This section of short stories started by accident when my old school-friend, Dr Danny McAllister, practicing in England, reneged on an anticipated visit to our shared ancestral parish home in September 2012. His excuse was that a long-planned 500 mile stroll was to take precedence over yet another visit to the homestead to poach a few tasty wild salmon from the River Moy. Each to their own, I thought to myself, until Danny later explained that his walking expedition was actually a re-enactment of a historical pilgrimage across northern Spain. Danny was sufficiently daft / possessed / fit / brainwashed (delete as per reader’s choice) to attempt to walk alone and uninterrupted from the French side of the border near to Pamplona all the way west to Santiago de Compostela. I was educated to learn that this countryside / countrywide walk is known as El Camino de Santiago to the ancient ramblers.
Danny’s walk along well-worn pathways was scheduled to take a little over a month, allowing for permissible overnight rests. I decided to accompany Danny (not in person!) by relaying the news from his South Sligo ancestral farm parish at regular intervals by way of a diary report. I was wary of this undertaking; maybe more-so than Danny’s physical challenge – because nothing much ever happens in a quiet outback in the West of Ireland, far off the beaten tracks which Dr McAllister was attempting to conquer, does it?
It was only when Danny reached the holy grail of the Atlantic Ocean, and I read back my diary notes, that I too had a “religious” experience and appreciated that a helluva lot happened in our isolated Irish community in the space of one month. My epiphany moment made me realize that the more distance there is between houses (typically 200-500 metres here), the closer the community. Every birth, courtship, wedding, illness or death is verbally communicated around the parish within a matter of hours of any formal announcement or insider knowledge being proclaimed. The well-being of the occupants of every secluded home is monitored from the village meeting points, namely the shops and pubs (some of which are shops and pubs). Help is always at hand.
I have lived in apartments and terraced streets in other parts of the world, and I never even knew the names of some next-door neighbours despite being more than familiar with their raised voices through seemingly paper-thin walls.
And so … I simply relayed the parish news to Danny, as it happened, and how I interpreted it. Danny told me he welcomed the light relief provided by my missives, and so did his fellow walkers when he shared the regular updates at his overnight hostels. In fact, Danny’s fellow-Camino pilgrims from around the world now want the GPS co-ordinates of our little corner of the world. Danny warns that there could be an invasion of lost souls looking for enlightenment. Whoever they are, they will be welcomed and cared for. That’s just the way of life here.
Click on Camino Rambling below to catch up on what’s been happening in the parish ….
Start at 26th September 2012 in order to follow the Camino trail, then: