Showing posts with label island. Show all posts
Showing posts with label island. Show all posts

Monday 30 November 2020

Perfect Light IONA

There is a stillness and purity of light, as if time has stood still here. We stood calmly in the suns bright midday rays – chatting and watching as the ferry to take us over the short crossing from Mull, come into view and gently dock at the pier. The gulls call overhead and the calm waters sparkle. We wait with expectant talk, and a woman tells us she has seen dolphins jumping around a boat.


We walk on sandy shores and sit a while to have lunch and watch and listen. Yes there are no overhead planes or cars. The colours are soft blues, turquoise and pale greens that blend perfectly together. We are glad we chose a sunny Sunday for our trip.


First we visit a well preserved Augustan nunnery that offered a calm sanctuary to abused women – estranged wives, illegitimate daughters, abused children.


Then we walk along the shores to the Iona abbey where early kings of Scotland are buried.

On Iona there is the ancient burial ground of early kings of Scotland and Norway. Iona abbey is the best preserved medieval Christian building from the middle ages.

St Colombia arrived from Ireland with 12 companions and brought Christianity here.


We pass a plaque that tells us about the visionary reformer who believed that belief is grounded in action. In the 1930s great depression the Reverend George MacLeod, saw the despair,  poverty and hopelessness around him in Glasgow and offered these men some hope and they came to help rebuild the ancient monastery and gave them a sense of self-worth and purpose. 




I sit on the grass to bask in the moment, to listen to my soul cry, to watch the sparkling waters, to hear the voices from the past tell their stories. Many Scots kings are buried on Iona, and also Labour leader John Smith. 


So much history here – Oaths were sworn on the black stone of Iona and is considered specially binding

When King James VI was working to suppress the powers of the clans, he held a great meeting of clan chiefs, when one agreement was that the Scottish chiefs sent their sons to be educated in England.

Maybe he thought he was uniting the country - which came at a great cost of many lives. 


The Iona community remains committed to issues of poverty, peace and social justice.


There are places that lift us up and renew us, if we allow the light to shine on. 

Many are pausing a while to reflect on their own shadow. 

We feel the centuries hold us a while, all the lost souls, forgotten hearts, searching travellers.


Hallowed ground. Purity of light – offering body and soul if we can only hear it. 


Some places offer magic light. 



Alexander Pope, ‘An honest man is the noble work of god.’

Thursday 27 July 2017

Gaelic as a Weapon?

At Celtic Connections festival each year I hear the beautiful and very moving Irish and Scottish Gaelic singers.

I was shocked recently to hear former Northern Ireland politician David Trimble, Ulster Unionist Party, (UUP) claim that the DUP feel the Republicans wish to use the Irish Gaelic language as a weapon!

Part of the discussion over the power sharing at Stormont in Northern Ireland, is over the legal use of the Irish language.By comparison Scots Gaelic and Welsh Gaelic both have equal status for use in schools and on signs etc.

Why not Irish Gaelic?
I assume the cracks run deeper – this is about the struggle between British imperialism and the suppression of indigenous cultures. I’ve often wondered – why can’t the two nations run side by side.

Part of the problem is English entitlement and superiority and empire building attitudes. After the union of England and Scotland in 1707 many Scots poets - Allan Ramsay, Robert Fergusson, Robert Burns and others - while encouraged to write in English, they decided it was only in their native tongue of Scots that they could really express themselves.

Then I read the Wee Ginger Dug’s, Paul Kavanagh (wonderful Scots writer who expresses so well the conflicts for Scotland today) his article on Orange Hate. He had looked into the history behind it all. It appears the first Scots settlers to Northern Ireland were early 17th century, after the union of the crowns and they spoke Gaelic, oddly!  

The Scots Presbyterians who settled in Northern Ireland during the Plantations in the 17th century came predominantly from Galloway and Ayrshire. At that time those parts of Scotland were mostly Gaelic speaking, and they spoke a dialect of Scottish Gaelic which had more in common with Irish than most of the surviving dialects of the language do. One of the first Presbyterian ministers ordained in Ireland, a certain Jeremiah O'Quin from Bushmills in the north of county Antrim, was a native Irish speaker who was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1647. Presbyterian services were conducted in the medium of Irish throughout the next two centuries. One of the first books for people who wished to teach themselves Irish was written and published by a Presbyterian minister. The Rev. William Neilson of Kilmore in County Down published An Introduction to the Irish Language in 1808. It was based on the speech of his own parishoners. In the 19th century there were Presbyterian schools in the Glens of Antrim and Tyrone and all across Northern Ireland which taught Irish speaking Presbyterians to read and write with the aid of the Irish language bible.
The Pope was also an ally of William of Orange – in a battle against France! When William defeated James at the Battle of the Boyne, the Pope ordered the bells of the Vatican to ring in celebration! Ah there’s a thing then – what “side” exactly are Orange men on?!  The establsihments?
This appears to be a battle between British imperialism and one culture dominating another – or Co-existence and acceptance of differences and other cultures, and otherness.
What I don’t understand is why different nations can’t live separately in todays inter connected world and also live side by side…