Thursday, 29 October 2015

Matthew Loney in his New World

A new World it is.
A Slate, my self, washed clean.

My Journy, under-taken dazed, near forgot.
A Blessing, that, with
Part the 1st
A haze of roiling Waves &
Constant Unstediness &
Griping pain &
Part the 2nd
A Misery
By Carriage &
By Cart &
By my own nummed Feet.

Yet here at new Smyrna
One foot in Sea and one on Shore
I feel Awake again.

I look East.

Kilcloud a tiny Speck
Imagined in the distance
Thru the power of my Wishes
& yet not.

For Sophia.
For Sophia’s Shell
Is cradled by the Sand there
Dandled by the sea Creatures.
Selkies ring her Knell.

Another Slate to wash.

I read my Book.
I keep my Secret.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

St Malachy's ceiling

I feel quite an affection for St Malachy. He was the first native-born Irish saint to be canonised (though plenty followed him: I found a list of 331 Irish saints at Catholic Online)

Many of his achievements were in what we might now call ecclesiastical management. But he also had the lovely idea of planting apple trees throughout the country when famine threatened during the twelfth century. Healing miracles were ascribed to him. He enjoyed travelling, including across Europe. I think he'd be a welcome guest in anyone's living room. 

Here in Belfast it made sense to build a beautiful church in his name, and a foundation stone was laid in 1841, on 3 November, his official feast day. It was intended that this would be the Cathedral Church of Down and Connor. But just around then the Irish famine took hold. Funds which were due to be spent on making the church the biggest and most glorious ever were diverted to assist the starving. St Malachy would have understood and approved. 

The church that resulted, though, is still an amazing sight. It's most famous for its superb fan vaulted ceiling. CEB Brett, my favourite author on Belfast architecture, compares it to a wedding cake. It's unclear whether he intends this as a compliment.

St Malachy's narrowly avoided destruction during the Blitz of 1941, though many of the windows were shattered. This damage, as well as changes in the Markets area in which it's situated, caused gradual deterioration, and it was recently closed for over a year for restoration.

It's beautiful again now - pristine, Gothic, lacy, yet accessible. I suspect that St Malachy might raise an eyebrow, but would stride to the pulpit, eating an apple, to exhort us all to be kinder to the poor.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

The Women of Kilcloud at their Windows

Kilcloud, County Down. October 1875.

Counterpane, eiderdown, bed-curtain, blanket,
Simmet, stock, shift, chemise,
Ankle, calf, knee, thigh.

Soot, dust, ash, rust.

Jane Kennedy, aged 44 years

How does light enter the house?
Through these six dulled panes and glinting, a little, from my pots.
Why does light enter the house?
To pierce me, rock me, shock, entice me, beckon me forth to dance, prance, fierce and reckless and feckless.
I will not go.

Eliza Gallagher, aged 58 years

They bow their heads, but the Holy Spirit is at this present moment a diving dust-mote in the sunbeam. 
I will lift my eyes. 

Rebecca Doherty, aged 24 years

Framing, as best I can in ink and secret, 
My Thoughts and some small Images. 
This Bird, this garden Wall, 
The Orchard trees beyond. 
My Self, perched quietly behind the Glass.

Matilda Murray, aged 36 years

Perchance & Perhaps & I may not.
But watch me, I Wink. 

Sophia Lynch, aged 16 years

She was always a great lover of flowers.
And I...
I cannot say more,
For the women of Kilcloud are always at their windows.

Annie Walsh, aged 49 years

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Crab's eye view

When I need to escape, I always choose to go to a beach. I don't know if that's reliving happy childhood memories, or if everyone feels that way. I would certainly be very reluctant to live somewhere from which you couldn't easily reach the seaside. I will not be moving to Kansas any time soon.

It's not that the seaside is tame - one of the things that scared me most was when I once walked at midnight on a pitch black beach on Florida's Atlantic coast. The sea and the sky were so dark they seemed empty. It was ridiculously and illogically frightening. 

But this sort of beach, Kearney, on the Ards Peninsula, on a sunny afternoon in late September, is the opposite. It was so light and joyous that I lay on my back on the uncomfortable stones and just felt happy.

I hope you enjoy my pale, grainy crab's eye views of the unassuming sea plants which surrounded me, and others from my afternoon's wandering.