By MARIAN CURD
DURING a week which
started with snow and hail and finished with a minor heatwave, more than 1,000 pilgrims left Ireland by sea and air to join the first National Pilgrimage in Rome.
On Friday morning, as the sun was trying to pierce the mist over the purple hills to the north, the final contingent. led by the Primate of All Ireland. Archbishop D'Alton, flew from Dublin airport.
A gleaming silver and red Viking on charter from Hunting, of London, stood waiting on the tarmac, and all around the streamline terminal building there was a hum and hustle of excitement.
Two days before, the airdrome had been in a flutter of excitement for the departure of President O'Kelly. Now the press cameras were flashing for the Primate-and rather particularly for Mgr. Langan, the 98-year-old Dean of Ardagh, who carried with him waving it proudly aloft to make sure that it came into each picture-a gold-mounted walking stick for presentation to the Holy Father.
Mgr. Langan travelled as the representative of the League of Prayer for the Canonisation of Fllessed Oliver Plurtket.
Saved for years
There to bid God-speed to the travellers were the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. McQuaid, and the Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Sean McBride.
The pilgrims flew direct to Rome, making a brief refuelling stop at Nice.
Ireland. in sending between 10,000 and 12.000 pilgrims to Rome, has a larger proportion of Holy Year Pilgrims to its population than any other country so far. It is estimated that a good 16 per cent. of these will travel by air.
They are by no means all well-todo people but on the whole those who have drawn heavily on life savings to make the trip or who have saved for some years with the Holy Year in view.
One factory in the south is chartering planes for the use of its employees, who have saved through a welfare scheme.