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It was a September morning many years ago as I went down by the riverside of an early morning walk with  my little corgi dog Connie. The ducks were floating contentedly on the calm quiet river. Connie was enjoying himself his nose leading him to points of interest to him and sometimes to me. It was a very foggy morning by the riverside. Everything was quite and peaceful. Connie who had been leading the way suddenly came back to me and began to thump my shoes with his feet. Knowing Connie so well I suspected he  was trying to tell me something. I said, “O.k. Connie let’s stay going.” He immediately proceeded in an unusually excited fashion. I kept following him along the riverbank. As it was a foggy morning it was hard to see a few yards ahead. As I proceeded to follow Connie he suddenly stoped and began to wag his tail. As I walked along to where Connie was standing stitched to the ground with enthusiasm, I noticed a figure sitting by the riverside, as I got nearer I could see it was a man with much mud on his hands and face. Getting nearer still I noticed the piece of paper with a complex indecipherable message  on it. I greeted the man with the words, “Good morning sir.” He looked up at me bleary eyed and shaking head and said, “What is good about it this morning?” For want of something inspiring to say I replied,” Well,  we have met.” He replied, “Yes, only for you and your dog I would now have completed what I came her to do!”  After a few moments I realised the poor man was desperate and so fed up with life that he decided that foggy September morning was to be his last in this world of darkness and disillusionment. I asked Mick if I could please sit beside him for a few minutes. I introduced myself as Fr.Pat, a local priest. His immediate response was that God had long, long ago written him off.
He talked about many things and he told me many stories, I listened and told him I didn’t have answers to many of the things he asked me. He asked me was I ever in darkness. I responded, “ A great portion of  my life has been surrounded by darkness.” He replied that priest’s do not know about darkness, to which I responded, “Well, this one does, because it’s a tunnel I have to go through nearly every day.” At this point my friend Mick put out his clay filled hand and shook mine. That was the beginning of a friendship that took Mick from the brink of the river. It helped to give me, a young priest, a glimpse of the beauty and genius that can lie behind the most dishevelled appearance.
Whenever I feel low I look at the beautiful painting Mick did for me a few days after our meeting. The painting hangs in a place of honour for the past forty years wherever I have lived. The theme of the painting is ....

P.S 42:1

As the  Deer thirst’s after running waters.
So my soul thirst’s after you my God

Many a foggy and difficult day Mick’s treasured painting has given me the courage and power to keep going. I will always thank God for introducing me to Mick on that foggy Autumn morning by the quiet riverside.

From the pen of the Very Rev. Fr. Pat Ramsbottom P.R.

As Coill Dubh's Gathering Festival gathers pace we will be publishing stories from many of the families and people who came to the area sixty years ago. Our thanks to Fr. Pat Ramsbottom

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