In the space of 24 hours this week, I both experienced the busiest and the quietest ferry crossings I was ever on. Myself and Brother Antony had to make our way to the Passionist Retreat Centre in Crossgar, which is in County Down, Northern Ireland, to participate in a Province Day, which is essentially a gathering of Passionists from Ireland and Scotland to review things that have been happening and planning ahead for things yet to come. Unbelievably, one of the things we are planning ahead for is the Provincial Chapter which will take place next June. It was after our last Chapter in 2016 that I was appointed back to Scotland, along with Father Gareth, for an initial four-year term, which seemed like a long time back then, and it’s hard to imagine that we are into our final year.
The gathering was on Monday from 10am to 4pm, and Brother Antony and I agreed to go over on the Sunday night on the 7.30pm ferry from Cairnryan to Belfast. We arrived in good time only to see the port already crowded with cars and lorries, and with what must have been about 200 motor bikes. I’m not sure where these were coming from but I believe the TT races on the Isle of Man finished the previous Friday and they may have been coming home from there. When we were eventually called forward to drive on, we were directed down a very steep ramp into the bowels of the ferry, the lowest deck you could possibly get to, where Antony had to make a few tricky manoeuvres to get parked. The ramp was on chains and was raised again once the few unlucky cars directed there were packed in. We had to then climb seven flights of stairs to get a bite to eat in a very crowded restaurant, and another flight to find what must have been the last two seats on the ferry to settle down for the crossing.
We didn’t really move then until it was time to disembark, and so, we made our way down the eight flights of steps to the bowels of the boat again and sat in our car, seemingly forgotten about, for well over half an hour while the 200 motor cycles, the lorries and the other vehicles drove off above us. It was eerily quiet in this isolated deck below sea level, and I remarked to Antony that I was expecting Daleks to appear at any moment to exterminate us. Eventually the chains clanked, the ramp raised, and we were able to drive off, much later than we’d hoped for, and only ready to fall into bed when we reached Crossgar after 11pm.
The return journey was the opposite. The boat was almost empty and we could have had a whole lounge of chairs to ourselves if we wanted. There was very little food available but we had been well fed at the Province Day anyway, and so we settled into a nice relaxing crossing. However, when we got to Cairnryan and drove off the boat, the going was slow, because the police were out in force and stopping every car and lorry for a search and question. It appears they were looking for someone who had gone missing and we never really did find out any more about that. That was the first delay. The second delay was a big long detour near Ayr that took us off the A77, and then all around the back of Prestwick Airport on a very windy route back on to the A77. Even with Antony being a fast, but safe driver, it was still after midnight by the time we got home, and I think I’m still recovering.
It was good to see some of our fellow Passionists though, as being in Scotland we don’t get to see the men in Ireland very often and it’s always a good catch-up; and now we can look forward to seeing some of our fellow Passionists once again, as they make the return journey to join us for Brother Antony’s Perpetual Profession of Vows this Sunday. I hope they all travel safely, and without any of the complications that Antony and I had to face.
From the Rite of Perpetual Profession:
Let us pray to God the Almighty Father for this servant of His, Antony, whom He has called to follow Christ Crucified in the religious life; in His love may he bless him with His grace, and strengthen him in his holy purpose.