The Castlerock Diary 4: Thunderbirds & sand-demons


Our peaceful seaside town saw some high drama this week. I was chatting with my artist friend Patricia in her delightful tearoom and art gallery just the other day, when the sound of sirens filled the streets. It was the local coastguard rushing towards the beach.

On further investigation, I found out not only the coastguard’s vehicles – but also spotter plane, rescue helicopter and lifeboats – had been deployed. This looked very serious. Quite a number of people were looking out from the beach to try to see what was going on. I started praying for whoever was in trouble.


Later, I discovered that two teenage lads had been exploring a cave further along the shore, when they were cut off by the tide. A brave lifeboatman swam into the cave and managed to get each of the boys to safety.

They climbed onto his lifeboat and were winched up to an Irish Coastguard helicopter that had flown all the way from Sligo on the west coast. At least this story had a happy ending – and the boys have been recovering from their ordeal.

Reflecting on this later, I realised there is a whole range of emergency services out there, working away day and night, to preserve the freedom, safety and security that we generally enjoy from day to day.

We have a relatively comfortable existence, because this network of agencies keeps trouble at bay 24/7 – and comes to our rescue if and when trouble suddenly happens. They are part of the backdrop of our lives, tucked away and hidden most of the time. But when we need them, they are there. Seeing just part of this network in operation was like watching Thunderbirds. But this time it was real.


According to Judeo-Christian tradition, a myriad of angels is performing a similar task round the clock, but on a much grander scale. Ancient texts tell us they work away for our benefit, 24/7. We might not see them – but when we need them, they appear to turn up. And in our modern scientific age, there is a programme on mainstream TV that gives ordinary people the chance to share their angel stories.

Earlier in the day a breeze was blowing faint wisps of sand across the beach. They took on an ethereal quality, so they appeared to be like disembodied spirits being ‘chased’ out of the town. The stories of the saints of this island were casting sand-demons into the sea. (Photo: Clive Price)

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