THE source of this proverb isn’t known but it has been widely used since English theologian and historian Thomas Fuller first committed it to print in 1650.
Over the centuries, as people endured devastating wars and conflicts, diseases and famines, it was often hopeless for many years. But an end would inevitably come and the world continue to turn.
In the Festive Star Eugene Broderick wrote about a little known famine in Ireland that wreaked havoc on Waterford. In 1740-41, the Forgotten Famine is believed to have been caused by a volcano erupting on the remote Kamchatka Peninsula in the far east of Russia, hurtling thousands of tonnes of dust into the upper atmosphere. A great frost ensued, with devastating consequences, including for Ireland where temperatures plummeted for months on end. Locally, the year became known as Bliain an Áir, the ‘Year of Slaughter’. The population of Ireland at the time was around 2.4 million – 300,000-400,000 perished, a death rate of between 12.5 and 16 per cent.
‘We will tell our grandchildren of 2020-2021. Let’s not make the story we have to tell worse than it can be.’
While indelible at the time, the memory of this phenomenal event was practically wiped from the record, with the Great Famine of 1845 enduring forevermore in people’s consciousness. So too, the Plague – or the Black Death – killed 20 million people in Europe, mainly from 1347-50, though it wouldn’t disappear entirely for six centuries. Fast forward passed two world wars of the last century, and times of extreme rationing – as lived through by our grandparents and great grandparents’ generations. For centuries people have faced, survived and built upon the tribulations of their times. Our extreme test of endurance is Covid-19, for which we could not be better equipped. We are living through a global pandemic in a first world country, with a government – though flawed in its management of keeping this pandemic at bay – which has provided millions of Euro in support for the full gamut of economic displacement currently being experienced by individuals, businesses, health care settings, and much more besides.
The far reaching knowledge and brilliance of science, built not just in recent decades, but over centuries of humans persisting and rebuilding from trauma and devastation, continuously fighting to do, learn and know better, means that within 12 months of this virus raising its ugly head we have the possibility to protect all of our people, nationally and globally, through the biggest vaccination programme the world has ever known. We have expertise, at the touch of a computer button, for our heads of State, and for our own knowledge, from organisations such as the international World Health Organisation to Ireland’s National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET).
But the dawn is not here yet, and the hardest part of the fight, inevitably, comes as the end is within touching distance. This third lockdown and wave of Covid-19 in our Waterford community is a pestilence and a hardship, that doesn’t fit with the narrative of a hopeful New Year. But we must dig deeper for a short while more, to protect our people here now. The world will continue to turn, Waterford will rebuild. We will tell our own grandchildren of 2020-2021. Let’s not make the story we have to tell worse than it can be. This is our fight now. Stay the distance and keep your distance. Happy New Year.