Paul and the wall: A story to elevate lockdown spirits

Ann Dalton pays tribute to a man who is 'clearing' the way in the Glen River Park, for everyone to enjoy.
Paul and the wall: A story to elevate lockdown spirits

Paul McCarthy at the wall he cleaned up in The Glen River Park

IT’S been a year when many felt that walls were building up around us, enclosing us in confined spaces.

It’s been a year when barriers have been placed before us, clear sanitized screens erected between us and the rest of humanity. When doom and gloom is mixed into the bricks and mortar... then another lockdown comes right at us.

You may have fantasised about breaking these walls.

You walk outside (if you are lucky) before the four walls wrap around the one, the one that you have become...

If you’ve been feeling like this of late, then this positive story will hopefully elevate your mood.

It’s about a man I often see in my local park — the Glen River Park in Cork city. He seems to be there every day when the rain doesn’t fall, and he is tending to an old wall. He cuts with a hand-held saw, digs with an old shovel, and smiles up at me as I walk past, like he just won the garden lottery.

“Howya, girl,” he says.

He’s clearing all the brambles off the wall, there with his trowel gouging out the weeds, those that had the audacity to grow between the bricks and mud.

“Tis over 200 years old, this wall,” he says to me.

We both wonder who placed their backsides on that down through the years. Did the lads of the Dillon’s Cross Ambush run behind these stones for cover? ‘Any bullet holes?’ you want to ask him, getting wrapped up in the history of the place.

But they are his stories now. His name is Paul McCarthy, the man who uncovered the wall. He is the one who broke the sweat to disentangle the briars and bramble. He is revealing stones, collecting stories, clearing the wall so we can sit on it again, socially distanced, creating our own tales.

Paul has frequented the Glen River Park for more than 10 years, clearing away the brambles from here and there, making it a garden for everyone to enjoy.

He is doing it because he loves to clear things away and collect new stories.

He is the spirit of lockdown and he lifts us all.

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