The Grand Inquisitor

The Grand Inquisitor


“I’ll just be a minute, the painting is in the back” Old Crosby announced and disappeared into the storage room at the rear of the shop, leaving me to rummage alone through the array of stock he had scattered throughout his antique store. A wildly eclectic mix of items presented themselves before my eyes, items that had not so much been placed as had found their way to where they now lay. Watching as so many eyes in the ethereal stillness of this space where the dust seemed to hang expectantly in the air and the shadows of so much past cast themselves heavy upon on this dusky domain. I found myself drawn to a set of ornate Russian dolls hidden between a serving platter and a gramophone and proceeded to dismantle them absent-mindedly as I awaited the old man’s return.
Presently he announced himself, bounding up the corridor with the aforementioned object in his hands. “This is the piece I mentioned to you – it’s something I encountered in my ramblings, let’s say”. Wrapped in a velvet cloth, I could see the outlines of a frame. He carefully proceeded to remove the outer protective layer to reveal the painting beneath and placed it on a small table in front of him. “This is the work of Johannes van der Lember, painted in his late, shall we say, darker period”, Crosby stood away from the painting with an unabashed show of pride on his face and turned to me expectantly.
The painting itself was a characteristic piece of that 17th century Dutch masters, an exposition in shadow and light and with an attention to detail and realism that suggested surgical precision. The subject of the painting was a red-robed and white-bearded figure, standing in a torch lit room. Alongside – or more accurately, cowering beneath him was a man, bound and seated in an elaborate wooden chair, his face a mask of abject terror as the other figure loomed over him. In the shadows, lurking was a series of implements and tools hinting at the portents of a darker outcome in store.
“The First Time before the Grand Inquisitor” stated Crosby “one of a series of works van der Lember undertook towards the end of his life and without a doubt, his finest masterpiece. And…” he paused for effect “a much-coveted item”. “It had been given up as lost until… well… certain information came to light”. He stroked his chin and started to pace the floor slowly, back and forth. “Look, let me get to the point. What I’m about to tell you will put you, as well as myself, into a difficult position but I believe I have no one else that I can trust.” He then began to recount his tale….

  • John Wid, February 2016

The First Time



He’s gone. Ding dong the bully’s gone.  She picks up the receiver.

“Yes Dear, I’m certain, I won’t change my mind. Send Jimmy over in the next hour, he knows what has to be done”.

Putting the receiver down, she lifts her head.  Looking in the mirror, she notices a slight change to the eyes.  Still tired and weary, but now with a hint of defiance. Ding dong the bully’s gone, a smile starts to gather in one corner of her mouth.  Ding dong the bully’s gone, the smile reaches the other corner.   Where did that noise come from?  My goodness, that’s coming from me, it’s been so long since I heard that laugh.

Jimmy starts to work.  She starts to plan. Can’t remember where I put the decorations.  Yes, I’ll make a list.  As she writes, her hand shakes.  Last year, it wasn’t just her hand shaking but her whole body.  Fear had made her shake last Christmas.  This was different.  It was excitement that was making her shake.

The noise of the drill was like music to her ears.  She didn’t want it to stop.  If freedom had a sound, it was the sound of that drill. She breathed the sound in and exhaled it with a sigh of thanks.

“All done Mary, will I put the kettle on”.

Jimmy looked so concerned that her heart warmed with tender love for the man who made her daughter so happy.

“I’m grand Jimmy. Is 3 O’clock ok? everything will be ready by then.

“We’ll all be there”, Jimmy replies, as he plants a soft kiss on my cheek.

“Well done Mary, you’ve made the right decision”.

“I know Jimmy”

So busy, she didn’t have time to think, but now looking at the clock she had five minutes to spare, five minutes before her life would start again. Five minutes was all he was going to get, five minutes to resurrect the past.  The hurt, the pain, the fear, all wrapped up as presents from him to us at Christmas.  Each year I vowed that I would never let another Christmas be as the last one, but I was weak.  Not anymore.

The door-bell rang.  His five minutes was up.

“Nana, Nana, look at my lovely new dress, isn’t it beautiful Nana” my granddaughter screeched in delight as she twirled around the room.

“Just beautiful pet, it’s nearly as beautiful as you are” My heart was bursting with happiness. My family together again on Christmas day. Two arms wrapped themselves around me “Happy Christmas mam” my daughter whispered, “ It’s the first of many more to come”

“Nana, Nana, did you not hear the ding dong, someone’s at the door”

Looking out the window I saw him put the key in the lock.  When the penny finally dropped that the locks had been changed he fired the bunch of keys as far as he could, which wasn’t far considering his drunken state.

If only he realised he had thrown away all our lives along time ago.

“It’s ok dear; the silly man just came to the wrong house. It’s getting dark; I think I’ll pull the curtains”.

Ding dong the bully’s gone.  This time she started to giggle.


Annette Tobin





‘Hurry up’ my father said ’If we want to go to the zoo, we will have to get the 11 o’clock train’.

As we started putting our coats and packed lunches into the car for the journey to the station, Mrs Kilhooley came to the fence.

‘Hello Jim’ she said.

‘Hello Mary’ replied by father

‘Where are ye off to?’

‘I’m bringing the lads to the zoo.’

‘I suppose you heard that Lilly Mae Maguire died?’

‘No, when did that happen.’

‘I don’t know, it wasn’t mentioned in this morning’s paper or at mass but she was in America for the last fifty years and they are bringing her home to be buried. You could ask Paddy McKilicuddy, he’ll know.’

‘That’s right; Paddy Tombstone Mckilicuddy would be a fair bet.’

My father looked at me and said ‘Johnny go down to paddy and asked him about Mrs Maguire’s arrangements.

As I cycled down the village to Mr McKilicuddy’s house, I had visions of us having to stay at home and eat our packed lunch at the kitchen table. Nice one Mrs Kilhooley, you nosey ould bat.

Paddy McKilicuddy was sitting on the window ledge of his terraced house smoking a woodbine. watching the world go by.

I got off my bicycle and said ‘Hello Mr McKilicuddy, my father was wondering was there any news about Mrs Maguire?’

He stared at me and said’ Aren’t you Jim Ryan’s young fella, Johnny?

‘That’s right, is there any news?’ I had a train to catch

‘Did you know that the last time Lilly Mae Maguire or Obama as she is known as now, was home was for her mother’s funeral .I remembers it like it only yesterday. God it was a great day altogether. I remember her mother being laid out in the funeral parlour.

I never saw her looking as well. They had tea and sandwiches at the rosary, the removal and a sit down lunch in Egan’s hotel for everyone that went to the funeral. I bet you they will do the same this time; there might even be free drink in Delaney’s bar afterwards’.

‘Anyway, Mr McKilicuddy, do you know when that will be?’

‘Well, she died on Monday last at midday. They will have to arrange to bring her home. You know that can send her by aeroplane now, Isn’t that fantastic. She has a brother in Australia and two sisters in England and I suppose her husband’s family will come .She had two children of her own you know.’

‘And that would mean?’ For God’s sake we have a train to catch

‘Today is Thursday, so they left Chicago yesterday. I didn’t see the hearse leave the undertakers yard yet so Tom Dwyer is still at home. Let me think’

‘So would it be fair to say that it won’t be today?’

‘No, it won’t and might not even be tomorrow and you can’t be buried on a Sunday so…….’

I left and cycled like a lunatic back home. As I passed the graveyard. I looked in and wondered how many people never looked better the day before they went into that earth. Well, Tombstone was the judge of that.

As I arrived home my brothers and sisters were waiting anxiously for my news.

‘Well, what did Mr. Mckilicuddy say?’ my father asked.

I decided that I would give him the shortened version as Tombstone was probable still analysing the funeral arrangements while smoking a woodbine sitting on his window ledge waiting for the next member of the parish to enquire.

So I replied ‘You’re grand’.

In later years I came to understand that death needed to be celebrated the same as life. Christenings, Holy Communions, Confirmations, Weddings and Funerals were all ways by which families and communities acknowledged each other.

Saying that ‘I never saw her looking as well ‘when viewing the corpse in the funeral home was in fact another way of celebrating her life. A life that like all lives, had happiness, sadness, despair, worry and rewards. She had led a good life and she now would celebrate the next life. The look that Tombstone saw was perhaps the contentment that Lilly Mae’s mother felt at the end of this journey and the beginning of another.



Let The Dead Bury The Dead

Let the dead bury the dead.

Buy your plot now!  Yes In this modern world of consumerism, even your last resting place is rising in price.    Hope’s may be dashed that perhaps you cannot be laid to rest with your kith and kin of past generations in the old graveyard by the old church.  Most churches are looking for new burial grounds.  We are an aging population it is hard to keep up with demand.

Bones are just that, bones.

Do you worry where yours will be resting? Spirit or soul whichever definition you care to use is the first to leave from what we recognize as our human form.

Apologies if I have offended your belief, or stirred some thought in the non-beliver, which neither may wish to address.

Palms: Matthew: 8.21.22 or Luke: 9.60 texts quote the disturbing answer our Lord gave to his new disciple when he sought leave to go and bury his father. “Let the dead bury the dead”.

These words shock our very traditional belief.  How? Can this Lord of love possible ask one to turn away without a final goodbye to our beloved ones?

The covering of our bones by flesh and the adequate working of the all-important internal organs are the basic requirements we need to live life, as we know it…  However, what about living?  Can there be any living without religious belief.   Of course there is.  Laughter, depression, tears, lust, love, hate, everyday emotions continue day by day.

Death is the big happening.  The Final Day.

Trying to understand our Lord’s reply to his follower thrusts forth thoughts of confusion to the forefront of our mind.  Is the Lord asking that we disregard all love for family and connections?

We must move past this way of thinking.  What is not visible, that is spirituality. Essence of heart and soul combined in our own private tabernacle

From dust, you came and to dust you shall return.

Yes, individual specks of dust blowing every such way. Then the creator decided to give these specks human form. (Adam and Eve)

So grieve not for the body, be happy your soul experienced love to carry forward until the great resurrection.  Our Lord rouses in the completeness of body and soul.

However, we poor mortals will travel different paths. Our soul will have to await The Final Resurrection (the end of our world as we understand it) when our cosmetic coats of skin and bones will be joined by our everlasting soul so we may be recognized and greeted by the family we once thought buried.

Rosemary O’Shea





Reasons To Be Cheerful


To quote the famous Oscar Wilde “we are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars”, this is a wonderful metaphor and in my opinion its meaning implies that it is the optimist and the grateful who is indeed looking at the stars as opposed to the pessimist who is often too busy working or worrying to appreciate the wonderful gifts that they possess or the beauty that is all around them.

Working long hours to pay the mortgage or payments on the second car ,worrying about when the repo men are coming, stressing about what others think of them, when the Next World War is coming, anticipating that one day everything will work out and the love of their lives will eventually show themselves.

To these people I say stop! For these are just illusions that you are creating in your head, they are not real .You have no control over them and all this time worrying and stressing is time wasted. Take stock of your life and what is good in it and open your eyes and mind to this wonderful life you already have.

Stop, look, listen and feel the life-force flowing through your body and mind, for it is the greatest asset you will ever own, value your intelligence, your ability to decipher the emotions of sound being made by your favorite records, your ability to lose yourself in so many wonderful books and films, the many projects and great things you can do to challenge yourself, use your body to run, swim and play.

Acknowledge the endless wonders and beauty of our world, Go stare at the starry night sky and be in awe of its enigma. Take a walk in the park, appraise the beautiful animals and nature all around you, Bask in the serenity as you look out toward the ocean and watch the waves reclaim the land, but most importantly look for the beauty and kindness in our fellow human beings .Learn from each other, listen, talk and laugh and absorb the love all around you; from your family and friends. Cherish these moments with our wonderful children, their innocence, naivety and their ability to laugh; perhaps sometimes we need to be just like them.

Ladies and Gentlemen time is running out, stop worrying about these illusions we create in our heads and what is going to happen in the future, for there is no future yet there is only now. So start living. Because when you think of it; there are so many reasons to be cheerful.


Brian Mullins © 2014



So you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. What! I watched Mario Rosenstock the other night and I laughed at his characters, particularly Michael Flatley.He showed the stereotypical image that is perceived of us in some areas of the world; where they think of a fairy tale land full of leprechauns, rainbows and sayings like the above. I wonder did these sayings ever have real meaning or were they made up to attract our long lost cousins.

In fairness, they would have to be at least ten generations gone from the country to still believe in Finnegan’s Rainbow or would they? The Gathering scheduled to run for the whole of 2013 is a brilliant idea, designed to promote the country in a positive way and generate much needed interest in us as a nation that is open for business.

But I guarantee you there are poor souls out there, who having bought their airline tickets and booked their hotel rooms, dusting off their copy of Garby O’Gill and the little People so that they can hit the ground running, fully briefed on who we are.

So who are we, the modern Irish? Well I can tell you if you walk down any street in Ireland and say to a stranger ‘Isn’t a fine soft day we’re having?’ the chances are you would get no reply or one you didn’t expect. Because we all know that a ‘soft day’ is pissing rain and unless you live on the Serengeti where rain is the difference between life and death, how could you be happy with it.

Ireland is a country destroyed by a financial greed that only benefited a few and brought misery down on the rest.’ We will bounce back’. ‘We are the Poster Boys of Europe’. These are the sayings of modern Ireland. It’s easy to speak with optimism when you don’t really need it, as you already have what you are telling everyone else to be looking forward to. Try having the feeling of terror as you hear the postman opening your front gate and hoping that he doesn’t leave you the letter or letters that you were dreading. But don’t worry you will bounce back.

So stop now and put back your copy of Garby into the press. Have a real look at Ireland of 2013 and come and enjoy but remember that if you don’t get the one hundred thousand welcomes, don’t judge us unfairly. As the saying goes ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’ – that is true about Ireland but it’s because of all the soft days.

Tom Cullen ©


Christmas Lights

Christmas Lights
Last year I put away all the christmas decorations in an orderly fashion, placing them in boxes according to the rooms that they furnished. It only took me 28 years to get around to it. Anyway, when I opened the box with the christmas lights in it, I was very pleased with myself. Normally it would be a tangled mess that took both of us an evening to sort out and cause stress that many a time brought us to the brink of divorce.
No problem this year, they were laid in groups of ten and layered so that they could be removed as they were needed. They went directly from the box to the tree. Easy, peasy japanesey. After the effortless task, all that was left to do was switch them on. I flicked the switch……….nothing happened. I flicked it again ………still nothing happened. This can’t be, I packed them, arranged them in groups of, you know, layered them as well. BUT it was the case. The lights were broke.
For feck sake, what was that all about last year, planning and preparation my arse. I stormed out and into the car to buy new ones. As I went over the railway bridge I saw the canopy of lights in front of me. As I drove along, passing the Christmas Lights on my way, my anger melted away.
There is something about Christmas Lights, something magical, something serene. I stopped in the square; turning off the engine I no longer had a priority to buy lights as I looked up in admiration at the lights over my head. Over the last week, I have been in most of the cities around the country and have taken the time to look at the lights.
To me, the lights give us the opportunity to imagine, to dream, to feel safe. Everything that surrounds them, all the other material things, disappear into the darkness. The lights give the impression of warmth, which generates a feeling of goodwill in us all. No matter what town or city you are in, Christmas Lights have the same effect on us.
Christmas Lights create an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity over the streets. This gives people a ‘feel good factor’ in a time that has both happiness and sadness for us all. The Christmas Lights on your tree, when they work that is, also gives that feeling.
As night falls, lights are the only common thing that you see, no matter where you look. We may not take the time to observe this but we will take the time to look at the Christmas Lights.
Christmas Lights have the added dimension of anticipation. Children waiting for christmas morning, parents waiting for children to return home for ‘the holidays’, friends waiting to meet up again.
To me, Christmas Lights are the signal that the season of goodwill has begun and that we should embrace it as it is all too soon that they are switched off and the realities of life begin to take hold again.
Happy Christmas to you all.
Tom Cullen © thesourcewritersgroup

2012-A Reflection

2012 – A Reflection

It’s funny how as you get older, you tend to reflect on the past. You would never have thought to do this when you were young. You were never going to get old. You would never be like the rest of those over there in the corner. You would be different. But alas we all grow old, if we are lucky.  ‘Death lays its icy hands on kings’.
So what did 2012 mean to me? My first thought would be that it was like any other year, it just passed me by. However when I gave myself the time to reflect on it, I have the following to say.
2012 was the year when our oldest son got engaged. I don’t think at the time that I realised what a momentous event this was but now I am so proud and happy. I can’t wait to celebrate their marriage and look forward to watching their life’s develope with the excitement of moving from a house and into a home and hopefully having a family.
2012 was the year when our second oldest son’s career has catapulted into a position where he now in a place that most of his profession would only reach ten years his senior.
2012 was the year when our youngest son got his BA and was invited to do an MA.His academic career is going from strength to strength.
This was the year that we got the dog. I must say that I was apprehensive about having a pet as we took a number of holidays during 2012.However as I pen this piece, she is looking up at me, wagging her tail and telling me with her eyes’ Will you ever take out that lead and bring me for a walk’. Despite all the work she causes, her appreciation makes up for it.
So 2012 was not just another year, it was another milestone in our lives that I may have taken for granted.
Happiness is not the concept as demonstrated by TV or books but how we feel about ourselves. We need to understand that we can only have contentment when we accept that our happiness should only be influenced my matters that we have control of. All other matters cannot be relevant.
I undertook a course on Mindfulness some years back but did not act on it so I got no benefit from it. My resolution for 2013 is that I must try to live in ‘the now’ and realise that what I take for granted, when pieced together, are in fact occasions for celebration and to be thankful for.

Tom Cullen

Christmas Lights

Christmas Lights

Today our runway is busy, sleighs landing with celebrity guests. Every elf in the village becomes abundant with excitement.  This is the most important time of the year for everyone.

The evening kicks off with Frosty and his band giving a chilling performance.  Twinkle, informed us at the break, that it is time to turn on the lights.  3.2.1. We shout together.  Thousands of bulbs come to join the party, some dance while others stand still.

The symbol of Christmas has come to life, every colour you could imagine light up the night.  Some of the guests not familiar with our climate still feel the warmth within; as they admire the view of our snow-filled village.

Ratatouille, the hired chef has produced an array of the finest foods.  With laughter and love the real recipe, you can taste the excitement.  Shrek, Princess Fiona and Donkey, joined us together with the seven dwarfs.  Unfortunately, Snow-White is away with Prince Charming.  There are a lot more surprised guests to come, according to Holly, my wife and P.A to Santa.

With the celebration in full flight, Santa and Mrs Claus, announce that, our surprised guests have indeed arrived.  A green carpet unfolded along the white ground, my heart skipped a beat; the Muppets stepped out of Fozzie’s car.  “Oh, my god, Animal, the most famous drummer in the world is here; I will have to get his autograph”.  Miss Piggy and Kermit exit with the Ginger bread men can this evening get any better.

None of us wants the night to end, but with only twelve days to Christmas, we will have to get up early in the morning for work to commence.

Jingle bells jingle bells jingle all the way, echoes around the workshop.  All toys are being prepared.  Holly does an elf-tastic job ensuring everything is on track.

Then Santa came panicked” we need to double the orders, Taylor the head elf and magic of technology is very sick”.  The elves mumble in unison, “Crumble cakes, will we have enough toys made on time”.  “Some children will be disappointed without their Play Station, Xbox or I pad,” Santa says.  Holly tries to reassures him, stating that the board games, books etc will benefit the children more.  He smiles at her saying “Holly dear, our children of today ask for much more, they do not realise the beauty in simplicity”.

Arthur elf, the publisher, made a call to Nanny Mc Fee; she suggested that they allow the one who believes a unique visual tour around the village at the end of each book.  “Yes, this will show the love that goes into the making of each book and toy, let’s do it”.
HO! HO! HO!  Santa skips out in a jolly mood.

The red Sleigh lit up and ready to go.  The navigator is in working order, I have installed a surprise cappuccino maker for Santa to enjoy with all the cookies.

Rudolf leads as we head down the runway lit up by flame torches.  All our hard work has lead up to this night.  Mrs Claus helped Santa check the list twice.

Every person who believes will get a visit.



The Source Writers Group

Untitled (Words)



Perhaps it would be somewhat supercilious to remark upon a sense of detachment and moral decay latent in modern society without exposing an inherent corresponding cynicism within myself but such is the paradoxical nature of the polemic. While a countenance of seemingly emancipated aloofness has been cultivated among my contemporaries, it offers very little in the ways of perception and rationale and much more in the ways of denial and mistrust. The dogmatic social pillars of yesterday have long since been torn down and as a consequence a spiritual and emotional vacuum has emerged that festers almost as rotten as the system that has been supplanted.

The power base of religious dogmatism has been eroded to the point of parody by now, criticism of the church has reached the point of cliché. The pleasure taken in the breathless pace of this downfall is certainly a natural response to the erosion of any tyrannical entity but serves to illustrate the growing need to indulge in schadenfreude. Taken as a literal standpoint, the reaction to this debacle serves as a touchstone to the modern point of view. Critique is often blanket and reduced to base stereotyping.

Liberalism and excess has produced an attitude of ambivalence towards existence in general, particularly regarding spiritual issues. It is hard to consider these advances in outlook positively if the only natural response to rubbish the question rather than considering an issue from its constituent points. A case in point is would be to mention the words Jesus or religion at a pub gathering and gauge reaction from that.

To elaborate upon the point further it should be noted that there is little faith in any authority, religious or otherwise. As such, those in positions of power are seen as either puppets or driven by self interest wanting only to advance their own causes at the expense of others. Having watched the more visual perpetrators of the most recent excesses carry wheelbarrow sized portions of public funds away without any real rebuke or sanction, the response is perhaps justified but the overall effect is to produce a general dissonance amongst people

The worst aspect of this is that the end result is a lack of belief and hope amongst people and the manifestation of this is a notable apathy that eats away at the essence of a collective being. Now, it appears, would be a time to ask questions rather than to simply ignore them.

John Wid © Oct 2012