Friday, 19 March 2010

Never too old to be a "Pilgrim": an inspirational story...

"Ireland surely breeds them tough!"

This entry was posted recently by my friend and fellow peregrina in South Africa, Sil, a.k.a. "Silly Doll".

Sil is far from Silly and is a regular poster on the pilgrim forum
and has been since 2004.

I think that Sil is a wonderful example of how, no matter how far away you might be geographically, once you have made the Pilgrimage, it stays with you. She regularly posts updates on hiking the Camino - in practical ways and others - and related articles. I'm sure she won't mind my including this post here. Her own website is If you have been a pilgrim or intend to be - or even if it is just an, as yet, unrealisable dream for you - the Camino Forum is for you, Sil's own also carries some truly inspirational and practical insight. The Camino Forum, hosted by Norwegian and now Gallego trasplant, Ivar, is a wonderful introduction to the Camino. I post as Priscillian on the Camino Forum if you are interested.

Sil writes:

"Galway is mourning the loss of one of its most remarkable citizens after former Alasdar MacCana army captain and NUIG lecturer passed away last week. He would have been 102 years old on Tuesday.

The Oughterard centenarian earned acclaim last year when he completed a Certificate in Computing at Moycullen VEC at the age of 101 with a view to starting his own business.

He remained physically adroit and could regularly be seen walking from his home at Portacarron into the village of Oughterard. He travelled to Northern Spain with his son (who couldn't have been too young himself - Tracy) to complete the 100-mile Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage at the age of 97, covering ten miles a day over ten days. He recently turned his attention to studying Ancient Greek before he died at his home in Portacarron, Oughterard last Monday.

Alasdar had an insatiable thirst for knowledge and completed a computer course last year driven by an ambition to start his own business as an educational adviser. He had also started to learn Ancient Greek.

Described as a spiritual man of deep faith, Alasdar attributed his remarkable longevity to “everything in moderation” and habitually enjoyed cigars, a glass of red wine before dinner and a glass of whiskey before bed."

I was very moved by this story of Alasdar, especially as there are still some people out there who think that the Camino is just a "young person's thing". Rest assured, there are as many people in their middle age (and older: I tend to judge "Middle Age" differently with every year I approach...something different!) as there are pilgrims in their 20's, especially in the "off season".

What perhaps impressed me most about Alasdar was that at the age of 101, he thought to turn his skills and knowledge to a new career! As an Educational Consultant myself, I have to say: what an inspiration for all of us.

I hope one day to be just like him, but I might have to develop a taste for whiskey!

A friend of mine, years past, said to me: "Tracy, everyone is Irish or wants to be!" There may or may not have been alcohol involved...

It was St. Patrick's Day two days ago. A fellow teacher at the school I work at brought in Bailey's and Whiskey Cake for our break. The afternoon was quite laid back... I'd like to add to it in honour of Alasdar:

Here's to your coffin!
May your coffin have six handles of finest silver!
May your coffin be carried by six fair young maids!
And may your coffin be made of finest wood
from a 100-year-old tree,
that I'll go plant tomorrow!
(Traditional Irish Toast)

More on the 12th century soon, but this week, let's celebrate Today!


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