Written by Andrea O'Donnell
18 April 2019
Reading Friends in Northern Ireland is delivered with the support of Verbal Arts in Derry/Londonderry. They recently teamed up with Active Citizen’s Engaged (ACE) for an interactive Reading Friends session that looked at some of the city’s local churches.
Strolling through the city
Our first Reading Friends session with Active Citizens Engaged (ACE) took place during a glorious afternoon. The twelve of us, a mix of the local Irish and Hong Kong Chinese community, met in the grounds of St Columba’s Church, Long Tower. Our theme for this stroll-filled session was stained glass windows. The images we saw helped us tell the stories of the saints most associated with the city – St Columba and St Eugene.
Exploring the city, one church at a time
Our walk through the city started at Long Tower, and from there we made our way to St Columba’s Cathedral, within the city walls. The Cathedral is in the heart of Derry, and has beautifully decorated stained glass windows in colours that commemorate the battalions associated with the local area. We then continued to walk down Palace Street which brought us to St Augustine’s Church, also known as the Wee Church on the Walls. Dickie, a local guide, gave us a fascinating history of the church and its relationship to the cathedral, the Long Tower, and the First Derry Presbyterian church.
Cross cultural poetry
Our Reading Friends stroll ended with tea and a poem by the 9th Century Chinese poet Du Mu about All Souls Day, which seemed appropriate having visited graves in three churchyards on our tour. Two participants recited the poem in unison before translating it into English.
We followed our Chinese reading with Seamus Heaney’s poem Colum Cille Cecinit. The poem uses Latin, St Columba’s writings in Irish, and Seamus Heaney’s translation into English. Our session ended with a short local history excerpt sourced by Reading Friends volunteer, Dermot Kelly.
The rain falls thick and fast on All Souls’ Day,
The men and women sadly move along the way.
They ask where wineshops can be found or where to rest –
And the herdboy points to Almond-Town in the distance.
Qing Ming , Du Mu in English
Qing Ming, Du Mu in Chinese
We are all looking forward to our next Reading Friends outing with ACE.
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