We’ve been to Dublin over the last 36 hours for the funeral of my Uncle Arthur. As these things tend to be, it became something of a cultural and spiritual odyssey.
Let’s just say that Arthur was a major character .. he became a Catholic about two years ago and found a real sense of belonging in the local parish. Having watched Father Ted on Channel 4 in the hotel last night [the Golden Cleric Award episode] I was well wound up for my meeting with Father Liam of St Laurence O’Toole Parish in Kilmacud, Dublin, this morning. And very welcoming and hospitable he was – in a church into which the entire membership of the Scottish Episcopal Church would comfortably have fitted. And this is what I said about Arthur.
But there’s more … three bookshelves of his diary which I took into safe keeping. It goes back to 1950 and maybe earlier. So what will I do when I retire? Well maybe – just maybe – between the diaries, my grandfather’s sermons from his ordination in 1911 [which are in the Church of Ireland’s Library] and my own stuff, there might be a book. There are a number of common threads. Cats for a start. Mrs Putt in Arthur’s childhood, the mighty Nipper and many others .. through to our own Cleopatra and many others before Poppy. But the most interesting thread is the story of how the Protestant population in Ireland south and north managed – or failed to manage – the changes of identity and allegiance which the 20th century brought. We’re 98 years from my grandfather’s ordination – I’ll not manage it for the centenary. But if I’ve told you about it maybe I’ll have to get down and do it.