My Connection With Candles

My connection with candles began at a young age and far removed from buying beautiful Irish artisan candles, as I love to do now.  It began in my childhood and under the watchful eye of my aunt.  For every holiday throughout the year involved us leaving Belfast and going to my mother’s homeplace, Inch Island, in Donegal.  Here I took up residence initially between my granny and aunts’ homes which stood side by side and then, as time changed, just my aunt’s.

My Aunt Mai looked after Inch Chapel, the daily opening and closing, along with the care and preparation of this peaceful and homely little church. I loved the walk to the chapel with her, from Castlequarter, down the Dungeon Brae and the final stretch through Carnaghan. Even these place names still mean so much to me.

While my aunt worked, I was allowed to organise the candle display. Positioned at the back of the chapel and behind a thick mahogany rail was the dedicated candle stand for parishioners to reach over to.

The strong brass candelabra stood on a tripod of legs and the podium fanned out displaying small cups to hold the all important candles.  

I wonder did the humble parishioners know it was me who had the authority to climb the rail and stand on the large tin tray made to catch the dripping wax.  Did they know it was me who had torn the brown paper of the neatly packed candles and tumbled them into the brass container hinged below the display, or that it was me who had ensured there was a box of matches sitting for the first candle to be lit.

As I waited for Mass to start, I would watch the sacristy door for my aunt to appear, cut across the altar and take her seat beside me; my cue to slide over and lean against her.

Today candles are lit in a much more safety conscious way and the candelabra stands outside, well weathered but firm and proud. Sadly the days of sliding over and leaning in against my Aunt are long gone but my memories of her are firm and proud too.