Titanic

RMS_Titanic_3

Born in a Belfast dry dock,
Growing bigger in every way
Their sheer size was a shock
The biggest sisters of their day

People stopped and gazed
Stirring all the time
They were looking up amazed
At the flagship of the White Star Line

All aboard the people went
Their hopes were high and free
For their money was all spent
On dreams across the sea.

Full speed ahead, the captain said
A fastest journey to best
Beat this time and forget your bed,
No time for sleep or rest

Whilst crossing the ocean,
Titanic ran out of luck
A disaster was set in motion
When an iceberg was struck

The price to live was set far too high,
And many couldn’t pay
The question was and does remain, “Why
Did hundreds have to die that day?”

These mysteries are proving hard to solve
And a sad truth awaits for some
It was not for lack of money or love
That those answers may never come

Forever deep down on the ocean bed
The sinking still a mystery
We will always remember her brave dead
And their small part in Belfast history.

Garrison, Lough Lelvin, Co.Fermanagh

lough melvin (1)Let me ask you a question.  Could you name the most wonderful experience of your life? 

Most people may describe losing their virginity, others the day they met their partner.  Whatever the case, just remember and remember well!

I’m going to try and tell you about mine.  I say try, because the most wonderful experiences are ones for which words are not enough to describe, a voice does not compare too and even you cannot describe the feelings and sensations you experienced, to yourself!

It all started on a family holiday to Lough Melvin in Co. Fermanagh in 2001.  We were camping in a town called Garrison, on the shore of Lough Melvin, through which runs the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.  ‘Twas into the last night of the trip, about 8:00pm that night, whilst my family was in the camping reception house, when I decided to go for a long walk to gather my thoughts.

As I ambled along I decided to go to the small peer jutting out into the lough. The light had begun to fade, turning the sky ever darker shades of Grey, and the wind was blowing, not strong, but enough to give a chill through the thin jacket I was wearing.

Following the shoreline, I walked into a small stone and concrete parking area and past a white van with a man and woman inside and then to the beginning of the peer.

Looking out onto the lough; the waters were dark and black. A thick carpet of cloud in the sky hid the setting sun from sight.  The mountains around me were smooth with a few white house’s dotted on them, like stars laid down onto the landscape, and the occasional row of trees marked otherwise unseen field boundaries.  I could make out the different shades of green grasses on the hillside and could tell where it was longer in some places. 

To my right I looked back at the campsite.  The few tents of different shapes and sizes, some with vehicles stationed outside, making mini boundaries, an old rock harbour big enough for the few row boats still tied there and the rocky walls being held in place by huge amounts of thick chicken wire.  As I allowed my gaze to travel I could see the large circular, red brick structure with the fresh water tap, the park with a few swings and a climbing frame, the utility shed with showers and toilets with automatic outside lighting and finally the stone wall marking the edge of the site.

In-front of me was a peer maybe 40 or 50 feet long, wide enough only for one person to walk, a metal grab rail on my left and wooden decking at my feet, turned dark brown, almost black by the fading light.  The peer was being supported by thick round, concrete pillars below, disappearing into the black swelling waters of Lough Melvin.

I started out.  Heading for a small right angled turn at the end of the peer.  As I walked, the wooden decking felt damp and slightly slippery from being soaked by the water for so long.  My hand clutched the cold metal grab rail, as I looked down I could see the black water through the gaps in the decking.  There was no way for me to know just how deep the water was should I have the misfortune to fall in.  This realisation sent a chill up my spine and played on my nerves.  But on and on I carried till I reached the end.  And I looked out at the new sight that welcomed my eyes.  I could see more of the Lough, more of the mountains and more of the setting sun.  I could see where the thick darkening carpet above me broke and allowed some of the land below to bathe in the suns warmth.  Where the carpet did break, streaks of yellow and orange light came flooding downwards and onto the mountains below.  Like the heavens above opened for a short time and allowed me to bear witness.

Fear and my now over active imagination took over and I slowly proceeded to walk back along the peer.  The planks beneath my feet did in deed feel slippery to my step.  At one point I thought I was going to fall in, but my main concern was not for my safety, but for the expensive camera I had taken with me.

Back the way I came and onto the campsite I went.  Down to the shore once again.  I found a spot just a few feet from the rocky shore, sat down on the damp grass, looked and listened to the wonders happening around me.  The sound of the water breaking on the rocks just feet from my feet (excuse the pun) and the sun still trying to break through the thick graying cloud carpet.  Eventually the grass beneath me got too wet and I went in search for another observation point. 

I found a bench made of thick wood and mounted on two concrete pillars painted white and covered in pebbles for decoration.  The dark chocolate coloured seat looked inviting when compared to my current perch. 

As I sat on the bench, I shivered both from the cold and the dampness of the seat but my discomfort was soon to be forgotten as I gazed out upon the shore waters once again.

And again I found myself lost in a world of beauty and peace. 

The clouds now threatened to rain.  I scanned the Loughs length taking in every detail my eyes could find.  On the far shore white buildings stood out like stars in the night sky.  An array of greens in varying shades marked field boundaries made of grasses, trees and bushes.

As the night progressed and the sun sank further into the distance, the cloud began to break and fracture allowing light, like gleaming blades, to shine upon the mountains.  Almost as if God himself were viewing the land.  And the waters changed colour to a deep, dark blue haze.

The evening wind started to blow, piercing my jacket and biting at my skin, and causing tiny waves to form in the waters and crashing into the rocky shoreline.     

Streaks of oil floating on the surface left behind by some unknown vessel show up like white slime trails.

In the distance mist starts to roll of the shallow mountains like a hazy tide slowly coming towards me.  Enveloping everything in its path.  The greens and browns and yellows of fields all get swallowed by the encroaching tide.

I look up at the clouds and can clearly see the different layers.  The lower parts are a light Grey turning to a graphite shale colour.  The upper levels retain a light white, still being fed by the disappearing sun.

In the furthest parts of the Lough a seemingly tiny boat can be made out only by the white colouring of its sail in contrast against the darkening Lough waters.

As I sit, I admire Mother Nature and all her glory.  I look at the watch on my wrist and it reads 21:30. Half nine at night.  I’d been watching the Lough for what seems like 15 minutes when it has actually been 90 minutes.  As I sit I think about what I had the privilege of witnessing, thoughts and feelings of peace and serenity fill my entire body extending to every nerve from the top of my head to the soles of my feet.  Mere words are not enough to describe this sensation, but it is one I shall never forget.

The gentle dripping of water on my face and jacket tell me it’s going to start to rain.  Time to go back to the tent and get a bite to eat and still think more of, what has possibly become, one of the most awakening and perfect experiences of my life and one which is likely to remain as fresh at the time of my death, as it is on that very same day in which they took place.

It Began With Murder…

black pistol with bullet shell in mid air
Photo by Ivandrei Pretorius on Pexels.com

Note: Names and dates of this incident have been altered to protect identities, but that does not change the fact that this murder took place and nor does it diminish the everlasting affects it has had on me and my family in the years that have since past.

We each have an origin story. A series of events that have taken us from one location and have led us to where we are now.

In my short intro I state:

“I am someone who has spent the last 30yrs living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of being a Victim/Survivor of ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. My PTSD has driven me to the brink of suicide more than once.”

The question you are probably wondering is…how did I get here?

It was the late 1980’s and ‘The Troubles’ were still going on. The news frequently mentioned punishment beatings, bombings, shootings and murders.

My mum had just left with my baby sister to go to a local Chinese to get some dinner and my dad was standing at the end of the driveway have a beer with a few of the neighbours.

Late one warm, dry summer night as I was playing on the pavement outside my house with my younger brothers toy car, I noticed a pair of car lights coming up my street.

The car stopped outside my house and as soon as I saw the men wearing masks I knew there was going to be a murder.

I ran for the house and when I was mid-flight I turned and saw the sparks coming out of the barrel of the gun and my dad falling to the ground. I knew he was dead.

I later found out that he had been shot between 5-7 times, including twice on the ground, and any one of those bullets would have been fatal.

Subsequent police investigations discovered that this was a purely sectarian murder of an innocent family man, who left behind a widow and 3 young children…one of whom witnessed his murder.

Our lives were forever turned upside down that night and we have been living with the consequences ever since. 

But as this is my journey, and I cannot speak for the other witnesses or family members, I can tell you that I cannot remember the 12 months following this murder. For that year my mind was, and still is, a complete blank.

The ripples of that night are still flowing today as the blood flows in my veins. In the years that past I have developed PTSD and its affects are life-changing and impact on every aspect of my life. The older I get the more I can see just how complex and destructive it is.

I have been through more counselling than I ever believed possible (I lost count after seeing my 15th or 16th counsellor/psychologist. I have spent the last 30yrs (and I will expand on this, and other issues raised in this post, in a separate post) trying every coping strategy I can think off, whilst avoiding illegal drugs and alcohol abuse. 

I have battled suicidal impulses, self-harm, depression and much more. But sharing these behaviours is the point of this blog.

At the time of writing this I am older now than my dad ever will be…and brings its own problems.

To date, despite knowing the identities of the gunmen, no-one has been brought to justice and due to the forensic counter-measures taken at the time, it is unlikely anyone will ever spend even so much as a single day in jail for this horrible crime.

And to make matters worse, I was told that even in the extreme unlikelyhood of someone actually going to jail for murdering my dad, under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement 1998, the maximum the person(s) would be sentenced to is 4yrs and they would be freed in 2yrs or less. I wouldn’t call 4yrs for intentional and premeditated murder is not justice; but these killers have given myself and my family, through their actions, a life-sentence.

My dads death is, and always will be, an unsolved murder…