At the age of 19, Dermot Cosgrove had a taste for adventure, and the call of la Légion Étrangère brought him to France, over the next six years he served with great pride and distinction across the globe; including service in the First Gulf War. He even served twice in Somalia with UNTAF & UNOSOM, while there he met his fellow countrymen deployed with the Irish Defence Forces. Although he has long hung up his kepi blanc, this native of Ennis has continued to work as a security consultant for over twenty years mainly in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia; he also has combined his two lifelong loves of hiking and birdwatching into a guided tour business, where clients can avail of his expert ornithology knowledge and his vast walking wisdom by joining him on tours in Ireland and across Europe.
Valletta.Sun burns down on city streets,bringing in the light, beauty,in the shadows, mystery,lost in ancient rows of homes and steps,cracked flagstones balanced one upon the other,or rooted into living rock,tight alleyways frame views of a wave tossed harbour,an artist might go blind from the wonders,or mad from the ceaseless wind.
Tibnin Bridge. In 1999 I drove over Tibnin Bridge in the sweltering heat,as the UN bus rose a trail of dust,billowing up behind us,the laughter onboard almost distracted me from my task,the careful watch of the road signs,my finger following the road snaking through South Lebanon,on a trip from Tyre up into the hills. I was only a baby when you died here,but not much later my older brothers went to serve in that land,which was soaked with your blood,I heard your story while I was still so very young,in the weeks before the first of them left for the Lebanon,they spoke in hushed tones in the kitchen,but I heard from my games in the hall outside.
Seen It I have seen the love,when Father makes himself into a bed,to raise the weary child from off the deck,cradling all the treasure of the world,within his arms, underneath thin blankets. I have seen the love,of brother held fast to brother,sleeping, no support but each other,I had not the words to ask,did they even share a Mother?
Empty. If only the innocent could be kept afloat by faith,until the rescuers come walking on the waves,to carry the children to the cradle of their mother,not let them tumble in the surf,greeting the morning with their backs,silent and stiff, the red shirt on the tiny frame.
Mothers of Many Nations. Mothers are mothers, white, brown, yellow, black.no divide amongst the races by colour, creed or social status,each mother cradles two generations inside her during gestation,endless cord to the dawn of time,when your mother's mother was also mine. The abuse and danger a mother will endure,as she sets out unsure - to fleefetching up on a Libyan shore,with the precious child, her world.
Shelter. There's a sheltered spot on the Starboard quarter,where I stand with no other,gazing out across the sea,I watch the melting colours of the sky,like a fire burning away the barrier,between this world and the next,I can't often be still of late,lingering in such beauty undeservedly,which stirred youth before life gave way to adult pursuits.
STRIPPED.W hat if all you had was gone? What if all you had was a black bag and the clothes on your back? What if all you loved went limp and slipped from your fingers into the deep blue?
Nuestra Senora de Gardtoza, January 30th 1990. The Aer Corps have a motto 'Go Mairidis Beo' its accepted translation is 'So others may live' which echos the US Air Force Pararescue motto. It stands as a statement of commitment from the people who will place the lives of others above their own.It also is very apt to apply it to Irish sailors, who in all weathers will put to sea in small RHIBs, against the fury of the ocean and into the face of the storm to save their fellow mariners who are in peril on the sea.On the night of the 30th of January 1990 the LÉ DEIRDRE was at anchor in Lawrence's Cove in the shelter of Bere Island from severe gale force winds. A terrible drama was unfolding close by, the Spanish fishing vessel, Nuestra Senora de Gardtoza, (Our Lady of Gardtoza) had run aground on rocks near Roancarrigmore Light, North East of Bere Island in Bantry Bay. She was taking water and she had 16 souls onboard.LÉ DEIRDRE received the 'MAYDAY' at 2100hrs and as quickly as she could, the crew weighed anchor and headed out of shelter into the severe gale towards the distressed vessel.
The Middle Sea. If you drew back the ocean waves,the graveyard of the middle sea would be seen,strewn with the bodies of the poor,from a hundred nations, they lie scattered by the thousands,on the seabed, blanketed in the forever dark. The ocean has no memory or mercy,the sand will not a headstone make,there will be no names carved in Tripoli or Valetta for these nameless bones,locked or trapped inside decrepit hulks,they tried to cross the waters with pitiless men.
Merciful Sleep. Nameless and blameless,drownings not painless, Saint, sinner, soldier and thief, weeping child for their mother,father lost brother, Muslim, Christian and Sikh.
Faces. I draw faces on the nitrile* gloves with care,never more struck by my privilege,until I meet those without a home,a child alone,the laughter and delight at a simple toy,a joy,they are gathered at my feet,their little bundles stand out in stark relief,drawing in the bright sun,on expensive paper with cheap crayons.