Séamus Ahearne: The Grand Canal, the Heron, Boris, Cana and Indi

“I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers flow? ” (M Oliver)

Cappincur – The Grand Canal: (1)

Tullamore took over the news recently. The death of Ashling Murphy shocked everyone. The reality that girls have to be careful, where they run or walk, is horrible.  I recall my own thoughts as I rambled to the sea in the Algarve at 6 in the mornings during my time out there. I felt pleased and happy that so many lone girls were out walking at the same time. It shouldn’t be thought of as unusual. However, too often it is simply unsafe for a girl, to wander alone. This is true in too many places. Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa highlighted the same issue. It is more than depressing to think that at our advanced state of civilisation, we still have such fears. I remember working in New York 50 years ago. I would finish work at midnight and walk home. I was warned on a daily basis by the locals to be very careful. My own comment was that it was more likely that people would be afraid of me that I would be of them! But the sense of fear that people lived with surprised me and also saddened me deeply.

The rust in society: (2)

I return to Ashling Murphy. The reaction to her death was overwhelming. I dare to say it, but collective emoting worries me. Her death was like a valve released and then became an opportunity for everyone to explode with feelings. Something similar happened with Sarah Everard. It seemed like the Diana-effect of Britain. Even that the President and Taoiseach turned up for the funeral, doesn’t quite seem right to me. I wonder about the hugging too. Every violent death is an assault on our humanity. I worked with 171 lifers in Edinburgh and have been involved with so many murders locally that it began to seem normal. But it isn’t. What can we do to rediscover civility, courtesy, kindness and respect in our daily behaviour? We need Christian values even if the Church or Religion is not too important!

The Heron: (1)

The frost was sharp this morning. I walked carefully. The odd bird sang. The river gurgled. The dogs weren’t out. No other walkers appeared. But then my friend emerged. It has been ages. I missed the special one and our kinship. The Heron was on the river. There wasn’t a word. No greeting. But we understood each other. There was a flutter of my heart. My face smiled. The heron was shy. (S)he was probably embarrassed for not talking to me over many weeks. It stood still. It waited for its breakfast. Both of us knew that it isn’t always necessary to talk. We were happily aware of each other. I walked on. There was a spring in my step even if I was still careful.

The Bible of life: (2)

I began to think of Cana from last weekend. The notion of abundance. Of lavishness. Of flúirseach. Of flahulach. Of feasting. Of celebration. Of Hosea (marriage). Of the Song of Songs. All came to me. We moan. We groan. But life is rich. Nature speaks. The Bible of Nature is wonderful. The Bible of friendship; of banter; of honesty; of humour; of art. This is Cana. This is the heron. This is daily life. Our new way of seeing God; of celebrating God – has to be an exercise in opening the eyes of our imaginations and creating then a very different church. It is surely an exciting prospect. We can contrast this version with the tired and ridiculous structure that has allowed Tony Flannery be ignored for ten years. That cannot be the Church of Jesus Christ. From Cana? From this weekend’s Word? From any real minister of the Gospel? The real synodal pathway is caring and listening and respecting.


Party-gate: (1)

Watergate has been very contagious. We have Party-gate; Iveagh House-gate; Golf-gate. Phil Hogan and Dara Calleary lost their jobs after that dinner in The Station House Hotel in Clifden. When Ireland won a seat on the Security Council (UN) with the first vote the hardworking team at Foreign Affairs celebrated. Kay Burley was (possibly is) a frontline reporter on Sky who celebrated her 60th birthday, and was then stood down for six months (I think). But Downing Street appears to have multiple reasons for partying and many parties.


‘In the name of God, go:’ (2)

Boris Johnson is now fighting for his political life. His one-time friend and advisor Dominic Cummings attacked. (Revenge is a dish, best served cold.) Beth Rigby (Sky) used her scalpel to strip away Boris’ obfuscations. It was rather pathetic to watch. And then as if he hadn’t sufficient problems, David Davis hurled a blast from the past: “In the name of God, go.” He linked his comment to Leo Amery’s assault on Chamberlain (quoting from Cromwell to the Rump Parliament 1653.) However, it isn’t all a game.  Too many have suffered. If the people who make the rules don’t see themselves as needing to lead by example, there is little hope.



Anthony’s wife died. They had been together for 54 years. He had a severe accident some 12 years ago. He was brain-damaged. But his chatter was lovely. His prize gift is a pair of scapulars given him by his wife Kathleen. He hung them around her photo on the coffin. It was very moving. It is the simple things of life that express the beauty of real poetry and real humanity.


She went to the child minder this morning. It was her first time back since before Christmas. Covid had interfered with her routine. She was happy to venture out again. She has been busy. She loves her books and prefers them to her toys. She is full of words. However, she doesn’t stay long on the phone these times. She has too many distractions. The adventure of life keeps her very occupied.

However, she has a new question for me. She tells me that she finds church very dead. Very few people talk. There is a man up at the top (she tells me) who seems to do everything. She wants to know why can’t she have her say? Her view is that she is alive; that she notices everything; that she is learning; that she is always wants to learn new things. Why can’t all these people present, share what they have learned in life? That is her question. This quietness and seriousness and this one man show doesn’t impress her. She thinks that women too have something to say. Why isn’t there a woman up there? Oh she knows that some women read and do the odd job but the talker is the man….


Seamus Ahearne osa


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  1. Soline Humbert says:

    Séamus Ahearne: The Grand Canal…

    Indi’s “new question” reminds me of another question:
    “What happens to the spiritual life of a young girl
    who is made to understand, consciously or subconsciously,
    that she has no place in the spiritual domain
    except as a consumer of someone else’s God?” (Sr Joan Chittister OSB)

  2. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Séamus, thanks again for your Grand Canal reflections. Ach cogar a chara, who are all these “girls”? Young women, surely, or just women. Ashling Murphy was a 23-year old teacher, among her other accomplishments. Sabina Nessa 28 and, like Ashling, teacher of a First Year Primary class. Sarah Everard, a 33-year old marketing executive.

    Should Jozef Puska at 31 be described as a boy, and perhaps have his impetuous youthfulness cited in mitigation?
    Those other two boys – Alexander of Macedon and Jesus of Nazareth – both died at 33 with a few noted accomplishments under their belts.

    But you’re right that the Irish too seem to have come late to public emoting and hugging as well as mugging. John Philpot Curran said that “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance” – not eternal vigils post factum, but I’m sure liberty for women, young or not, should be included there.

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