Sunday, 27 March 2016


It's Easter. Having been away from my blog for 4 weeks - no excuses, just busy - it is time to catch up.

I  never think of Easter without thinking of my mother having a lot of folk in for Easter Sunday dinner.  By far the most memorable was about 30 years ago when Grandma and Tudor were here for a visit.  Everyone was seated round the table - always a big ham roast, scalloped potatoes and some of her baking for dessert - when I suggested we have a toast.  As the meal progressed we went round the table getting folk, if they were up for it, to raise their glass and think of some sort of toast.  (I was very impressed when 10 year old Alastair's turn came, "Here's to Grandma!" sez Alastair.) However, the last person to complete the round was Anne Bennet, sitting next to me on my right.  She is from Colraine in Northern Ireland.... and she raised her glass, paused and said quietly "Let's drink to Peace in Northern Ireland."   (It was the weekend that Tony Blair was completing the signing of the Good Friday Peace Agreement.) Very apt.

And so we move on ... to this Easter which marks the 100th Anniversary of the Easter Rising in Ireland.  April 1916 was when there was the rebelliion against British rule in Ireland; it became known as the Easter Rising. Ireland broke away from the United Kingdom and became Eire.

I have been reminded of all this bloodshed because I have been putting together an obituary of a remarkable woman particularly well known in the Irish/British yachting world.  She was Jennifer Guinness, Dublin, who died 2 months ago after a long and remarkable life.

She owned several yachts but Deerhound was the one that people around here remember.  What I had forgotten was the story of her getting caught up in one of the many manifestations of violence in Eire and Northern Ireland over the years.

From her home in Dublin, she was kidnapped for ransom on April 8, 1986 and held capative for 8 days. It's a long story; she said she had been "treated well" by what she believed to be "five or six" masked men, and did her best to establish a rapport with them. "I had an idea that if we could talk and communicate," she recalled, "then I had a better chance of survival. You don't shoot people you talk to." [The Independent, Eire].

She raced in a variety of boats, earning renown as a helm in the International Dragon Class, and cruised far and wide, from Spain to Scandinavia. In May 1986 - not long after the kidnapping - she was a crewmember on Robin Knox-Johnston's catamaran, which set a new round-Ireland record. Jennifer was also a member of the Irish Admiral's Cup team in 1975.   [The Independent, Eire].

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