Posts Tagged ‘fingal’

The Tree Killer by G.G. Johnston – A Story from “The Two Roads”

July 14, 2015


I was thinking of the following story just recently as we walked around Ardgillan Castle which is situated overlooking the sea between Balbriggan and Skerries in north County Dublin. On the afternoon of our visit to this beautiful place the scent of roses perfumed the air after a recent shower of rain. A long while ago, when I first came to live in this area, I wrote a little verse about the lovely Ardgillan, from which the Mourne mountains are clearly visible across the sea…


 Imposing, yet familiar friend,

Beyond your ancient walls

Grey sky and blue sea blend.

And far across the foaming tide

My own dear Mournes peak quietly,

Where Northern lights abide.

 Elizabeth Burke

 In the grounds of Ardgillan there is also a rich variety of plant life and numerous trees, bringing to mind the story of “The Tree Killer” by G.G. Johnston…

“This peculiar form of plant life is a parasite, found in Venezuela and other tropical countries. Seeds carried by the wind, or by birds, fall into crevices in the bark of a giant ceiba, or other tree of the forest, and, moistened by the frequent rains, soon sprout. Slender roots quickly penetrate the bark and feed the plant from the sap within, while other tendrils, like cords, stretch themselves earthwards, sometimes many feet, until able to take root in the fertile soils beneath.

Other arms of this parasite creep up and down the trunk and branches, extending themselves, as if in loving embrace around the tree, but really sucking the life out of its victim, through the roots which grow from it at intervals of only a few inches, penetrating the bark of the tree.

Passing by one of these old giants covered with the tree-killer parasite, one is struck to note its excessive verdure, only to see upon closer observation that this is not the verdure of the tree, but of the parasite. Gradually the life of the noble ceiba is spent, and it stands dead and worthless. The parasite continues to feed upon the rotting form, becoming more distended and verdant. At length, a tropical windstorm hurls its fury against the mass and brings it down, a tangled, worthless pile of vines and leaves.

The story of the destruction of the great ceiba tree is also the story of man. Made in the image of God, he is head of all earth’s creatures. But sin laid hold of him, and, without exception, all have sinned. All in the human family are born with a sinful nature, and all, to some degree, have practiced sin.

The workings of sin are soon manifest in the child, increasing in their manifestations as the child grows. The occasional lie, the deceitful action, the tendency to steal, and the swear-words manifest the evil that is already sown in the heart. It grows with the years, as does the tree parasite, until in many cases the victim is brought down in disgrace, powerless to resist the onslaught of vice and sin.

In other cases, outside influence and inward pride preserve from open disgrace, but the evidences of sin’s presence are, nevertheless, not lacking.

The only hope for the beautiful tree of the forest is in some deliverer, who might come and destroy the tree-killer parasite. The sinner’s hope is not in himself, but in Another. One has come to destroy the power of sin, and deliver the soul of man. The Son of God, born of Israel’s virgin, Mary, in human form, but without the taint of sin, has lived, has died, and has risen again. His sinless life proved His fitness; in His death He suffered God’s judgement for sin, not His, but ours. His dying words were, “It is finished.” He rose in triumph, and went back to glory. The gospel is preached; men believe its message, and immediately experience a new power in their lives. The debt of sin is cancelled: its burden is gone. All fear of coming judgement is over.

My friend, do you not acknowledge before God that you are a sinner? You need a Saviour. Have you received Christ, and have you been saved by His grace? If not, open your heart this moment and accept Him as yours. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6v23)

Christian Literature and Outreach Evening in Cairde (Old St. George’s National School, Balbriggan)

January 20, 2012

There are relatively few Evangelical Christian bookshops in the Republic of Ireland and none that I know of in the north County Dublin area.

With this in mind, I felt led of the Lord to have an outreach of this type in the Balbriggan area at the above venue, offering individuals and members of local churches and Christian fellowships the chance to pick up some free literature, tracts, information, calendars and second-hand books, in addition to the children’s colouring book range from the Trinitarian Bible Society and “John 3v16” handcrafted bookmarks in many languages.

Also on display will be some copies of my three gift books “A Biblical Journey through the Irish Year;” “Singing on the Journey Home” and children’s book: “God Made You, God Loves You, God Saves You.”

Everyone is welcome to drop in to the Cairde centre in Hampton Street, Balbriggan anytime between 7.30pm and 9.30pm. on Monday evening, 30th January next. Light refreshments are available for all.

Occasions like this can be daunting when we attempt them on our own and so it is good to bring a friend along! However, this is not always possible, as friends are often not available at the particular times when we most need them. But there is One who is always available… what better Friend than the Author of our soul’s salvation?

 I pray that the Lord will bless this little venture, use it to His glory and that His Presence will go with me. Lord willing it will proceed as planned and that, spiritually, something good will be achieved by it.

Reaching out with Christian Literature in Balbriggan, North County Dublin

October 24, 2010

I remember seeing this small town for the first time back in the early 1980’s when it was little more than a village with a few extra housing estates under construction. I don’t know what the population was back then, but according to the census in 2006, it had reached 15,559. Today it is estimated that more than 20,000 people live there, many of whom are of African and East European origin. Last week, armed with Christian literature and a burden for souls, I apprehensively set out to reach one estate in particular. It was a cold, dark evening as I rang the first doorbell. No one was in! I found this to be the pattern at quite a few houses, although perhaps people were reluctant to come to the door after dark – especially when they had to climb down a couple of flights of stairs, as this particular estate had narrow three-storey town houses. On these occasions, I pushed a tract into the letterbox. After a time I came to a house which was completely decked out for Halloween – although Halloween at that point was nearly three weeks away! I felt suddenly an evil presence and also very despondent and alone in my endeavours. Here I was trailing around houses where the vast majority of people probably just didn’t want to know. Recent disclosures about the clerical abuse of children in Ireland have resulted in anger, cynicism, apathy – and a reverting to old Pagan ways. Many feel justifiably hurt and furious about the horrific abuse that took place over the decades, but sometimes they look at anyone whom they would view as ‘religious’ with this same cynicism. Despite this, the human soul has a need to worship and some are turning to systems of belief other than Roman Catholicism.

This is where other cults sometimes step in. A Bible study set up by a group in this town is mysteriously unforthcoming about who is running it; I have reason to suspect that these may be ‘Cooneyites.’ My conviction is that any system of belief which has its roots in ‘salvation by works’ as opposed to faith must be termed ‘a cult.’

I thank God for His gifts of freedom and faith – something that is missing from erroneous systems of belief. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8v36) I do not have to ask permission from anyone before I embark on telling others of the wonders of His love for mankind. He sent His Son to die that people in Balbriggan, in Dublin; in every country, city, town, village, hamlet and tiny homestead in the world might have life – and life that is more abundant. And so those of us who know Him as Saviour must keep our lights burning as we witness to others until the Lord calls or comes to take us Home.

Above is a photograph of Balbriggan lighthouse which reminds me of that hymn: “Let the Lower Lights be burning!” The story behind this hymn by Philip Bliss is that many lives were lost on a ship, all because the man who was supposed to light the lower lights along the shore, failed in his duties. In this allegory, the lighthouse is that Great Light of the gospel, through the Word – while Christians are ‘the lesser lights along the shore.’

Let us never fail to serve Him on the darkest, most depressing nights; in spite of the prevailing cold winds of apathy, cynicism and the threat of ‘spiritual wickedness in high places.’ May the Lord empower all who do so with a clean heart, a bright light, courage – and a love for the souls of this world for whom He died.    

Link to this hymn:

“I Have a Friend!” The Testimony of George Cooper

May 22, 2010

The Testimony of George Cooper, Late, of Balbriggan, County Dublin. Born Monday 23rd May, 1910 – Died Monday 9th November, 2009 in his 100th year 

On this, the eve of what would have been my old friend’s 100th birthday, I remember his testimony which he related to me some years ago. I had the privilege of giving the following out in tract form on the day of George’s funeral and later to his neighbours in Balbriggan…

One day many years ago a barefoot little boy in Dublin city was sent down Townsend Street for groceries. Turning a corner, he suddenly stopped in his tracks, terrified at the sight of a line of policemen before him.  In his own words he says: “I turned and ran as fast as I could home.” The year was 1916. Later he can recall his father pushing a mattress against a bedroom window, in case of stray bullets. Such were just some of George Cooper’s many early fascinating memories, during those turbulent and defining moments in our Irish history.

In the late 1980’s my husband and I were living in Balbriggan, in that area of north County Dublin known as “Fingal.” Balbriggan, then a little harbour town has mushroomed in population in recent years, as people migrate further from the city for affordable housing. This is where we bought our very first home, and this is where, too, my own memories of George begin.

One fine day I went from door to door giving out free copies of a Christian magazine, “Lifeline.” As I walked pushing my first baby daughter in the pram, I felt very much a stranger, an outsider in this small town. Then something caught my eye… “Mizpah.” ‘A strange name for a house,’ I thought. ‘Could it be that a Christian lives here?’ I walked up the little garden path between well kept gardens, rang the doorbell – and an elderly man opened the door. Somehow there was a twinkle in George’s eyes that lifted my spirits on that day! His wife also came out to greet me, and I can recall her lovely kind face and hospitality, but I could see that she looked so unwell. Sadly I was never to see her again, for she died with cancer a short time later. Somehow, though, that day shall always stand out in my mind, for in this town of very few believers, I felt as though I had discovered a ‘well in a desert.’

Some time after that brief encounter and after his wife passed away, George appeared at our Christian fellowship one Sunday morning. Although devastated and lonely after the death of his wife, George maintained that ‘he had a Friend!’ Throughout all those years George’s faith never waned through personal illness and all the ups and downs of life. One dark November evening, I called to see my old friend (then in his 97th year) and George told me the story of how he found this “Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18v24) 

There are not so many people living in Ireland today who can remember when it was part of the British Empire – but George could! Born in Buckingham Place, (not Palace!) in Dublin on 23rd May 1910, he had vivid memories of the G.P.O. in flames after the 1916 rising, and of the narrow escapes sustained by him and his family in those dangerous days. Prior to this George can recall singing: “We are little Britons…” in National School! It was seven years after the ‘Easter Rising,’ in the year 1923, that George at the tender age of thirteen made a decision which would ensure that his future years of life would be fruitful and healthy ones.

On the evening in question he was attending the Tuesday ‘boys and girls night’ in the Merrion Hall, Dublin. That night Hudson Pope (the renowned preacher and hymn-writer) spoke on the text:  “…him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6v37) Little George, overcome with conviction, sought the Saviour and came forward in that meeting, and so began his long and faithful walk with the Lord. Although a thirteen-year old has had little opportunity to commit major sins, especially in that era, George had reached that age of understanding where he realised that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3v23) and therefore all need a Saviour. “I clearly remember after the meeting,” he said, “finding a few pence in my pocket. I bought my mother an apple with it on the way home.” George believed that this small gesture in itself spoke to his mother and showed her that some wonderful change had been wrought in her young son’s life.

At a very young age George started work, only retiring at the age of seventy-two! Spiritually, there were to be many testing times over the years. As a young apprentice in the printing trade, George was asked by a foreman to go across the road and ‘put bets on for him.’ He obeyed his boss just once, but after George’s witness to him on such matters, the foreman never ever asked George again! Clearly “We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5v29) George worked his way up from being a ‘reader’s boy’ to the post of supervisor in Smurfits, a well known firm in Dublin. Throughout all the changing scenes of time, including those lean times of the Second World War, George’s Friend was always there for him, to protect, guide and comfort. He, his wife, their daughter and two sons regularly attended all the Sunday services in Dublin’s Merrion Hall. In those days Christians always carried Bibles to church, and in later years George’s Bible remained closer to his side than ever, as he sat in his little living room surrounded by family photographs and happy memories.

Until recently, although confined mostly to his own home, he was still very independent. As well as his own personal Bible study, he wrote letters of encouragement, ensured that copies of the “Daily Bread” were distributed in Mountjoy Prison, gave financial support to many worthy causes and last (but not least) he told those with whom he had daily contact, of the Source of his strength and the love of his Saviour who was his “Guide, even unto death” (Psalm 48v14)

Sometimes in my busy daily life, when I got a chance to ‘stop the world and get off for a while,’ I would call with George. As I sat in that little living room, talking to him while some quiet classical music or hymns played in the background, I felt that I had left the loud fast world of the 21st century, and gone back in time to a more elegant, relaxed era. Then, in those later days, surrounded by the memorabilia of more than a century, he sat smiling at me with the same lovely twinkle in his eyes that I remembered when I first met him nearly twenty years ago. Although frail in recent years, and suffering from diabetes, there was a joy in his face which came from walking with the Saviour for well over eighty years. “You know,” he told me, as I was about to leave one day, “I spoke to someone recently, and I believe that she has trusted the Lord.”

“How wonderful!” I exclaimed, and I thought… ‘George Cooper, still reaching souls in his little ‘vineyard’ as he approaches the century mark!’ His body, frail on that day, and his hand shaking, he smiled as he pointed upwards to where Jesus, his Friend throughout his long life’s journey, was preparing a place for him.

Dear friends and loved ones who mourn his loss, George loved these verses from the Bible…

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” (1Thess. 4v13&14)

 “Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.” (Luke 12v40)

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3v16&17)

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph. 2v8&9). 

George also loved (and often quoted) this verse, because it spoke to his young heart all those years ago… “him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6v37)

To all who read:  George’s faithful Friend throughout his long life wants to be your friend today… and forever! “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10v13)

 My prayer is that you will repent and put your trust in George’s never-failing, lifelong Friend, the Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered and died that each one of us might go to Heaven. May the Lord bless you and guide you, as you ponder these things.

Book launch in the Failte Centre, Balbriggan

March 12, 2010

A children’s book launch party will be held in the Failte Centre, Balbriggan on Friday 19th March, between 6.30p.m. – 8.30p.m. Free bookmarks, stickers, balloons, pencils etc. while stocks last. Also light refreshments. The full colour children’s book “God Made You, God Loves You, God Saves You,” will be available for just €5 at the launch! All adults/children are welcome to drop in between the above times.