Facebook pushes the memory – Consecration Service in Perth sixteen years ago today with Alison, Simon, Mark and Anna.
It was a moment of transition – unexpected and unlooked-for. Yet it felt right. I’m sure some of the people who took the risk of electing me wondered if it would be ‘all right’. And I certainly did. Great trust was placed in me. We never intended to leave Ireland – yet it became clear that people like me who had made a commitment to work for peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland were gradually leaving and finding new challenges in new places. The phase of the conflict which was ‘our time’ was over.
I knew so little at that point. Very little about Scotland and the SEC. Very little about the geography – I had to buy maps to find my way around. So it was a steep learning curve – just over four years later I found myself elected as Primus of the SEC.
I remember that I enlisted all sorts of people in my learning process and I certainly underestimated how different Scotland is. Ireland is steeped in religion – much of it linked to historic conflict. Scotland by contrast is secular, shaped by the Scottish Enlightenment. It took me a while to work all that out – indeed I’m still working on it.
This was the beginning of an extraordinary period in our lives. It brought great opportunities, great challenges and great fulfilment. We travelled extensively and met all kinds of remarkable people.
I remember that people often asked questions because they wondered if we were ‘just visiting’ and would return to Ireland when I retired. But I sensed from the beginning that this was a one way journey and so it proved to be. We are happily retired just outside Edinburgh within reach of Anna, Simon and Mark and our four grandchildren. Of course we keep close links in Ireland – long friendships and our cottage in Donegal which we hope to be able to visit some time this year. But Scotland is home now.