Rorywood and Other Name Changes

Back to to the desk and back to blogging, tho I probably won't be as regular as during Lent... But this morning I'm posting a slightly adapted piece that went out as a Thought for the Day on Good Morning Ulster. If you want to hear my pre-breakfast growl, then you can find it at 25 minutes and 84 minutes in to this morning's edition, for a brief period.

Before coming into the studio this morning I had get up at stupid o’clock to drop my eldest son to school in Holywood, as he’s heading off on a Duke of Edinburgh expedition… But I notice that they’ve now got signs outside the town pronouncing it to be Holywood, Home of Rory McIlroy… Now given that our Rory currently spends more of his time closer to the other marginally more famous Hollywood… you know, the one in California with 2 L’s and sunshine… there are those who suggest that this is a bit much… But at least they didn’t go the whole hog and actually change the name to Rorywood… Yet... 

We’ve got a thing about renaming places at the moment… on the way in from Holywood I passed both the George Best Belfast City Airport and the irony-free zone that is the Titanic Quarter… 

Then last night I read about the current controversial proposal by a Belfast City Council committee to rename Fishers Court in North Belfast as McGurk’s Way, after the nearby McGurk's Bar bombing, in 1971 when fifteen Catholics died. The proposal was passed, but on a split vote, and it will now be considered at the next full meeting of the council, after having been narrowly defeated last year. 

There are those who understandably worry that this sets a precedent for remembering every atrocity in the troubles with a changed street name… The question is, would there be enough streets? Because, frankly, the topography of Northern Ireland has irrevocably changed due to our history of strife… Our towns and cities are criss-crossed by interfaces that mark the gaping wounds of sectarianism… And whilst our city streets and country lanes may not have been renamed to remember what went on, they are pot-holed with memories, into which we unwarily drive from time to time, preventing us building up any kind of momentum towards a genuinely shared future. 

We have got to find a way of healthily dealing with the past… 

In the Bible, one of the ways that certain things were remembered and others forgotten was by changing a place’s name… Jacob remembered one encounter with God at a place called Luz by renaming it Beth-El… the house of God… And after the conquest of the holy land the Israelites renamed towns and cities to remove names that were associated with pagan gods. 

Might renaming certain streets be part of our process of healing of memories? Perhaps… but maybe instead of naming them after tragedies in the past (or celebrities living or dead, animate or inanimate), let’s name them after things we aspire to – Hope Way… Reconciliation Walk… Peace Parade…



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