There is a mass for the departed in a churchyard next week; it being pre-Disestablishment and possibly pre-Reformation, the graves are from both sides of the community. Praying for the departed always seemed odd; do people really believe that stepping outside of time means stepping into some ethereal waiting room for some undetermined length of time before being allowed to step on to a heaven bound train? What sort of God works on a human timescale? A genuine reason for absence means not needing to find an excuse for not attending.
It is not just in masses for the departed that the past is reasserting itself. A photograph of Fine Gael members in Mayo showed them celebrating their victory over the ‘Dublin media’. Did it not occur to them that it was the electorate and not the Dublin media that has rejected their party at every general election since 1982? Never mind the present, they will live on the past; like some millennial sect, claiming that the day is near and their vindication is nigh.
The perfection of the June evening demanded it be enjoyed. Heading out for a drive, commentary from a Gaelic football match filled a fish and chip shop along the street. The excitement of the commentator’s voice approached that of Michael O’Hehir. Two young farmers waiting for their order paused to listen at what must have been a significant moment. All the evening needed to capture the mood of an Ireland long past was some hissy, scratchy recording of Count John McCormack.
The street outside was deserted, apart from the odd lorry going through to avoid the motorway toll. A friend had said the local railway station had once been a significant junction. Its fine Victorian building and impressive new bridge and platform signs and seating conspired to conceal the fact that the station is long past its glory days. A goods shed is bricked up; sidings are full of grass; the rather fading timetable advises that the last train of the day departed at 1959. Eating the fish and chips in the station car park; there was not enough poetry about the place to imagine it ever thriving. Perhaps it had always been a place that promised more than it delivered. The single waste bin was locked and there was no option other than to keep the chip wrapper in the car; its smell filling in the interior.
Driving up into the mountains, there was a definite step back. The road across the county border had broken up in last winter’s frosts and snow. In places, the width of the metalled surface was narrower than the car and the wheels bumped through potholes and loose stones. A marker stone declared that the road had been opened in 1995; a bold attempt at a tourist initiative that seemed not to have worked, like those deserted seaside resorts on the west coast.
Descending the road into Co Tipperary, turning the radio revealed the 10 o’clock news had been missed. ‘And now,’ said the announcer, ‘a voice so inimitable, it needs no introduction’. There was a scratchy hissy sound and the voice from the past began to sing the beauties of his native land: old Ireland lives on.