One of the nicest things about travelling by train is that the free travel scheme means that there is always a good sprinkling of pensioners which is nice in itself but also they bring out the best in students (the other hardy perennials on the train) who are always very polite to them and help them with their bags and generally restore your faith in humanity.
Anyhow, I was on the train up from Cork on a Saturday and three elderly gentlemen, travelling separately fell into conversation about a hurling match between Limerick and Tipperary. One of them was a priest and one of the other men asked him whether he had ever been on the missions at all. He had – 12 years in Korea and 30 in Peru from which he had lately retired. Did he know the two girls who were arrested for drug smuggling? He did indeed, had spoken to them several times. He also opined that the prison where they were serving their sentence was one of the better ones in Peru, he having visited several others for many years. As Fr. Brown says, you can’t be a priest without knowing quite a bit about human depravity. Many anecdotes followed – the lives on other inmates, the altar boy who showed him a local remedy for swelling, how to handle snakes with a stick on the way to school – but my favourite related to Brazil.
One of the other men had visited South America and travelled around (our pensioners, an adventurous bunch) and asked the priest about Manaus. He had been there, he had much to say about the rubber trade. One interesting thing was that the ships transporting rubber had to take rocks back to Manaus as ballast. The last place they passed through was Cork and so all this Cork rock ended up in Brazil. He said that the opera house in Manaus is built from Clonakilty stone. I don’t know whether this is true, but I really hope so.
Here endeth the lesson.