Ireland of the welcomes – still lives!

Sep 24th, 2007 | By | Category: Ireland

Ireland used to be a different place.

Standing on the platform of Rathdrum station, waiting for a Dublin-bound train from the little Co Wicklow town in 1981, a strange thing happened.

As the train approached the platform, a woman with a carrier bag filled with books, stepped closer to the edge. The bag split and the books spilled down between the train and the platform.  The woman was greatly perturbed at what had happened, they were library books and she did not know how she would recover them.

A railwayman seeing what had happened, walked up to the locomotive and spoke to the driver.  The train reversed back out of the station, the railwayman jumped down onto the tracks, gathered up the books and handed them to the woman, before climbing back up onto the platform to allow the train to come back.  It was a wonderful moment, a country that still had time for people.

The Celtic Tiger killed the old Ireland, savaging notions of public service and care for people.  It is hard to imagine that people schooled in the Ryanair school of customer relations would worry too much about someone’s library books.

But the Ireland of the welcomes clings on.

Driving down to Glendalough with two delegates to a missionary conference, one from Egypt and one from the United States, I suggested that we dodge into the visitors’ centre to avoid a squall that had suddenly come down the valley, unaware that there was an entrance charge.  There followed an embarrassing moment, I hadn’t a single cent of cash with me.

“Do you take plastic?” I asked.

“Sorry”, said the man at the desk, “We don’t take cards. But it’s not very much to get in and the monastic site is free”.

“I know”, I said, “but I have no money at all.  We came in here to get out of the rain.”

“We should be able to take cards”, he said.  “Because we should and we can’t, you can come in anyway”.  He lifted the rope and let us through.

It was a moment that did more for my two visitors than a thousand tourist board advertisements.

It was a moment that reminded me why I had come to live in this country in the first place, and why, even with its faults, I still love it.

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  1. People like that man make life worthwhile.

  2. Hello Ian,

    You should have been in the USA on September 12,2001.Everyone was in a state of total shock and suddenly things were put in perspective.People were deferring to each other over seats on the train, women were holding doors open for men and other women.It was as if a light bulb had gone off over their heads and they realized what was important.
    Loving and being considerate to each other was substituted for the usual big city competition for space and services.Thanking God that your family was intact and praying for those whose families were torn apart by the terrible deeds of madmen.
    Some of that civility has since worn off but for the most part it has survived because we know we are all in this together and we need each other more than ever.

  3. Ireland now is more frequently characterized by the aggressive bad manners of Michael O’Leary, whose mammy never seems to have taught him that politeness costs nothing, and the greed of U2, who lecture the rest of the world on caring for the poor and then move their tax affairs offshore when it looks as though they might have to make a contribution themselves!

    The German ambassador made a speech where he described the new Ireland as ‘coarse’, maybe he had a point.

  4. Last time I was in Dublin both driving and walking in the area around Braemor Park I was struck by the considerate drivers. Courtesy happened so frequently to make me think…”that wouldn’t happen in the North”. Perhaps people are beginning to see one another again!
    And, I turn to FORTHEFAINTHEARTED every day…your writing is an inspiration – thank you. Very happy memories of those two years in Ballybrack! God bless.

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