‘Old Glory’ in the quiet seclusion of Phoenix Park

Old Glory is a nickname for the flag of the United States. The original flag was owned by sea captain William Driver who flew the flag during his career at sea and then brought it to Nashville, Tennessee (sea) which is the sister city of Belfast, Northern Ireland, a city with a massive ship building history. It was flying low today on my morning walk. A few Irish soldiers went before and fell behind me as I walked on Chesterfield Avenue and around Farmleigh estate. It’s great to be out in nature, and its free!

Sea Swimming in Portmarnock

I was told I didn’t have to worry about the tide timing at Lower and Upper Rocks in Portmarnock. Not so. When I got there the tide was out. Next high tide for a swim is 10 ish. Too dark. I’m noticing a lot of conflicting information and naivety around the lovely Dublin swim spots. No wonder there is quite a high drowning rate. I could use some sea training myself. I didn’t fancy going down that ladder. When tide is in you just launch off the top. Its quite rocky. When the tide is in and its choppy you easily bang yourself off the rocks.

Land without God

This pandemic has given me time to reflect on my mother’s 12 years of childhood Lockdown/incarceration in Cork. Can you imagine being incarcerated at 2? Why?
The issue of child slavery within Ireland has been kicked under the carpet. Churches don’t mention it. But it’s a faith and justice issue. So, I was encouraged to discover the work and person of Gerard Mannix Flynn.

In his new film Mannix examines the legacy of Institutional abuse by the Irish Church and State over the last century. The story follows him, together with generations of his family, who for the first time, speak openly together about their childhood traumatic experience of being removed from the family home and being incarcerated in children’s homes and industrial institutions run by religious catholic orders. The children worked the land from dawn until dusk, ill-clothed, half-starved day in day out. The regime was merciless.

Manning says;

“Our story has always been stolen, sold and told by somebody else. We have been pitied rather than given justice. This film is told by those who witnessed, experienced and suffered the institutions first hand, my family. For over forty years I have tried to come to terms with what had happened to me, personally, in those institutions. I searched in the wilderness for answers, for reasons, for justice. Nothing came of it. The more I searched for answers the more there was none. My history simply wasn’t recorded. I want this film to redress that absence and silence and correct the historical record. This is an opportunity to ensure Ireland’s history and our history is included and written by those who experienced the unthinkable and who live to this day with the unfixable. For the generations to come questions will be asked about this chapter in Irish history. The grandchildren of those who were incarcerated will want to know, will have a right to know, what kind of history shaped their lives.”

Here’s a link to his website and the official trailer;


Feature picture is my mum Margaret Helen Dean in Yosemite National Park, California.


Celtic spirituality and feature film in Killarney

When we visit an inspiring place like Killarney in Ireland or see something beautiful it plucks at our heart strings. What is this feeling?

It’s the voice of the Divine Creator speaking with us through our senses. It’s this ability to see God everywhere that marks Celtic Spirituality as the distinctive capacity in all people to touch the Divine in the ordinary.

I was lucky to get a tour of Killarney with the man who pitched the idea for a feature film chronicling one of the most historic chapters in Killarney’s history. “The production team spearheading the project has signed a location agreement to film in Muckross House and the surrounding gardens and traditional farms and the period drama movie will tell the story of the Herbert family – who owned the property – as well as charting the visit of Queen Victoria to Killarney in 1861.

A number of household names from the world of film and television have been lined up for key roles, including Patrick Bergin who starred alongside Julia Roberts in Sleeping with the Enemy and in the western horror Gallowwalkers with Wesley Snipes.

High-profile composer Sacha Puttnam – son of legendary movie producer David –  has written the score for the film and it is to be recorded by the RTÉ Symphony Orchestra.”

Killarney Today

Swimming at Martello Tower Seapoint

“Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.”

-Saint Augustine

Swimming long distance at Seapoint is a great self-reflection exercise. I’ve build up my confidence a little. It’s popular too. My challenge is to swim around all five lined up yellow marker buoys, about 1.6 km. Swimming straight and managing my breathing is tricky.  I’ve made new friends, accompanied nervous swimmers into the sea and the energy in this place has refreshed my soul. I’ve wondered if there’s an outpouring of God’s spirit in this swimming spot.

I start my swimming from the Martello Tower which looks like an upside down flower pot. Whilst swimming I see Howth Head when I breathe on one side and then the Victorian terraced houses along the road on the other side. The tower is my marker finishing up. Thirty-nine Martello Towers are still standing in Ireland. The circular or oval stone or brick gun-batteries were erected around the Irish coast from 1804 as a response to an expected Napoleonic invasion. The tower at Sandycove is now called the James Joyce Tower and is celebrated for its association with Ulysses.

The circular Prince of Wales and Rochdale plaque below is just below where I stand to  undress and dress. I didn’t know Dublin Bay was so dangerous until I found this quote;

“The bay of Dublin has perhaps been more fatal to seamen and ships than any in the world, for a ship once caught in it in a gale of wind from ENE to SSE must ride it out at anchors or go on shore, and from the nature of that shore the whole of the crews almost invariably have perished.”

– Captain Charles Malcolm of George IV’s royal yacht.

Come and join me! 

A survival song

“This desperation, Dislocation, Separation, Condemnation, Revelation, In temptation, Isolation, Desolation, Let it go.” Bono.

I found this old video of U2 at LiveAid performing Bad. It brought back memories. I was there in 1985. The Wembley Stadium crowd reached almost 100,000. The atmosphere was electric. I still have the t-shirt. The event was organized by Sir Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise funds for the Ethiopian famine disaster. It was broadcast across the world via one of the largest satellite link-ups of all time. Almost 50% of the world watched it. There was a great rise of hope on both sides of the Atlantic, and in the world. I’d like to see that level of faith, hope and unity rise up today to help us fight back the darkness.

Just for fun the isolated seal in the feature picture appeared on East Strand, Portrush about 2 years ago. Because this is my 153 rd blog post, I’ll partner it with the narrative of the miraculous catch of 153 fish as the third appearance of Jesus after his resurrection. Gospel of John chapter 21 :-).

Wisdom in post-quarantine times!

“Wisdom is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her.”
(Proverbs 3:15)

God appeared to Solomon and gave him the opportunity to ask for anything he desired. What did Solomon desire more than anything else?


He chose wisdom over gold, oil, a NYTimes Bestseller, women, power, popularity, or long life. Why? Because wisdom is supreme. God was pleased with his request too so he granted it to him. It’s great to be intellectual or book smart, but it’s much more valuable to have wisdom AND apply it appropriately.

I’m reading ‘The Shape of Living’ by David Ford, Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge University. It’s a simple and rich read, providing spiritual directions for everyday life, especially when overwhelmed.

Living through this pandemic is overwhelming. During quarantine a lot of people were overwhelmed with their hair. A solution, and a funny one, was to just hack it off because no-one you knew was going to see it. I cut my fringe, crookedly. It costs 50 Euro for a good haircut in Dublin!!! Perhaps growing it out is wise stewardship.

In a season full of loss; movement, community, hope, job, finances, beauty appointments, freedom there is wisdom and strength in deliberately focusing on our gains.

What have you gained in these past few months?

There are two kinds of wisdom. What are they?

“Who is wise and understanding among you?
Let him show it by his good life,
by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”
(James 3:13)

The changing face of Dublin

Dublin is one of the world’s most beloved cities. It welcomes almost 6 million tourists every year. It’s changing rapidly. It has plenty of reasons for being on any architect’s travel list. On my walks I’ve noticed how the historical buildings are being supplemented or blended with modern architecture. The city’s red brick buildings, pretty parks and modest Georgian tenements stand proudly alongside buildings by some of the world’s largest tech firms. What do you think?

A Principle to live by on July 4th

” We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

— The Declaration of Independence – July 4th 1776.

America was founded on the racial idea that all men are created equal. According to historians and political scientists The Declaration of Independence was an astonishingly radical document. However this noble founding principle did not stop southern white men from going to war, almost one hundred years later. The Confederate rebellion failed but the country endured and African Americans, Chinese, Irish, Italians, Indians continued to expand their human rights and status.

As I look out from Ireland to America, my second home, on July 4th, I can’t help but ask the question.

Are you facing a similar rebellion today against that founding principle?

Are you ready and willing to defend the idea of human equality?

The men who signed the Declaration of Independence sacrificed a lot. Lincoln reminded Civil War Americans to “take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion-that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain-that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom-and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

This 150th blog lines up with Psalm 150 in the Psalter. It’s the last of 5 thanksgiving psalms and calls everyone, everywhere to praise God for his mighty acts of power and surpassing greatness. It’s a fitting psalm for today.

Happy Independence Day, everyone, everywhere !!

Saturday in Maynooth

St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth was founded in 1795. It was established by the government as a College for Catholic lay and ecclesiastical studies. As my Czehlak friend Jana and I walked through the grounds, it was fun to watch three year old John blow his bubbles towards the ancient rooftops. The paths we walked date to 1518 when the Earl of Kildare founded the College of St. Mary’s.