Last summer during a visit to Northern Ireland I drove eastwards along the Antrim coast from the resort of Portrush down through to the port of Larne. The weather had been truly awful the entire week but on that day it was absolutely glorious. At times like these the Causeway Coast across Counties Londonderry and Antrim opens up some of the most magnificent stretches of scenery to be seen anywhere in the British Isles - matching anything to be found in the Scottish Highlands or the English West Country.
Between Bushmills and Ballycastle I halted briefly at Portbradden beside White Park Bay. There are only a literal handful of houses situated here in this coastal hamlet alongside what is apparently the smallest church in Ireland - though there are questions as to its authentic status as such.
When I entered Saint Gobbans Church I noticed that amongst other pieces of information and ephemera placed on the walls was a poem written by a Welsh visitor in the Seventies - Trish O'Brien of Cardiff. It reflected upon the idyllic peace and tranquility to be found there which contrasted with the political sterility and terrorist violence endemic throughout the whole globally vilified north of Ireland at the time.
The poem is entitled Intruders and is dedicated to Sally - the words a heartbreaking reflection upon those three lost decades:
The only sound, our shoes
Scrunching along the garden path
Punctuating the late afternoon tranquility.
Five sleepy houses apparently mesmerised
By the ocean's millpond disguise,
The minuscule church nodding off, unnoticed.
Towering wooden cliffs protective of this rocky cove
Locked in its emerald embrace, sheltering all within
From the prevailing North Westerlies.
Or so the salmon fisherman informed us
In gentle brogue, his stress free complexion
Belying his seventy four years.
With his Border Collie heralding our presence
He approached with patient tolerance
Seeing us pause at the turn of the track.
This is a special place, the other face,
The face they don't show you on the news
We retraced our steps, feeling like intruders.