Living by the Irish Sea for most of my life; the poem ‘Sea-Fever’ by John
Maseifeld strikes a special resonance for me and has a particular place in my
“I must go down to the sea again
For the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call
That may not be denied.”
The call of the Irish Sea I have answered in many ways: swimming, sailing,
fishing, surfing and observing it in its many forms and guises. Interacting with
this magnificent force of nature has touched me on many levels. My DNA
resonates with it, possibly through genetic memory?
Immersion in or on its millpond form activates within me a calming quality, a
sense of all is well with the world. And in its lively, galloping white horses form
stirs in me the excitement of adventure and a daring-do sense of going forth.
Watching and hearing the sea in its thunderous, roaring, angry and destructive
form resonates with my depths, in that I believe, such is the nature of one and
all, for it is the shadow land of being fully alive.
Swimming in the Irish Sea on a mid winter’s morning can be bracing and often
piercing cold to both the mind and the body. For me it’s one way of proving to
myself that I don’t need creature comforts to lift my spirits. Time spent in its
exciting embrace leaves me after the encounter with a sense of a ‘Oneness’
with Nature that is nourishing, invigorating, yet peacefully relaxing. The Spirit
is calmed, the body renewed and all is well.
Living by water frequently triggers memories associated with it. Often for me
such memories can appear like a running tide. My earliest memory of the Irish
Sea is of crossing it on a night ferry –the Princess Maud, with my aunt:
suddenly all the lights on the ship went out and the engines stopped. At four
years old, I knew something was askew but not what, until it was explained to
me later. Thankfully, it only lasted a short item.
Two particular memories of my youth are indelibly imprinted in my mind and
have left their mark on all my interactions with the Irish Sea and water
wherever I swim, sail etc. The first was of my sister rushing into our home with
the news that she had seen the body of a toddler being taken from the sea.
The other memory was of arriving home from college for the weekend to find
my ashen faced father, visibly shaken after seeing a young boy drown off the
seafront. To this day, my one fear when swimming is of coming across a body
in the water.
More joyful memories are of my friends and I “dodging the waves”. The idea
was to run and the dodge the waves on an incoming tide as it broke against the
wall of the seafront promenade.
Memories too of Bray in its salad days as the “Blackpool of Ireland” come to
mind, with its golden sandy beach, dazzling, sparkling azure sea and myriads of
dipping holiday makers. As children our game with the sea was to see how
many swims we could log up in a day. Mine was 10.
The Irish Sea to me can be friend and foe. It is a glorious force of Nature;
showing much variety with its temperament, moods and guises. It is a life
giver but also a life taker. It will demand respect. Ignore it at your peril.