In the last 1980s recession, The Beloved and three of her four siblings did upstakes and left Ireland to seek, if not their fortune, at least a life off the dole. That was typical for families of that generation. In the early 1990s two of that sibship saw the glimmer of green shoots in the economy and returned to Ireland to shift the ratio from 4/5 abroad to 3/5 home. By contributing to the moribund economy and paying taxes we returnees helped to bring the Celtic Tiger to life - sorry. Our generation is a bit long in the tooth now to head off to Perth with the current recession-led Irish diaspora.
Since the foundation of Raidió Telefis Éireann RTE, the state broadcaster, they have solemnly rung the Angelus on the wireless every day at noon and 6pm. In an increasingly secular state, there was pressure a few years ago to ditch this intrusion of the catholic church and its rituals into the, perhaps unwilling and mostly unheeding, ears of protestants, muslims, sikhs and atheists. I am as much against organised religion as the next chap (I keep a pitch-fork and a flammable pitch-brand handy in one of the sheds), but I was taken by one argument for retaining the Angelus. This was before skype and smart-phones; a mother phoned into a chat-show to assert that she and her children (every one of whom had left the country) could listen out for the bells, pause together and quietly reflect on their blessings and good fortune and think of each other. I don't know how they handled the time difference because one of the children was in Australia and two were in the USA, but such pedantic scientific details didn't hold them back. It's a bit like Mary Robinson burning a candle in the kitchen window of Aras an Uachtarán. You wouldn't chide her because the candle's vapour is carcinogenic.
Last night all five siblings were on the street together to participate in the Run in the Dark, two of them in Kilkenny, one in Dublin, one in Singapore and one in Cape Town. This is a charity fun-run first done in 2010 in response to Mark Pollock's accident. We all know Mark rather well because he's engaged to the sibs' first cousin. "Run in the Dark" rather cleverly honours the Our Mark because he has been doing that since his retinas dropped off when he was in his final year in College, plunging his world into a Miltonian blackness. You may hear the story here.
There a rake of things I don't do: I don't do medieval, I don't run except up stairs (trudging up is so tedious) and I don't do windows. But I do infrastructure. So last night I was given a Hi-Viz vest and a woolly hat and told off to stand at a round-about on the Kilkenny ring-road to tell the runners to turn and go back towards civilisation rather than trotting off into the countryside to be eaten by ravening farmers. It is November and it's cold, but it's not Yukon cold and it was only spitting rain in the last few minutes of my shift. They also serve who only stand and wait at the roundabout with a fluorescent arm pointing left.
Since Mark Pollock spilled out of an upstairs window and broke his back, he hasn't been running. But such is his never-say-never courage that I feel sure we'll see him walking again in the next few years as robotics technology catches up with his determination not to be ground down by adversity. We need heroes and we should endeavour to support organisations that allow people to find the heroic within themselves. To the RNLI, the OU and the Jack&Jill Foundation, I'll add Run In The Dark insofar as it helps to provide the financial lubricatioon that allows an epically heroic man to show us his mettle.