Sunday 20 November 2011

Misty Morning at the end of the year

The Feast of Christ the King is my favourite. The end of the year. This morning I as woken early by Woodruff, a tiny new British Blue boy. We got up and looked across the church yard to the steeple at the end of the garden. It was wreathed in mist. The air still smelled faintly of the wood smoke that had filled it last night. Today is going to be a good day. Woodruff purred.

After a cup of tea, a bacon sandwich, a little listen to Andrew Marr on the telly, my thoughts turned to the day. I will not be going to Mass until this evening. During the day Ma, Da, Gemma and I would be joined by lots more family: brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews. Ma had been preparing a leg of lamb, boned by the butcher and stuffed with sausage meat and fresh herbs. There were going to be parsnip chips. Vegetarians were going to feast on mushroom pies with red currant jelly. There will be roast potatoes, broccoli, carrots and watercress. For pudding there is a big mince pie and cream and/ or a lemon butter cream and raspberry sponge. All in all, there will be a feast fit for a king. And, Ma had been very busy.

After all that food, I imagine we will all take a walk across the misty fields and look at the burning red sun as it sinks low into the sky. The Cotswold sheep will be huddling together round their round hay feeder, their soft oily wool damp in the evening air. Finally, having bid farewell to Woodruff and the family, I will drive through the early winter dark to Mass. To me, this is a perfect Sunday. I used to associate Christ the King with trying to organise various youth groups into a performance of 'the sheep and the goats', Matthew 25: 31-46. Now, I am happy to let the dramatic colours of the season guide my thoughts to the end of time, and the huddled wooly sheep show me the nature of community (sheep rarely go anywhere by themselves, even in the mist and the darkness), and the family feast remind me of the heavenly family feast.

Friday 4 November 2011

A notable figure


So, I was just doing some family research for my Dad and came across an old newspaper article in a cupboard, sadly not sourced, but dated - 24th June 1938. It is the obituary of my Great Uncle, James Hutton. The title of the article is, “A Notable Figure”. James Hutton was, at one time, a clerk of the Sinn Fein Courts. He is remembered at home because the British Army once came looking for him, and on not finding him, ordered the furniture to be put out and the house torched. Fortunately, the local parish priest had previously served in the first world war and knew the commanding officer. He saved the day.
Anyhow, his obituary….quite amazing for a grocer from Tramore.
James Hutton, whose death in the midst of his life, is chronicled in this issue, was a notable man. I met him when the great adventure of his life was over - he played his part as a member of the IRA, had suffered imprisonment, and, released, had after his marriage, set his mind to building up a livelihood in the New Ireland he had helped, with all his might, to create. But, although the Great Adventure was over, it remained the inspiration of his life always. His mind dwelled much in the past, in the green pastures of the farm whereon he spent his childhood, and among the memories of this forefathers about the great events which helped to shape his life, and that of all Irishmen of today. He spoke often of the land war, recounting tales repeated by the fireside by his own people, tales of landlord tyranny and of the bravery and dauntlessness of the oppressed.
He possessed to an unusual degree a hatred of injustice. Any suspicion of it, wherever he found it - and he was no respecter of persons - brought from him denunciation, sometimes passionate in its intensity. He despised the trappings of tryranny as much as he loathed the thing itself. For this reason he gave no rest to the snob, to the seoinin, to the overbearing: for the bigot he reserved the full tide of his wrath. For this trait he was not popular in some quarters. But he would have despised himself had he earned his popularity at the expense of his convictions.
The fervour of his beliefs, however, in no wise warped his judgment. In discussing with me every crisis which marked the period (eventful politically speaking) since the day he opened his business here he displayed ripe wisdom and perfect national outlook.
In winter months, when Tramore becomes just a spot in the country, and ceases to be a roaring seaside resort of the modern kind, an active mind and restless spirit such as James Hutton possessed attracted people. He was a ready and sincere talker, a debater of no mean power: and he never spoke about anything that failed to interest him or his listener. He read much and was an able and liberal minded critic of what he read. A point of interest is that he firmly held with that school of thought which does not reject imitations of a spirit world all about us. To walk with him in the Celtic twilight, among the Sand Hills near Tramore, where the eerie background is appropriate, was to be tempted to share his other-world ideas.
I can remember many a winter night spent in the entertainment of listening to him. One time, with a vividness absolutely fascinating, he described to me various episidodes in his native county. Some of the things he told me which were incidents in which he played a part: others were true stories of a distinct traditional value. His stories of eccentric landlords and Ascendancy folk supplied a valuable picture of the Ireland of yesterday out of which the Ireland of today was grown. Incidentally these stories would furnish plots for novelists and dramatists possessing the divine afflatus without any theme around which to weave it. He told me he had kept a diary or scrap book and I think that, if it were extant, it is sure to be worthwhile. I failed to get as much as a sight of it: for the keeper of this diary was so modest that he feared his lack of literary skill would render what he had recorded unworthy of reproduction.
Another topic was the national games. The GAA Year Book was as interesting to him as the latest cinema play to the average young man or woman today. He held sound views about farming, and was fond of exposing false views. He told amusing anecdotes - as well as anecdotes of a grim realism - about life on the land. He was one who regretted keenly the decay of countrylife…
I feel, as I write, like one who has talked far into the night with a warm-hearted friend. And, in the silence, as I look up, I become aware that the fire has gone out.
24th June 1938