Sunday, 10 May 2020

Of Different Stuff

Dear Reader


 The Wailing Woman at Skellig Michael... - Wild Atlantic Way | Facebook

The Wailing Woman at Skellig Michael... - Wild Atlantic Way | Facebook

The Wailing Women





 Photograph of me taken on VE Day





I think I have a small theme this week. This is it.  In this lockdown I have been doing lots of reading of various things, and about people and places.  And I have come to the conclusion that there have been throughout history some astonishing, interesting and completely wonderful human beings but, in particular, that they have been so brave.

Whilst watching Civilization I saw Skellig Michael, a small island off the west coast of Ireland.  It is named after the archangel Michael and skellig is derived from the Irish language meaning a splinter of stone.

It is best known for its Gaelic monastery, founded between the 6th and 8th centuries.  No one lives there now but it has a variety of inhabiting species, such as gannets, puffins, a colony of razorbills and a population of about fifty grey seals.

The rock contains the remains of a tower house and a cross inscribed slab known as the Wailing Women.  The monastery can be approached by narrow and steep flights of stone steps which ascend from three landing points.

No more than twelve monks and an abbot lived at the monastery at any time.  The monastery was occupied until the 12th or early 13th century and remained a site for pilgrimage until the modern era.
The monastery was built into a terraced shelf (600ft) above sea level.  It contains two oratories a cemetery, crosses, cross-slabs and six domed beehive cells and a medieval church.

Why anyone would want to live there is a mystery to me but the historian Walter Horn wrote that  "the goal of an ascetic was not for comfort".  Just looking at the beehive cells made of dry stones
makes me feel cold and I am sure they were freezing inside, imagine living there.  And think of climbing up these rocky and dangerous paths to get to the top.

In fact in 1996 four people lived there.

                                                                      *

Of Different Stuff

The ATS, the WAAFS, the WRENS,
rode in battleships,
flew spitfires and mosquitoes,
decoded enemy messages,
nursed the wounded.

They tilled the land
drove tractors, fed the pigs,
birthed the lambs,
rose at dawn,
went to bed late
exhausted and often hungry.

The walked alone in London
late at night
in the dark and dangerous streets,
they slept in freezing dormitories
shared a lavatory and basin
with twenty others.

These women were made
of different stuff.
They were fearless,
they were brave.
                                                                       *

I am ashamed at my fearfulness
in the peace they fought for us,
gave us.
I am made, sadly, of different stuff.

                                                                        *

With very best wishes, Patricia

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The stuff you are made of, dear Patricia, is of equal value. Thank you for wonderful poems. Mxx