It's dark and damp in this part of Ireland today and for once that's not unwelcome. Large parts of the country have been ablaze recently as unusually dry weather has allowed ludicrously stupid people to set large tracts of land on fire. These wild fires are known as gorse fires here.

Early last month I read that an ancient Celtic custom with a Catholic priest and an Anglican reverend blessed the gorse on a hill overlooking Belfast. The hope was that the blessing would protect the hills around Belfast and save them from fire.

Unfortunately, the blessing was unable to prevent fires ravaging some areas - Counties Offaly, Tyrone & Donegal were particularly hard hit - and causing a serious nuisance in many others. Firefighters have been busy day and night fighting these wild fires, most of which were apparently deliberately set.

That's just it with the modern world, isn't it? I would bet that back in the days of the ancient Celts that no one would imagine deliberately setting fire to a field. Life was hard, plenty of toiling in the fields and the people had enough respect for God's creation not to go playing with something as dangerous as fire. These days, empty-headed, idle teens (and adults too) get their jollies lighting bushes on fire during a long dry spell.

I don't know what success the blessing of the gorse had in the old days, but it can't overcome the free will of those determined to act idiotically.