Canon Sydney Alfred McEwan (19 October 1908 – 25 September 1991) was a famous Scottish priest who was gifted with an exceptional tenor singing voice, and who sang traditional Scottish and Irish songs. Probably his most famous recording is the Marian hymn ‘Bring flowers of the Rarest’ written by Mary E. Walsh. The hymn was first published as the “Crowning Hymn” in the Wreath of Mary 1871/1883 and later in St. Basil’s hymnal (1889). The hymn is synonymous with Marian processions and devotions in the month of May.
One in four people will experience mental ill health at some point in their lives, this is a stark reality and there is no doubt that as we get older, loneliness and isolation can feel a constant in our lives. Long winter nights, bad weather, ill health and/or poor mobility can prevent many people from leaving their homes and become the key elements to feelings of isolation and depression. As we grow old, we will have seen many of our close friends and family pass away and we may even find that we are the last surviving member of our generation or family, no doubt this brings with it a great sense of loss which can lead to bouts of anxiety and depression.
At the end of January I was in Portsmouth for a friend’s birthday celebrations. It’s a place I know well having lived and worked there for eighteen years before moving to London. On the Sunday after the party I took a stroll along Southsea promenade, which was crowded with people of all ages enjoying the winter sunshine.
By coincidence the weekend of the party coincided with the anniversary of my Dad’s death some twenty six years ago. As a family we had dedicated a bench in his memory at Southsea, and so I sat for a time on the bench dedicated to my late Dad, facing the sea, and remembering.
As well as my Dad, I was also thinking of our Irish Seniors who have passed away in recent times. It has been a tough couple of months in the Seniors Project. Since the end of November four of our older clients have died. Patsy, Ellen, Johnny and Julia were well known to us. All were housebound and we visited them regularly, supporting them in a variety of ways. Their passing was made all the more poignant as they all happened so close together.
I reflected that our Seniors were unique individuals with a life story special to them alone. It was a privilege to share the last part of their earthly story with them including their hopes and their fears. Some talked openly about their deaths and shared their questions of what lay beyond. They also asked would we attend their funerals.
Patsy particularly asked would we arrange her funeral and ensure she was buried back in Ireland next to her parents. Just before Christmas, aged eighty one, she was laid to rest next to her Mum and Dad in Longwood Cemetery in County Meath.
With Ellen who so enjoyed our visits to her home and being able to sing and pray with us, there was a special time in hospital during her final illness, on one of our last visits, praying the old prayers from her youth in Cork and singing “Away in a Manger”.
A fellow Liverpool football fan like me, Dubliner Johnny had a dementia for many years and was cared for at home by his wife and family. A fan of rock and roll music, especially Buddy Holly and Billy Fury, we would sing and play these songs to him, and hear the memories of his wife Margaret and how they had met in the London Irish Centre over fifty years ago.
Julia, nearly ninety when she died, and housebound for some ten years before, spoke often of how she valued our visits, phone calls and cards. She always said please come again-and we always did.
And what about my Dad whose name was Ray. A gentle and humble man with a kind word for all he met, he died in 1993, not long after his retirement, far too soon for us who loved him. But isn’t anyone’s passing far too soon for those who love them?
Dad has a simple inscription on the plaque on his bench. It finishes with the words “Beyond the east the sunrise”. This is the opening line from a poem by Gerald Gould, which talks of life as a journey that never ends, and constantly seeking what lies beyond the horizon.
We are on the threshold of mystery as we contemplate the journey from this life into eternity, but seated on Dad’s bench thinking of him, Patsy, Ellen, Johnny and Julia, I believe that they have all found the sunrise they were hoping and striving for.
As a native of Liverpool, with Wexford roots from my maternal grandfather, I grew up with stories of the family farm back in Ferns, and stories of my grandfather, Henry Gahan, a Liverpool man, who was a veteran of the trenches of World War One.
As a member of the Royal Engineers, he would crawl out into no man’s land-that very dangerous space between the British and German trenches-to try and intercept German messages on their telephone lines. However, at the end of 1916, as a result of the wet conditions of the trenches, he became ill and was discharged from the army and returned to his job as a post office telegrapher in Liverpool.
A hundred years ago on 11 November 1918, he was on duty in Liverpool’s main post office, in his role as a telegraphist. He was responsible for receiving and sending messages via morse code-a series of dots and dashes-along radio lines, one of the main methods of electronic communications a century ago.
We are delighted to announce a fundraising walk in aid of our Elderly Campaign, which takes place on Saturday October 6th 2018 in Mayo, Ireland.
Starting at 11 am from the Trailhead in Mulranny to Newport.
All are welcome to join us. Those taking part will include Alan Brogan (former Dublin Gaelic footballer) who is Ambassador for this campaign to raise funds to support elderly Irish living alone in London.
Campaign details are available here.
DONATE. Choose Elderly Campaign from the list. Don’t forget to subscribe also to our Newsletter.
For further details please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 0207 482 5528
Sport, Spirituality and Seniors
One of my earliest childhood memories is of the Italia ’90, the 1990 Soccer World Cup Finals. It was the first time that the Republic of Ireland reached the finals and the team, affectionately known as Jack’s Army, was under the direction of Jack Charlton. New anthems were written, there was a run on Credit Union loans to finance fans visiting Italy and the nation truly held it’s breath at the penalty shoot-out against Romania. On returning home after the finals, Jack’s Army received a hero’s welcome.