Extraordinary Dreams of an Ireland Traveler
Author Jon Magee
Jon Magee lives in Scotland and has kindly presented his story about the Northern parts of Ireland for us. In addition, I ask him to share his life with us as well. I know you will find the following truly a life of inspiration and be so happy you have met this giving and talented writer.
Thank you Jon for helping me out today with these stories and memories.
Author Jon Magee
Ireland, and the Islay connections
It was in 1983 that I moved to the Isle of Islay for five and a half years, an island where we as a family felt immediately at home as we responded to what we believed was a call of God to become the local Baptist Minister. It did not take long before we were given an illustration that the beauty of the sea is also tinged with the sense of danger and the means of separating its people from the wider world. The induction service was the first weekend of March, and as the weekend came to a close we gathered at the Port Ellen pier to bid farewell to those who were the guests at the service. The ferry arrived, but its crew failed to anticipate how little room there was for mistakes. Children were able to wade quite a distance in the water in safety from one side of the bay, but the locals were aware that there was a sudden change as the depth increased considerably, and the need to be wary of the dangers of wading too far. In like manner, if the ferry was to steer just a slight bit too far to one side it was in danger of being stuck in the mud.
Yes, that was the experience this day as passengers with little experience of crossing the water saw that their route home was dependent on the wee fishing boats trying to drag the large ferry into safe waters. In the following years, the awareness of the dangers increased as various sea tragedies were to occur with the local fishing boats.
The Scottish Isle of Islay is, in fact, part of the southern Hebrides and at that time was inhabited by just over 4,000 people, though the population has since been reduced even more to around 3,200 people. The Isle of Islay is also called the Queen of the Hebrides. With 8 working whisky distilleries, the stunning scenery, amazing wildlife and all the friendly people, Islay is a five star holiday destination. It covers an area of 600 square Kilometres and has an impressive 130 miles of coastline.
The Isle of Islay is the southernmost island of the Inner Southern Hebrides of Scotland and lies in Argyll and Bute. The Isle of Jura, the Kintyre peninsula and Northern Ireland are Islay’s neighbours. By the way, the proper pronunciation for Islay is Eye-la. So, how does this Scottish island fit within a blog that is primarily dedicated to Ireland? Dare I suggest I was to find that there are many connections that were to be a reminder of Ireland which was a mere 20 miles away across the water.
Ireland, seen from the Oa, Isle of Islay
I had not been on Islay long before someone confided in me that on a clear day it was possible to see the Antrim coast of Northern Ireland, and on a very clear day you could also see Rathlin Island. As I approached Port Ellen the day would come when I could confirm the truth of that statement. Amidst the rugged landscape of this isolated R
athlin island, many have spoken of how you can let your mind wander and discover a tranquillity and beauty that is so unexpected. This island is six miles long, one mile wide, “L” shaped and home to a small population of around seventy people.
In the harbour is the Boathouse, where visitors can discover some of the exciting history, learn about present day island life and see some artefacts from shipwrecks around the island. A short walk around to Mill Bay there is a colony of seals, which are fun to just sit and watch!
At the other side of the harbour are two churches where visitors can sit quietly or just admire the architecture. At the west of the island is the renowned RSPB Seabird Centre, where puffins, guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes can be viewed during the summer months. It is also home to some magnificent views, on clear days Donegal, the North Antrim coastline, the island of Islay and the Mull of Kintyre can be seen. Yes, as we looked out on Rathlin Island there were Irishmen who looked back at the beauty of Islay. The sea that can divide can bring a connection to other parts of the world.
Ruthlin island, looking out to Islay
Rathlin Island Harbour_Church Bay
There are many tales of myth and mystery surrounding Rathlin, the most famous tells of
Robert the Bruce. In 1306, the Scottish King was driven from Scotland by Edward I of England and took refuge on Rathlin. While he was on Rathlin, it is said that he watched a spider persevering again and again to bridge a gap with its web. Eventually it succeeded. Robert the Bruce took heart from the spider’s efforts, raised fresh forces and returned to Scotland to fight for his kingdom. He too, eventually succeeded and in 1314, regained the crown of Scotland.
Looking towards Fair Head
There lies an inspiration for many of us to try, try, and try again.
Belfast Skyline View
But it was further round the coast of Ireland that would also be within my thoughts as I looked across the sea. My father was raised in Belfast in very humble circumstances in a very small terraced house in Nevis Avenue, in the East Belfast suburbs of Strandstown. He and his three brothers shared an attic bedroom together, and on a dark stormy night the three flights of stairs must have seemed a long way to go in an emergency. Even worse was the fact the toilet facilities lay outside. The dark looking street and housing stood in contrast to the brightness many of the tropical streets he was to later live in as he left to join the Royal Air Force in the 1930’s. Wherever he was in the world, however, he was to remain proud of his Ulster routes in Belfast, in the North of Ireland.
Photo: Taken in front of home on Nevis Avenue
Thompson Magee, known as Paddy while in the RAF and Billy Magee (Jon Magee’s family)
There was still a sense of history here despite the dismal sight of his home street. It was here that the author C. S. Lewis was to begin life in 1898 as Clive Staple Lewis, often called Jack, and was destined to pen such items as the Chronicles of Narnia which has seen a new lease of life following the release of recent films. To walk the streets of Belfast is to walk in the footsteps of a number of celebrated authors.
The Titanic as it was leaving Belfast for sea trials
It was in Belfast that a large ship was to be built, and to be sent on its maiden voyage one hundred years ago in 1912. The ship, The Titanic, was infamously referred to as being unsinkable and the rest, as they say, is history as the ship was never to see a further voyage as it hit an iceberg. Such an event is something that most would not wish to be associated with. However, it is part of the British spirit to find a means to find something positive from the worst of events, and so on the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic the people of Belfast celebrated as tourists came to discover more of this incredible story.
Indeed there were many stories that came out of that sinking that spoke of the courage and tender human care for others.
Here is one:
Rev John Harper was the minister of a Baptist church in Glasgow but was asked to speak at the Moody Church in Chicago who had been impressed with his ministry in Scotland. He was traveling onboard the RMS Titanic when on April 14th 1912 the ship struck an iceberg, with the loss of over 1490 souls. Accounts of the last minutes of the Titanic sinking indicate that John Harper was seeking to use his last moments to bring comfort to others, despite his personal risks, and to show them the means of hope before they drowned, one account given indicates John Harper asked one man ” Has yourSoul been Saved” and upon the negative response he gave the man his life vest. The man survived to tell the story of John Harper, John was fully aware of his own mortality but he had confidence that there was a place reserved for him in Heaven as the Scriptures tell, and sought to be an inspiration to others.
Titanic in Cork Harbour on 11th April 1912
The song says “If you ever go across the sea to Ireland” and the song recounts many possibilities, but remember that the sea you cross not only divides and brings its disasters, but also brings thoughts and people together with new hope.
Belfast taken from Black Mountain
Photo Provided by Jon Magee, Author of:
“From Barren Rocks to Living Stones” & “Paradise Island Heavenly Journey”
Now after this most interesting history provided to you by Jon Magee, I wanted to share with you a bit of personal information about this Author and his inspiration for becoming an accomplished writer. Be sure to look up his links where his books can be found.
Bio of: Jon Magee
Jon Magee was born in 1951 at RAF Cosford, in Shropshire, England into a nomadic family. His father served in the British Royal Air Force as a Medical Secretary, and so did he for 10 years as an Electronic Technician working on Aircraft communications. Consequently, by the
time he reached the age of 30 he had never lived anywhere more than 3 years maximum, and was in 14 schools by the time he had completed his secondary education.
The result is that he has lived through many of the milestones of late 20th Century history: in the 1950’s he was in Singapore during the Chinese riots, 1960/62 was in Germany at the height of the cold war, 1966/67 was in Aden (Yemen)as a teenager in the midst of the conflict and terrorism of the time and the British evacuation. As an adult, Jon Magee arrived in Malta as the Maltese Prime Minister decided he did not like the British, and then he went to Cyprus with his new wife, Joan, 1973 – 1975, in time for the Military coup and Turkish invasions of 1974.
In short, wherever there was trouble there was one common factor, Jon Magee.
He is married to Joan and have 3 daughters, 2 sons, and 5 grandchildren, with number 6 due at the end of April, and now serves as Baptist minister in Scotland, as well as serving as a Chaplain in various schools and industrial establishments.
As an author, his writings reflect that nomadic early life, and brings out the realism of what it is like to live at the heart of the conflicts in the world in a way that is only possible having personal
experience of the situations. In addition to writing for magazines and local newspapers, Jon is the author of “From Barren Rocks … to Living Stones” and “Paradise Island, Heavenly Journey”.
There are numerous places where his books maybe bought, including Amazon
I ask Jon what was his inspiration to write and here was his response:
“My youth was noted for one thing, a nomadic life. By the time I had finished my education as a teenager I had been through 14 different schools. My first 30 years of life I had not been anywhere from birth more than 3 years maximum, and most would be a lot less than that.
Formal education was a struggle, though there were many other aspects of life that would open my eyes to things I would never have learned from a book. Perhaps a part of the coping mechanism of a youth living an unsettled life was the reason that I would find it easier to quickly forget the people and places of my past. The reasoning being that I could not settle if I was always looking back at where I had been. I could speak some more on that, but for a moment let me share with you an experience that took place in 2006.
It was just another funeral. Never a week went by without a phone call with a request from the community usually from people with no church connection. On this occasion I had often met the deceased when visiting a local nursing home, but never the family. Her son lived away from the district and all the arrangements for the funeral were made with the daughter. The first opportunity to talk with her son was at the “tea” that followed the funeral. As I spoke with him and his family I began to realise that they lived in a district that I knew very well, I lived there briefly as a teenager. I recognised some of the places he spoke of, but not the people.
Then, as he spoke of a business in the locality the memories began to revive that much more. I remembered the name of the family that owned the business and spoke of the family. I felt safe, because I thought the family no longer were there, and that seemed to be confirmed as he spoke of the name of another family who owned the business. That was fine, until his daughter interrupted and said, “But that’s the maiden name of the wife of the couple who now are the owners.” She mentioned her first name and I knew the name instantaneously. As teenagers we were very close, but with my nomadic life, and the unreliability of the postal system at the time we lost touch. Never seen or heard of each other for 40 years.
I was shocked, not so much that I remembered her. What shocked me most was that she was the only one I remembered. It was a difficult period in my life and many people had played a part in being my support. Why could I not recall who they were? For the sake of professional attitude, I needed to keep these thoughts to myself, but it was not easy.
Move forward now to the beginning of 2007. For health reasons I needed to take time out from work. Life was always very active for me with a keen interest in the community where I live, so taking time out was something that seemed so alien. Perhaps that was one reason that I did not give a lot of serious thought to writing, there was never the time. I would write small items for magazines and local newspapers, but nothing more than that. Often I thought about spending more time writing, but time was not a luxury that I possessed. There was always another project to engage in.
So, I have to take it easy, they said.
Take time off, they said.
I could not imagine that I could cope with sitting “twiddling my thumbs”. What could I do with myself? I thought back to that funeral, and the conversation that was exchanged. As an adult I have considered that every person we meet in the journey of life is a person to be treasured. We all develop in accordance with how we interact with each other. Yet, I wondered how true I had been to that concept in my youth, if the “treasured” people had been forgotten. Could this be the reason that time had been thrust upon me, time to reflect and honour the people of the past? I was beginning to learn an important lesson here, I feel, as I sat at my computer recording as much as I could reflect. There is so much character and human interest stories that need to be recorded in real people as well as the stories of fiction.
It was, at first, an action intended as a personal exercise, but as a story of 18 months of my life emerged I was encouraged to publish. It was my first book, the story of a teenager caught in the midst of terrorism and military conflict in Aden, which is part of what is now
Known as Yemen. But what is true for all of us is this, if a dream of writing is to be fulfilled, it needs to be given time out of our lives to put it into action.
A couple of links for Jon:
WHERE Jon Magee’s Book can be Purchased:
Author of “From Barren Rocks to Living Stones” & “Paradise Island,
Heavenly Journey” firstname.lastname@example.org
You can find my book on my web site for your signed copy and find your special offers to save hundreds of dollars when you visit the Emerald Isle for yourself.
Rosemary “Mamie” Adkins, Author