Friday, 12 February 2010

A walk on the beach in Portrane

The beach at the Burrow in Portrane (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

Patrick Comerford

After a lengthy meeting of the Court of Examiners this morning, I headed off at lunchtime to Portrane for a walk on the sandy beach at the Burrow. But first I stopped in Donabate.

We are finalising plans for our Ash Wednesday retreat next week in Donabate, with plenty of time for walks on the beach before bringing the day to a close with a celebration of the Eucharist in Saint Patrick’s Church, Donabate, at 4 p.m.

After lunch in Keelings of Donabate, I called in to see Portrane Hospital. This was my first-ever visit to the hospital, which has been nominated as the new location for the Central Mental Hospital.

Architectural features

Portrane Hospital ... one of the architectural treasures in the Pugin/Ashlin school (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

My grandfather, Stephen Comerford, worked on the decorative features of the hospital building, which is one of the unknown treasures designed by Edward Welby Pugin’s pupil, partner and brother-in-law, George Coppinger Ashlin (1837-1921).

The hospital has many under-rated but beautiful architectural and decorative features reflecting both the Gothic Revival and the Arts and Crafts Movement at the end of the 19th century.

Work on the hospital began in 1896, and it took six years to complete. Its towers appear almost to dwarf the round tower built by Sophia Evans to the memory of her husband, George Hampden Evans, MP, of Portrane House. George died in 1842, and a year later Sophia – who was a great-aunt of Charles Stewart Parnell – built the round tower in the deer park at Portrane to his memory and at a cost of £1,240. Portrane House was finally demolished in the 1950s.

The Church of Ireland chapel in Portrane ... an integral part of Ashlin’s architecture (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

The original Ashlin hospital building is flanked at each end by a Church of Ireland and a Roman Catholic chapel. Unfortunately, both were locked this afternoon, and I was unable to photograph any of my grandfather’s work. It would be a pity if the unique features of this building went without being catalogued before building work begins on the new Central Mental Hospital.

Family visits

Across the road from the hospital, my grandparents, Bridget (Lynders) and Stephen Comerford are buried in the grounds of Saint Catherine’s, the ruined Church of Ireland parish church, which is also the burial place of Sophia and George Evans.

I then dropped in to visit my cousin Mary Lynders at The Quay House in Portrane. She is planning another shipment to Romania and Albania, where she has been supporting projects for a number of years, especially through the mammoth fund-raising efforts each year at the August Bank Holiday Sale.

Mary Lynders was named the inaugural Donabate Senior Citizen of the Year in 2005 for her contribution to the life of the Donabate and Portrane community over the decades.

The McMahon family was living at the Quay House from 1790s, when they obtained a lease on this part of Portrane from the Evans family – my grandmother’s parents, Patrick Lynders and Margaret McMahon, were married in 1872.

A walk on the beach

Lambay Island basking in the afternoon sunshine, with the Quay House on the headland to the right (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

Although it was a cold afternoon, the sun was shining brightly, and I headed back down to the beach at the Burrow for a stroll on the sandy beach in that afternoon sunshine.

The tide was out, and looking out to the east, Lambay Island was basking in the sunshine. The Quay House stands beside the original quay that ones provided a haven for boats to Lambay Island, and this little but lost port explains the origins of the name of Portrane.

The monument to the passengers on the Tayleur ... in the distance is the round tower erected by Sophia Evenas (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

At the end of the beach, a lonesome memorial recalls the sinking of the Tayleur in the sea between Portrane and Lambay in January 1854. The ship was sailing from Liverpool to Melbourne, and sought safety in the narrow waters but sank after the cables of its two anchors snapped. The majority of passengers perished, and about 100 of those victims are buried in the small churchyard on the island.

Ten generations and 300 years

Ten succesive generations of the Lynders family have lived in the same house in Portrane since 1722 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

My last port of call today was the Farmhouse built in 1722 by my grandmother’s ancestor, John Lynders. Mary’s son, Ger Lynders, now lives in the house, and proudly showed me how he has lovingly restored and extended this house, which is the oldest house in Portane.

John Lynders probably came to Portrane from Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries. On 14 March 1722, he entered an agreement with the principal inhabitants of Portrane Common, Nicholas Carberry and Thomas Bath, to maintain the watercourse leading from the Commons of Portrane to the sea. In return for this, John Lynders received a grant of part of the Commons of Portrane for a garden, to hold freehold. The agreement, witnessed by Owen Ward and Henry Moran, is still in the possession of his descendant, my cousin Ger Lynders.

In addition, John Lynders received assistance from the Archbishop William King of Dublin in building the original Lynders house in Portrane, so that – with Ger’s children and another generation there – ten nine successive generation of the Lynders family have lived in this house for almost 300 years.

It was a pleasure to see how this house has been restored, and I’m looking forward to returning to Donabate next week.