The pain of men

Feb 8th, 2006 | By | Category: Spirituality

Standing in the wind and rain at Rosses Point in Co Sligo yesterday, we looked at a statue.

A woman waiting, looking out to see with a forlorn expression, her empty arms stretched seawards.

The plaque beneath the statue said that it was called, very prosaically, ‘Woman waiting on the shore’. The plaque went on to explain that it was a memorial for the seafarers from the parish who had sailed out and who had not returned safely and for the broken-hearted people who had waited on the shore for loved ones.

It is a very moving piece of sculpture.

Walking away from it I pictured the weather-beaten faces of Irish countrywomen standing on the headland; shawls wrapped around their heads as westerly gales whipped in from the Atlantic. But I thought also of the men who would have stood and watched? Why no statue of the father or the grandfather of the young man who would not be returning? Is there a perception that only female images can evoke memories of pain and utter bereftness?

Perhaps Irish men have not been good at articulating their feelings. I thought about the words of Clare to Here. The haunting tune is accompanied by lyrics that express the thoughts of an exile, including:

Well it almost breaks my heart
when I think of Josephine
I promised I’d be coming back
With pockets full of green

It’s a long, long way from Clare to here
It’s a long, long way from Clare to here
Oh it’s a long, long way
It gets farther day by day
It’s a long, long way from Clare to here

I dream I hear the piper playin’,
maybe it’s just a notion
I dream I see white horses dance upon
that other ocean !

It’s a long, long way from Clare to here.”

The pain felt by Irish men through the centuries must have few equivalents; Ralph McTell’s words expressing the pain and disappointment of just one of the hundreds of thousands of men who were driven into exile.

Perhaps the new Ireland will bring a day when a statue of a man can be placed upon the shore and his expression and demeanour can be also seen as truly representative of the heartbreak of a people.

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