The lines upon my Mother’s face

This is the village of Sixmilecross in Co Tyrone, where I call home. The first buildings were established here 400 years ago at the start of the plantation period. The wide street is of a typical Scottish design often with a narrow entry and exit. We still use the Scottish term for the lower end of the village called the “Strand Brae”. Strand means a narrow way lined with high dwellings leading into a wide street and brae means hill.

During the O’Neill dynasty, this area was known as “Korragh” meaning a marshy place. The O’Neill heritage is still alive today with “Tullyneill” (hill of O’Neill) looking down over the village. This hill is said to be the geographical centre of the province of Ulster. Dotted around the village are forts/raths that were man-made defence structures built from 9th century though to 11th century, many are still visible. During this time many stone crosses were erected around Ireland and it is thought that a stone cross stood in this area from that time. The cross stood six Irish miles from Omagh, Ballygawley and Pomeroy, so when a new village was growing near this cross, it was named Sixmilecross. The stone cross seems to have been broken apart during the United Irishmen rebellion 1798 by local yeomanry loyal to the British crown.

The new village had barely started, when in the 1641 Irish rebellion it was raised to the ground by Phelim O’Neill. Destroyed was a bawn house, a bridge, corn mills and dwelling houses built by Scottish and English planters. In 1689 James II made camp here on his way to the siege of Derry. Nearby is the homestead of James Buchanan, 15th President of the United States. The Church of Ireland has a stain-glass-window dedicated to the Dunlop family, from this family came John Dunlop, printer of the first United States Declaration of Independence.

Sixmilecross grew rapidly with having a railway station along the Portadown to Derry line from 1861.Sadly the village has been in decline since the closure of the railway in 1965.

The memories and stories of Sixmilecross can be found in the poems of W F Marshall and his brother R L Marshall.

This is my home and community who gave birth to me.


The little voices inside our heads

This morning one of our kids that we look after in our business was not feeling well, so instead of going to school I sat and watched the film Inside out with her (I know it’s a hard life I live). If you have kids you have probably seen the film, if not, get it out on DVD it is worth watching. It is good entertainment but also has some deep thought-provoking questions as well about who we are.

In the film, the main character is Riley, a happy-go-lucky hockey-loving 11-year-old girl, but her world is turn upside-down when she and her parents move to San Francisco. Riley’s emotions — led by Joy try to guide her through this difficult, life-changing event. However, the stress of moving all the way across the country brings Sadness to the forefront. When Joy and Sadness are inadvertently swept into the far reaches of Riley’s mind, the only emotions left in the headquarters of Riley’s mind are Anger, Fear and Disgust.

We are all emotional to one degree or another, which is no bad thing. It is how we use our emotions to control our actions, reactions and behaviours that is what’s important. Too many of us use our emotions to excuse our bad actions like jealously, envy, fits of anger and things like these. We put it down to our personality, it’s who we are, it can’t be helped, take me as you find me!. There is of course the good actions like love, joy, patience, kindness and things like these that we should all try to aim for. Just like Riley in the film, it is as if there are voices in our heads constantly at battle with other to determine our actions.

What is missing in the film is a conductor who stands between our emotions and the levers on the control board that control our actions.The conductor decides which emotions to give a voice to, which thoughts to entertain, and which reactions are the most beneficial regardless of how loudly our emotions are demanding to take over the controls.*

The Bible teaches that all people have a conductor which is our spirit. Regardless of how weak or how strong the conductor is, he’s still there nevertheless. He may be sleeping at the controls and letting our emotions reign supreme and our thoughts run willy-nilly for good or for evil effect, or he may be running the show, controlling the “little voices inside your head”.*

* Reference from another blog written by Todd Young.


The grief of loss and the fear of change

Over the last few days families and friends have lost loved ones in the Sixmilecross area. This weekend there will be three funerals to three different churches. The loss of these dear folk will have a sorrowful impact on their families, friends, neighbours and the surrounding community.

Wakes are a good tradition that we have in Ireland when death comes upon us. For the few days between when the person has died and their burial, the community comes together to share in the grief of the family and to give their support. With a cup of tea in the hand, the loss of the loved one is spoken of with sadness but there is often much laughter as memories of past days are recounted and stories told. It is a time when the family circle comes together, often having not seen other for years, they catch up with how each are doing.

Death can be sudden and out of the blue, it can come after a short unexpected illness or be the sweet release from pain and suffering after a long illness. However it happens it is still a time of grief and loss.

Death brings about a change. The family unit has lost one of its members and adjustments need to be made to deal with the days ahead. Changes happen though out our lives, to our bodies, to our families and the environment around us. What is a constant for all humans, in all civilizations, is finding the way to deal with changes.

As a Christian I believe that God has shown and provided the way to give us comfort at a time of change. I understand that for many, that is not the case and they have found their own way. Of whatever creed, class, faith or no faith you may be, this is a time to support those that are going though a time of change because of death. The tradition of the Irish wake, gives that opportunity to do just that.

Jesus in the first Gospel said it like this,

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”  Matthew 5:4



Fossil Free Faith

fossil free faithMy friend and fellow blogger Tanya Jones from the Green party, this week brought to our attention the very serious and undemocratic proposal by the Conservative government to ban public bodies from boycotting unethical trade or investments. They are doing this under the guise of wanting to prevent anti-Semitism.

This is a section from Tanya’s blog from 15th February.

*The policy is to be announced formally during a trip to Israel by the Cabinet Office Minister Matt Hancock this week.  That is, of course, no coincidence.  The thin end of the wedge in justifying this draconian step will be the conflation of opposition to Israeli action in Palestine with anti-Semitism.  The more the government and its allies can repeat and embed that falsehood (vigorously refuted by groups like J-BIG) the more they can make opposition not just ineffective but unacceptable.  And now, with the enormous success of the fossil fuel divestment movement, they have the opportunity of quashing that too, a whole flock of birds with one thumping great stone.

It won’t do.  Set aside, if you like, any particular campaigns that you don’t agree with, or don’t feel strongly about, and take a look at what remains.  Ethical purchasing decisions by individuals and institutions have been powerful engines for social and political change for many years.  The sugar boycott helped to bring about the end of the slave trade, decisions not to invest in South African companies crippled the apartheid regime and the choice of homespun over imported cloth united and inspired Gandhi’s struggle for Indian independence.  All of these, if carried out by public bodies – our representatives – would be criminalised under the Tory ban.” Read the full blog here.

Christians On The Left NI are hosting a panel discussion about Fossil Fuel Divestment on Tuesday 23rd February in Belfast. If the Conservative Government in Westminster succeed with their planed bill, then churches may be criminalised for only wanting to invest in ethical organisations.

Ryvka Barnard from the charity War-On-Want has said “This attack on local democracy is the latest in a sustained assault on our democratic rights and freedoms*

Come alone to above event to discover how we can make a difference with our investments and the use of our buying power.


Do you know what your voting for?

In the month of May we will have elections for the devolved parliaments in Wales, Scotland and N Ireland. The political parties within these jurisdictions will be launching their manifestos soon. They do so in an attempt to woo voters into supporting their vision of what the next five years would look like under their management if they were in power.
In Wales and Scotland, all the political parties are carefully regulated. By law they have to declare all of their donations so that the voter can see who their financial backers are. This makes for good, sound and transparent government.
In N Ireland it is different story. Here the political parties in government have legislated that they do not declare where their financial support comes from. There is no way of knowing if a big business is financially supporting a party in office to secure a contract. In Stormont, there are four parties in government (DUP, SF, SDLP, ALLIANCE). As far as I am aware, none of these parties voluntary declare their financial donations. That means we don’t know if businesses are paying into N Ireland  political pockets to secure contracts. I am not saying that they do but we have no way of knowing that they’re not.
The manifesto leaflets of these parties are useless as there is no transparency therefore no grounds for trust. Without this, there are no foundations to build other moral issues upon like abortion or marriage equality.
I don’t intend to advocate for any particular political party though this blog site. My only desire is to highlight the issues that affect us and to how to react to them.
So before you consider where a candidate stands on constitutional issues, marriage equality, abortion laws, health, education, transport and the environment. First ask, who is financing their campaign. If they can’t tell you, cross them out, they are not worthy of your vote.
There are big issues to deal with in N Ireland. Only those who are financially transparent have the moral standing to deal with them.

More than a feeling

What is this love that makes me stay,
Close beside you day by day,
What is this love that has its way,
Of giving you the final say.

What is this love that makes me strong,
Knowing that I to you belong,
What is this love that all daylong,
Makes me sing a happy song.

What is this love that ever grows
When I see your face that glows,
What is this love that knows no foes,
Never fills my heart with woes.

What is this love of deep desire,
It rages though me like wildfire,
What is this love that will aspire,
To lift me higher, higher and higher

This is our love as strong as glue
No one ever will undo,
This is our love forever true,
When I tell you I love you.

William Anderson

The loss of a friend

Mr DashwoodI have some sad news to share with you. Mr Dashwood one of the donkeys that I look after from time to time died. My friend Judith took him in as a rescue donkey to be a companion for my donkey Mr Darcy.
For the last two years Mr Dashwood and Mr Darcy have been inseparable. When ever one was in trouble or broke out, the other would sound the alarm that something was wrong. Indeed they not only looked out for each other but also their other animal friends. At one time they were the guardians of their family of five goats, six geese, a pot belly pig and ducks. They never failed to come to you to get a pat on the side.
They were quite the religious pair as it turns out. When they did decide to go for a walk through Sixmilecross, it was nearly always to the Church of Ireland or the Free Presbyterian front gardens. Judith reckons they were hedging their bets.
We are in a time of lent for Christians as we lead up to Easter. In the life of Jesus, donkeys played an important part. From carrying His mother Mary to Bethlehem to be born , to carrying Him to Jerusalem before his death. Donkeys have the reputation of being stupid,  stubborn, slow, but loyal, compassionate and thoughtful. Jesus thought them worthy for His service.  Do Christians have the attributes of the humble donkey to be worthy of Christs service today?.
Mr Dashwood I salute you. Thankyou for the short time we had together. May I live up to your example of service to one another.

Keep your nose out of it

I am a registered child minder. Every day I get to meet two of the most valuable people in society, mothers and children. They are the backbones to any community. Children give us the reason to do something, mothers is how the something gets done.
However, women  and children are the most abused, undervalued individuals in the world. When it comes to rights, it would seem that women and children have to try harder to be treated as equals.
What happens though when rights cut  across each other. In N Ireland we are well used to this phenomenon, the right to march v the right to stop provocative marchers, the right to not sell a cake v the right to have a cake sold to you, the right to preach v the right not to be offended. Today we have the discussion, the right to life v the right of choice.
The slogan “trustwomen” is appearing a lot on pro-choice material and on some local party pamphlets. In other words I am being told “keep your nose out of it” abortion has nothing to do with you because you are a man.
So what are we asked to trust women on? That they will be able to make a rational decision at a time of high emotion and stress, really!?
I know that when I have made irrational and bad choices, it was at a time of stress and pressure. I don’t trust myself to do the right thing when I am in vulnerable situations in my life. I depend on others who are not emotionally attached to see the big picture and make the right choices. Why do we think so little of our women to make them choose? How inhumane is that?
Since Roe v Wade, science has discovered that the fetus is not part of the woman, it has it’s own DNA, it’s own emotions, it’s moves totally independent of its mother. So if the pro choice want to be stuck in the past, that’s up to them but I think I will let  modern science speak the truth about the unborn child if you don’t mind.
Last night 58 MLA’s voted for equal rights for women and children. Women in N Ireland are safe in knowing that when they are at their most vulnerable, the law is there to protect them. The unborn children of N Ireland are safe having their first basic human right preserved, the right to life.

Follow your guts and keep it simple

I have found a new place to eat in Omagh. It is called The Kitchen and you will find it near the bottom of Castle Street. I was first in it last week for breakfast and was back this morning again.

As soon as I stepped into it last week I was won over to what they are trying to achieve. The space is roomy and light, with a configuration of different types of seating to suit any size of group. There is a sample counter of oils and vinegars, of which you can buy one of your choice using refillable corked bottles. I have bought the Fig and Date Balsamic vinegar and the Pomegranate Balsamic vinegar, both delicious used as salad dressings.

The menus are well thought out using local ingredients. All types of diet requirements seem to be catered for with a good choice for all. The tray bakes and breads look fantastic with a lot of thought gone into how to make them healthier for you.

What makes this place is the service you receive. I do not know the owner or any of the staff but you can tell that they have a passion for what they do and that is great food served with a smile. I spoke with the owner this morning about a project I had in my mind and she told me to “follow my guts and keep it simple”.

If only everyone you meet in life was as positive and encouraging as those in The Kitchen. look them up on Facebook to find out more

The Kitchen – Omagh. – Facebook

This the sort of local business that is worth supporting and choosing first for your coffee fix.

I wish The Kitchen success and hope I enjoy for many years to come my visits there.

It feels like going home

Today I am sailing to Scotland, to visit my son in Edinburgh.  I wrote this poem on the ferry crossing as I saw Scotland’s shore come into view.  I hope you enjoy it.

A land not unlike my own,
Is appearing though the sea mist,
With high hills of rock and stone,
Where my forefathers past exist.

This Scotland from whenst they sailed,
To Ireland to make their fortune,
Where the Irish Earls had fled,
For most, not a moment to soon.

As they sailed, what were their thoughts?
What was the substance of their dreams?
What was the life that they sought?
A life that was yet unseen.

The Christian faith that they carried,
That brave Reformers had died for,
Uplifted hands that had tarried,
To Christ, their only Councillor.

On Scotlands hills now I stand,
This place where my ancestor’s lived,
For this is my families homeland,
Today in their footsteps I tread.