of age, looking in the grass beside the playground. I waved at them and they came over and I told them a little about my travels. Apparently one of them had lost her necklace and they were looking for it, which was pretty futile, as it was like looking for a needle in a haystack.
While we were talking, a car came into the playground and two women got out and approached me. I asked the children if these women were teachers at the school but the girls didn't know them. When they were close I asked, "Am I under arrest?". Their answer was no but we are taking you to a B&B. When I said I had no money, they said that wouldn't matter. The B&B was over two miles away and I offered to walk but they insisted on driving me, putting the truck in the car, which made it a tight squeeze for the passengers. While all this activity was going on, the mystery was solved. They explained that Father Butler had rung them to say he wasn't happy about me sleeping in the school shelter and asked if they had a spare room, and if so, to put me up for the night. I was humbled by the kindness and thoughtfulness of Father Rueben Butler who unfortunately I was never able to thank.
When I arrived at this very large bungalow, another woman came out to greet me. Apparently they had been Sisters of Mercy who had retired from teaching in New Zealand. One of the guests was also from New Zealand and by a strange coincidence had been taught by Sister Jane. They were unable to teach in Ireland, so had started this B&B. I was brought in to meet the guests in the lounge, where I was the centre of attention. What a day it had been! One of the Sisters told me that Father Reuben said I was, "Exuding peace and love". I told her I was just an ordinary guy, having ups and downs like everyone else. I was given a bedroom which must have been the equivalent of a four star. Having done my washing I hung the clothes over the shower cabinet.
The next day was going to be the day I looked forward to since I left home; Adeline was coming to meet me in Limerick and I was being 'cosseted' by the nuns. The next morning I sat at the table in the kitchen watching them prepare breakfast; one cooking; one serving and the other one looking after the beverages, while the fourth one looked after the toast. As I sat there with a plate loaded with food, I thought they were so well organised, one would have thought it had been their occupation for years. As the guests were either going to or coming from Shannon Airport, the Sisters were kept busy in their twelve bedroom house. The journey to Limerick would be short, so I waited until they had finished their chores and they had their photos taken with me outside the house. Sister Jane was worried about the strong sun on my balding head, so I wore a little sun hat to keep her happy. I had to move on, so I thanked these kind women and said how much I had enjoyed being with them, to which they replied that they felt privileged.
The road to Limerick was dual carriageway most of the way, with fast traffic which was unpleasant. I walked up a little byroad to have lunch and to get away from the traffic. On the outskirts of Limerick there was a traveller's caravan at the side of the road and when I spoke to the couple inside, they invited me in for tea. They told me they were expecting to be moved to another site.
I met two people in Limerick who said they heard the broadcast from Ennis the previous day. Jo Phillips had told me when I was in Milltown Malby that she had good friends in Limerick, so she rang them and they were looking forward to meeting me. I had to ask for directions to the O'Sullivans as I hadn't been in Limerick since I was young. They lived on the outskirts of Limerick, which was a pleasant rural area. Aiden arrived home from school and made me feel welcome. I was a bit on edge, as I was expecting Adeline, Betty and Bertie to arrive earlier and it was now five o'clock. Aiden told me the road they would be travelling, so I decided to walk to meet them. I walked some distance and then turned and walked back to the house to hear that Adeline had been ringing and that they would soon be there.
It was great to see them when they arrived, later than expected. They hadn't seen my beard of six weeks growth as I hadn't been near a barber, so my appearance would have changed, as also was Betty's - she had her leg in a plaster cast. We just stood talking, interrupting one another and them bringing me up to date with the news from home. We then went out for a meal and it was great to be with Adeline and these good friends. I told them of the great welcome I had been given by the Sisters of Mercy, so I asked Aiden to book a room for Adeline, Betty and Bertie and when they arrived they were welcomed by Sister Jane. She didn't realise who Adeline was until she explained she was Gordon's wife so was then given a special welcome and 'Gordon's room'.
Back at Aiden's, a reporter from the Limerick Herald listened to my story and took photos of myself and the truck. The next morning I had a chat with Clare, Aiden's wife, as he had left to take his son Matthew to school. About ten a.m., Adeline, Betty and Bertie arrived and as Aiden returned, the men started working on the truck. Bertie had brought two new wheels, with tyres and tubes. Bertie and I worked on the wheels and Aiden worked on the handles. The work done, it was as good as new. Aiden drove Karen his daughter, and myself and the truck to Askeaton, followed by Adeline, Betty and Bertie in their car. I left the truck in a grocer's shop, said good-bye to Karen and Aiden, who asked if I would be doing a lap of honour when I returned to Belfast. I appreciate Irish humour! I enjoyed being with this lovely family and was sorry I hadn't seen much of Clare.
We went to Foyne's for lunch and Adeline paid for an ice-cream in a shop, and I would collect it later. We stopped at a lay-by on the way back to Askeaton and I sat on the roadside while Betty sat in the boot of their car to cut my hair. I remarked that I may not be the first person to have walked the coast of Ireland without money, but I would probably be the only man in Ireland who had his hair cut, while sitting in the road by someone sitting the in the boot of a car with her leg in a plaster.
At Askeaton I collected the truck and Adeline bought me some groceries and bread. This was the part I wasn't looking forward to; saying good-bye. I thanked Betty and Bertie for all their kindness. They were my back-up team on my journey, I couldn't have gone much further without tyres. I had a few minutes with Adeline and we said our farewells.
When I got to Glin I called at a priest's house. He told me he was busy and to go back up the road and he would phone some people to ask them to take me in. I was taken into this house, where the man was watching television. His wife seemed quite hostile and asked would I not be better talking to school children back home. After watching television, her daughter offered me a meal and by this time her mother's attitude had changed. Apparently the priest had previously sent them an undesirable character and that was why she was suspicious of another visitor. After my meal I had a bath and my clothes were taken to be washed and dried. I had breakfast with the man George but Mary, his wife didn't rise until it was time to go to Mass. She asked me to wait until she returned. When leaving I gave her my pamphlet and showed her Katie Curran's poems. She confided that she had a terrible addiction to cigarettes and she couldn't break the habit, she was trying 'healing'.
A few miles further on, two men got out of a car to speak to me and we had a good chat. When walking through Ballylongford, these same two men, who were father and son, called me and asked me into the house for a meal. As I had talked to quite a few people, I was delayed from starting off and I was still two miles from Ballybunion. It was now eight p.m., so I decided to go 'shed-hunting'. A farmer who was very pleasant, offered me the use of his hay shed and it was very comfortable. In the morning I had breakfast with him before he started milking and I was on the road at 7.30 a.m. At Causeway I asked a woman to make me one of my packet meals. She brought me to where her husband and father were sitting but they were difficult to converse with, so I left. I decided to eat the meal when I found a quiet place. I had only gone a short distance, when a woman asked me into her house and gave me bread to eat with the stew I had.
After walking another hundred yards, another woman gave me a bottle of beer. I find the Kerry people very kind. Coming into Ballyheige, I decided to walk the peninsula out to Kerry Head, a distance of about twelve miles. It started to rain when only half way there. It got heavier and heavier and I was glad to take shelter in a hut on the roadside. When the rain eased off I decided to make a run for it. A man got out of a minibus and asked if he could help. He offered me a hay shed but it wasn't suitable as three sides were open to the elements. He did though have a smaller shed and I decided to stay for the night. (This is not a game for the faint hearted). I stayed in a hay shed in Blennerville but didn't get much hospitality there. Going on towards Camp, the last village before I would go over the mountain, I asked a woman standing at her door, if she would fill my flask with hot water. She gave me a cereal with toast and marmalade. She then made me sandwiches with cheese and ham, in each o f the eight rounds of bread. I was very thankful for her generosity. As I had lost about three quarters of an hour, I had to get moving and again it started raining and continued while I climbed four miles.
After a couple of miles, the rain eased off and a man working a digger in a field, came over to talk. He was building a house and in the meantime lived in a caravan. He asked me in for tea, so that meant I could keep my sandwiches for later. Even though it rained the mountains looked impressive and the streams were now fast-flowing. On the road to Anascaul, although the rain was heavy, the town looked very nice. Near the coast road there was a deep ravine, with fast-flowing water, and it was strange to see the fields marked out on the hills. It must have taken a long time to construct the coast road, as there were sheer drops of a hundred feet into the sea.
On this road a car stopped and a man got out who told me his house was nearby, if I would like to call for something to eat. They are English folk from Kendal and their large house is a B&B. I walked on for a few more miles and as it was raining, I knocked on the door of a B&B and asked if it was all right to use the hay shed. There were piles of wood, turf and bales of hay and dogs tied in each corner. I could imagine them barking all night but soon a young lad appeared and took them for a walk. When he returned, we chatted for a while and later he brought his father over and he invited me into the house for tea, which included fresh salmon. His wife washed my clothes and next morning after breakfast with them, they gave me sandwiches and a large bag of fruit. I showed Mike, the husband, the Cardinal's book and promised to show it to Eileen in the morning. In the fuss of leaving I forgot, until I was about five miles away. I will go back some day and show it to her.
I had left Dingle peninsula about 9.30 a.m. and got to Castlemaine about three p.m. in the afternoon. Speaking to a woman in a car, she said she had seen me in Connemara a few weeks previously. From Castlemaine it was a very steep climb to Kilorglan. This was a beautiful area with mountains rising abruptly on either side. It rained heavily and slowed my progress - I was putting on and taking off wet gear as the weather changed. In Kilorglan an old lady brought me in for tea and we were joined by two neighbours, who brought me holy water from Lourdes - I am usually sprinkled with this on leaving houses. Kilorglan is where the Puck Fair is held. This is where a goat is put into a cage and carried about. A terrible custom for the poor goat but seemingly they change the goat every day. On leaving Kilorglan a young woman trying to hitch a lift spoke to me, and after reading my posters, told me she had a brother in America who was interested in green politics. She invited me to call at her father's bar in Cahirciveen, about seventeen miles away. About four miles from Kilorglan, the farms were scattered and further in they were becoming scarcer and the ground poor - rushes and bogs. By this time there was just an occasional house. I got to a garage with no door where I stayed, trying to cut the draughts as best I could. I did not get a very good reception here, although the host offered me a pint when I was leaving. I refused and gave him one of my pamphlets.
Wednesday 20th June: I am two miles off Glenbeigh and here met a young Australian cyclist, who has been on the road for fifty days. He was hard up for cash and finding it hard to get farmers who would let him put up his tent. We celebrated by eating a banana each. This was the first time since leaving home that I have been able to give as I have received.
It is now 6.30 p.m. and I am in a hay shed between Cahirciveen and Waterville. It didn't stop raining until I was on the outskirts of Cahirciveen at 2.30 p.m. This was a spectacular walk, with a constant climb for five miles. For a few miles the road was carved out of the cliff edge and although it was raining, I could appreciate the wonderful landscape. I have noticed in the peninsula that the farms are all laid back from the road, the lanes being half a mile long, so that no farms are on the roadside. The rain had slackened a little and I decided to eat. Passing a flashy bungalow, I called and asked for hot water for my flask. A German woman answered the door and kept me on the doorstep while she filled the flask. On trying to make tea, I discovered the water wasn't hot enough. Two negative experiences this morning!
What kept me going was the thought of getting to Cahirciveen, which turned out to be a long busy town, with the pub I was looking for at the far end. When I arrived, the young woman I had already met, welcomed me and asked if I would like a drink. I said I would rather have tea. This was a large fry and on leaving, I was given wheaten bread and fruit and an address of someone a mile back. On going back I found the house deserted, so I pushed on to where I am between Cahirciveen and Waterville.
Friday 22nd June: A different and exciting day compared to Thursday, which was overshadowed by threatening rain. As I left Waterville the road was hilly and the houses getting scarce. I realised I had forgotten to get my flask filled and called at two houses with no luck; but at the third a pleasant woman filled my flask and gave me two scones and a tea bag. After that there was a steady four or five mile climb to the summit, where I could see Bear peninsula and Waterville. The view was breathtaking. I came upon a large parking area for coaches and cars and there was a large statue of the Virgin Mary, surrounded by a three foot wall with an opening for closer inspection. As there was a strong wind blowing, I decided to go into this enclosure to eat lunch. I was hungry, as it had taken me two hours to do no more than four or five miles. I have a system for eating - the cool box is left on the truck, as one day when I took it off, the truck fell over with the weight of the rucksack. The bag containing my sleeping bag and blanket is used for a seat in front of the cool box, so I can pick and choose what I am going to eat and use the top as a table. While I was in this position, with my back to the enclosed wall, a bus load of tourists arrived armed with video and ordinary cameras. They were eager to get a picture of the Virgin Mary, but didn't want this Irish tramp munching in the background!
On the gradual descent to Caherdaniel I saw a beautiful cove which I thought I would photograph. On closer inspection I could see it was crowded with caravans almost down to the water's edge. It was impossible to get a photo of the cove without the caravans spoiling the view. There were three men in an electricity van reading my boards, so I spoke to them and asked could they spare a little milk. They hadn't any but gave me cheese, biscuits and a jar of Bovril. I was now past the caravan site about a mile when I met an elderly man wearing a blue hat and short trousers. He was from Dublin and curious to know about me. He invited me back to meet his wife. We met her out looking for him as he had been out for quite a while. He was eighty-seven and she was seventy-nine and their caravan about twenty years old. Peggy, his wife, made me a meal and they both asked me to stay the night in a large tent beside their caravan. It was full of his fishing gear and an engine for their boat; but had a camp bed which was quite comfortable. Peggy gave me home-made marmalade and sardines when leaving and people from a neighbouring touring van came over and gave me biscuits and fruit - I had been in their van the previous evening for a chat. They were from Dunmurry, near Belfast. Alfie, the eighty-seven year old, walked with me part of the way when I left and said they had both enjoyed meeting me.
I had travelled only a short distance when I met a man called Vincent O'Leary and he invited me to his home. He said he had seen me at different times on the road and thought I was a pleasant chap, as I seemed to be enjoying myself. When he asked me where I was going to spend the night, I said it was in the lap of the gods, so he gave me the address of a pub where they had plenty of sheds where I could sleep. After leaving him I went on my way to Sneem, which won an award for cleanliness some years ago. It was a pretty village but I didn't like the monstrosity of modern art in stainless steel in the village square. The road to Kenmare was beautifully, thickly wooded, with glimpses of the sea. There were large estates and a Great Southern Hotel. The traffic was busy and as the roads were hilly and twisting, I was continually crossing, because of blind corners.
At the pub, I found the owner was away at a wedding, and the barman couldn't give me permission to stay. At a nearby farmhouse, an old lady opened the door and told me I was welcome, if the hay shed was suitable. This was open on three sides and filled with junk. She called her grandson to help me lift the truck over the wire to the shed. Then she called us and said there was a shed nearer the house, which was more secure. She gave me tea and we watched television. Her grandson was in an adjoining caravan, entertaining. Mrs Wharton gave me some food to take with me, as she would not be up in the morning when I was leaving. Her grandson came in to say good-bye and brought me tinned soup, beans, cheese and a large packet of Rice Krispies, which would hardly fit into the cool box. These poor people are so generous that I am on a high.
There was a strong wind on my back going towards Kenmare, a traditionally Irish town which I liked. Crossing the bridge over the lough, was like going through a wind tunnel and I had difficulty holding on to the truck. On the road beside the lough I was protected from the wind by heavily wooded areas which made travelling up the hill slightly easier. The rain was intermittent, so I decided to lunch under a trailer parked at the roadside, to protect me from the rain. I decided to push on and had only gone a short distance, when a car pulled up and a woman who had been in a shop in Kenmare and was now going to visit her daughter, gave me a large bar of chocolate. She had hoped she might see me on the road but if I had stayed another minute under the trailer, she would have missed me. A God incident?
The rain eased off and the occasional glimpses of the sun were beautiful. This was a small road, which skirted the sea and had a sheer drop of over a hundred feet into the sea. On coming to a junction, harbour and pub, a man pulled up in a car and as I see so many people, I didn't realise it was Vincent O'Leary. He wanted to know how I had got on at the pub he had recommended, so I told him I hadn't stayed there as the owner was away, but at a nearby farm. He introduced me to his wife and daughter and I told him I hoped to travel another four or five miles. He gave me the address of people called Lynch, who might put me up. He bought me a drink and a bar of chocolate - two bars in one day! I still have the one Adeline bought me in Askeaton and am keeping it for a special occasion.
The next part of the journey was through large trees on both sides of the road, and a deep ravine with fast flowing water. I have noticed as I walk around areas like this, that when coming to lakes thinking they are completely enclosed, I find they are estuaries of the sea. After about three miles, I arrived at the Lynch's to discover it was a B&B. The young woman who opened the door said she didn't know O'Leary but perhaps her husband did. She showed me a shed which would have suited me but as she had no guests, I could have a room. She made me supper and I had a bath. I didn't like to impose on her too much, so had a small breakfast but asked if I could take my two rounds of brown bread with me. These I wrapped up in a napkin.
Although my journey is not a tourist guide and there are many interesting books describing places of beauty and interest, I am not unaware of the beauty around me. My eyes dance from one object of interest to another. A few days ago, when I was in Tralee, I saw a sign saying 65 km to Kenmare and that seemed a long way off. During that time I was never bored, while possibly I could have, if travelling by car. On my travels what is uppermost is the will to survive. I use up so much energy pushing the truck, that I am hungry about every two hours. I try to discipline myself as to when I eat and how much. I ration out biscuits - one or two at each meal and a brown loaf bought for me in Askeaton, lasted eight days. I had to pick the blue mould out of the heels, but I enjoyed them. People are very generous at giving me a meal but don't seem to realise that bread, which is very cheap here (there is a bread war going on), is very important to me. They offer me a punt, which would buy me three loaves but when I refuse, they don't offer me a loaf. Perhaps they think it would be insulting.
I left the B&B after 9 a.m. to walk to Ardgroom, which is a small village. I was fascinated to see a holly tree growing inside the window of a pub. The roots were inside and the foliage was blocking out the light from outside. As I left the village I remembered I hadn't posted a letter, so I kept moving until I reached the next village, which was Eyeries and was half a mile off the road. I asked two council men to keep an eye on my truck until I got back from the post office. I was leaving it at the corner but they told me to move it further down the road and I talked to them for a while. This was a lovely little village. When I returned from posting the letter, the truck had bollards on either side of it!
The next part of the journey was a steady four mile rise to the summit (as I thought), going round the coast road to Allihies. When I got to the summit, there was a steep descent for six miles. It was like a switch-back railway which never levelled out and it took five hours to do ten miles. This was the worst journey yet and when a car stopped and gave me a bottle of Ballygowan water, I was very grateful. A French couple stopped after that and gave me a packet of biscuits and an apple. When I got into Allihies I knocked on a door for hot water and like a man previously, he first of all refused, as he said it would mean putting on a kettle. However as I was about to leave, this man said, "It would mean you'll have to wait". I thanked him and said, "Of course". He then asked if I needed milk and gave me a litre and a brown loaf. My spirits were raised at his generosity.
After I left, I decided to look for somewhere to sleep, even though I had only travelled twenty miles but it was the hardest day so far. Before I finished talking to the man at the next farm, he showed me a shed with stalls for six cows and in the corner was a boxed area about five feet square and two and a half feet high. To get into this pen, I had to crawl through a small door. There was plenty of straw and I put the sleeping bag diagonally corner to corner. He called me when tea was ready and this consisted of bacon joint, corned beef and a variety of bread. After tea he said I could watch television, but I preferred to go to the beach to paddle. The last time I was in the sea was at Corrymeela and I remembered how emotional I was then, I was wound up with physical and mental strain. Now I feel so contented and nothing upsets me as I know things will turn out all right. Before I left his house, I told Timothy Kelly that I would come into the house at nine p.m. to see the news and before that I would be writing a letter in the shed. He brought me some newspapers to read and a large coat belonging to himself in case I was cold. Then he was up in the morning to give me breakfast.
When Looking for a place to stay, I come across four categories of people:
1. Don't open the door
2. Tell me to go away through the closed door
4. Lonely people who are glad of the company
Timothy Kelly would be in the fourth category. He was a very generous man about seventy years of age. He told me that when he was at school there were 230 pupils and now there are only nineteen children in the area. The place is dying and there are houses for sale everywhere and some derelict. The Beara peninsula has the lowest population in Ireland. I said good-bye at about 9 a.m. as I knew I was going to have a stiff climb to get over the mountain to Castletownbere. As I climbed, the mist got thicker and I felt I was up in the clouds. After numerous stops, I reached the summit and about a hundred yards down the other side, was a large parking area with picnic tables. I could see as far as the next telegraph pole and that was all. I felt cheated after the effort I'd made to get to the top. The descent was not enjoyable, with heavy rain and no visibility - these mists must come in from the sea very often.
Tuesday 23rd June: Thirteen miles from Castletownbere I stopped at a pub and the woman I spoke to said it would be all right to use the hay shed, then her husband showed me a cleaner store, which I refused as I preferred the hay, which makes a good bed and I am used to sleeping rough. After they gave me a meal, he talked to me. People in Kerry and this part of Cork are curious about Quakers and this man was no exception. I told him about our peace testimony and how we believe there is that of God in everyone, about the work we are doing at the Maze and how Quakers are the only religious body accepted by both communities. After our conversation, he asked me if there was anything I needed and when I asked for hot water and a little milk, he took my containers away with him. He came back and brought me to adjoining premises to a house with a self-contained flat, so I moved from the hayshed to the flat and had a good night's sleep. I left a note thanking the O'Sullivans for their hospitality and for leaving milk and hot water outside the flat.
The sun was shining and everything looked so different after the previous day's rain. The sea in Bantry Bay was a beautiful blue. It was a steady climb in the Glengarriff mountains, then another view of Bantry Bay and I was on the outskirts of the town of Glengarriff. As I walked past a number of parked cars, two men got out to read my signs. They asked me a few questions one of which was, "Do you think what you are doing is going to make any difference to the environment?". I said that it probably wouldn't as what I was doing was only a symbolic gesture; that I can look back on my life to this time when I was walking gently on the earth. By this time one of them was walking away and the other said, "It's all a lot of nonsense what you're doing". As I walked away, a young lad who was standing holding a bicycle, walked along with me and said, "Don't let those men annoy you, because I know what you said was right". I told him it did not worry me when old people show little interest but the young know what is happening to the planet; it is the old ones who have got us into this mess so don't be looking to them to get us out of it. He sat with me while I had something to eat. I gave him one of my leaflets and he asked for my address so I hoped he might write to me.
I saw a postman and asked him if he knew where Jennifer Knight lived. He was able to give precise directions. I was to go out the Kenmare Road for a mile and take a left turn at the hostel sign. I strolled round Glengarriff and looked at the buildings of interest. The houses had lovely gardens with lots of colour and other interesting aspects. After walking about half a mile I saw a sign for the hostel and also the postman standing beside his van. He said he had forgotten about this sign and was afraid I might take the wrong road. I thanked him and thought it was a nice gesture to wait for me. The next sign would have been about one mile from Glengarriff and would have taken me too far.
The lane up to Jennifer Knight's house was so steep and rough, I had to leave the truck and go for help to get up the remaining hundred yards. Jennifer and John were English and had lived in this house for about a year. John could only get labouring work with the District Council and was poorly paid. I don't think Jennifer had a job. The house was well decorated inside and out, as that was John's trade. He couldn't get work in Glengarriff as the local painters and decorators wouldn't accept him and no-one would give him work. I was sad to hear this as they were good people who had left Thatcher's England because there was no such thing as community. It was strange that they should find very little community spirit in this part of Ireland. When I heard their circumstances, I felt guilty eating their food and left the next morning with only a light breakfast. They loved living in Ireland but I wondered how long they could cope with two young children in these circumstances.
I had to go back through Glengarriff. Now the brightly painted houses didn't impress me. I hoped that the painters and decorators would show generosity and allow my friend John to make use of his skills. On the outskirts of this town I met a young priest who was home from the Cameroons. He thought an environmental issue might bring the two communities together up north. I didn't know what he had in mind. I took a slide of Glengarriff bay this beautiful morning and think it one of the best of my travels.
My host for this night was Arethusia who lived in a large estate about halfway to Bantry. At a Quaker gathering a few months previously, she invited me to stay at her home. This was going to be an easy walk of no more than ten to seventeen miles, so I decided to have long rests, write some letters and appreciate the scenery. I was doing just that, when a woman who was in her garden spoke to me and asked what I was 'about'. We got talking and she was interested in my journey; asking me pertinent questions. She knew about the help Quakers gave during the potato famine and invited me in for something to eat. I thanked her and said I would be happy enough with some milk, which she gave me.
I moved on to a quiet spot where I enjoyed a dish of muesli. This I feel is the most nourishing food I could eat, crushed grains of cereal, dried fruit and nuts - just raw energy. I feel that lots of nutrition is lost in the cooking process. So muesli is an essential part of my diet before and after my day's walking. I intended writing a few letters when I had finished eating but dark clouds were approaching and there was no shelter, so I decided to move on. Wet gear had to be worn as the rain was quite heavy but it didn't last very long. Some men building a wall along the side of the road invited me to come into their hut for shelter. I enjoyed talking to them and they asked me some questions about my journey. They were impressed that I had existed from Belfast with no money in my pocket. It seemed to me that when I told people I had no money, they wanted to give me something or respond to my needs. I think that would also have applied to Peace Pilgrim.
When the rain eased off I decided to move on and said good-bye to the workmen. The weather improved and I stopped at the side of the road to start letter writing. In a short while a man got off his bicycle and came over to talk to me, while his young son stayed on the other side of the road. Perhaps he saw my signs on the truck, which made him curious to know what I was about. He was a doctor at the local hospital and was on call. His wife, who was at home, would be 'bleeped' and he would return to the hospital, as she knew where to find him. I discovered later that he was an anaesthetist, who came originally from Coleraine and had been educated at Queens. I was invited to his home the following day to have afternoon tea. This was a pleasant encounter, as I enjoyed his company.
I moved on about a mile to look for a more private place to have my lunch. An ideal place was found in an old part of the road which had been by-passed, and had a hedge screening me partly from the traffic on the road. I had more muesli and drank the remainder of the milk. My supply of bread had run out, luckily I had some biscuits. I wrote most of the afternoon until I heard someone call my name from the road. It was the doctor returning from Glengarriff where he had been visiting friends.
I moved on to Arethusia's home, which had an impressive entrance, with a high stone wall on either side skirting the road. Richard Harrison, a Cork Friend, was there to greet me. The main house no longer exists (a major fire) and Arethusia's home was originally the wardens or estate manager's house. Her aunt lived in a caravan in the grounds and invited us in for tea. She had a home in England and lived there during the winter. The estate stretched down to the sea at Bantry Bay and I was impressed by the magnificent trees; some of them could have been planted three to four hundred years ago. After a while Richard and I went to Arethusia's flat, (half the house is divided for renting) and had a nice evening meal. About 9 p.m. Ralph Doak, another Cork Friend, who is in charge of Bantry House where Arethusia works, rang and invited me to his home to stay the following night. Richard left for Bantry, as the light was failing and he was cycling home. I helped to dry the dishes before retiring to a cara van close by.
Friday 29th June: I had breakfast in the caravan and washed some clothes. As it was raining, I put the wet clothes in a plastic bag on top of the truck, hoping the weather would improve along the road to Bantry. I stopped at Arethusia's aunt's caravan to say good-bye and she gave me bread, butter and a selection of fruit, which I appreciated very much. It was a hard pull up the lane out of the estate, wearing wet gear. The rain was heavy and continuous all the way to Bantry. One good thing about the road was there were no hills and the surface was very level. Even though it was raining I was feeling good, as I'd had a good night's sleep and an easy day on Thursday.
After some time I saw a signpost: Bantry eight miles. I knew there would be no encounters in these wet conditions, so I decided to 'step on the gas' to see how long it would take to get to Bantry. I saw very little to interest me, as I was concentrating on 'breaking the sound Barrier' to Bantry. The eight miles took two hours exactly, which pleased me. Bantry seemed to be a pleasant town and I noticed interesting features on some of the buildings. It was easy to find 'Earth Watch', (Irish equivalent of 'Friends of the Earth') and I was glad to see Richard Harrison again. I think he had told some of the staff about me, as most of them greeted me. I enjoyed listening to and seeing the different projects, with which these people were involved.
I had taken off my wet gear in the shop and discovered all my inside clothes were damp with
perspiration, after my record breaking jaunt. Arethusia worked in Bantry House, so I decided to see if she could find me a suitable place to change. This she did and told me to have a shower, after which I felt fully revived.
Ralph Doak welcomed me and I had a look around the the place and a free lunch. The place is steeped in history; as it was in Bantry Bay the French ships foundered in the 'Ninety-Eight' rebellion. The house, which is a sort of museum, has living accommodation for guests. Arethusia made use of the laundry and got my clothes washed and dried.
It was still raining when I left Bantry House to find Dr David Dixon's home. I was made welcome by his wife, two sons and mother-in-law (eighty-six and very deaf). After coffee and scones we chatted until 4.45 p.m. when David had to leave for a hospital call. I left with him but without the truck, as I wanted to have a look around Bantry and do a reconnaissance of the walk to Ralph Doak's house, so that I could go there directly, when I had the truck. When I arrived back at the Dixon's and thanked them for their kindness, David presented me with a large brown loaf he had baked while I was away. I was deeply moved by his kindness. I had a form of communion with him each time I had a meal eating his bread. Even though he wasn't there, I felt he was with me in spirit. When walking through Bantry with the truck, on my way to Ralph's, I thought I owed my encounter with Dr David Dixon to the signs on my truck. A God Instance.
Patricia, Ralph's wife, greeted me as he was still working. I felt good to be with them and their family. It was a happy home and I enjoyed a nice meal of cockles and rice, cooked by Ralph. We enjoyed some of the bread that was given to me.
Saturday 30th June: As I walked through Bantry, which looked beautiful in the morning sunshine, everything appeared so fresh after the previous day's rain. The road led along to the sea front with a good wall and footpath. I remarked to someone in Bantry that the footpaths were the best I had come across in my travels. There was a steep hill out of Bantry and I stopped at a large hotel to get a second wind. I did not realise until later that the hotel was used for Meeting for Worship by Bantry Friends on the first and third Sundays of each month. About half a mile further on I veered right to keep to the coast road. The first village was Durras, which seems to be busy and prosperous. I then skirted the coast at different places, Dunmanus Bay looked particularly beautiful.
A few miles on in the late afternoon, I stopped to have a meal by the roadside. This was to be a meal that was a sort of celebration; a watershed in my journey. Since I left Belfast nearly two months ago, I often thought of my aunt, who was very ill when I last saw her. I knew that if anything happened to her, I would have to go back to Belfast. The problem would be for someone trying to find me. I thought of the peninsulas of Donegal and Kerry and all the little inlets I had skirted. Now the journey home was clear to see on the map and each day I would be getting nearer home. For this special event I had saved little delicacies that had been given to me. I was often tempted to open a small tin of lobster given to me in Sligo. (I wondered how many miles it had travelled with me). There was a small bottle of wine from Mayo, fruit cake from Clare and a small tin of peaches and bread from Bantry. It was a meal to remember and I tried to think of all the people who supported and gave me sustenance.< /P>
After a few miles I reached the south coast and asked a passer-by to take a photo of me standing at a signpost. Mizen Head was just a few miles away and Skull, where I was to stay that night, even nearer. It was a delightful walk around the coast, with a light sea breeze and the sun shining from a clear blue sky. I saw a piebald donkey, with a similar coloured foal, in the field by the roadside. When I arrived at Valerie Morgan's house in Skull, I hoped that she had not a meal prepared for me. The rich meal I had eaten a few hours previously, would have been enough until breakfast.
Brendan, her five year old son, greeted me and asked me out to see his pet donkey. It was piebald like the one I saw earlier and he told me that the one in the field was also the mother of his donkey. Valerie had lived in England most of her life but came to Ireland a few years ago. Her home was being renovated, so that she could have guests and I'm sure she had enough to contend with apart from me. The television was switched on and I had to watch a world cup football match in which I was not particularly interested, so I was glad to shell peas as I watched. The meal was just being prepared, so I enjoyed it and had a good night's sleep. Valerie belonged to Cork Meeting but she attended Bantry Meeting as their numbers were small. As the next day was Sunday, I looked forward to seeing my F/friends again.
Sunday July 1st: After breakfast, Valerie drove to Bantry by an inland road, although I was sorry I wasn't on the coast road, as there were places I would have liked to see again. We went over hilly passes, where the view was superb and I was shown Brendan's school. We gathered wild flowers from the roadside for Meeting for Worship and arrived fifteen minutes late at the hotel. At the end of Meeting Rowland Rostron and Gwen invited me to their home outside Clonakilty on Tuesday afternoon. I had a short conversation with Gwen, who sat in a wheelchair during Meeting. She had cancer of the bones and thought she hadn't long to live. We didn't talk for long but I was happy to be in the presence of this serene and lovely woman. I looked forward to being with her away from the activity of Friends around me.
It was nice to see Friends who I had been with on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, at Meeting for Worship, as it was like a family gathering. We had chocolate roll, coffee or tea in the hotel. The management give Friends this room free of charge. I don't know who paid for the refreshments, I know I didn't. We drove back to Skull to make sandwiches for a picnic at Mizen Head. Valerie rang the keeper of the lighthouse and arranged to have a tour of the premises. It was a lovely coastal drive to Mizen Head but the lighthouse keeper wasn't pleased because we were late getting there. However he gave an interesting tour and knew of my pilgrimage. One of the photos that I took in this area really impressed me, as it shows a chasm in the giant rock-face stretching down to the sea and the colouring of the rocks resembles the Grand Canyon.
On the way home we stopped in Goleen, a small village close to Mizen. I intended to call at Jim O'Meara's brother's shop and pub. He wasn't at home but I spoke to his daughter and told her I was a friend of her uncle. Jim and myself are part of a small group in Belfast called the 'Clean Seas Group' which is primarily concerned with pollution of the Irish Sea from Sellafield. One member of our group took an active part in monitoring the fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
We came back to Valerie's house for our evening meal and Brendan and I gathered drift wood to burn in the open fire in the living room. Later her neighbour came in and we had a good chat. Before I went to sleep that night I realised that this was the second Sunday of my pilgrimage I had rested. The other time was at Portstewart, when I was in bad shape. How different I was now, strong in body and positive in mind. It was a memorable day and I was thankful.
Monday July 2nd: Brendan's birthday. I had a bar of chocolate for him (widow's mite!). I didn't remember who gave it to me but I'm sure they would not mind my giving it to a young lad for his birthday. His mother, who was so kind and generous to me, was plying me with gifts and provisions. I knew she had limited means but as I have said before; 'the people who have least are the most generous'. I said good-bye to Valerie and Brendan and hoped she would have lots of guests in her B&B.
I was late getting on the road but wasn't worried as I had only a short journey to Skibbereen. About five miles from Skull is the town of Ballydehob, a thriving place with lots of interesting shops. I met Max Goodbody coming out of one of these stores. I had called with him the previous morning in Skull and was sorry to hear his wife had fallen downstairs. A young lad on a bicycle dismounted and walked with me. Again it was noticeable that there was an affinity with people who were using muscle power, be they walkers, runners or cyclists. He was impressed to hear of the distance I had travelled and wished me good luck.
For lunch that day I enjoyed Valerie's sandwiches by the roadside. About four miles from Skibbereen I saw four telecom vans parked at the side of the road and a lot of activity around them. There were people with cameras, a television camera and thirty to forty cyclists on racing bikes. They were mostly standing in small groups but as I approached, some of them moved in my direction to see this bearded man with a truck and all the paraphernalia on it. In no time I was surrounded by these guys, who asked me questions and were interested in my journey. Their favourite expression was, 'fair play to you'. When I asked them what they were doing, they said they had cycled from Mizen Head to Malin Head and back in four days. The vans had followed them with food and provisions. One of the cyclists said there was some food left in the vans and asked if I would like it. I thanked him and said I would be grateful. He arrived back with large bags of potato crisps, a bag of mixed fruit and a bag of biscuits. A reporter interviewing the group asked me to call at the newspaper office in Skibbereen. I enjoyed being with those men and they were full of enthusiasm for my effort. I told them I always experienced generosity from telecom and electricity men working on the road.
There was a wide river in full flow which ran alongside the road almost to Skibbereen. On the way there I was able to share my groceries with children, who must have thought I was 'Santa Claus'. The truck looked more like a mobile grocery store on two wheels. I found the Southern Star newspaper office and liked the journalist who interviewed me. I shared most of the food with the staff and just kept some fruit for myself. Most of the newspapers are weekly publications, so I could have been in the next county or many miles away before they were being issued.
While sitting on the roadside writing up my diary, Valerie and Brendan appeared. She gave me a pair of socks and a tooth brush. I could only say thank you to this kind and thoughtful woman. Before I left home, twenty-five Quakers and nine non-Friends had offered me hospitality. When I stayed in some of these houses, friends would make arrangements with someone they knew who lived near the coast and I would be passed on to them. Back in Bantry, Ralph Doak told me I would be welcome at a garden centre in Skibbereen, owned by friends of his. This overnight stop was arranged en route. The centre was owned by Rainne Chase and her husband Bill, who was in England buying gardening produce. Rainne made me welcome and gave me a nice vegetarian meal. For sleeping accommodation I was offered a large tent in the middle of the centre; a room in the house; or a new garden shed. I chose the garden shed as I was able to bring my truck inside. When Rainne asked if everything was all right, I thanked her and said I would be quite comfortable. She told me she wasn't an early riser and as I liked to have an early start, she asked me would I mind making my own breakfast. I said it would be no trouble and I was brought into the kitchen to see where everything was stored. I asked for a key of the front door and was told, "The door is never locked". I had another problem as the entrance to the garden centre had two large farm gates and I realised I would not be able to lift the truck over them when closed. She replied again, "They are never closed". I couldn't believe that a woman living by herself would go to bed with an unlocked door and an unlocked entrance to the garden centre which had a wide range of expensive plants. She said the people of West Cork are honest! I thought of the robberies, burglaries and muggings at home. It must be wonderful to live with none of these worries.
Tuesday 3rd July: The garden shed was not a good choice. There were a lot of glass windows and the flooring had gaps, allowing cold air to penetrate my sleeping bag. I found pieces of cardboard and laid them on top of the floor, which helped a little but there was still a cold atmosphere due to so much glass. I enjoyed my breakfast and before leaving, left a note thanking Rainne for all her kindness. As I walked through Skibbereen I thought how wonderful it would be if I could live without worries of security like Rainne Chase.
Judging by my map, Clonakilty was about fifteen miles away. It was going to be an easy walk to get there for 3 p.m. to meet Rowland Rostron, who was going to take me in his car to visit his wife Gwen. I was enjoying the fresh morning air and at times the road was quite close to the sea, at other times I appreciated the shade in the wooded areas, as the sun was shining from a cloudless sky. The road goes over an estuary and I lingered, watching the fast flowing water at Leap. This was a very beautiful area, the village having old world charm which appeals to me.
I had a long lunch break, a short nap and brought my diary up to date. It was now coming up to 2 p.m. and I saw a signpost; five kilometers to Clonakilty which would be slightly more than three miles. This was going to be an easy walk. However after some distance, at a cross-roads, the sign said six kilometers to Clonakilty. This was quite annoying, either I had mis-read the previous sign or the council was at fault. Either way, I was going to have a problem getting to Rowland on time. I jogged most of the way and arrived five minutes late. I never worked out the m.p.h. but it must have been a lot faster than the journey to Bantry. Rowland was waiting for me and had arranged to have my truck left in a house nearby. When I arrived at their home I was disappointed to see that there were four other visitors and Gwen was sitting in a room with them. I only spoke to her for a short time and felt that she was sorry that we couldn't have more time together. Our encounter at Meeting for Worship in Bantr y was more memorable. One of the guests offered me a lift back to Clonakilty which I accepted, as I thought it would ease the burden on Rowland.
I retrieved my truck and soon was on the road to Timoleague, with lots of hills to tax my strength. After some miles I asked two men who were chatting, if they knew where Barry Hall was? They told me to turn right about a mile before Timoleague. This was to be another stop arranged en route. Way back in Mayo, when I stayed with Russell Poole, he told me that his uncle Desmond, Margaret his wife and family, lived on a farm at Timoleague. He said he thought they would give me shelter. I don't know if he contacted them when I was with him or at a later date.
I arrived at one of the cottages on their farm, which had just been renovated, to find a note and a key for the door. When inside I saw a letter addressed to me from Margaret, welcoming me and saying she would call later. I made myself a light meal before Margaret arrived with Katie, who had lived with the family for a number of years. They brought bread, milk and cereal for my breakfast in the morning. I cannot remember if the cottage was to be let for summer visitors or if one of Margaret's sons was going to live in it. The renovation work was first class, with new doors and windows fitted. I could see the whole cottage needed decorating and painting, which could take two or three days to complete. I proposed to do this work if Margaret would feed me.
It was like a barter system or the 'Hiring Fairs' in Ireland. Margaret was hiring me for three days. I thought of this idea because my son David was flying from London to Cork and was going to walk with me for three days. I knew by the map, that if I kept walking, Cork would be reached in two days and also I liked this part of Cork. I also thought David might like to stay in the cottage and meet this family.
The deal was clinched without the customary 'spit on the hand' and handshake. I had a good night's sleep in a cosy bedroom. After breakfast I commenced painting this bedroom and had it finished for lunch time. During the morning Desmond called. We had a good chat and he told me to come up to the house for lunch about 1 p.m. I enjoyed a good meal and it was nice to be with the family. The two boys worked on the farm and I was interested in the farm talk. I was given 'eats' for my evening meal and breakfast. About 10 o'clock I had finished painting the living room and went for a short walk.
The following morning I rose early and walked down to the village before breakfast. Then I painted all the windows in the living room and kitchen and brushed and cleaned the cottage. Again I was invited to lunch with the Batemans, to enjoy another good meal. I said to Margaret that I would like to go for a long walk, as I didn't take any exercise the previous day. She suggested I visit some of her friends five or six miles away and drew me a map. I must have taken a wrong turning as I didn't find her friends. However I walked about fourteen miles and enjoyed the countryside. After tea Desmond and Margaret were going to Clonakilty to the installation of their new Methodist Minister and they asked if I would like to go. I gladly accepted as the painting of the cottage was nearly finished. The Minister had been with the church for some time, not as I thought, just arrived. There are two Methodist Churches in Clonakilty. The Presbyterian Church closed some years previous and is now a post office. I met some interesting people at this gathering and was made welcome. The hot pancakes and cakes were very enjoyable.
After breakfast I brought the truck down to the house, as Margaret had volunteered to drive me to Cork airport to meet David. She would then leave us in Kinsale so that we could walk back to the cottage. On Saturday morning she would leave us in Kinsale again and we would walk to Cork. This doesn't sound very environmentally friendly but I wanted David to see Kinsale and I wanted to complete my coastal walk.
It was good to see David but it was a shame it was raining. As the airport was on the Kinsale side of Cork, it didn't take long to get there. We took the truck out of the van as Margaret was returning to Timoleague. As it was still raining we took shelter under a large trailer where we ate our lunch. Luckily David had wet gear in his rucksack, so we decided to make our way back to the cottage. Even though it was raining, I was aware of the beauty of the area. At Ballinspittle we were curious to know why there was a gigantic block of toilets in such a small village. David asked a passer-by and was told that a few years ago a young woman had seen a vision of the Virgin Mary under a tree (and pointed to it). Thousands of people came over a long period, hence the large block of toilets.
It was good to have company as I walked and even better when it was my son. I told him some of my adventures and the kindness of the people I had met. We were in Timoleague in the late afternoon and I asked David to buy a jar of coffee, as I had been drinking tea since I had left home. He also bought chocolate ices which were a treat. It was marvellous to have my eating craves satisfied. At the cottage Margaret had left a full cooked chicken, cabbage and about four pounds of potatoes, so we had an enjoyable meal. There was also bread, milk and cooked ham left in the fridge.
After dinner David washed the dishes, while I painted the bathroom. He then went down to the farm to meet the family. While he was away Desmond called, as he was out looking at the sheep and David met him later. When I had finished painting, we both went into the village for a drink which we both enjoyed.
Saturday 7th July: After breakfast we went down to Barry Hall to say good-bye to the Bateman family. I really enjoyed this part of my pilgrimage as I was so generously treated. It seemed a long time since I had arrived and I felt I had imposed myself on them. Margaret was pleased with my work at the cottage, so I hoped that was compensation in a small way. We said good-bye to Margaret after she had driven us to Kinsale again and this time we were walking to Cork. We added about five or six miles to the journey by walking to Charles Fort. There were a lot of steep hills and I was glad to have David's help. He carried a rucksack for his wet gear and other clothing. We tried to tie this onto the truck without success. At Charles Fort there was a good vantage point overlooking Kinsale harbour. We were appalled by the ugliness of a row of houses (flats) spoiling the view of the harbour. It seems that some people do not want to see a nice view; they want to be part of it.
On the road to Belgooly, I saw lots of delicious ripe cherries growing in the hedge, so we kept some for Ita and Larry Southard in Cork. A few miles further on we stopped in a nice wooded area, with a slow moving river and neatly cut grass at the edge of the brook. We sat there and enjoyed a good lunch. There was lots of wild life in the river and we had a good rest. The weather was dull and cloudy when we set out earlier but now the sun was shining and everything looked fresh after the rain of the previous day.
A few miles further on David bought me a drink at an old farmhouse pub, although I know there is only one thing to quench the thirst and that is water. There was a shop nearby, so David bought some food for a meal in the afternoon. After a road junction, there was a steady climb for two or three miles (it seemed to be endless) and again I was glad of David's help. We decided we would have a rest when we got to a lay-by at the top of the hill. Our reward for pushing up that gradient was that it was all downhill to Cork. We had a light snack and soon we were on our way. The truck just 'flew' down this long hill into Cork.
The directions for the railway station were not clear so we found ourselves back tracking. By this time David was exhausted and at intervals lagged behind. I remembered the time as a young lad when he would lag behind when we were out walking, and ask me to carry him. Now he was 6'-2" ; sixteen stone and a marathon runner. I knew this type of walking is demanding and pushing the truck up a steep hill saps the energy. Perhaps we could have done without walking around Charles Fort in Kinsale.
We located the station and rang Larry Southard, who arrived in his van and brought us back to his home, where Ita greeted us. After a shower and a change of clothes, David and I were feeling refreshed and enjoyed a lovely meal and later we settled into comfortable chairs to enjoy the company. Larry and Ita questioned us about the journey from Timoleague and how I managed from Belfast. Larry, who is American and Ita who is Irish, have their own land surveying business in Cork. David graduated in Civil Engineering and did a PhD in energy conservation and environmental studies, so there was lots of interaction between them. They then stopped talking and there was a 'quiet period'. Larry then asked David what made him 'tick' asking him questions about his spiritual beliefs, as the conversation became more serious. It was good to be with these two Friends and I looked forward to going to Cork Meeting with them on Sunday.
Sunday 8th July: When I came downstairs, Larry made me coffee and we had a deep spiritual talk which meant a lot to me. This was David's first time in a Quaker meeting for Worship and I was glad he found a bible near him to read, if he found the silence hard to cope with. It was a good Meeting and we both liked Larry's ministry. After Meeting I thanked Cork Friends for their support and the Friends who had or were giving me hospitality. I talked to a woman from the Cork Examiner, who wanted to do an article about my journey. She was supposed to ring me at Daisy Swanton's but perhaps my leaflet will be enough. During coffee I talked to most Friends and was especially drawn to Gwen. This was the last time I saw her.
We travelled in Larry's van to the Lee Water Works but the person who was to show us round was off on leave, so it was a wasted journey. Back at Larry and Ita's we got the truck loaded, thanked them for their kindness and hoped to see them soon again.
The road was very busy with traffic. It then became a dual carriageway and the walk to Cobh was not pleasant because of the continuous traffic noise. We hoped when we left the main road it would be quieter, instead of which it got worse. The road had a high wall on each side, with trees forming a canopy, so I imagine we were getting more than we wanted of the exhaust fumes. After some miles walking in these conditions, we came to open ground where we had a snack and a rest. The traffic on the road wasn't conducive to serious conversation; I wanted to know what David thought of the Quaker Meeting and being with Larry and Ita the previous night. He told me he had no trouble coping with the Quaker silence and he thought Larry's ministry was meaningful. We tried to remember what Larry had said; David quoted most of his message and I contributed a little. I asked if he felt inhibited by Larry's questions at his home and he said that possibly he would have got more out of the encounter if Ita and I had n ot been there. He thought Larry was a great guy and enjoyed meeting him. A little aside was that he would have reacted differently if the questions had come from a 'bible thumper'.
I told David that I would have a close affinity with Larry Southard's type of Quakerism. Back in 1984, there was a broadcast on Radio Ulster on 'Quakers in Ireland' in which I had a small slot. There were contributions from various Quakers but Larry and Ita were the only couple on the broadcast. Ita said she was from a Catholic background but in her late teens she stopped attending Mass. After some years she went back to discover there were some teachings she had difficulty accepting. Sadly she found that she would not be accepted unless she was in agreement with all of her church's doctrine. After some time she started attending a Quaker Meeting.
Larry came from a Baptist background and on leaving college he had gained a diploma but had lost most of his religious teachings. He became interested in Quakerism and attended Quaker Meetings. He found the absence of a doctrinal point of view and a quotation from George Fox spoke to his condition. The quotation was; "Christ saith this, and the apostles say this; but what canst thou say?". From this saying which suited Larry's condition, he was able to seek, search and find his own spiritual path. I told David that Larry's slot in the broadcast stayed with me; and in my spiritual path through life I search, taking on new thoughts and letting others go. I suppose I was baring my soul to my son. We had a quiet journey and as we walked I felt we were in communion with each other and with God.
There was a warm welcome from Bill and Daisy Swanton. We sat chatting for some time then Daisy said that the meal was ready. David had asked if he could have a bath and was directed to the bathroom. I asked him to make it a quick bath. We then moved into the dining room and were seated at the table which impressed me by its length. It looked about fifteen feet long but only one yard wide. When I remarked on the table I was told that it came from a science laboratory. The meal was salad with lots of meat arranged at one end of the table, but David was still missing. He had been away for nearly half an hour and as I was hungry I decided to let him know the meal was on the table. I knocked on the door but getting no reply I opened it to discover him fast asleep in the bath. We enjoyed the meal and while we were chatting, Adeline rang to say that she and Sandra were coming to meet us at Waterford. It was a happy evening being with Daisy and Bill and it was good to know that I would see Adeline soon.
David retired to bed a short time before me and I went into his room to give him a 'rub' Larry had bought. He was fast asleep! Again we had a good breakfast with lots of wheaten bread. Daisy gave me food for the journey, some of which I left as I only took for my immediate needs. David and I walked to the water's edge to find trees blown down in the recent gales. Some of the trees had been planted by Bill thirty years previously. Daisy drove us up to the main road, where I thanked her for all her kindness and said good-bye. (A few years later I had the pleasure of reviewing a book written by Daisy about the life of her mother. She was a woman of very progressive ideas, some of which were not accepted by the early establishment).
It took us less than an hour to get to Middletown where David enquired about a bus back to Cork. We decided to walk on for a few miles, have lunch and wait for the bus. We had a good variety of food, as David had loaded me up at Middletown. The bus was by now nearly half an hour late, so David decided to 'hitch a lift' to Middletown and get a taxi to the airport. We parted on the roadside and as we were walking in different directions, there was continuous waving as we kept looking round. I wondered how far he might have to walk before getting a lift. I had walked about a mile when the bus passed. I hoped he would be looking out for it as it is difficult to keep watching, if you are going in the same direction. David told me that he and his wife intended to join me at the beginning of August to walk with me for a few days.
It seemed strange to be travelling alone but in a way I was glad, as I was able to reflect on my journey. I had noticed when I was walking with David, I had few encounters, if any. I suppose this is understandable as two people walking along chatting, don't arouse much curiosity. Another reason could be that my bodily needs were being looked after and I didn't need to interact with passers-by. Indeed I felt my pilgrimage was becoming just a journey or walk since I left County Kerry. On the west coast of Ireland I had little prearranged accommodation and I was meeting people in under-populated areas who wanted to know what I was about. They were interested in different aspects of my pilgrimage and I felt I was leaving something of myself behind with them. Also I was bringing something of them away with me.
The past twelve nights were prearranged before I left Belfast, or arranged en route, so I knew each day where I would rest that night. I was being well fed and knew my F/friends would look after my needs. Perhaps my body needed this time to replenish itself, as there were days when I could have been undernourished. Although I was more than grateful to the good and generous F/friends for the love and care they gave me, I missed the challenge of not knowing where I might sleep or eat or meet and talk with people. Anyway I didn't know where I would rest tonight on the road to Youghal. Walking through Killeagh, I was approached by a young lad who had read the signs on the truck. I stopped and we chatted. Then one of his chums joined him and they asked me sensible questions.
A few miles from Youghal I noticed there was a complete absence of farms, nothing but houses and bungalows. I thought I would have a problem finding a place to sleep if this type of accommodation continued on the other side of the town. The road into Youghal was not impressive, with many houses and a fun fair. As I neared the centre of the town I was amazed and my opinion changed. I had never seen such a sheer drop from a sea wall to the beach below. It could have been between thirty to forty feet. On the outskirts of the town as expected, good class houses continued for some distance until I saw a B&B.
A woman answered the door and I told her what I was doing and asked if she had a shed where I could shelter. She said she would ask her husband, who came out to see me. I told him I had left F/friends in Cork and was going to friends in Dunmore East but I didn't know anyone between the two. He said, "You now have friends in Youghal. You can have my son's bedroom, as he is away on holidays". This was a spacious room and I was told to come into the dining room for tea. This consisted of sandwiches with thick slices of ham and tomatoes, followed by a large dish of strawberries and cream. I felt as if I had been guided to this house as I was able to go into the bedroom to write up my diary. There were three American guests, who must have seen me arriving as they asked the proprietor if I would come to meet them. As I told them about my pilgrimage they asked questions and I gave them a little leaflet, explaining other aspects of my journey. Before I went to sleep I thought of David and wondered if he got safely to London and I'm sure he was thinking of me.
After a good night's sleep I wakened early and did more writing. I asked Mr Pearson for hot water in my flask, so that I could get on my way and have something to eat on the road. He arrived with four rounds of toast, a large omelette, two sausages, tea and blackcurrant jam (VIP treatment!). I left about 8.30 a.m. to walk to Dungarvan. A short distance away I met a man who quizzed me about my travels and I told him how fortunate I was , calling at the Pearson's B&B. He said he knew them and offered me a shed for the night. Although it was kind of him, I told him I wanted to get to the far end of Dungarvan before I would rest. The road had a good hard shoulder and the hills were easy.
A car pulled into a side road and a man and woman approached me. I think they knew something about me, as they introduced themselves as Jehovah's Witnesses. They were in agreement with my concerns and there was no evangelising. They gave me a booklet, as did another of their faith about a couple of weeks before. The article was well written and I could go along with most of their beliefs.
There were roadworks which meant there was a fine film of dust on the surface, which heavy lorries speeding past were causing clouds of dust. These conditions prevailed for some miles, so I decided to take a back road to Tramore, after I had gone through Dungarvan. This town had a long foreshore and as the tide was out there was an unpleasant smell. This gave me a negative opinion about the place.
The road to Tramore was pleasant with little traffic, lots of cyclists and few heavy lorries. After a few miles the road rises above a deep ravine and I was impressed by the beauty of the whole area. About 7 p.m. I decided to look for a place to rest for the night. I saw a neat farm house and decided to give it a try. On the way up the short lane I noticed the hedge had been cut recently, as the leaves and branches were on the ground. I was unfortunate to pick up a thorn in a tyre, which caused a puncture. The owner of the farm, Declan Dunford, was at home and made me welcome. Even though I don't think he felt responsible for the puncture, I think he would have made me welcome anyway.
He helped me to fix the puncture, after which he brought me into the house for tea. We chatted for some time and he told me he had a son living in Warrenpoint. He gave me his son's address and I said I would call when I got that distance. As well as looking after his small farm, he drove the school bus and this gave him a small steady income. I was glad when Declan said he had to go to a meeting, as I was getting tired. In the hay shed I made myself comfortable and looked forward to a good night's sleep. This didn't happen, as the Jack Russell, which was left in the house, barked continuously, when Declan was out. I can only suppose the dog knew I was still on the premises. Another noise I had to contend with was the intermittent blast of a bird deterrent. However, when I did get to sleep, I didn't waken until 8 a.m. I was brought into the house for breakfast and afterwards said good-bye to Declan, who had been so kind to me. Today I was going to see Adeline.
The road to Bunmahon was hilly, which taxed my strength. I thought the village was a bit of a sprawl and not very pleasing to the eye. There was a hard climb out of it and upon taking a slide, thought it looked better from a distance. Again it was hard work pushing and pulling the truck up endless hills but I was compensated by the beautiful scenery. I had been told by a Waterford Friend that Liam Glynn, who was in a nursing home in Tramore, would like me to visit him. Liam had been principal of Friends School, Waterford for a number of years and I had met him on a few occasions. I was still a good distance from Tramore but I thought if I kept up a steady pace I might get to the nursing home about lunch time. My stock of food was depleted but I thought it possible I might get lunch at the nursing home.
Near Annestown, I saw an open store displaying all sorts of wooden carvings and stopped to have a look inside. I was impressed by beautiful wooden bowls and other carvings. A notice inside the store said the articles could be purchased at the house opposite and although I didn't go in I marvelled at the trust someone had in their fellow human beings.
This hilly coastline was diminishing my mph and I realised I wouldn't be at the nursing home at lunch time. It was after 2.30 p.m. when I arrived. Leaving my truck outside, I called at the office where I spoke to the person in charge and told her a little about my journey but she wasn't interested. I then said that I would like to see Liam Glynn, whereupon she directed me to Liam's room. I told him that Thomas O'Fiaich had sent his best wishes. They were both fluent Gaelic speakers and great friends and he knew the Cardinal had died a few months before. We talked for some time until the door opened and a tea-lady entered and left a cup of tea and a digestive biscuit for Liam. He asked for something for me but she was unable to do so as everything was counted. Liam felt embarrassed and offered me his tea and biscuit, which I declined, saying I had just eaten! The lesson learned from that experience was that I shouldn't presume that people would feed and look after me. Instead when I went forward i n faith, I was looked after by God's children.
I walked through Tramore and wasn't impressed, as it looked like a miniature Blackpool. At the turn off for Dunmore East, I chatted to two men who invited me into their house for a drink. I was now on my way to visit John and Bridget Carney and again the hills were sapping my energy. On climbing a hill, a car stopped and inside was Adeline and Sandra, who had come out to look for me. We were glad to see each other and we embraced, not wanting to let go. It was good to be together. The truck and all the gear went into the car and I was driven to John and Bridget's home. Their new home was very impressive, with much thought and care taken in the design. We had a lovely meal and great fellowship with our friends. Adeline and Sandra were going to a B&B in Dunmore East and hoped to walk round the coastal path the next day to be with me.
Thursday 12th July: (Our glorious twelfth!) After breakfast, imagine my surprise, when Adeline and Sandra arrived and told me they were returning home immediately. I was disappointed as I was looking forward to Adeline meeting Waterford Friends. Again we said good-bye and I was glad to take Manix and Thomas (two of the Carney children) down to the beach, where we made a dam. This helped to lift my spirits a little. John arranged with a local radio station for me to be interviewed. I enjoyed being with the young family. I left the Carneys to walk some of the distance I had been driven the previous night.
(I had met the Carney family a couple of years previously at a Quaker Gathering, when they were attenders at Waterford Meeting. They have since joined the Amish community and theirs is the only smallholding of the community in Ireland. Adeline and I have visited them on a couple of occasions and I was touched when John said he should have bathed my feet, when I visited on my pilgrimage. I thought that was a lovely thought.)
It was another beautiful sunny day as I made my way to the home of Stephen Whittle in Dunmore East. Stephen is a good friend of John Tod, who also lived in the village. John and Joyce were Waterford Friends, who came from England twenty years ago and had a home built in a two acre holding overlooking the harbour. They had their own goats, five or six bee hives, a dozen hens, a large plot for vegetables and a good glass house, making them almost self-sufficient.
Waterford Meeting and Frederick Street in Belfast were twinned in the early eighties and this is when I met the Tods. When I thought of my pilgrimage, I travelled to Dunmore East to talk it over with the Tods, as I valued their judgement. Joyce was very positive and was sure I could do it. We have 'house minded' for them on a number of occasions and I have sailed on the Shannon with John. John gave the public lecture at Yearly Meeting in Waterford and the title of his lecture was 'Life is an Adventure'. I like his interpretation of Quakerism. My life has been an adventure for the past two months.
I walked to Dunmore East but wouldn't be seeing the Tods as they were in New Zealand. Stephen Whittle, who had been engineer on the Dunmore East lifeboat and John Tod, who was secretary of the association, had shared interests and helped each other. When Adeline and I 'house minded' for the Tods, Stephen came up to milk the goats, as I couldn't master the art, no matter how much I tried. Stephen was glad to see me and we talked about my journey and I met some of his family.
I left Dunmore East with thoughts of how it used to look in the late seventies, now I felt it had lost some of its 'old world charm'. Parts of the village seem to be over developed for the tourist trade. I felt there were more restrictions on this type of development up north. There was a steep hill out of the village but after that, it was an easy road to Waterford except the road was narrow in parts and continuous traffic didn't make it a very enjoyable walk. A few miles from Waterford, there was a fine stone wall, which seemed to radiate heat from the sun, as it was possibly the warmest day of my journey. However I forgot about the heat when I saw two Friends, Michael and Sheila Sexton, coming to meet me. In a short time I was at Waterford Meeting.
It was about 5.30 p.m. when I arrived and I was asked to speak to Waterford Friends and tell them something of my journey. Having 'twinned' with this Meeting, I knew most of the Friends and looked forward to seeing them again. The Sexton's had brought me some food and after I had eaten, I arranged my sleeping gear in a small room. I think my talk was enjoyed by those present and was glad to see young Friends, who asked me searching questions. Maurice Wigham, a retired principal of Newtown School, came in late and left before the end. His wife was recovering from another operation, so I felt humbled that he came to see me in such worrying circumstances. After my talk, Friends came and talked on a 'one to one' basis, they might ask me something personal, or just wish me well. I was given gifts of food, which sustained me for a few days.
The next morning after breakfast, I was surprised and pleased to see Sue and Allen Pim, call to wish me well, they had overlooked the event the previous night. When I left the Meeting House, I discovered I hadn't left myself enough time to get to the radio station. So I had to jog with the truck. As it happened, there was a delay at the studio as there was another interview taking place. I fluffed a few words but most of the time I was relaxed, even though it was going out live. Waterford is one of my favourite Irish towns. I like the waterfront with the good wide road and busy streets, running behind the sea front properties.
Leaving Waterford, I was on the road to New Ross, when I discovered a letter which John or Bridget had given me to post the previous day. I kept looking for a post box but saw none, so I decided I would wait until I reached the town. It was a most unpleasant walk, with continual road works, owing to the road being widened. About half way to New Ross, there was a mobile shop, selling hot food, sweets and light groceries. As I passed, the owner asked me what I was doing, so I turned the truck towards him and he was able to read the sign. He then called me over and we had a good chat, after which he asked if I would like anything from his shop but I said I had enough food to last me until the next day. He gave me a tin of juice and a bar of chocolate and wished me well. I was touched by his thoughtfulness and generosity.
As I've already said, the walk to New Ross was not pleasant and I was glad to see the outskirts of the town. Nearer the town, there were two caravans on an old railway siding and a young lad sitting on a wall a short distance away. When I got alongside he got up and walked along with me. He asked me questions and I told him I had left Belfast with no money and still had no money. He said, "That's all right, I wasn't looking for money". He then said he used to live in Belfast and went to Quaker Cottage. I felt elated when he said he enjoyed going there. I didn't think he could read, as he asked what the signs on the truck were. His name was Jimmy Cairns (aged fifteen) and he owned a piebald pony which cost £1000 and his father had won £2000 racing the pony, which was in the fields beside the caravans. The disused railway track was used at night because Jimmy's father had been beaten up by 'locals'.
We were coming to the New Ross bridge, which I was going to cross and Jimmy was going straight ahead. I wanted to give him something and remembered I had two apples in the lunch box. As I gave him one he thanked me and asked if I had one for myself. I don't think there would be many children who would ask that question. I relive that encounter often and think of Jimmy Cairns as a Child of God, who might get hurt physically or mentally, because the community around him, do not accept his customs.
As I crossed the river into New Ross, I turned right for Hook Head and asked two men who were sitting on a seat nearby, where the post office was. I left the truck beside them and crossed to the other side of the road, when I returned they were reading my signs. As I talked to them for a short while, a woman approached me with a punt note. When I said I didn't accept money, she replied that it was her mother, a Quaker, (sitting in a car) who had sent the money. I talked to them and it transpired that the mother belonged to Waterford Meeting (Alexander is her name). They invited me to their home which was three miles outside the town, but on the wrong side for me. I asked her if she knew anyone on the Hook Head side, about five or six miles away and her daughter gave me the name of a young couple, Patricia and Roger Warren, who lived on a farm with Patricia's father.
The Warrens, having been informed by phone, welcomed me to the farm where I got a meal and a caravan to sleep in. (This was near the John F Kennedy Park at Whitechurch). I noticed there were three lambs in field along with the caravan. They turned out to be pet lambs who stayed in the field. About 2 a.m. in the morning I was wakened to the caravan swaying and the floor going up and down. The lambs were in below the caravan scratching themselves, so I banged on the floor, frightening them, so they moved. I felt like St Francis attracting the animals.
I wakened early as I wanted to have a quiet time. At the Waterford gathering, Jim Sexton asked me if there was a power guiding me at times and Bridget Carney, who had a Catholic upbringing, said when she was young, she called this power her guardian angel. If I had posted the letter in Waterford, I would not have parked the truck in New Ross; the woman would not have met me; and I wouldn't be in this caravan. Diana Lampen calls such coincidences, 'God incidences', and I have had lots of these on my journey.
Patricia gave me breakfast and sent me to meet an interesting man called John Seymour, who writes books on organic gardening and ecology and has a concern for the environment. He also has guests staying who enjoy organically grown food. A young woman opened the door and told me John was at the water's edge, repairing the boat. The boat was a Galway Hooker and he had tar on the boil to repair the boat. There was a small outboard engine clamped to the Hooker which enabled him to travel up the river to New Ross to shop. We walked up to the house to see his garden, where the vegetables were enormous and nearly jumping out of the ground. There were strawberries the size of plums, with a superb flavour. John was very generous and gave me a bag of fruit and a cup of coffee, which I enjoyed.
I had to walk back about a mile, as John Seymour's house was off the direct road to Hook Head. The farm, where I stayed the previous night had extensive buildings, well built but mostly empty and some were undersized. Patricia's father told me that in the early part of the century, tobacco was grown in this area and the out-houses were used to dry the leaves. In another building, candles were produced and these activities employed many people.
The back road to Hook Head had little traffic and the two villages I passed through were very pretty with the sea encroaching, both at Arthurstown and Duncannon. The last eight to ten miles of the road was quite straight, which meant very monotonous walking. It sometimes seemed that a dead end was imminent as the road ran out. On a long stretch of the road, a young lad on a bicycle, stopped to read my signs and said that his family were Quakers. He told me their holiday home was just a short distance up the road and invited me to come and stay. I thanked him and asked him to cycle on and tell his parents I was on the road. If the Simpsons were not at home, I had an alternative place to rest at the Hook Head lighthouse. I'm sure I would have been welcome at the lighthouse but I would prefer being with a family, especially if there were teenagers.
Joy and Ray met me outside their home to welcome me. David I had already met, and Mark who was older, were soon asking me questions about my journey. After supper and a chat, Ray and the boys went out fishing. In their large garage I could see that the Simpson family restored cars, motorcycles and bicycles and when not doing that, they spent a lot of time fishing. After a shower, I retired to bed and was looking forward to a good night's sleep, as the lambs had disturbed me the night before. However at 1.30 a.m. the fog horn at the nearby lighthouse sounded and I found it impossible to sleep, with this intermittent noise.
Sunday 15th July: At breakfast, when I said that the fog horn had disturbed my sleep, the family looked surprised, as they hadn't heard anything. It just proves that one can get used to any condition. I had a happy time with this family and liked their lifestyle. Ray put the truck in his trailer and drove me a short distance, for which I was glad, as I didn't want to walk along this monotonous and uninteresting road. When I left Ray, I had only five miles to walk to Fethard.
On reaching a T-junction at this village, I wondered whether to turn left or right. A man standing at the corner directed me. This was James O'Leary, who owned a garage a short way along the road. This was a 'curio' garage, with the walls covered in an assortment of sea shells, and in the forecourt, a variety of old farm implements. He asked me to meet his family, and his wife gave me something to eat. I answered their questions but the thought occurred to me that instead of telling folk about my journey, I could use the tape of the Waterford broadcast, which would be self explanatory. I saw a tape recorder on top of a cabinet and asked if they would like to listen. They seemed to enjoy listening and James went outside and brought some neighbours to hear it. I was afraid he might bring in more and more friends as by this time it was nearly 1 p.m. and I hadn't covered many miles.
As I left Fethard, two people got out of a car as they had noticed the Quaker sign. They were Robert and Cecilia Hill from Waterford Meeting and they chatted for some time. On the outskirts of the town at a Catholic chapel, the Mass had just ended and a lot of people were standing around. One person asked me questions and I then moved on. Again a car stopped and the driver invited me to call at his home, about three miles away, for lunch. There were two English families living together in a holiday home, coming to the area as an annual event. After lunch I thanked these kind people and moved on.
Back on the road to Wellingtonbridge, a couple waved to me as they passed and a few moments later they turned and came back. During our chat it transpired that he had known the Cardinal and Theo Moodie, who was a Quaker and eminent Irish historian. As I went through Wellingtonbridge, it started to rain and I found it exhausting, as it was very warm. So I was glad it only lasted and hour.
On the road to Kilmore Quay, which was about twelve miles away, I started looking for a place to rest. I stopped at a small cottage and asked the lady who was in the garden, if she would fill my flask with hot water. She brought me in and gave me tea. Her husband who was crippled with pains, was in bed upstairs. I was asked to go up and talk to him and found him a very friendly man, who was unable to move. When I told him I had once kept honey bees, I found we had something in common, as he had hives in his garden. When I went downstairs I met some of their married children and I played the 'tape'. When leaving I was given a jar of honey, which pleased me. I told the mother that each day when I am enjoying the honey, I will think of them both.
I next saw a large farm house, with a long driveway and decided to ask if I could sleep in a shed. The farmer, (Jim Kelly), arrived as I was going up the drive and asked a lot of questions before he decided to give me a shed. It wasn't a good one as there was no front wall, just a large farm gate. My next door neighbour, a sick bullock, had similar accommodation, as did four calves in the next shed. I was asked in for tea and as usual there was more than adequate; roast beef; ham; cakes followed by strawberries and ice-cream. There had been a mishap on the farm in the afternoon, when the son, who had done the early milking, had forgotten to refrigerate the milk. The evening milk had been put on top of it and the whole lot had gone sour (250 gallons). I did not sleep well, (on top of three bales), as the bullock was noisy all night. Mrs Kelly a quiet and generous woman, gave me breakfast and sandwiches for the journey. How thankful I was for such people.
Monday 16th July: Kilmore Quay was about nine miles away and it was an uneventful journey, except for the tar melting on the road, causing some annoyance. I enquired at the Garda station about Tom Casey, who lived in the area and was told that he died two or three years previously. A short distance from the station I noticed a thatched house by the roadside, where my family once had their photos taken while Tom Casey was thatching the roof. We had a camping holiday in this area along with my boyhood friend, Andy Todd, who was Tom's son-in-law. Sadly Andy is also dead.
The journey to Wexford was uneventful but the heat was sapping my strength. I enquired about Fr Doyle but was told his parish was out of town in the wrong direction for me. I decided to walk out of Wexford next Courtown and tried at a nursing home, run by nuns, for a place to rest but didn't have any luck. A few houses on I saw a B&B and as I was about to call a car pulled up. Inside was a Chinese man, Irish wife and two sons, who invited me back to Wexford, where he owns a Chinese restaurant. I thanked them but asked what I would do with the truck and I was also looking for a place to sleep. I said I would be happy with a shed or garage and she told me she knew the woman in the house , where I was standing. I knocked the door and asked if I could leave the truck. By this time, the woman in the car had got out and come up to the door of the house. The owner agreed I could sleep in the garage, which had an up and over door and I left the truck inside.
It was a posh restaurant and I enjoyed a vegetarian meal. I was curious to know why these people had sought me out. Apparently one of the sons was a boarder at Newtown Quaker school in Waterford. He had heard from one of the teachers, Roger Johnston who is a Quaker, that I was doing this journey. The son told his mother, who is from Belfast, so I suppose that was one reason why she wanted to meet me.
They left me back to the garage where I had just a light mattress below my sleeping bag. I had difficulty getting to sleep because I thought the woman of the house had been pressurised into giving me shelter. It was done in a hurry and I hadn't felt like this in any other place where I had stayed. No-one came out of the house to speak to me. I wrote a letter early in the morning thanking them for the garage and left a leaflet. (About four years later I tried to find the house and garage but was unable to locate it). I was on the road at 7.15 a.m. and even then the temperature was high. I thought I would cover some miles before it got too warm. A kind woman who lived on the roadside, gave me milk and I had muesli and a banana at 9 a.m. on a table outside a pub. By lunch time I had travelled sixteen miles and was glad I had made an early start. I slept for a while by the roadside and felt revived when starting off again. A car stopped and a man and his wife from Finaghy, got out and talked to me. They had seen me on the road in different areas and were amazed at the distance I could travel in one day. When asked when I thought I would be back in Belfast, I wasn't able to answer that but hoped I would arrive on a Saturday. As Finaghy is only a couple of miles from South Belfast Meeting, they would have liked to see me again. They wished me well.
While walking, I had developed a fond attachment to my road maps, some of which were dog-eared with use and the elements. Today I was walking from Wexford to Courtown where I hoped to stay. The road was clearly marked and there was no need for a map, yet I probably looked at the map a dozen times. If I saw a road sign for a certain place that was new to me, or even if I just liked the sound of it, I would find myself looking at the map. If I had gone some distance, I would look to see if I was a quarter of the way there; then it might be a third or half way to my destination for that night. Sometimes I would look to see the town on the west coast opposite the one on the east. Today I hoped to be in Courtown which was opposite Limerick. All these little games kept my mind occupied.
There was a new surface on the road and the coarse stones were hurting my feet. I had a change of occupation; cutting a hedge for a woman in exchange for hot water. The rough surface, as well as the melting tar continued, and didn't give me much pleasure. I arrived unexpectedly at the Deacons in Courtown. Eric, the husband was busy in the garden, when I introduced myself, and told me his wife would be back shortly. He thought it would be all right to stay the night. While I sat on a bench admiring the garden, Eric came out of the house with tea and sandwiches, which I enjoyed. After a while his wife arrived and made me welcome, giving me her daughter's room, as she was on holiday. Roger Johnston of Waterford had given me this address but the connection escapes me. Either the Deacon children went to Newtown School or one of the parents taught there.
It was a beautiful warm evening and we chatted in the patio. Eric's wife was interested in hearing about my journey and I gave the tape, which she listened to in the house. It was a delight to be with them. It was strange to say good-bye to my hosts and thank them for their kindness, before going to bed, but that is what I did. They said they didn't have breakfast until around 9.30 a.m. and hoped I would join them. I explained that although I would love to join them, I liked to be on the road early because it is cooler and I could clock up as many miles as possible before lunch, then take it easy in the afternoon. They could see my point of view and told me to have breakfast in their kitchen. The next morning I had the run of the kitchen, with a large box of food, which had been left for me. This family had been so kind and I tried to express my thanks and appreciation in a short letter I wrote.
I left the Deacons about 7.30 a.m. and was in Arklow at 11.45 a.m.. I had a fifteen minute stop, talking to an attender from Waterford Meeting. The footpath was very poor, with humps and holes. The width of the main street in the town would have suited traffic in a bygone age but has suffered badly because of the heavy traffic. I liked crossing the bridge and seeing a lovely view of the sea, which never changes except for the ebb and flow of the tide.
The road to Wicklow skirted the coast and I would have enjoyed the walk but for my right foot which was sore from the bad road surface, similar to the one on the previous day. This was the first time I had trouble with my feet since I left Sligo. I changed my shoes and socks, which helped slightly. There was plenty of 'wear' left on the shoes that I had worn continually since leaving Belfast.
Whilst I was in the middle of this operation, a car pulled up and a man came to speak to me. He was a dentist in Wicklow and said he would meet me at the lighthouse that night. It was a hard slog to Wicklow lighthouse, with many hills and a rough road surface. It seemed as if I had covered most of three miles before I got there, and the total mileage for that day would have been thirty plus, in very hot conditions.
There were three men there to greet me and one of them handed me a bundle of envelopes. I knew what they were; it was birthday cards, as tomorrow was my birthday. The cards were from Adeline, the family, friends and well-wishers. I didn't open the envelopes just then as I wanted a quiet spot to enjoy them. The keepers were all asking me questions and I was enjoying their company. Brendan asked if I would like something to eat and suggested fish and chips. I was full of enthusiasm for this meal as it was a long time since I had fish and chips. He left to cook the meal and one of the men showed me my bedroom. After I had arranged my sleeping bag, I settled down to read my birthday cards. I was glad to be alone when I read the verses and messages, as I could feel a few tears flowing down my cheeks. My chef called me to say the meal was ready and told me he had just caught the fish from a fishing line at the light house. The chips were large scallops of potatoes and the meal was delicious.
After the meal, I was invited into the sitting room, where all the men were gathered. They told me the lighthouse was soon to become automatic and they would all be made redundant. I knew this was to happen to all of the manned lighthouses in Ireland and they were interested to know about the other lighthouse where I had stayed. Some of the junior men were moved around but the senior man, Brendan, lived in Wicklow and was permanent in his present position. Later, his wife and son came to meet me and although it was getting late and normally I would have retired to bed, I thought these nice people would like me to stay with them until midnight, when they would wish me a happy birthday. This they did and I was able to provide a small bottle of Black Bush that David had given me to share on my birthday.
Thursday 19th July: My birthday. Had breakfast with Martin and was glad to chat for two reasons. If I rested for a while, my right foot would benefit and I only had to walk to Bray, which was around twenty miles away. Martin told me he was a lapsed Catholic and hadn't attended Mass for a number of years. He didn't ask any questions about Quakers but wanted to tell me why he was disillusioned with the church of his birth. I had talked to lots of young people who no longer attend Mass and seemed happy to have no affiliation with any other group or church. The exception might be Jehovah's Witnesses who seem to attract lapsed Catholics to their church. Quakers have also benefited, especially in the south, where Catholics feel at home with Quaker worship.
Martin, who lived in Clare, told me he worked in the lighthouse for a month, with no time off, then he would get six or eight weeks holidays. During this time he was building himself a bungalow and the money he earned at the lighthouse, he used to buy building materials.
It was after 9 a.m. before I left the lighthouse and as I said good-bye to the crew, I was glad to have had the talk with Martin. My foot 'stood up' to the rough road from the lighthouse and I was glad to be on a good surface in Wicklow town. I hadn't travelled far when I saw Brendan's wife, Miriam and son standing in the street, waiting to give me a bag of sandwiches and fruit. I think her husband must have phoned to tell her I was on my way. It was a very kind act, which was much appreciated. I possibly will never have a birthday as memorable as the one spent at Wicklow lighthouse.
The pain had gone from my foot and I was making good progress. At Ashford, Winifred and Brian Murdoch (Dublin Friends), saw me and bought me a large ice cream, which I enjoyed. I decided to stay on the main road, as the surface might be smoother. After lunch I saw a fox in a field and took a photo of it. This broke the monotony of an uninteresting walk, with continuous heavy traffic. The road was nicely wooded and I was glad to keep in the shade of the trees. The Murdochs told me to go through Newtown Kennedy, as a steep hill on the main road could be avoided. At Newtown Kennedy I passed two men, who were sitting outside a pub. They invited me to join them and were interested in my story. They bought me a drink and I was glad of the rest.
I made the mistake of keeping to the main road until I was in Bray, because I had to backtrack to get to Verity Murdoch's house. I felt very welcome, even though we hadn't met before. This was another celebration of my birthday, as Verity produced an apple tart with one candle! We had a pleasant evening and I made use of her washing machine to wash some clothes. After breakfast, Verity walked with me to the centre of Bray. After I had thanked her and said good-bye a man stopped me in the street and invited me into his home. I had to refuse tea as I had eaten a good breakfast. He was a teacher and wanted to know more about Quakers. He was well informed and I answered most of his questions. The only blessing to the next part of my journey, was a good footpath. The traffic was bumper to bumper, with few people walking, so I had no encounters. At the toll bridge, which saved me a walk of three or four miles, I jokingly asked the operator which category my truck would be in, as there were divisions f or buses, lorries, cars and motorcycles. He said he would have to look up his instructions. I like 'Irish wit' and we enjoyed a good laugh before he waved me through.
It was about 4 o'clock when I got to Howth Road. I was going to stay with Charles and Mamie Wicklow that night. The Wicklows lived at 700 Howth Road and I thought it might take me one or two hours to reach my destination. I decided to write a letter to bring my diary up to date and found a suitable place to rest and write, outside a pub. While I was writing I noticed two men go into the premises and about half an hour later they emerged. One of the men came over to speak to me, while the other man who was a priest, walked on. I didn't find this surprising, as I had only one encounter with Catholic clergy during my journey. Perhaps the reason is that they have to deal with many people who have problems. It's not beyond the bounds of possibility that my appearance; a man with a beard, pushing a truck with everything on it except the 'kitchen sink', could be thought of as someone with a big problem.
It was now 5 o'clock and I thought I should be on my way and perhaps be at my destination by 6.30 or 7 p.m. The road was in a built-up area, interspersed with large houses, churches, shops and buildings. I realised that the journey was going to take longer than I thought. There were numerous intersections, with high kerbs to negotiate. I was glad to see Charles and Mamie who made me welcome and it wasn't long before Mamie had a meal on the table. They asked me questions about my journey and wanted to know where I stayed at night. Charles brought me out to his workshop, where he restored old clocks and other do-it-yourself activities. I asked if I could leave the truck at his home until Sunday afternoon, as I was going to meet Adeline in Dublin and stay with Friends overnight.
Saturday 21st July: After a nice cooked breakfast, I left the Wicklows about 9.30 a.m. to walk to the bus station in Dublin. The journey took me over an hour and a half. Even though I jogged part of the way, I was ten minutes late. It was great to see Adeline again and Des King, who was waiting with her. Des brought us back to his home where we were greeted by his wife, Peggy. They made us feel very welcome and had arranged for F/friends to call and meet me. In the evening, after all the visitors had gone I enjoyed the chat between the four of us. We have known the Kings for a number of years and think very highly of them.
Des and Peggy belong to Churchtown Meeting and we were delighted to go with them. Adeline spoke and I was pleased with her message. I knew most of the Friends present, who were glad to see me and asked many questions. Back at the Kings more Friends gathered in the late afternoon. When Adeline and I had a quiet time together, I said that my journey hadn't the same meaning for me now, as I was being passed from one Quaker family to another or else to prearranged overnight stays. I was missing the challenge of the west coast, where people responded to my needs. It was just muscle power I needed to get me home. She said I shouldn't feel that way, because Friends on the east coast might be looking forward to meeting me and it would be a two way enrichment of both parties.
I accompanied Des when he drove Adeline to the bus station. We met Tim Snoddy from Frederick Street Meeting, waiting for the bus to Belfast and I was glad that he would be company for Adeline. Before we parted Adeline reminded me that I should still have a positive attitude to my pilgrimage. It was just a short distance from the bus station to the railway station and there Des bought me a ticket to Howth Road, where I was to pick up the truck at the Wicklows. I didn't feel bad as I had already walked this way on Friday and Saturday. I was just glad that Des King paid my fare and it was environmentally friendly to travel by rail.
The Wicklows were glad to see me again and were interested to hear about my stay at the Kings and the F/friends I met over the weekend. Charles gave me directions to Clontarf, where I was spending the night with Richard and Eileen Nicholls. To get there I had to back track about five or six miles. While I was securing everything on the truck, Mamie gave me some food for the journey. After thanking Charles and Mamie for their hospitality, I was on the road to Clontarf.
It was two and a half hours before I arrived at the Nichols, where Richard and Eileen gave me a warm welcome. His brother-in-law and wife were visiting and left a short time after my arrival. We sat chatting for a while and Richard told me he was born and lived in England and came to Dublin to manage a dry cleaning business in the thirties, when he was a young man. He then changed occupation and worked in Bewley's bakery, where he progressed to managing the production of chocolate confectionery. By now we were on our own and it was good to listen to Richard's story, as he shared his thoughts with me. His wife was in poor health and he looked after most of the household duties. The large vegetable garden kept him busy and I was pleased when he told me how the garden was fertilised. He would walk with his wheelbarrow to the shore at Dublin Bay and fill it with seaweed (wrack), at the appropriate time of the year. The journey to the shore and back must have taxed Richard's strength as it would take a large pile of wrack to decompose for his garden the following year.
Before going to bed I was asked what time I would like to be wakened and if I would like a cooked breakfast. I told Richard I was quite happy with cereal and toast but he coaxed me to let him cook my breakfast, which I enjoyed. Eileen appeared when I was about to leave to wish me well on my journey. I was about to thank Richard for his kindness and tell him how I enjoyed his company, when he said, "I'm coming with you". This was one of the few times when 'mine host' walked with me, but it was the first time that I walked alongside the truck while Richard (eighty plus) was pushing it. The thought occurred to me that it would make a good environmentally friendly photo; Richard pushing a barrow of seaweed and me alongside with my truck. We walked for about half a mile, then it was a prolonged hug and handshake, before we parted and possibly a tear trickled down my cheek.
I remembered what Adeline had said to me before we parted in Dublin. I'm sure it was an event in Richard Nichol's life, as it was in mine, having this encounter. It was a physical parting but I brought something of him with me spiritually and hopefully left something of myself with him.
I had walked from the Wicklows' back to Dublin on Saturday morning to meet Adeline; then back again to collect my truck. Now I was walking back to Clontarf to visit the Nichols and again was 'doubling up' on the road back to Howth. I calculated that the additional miles I had walked, would save me the journey round Howth head. It is a built up area which I had seen before, so I decided to give it a miss.
The road to Malahide was uneventful, with heavy traffic but I was able to find a quiet spot close to the sea. Here I rested and enjoyed Richard's sandwiches with a flask of tea. Malahide is now a suburb of Dublin and judging by its' appearance, would be materially prosperous. I had few encounters here, as was the case with other built-up areas. On the outskirts of the town I passed a little copse of trees, surrounded by barbed wire. Beyond the first row of trees, I saw a red metal safe box, with papers and cheques about. I tried to stop cars passing but to no avail. I must have either looked suspicious, or else they were too busy to get involved. As I walked on I saw a woman working in her garden and hoped she would be interested in the box. She didn't show much enthusiasm but told me she would ring the Garda when she finished gardening.
I was now skirting a large sea inlet, with a narrow outlet at Malahide. A young lad about nine years old got off his bicycle and walked with me down this road which actually goes down to the sea. The tide was coming in and we came to a part of the road which was impassable, as the sea came up to the wall. My young friend, Derek Gough, told me we could walk along the top of the wall and I asked if it was wide enough to take the truck. He thought it would be, so we lifted the truck and he walked behind with his bicycle. At one section the surface was uneven, so we had to carry the truck. I was glad to see the end of the wall, as it was less than two feet wide, with at least a six foot drop on either side. Derek took a photo of me with the truck on top of the wall
I had been invited to spend that night at Edmond and Maxine Lamb's home at Donabate. I didn't know where they lived, so I asked a man on a bicycle who stopped and directed me. He asked me questions about my journey and we chatted for a while. Derek told me I could walk through their estate, as it would be shorter. As we walked together, I gave him an apple which some F/friends had given me in Dublin. He thanked me but handed it back and I couldn't persuade him to take it. I wondered if he was thinking of the conversation I had with the man on the bicycle. I had told this man that I had no money and wouldn't accept any. Perhaps Derek thought I might be hungry and the apple might satisfy me.
We passed the entrance to the estate and into a courtyard at the back and I asked Derek if he would fill my container with water. He did this, and also brought out another bottle of water which I was sorry to tell him I couldn't carry. His mother came out to talk to me and I asked if I could take a photo of Derek and her. As they stood together, I could see Derek whispering to her but she shook her head and I noticed a sad expression on her son's face. I said good-bye and Derek walked with me until we reached the road. We had been together for nearly two hours and I enjoyed his company. I wondered what he had whispered to his mother and hoped he hadn't asked her to give me something and she had refused. I felt that would have hurt him and I didn't need anything. I thought of the evening I slept in a school shelter at Ballyscally near Limerick. The children were in the playground and came over to hear my story. Three of them left the company and came back with sandwiches and fruit. I was deeply m oved when I thought of the loving relationship and trust there must have been between the children and their mothers.
About three or four miles on I found the Lambs and chatted to Maxine and later to Edmond. He showed me the mushroom houses and told me a little of the growing process and the technique of watering the mushrooms. I helped his son to sort potatoes, before going into their house for a nice meal. Adeline rang before I went to bed.
I was up about 7.30 a.m. and after breakfast, Maxine showed me the estate and told me something of the history of the place. We walked down a lane beside a golf course and she said that it used to belong to the Lamb family and here they grew the soft fruit for the manufacture of their famous jam, and something of the various skills of the people employed. I thanked Maxine for her hospitality and was sorry that I didn't see Edmond, but he was up at 5 a.m. to take mushrooms to the market, and he didn't get to bed until 2 a.m. I learned from my stay with the Lambs that the growing of mushrooms is a very demanding job.
As the crow flies, it would only be about three or four miles to Rush but the distance by road would be nearer ten miles. The road was well wooded with deciduous trees which gave good shelter from the strong rays of the sun. I called with the niece of Stanley Martin and enjoyed meeting Ann, who gave me a nice meal and some fruit for the journey.
The road to Skerries was uneventful, with no encounters. I remembered having a holiday at Red Island holiday camp, which was situated on a small peninsula. This was nearly fifty years ago and I remembered Skerries as a picturesque one street village. Now it was just a sprawl of little housing estates which I didn't find pleasing to my eye but people need houses and I shouldn't be critical.
The road to Balbriggan has one unusual feature that I didn't find anywhere else on my journey. The railway skirts the coastline alongside the road. There were lots of people on this road as there was easy access to the beaches and sea. At Balbriggan I had to use the main Belfast/Dublin road but the railway continues close to the coast until Laytown. On this stretch of road I was down to double figures in the distance to Belfast (about ninety miles) but having to walk round Carlingford and Strangford loughs would add many miles to the journey.
I left the busy road at the sign for Laytown which was just a short distance away. I had stopped at this village on different occasions to have a rest and maybe a snack and at other times to visit the Catholic church. The construction of this church is most unusual. It is situated on the shore side of the road and the facade of the old church has been retained. Inside the ceiling is dome-like and gives the appearance of a large igloo. I was impressed by the beautiful carvings of the stations of the cross, in sharp contrast to the cross which looked as if it was made out of a telegraph pole. The cross stood outside, at the back of the church, and could be seen by the parishioners during Mass as the back wall was clear glass, giving an uninterrupted view of the sea. I wondered if while listening to a long sermon, would some not find the rough sea more interesting? Another feature of this church is the moat that surrounds the walls and instead of down-pipes to drain the water, large chains are attache d to the galleys.
Previously I had visited this church with Adeline on our way to Yearly Meeting in April, two weeks before the start of my journey. The priest was outside his house, cleaning his car and I told him I had visited the church on a number of occasions and of my impending journey and hoped to visit his church again some day during the summer. He wished me well and told me to call at the parish house. I did just that and was confronted by a stern faced housekeeper, who asked me what I wanted. When I said that I would like to see the priest, she told me he was resting and wasn't seeing anyone. I was somewhat taken aback when he appeared in the hall. I reminded him who I was and he asked me if I would like something to drink. As I was thirsty, I asked for a soft drink, which the housekeeper brought me. We had a short conversation in the hall, before I moved on.
It wasn't one of my more memorable encounters but I soon forgot about the visit. I suppose the clergy get more than their fair share of people calling with problems and the housekeeper was just being protective.
Bettystown was just a short distance away and I was going to stay with the Allen family. This small seaside town had a noisy funfair, lots of fast food outlets and small shops. I knew the Allens had a large farm but didn't know which road to take out of the village. As the people standing around were day trippers I didn't ask for directions, instead I asked the owner of a small pub and he directed me. I had left my truck outside and when I came out, three young men who were sitting at a table, spoke to me and were interested in my journey. One of them wanted to know more about Quakerism. I explained about Quaker worship and the peace testimony, and thought that this would satisfy the young man's curiosity, but he wanted to know what I believed. I was hungry and wanting to be on my way to the Allens where possibly I would get something to eat.
However I wanted to tell this young man something about my spirituality and how I got sustenance in Quakerism. In the Religious Society of Friends, I was given freedom to find my own spiritual path. The enlightenment could come from the bible, books, the radio, television, friends and acquaintances or just times when alone. At times I would 'let go' of some of these ideas or notions and 'take on board' others. When I said that there is that of God in everyone, I also believe that there is that of God in every creature and all of creation. There is a God spirit in the smallest seed.
One of the young men said that it all sounded like a 'do-it-yourself' job. He told me, as did the other two, that they were lapsed Catholics. I told him that in my lifetime, in my opinion, the Catholic church had moved with the times and had become more tolerant and ecumenical. I think these men enjoyed meeting me. We shook hands and their response to me was, "Fair play to you".
It was just a short distance to the Allen's farm, where I was greeted by Karl, who said that he would be looking after me, as his parents were on holidays. He made a nice salad and instead of cooking, went back to the village to buy chips to go with the salad.. Later that evening I spoke to Friends at Quaker House in Belfast by phone. Then I joined Karl and his friends for an interesting discussion.
Wednesday 25th July: After breakfast, I left about 9 a.m. to go to Drogheda to meet Sile Macnichole, a member of Drogheda Meeting. I had to take the shortest route which was four and a half miles and arrived five minutes late, at 10.05 a.m. but I was pleased with my speed. Sile was waiting with her daughter and we walked through Drogheda and had coffee which Sile supplied, when we got to the outskirts. She walked another couple of miles and then said she would have to leave me but would be back in the evening and bring me to her home for dinner. The three or four miles that Sile had walked would require no effort on her part as she had run both the Dublin and Belfast marathons that year.
I continued walking along the edge of the estuary to Baltray and it was wonderful to see the variety of sea birds in the mud flats. This side of the estuary is much nicer and more interesting than the other side. On the road to Termonfeckin I was joined by Gerry and her son Paul, attenders at Drogheda Meeting, who walked with me some distance and I enjoyed their company. She told me interesting details about the village which was nicely wooded and the houses individually shaped. The road to Clogherhead had good views of the sea and again I thought of how much I miss, by staying on the main road. Clogherhead was a not very nice seaside town which I did not like. The steep hill out of it delayed my leaving as I had to stop for breath.
The journey to Togher was uneventful, with traffic light. I like the tidiness of this village. About two miles out of Annagasson I met Sile again and she took me to her home for a meal. I enjoyed meeting her husband Ray, who was friendly and I liked the family. We had some 'deep' conversation and shared our thoughts about different matters. Sile ran me back to where she had picked me up and she and her son Rossit, walked with me to Castlebellingham, almost to the Jeffers' house and I was glad of their company.
The Jeffers also belong to the Drogheda Meeting and lived in a fine farm house, a couple of miles outside Castlebellingham. I received a warm welcome and was introduced to their visitors and all the family. They had prepared a meal for me and I felt guilty that I had eaten a hearty meal, a few hours previously. I enjoyed being with this family and we sat talking until the small hours.
I was late leaving the Jeffers, as I had only a short distance of less than twenty miles to walk to Ravensdale. I wrote a few pages in my diary before setting off for Dundalk. The road was monotonous, with long stretches and heavy traffic. I was pleased to see a newly cut hayfield, where I wrote a few letters and had lunch. I was glad to get off this busy road as I made my way to Blackrock. The outskirts of this town were pleasant but the central area was of little interest.
On leaving the town, I asked a lad at a large bungalow, if he would fill my flask with hot water but he said his mother was using the kettle and couldn't give me hot water. A few doors away, the same request was willingly given, along with two peaches. I bye-passed Dundalk as best I could and was not impressed with the trash and paper on the Belfast road. Again I rested in a field, as I thought I was near the McCrea's. When I entered the road for Carlingford, a man stopped his car and approached me. This was Terry McCrea, who told me I had a few more miles to travel to get to his house and persuaded me to take a lift as the meal was ready. After we left the main road, the truck parted company with the car. (That's what I get for cheating). I walked the rest of the way to his house, where Dorothy, his wife, had prepared a meal. They are a nice couple and we have exchanged visits on other occasions. They had a natural rockery which was home to an array of colourful plants and flowers.
Terry's uncle who owned a printing business in Dundalk, died and left the business to Terry, where the McCreas now live. When chatting to Terry, he encouraged me to write up my journey when I got home. It is nine years on but better late than never.
Friday July 27th: Dorothy gave me filled rolls for my journey and Terry walked with me for a few miles, then left me at the main road for Carlingford. It had started raining before I left the McCreas but now it was quite heavy and I had to contend with heavy lorries sending spray over me. The last time I saw rain was with my son when I met him at Cork airport. I had to don the full wet gear which I found tiring but luckily there were no hills to tax my strength.
At Carlingford I looked, without success, for a shed or 'lean-to', where I might eat Dorothy's rolls. I couldn't find a place so I had to eat, standing in the rain. The rolls were delicious, even though I missed having a cup of tea or coffee. I had just moved off, when a car with flashing headlights pulled up. This was Ross and Robina Chapman, who had brought something to eat and drink. It was wonderful to get out of the rain and sit in comfort for a short while, enjoying their company. Ross and Robina live in Newry but also have a cottage in the Mournes, which is where I would be staying that night. They were returning to Newry, where Ross would meet me later at the quay side. He knew the distance I had to walk to Newry and as I could only average about three miles per hour in wet gear, we calculated that it would take me about three hours.
After the Chapmans left the rain stopped and I was able to get out of the wet gear. It was wonderful to feel the air on my body and clothes and I was able to move at a faster pace. My burden was made even lighter as Ross had taken the rucksack which I would retrieve at his home in Newry. There wasn't much of interest on this part of the road, except a large school, which was badly vandalised. Next to the school is a Catholic shrine, where people follow the stations of the cross.
Omeath is now a quiet village but I remember during WWII, fleets of little boats crossing continually from Warrenpoint, carrying passengers to 'shop' in Omeath. Smuggling was rampant in those days and customs men would search people when they got back to Warrenpoint. On the outskirts of Omeath there is a good hotel nestling on a hillside clothed in fine trees. As I walked past I never thought I would be back there for my younger daughter's wedding, eight years later.
A few miles further on I passed the area where there used to be a customs post for the southern government and further on, one for the northern. Carlingford Lough is tidal when it reaches Newry and there are fine locks on the roadside, about three miles from the town. Boats pass through these locks to the Newry canal. A woman who was towing a boat with a Land Rover, stopped and offered me money, as she thought I was collecting for charity.
Ross was waiting at the coal quay and as he had been there fifteen minutes, I didn't know if my pace was slow or Ross had arrived early. He took me to his home in Newry where I had a hot bath and then on to his cottage in the Mournes, which is near Silent Valley, the reservoir which supplies Belfast with water. I enjoyed listening to Ross telling me of places of interest which were familiar to him. I remember passing parts of the Mournes which were partially covered in cloud. Ross said he felt these mountains were like people, they had moods and sometimes they were sombre.
We arrived at the cottage to enjoy a meal prepared by Robina. Later they had visitors, two children, a mother and grandparents. One of the children was hyperactive and difficult to control. I would rather have had a quiet chat with Ross and Robina. The next morning (Saturday 28th July) Ross brought me back to Newry and as we passed through the Mournes, I remarked that they looked bright and cheerful that morning. After we collected the truck, I was left at the quay side, where I thanked Ross for all his kindness.
The road to Warrenpoint was monotonous, with long straight stretches and very fast traffic. Everywhere looked beautiful after the rain of the previous day and the Carlingford mountains looked spectacular. This was going to be my first full day in the north since I left Derry, on the ninth of May. I stopped for lunch at Narrow Water and remembered being on holiday, when a number of soldiers were killed by a bomb in this area.
When I got to Warrenpoint, I walked out the Dromore Road to meet Mike Dunford, whose father's farm I had stayed in, at Waterford. Unfortunately he was not at home but I had a chat with his wife, who made me tea. Returning to Warrenpoint I walked out the Rostrevor Road. This is a beautiful area and I appreciated it more, travelling at a walking pace. It was well wooded and care was taken to preserve the beauty of the area. At the Christian Renewal Centre, where I was to spend the night, I appreciated the extension to the house, carefully matched the rest of the building. Here I met Elaine Peile, a Portadown Friend we knew well. She was with a girl friend and they were staying at the centre. I got into a slightly heated conversation with Susan and was glad when Sue and Steve Williams arrived. It was great being with them and we chatted about events since I had last seen them near Limavady. I left them as I was having tea in the C.R.C. Later they returned, to be joined by Betty, Bertie and Adeline, who I was pleased to see.
As Bertie's birthday is a week after mine, we usually celebrate the event sometime in July, by having a meal together. Sue and Steve joined us for this happy event at an hotel in Kilkeel. Bertie brought me back to Rostrevor and Sue and Steve returned to their caravan in Newcastle.
Sunday 29th July: On the way to Kilkeel, Ross and Robina drove out to see me and advised me to take a narrow road, which runs parallel to the main road, as the traffic would be lighter. The weather was cooler and rain threatened. A few miles on I again met Sue and Steve who had intended walking a few miles with me. Steve drove the car to Kilkeel and walked back towards us. Sue and I chatted about all sorts of topics and the time passed quickly until we met Steve again. In Kilkeel, Sue and Steve supplied lunch for us in their car, afterwards walking down to the harbour to watch the fishing boats. One could walk from one to the other, indeed they resembled a box of tightly packed fish.
Sue and I walked on towards Annalong, while Steve went back for the car. When he caught up with us, they decided to go back to their caravan in Newcastle. I had hoped that Barbara Capper's home would be on the far side of Annalong, instead it was about two miles from the village on the Kilkeel side. These extra miles meant adding to the journey to Downpatrick the next day. As Sunday should be a day of rest I didn't walk very far that day.
Barbara was glad to see me and made me very welcome, although her hearing was a handicap and conversation difficult. Barbara was a Friend belonging to South Belfast Meeting but could only attend if someone fetched her. However South Belfast friends went to her home once a year to hold a Meeting for Worship. As I sat chatting to Barbara in her living room, which had an uninterrupted view of the sea, I thought it was a delightful setting for a Meeting for Worship. She told me her brother-in-law, Wilfred Capper, was responsible for our now famous, Ulster Way. I was impressed with the beautiful wood carvings done by her sister, who had died some years previously. Later Bertie and Betty called.
Sadly Barbara only lived in Annalong for a short time after my visit. She moved to England to be near one of her sons and died some time ago. I'm sure she must have longed for the view from the window in her old home.
Monday 30th July: I left about 9.30 a.m. and enjoyed the morning air, with little traffic on the road. I had washed some clothes at Barbara's and placed them on the truck to dry. I had done this on several occasions and at times the truck looked like a walking clothes line. On the far side of Annalong, a woman who was cutting her hedge, asked what I was doing. I told her about my journey, which was now in it's final week. She said:
"Mister I'm awfully glad, as I thought you had been evicted from your house" !
I chuckled because the appearance of the truck at times must have given other people the same idea.
The view over to St John's Point was very beautiful and I enjoyed the walk to Newcastle. I called at the home of Martin Waddell, to find his eldest son at home and he made me welcome. We chatted and he showed me his father's studio. Martin is a gifted writer of children's books and has received many awards. His mother-in-law, who is a good neighbour, asked me to call. I then called at the shirt shop to have letters stuck on the T-shirt that Sue and Steve had bought me. On the outskirts of Newcastle, I stopped on the roadside to have lunch. After I had finished I went to move the truck, only to find it had a puncture. I had a spare wheel with a bald tyre, so I reckoned it would be easier to change the wheel, than start to fix the puncture.
After I had gone through Dundrum, I was sheltering under a tree as a few drops of rain fell. As I stood there, a cyclist joined me and I told him about the puncture. He advised me to go to McKibben's in Clough and he would pay for the repair. I thanked him for his generosity and we both left together. Again I thought of the fraternity of road users, who use only muscle power. I was one of them and felt a strong affinity to walkers, cyclists and runners. Before I got to Clough a car stopped and Ann Grant, a Friend from South Belfast, came to greet me and we exchanged a few stories.
At the garage in Clough I found my cyclist friend waiting to pay for my puncture repair. As the five or six men employed in the garage were working on cars, the owner started the repair himself. He found a small hole in the tube and put on an appropriate patch. When everything was put together and the tyre inflated, it went flat immediately. This operation was repeated several times and again the tyre went flat. The owner then called one of the workmen to fix it. This time I thought it was repaired, only to find it soft after I had walked a short distance. Worse still was the fact that a thorn had imbedded itself in the bald tyre that was now on the truck. I did not remove the 'foreign body', as there was the possibility the tyre would go flat. I had lost one and a half hours getting the punctures fixed and was badly behind time.
My intentions were to walk to Ardglass, where Christine, my daughter and her boyfriend who lives in Downpatrick, would come to meet me in his car. I got as far as Minerstown, saw a telephone box, told Adeline my problem and she rang Downpatrick to say that I was at Minerstown. As I waited in this small village I looked across a beautiful calm sea to the Mournes and stood in awe of the majesty of the beautiful mountains. The sun was going down, adding to the contrast in colour. If I had not been delayed, the sun would have been high in the heavens and the view not as spectacular. On the coast road, earlier in the day, they didn't have much impact on me. It's like looking at a painting too closely, instead of standing back to admire it.
When asked by many people, which was the nicest part of the journey, I would hesitate and say a lot depends on the weather conditions and indeed I suppose, on my mood. For these reasons, when I stopped in Minerstown, I appreciated this view of God's Wonderland. I wasn't long before Christine and Brendan arrived and we were on our way to Downpatrick, where his mother had prepared a meal. Christine was going to walk with me the following day and I knew the miles I hadn't walked that day, because of the puncture, would be added to the next day and this would tax her strength.
My priority was to fix the puncture and Brendan kindly offered to help. We discovered a washer was missing from one of the wheels. Either I had lost it, or it had fallen off in the garage, so we decided to change the tyre to a different hub, This meant I now had no spare wheel but as I had gone round most of Ireland without one, I decided to just go forward in faith. Brendan's father invited me to his golf club, to meet some of his friends but as it had been a strenuous day, I was glad to get back to the Bailey's for a night's sleep.
Tuesday 31st July: After breakfast, Christine prepared some sandwiches and got some fruit as a present. Brendan drove us back to Minerstown and soon Christine and I were on the road to Killough. There were nice little bays and inlets around this coast and it was good to take the occasional look at the Mournes. Killough was a pleasant village, with trees lining the road and I noticed that improvements to the houses were in keeping with the rest of the dwellings. Christine was in 'full flow' with chat; it was good to have her company and we shared pushing the truck.
The road to Ardglass had interesting little inlets and I stole a last few glances at the Mournes. At Ardglass I remembered once seeing a little wooden shop at the harbour, now it was a ladies hairdresser. We talked to a hiker who was doing the Ulster Way, who knew Andrew Young a Coleraine Friend, who was also walking the Ulster Way. At Ballyhornan I was surprised to see how far the RAF base had extended. There was a pleasant little inlet with sand and rocks as we left the village. We stopped to eat at the roadside and enjoyed the food, given by the Baileys and other friends. The temperature was still rising when we arrived in Strangford about 1.30 p.m. We found the shops were closed for lunch, so we got water instead of soft drinks. The road was narrow and a trailer for a boat, with four extended supports about fifteen feet long, was occupying the full width of the road. On turning into a smaller road, it nearly touched overhead cables and came to a halt as overhead tree branches caught on the sup ports. We passed the obstruction, noticing cherries on the road, which the trailer had knocked from the trees. We salvaged some undamaged cherries and ate them as we walked along.
By now, the heat was beginning to slow Christine's pace and there was little chat. I got hot water at a house and it was good to have tea and biscuits. We did not go into Downpatrick, as we skirted the Quoile. This is a beautiful lush woodland area, with many birds in the little inlets. It is a well cared for area of Downpatrick, with nicely painted houses and an absence of litter, which pleased me. Normally Christine would appreciate areas like this, but the long walk in the strong sun was having its effect and there was little conversation from her.
Most of the road to Killyleagh was walled and my previous experience of walking along such roads, was not pleasant, as the dust keeps swirling about when cars pass, because of the absence of hedgerows. Christine bought me a soft drink, which I enjoyed before we went into Killyleagh
Jennifer, my other daughter and her children, Kerry and Clare, were not at the place where we were supposed to meet, so we sat down at an old disused water fountain and focused our eyes on every approaching car, to no avail. Jennifer lived about five miles away at Raffery, so a committee meeting was held and Christine and I came to a decision that we would have to walk. I knew that waiting would have a disastrous effect on Christine as she had stiffened up and was getting pains in her legs. Her feet were hurting and she tried walking with no shoes on but that didn't help. She said: "Don't ask me to push that truck; don't talk to me and I won't talk to you; I'm on automatic pilot". I laugh now at her humour but at the time I felt extremely sorry for her.
About half a mile from Derryboy, Jennifer and the children arrived. I was glad to see them for two reasons; it was three months since I had seen them and these final few miles were hurting Christine and she was pretty exhausted. We all squeezed into the car and in no time arrived at Jennifers. After a nice meal, friends of Jennifers arrived; Moya and Brendan her husband, who asked me questions about my journey. When they left, I talked on the phone to Adeline, then enjoyed a beer and talked to the girls before retiring to bed.
Christine was married in August 1998 and as is the custom, the bride's father has to say a few words. I referred to our walk together and said that as well as my journey being a memorable event in my life, it could also be in Christine's and David's. Few parents would have the company of one of their children for a complete day, with no other member of the family present.
Wednesday 1st August: Jennifer was up early doing chores and getting ready for work. The truck was loaded and Brendan was taking me in his car to meet David and his wife on the Killyleagh Road. We were on the road to Comber and when Liz heard about the number of punctures I had on Monday, she took on the task of walking in front of the truck, clearing a path free of offending objects. These disappeared left and right as the thorns and glass were cleared. I think she noticed the task she had taken on was having an effect on her new trainers, so after about a mile she stopped. At various times during the day we inspected the tyres, pulling out any splinters of glass or thorns, always hoping the tube had not been penetrated. The road to Comber was narrow and busy with heavy traffic, so we walked in line. I would have liked to have visited the Wet Lands Trust at Castle Espie, on the outskirts of Comber, which is home to a large variety of sea birds and is worth seeing. However to get there and back was adding four miles to our journey and would put more pressure on us later in the day.
When we reached Comber, I thought how close we were to Belfast and I possibly could have walked home in two or three hours. Instead it was going to take three more days to walk round Strangford. It was good to have my family with me, as all my needs were met. They made some purchases in the main street and I asked for a flakey cream bun from a small home bakery. I enjoyed this along with a fizzy drink.
The road to Newtownards had long straight stretches and here again I had no encounters, due no doubt to walking with others, as people were more likely to speak to me when walking alone. We stopped in a little park in Newtownards and I thought it would be a suitable place for lunch but David and Liz preferred to wait until we left the town and eat somewhere close to the sea. As we left the town, the footpath was wide enough for us to walk together, so we could all join in the conversation. We found a suitable place near the shore and lunch consisted of a variety of food including salad and fruit. Most days I hadn't much variety to my diet.
The view across Strangford Lough was pleasing even though the tide was out. Again the road was very busy but as there was a footpath, it was much safer to walk. I was looking out for the house where I was going to stay that night, as arranged by Betty and Bertie McElnea. This was the second time I had an overnight stay thanks to the McElneas. The previous time was in Donegal town. I had been given a description of the house and it was on the shore side. I saw a woman in the driveway and introduced myself. I said I would be back later, as I wanted to walk into Greyabbey with David and Liz. Here we found a pub and were glad of the liquid refreshment. We sat in the courtyard for an hour enjoying the sun and the rest.
David rang his friend Derek and arranged to be picked up at a picnic site near Mountstewart. Here we had another meal in a pleasant wooded area close to the lough. After Derek had collected David I decided to walk back to 'mine host' for the night. As it was still early I stopped to rest by the roadside and write up my diary. The Dunns were friendly people and gave me a room belonging to the eldest daughter. A reporter from the Belfast Telegraph talked to me on the phone and I was told there would be an article in the Saturday night edition. Later Betty and Bertie arrived as did John Neilly and his wife, who I hadn't met before. It was a pleasant evening and I retired to bed about 11 p.m.
Thursday 2nd August: After a good breakfast, David's friend Derek called and we loaded the truck into the boot of his car. David and Liz had stayed at Derek's home that night and he left me in Greyabbey, which gave me a good start for the day. There was a large lake about a mile outside the village and it was wonderful to see two swans and seven cygnets in it. It was amusing to see their bottoms pointing skywards as they ate. At Kircubbin I waited while they bought sun cream as they were getting sunburnt. The road from Kircubbin to Portaferry is very pleasant as the lough comes close to the road, with little bays and inlets.
I think Portaferry is a place of great character, with a particularly beautiful view across to the village of Strangford and Castleward estate. I appreciate the care that planning authorities show, in keeping the natural beauty of the landscape and restricting building in these areas. Sadly I wasn't impressed with the so-called development in many southern seaside towns and villages.
We had our lunch close to the slipway, where the ferry makes frequent trips over to Strangford. Then we found a good grassy area near the aquarium and rested for a while. After a long and enjoyable stop in Portaferry, we were on the road to Cloughy. The temperature on this back road was very high and we found it exhausting. Luckily we had plenty of water in the containers and got more fizzy drinks at Cloughy; not a very interesting place, except for a good beach. We did not delay long as David wanted to get to Portavogie to ring Derek, who was going to take them back to Newtownards. We had difficulty finding a phone and it would have been even more difficult to find a pub, as this was a 'dry' village. We passed the time watching the seals in the harbour eating fish, thrown by the men in the trawlers. When Derek arrived, David and Liz left, as they were going to help Jennifer move house the following day. Later they would meet me in Bangor for the 'final run'.
On the outskirts of Portavogie I found Sheila Livingstone's home, where I spent a pleasant night. I enjoyed her company and felt my concerns would have been shared by her.
Friday 3rd August: Sheila gave me sandwiches for the journey and I was on the road about 8.30 a.m. In a short time I was in Ballyhalbert to find that there had been work done on the harbour and adjoining area, since the last time I was here. It is not my favourite village on the peninsula.
About half way to Ballywalter I passed a road on the left, leading to an estate owned by Col Blakenson Houston (probably anglo Irish), where I used to camp with the Boys Brigade when I was a teenager. I also remembered walking with the Brigade to church in Ballywalter on Sundays and blowing a bugle in the band, the air escaping out of the corner of my mouth instead of going into the mouthpiece, because of the continuous blowing. The animals in the fields would run towards us to get a better look at the noisy spectacle!
Blakenson Houston's Belfast address was Orangefield House, which is now a large intermediate school. For some time the original house was used as part of the school, then it was decided to demolish it. Thankfully someone in the Education Authority or Belfast City Council put an advertisement in the Belfast Telegraph, offering to sell the Scrabo stone to the public. I brought two trailer loads of this fine stone back to my garden to make a rockery, which now has something in bloom, most months of the year.
At a neatly mowed area outside a caravan park, I sat down to eat some of Sheila's sandwiches. A short time later I was on my way to Millisle, where I met my older sister, Vera and Roy, her husband. We had lunch together in a cafe and I was sorry I had eaten earlier. On the outskirts of Donaghadee, a car pulled up and Jean and Stanley Martin, who were good friends, greeted me with more food and a tin of Guinness. I called with Vera and Roy at their flat, before making my way to Isobel and Tom Johnston's, where I received a great welcome. Isobel told me she had asked her chiropodist to come, as she thought he might be interested to see the feet of someone who had walked over two thousand miles. After bathing my feet I told Isobel that the chiropodist would have been more useful to me on the first week of my journey. Now the soles of my feet were like leather which impressed the chiropodist. I chatted to Tom and Isobel and their daughter, who helped to make the meal. I had difficulty getting to sleep , as I looked forward to seeing Adeline and reflecting on my journey.
Saturday 4th August: David, Liz, Sue and Steve were waiting for me at Bangor station. The truck was put into Steve's car and we walked the coastal path. It was great to be with my family and Friends on this special day and it was good to be able to walk swinging my arms. At Crawfordsburn, we met Betty and Rosemary Calvert, two Friends from Frederick Street, who had lent me their cottage in Donegal. Sadly Betty died in 1998. We all had coffee in the Country Park cafe and Betty and Rosemary walked with us to Helen's Bay, where they said good-bye. The next few miles of the path were very memorable as I walked along and looked over to the other side of Belfast Lough, thinking of the day I started on my journey and the physical pain I suffered. I held in my thoughts the encounters, the people who fed or gave me shelter and thought of them all as Children of God.
At Holywood, a God Incident with my God Incident woman. Diana and John Lampen had just arrived to meet me. Now there were six walkers as Steve had gone back by train to Bangor to collect his car and the truck. Christine and Brendan joined us on the by-pass and it seemed to me like a 'mini twelfth', after being on my own for most of the ninety days. At Quaker House we delayed for half an hour, and I was delighted to meet Jennifer and the children for that part of my journey.
We walked through Botanic Gardens and took some photos at the palm house. After walking up Malone Road with my entourage, I asked them to precede me down Marlborough Park, as I wanted to meet Adeline alone. It was an emotional moment, followed by a joyous occasion on seeing everyone. There were about fifty to sixty F/friends present and I tried to talk to everyone.
We had Meeting for Worship in the Meeting House and as South Belfast friends had obtained copies of the hymn, 'To be a Pilgrim', everyone sang with great enthusiasm. It was unusual to hear friends singing and I felt very emotional. Tea and cakes were served in the entrance hall, where I had another chance to talk to Friends. A memorable day that has stayed with me.
Gordon, the Pilgrim, pushed his truck all the way,
Along Antrim's Coast Road, in the month of May
Over the sea lay Kintyre, all painted blue
Around Ballycastle, Rathlin Isle came into view
Peace Pilgrim, you remind me, of Peter and John,
At the Temple Gate, silver and gold had they none
You were welcome in Corrymeela, the abode of Peace
Blessings pour on you; may they never cease.
By hillside and glen, the wild flowers bloom,
The scent of hawthorn lingers in sunshine and gloom.
Walking Erins roads, winding along the sea
Quaker Pilgrim from the North, God bless thee.
In Innishowen, you heard the sea bird's wild song
Did the wind blow? Did it blow you along?
Did your soul linger, or go on before?
Or went with you, along that lone shore?
On Ascension Day, you came to my door.
We talked of earth's beauty; you slept on the floor.
The road round Knocknarea is lovely as a dream.
High stands the cairn of the warrior queen.
Seals bask on the rocks; low moans fill the air,
A range of blue hills, rise far over the bay.
Do the birds gather round you, like Francis of old?
Do you find shelter, as the sun sinks in gold?
Pilgrims once dreamed of Hy Brazil,
away to the West,
Yet none ever reached the mystic "Isles of the Blest".
At times, you may find your soul lingering behind,
I hope you will meet folks, simple and kind.