We live three miles from Oldcastle (in Co. Meath and Leinster) and six miles from Virginia (in Co. Cavan and Ulster). To get to Virginia we must drive around Lough Ramor … we can go either clockwise or anticlockwise.
When he finished primary school locally, Sean could have gone to secondary school in either of these small towns. We visited both schools, and he chose Virginia. He never regretted this … he loved Virginia and always spent a lot of his time there; it was the hub of his world.
I prefer the anticlockwise route to and from Virginia … all left turns, and a more pleasant drive in my opinion. Most of my journeys to town and then home have entailed a complete anticlockwise circumvention of the lake. On hundreds of these Sean was in the passenger seat for half the journey, as I dropped him to town or picked him up.
Sean had friends in various parts of Virginia (especially Forest Park, the ‘rough’ estate). He knew every inch of the place, and most of the people … all the young people. They all knew and liked him; he got on with everyone. It was his stomping ground – his element, where he was totally at ease. He had made friends through the rugby club, school or just general socializing, and was always sure of meeting someone to chat to and have the craic with.
A friend of ours with whom we shared a school run told us that Sean would very often be late in arriving at the supermarket to be picked up after school … he would have stopped to chat to people on the way. I sometimes got cross with him over his lack of punctuality, but that was Sean and we couldn’t change him. He was primarily interested in people; time was a secondary consideration.
He played rugby, and did rugby training, in Virginia. He also trained at the boxing club. He went out on rowing boats on the beautiful lake. He played soccer in the school yard, even after he left school. He drank in a pub known as Fay’s (though that, typically, was not its name) or drank cans of cider with his friends on weekend nights in the forest near the lake.
Once, when the police were trying to crack down on open-air drinking, they brought him home … he had been the only one that didn’t run away when they showed up. They told us that he was a very nice young man … he had chatted to them constantly in the car about his plans for college and suchlike.
Every time I go to Virginia now I wish that Sean was in the car with me, or that I was going to pick him up at one of the usual spots. I would see him smile as he saw me coming and then got into the car; we would discuss the latest rugby or soccer developments on the way home. But that will never happen now. After 39 days it’s still hard to believe, and hard to take. We miss you, Sean.