SUSAN HUGHES ART EXHIBITION – ÁINE CARSON
WHEN you’re of the nosey persuasion, you tend to get invited to things. I have a mate who pokes her nose into everything. She brings me with her and I write about it. Sometimes people tell her to bring a different plus one.
This week we boarded one of Translink’s finest number 20 buses to Stormont. Coming from Turf Lodge, this was a day out for us and we chatted like two Primary school kids going to the zoo.
Strolling up the big hill, we took in the scenery, the middle class dog walkers and our right to also enjoy this beautiful public property. I thought about bringing my own wee beagle terrier for a run out, he would love it. But he too is excitable in new places. He’d probably be treated like a Shinner in Carson’s gaff – allowed to be there but most unwelcome.
After much panting, wheezing and plans to flirt with security because both of us forgot our ID, we made it up to the Long Gallery.
It was like every other art exhibition I’ve been to. Sophisticated artsy type people milling around networking with free wine. Then there was us two scruffs with water. Because it was a school night.
The good thing about my mate is, she knows a random mix of people. She was invited by the Artist Susan Hughes. I’m told Ms Hughes is an art teacher who took a year out to complete the work which was sponsored by Basil McCrea.The exhibition is comprised of 33 oil portraits of some of the individuals who were, and are, continually committed to working quietly and steadily in the background to facilitate peace and reconciliation in N.I, and is well worth a visit. It will be hung in May 2014 in the 174 Trust at Duncairn.
The chum introduced me to the Reverend Ken Newell, retired now but worked closely with Fr Gerry Reynold’s within the Clonard-Fitzroy Fellowship.
I can see why he has been acknowledged as a quiet peacemaker. He didn’t know me or that I have issues with God and have little time for religion – he just stuck his big gentle man hands out and shook mine vigorously with a big welcoming smile and a ‘lovely to meet you’.I thought about all these people who have their portraits displayed in our new parliament. Only knowing a few of them to see, I was interested in those I didn’t know from Adam.
Most of them had a Christian connection. Again, dispelling my own prejudice of the religious orders too busy counting shekels while the people outside killed each other over supposed religious difference during the troubles.
Of all the paintings, one that struck me was of Ian Milne. A funeral director, he is a former member of the Orange Order and trained mediator. He has facilitated talks between the Orange Order and Sinn Féin and the Orange Order and Dublin Government.
His brief biography said:
‘In Portadown and Lurgan there were very few funerals conducted by Protestant for Catholics or Catholics for Protestants. About 6 years ago someone walked into my office looking for me. ‘Do you bury Catholics?’ hesaid. ‘Only if they are dead’, I replied. ‘You’ll do me,’ he said. My philosophy in life and in my role as a funeral director is summed up by the phrase: ‘The pain of loss is the same for us all.’
And it’s true. Whether you have lost someone to a natural death or trauma– everyone feels the same pain.
We’ve got a lot to thank these silent heroes for. They sought no prizes, they just wanted peace -and we are reaping the rewards.