The road to the Phoenix Park... by Toyota Corolla
Pope John Paul II committed the unforgiveable sin of leaving Cork out of his itinerary in 1979 but FRANK COUGHLAN was undaunted and in need of a way to impress his new girlfriend
Ithought my devout mother would be pleased when I told her that I was going to drive overnight to see the Pope in Dublin. Sure, in fact, that the news of her religiously lax son undertaking this sacred pilgrimage to the Phoenix Park would be greeted with a generous splashing of Lourdes water and a God speed.
But she was decidedly indifferent.
John Paul II, infallible though he may have been, had committed a mortal sin in her eyes. He had left Cork off his Ireland Tour 79.
“He’s going to Galway,” she sniffed. “Galway? Sure, it’s only a town.”
She wasn’t the only one. The Irish Press reported that “Cork is a city that feels left out in the cold. It has no flowers, no new bunting, and along the whole length of Patrick Street hardly a dozen flags are flying.”
A schism was not expected but there were rumblings. Rome fell out with Constantinople over less.
I was undeterred, however. Not because of any newly discovered religious fervour or because I had been swept away by the rock star appeal of JPII, but because I needed desperately to impress my new girlfriend.
It had been made clear to me over a Harp and a glass of Guinness ‘n’ blackcurrant that if I couldn’t find the time to bring her, somebody else might. The threat was left hanging there. So the great adventure began.
It would be my first time driving to Dublin and my Toyota Corolla got the full service. That is air in the remoulds and a splash of Fairy for the windscreen wash. I even added a few cassettes to my glove compartment library. 10CC if memory serves.
White, gorgeous and with a spoiler that didn’t seem to do much, my first car cut a bit of a dash. Souped up and noisy, it was only when she had to actually go anywhere quickly that her limitations were exposed. A minor consideration around town but a bit of a liability on the open road.
The girlfriend, a student nurse in the South Infirmary, managed to get the Friday night off so we set off in the early hours.
She brought a sleeping bag which she immediately wrapped herself in while I listened to Bowie’s Pin Ups and concentrated on the cat’s
It had been made clear to me over a Harp and a glass of Guinness ‘n’ blackcurrant that if I couldn’t find the time to bring her, somebody else might. The threat was left hanging there
eyes on the long and winding road to the greatest show on earth.
The last time so many Irish people had gathered in anything like these numbers was when John McCormack warbled at the Eucharistic Congress in 1932. The next time would be to welcome home Jack’s Army from Italia 90.
Make of that trajectory what you will. But