Sunday, September 21, 2008


A nun - in full habit - was selling trinkets, mainly knitted nick-knacks and small hand-made wooden crosses, out of the back of her car, as I passed through the car park at Donegal Town Quay, this morning. I went over and thumbed a few tea-cosys and knitted crosses (for hanging from the rear view mirror - apparently they are very popular in Donegal) and tried to strike up a conversation - leading, of course, to the dreaded "can I take a picture of you" question.

I quickly ascertained that the Sister, was from the Holy Order "Sisters of Grace" (that bit was easy, because it said so on the jars of jam and honey she was selling) she told me that there were 300 Sisters in the order, all over the world, but only one in Ireland, her good self.

Anyway, I got the question out fairly quickly, and timed it for just when the Sister was handing me my change and the jar of honey I bought. "Oh no" she said "I can't have a photo taken" it's against my religion". "What religion is that?", I inquired. "I'm a recluse, in fact I was a hermit for 20 years."

"A duck got loose in the car park last week", she told me, her tone becoming increasingly stressed, "and a photo of me trying to catch it, was taken by a press photographer and ended up in the local paper!" (I felt the urge to duck myself, just from the sheer venom with which she said the P words). "I'm still wondering what to do about it. I might sue the newspaper."

"Oh, that seems a bit drastic, surely there might be some good publicity in it, for the Order" I offered, at the same time wondering if I might have snapped her accidentally, previously, and if so, did she have my car registration number.

"No" she said firmly "we don't seek publicity. "In fact, I only come out at all to sell things."

I was beginning to see a slight flaw in that particular piece of logic, but I let the thought go and made my final bid to bail out my already sinking boat of a conversation, and sail out of the quay car park as unscuttled at possible.

"It must be interesting being a recluse" I said, "it reminds me of the book 'Ring of Bright Water', and how Gavin Maxwell took himself from London to live in a cottage on a remote beach in Scotland".

"Oh, that's not the same at all" she rebuffed, "anyway, Gavin Maxwell was seriously weird", she declared, firmly. "He was homosexual".

Wondering what my youngest brother would say to that (and feeling somewhat offended on his behalf) I did what all the best press people do (in the tabloids)....I made my excuses, and left.


  1. What a bizarre encounter...I think that you were very wise to beat a hasty retreat from that particular 'lady of the cloth' - she sounds neither graceful nor sisterly, and certainly not Christian! ( But I loved the duck story...seriously surreal!)

  2. Stephen,

    I was wondering would the Sr.have abbreviated her order from The Sisters of Our Lady of Grace and Compassion Benedictines which was founded by Miss Mary Garson in 1954 in the UK .having converted to Catholocism in 1946. Of course she should not be confused with Professor Mary Garson based at the University of Queensland in Australia, but this would be an unlikely event in any manner.

    Interestingly your reference to being reminded of the author Gavin Maxwell ("the seriously weird homosexual Gavin Maxwell" as Sr. put it) reminded me more of the seriously weird Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall of cooking fame--- we will just have to differ on that one.
    Anyway, should you wish to contact the hermit/reclusive Sr. again , perhaps you could do so on the website www.graceandcompassionbenedictines.
    Most good reclusive outfits have a web site now.



  3. If this is the same sister (and I think it might be) I think she styles herself as a Sister of Grace of Christ--she used to have a blog that was quite touching, all about how she lived in an anchorage in extreme poverty with only the money from the knitting coming in. I can't find the blog anymore, and I wonder if the sister is still around. The odd thing about the blog was it was written as if she was not living all alone.


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