I was sad to hear of the death of Bishop Eddie Daly, R.I.P. He’s one of those people that always seems to have been there in my lifetime. How many times we’ve seen the image of him, hunched with white waving handkerchief in hand, seeking to lead people to safety in the midst of a blood-stained Derry Sunday on January 30th 1972. I was nine years old then but remember that image and moment. Pure horror and a man seeking to make a difference in the midst of it all.
Some ten years later I recall trying to annoy one of my Derry classmates who (rightly) saw Eddie as hero. I asked would he like to see my impersonation of him and when he said yes, I took a hankie from my pocket and waved it in the air. He was not impressed! It’s a powerful moment, cherished in the memory of all who saw it and, for many, a shared memory that is all too real. My “impersonation” was at a very superficial level and served little by way of justice and depth, to the respect I had and have for Bishop Daly.
I was reminded today of Seamus Heaney’s poem “Scaffolding” and it strikes me that Bishop Daly and many others like him have sought to protect and maintain a sense of place and church in our midst. For years, as priest and bishop, he lived where he loved, served his own people and knew their ways. He was inspirational. He became “scaffolding” allowing people maintain and indeed overcome the “walls” of Derry that they might become places of meeting rather than division, peace instead of conflict and hope instead of despair. Maurice Harron’s famous sculpture on the outskirts of the city shows two men reaching out to one another from the walls of their tradition. The hands almost touch and I believe that Eddie Daly in the scaffolding he provided allowed for that touch to finally become real.
May he rest in peace. Amen
Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;
Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.
And yet all this comes down when the job’s done
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.
So if, my dear, there sometimes seems to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me
Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.