Error message

Deprecated function: implode(): Passing glue string after array is deprecated. Swap the parameters in Drupal\gmap\GmapDefaults->__construct() (line 107 of /data-1/webspace/10183/html/sites/all/modules/gmap/lib/Drupal/gmap/GmapDefaults.php).
Thursday, July 7, 2005

As a comparative newcomer to North Devon I told a local farmer that I was interested in healing the hates of history and particularly in the role of apology and forgiveness. ‘Ah,’ he said, ‘Do you know why Bideford is not talking to Barnstaple?’ ‘No,’ I said. ‘They didn’t send enough ships to the Armada.’

This article was first broadcast on BBC Radio Devon

As a comparative newcomer to North Devon I told a local farmer that I was interested in healing the hates of history and particularly in the role of apology and forgiveness. ‘Ah,’ he said, ‘Do you know why Bideford is not talking to Barnstaple?’ ‘No,’ I said. ‘They didn’t send enough ships to the Armada.’

We can laugh at such comments. I have been here long enough to know that apology and forgiveness for that distant past are not a live issue today. Though I was intrigued to read of the recent get together of descendants of those on both sides of another part of our country’s earlier history, the Gunpowder plot. I was first introduced to the idea of forgiveness and repentance and their link with history through the example of my mother. My family lived for hundreds of years in Ireland. But in 1922 at the time of Irish independence my grandfather, Ivan Tilly, was told to leave the country by the end of the week or be shot. A family home was burned to the ground. We were all that was unpopular at the time - Protestants and landowners and for several generations in the Royal Irish Constabulary. A history of the School of Art where he was the registrar says simply, ‘Mr Tilly left rather suddenly.’

It wasn’t until many years later that my mother faced how deeply she felt about being forced out of Ireland. As a family we attended a centre for reconciliation in Caux, Switzerland in 1947. One day an Irish Catholic Senator, Eleanor Butler, spoke. Everything in my mother rebelled against her. Who is this woman talking about unity in Europe and she chucked me out my country. But in the spirit of that place - where you take time in quiet to face up to where you and your people need to be different rather than pointing the finger of blame - she felt she should apologize to Senator Butler for the indifference we had shown to Catholics over many years. She did so and they became friends and worked together.

Apology, then, was the start of a journey in peace building for my whole family. That is one reason why I welcome the recent focus in the media on the issue of apologies. Some may write off apologies as just political correctness or question the motives or even the authority of those who say sorry - or don’t - but it is always useful to look at the effect of such acts on the spirit of the recipients, on those who might warrant an apology. As a friend used to tell me, the bottom has a longer memory than the boot.