THE Chalet in Cong is an idyllic vantage point on the shore of Lough Corrib. It has long been a place of recreation, be it for fishing, relaxing on a summer day, and for some, even a popular courting spot as the ingrained messages of undying love on the old wooden seats will testify.
Secluded as it is in the woodlands of Ard Na Gaoithe it has become the beautiful setting for the Easter Dawn Mass held here over the last few years. In a short time it has established itself as an annual ritual, attracting crowds from near and far.
The popularity of the dawn mass is fast gaining momentum. Every year we hear of different locations but Cong has set the benchmark. This year they pulled out all the stops and a few more besides.
The bush telegraph was carrying bad tidings during the week that the event would not take place. The politics behind this in no way interests SOTB but it would have been a shame had this been the case. Once the baton of tradition is dropped it’s well-nigh impossible to pick it up and run again.
But present the notion of failure to the people of Cong and they will rise to the challenge.
Only a few weeks ago ‘The Other Abbey Players’ packed Lisloughrey Lodge with their latest drama production. This was their third offering and proceeds are going towards a new community centre in the village. Take it as a given this project will be completed also, and sooner rather than later.
Hardly had the applause died down and they were on another mission.
Last Sunday morning the principals of the cast were out in force again. Stewards (or ‘lockhards’ as we call them up around Croke Park) were parking us on the edge of rustic leaf carpeted dirt tracks as the first shaft of sunlight appeared over the waters of Lough Corrib.
On through a candle-lit lined path where Mass servers, Gearoid Leonard and Thomas Conroy, handed out sheets containing the script of the entrance hymn. They may as well have given me a copy the Chinese version of Old Moore’s Almanac because a singer I am not.
Further on, and under the canopy, their colleagues Paula Gorman and Paul Gibbons were busy preparing the altar. To add a bit of authenticity to the occasion a boatload of pilgrims docked on the shore and someone placed four flaming flares to greet the rising sun.
Father Pat Farragher from down the road in Ballyrourke was celebrant. Pat puts great jizz into the ceremony. He made sure the spiritual significance of Lough Corrib and the islands wasn’t lost on the yawning congregation.
To young Emma Denning went the task of fetching a pale of water from the lake for the blessing of the large attendance and the celebration of mass. This service was all about young people and it was they who took on the duties of readings and prayers of the faithful.
As the local choir sang in lilting harmony two swans left the safety of their island home and swam regally across the still waters to suss out happenings on the shore. When mass was over, Marian, Norah and others fed the multitudes with generous helpings of scones, tea and coffee.
You could detect the sense of satisfaction among the organisers that they had preserved something unique. They surpassed themselves in organising it. They have now set the main structure of a tradition that will live forever more at The Chalet in Ard na Gaoithe.
SHRULE lost another strong link in the chain this week. Mary Geraghty was part of an ever-changing village but she preserved all the values that made the place special. Whenever we met the resonance of her encouraging words endorsing what I do echoed gently in my ear. It’s regular readers like Mary Geraghty who make whatever it is we do seem worthwhile. And money doesn't buy that feeling.
This week’s column was essayed in her memory.