Miracles, Poets and Martyrs
Trip Start Oct 12, 2010
84Trip End Mar 24, 2011
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Where I stayed
Everglades Hotel, Derry, Northern Ireland
Knock, Knock - who's there? the Holy Family - that's who! We started the day today with a trip to the small pilgrimage town of Knock in County Mayo where in 1879, fifteen people saw an apparition of the Holy Family on the side of the church in town. The Pope came here in 1979 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the event. There is a lovely shrine here which is visited by thousands of pilgrims each year.
Poetry was next on the agenda today. We stopped in Drumcliffe in County Sligo to visit the grave of the Irish author and poet, W.B. Yeats in a beautiful little churchyard under the imposing Ben Bulben mountain. He wrote the haunting words on his gravestone, "Cast a cold Eye on Life, On Death. Horseman, pass by".
On the road today, we saw the most spectacular rainbow - our driver even stopped on the side of the motorway to let us have a look. There has been little rain but many rainbows in this magical country since I've been here. I'm destined to find a treasure!
We stopped in Donegal for lunch - a sweet little town in the northwest of the Republic of Ireland in County Donegal. After lunch, we crossed over into Northern Ireland, which is politically separated from the Republic of Ireland. In days past, there were intimidating border crossings between these two areas with a strong military and police presence, but today the borders are unmarked and unmanned. The crossing is like driving from Nova Scotia to New Brunswick. You can notice the difference in Northern Ireland (which is part of the UK) on the traffic signs as they are no longer in both Gaelic and English (just English) and the distances are measured in miles again (kilometres in the Republic).
We stopped in Derry in Northern Ireland and had a fantastic tour of the city lead by a guide who was impassioned and articulate in recounting the civil rights conflicts in the past, including the Bloody Sunday massacre which occurred in 1972 in the Bogside area of Derry. On that terrible day, the British Army shot 26 unarmed civil rights protesters and innocent bystanders. Looking at the monuments and murals throughout the city depicting the slaying of innocent people is very moving. Luckily, it appears that Northern Ireland is currently experiencing the most peaceful period in recent memory but I'm sure that such a long-standing history of violence and uprising is not easily forgotten.