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On arrival, I raced from the car to set eyes on the scene I had been dreaming of all year. Waves crashing on the huge beach, with well-worn tall black wooden wave breakers, stretching out into the sea. Oh, the smell of the sea air, the sight of the rock pools, the lighthouse, the mysterious Capel Island, Perks Merries, the shop on the front strand with its teasing assortment of buckets and spades, fishing nets, beach balls, windmills, sun glasses, and HB ice cream.
Our summer home, for the last two weeks of August in , was a converted railway carriage. There, in a field of sandy soil and long wispy grass, between Claycastle Beach and the railway line, near the east Cork town of Youghal, we found a perfect playground for young imaginations.
We hired a green Morris Minor van to take us there. Into it, we crammed sheets and blankets, summer clothes, Clarks sandals for best wear, shoe whitener for our rubber dollies, buckets and spades, my new fishing rod, beach ball, football, swimming togs, as many children as could fit, and finally Smuggler, our dog. We played on the beach from sunrise to sunset, building sandcastles with moats and dams to stop the tide, and swimming until we got goose bumps.
At low tide, we explored the magical world of rock pools. Perks Merries was our Disneyland. I would drift off to sleep listening to the soothing sound of waves breaking on the shore, and gazing at the comforting clear bright yellow flame of the paraffin lamp. The swallows swooping in acrobatic flight signalled the end of our summer holiday.
Then it was time to bid farewell to new friends easily made. We promised to write and hoped to meet again the following year. He became a champion of the link between faith, justice and social activism for progressive change. His humanitarian work in the Middle East brought him acclaim — and enemies.