I always loved being in Co Wicklow. It has always been for me a safe and secure place. There was the whole of Dublin between here and the road to the North.
I lived in the North for sixteen years. It was not an easy place to live, nor were they easy years to live through.
My great delight during the first months I lived in Ballybrack was being near the railway as the Rosslare train headed south, rolling along on its journey through Wicklow and Wexford. I would run to a bridge to watch it pass. Completely daft, I know, but it was more than just a train for me.
The train was a reminder that there was a different Ireland from the one I had known, that there were the mountains and hills and rolling countryside of Wicklow and the green fields and seaside villages of Wexford. The train reminded me that all through the times in the North when there had been violence and hatred and fear, there had been an alternative Ireland here.
The Rosslare train reminded me of my first ever first visit to Ireland in 1981. A friend and I came across from England to go youth hostelling and we bought a 15 day pass to travel on the trains and the buses. We didn’t know where anywhere was; we just travelled. One day we caught the Rosslare train and got off at Rathdrum. We walked from the station down and found a wooded valley along a river. We sat beside the river with a loaf of crusty bread and Kraft cheese slices and cartons of milk.
The Rosslare train reminded me of our first summer holiday abroad. We stayed overnight with a friend in Enniscorthy, eating strawberries and walking beside the Slaney, before going to catch the boat the next morning. I still remember all the details of that holiday, including listening to the radio in Brittany as a guy called Tommy Conway read the sports news on RTE.
The Rosslare train has been like a comfort blanket to me. When I felt unhappy, I would make a special effort to look out for it. The big orange and black diesel locomotive would never fail to cheer me up. I always resisted the temptation to wave at the driver; it would be too much of an embarrassment if he blew the whistle, but there have been moments when I have felt like jumping up and down and waving both hands.
Most of all, the Rosslare train is a reminder to me of the journey home. I grew up in Somerset in the west of England, a place that has changed beyond all recognition but where I have my childhood memories of love and care and security. Rosslare is on the route back to those memories.
The journey back to our own homes, whether by train or bus or plane or car, wherever those homes may be, is important for each of us, because it’s a reminder that beyond all of the difficulties and problems and worries we have, there is somewhere we can find peace. It’s a reminder also that at the end of life we all have a journey home to the one who is perfect peace.