In an anonymous park, Chester
(beside the River Dee)
Sunday 8th July 1973
Dear Father and Mother,

I suppose I could expect nothing else on a Sunday but here I am in Chester desirous of making myself known to the renowned Mr Freeman of Chester (he told Stephen he wanted "to have a look at me"!), and I can't raise either him or Alan on the phone. I have even inspected the EJF house to no avail.

To give you a brief run-down on my activities since I last wrote (it seems almost like ancient history now): I crossed to Rosslare in brilliant sunshine and was offered a lift by a kind truck-driver to the YH in the Glen of Aherlow in the Galtee Mountains near Tipperary, a beautiful spot but rather far from civilisation. We stopped on the way, of course, for a companionable Guinness, the national drink.

I was struck by the number of ruined castles in the land, the many Norman towers, the "tinkers" in their caravans by the roadside and the abundance of sunshine. (The end of a "heat wave"!) The next day I walked for miles along deserted country lanes, accepted a ride on the back of a milk cart, admired the donkey carts and, after an arduous journey (it was a long, long way) reached Tipperary town which, in itself, is nothing special.

The next people to give me a lift took me home for a light lunch, complete with entertaining conversation. Imagine a smaller family of McGraths with Oirish accents. From there I hitched on down through Cork (which I had judged by the size of the meeting and was surprised to find a big, bustling city) and hoped to make it to Blarney Castle (I could do with the gift of the gab). However, being an opportunist of the first water, I took a lift going in my general direction on a different road and finished up in a YH in the green and beautiful mountainous Kenmare district of Kerry.

The next day was the first in 5 months and 3 days of travelling that I had lost through bad weather. I sat with my warm little nose pressed against the window-pane of the hostel, hoping for a break in the rain of even a few minutes. Alas, it was not to be. To amuse me, I had the news of the revaluation of the DM and new lows for the $US. The DM in my contract will be worth 5.5% more outside the country.

Next day (Sunday) started very badly with a hard 7-mile walk in the rain to the nearest town (who wants a wet hitch-hiker in the car to spoil the family's best Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes?), journeyed by car past the Ring of Kerry and the Lakes of Killarney through beautiful countryside and landed a humdinger of a lift to Dublin via Limerick in the rain. All things work together for good, n'est-ce pas?

I spent a day in Dublin and found the Long Room of Trinity College truly magnificent and established that one J.N. Darby received the degree of B.A. In 1819 - nothing terribly impressive about that, is there? Did the same sort of thing meself. He should have had to get out and work for his living after that. By the way, I found I couldn't remember where his castle and church were - not that I had time to do anything about it.

I rang TAP who said: 1. he was just back from holiday on the Isle of Skye, and 2. he would be glad to see me. So I made my leisurely way up to Portadown (counted 20+ bomb-damaged buildings going through Newry) , wandered the streets past the concrete blocks under the watchful gaze of itchy-fingered soldiers, and made the acquaintance of Cousin Marion (a real dear) over afternoon tea. If they don't live in luxury, it's the nearest thing to it I've seen in my travels - very tasteful, however. I spent an enjoyable evening with them, slept in a supremely comfortable bed (you probably know the one), had a look over the factory and drove Ruth's car up to the Giant's Causeway with, to bring the car back, a well-meaning but simple factory-worker who smelt of cow-manure (it could have been his breath!) - and lunched at TAP's expense (a real gentleman!)

I walked for about 10 miles around the cliffs from the Giant's Causeway to the YH at White Park Bay and fell in love with the Antrim coast. Next day I was delighted with the rope bridge to Carrickarede Island and slept at Ballygally. The following day, I wandered the streets of Belfast in search of excitement, had myself searched several times but failed to see any real fireworks. Most disappointing.

IOM is still a sleepy little island which is very attractive on that account - not too busy with tourists yet. Belfast-Douglas and Douglas-Liverpool £3.30 each. I travelled on the island by bus, electric train (tram), steam-train and horse-drawn tram, as well as good old Shanks's pony.