Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams Remembers Nobel Peace Prize Winner John Hume
Every person on the island that is Ireland knows the name John Hume. Only a select circle of Irish people living in the US, students of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, some who run in political circles and follow Northern Ireland history and events and those who follow the names of those awarded Nobel Prizes would respond to his name. And those who respond to the name John Hume respond with respect, admiration, adulation, praise and immense thanks for his role in bringing resolution to The Troubles in Northern Ireland. John was a founding member of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) in 1970 and was the leader of the party from 1979 until 2001. Such a pity that, when the world needs him most, John had no say in being called to leave us on August 3, 2020. He was 83. His productive years left us all too soon.
I was introduced to John in 2007 by Patsy O’Kane who, until a year and a half ago, owned Beech Hill Country House in Derry, Northern Ireland. John lived nearby and was a friend of Patsy’s who often stopped by her hotel to relax in their homey lounge, have a bite or dine in their wonderful dining room. The first time I met John Hume, we gathered at 5pm in the lounge at Beech Hill Country House to chat over a drink together to get to know one another a bit before recording an interview with him for my nationally syndicated radio shows. We chatted, recorded the first of what would become three interviews over the next year, and, when that first interview was completed, we continued to talk and talk and talk.
Before we knew it, our planned one-hour interlude had stretched to 8pm. I asked John if he’d like to join us for dinner in the dining room and I was delighted when he said he would but, first, he was going to drive home, leave his car at his house and take a taxi back to the hotel so that he would be able to have a wine with dinner and not be concerned about drinking and driving himself home and, with that, John excused himself while indicating he’d be back within 20 minutes. And, as in all things related to john Hume, he was a man of his word. When John returned to the hotel, we picked up our discussion about the history of Ireland, the history of the partition of Ireland into the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, barely 100 years ago.
Were it not for the arrival of guests to join the “party,” I never would have looked at my watch but Helen Quigley, then Mayor of Derry, arrived on the scene to join us having heard that John, my husband, Mark, and I were deep in conversation at Beech Hill. One thing you can count on on the island of Ireland is that updates about what’s going on hither-and-yon travel faster than shooting stars! It was 10:30 pm when Mayor Quigley, adorned by her mayoral chains of office, since she had come directly from an official gathering, arrived. The whole event took on every aspect of what the Irish call “good craic!” (Definition: great fun, good humor, intense conversation, tasty bites and good drink rolled up into a very memorable time with people you’ll always want to remember).
There was so much historic content mixed with profundity and humor as only the Irish can blend it. We said good night at 12:30am, seven and a half hours later than when first we met that evening, more from fatigue setting in than from a sense of nothing more to talk about. We had, in fact, only scratched the surface of subject that needed more discussion, hence the next two meetings over time. It would be impossible to meet John Hume and not be aware you were in the presence of greatness. The world needed John Hume in the 1960’s, ’70’s, ’80’s and ’90’s. Regrettably, the world needs him, his thinking, his statesmanship, his willingness to step up and fight for human rights, justice, fairness and peace even more today. Remembering John Hume’s character, achievements, values and mission in life coupled with his generosity in giving his portion of the Nobel Prize monetary award which was shared with co-awardee, David Trimble, earned for John’s role in the peace talks that led up to the Good Friday Agreement, is key to keeping the spirit of his life of service alive, well, aspired to and replicated. What the world needs now are more statesmen dedicated to service and fewer politicians looking for what’s in it for themselves.
John Hume left us yesterday. It was an honor and privilege to have met him, to have known him, and to have learned from him. May his spirit stand as a bright beacon for others to follow in his path.