Ireland Visit

Tony Simpson, the brother of my sister Sally and I, and the co-founder with his Danish wife Agnete of the Upper Room Fellowship in the Republic of Ireland's second city of Cork, has become very frail.  He walks with two sticks and breathes with difficulty.  So as soon as Covid travel restrictions and my cardiac medics permitted, Sally and I went to Cork for eight days, even though heavily booked hotels and flights were double their usual price.

In my autobiography Monk in the Marketplace I tell how in the previous venue for The Upper Room, which was compulsoralily purchased for a new shopping centre, they displayed a notice 'Jesus heals broken hearts' and their friendly doctor next door put up a notice 'We heal everything else.'  Their brand new venue, in Union Quay that overlooks the river Lee offers a welcome to ordinary people who want to become real.   Although Edwin is now the pastor, he drives Tony to every Sunday morning service where he reclines in a stressless chair until he gives 'a Word'.  Although worship is high tech, Agnete, aged 88,  plays an old fashioned accordion which blends perfectly.  Sally and I and nephew Peter, visiting from Spain, were publicly welcomed.  Afterwards I chatted to Alberto who leads Congolese worshippers there and oversees a church in the Congo.

Nephew Tom, who works in an oil rig which helicopters him to an airport whence he flies via London to Cork for regular three-week vacations, chaperoned me from Berwick, and (with Sally) from Stanstead. His wife Kemi drove us from Cork airport to their home in Glanmire, where we relaxed with three of their children, Oisin, Rian and Caoimhin.  Nephew Peter was visiting with his family from Alicante, and we met with his children in Ballingcollig Park and in a restaurant another day.  Cara said I should use gell on my hair, and my ponytail should not be on the left but in the middle.

On Sunday afternoon Peter drove us to Gougane Barra, the lake valley where Saint Finbarr founded a monastery which he thought was his 'place of resurrection'. Until some former students shared a dream with him that it was to be their place of resurrection.  The humble old Finbarr gave them the whole estate and walked on alone beside the river Lee until he founded two monastic cells which became the foundation of Cork. The guide in the Church of Ireland's  St. Finbarr's Cathedral, (himself a Catholic) on the site of Finbarr's first cell there, told us that the Church of Ireland was both Reformed and Catholic.  If that truth could sink into the psyche of all inhabitants in the island of Ireland healing and wholeness could come. On another day Sally and I visited 'the Franciscan Well' (now a pub) on the site of Finbarr's second cell in Pope's Quay, near which Franciscans later built a friary.

Our oldest nephew Sam, on finding that all hotels were booked, asked a colleague in the hotel industry for help.  He said that the Rezz, a trendy hotel with 100 rooms was just opening, so Sam booked us in. He told the receptionist that although we were 'getting on' we were trendy all right.  The hotel explained that it was 'minimalist'.  As far as I could could see this meant that we paid twice the price for  a room like a box with no cupboard, table or chair, and which provided no meals.  However, every time the lift broke down (which was most days) we got a free coffee.

We tried getting breakfast at a place opposite that did not open until 9.0 am. When it opened at 9.30 am the owner explained 'Oh well, it was raining so I thought I'd come in late!'.

Agnete walked down from their home at Dillon's Cross and accompanied us on a bus back up the hill.  We bused there several days.  On one day three French 'Travellers' called in and prayed over Tony.  They visit Ireland often and are grateful for the Simpsons' ministry to Travellers over many years. There is a revival among French Travellers. These three came from Bordeaux, where I think there are dozens of Traveller congregations each with hundreds of members.

Our oldest nephew Sam accompanied us home, and very kindly chaperoned me back to Berwick before returning to in-laws in London.  It was a privilege to share life journies with each of these remarkable brothers whose greatest years may lie ahead.





Posted at 16:37pm on 19th August 2021
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