Sunday 5 May
From 1 - 8 May, VOX magazine editor Ruth Garvey-Williams is travelling all over Ireland, hunting down stories of faith, life and reality. As she zig-zags her way across the country, her daily blogs will capture a few highlights with stories of the inspirational people she meets and some of her adventures along the way. During this epic road trip, Ruth is counting the number of election posters she passes (highlighting plastic waste) - and VOX magazine is running a competition to see who can guess the number (post your guess on the VOX social media pages or email firstname.lastname@example.org for your chance to win the prize!)
Day Five: Tralee to Leighlinbridge, Co. Carlow via Dunmayway (west Cork) & Kilkenny
It was a long and eventful day on the tour, which started peacefully enough watching a wild rabbit hop about the neighbouring field from my B&B. Sadly the bunny was camera shy so I was unable to make him famous! I set out at 8.30am for a breath-taking drive south to Dunmanway. At Killarney, the skyline was dominated by the Kerry mountains. On into Cork and the road snaked up and down hills, through shadowy tree tunnels and alongside banks of dark, menacing pines, all straight lines and sharp angles. Further west, the fields were dotted with gorse-topped crags. This is “wild” country - and I love it! It makes me feel home from home.
Dunmayway, West Cork
Two years ago, the Sam Maguire Community Bells were installed in the bell tower of St Mary’s church, Dunmanway (home to Sam Maguire’s grave). The project was the brainchild of local Rector Rev. Cliff Jeffers (a bell ringer himself) who had the vision for a cross community bell-ringing group.
Today that vision has become a reality. The award-winning Sam McGuire Community Bell Ringers are an intergenerational, inter-denominational and multi-cultural group who have worked hard to learn the skill of ringing the eight Sam Maguire bells (from treble to tenor). It was brilliant to be able to watch them at work!
I stayed for the 11am service at St. Mary’s. Rev Cliff preached on John 21 - challenging us with Jesus’ words to Peter, “Do you love me?” Afterwards we enjoyed a welcome cup of tea and I chatted to some of the church members. Sisters, Joyce and Diana, run the Sunday School and the children were keen to show me the craft they had made today (based on the sermon).
Ladies from the Mothers’ Union were concerned about falling membership but instead of bemoaning the changing times, they took a courageous step of launching a community Mammies and Toddlers Group in the church hall. Today up to 30 Mammies and their children attend the group every week!
M8 Toll Plaza
It is a two and a half hour drive from Dunmanway to Kilkenny where I had my next appointment. So I set off after the service, battling tiredness as the “election poster” count climbed past another milestone.
(Have you entered the competition yet? There is a prize for the person who can guess how many posters I will spot during my seven days on the road! Send in your guesses to email@example.com or post your answer on the VOX Facebook page.)
Joining the motorway, I was thankful for a long stretch of faster and easier driving but as I slowed down for the M8 toll plaza I began to hear a terrible banging and flapping noise - it was a miracle it didn’t happen a few minutes before when i was travelling at 120km.
Once through the toll, I pull over at the first opportunity to find the back tyre had blown out. After a panicked phonecall to my husband, I set off walking (in my heels) towards the toll plaza to ask for help. But I hadn’t gone more than a few feet before a car pulled over and two young men stepped out. These heroes jacked up the car, removed the shredded tyre and fixed on the spare wheel in no time! Before I knew it, I was on my way again, feeling a little shaky but relieved and so thankful. Whoever you are… “THANK YOU!!”
In Kilkenny, I meet up with Pauline Haughney who shares her moving story with me. “My uncle was ordained as a priest the year I was born and he was very much alive. He gave us as our first family Bible and wrote in it... ‘Hope it will be well used.’ Little did he know that as a young teenager I would read that Bible until it fell apart!”
Pauline’s journey took her through an unplanned pregnancy (her baby son was adopted) to the terrible grief of learning years later that her son had been killed. But through that heartache, Pauline drew closer to God. She began attending Kilkenny Community Church where she found friendship and support.
God took my story that seemed shameful, sad, dark and painful, and He transformed it.
Pauline retired last year from her career as a midwife but she has started a new vocation after training as a spiritual director (in some ways she sees it as being a “spiritual midwife” to walk alongside people as they come alive in their faith).
Heading on to my hotel near Carlow, I’m grateful not to have any late evening appointments. It has been a hectic day! Thankfully, the hotel is able to track down a tyre company that will be open on Bank Holiday Monday, so I’ll be able to get everything sorted before travelling on to Dublin in the morning!