The Crib at St Gabriel’s Church


It was a privilege to be allowed a little preview of the renovation work in progress on the crib in St Gabriel’s Church in Clontarf. This Dublin church holds a host of treasures.


I have written previously on the stunning mosaic of the Stations of the Cross that line the walls. This mosaic, depending on the day, and the light that catches it at a given moment, can reflect many moods, and transport you back to a different time and space. I only came upon the incredible Stations of the Cross a few years ago, and it was an equally pleasant surprise to discover the crib.

I was passing St Gabriel’s Church in the late evening about three weeks ago and noticed the lights were burning brightly in the church. Thinking I might catch the end of mass, I wandered in. However, the church was empty except for a handful of people busy at work. I met the sacristan Pearse Bell and he explained that the Monday maintenance men were busy at work, preparing the church for the Christmas celebrations, and in particular, the crib.
I first met Pearse when I wrote about the Stations of the Cross and he invited me to take a look at the crib, a work in progress and a labour of love.


The crib renovations are a work-in-progress. Work on the three statues of the Holy Family is complete and they are now transformed to their former glory. The rest of the crib figures will undergo similar transformation over the next few months. It is hoped to have all the figures restored for the 60th Jubilee celebrations to be held in the church during 2016. The stable itself is beautifully constructed in its own niche at the end of the church, and is so realistic it invites you to enter and join the Holy Family and the animals that inhabit the space. Speaking of the animals, the statue of the cow is particularly magnificent, its head tilted, its eyes resting on the Child. You have to resist the urge to reach out your hand to feel its breath warming the Baby Jesus, as told in the original Nativity story.


The statues, according to Matt Doyle, who is in charge of the renovations, were probably hand-carved in Germany and date back to the mid 20th century.

This beautiful crib is well worth a visit over the Christmas period. While there, enjoy the beauty of this church with its stain-glass window of the Angel Gabriel and the magnificent mosaic of the Stations of the Cross.



Romeo and Juliet Take 2


 A recent trip to Italy was inspiration for my blog today.

Romeo and Juliet Take 2

“See yonder, that balcony, Sir
Is it not as the one in Romeo and Juliet

And why not!
Are we not in Italy

Though never in Verona … sadly …
And you unfortunately are no Romeo.”

“. . . Nor you, my sweet love,

Bringing Paul Durcan to Mass

 Notre Dame de Bon Voyage

I heard Paul Durcan read his poetry four years ago at Fighting Words the Creative Writing Centre in Dublin established by Roddy Doyle and Sean Love. It was an inspirational evening for me listening to his use of language, his imagery, his different forms and methods of expression. I laughed at his Raymond of the Rooftops. It could have been my story. His beautiful poem Going Home to Mayo, Winter,1949 brought me on a journey that night and  each time I read it since. They are both in his collection A Snail In My Prime.

I fell in love with his poetry that night and I suppose it is not surprising therefore, that I eventually wrote my own poem about Paul Durcan. I had taken his poetry book to France with me. I didn’t intend to write a poem about him. It simply unfolded as I think most poems do. The title of the poem Is Bringing Paul Durcan to Mass and this year The Fermoy International Poetry Festival honoured it as the Irish winning poem in the Festival, which allowed me to spend two lovely days in Fermoy reading and listening to poetry.


Bringing Paul Durcan to Mass

I went to half ten mass, la grande messe.

Grand in every sense.

Sunday morning sitting in sweltering heat

Listening to a sermon I couldn’t understand

Didn’t seem to be my cup of tea.

I said some silent prayers for everyone

I could think of, and anyone I had forgotten,

But the French priest was loud

And eventually silenced my silent prayers.

Well, I had Paul Durcan in my handbag,

And when I went to get some money for the collection

He tempted me to read.

Was it blasphemy, I wondered,

To read Paul Durcan

In the middle of la grand messe,

Or any other mass for that matter?

But it was my personal bible,

The book I opened to find inspiring words,

Words of wisdom, playful words – prayerful words,

A bible that could bring to mind

My mother, my father–

That I needed to get the roof fixed when I got home –

That I was far from home.

I will never bring Paul Durcan to mass again

Have you ever tuned into the voice of a Mayoman? He asked,

And instantly, I tuned out from the voice of the Frenchman.


(c) Eithne Reynolds

Oh Mother If . . .




Oh Mother If . . .

The government would like us to believe that unemployment is on the way down. The poem today is for the young mothers and families who have to live away. And while we are led to believe they are all happy to emigrate to gain work experience this is not always true, and a whole generation of young families are being denied the love and support of grandparents and friends and that is the shame of this country.


Oh Mother If . . .


Oh Mother if I did not have to live so far away

I know I would have called you up today

to tell you it was the worst of days.


That I was tired, because I was awake all night with fretting babies

and now I needed you to come to let me sleep

for just one hour or two.


And you’d have put your hat and coat on, and taken the bus

straight to my door. And I know you would have hugged me,

and I’m sure I would have cried.


Then you’d have washed and ironed the clothes

piled high on the bedroom floor,

And finished all the household chores.


And as I wakened from my nap, I’d hear your gentle tap,

and you’d have brought a cup of tea

to come and sit with me.


And we’d have laughed about something.

Something stupid, some book we’d read,

something a friend had said.


And you’d have told me how the babies were all calm and hushed,

that you had mended the broken doll, and fixed the wheel back on the truck

that had caused all the fuss.


Because mother you can do all that.

Fix and mend anything . . .

Except my broken heart.


Eithne Reynolds 2014

The River at Bethlehem


Krippe crib family w 3wisemen

Krippe crib family w 3wisemen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The River at Bethlehem

“I’ve lost my bridge to the crib,” I say to hubby. The place is a mess with the Christmas decorations and empty boxes. I’m putting up the crib and I bought a lovely little bridge at a market in Nice when I was over there during the summer. I wanted to put it in the crib so that the three wise men could walk over it when they arrived at Bethlehem on the 6th of January. But I’d lost the bridge. One minute I had it in my hand and the next it was missing.

“Did you put my bridge somewhere,” I shout at hubby this time, because when I go into the sitting-room he’s there in the middle of the chaos with his feet tapping and  his headphones wrapped around his head listening to his music, trying to block out the noise I’ve been making. I’d dropped a bag of my artificial snow I had for the crib all over the carpet and I had to vacuum the place. I think it was when I went looking for the vacuum cleaner that I managed to put the bridge out of my hand somewhere.

“Not alone do I think you’ve lost the bridge,” says hubby irritated at the intrusion into his music world, “I think you’ve lost your marbles. What do you need a bridge in the crib for anyway?”

I explain that I need it to get the three wise men across the river to the crib on the 6th of January.

“What river?” he asks.

“I made a paper river for the bridge,” I smile happy with myself. I show him my paper river. “There’s not much point in having a bridge if you don’t have a river.” I say. “I made this and now I need the bridge and I can’t find it.”

“Darling,” he says.

As soon as he uses the word darling in that tone I know he’s going to tell me something that he thinks I don’t know. He has his head phones poised ready to put back on his head to indicate this is the end of the conversation and the search for the bridge. “Darling,” he repeats, “the three wise men trekked for miles and miles across a desert. You don’t need a bridge. There never was a river.”

“Well,” I say, storming out of the room, waving my paper river at him, “there’ll be one in a minute.”

Barges on the Royal Canal

There were old barges moored on the Royal Canal
Near where I lived
I watched them from the grassy bank
The blackened wood of their strong bodies
Sinking below the water line.
‘Too much Guinness,’ my father would laugh
As we walked along the tow path
Hand in hand.

There was something strangely comforting
About these boats.
They spoke to my child’s mind of a mysterious life
I could not comprehend.
Now, years later they are gone
And I miss them, as I miss old friends.

I longed to place my foot upon their blackened deck
To feel the current pull me from the bank.
I longed to liberate them from the reeds
That lined their marshy bed
To take them to the lock
And steer them free.

There were old barges moored on the Royal Canal
Near where I lived,
Their bow to the west,
Their stern to the east.
I watched their half-sunken bodies
Their day was done.

From the grassy bank I watched God’s sunlit rays
Pierce through their broken bows
To the hidden depths of their souls.
They had travelled to their journey’s end.
Even then my child’s mind knew
They were at rest. And yet
Years later, I am still sad
That they are gone.

© Eithne Reynolds