Newry.ie

I wish I could remember the day better but for whatever reason it has moved to an inaccessible part of my brain at present, hopefully to return when I'm old and grey, in the way we hear about older people re-living their youth as if it was the present. Perhaps I will start singing along with Bishop Casey on my 100th birthday!

Ballybrit Racecourse. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Ballybrit Racecourse. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

The thirtieth of September 1979 was OUR day, or that's how it seemed. The Polish Pope John Paul II now St John Paul II had just been made pope the year earlier and had journeyed to Ireland as the very first pope ever to give us a shout.

I had been born just after Pope John XXIII had died and just before his successor Pope Paul VI was elected so calling down to see a Pope called John Paul was most appropriate.

The hazy bits I do remember are sitting freezing cold in the middle of the night at the Ballybrit Racecourse in Galway  (it seemed to be in the stands, but whether it was or not I may never know).

The Popemobile on tour at Galway Racecourse. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
The Popemobile on tour at Galway Racecourse. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

Us young ones had been transported in a minibus from Loughgilly Parish, myself from Tullyherron end. Every parish in the country had put on buses in the same way thousands would go to Slane and it certainly did have a pop concert feel

When you remember the 'warm up act' was Bishop Eamonn Casey and Fr Michael Cleary singing 'Bind us Together' it really did sum it all up. Things would never be the same again ...

We arrived in total darkness with a great feeling of excitment and anticipation of what the day would bring.

When the Popes big red helicopter eventually did come hovering over us, the noise from the crowd was incredible. 

During the Homily when Pope John Paul II uttered the words "I believe in Youth" as far as I was concerned he had said "I believe in YOU" Iit really did seem to my 16 year old self that he was telling me that personally and it felt incredible.

When that was followed by "Young People of Ireland - I Love You" the excitement level could not have got any higher. I can still remember the feeling of being part of something amazing and unrepeatable, and when the resulting applause went on, and on, and on, and on, and on ... we were sending Pope John Paul II the very same message back.

The famous Popemobile set out on it's journey through the crowd and all was well with the world.

Ballybrit Racecourse. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Ballybrit Racecourse. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

Looking at the photographs I took on that day with my Kodak Instamatic, I'd like to think my photography has improved a little!?

The Popes Helicopter at Galway.
The Popes Helicopter at Galway.. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
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