19 October 2017

Memoir

The tale that follows is true though forty three years have passed by and of course as years disappear under the bridge, memory has an increasing capacity to distort what really happened...
Killary Harbour, Ireland with the youth hostel on the right
There is a road in the far west of Ireland that wanders around squat hills and across ancient boglands all the way from County Mayo into the wild north of County Galway. In early June, back in 1974, that is where I was heading.

I stood on the outskirts of Westport with my thumb pointing hopefully at the billowing sky. After half an hour, an old black car pulled up. It may have been a Humber or perhaps an Austin. The driver was a Catholic priest called Father Stoker. He was bound for Galway City via Clifden where he had some church business to wrap up.

Father Stoker was well into his seventies with straggly white hair and stubbly whiskers to match. I noted his slightly bloodshot eyes and the golden signet ring on his left hand. We had twenty miles or more to travel together and Father Stoker, clearly a genial sort of fellow, was glad of my company for at least part of his car journey. He had a few tales to tell and he was keen to hear what I had seen and done since arriving in Ireland ten days before.

At the county border on the N59 there's a little settlement called Clog. I kid you not. It was just as we were leaving Clog that  Father Stoker asked where exactly he should drop me off. Studying my map, I explained I wanted the Lough Fee road just south of Derrynasligaun. He chuckled at my pronunciation.

"But that's in the middle of nowhere!" he declared. "Where are ye heading after that?"

"I'm going to the youth hostel at the head of Killary Harbour."

For some reason, the car suddenly decelerated. Father Stoker gripped the steering wheel tightly, staring straight ahead before building his speed back up. Ahead, a pair of crows were picking over the flattened carcass of a dead rabbit but they flew off as the old black car approached.

Father Stoker didn't speak another word until we reached the drop off point. I heaved my bulging rucksack from the back seat and leaned back into the car's upholstered interior to thank the old priest for the lift.

He grabbed my hand quite tightly and as he did so I noticed  a curious symbol engraved on his golden ring. Perhaps it was Celtic. His cheerful demeanour had changed. With his rheumy eyes locked upon me he whispered, "Mind how ye go young fellow. Mind how ye go!" And then he released his grip.

I waved as he drove off, leaving me at a blustery road junction far from anywhere.  A rusting sign swung from an old post - "Hostel 2", meaning I had two miles to march with my Famous Army Stores rucksack - all the way to Killary Harbour.

TO BE CONTINUED

19 comments:

  1. Perhaps he was warning you of the man flu, Yorkie!

    Or were the crows devouring road kill an ominous omen of looming disaster? Faaaarrrrk! What were the crows trying to warn you about...perhaps Father Stoker was a joker...

    I look forward to the second chapter!

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    1. I am deeply hurt by your mockery Lee. It has taken me over forty years to find the courage to write/speak about these events.

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  2. weird old religious person!
    I look forward to the next installment

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    Replies
    1. I disagree - I am not a weird old religious person!

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  3. I want to know what happened next.

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    Replies
    1. Well you will just have to wait young lady.

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  4. Oh my....! This definitely sounds like a Halloween story.

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    1. Pull the duvet over your head young sir!

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  5. Oooh... ominous! Not speaking another word and then that warning...
    The only time in my life I dared to hitch-hike (with 3 other girls) cured me forever: we were picked up by two dashing young police officers in plain clothes... They made us promise we'd never do that again, especially not on our own, and refrained from ringing the doorbell to awke our parents at 4:00 in the morning.

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    1. In my youth I must have hitch-hiked well over a thousand miles. Sadly, people are now more wary of strangers.

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  6. I'm in agreement with Steve . . .

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    1. Sleep tight... don't let the bedbugs bite!

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  7. Replies
    1. See your Wednesday post. It's partly down to you John.

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  8. I hitch hiked many rides. You meet some fascinating characters. You also get yourself in a bind as when you get dropped off and it's dark!

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    1. There was an exciting randomness about hitch-hiking. Every lift was a bit different.

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  9. Another one of the TBC series. What will happen next? Well, obviously you lived to tell whatever the tale will be, I am intrigued but have a sense of foreboding...

    Alphie

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    Replies
    1. Be afraid...be very afraid...

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    ReplyDelete

Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.