Friday, July 23, 2010


Today started out drizzly, but by the time we got to Londonderry the sun shone bright—not warm but sunny—which made for a very pleasant day. We traveled a scenic route that took us through the country. Nothing in Northern Ireland is flat. You are either going up hill or down which means there are always rolling hills above you or below you. The hills look like God laid down a giant patchwork guilt with the patches bordered by dark green ( hedges) and filled with lighter green fields dotted with grazing sheep and cows sitting on the hills watching us go by.

Londonderry is what the city is called in the North, but in the Republic it is called Derry, and the fight about the name seems to symbolize all the contention. Coming north the other day from Dublin all the direction signs read “Derry.” In many places the city is written as Londonderry/Derry, and here in the North on almost all the mileage signs, the “London” part of the word had been spray painted over so that all that was left of the name was “derry.” The fight over what to call the city caused one DJ to suggest they call it Stroke. That didn’t make much sense to me until I learned that what we call a backslash is to the Irish a stroke.

Ancient Londonderry was a walled city and the wall still stands. We walked atop the wall around the city to get a feel for the place and stopped in a small cathedral, St. Augustine’s, just off the wall. As I walked in there was a recording of bagpipes playing, “Amazing Grace” my all time favorite hymn which I want played at my graveside on bagpipes! It was a magical moment. St. Augustine’s was built in the 13th century and had been ruined and restored and rebuilt over the years and is now beautifully maintained. While there we found out about a historical play that would begin in forty-five minutes at another cathedral. So we walked on around the wall until we came to the big cathedral St. Columb’s, built in 1633. It was being refurbished and covered with scaffolding; the inside was also half shut off for workmen, but what we saw was beautiful. The wife of one of the bishops who presided there is the author of the hymn, “There is a Green Hill Far Away.” The words were inspired by the green hills surrounding Londonderry that made her think about of Calvary.

In 1748 John Newton was caught in an Atlantic storm and shipwrecked but miraculously survived which caused him to give up slave trading. While his ship was being repaired he went hunting with the Mayor of Londonderry and was shot through his hat. Now very converted and determined to change his ways he went on to be a devout Christian and many think that these experiences in Londonderry were the inspiration for his writing the hymn, “Amazing Grace.”

From there we went on to the play, but instead of being a play it was period costumed players who interacted with us telling stories of their days and times which was 1789. Delightfully they told us about King George losing the colonies and of having tea (pronounced tah) with the ladies down the street. They taught my grandsons how to politely bow when saying goodbye and we had a delightful time with them before taking our leave.

We also visited the monuments for those who lost their lives in the Troubles which is the Irish revolt that lasted roughly from 1968 to 1998. It was a very full day, the highlight being a visit to the “flat” where Mr J lived while on his mission. The lady who lives there now was very kind (I’ve decided all Irish people are extremely hospitable!) and visited with us for awhile. It is very late now, but hard to go to sleep with all the day’s events dancing in my head.

1 comment:

cathy said...

This sounds beautiful, I am so happy for you to have this wonderful 'summer vacation'!