Wednesday, 4 June 2014
Going Home to Ballyronan
Two or sometimes three times a year since I left Northern Ireland 38 years ago, I have returned to Ballyronan. When telling friends and family about my plans, I always say I'm 'going home'. Even after all this time, I'm still more at home there than any of the places I have lived in England, even our current house in Chester where we have lived for the last 12 years. So even though both Mummy and Daddy are no longer there, I wanted to go back and stay in our house in Ballyronan this half term. Kate and I spent a couple of nights there last week - she loves it too and was happy to come with me, despite being totally cut off from her friends because there's no decent mobile signal or broadband.
Oh but it was lonely without Daddy. House all closed up and cold when we arrived; no TV turned up too loud; no Mirror crossword to complete; no callers just walking in the back door. Just an empty armchair.
But glad we went - the sun shone for us and we enjoyed walking down by the lough despite the clouds of May flies which gather there. We visited family and friends; we shopped in Magherafelt; we took it easy and watched rubbishy telly.
And we visited two graves. One in Saltersland Presbyterian church graveyard at the Loup. Evocative place names for me for now three generations of my family lie there. And the other in Bellaghy, where Seamus Heaney is buried. There are brown tourist information signs showing visitors the way. I went to pay my respects there too.
I'll finish with the last part of Heaney's Clearances which pretty much sums up how I feel about returning to Ballyronan now.
I thought of walking round and round a space
Utterly empty, utterly a source
Where the decked chestnut tree had lost its place
In our front hedge above the wallflowers.
The white chips jumped and jumped and skited high.
I heard the hatchet's differentiated
Accurate cut, the crack, the sigh
And collapse of what luxuriated
Through the shocked tips and wreckage of it all.
Deep-planted and long gone, my coeval
Chestnut from a jam jar in a hole,
Its heft and hush became a bright nowhere,
A soul ramifying and forever
Silent, beyond silence listened for.