Pilgrimage to Kildare: Chapter III, Betty Besides the Well

May 20, 2022

 The next morning I was very excited, for today was the day I would cross the boarder into Ireland. Anne and her husband Shaun checked my walking route and suggested that I go via the ‘hill of Faughart’, a holy place known as the birthplace of St Brigid. Now my route wasn’t the tourist la-dee-da type which allowed for checking the sights... I was on a covert mission of the greatest speed and efficiency using only a basic google maps route finder to keep me on the straight and narrow. I decided however to take this advice and detoured slightly for the hill of Faughart as recommended. Around late morning I arrived at the hill and found a small graveyard and remains of an ancient chapel with healing well. I stopped a while to refuel on an snack bar, when two friendly ladies came by praying the rosary. They were extremely devoted to St Brigid and were very taken by the quest to Kildare.  They really wanted to help in some way so they took me off to a beautiful barn café for a large cup of earl grey tea. After setting me off in Dundalk I was sent on my way with a large selection of prayer cards, talismans, some money and a generous bag of fruit. Betty was particularly worried about me so we exchanged number declaring should I ever run into tough times that I should ring her immediately and she would come to my rescue wherever I would be.  

I decided to take a bus to the next town to save my sore feet as they were now starting to blister in other places from the change of shoes. At the ticket office, my bus was due and I hadn’t yet changed any money into euros. Luckily the kind driver let me on for free (buses can be quite infrequent in places). I hung about in the next town ‘Ardee’, which seemed like another nice pace but I was in too much pain to explore. Feeling the urge to move on and set camp for the night, I caught an onwards connection to a place called Slane. I hadn’t gone far when I happened across a private housing estate with a huge lawn and dense bushes on either side, ‘Perfecto’ to hide out the night. I was a bit anxious about the weather as it was forecast heavy rain the next morning, but my plan was to wake early and jettison out of there before the rain hit. I stashed my bags and limped back over to the town centre. In a local shop I found some instant noodles, hot water and a can of baked beans to pour over the top… yum-o. I limped about some more and found a nice grassy lawn at St Patrick’s church to tuck into my feast and enjoy the last of the warm sun.

It was around 8.00pm, and at some point I was aware that a girl had walked straight past me and into the church that I had assumed was locked, and then I started to wonder whether the church might be open all night. In the hope of finding a better place for refuge, I limped to the roadside noticeboard to look for a churchwarden’s number. There was none, but a dog walker advised that the priest only lived in the house opposite, so of course I went to knock on his front door.
After the initial shock of finding an English vagabond on his doorstep, Father Stephens quickly warmed to me once I explained the pilgrimage. And immediately agreed to me spending the night in the church. Behind the altar was a door leading to an office space, where I was made up a comfortable bed on a sofa with pillow and duvet. There was also a little kitchenette, a toilet, wifi and Father Stephens even made me up a packed lunch for the morning.
Before I went to sleep, I prayed to Mary and wept at the altar in sheer gratitude, before collapsing into a deep sleep. In the morning heavy rain started early at 5.30am and I again felt so much gratitude for this church. Now each day that I approaching Kildare, I was anxious to harvest the Irish reed with which to make the St Brigids cross from. Father Stephens had advised of a nearby river to try my luck, so I donned my waterproofs and headed down to the river bank.
I walked barefoot. My shoes had immediately water-logged and the material was rubbing my blisters raw. Now I didn’t really know what Irish reeds were, but I thought I had a fair idea from what I’d been told and seen so far. There I spied not far away, a clump of large reeds ripe for the picking. Not knowing these reeds were the extremely extra large variety, I was overjoyed and waded into the water to fetch them. When I headed back to the church to collect my things, mass was starting and I joined in with the service. The priest introduced me to the congregation and explained about the pilgrimage. Afterwards a lovely lady came over and gave me a blessed rosary from the holy town of Medjugory... My collection of trinkets was growing nicely.


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