Wednesday, 31 August 2011

A tiny corner of Cambridge, and Lichfield, and Russia, in Collon, Co Louth

Collon Church, Co Louth ... modelled on the chapel of King’s College, Cambridge, and dedicated 200 years ago in 1811 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Patrick Comerford

On my way back to Dublin from Castle Leslie, Co Monaghan, yesterday, I stopped in the small Co Louth village of Collon, close to the border with Co Meath, to look at the Church of Ireland Parish Church.

Councillor Leonard Hatrick from Louth village kindly opened the church, which was built in 1811-1813 in the style known as Tudor perpendicular gothic. The design was inspired by the chapel of King’s College, Cambridge, and the seating, like King’s and other Cambridge chapels, is arranged in collegiate style, with the pews arranged in rows facing each other.

King’s College, Cambridge ... inspired the Revd Daniel Augustus Beaufort’s design of Collon Parish Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The building of the church was funded by the local landlord, Thomas Henry Foster of nearby Oriel Temple, the only son of John Foster, the last speaker of the Irish House of Commons. Thomas Foster was educated at Eton and Cambridge, which may explain the inspiration for Beaufort’s design of the church. Foster was MP for the neighbouring borough of Dunleer from 1792 to 1800. After the Act of Union, he was a Governor of Co Louth (1803-1843) and MP for Drogheda, (1807-1812), and Co Louth (1821-1824).

The church was designed by the Revd Daniel Augustus Beaufort (1739-1821), who was the Rector of Collon from 1789 and 1821. The foundation stone of the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary was laid 200 years ago in July 1811, and the first service in the church took place on 17 September 1815.

Saint Patrick’s Pro-Cathedral, Dundalk ... Thomas Duff modelled the exterior on the Chapel of King's College, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

As far as I know, the only other church in Ireland that was inspired by King’s College Chapel is also in Co Louth – but Saint Patrick’s Pro-Cathedral in Dundalk is a generation later, being designed by Thomas Duff of Newry in 1834. Saint Gregory’s, the Church of Ireland parish church in Glenealy, Co Wicklow, which was built in 1791-1792 by the Tighe Family of Rosanna, was modelled on the old chapel in Saint John’s College, Cambridge. Similar collegiate-style seating can be seen in the chapel of Trinity College Dublin and in Holy Trinity Cathedral, Downpatrick.

The interior of Collon Church, Co Louth ... a replica of the chapel of King’s College, Cambridge, and dedicated 200 years ago in 1811 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

An amateur architect, Beaufort designed or improved several houses and churches. He was born in London, the only child of the Revd Daniel Cornelius Beaufort, a Huguenot refugee and Calvinist minister, and his wife, Esther Gougeon, from La Rochelle. The elder Beaufort moved to Ireland in 1747 through the patronage of the Lord Lieutenant, the Earl of Harrington, and was the Rector of Navan, Co Meath.

After graduating from Trinity College, Dublin, in 1759, the Revd Daniel Augustus Beaufort was ordained in 1763 and succeeded his father as Rector of Navan from 1765 to 1818. In 1767, he married Mary Waller of Allenstown. His son, Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort (1774-1857), gave his name to the Beaufort Scale, while his eldest surviving daughter, Fanny, married as his fourth wife Richard Lovell Edgeworth (1744-1817) of Edgeworthstown, Co Longford.

In 1790, Beaufort also became Vicar of Collon. Two years later he created and published a new map of Ireland. His other interests included architecture, topography and agriculture.

Stowe House, the Lichfield home of Richard Lovell Edgeworth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford

Beaufort’s son-in-law, Richard Lovell Edgeworth is remembered as an author, inventor and amateur architect. He was a member of the Lunar Society in Birmingham, along with many of the eminent scientists in the English Midlands at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, including Erasmus Darwin, Joseph Priestly and James Watt. While he was active in the Lunar Society, Edgeworth also lived at Stowe House in Lichfield.

As well as collaborating with Beaufort on the design of the church in Collon, Edgeworth designed the spire of the church in Edgeworthstown, Co. Longford, remodelled his house at Edgeworthstown, designed a small lodge in Ballinalee, Co Longford, and laid out the road from Tarmonbarry Bridge to Lung Bridge, Co Roscommon.

The lath and plaster imitation fan-vaulting of the ceiling in Collon Church is the work of William Edgeworth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Despite some alterations, the interior of the church in Collon has been described by Nigel Yates as one of the most spectacular of the surviving late 18th and early 19th century collegiate interiors in Ireland.

Richard Lovell Edgeworth’s son and Beaurfort’s grandson, William Edgeworth (1794-1829) was responsible for the construction of the lath and plaster imitation fan-vaulting of the ceiling in Collon Church. This plaster fan vault ceiling is also a direct copy of the stone vault ceiling in King’s College Chapel.

The church has a broad nave and shallow chancel. The nave is fitted with five rows of tiered collegiate seating on each side, with large family pews at the west end.

The sanctuary, with its original rails, is raised four steps above the level of the nave. The loose benches, which may have been placed across the middle of the space between the stalls, are now placed against their fronts.

The pulpit and reading desk were originally placed in front of the altar but were dismantled and replaced by a new pulpit, clergy desks and organ, but these alterations have only had a marginal impact on the interior.

The painted glass in the east window and the five windows in the south wall of the nave was designed by Beaufort’s daughter, Louisa, and the six windows were furnished in 1829 by Edward Lowe (ca 1774-1857). The organ, installed in 1894, is by Carroll and Batchelor. At the same time, a new porch was built by John Abraham at the west end, and pulpit was moved from the back to the front of church.

The church has superb acoustics and which is used from time to time for Baroque concerts.

Three Russian graves in the churchyard in Collon, Co Louth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

At the front of the church, there is a memorial to the men of the parish who died in 1914-1918 during World War I, inscribed with the name of Lieutenant James Samuel Emerson, VC, who was born in Collon.

But the most unusual graves in the churchyard are on the slopes on north side, where there are three graves with Russian Orthodox crosses and inscriptions in Russian. The graves belong to Father Nicholas Couriss, his wife, and their young son who died tragically in the 1930s.

The lower grave is that of Father Nicholas, who was a member of the Russian Orthodox Church, who was born in St Petersburg. He was an officer in the Romanov Imperial Guard and during the Russian Revolution he joined the White Army. He was reputed to have been involved in a plot to rescue the Russian Tsar and his family in Yekaterinburg in July 1918, but he always refused to speak of his role.

He spent eight years in Greece after fleeing Russia. He moved to Ireland around 1930 with other Russian émigrés and settled in Collon, where he rented the former courthouse in 1934 and became a pioneer in the mushroom-growing industry.

He started a Russian language school there around 1946. The school began with one pupil, and within four years it had 50 students, with the exiled captain assisted by his wife Xenia and his cousin Prince Alexander Lieven, then 75.

In 1950, both the Sunday Express and the Drogheda Independent reported that for 12 hours a day only Russian voices could be heard in the old courthouse in Collon, where Russian classes were taught by Nicholas Couriss, by then 55 and an Irish citizen. They reported that he used the language of the country he had fled to make a living and as a “Cold War” against the Soviet regime that had driven him into exile.

Students at the school were drawn from the British Foreign Office, and the rest were from the British military and intelligence services. The rest were Oxford and Cambridge graduates.

After the death of his wife Xenia, Nicholas Couriss studied theology and was ordained a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church-in-Exile in New York. The parish of Our Lady’s Holy Protection was established in Dublin in 1968 by the Russian Orthodox Church-in-Exile, with Father Nicholas as parish priest. He lived his last days at 45A Pembroke Lane, Dublin, where he also had a tiny chapel. When he died in August 1977, the chapel closed and he was buried in the churchyard in Collon.

At one point, is said, the Cambridge spies Kim Philby, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, visited Father Couriss and his school in Collon as part of their Russian language training. Of course, the Cambridge spies were all associated with Trinity College rather than King’s College. But I wonder, did they ever know of the connection between Cambridge and this corner of Co Louth?

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Visiting McCarthy’s cathedral in Monaghan

Saint Macartan’s Cathedral, Monaghan, designed by JJ McCarthy, in I861 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Patrick Comerford

During my few days in Castle Leslie, from Sunday to Tuesday, I could not resist heading off on the Pugin trail once again, and I spent much of yesterday afternoon [Monday 29 August] in Saint Macartan’s Cathedral, the magnificent cathedral in Monaghan designed by the “Irish Pugin”, JJ McCarthy, in I861.

The cathedral stands high on the town-land of Latlurcan, looking out over the town of Monaghan and across miles and miles of rolling countryside.

Monaghan became the cathedral town of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Clogher in the mid-1800s when Bishop Charles MacNally moved there and proposed building a new cathedral in 1858. The eight-acre site for the cathedral and bishop’s house was bought from Humphrey Jones of Clontibret and the cathedral foundation stone was laid on 21 June 1861.

James Joseph McCarthy (1817-1882), who had been Pugin’s pupil, designed the cathedral in the 14th-century French Gothic style and building began in 1862. Saint Macartan’s Cathedral is regarded by many as the most impressive of McCarthy’s cathedrals and as “one of McCarthy’s best works: an excellent example of the High Victorian ecclesiastical style at its best, rich without ever being over-ornate.”

When McCarthy died ten years later in 1882, he was succeeded as architect by William Hague from Cavan, who continued with building the spire and the gate lodge. In addition to the soaring spire, the cathedral has three large rose windows with elaborate tracery.

Bishop James Donnelly (1864-1893) oversaw most of the building work and he dedicated the new cathedral on 21 August 1892.

The interior of Saint Macartan’s Cathedral, Monaghan (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Saint Peter and Saint Paul stand in niches on each side of the main west door, the Apostle Peter clutching the keys of authority and the Apostle Paul holding the sword of martyrdom. In the high-relief carving in the tympanum above the west door, Christ hands the keys of authority to Saint Peter.

On the southern face of the cathedral there are statues of Saint Tiarnach, Saint Ultan of Ardbraccan, patron of children, Saint Columcille of Derry and Iona, Saint Dympna of Gheel in Belgium and Tydavnet, Heber Mc Mahon, the warrior Bishop of Clogher, Bishop Charles Mc Nally, who came from Monaghan, holding a partially-built cathedral, and Bishop Donnelly holding the completed cathedral in his left arm.

The statues on the northern face of the cathedral represent five Old Testament figures: Abraham with his staff, Moses with a scroll and tablet, David with a lyre, Isaiah holding the tablet foretelling the birth of Christ, and Jeremiah appealing for help with arms outstretched; the other two figures are Saint Joachim and Saint Anne, the parents of the Virgin Mary. It is said the statue of Saint Joachim bears a resemblance to Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903), who was pope at the time the cathedral was being built.

The cathedral is cruciform, 53.9 metres long, 21.9 metres wide in the nave, and 33.5 metres wide at the transepts. The tower and spire on the south side are 74.6 metres high. The nave, with aisles and a clerestory, is only five bays long – originally McCarthy planned seven, but the cathedral was cut short due to a shortage of funds. The chancel has a polygonal apse and double aisles on the north and south sides.

In 1983, Saint Macartan’s cathedral was re-ordered in line with the liturgical changes introduced by the second Vatican Council. But the “modernisations” destroyed the original sanctuary and few of the original fittings are left, apart from some lighting standards and pews.

Most of the original fittings were destroyed during the renovation, when unsuitable modern alternatives installed. One of the remaining pieces is the west end organ loft with its magnificent Telford Organ in front of the rose window.

Perhaps the crowning glory of the interior is the magnificent wooden hammer-beam roof which, like the main part of the nave, remains intact. This elaborate roof is supported on carved corbels depicting saints placed between the clerestory windows.

All of the massive columns in the nave and aisles have carved capitals and the wooden railings between them have original brass light fittings and mounts.

With the exception of the rose windows in the transepts, all the windows contain stained glass by Meyer.

The sanctuary is a now series of chapels, dedicated to the sacramental life of the Church. From left to right they are:

The Chapel of the Holy Oils: The holy oils used in the sacraments – the Oil of Catechumens, the Oil of the Sick and Sacred Chrism – are stored in an aumbry.

The Baptistery Chapel: The granite font is the work of the sculptor Michael Biggs. The tapestry depicts the Holy Spirit descending on the water, nourishing the roots of the Tree of Life.

The sanctuary of the Eucharist (the main altar): this includes the altar, the ambo and the bishop’s chair, all in granite, are the work of sculptor Michael Biggs. The cross on the left is the work of Richard Enda King. The carpet directly behind the altar shows a fish (Icthus, ΙΧΘΥΣ), a mnemonic for Iesous (Jesus) Christos (Christ) Theou (God) Uiou (Son) Soter (Saviour). A gold plate on the bishop’s cathedra or chair, cathedra reads: Haec est sedes Episcopalis Clogherensis – “This is the seat of the Bishop of Clogher.”

The sanctuary tapestries behind the bishop’s chair, designed by Frances Biggs and woven by Terry Dunne, depict from left to right: Saint Macartan (left), the Trinity (centre), and the Annunciation to Saint Joseph (right)

The Blessed Sacrament Chapel: the tabernacle, designed by Richard Enda King, is surrounded by the name Solas Dé (“Light of God”) and it sits on a granite plinth sculpted by Michael Biggs. The tabernacle is shaped like a tent which in the Exodus housed the Ark of the Covenant. The tapestry behind shows the broken bread of the Eucharist inside an unbroken circle. The broken bread represents a broken humanity and the unbroken circle the divinity of Christ.

The Chapel of Reconciliation on the south transept is located to the right of the tabernacle. On the left are the Irish words: Dúirt Íosa leo, ‘mise atá ann. Ná bíodh eagla oraibh’ (Jesus said to them: I am with you. Be not afraid). On the right are the words: Tháinig sé isteach sa bhád chucu agus thit an ghaoth (He got into the boat with them and the wind dropped). The anchor above the door is a traditional Christian symbol of hope.

On the north side of the sanctuary, a cloister linking to the sacristy is lined with the Stations of the Cross painted in acrylic by Frances Biggs in 1990.

Along the corridor to the north exit, the names of former Bishops of Clogher are listed, from Bishop Cináeth Ua Baígill (died 1135) to Bishop Patrick Mulligan (1970-1979), predecessor of Bishop Joseph Duffy. In all, fifty one bishops are named on the panels.

The former Baptistery opens off the north-west aisle and is now the the Lady Chapel. Here is a pieta designed by Nell Murphy and cast by Leo Higgins and Colm Brennan. The words of the Magnificat are woven into a blue background.

Despite the severe alterations of the mid-1980s, the cathedral has two other splendid pieces of modern art: a triptych by the Patrick Pye in the Chapel of Reconciliation; and an icon of Saint Macartan by Luis Alvarez at the top of the south-east aisle.

Patrick Pye’s Triptych in Saint Macartan’s Cathedral, Monaghan (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

After visiting Saint Macartan’s Cathedral, I strolled around Monaghan, viewing a number of architectural and historical sites including:

● Saint Patrick's, the Church of Ireland parish church in Church Square.
● Joseph Welland’s stately courthouse (1830) on Church Square with its sandstone facade of Doric columns and a pediment with the royal arms of the House of Hanover.
● The monument outside Saint Patrick’s and the courthouse to the victims of the 1974 Monaghan bombing, unveiled by President Mary McAleese.
● The octagonal Rossmore Memorial in The Diamond was built in 1876 as a memorial to the 4th Lord Rossmore, who died in 1874 after a hunting accident at Windsor Castle.
● The Dawson Obelisk, commemorating a Colonel Dawson who was killed during the Crimean War.
● The Bank of Ireland in Church Square, an architectural essay in the Ruskinian-Gothic style.
● The Market House (17992) on Market Square.
● The Westenra Hotel on The Diamond.

I enjoyed a double espresso sitting outside the Squealing Pig on the corner of the Diamond before returning to Caste Leslie in Glaslough.

Monday, 29 August 2011

The unusual stories of the Leslie family

The Library at Castle Leslie ... the story of the Leslie family is a colourful story that spans all aspects of Irish life (Photograph: Kerry Stronger Byrne)

Patrick Comerford

I am staying for two nights at Castle Leslie, on the edges of the village of Glaslough in Co Monaghan. The colourful history of the Castle Leslie Estate is a story that is bedecked with politics, royalty and war, with a family that includes much-married bishops, exiled opponents of William of Orange, a woman said to be the granddaughter of George IV and his mistress, cousins of Winston Churchill, prisoners-of-war, and eccentrics who believe we are about to be invaded by flying saucers and UFOs.

The Leslie family has lived on the estate at Glaslough, since 1665, having bought the land with a £2,000 reward given to Bishop John Leslie by King Charles II, and for many generations this strong Church of Ireland family owned Lough Derg and the popular Roman Catholic pilgrimage destination known as Saint Patrick’s Purgatory. The Leslie family included warlike bishops, politicians, social reformers, agricultural innovators, philanthropic women, pre-Raphaelite painters, furniture collectors, writers and war heroes, and they all claimed to trace their ancestry back to Attila the Hun.

The first Leslie to come to Ireland was Bishop John Leslie who was Bishop of the Isles in Scotland. He moved to Ireland in June 1633 when he became Bishop of Raphoe, and he built Raphoe Castle in Co Donegal.

At the age of 67, Bishop Leslie married Catherine Cunningham, the teenage daughter of the Dean of Raphoe, and they had five children, two of whom lived to adulthood. Bishop Leslie was known as the “fighting bishop” and defeated Cromwell’s forces at the Battle of Raphoe. At the restoration of Charles II in 1660, the bishop, then aged 90, rode from Chester to London in 24 hours. As a reward for his loyalty, Charles II granted him £2,000. In 1665, Glaslough Castle and demesne was sold by Sir Thomas Ridgeway to John Leslie, by then Bishop of Clogher.

When John Leslie died at the age of 100 in 1671, he was reputed to be the oldest bishop in the world. His death marked the end of the links that bridged the Jacobite or even the Elizabethan Church with the Church of the Caroline restoration.

His son John, who was then aged 26 and inherited the estate, was Dean of Dromore. He never married, and his brother, Canon Charles Leslie, who succeeded him at the age of 71, only enjoyed the estate for a few short months and died the following year.

Canon Charles Leslie (1650-1722) was a leading theologian among the Nonjurors. Oliver Goldsmith said he was an arguer of some wit; Dr Samuel Johnson said “he was a reasoner not to be reasoned with.”

As a Nonjuror, Charles Leslie opposed the accession of William III after the defeat of James II at the Boyne. He was Chancellor of Connor Cathedral before fleeing to France, where he was a member of the Jacobite court. At the end of his days, George I pardoned him, saying: “Let the old man go home to Glaslough to die.”

Charles Leslie had three children – Robert, Henry and “Vinegar” Jane. Henry and Robert were friends of Dean Swift, who was a regular visitor to Castle Leslie. Swift wrote many verses about the Leslies, not all of them complimentary:

Robin to a beggar with curse
Will throw the last shilling in his purse
But when the coachman comes for pay
That rogue must wait another day.


With rows and rows of books upon the shelves
Written by the Leslies
All about themselves.

Inside Castle Leslie (Photograph: Sarah O’Loughlin)

Charles Powell Leslie I, who inherited the estate in 1743, improved farming methods in the district, was MP for Hillsborough (1771) and Monaghan (1776), and in 1779 became active in the Volunteer Movement as colonel of the Trough Volunteers. In 1783, Grattan’s Parliament was established thanks to pressure from 80,000 Volunteers. In his election speech that year, Charles Leslie declared: “'I desire a more equal representation of the people and a tax upon our Absentee Landlords.”

Charles Powell Leslie’s brother-in-law, Lord Mornington, was the father of the Duke of Wellington. But Charles died before Wellington’s defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo. He was one of the few landlords to refuse Castlereagh’s offer of a peerage in return for voting for the Act of Union. He died in August 1800.

His younger sons included John Leslie (1772-1854), Bishop of Dromore and later Kilmore, Elphon and Ardagh, and Canon Edward Leslie (1792-1865), Treasurer of Dromore Cathedral. But the estate passed to the eldest son, Charles II Powell Leslie, a keen amateur architect who designed many the present farm buildings at Castle Leslie and the fairy tale gate lodge that looks down the lake to the castle.

Charles Powell Leslie III (1821-1871) loved big house parties and wanted to entertain on a grand scale. His taste in architecture has been described as an eclectic mix of “Free-Range Gothic,” “Early Taj Mahal,” “Late Rothschild,” “Bahnhof Baroque” and “Jacobean Bloody,” Some of his plans for Glaslough included a cut-price copy of the Chateau de Chambord in Framce, that would have been six times larger than the present Castle Leslie, and a nine-storey gothic tower in the middle of the lake, reached by Venetian gondolas.

The Lake at Castle Leslie (Photo: Castle Leslie Estate)

This Charles Powell Leslie completed a number of successful building projects, including the grain merchant store in Glaslough and the entrance lodges at the main gates to the castle. Sadly for Charles – but fortunately for the Leslie family finances – he choked on a fish bone before he could realise any of his major architectural fantasies. He died unmarried in 1871 and the castle building project was left to his brother, Sir John Leslie (1822-1916), the first baronet and a painter of the Pre-Raphaelite school.

Sir John Leslie built Castle Leslie at the insistence of his young wife Constance. Lady Constance Damer was the daughter of Mary Georgiana Emma (‘Minnie’) Seymour (1798-1848), who was allegedly a daughter of George IV and his mistress, Mrs Maria Fitzherbert.

In 1910, the Leslies moved to Manchester Square in London, where he died in 1916. Soon afterwards, the family finances took a nosedive when the Leslies invested their compensation money from the Wyndham Land Acts in Russian Railway Bonds. They were advised by Queen Mary’s financial adviser, Sir Ernest Cassell, and bought the bonds in 1917, immediately before the Russian Revolution.

The title passed to their only son, Sir John Leslie, 2nd Baronet. In 1884, he had married Leonie Jerome, a younger sister of Jenny Jerome, who married Lord Randolph Churchill – the parents of Sir Winston Churchill. The Churchills considered the Leslies their poor relations, and there are many Churchill “hand-me-downs” in Castle Leslie. Leonie died in 1943, and Sir John died in 1944.

Sir Shane Leslie (1885-1971), 3rd Baronet, was an author, poet and nationalist. He was educated at Eton and Cambridge, and while he was at King’s College he became a Roman Catholic and a supporter of Home Rule. He stood as a Nationalist candidate in Derry in 1910, losing by a mere 59 votes to the Duke of Abercorn.

He resisted family pressures to send his own sons to Eton, and instead sent them to English Benedictine schools – Jack to Downside and Desmond to Ampleforth. He Shane handed over Saint Patrick’s Purgatory on Lough Derg – which had been in the hands of the Leslie family for generations – to the Roman Catholic Bishop of Clogher, and transferred Castle Leslie to his eldest son, John Norman Leslie who later became the fourth baronet as Sir Jack Leslie.

Sir Jack was educated at Downside and Magdalene College, Cambridge. During World War II, he was a prisoner of war for five years, which brought about his ill-health. He transferred the estate to his sister Anita, and for the next 40 years lived in Rome until he returned home to Castle Leslie in 1994.

Anita Leslie-King, in turn, transferred Castle Leslie and Glaslough to her younger brother, Desmond Leslie. He was a war-time Spitfire pilots, an author and a composer of electronic music, as well as having an unusual interest in UFOs and flying saucers. In 1991, he handed the estate over to his five children and Castle Leslie is now run by his daughter, Samantha Leslie.

When Sammy Leslie took over the estate from her father, she recognised it as a commercially viable opportunity that would not only ensure the future safe-keeping of the estate and its history but also prompt its regeneration. And so Castle Leslie has been transformed into the country house hotel where I am enjoying two days of isolated luxury.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Staying at Castle Leslie

Castle Leslie, in Glaslough, Co Monagahan

Patrick Comerford

I’m staying for two nights at Castle Leslie in Co Monaghan. I checked in earlier this afternoon, before going on to Shankill Parish Church, Lurgan, for the ordination of four new deacons (the Revd Caroline Mansley, the Revd Emma Rutherford , the Revd Matthew Milliken and the Revd Colin McConaghie) for the Diocese of Dromore, and then returned to Castle Leslie, in the village of Glaslough.

Castle Leslie is a country house hotel exuding old-world grandeur and hospitality, and grandeur and is free from distractions and intrusions. The 1,000-acre Castle Leslie Estate includes the charming and eccentric Castle Leslie with its own equestrian centre and hunting lodge set in unspoiled countryside, with ancient forests, rolling hills, green fields, lakes and streams – and I’m told it also has one of the best pike fishing lakes in Ireland.

Once you enter the grounds of the estate, there is an immediate sense of freedom and privacy. Castle Leslie tries to envelop its visitors in an aura of times past, with no telephones, televisions or radios, there is no Wi-Fi or mini-bars in the bedrooms, and there is no pressure to do anything except relax.

There are several elegant rooms with the promise of seclusion and privacy, the promise of mouth-watering food, friendly service, boating on the lake, breakfast until noon, picnic lunches, and dinner by candlelight in the dining room or gallery, with the romantic alternative of dining privately in the hand-painted Blue Room. There is a private cinema, a full-size snooker table, a magnificent drawing room with a grand piano and a De La Robbia fireplace,

The Drawing Room in Castle Leslie

Castle Leslie stands on the site of an earlier castle, and was designed in 1870 by Charles Lanyon and WH Lynn for Sir John Leslie in the Scottish baronial style.

At the time, the house presented a rather dour and austere facade. But the garden front has an Italianate renaissance cloister that links the main house to a single-storey wing where you find the library and the billiard room. And, in contrast to Lynn’s exterior, the interior shows the hands of Lanyon and Leslie himself, with a strong Italian renaissance feeling.

Since Sammy Leslie took over at Castle Leslie, she has worked hard to realise her ambition to bring the estate back to life. But she also wanted to have fun – restoring Castle Leslie with style and elegance. She started small by opening tea rooms in the old conservatory to give her the income to restore the roof. From 1995 to 1997, she refurbished 14 of the castle bedrooms and bathrooms, each in its own unique style.

Castle Leslie was soon awarded “the Good Hotel Guide Caesar Award” for being “utterly enjoyable and mildly eccentric.”

With the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland, the Leslie family went on to restore the rest of the estate to its former glory.

In June 2002, Castle Leslie attracted international attention when Glaslough hosted the wedding of Paul McCartney and Heather Mills. It is said over 800 million people watched the wedding on television worldwide.

In 2004, after 20 years in external ownership, the estate’s equestrian centre and hunting lodge were bought back by the Leslie family.

Meanwhile, the Long Gallery Wing in the castle was redeveloped, allowing Castle Leslie to offer business and corporate facilities. Six further guestrooms brought the room total to 20, and the old Victorian kitchens were turned into a cookery school, adding another dimension to the estate.

With 78,000 sq ft of historic buildings, miles of famine wall and the hunting lodge back in the family fold, further funding was found. Inspired by Poundbury, the town built by Prince Charles, Sammy Leslie brought in conservation and heritage specialists to restore the village of Glaslough, building village cottages and houses around a village square and green.

In 2005, the Castle Leslie Estate won the Sunday Times ‘Best Country House’ and Food and Wine’s ‘Best Country House Restaurant in Ulster’ awards. In the following year further recognition came with the Hotel and Catering Review Gold Medal Award for Best Country House.

In January 2006, work started on a €10million refurbishment, including the 35-bedroom lodge and the new state-of-the-art equestrian centre. The project was supported by grants from the Irish Government and the EU under the National Development Plan, and the refurbished and renovated hunting lodge and the equestrian centre at the castle gates reopened in May 2007.

All this work has allowed Sammy to go back again to her original dream – great horses, good food and old-style hospitality. But she has already identified a number of future projects including the restoration of the Walled Garden and the Gate Lodge.

Meanwhile, I’m off to dinner.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Two pitchers of Pimm’s to mark the end of summer

A pitcher of Pimm’s to mark the end of summer

Patrick Comerford

A pitcher of Pimm’s evokes wonderful images of lingering summer afternoons in England ... lazing by Mag’s Bridge; watching the punts; cricket in Lichfield; garden parties in Cambridge college courts; sitting at the grass waiting for an open-air theatre or opera production, tennis, Henley ... It’s the drink for English garden parties and picnics.

There is something English about Pimm’s that means it can never be replaced by champagne.

And so, my contribution to a local street party marking the end of summer was two pitchers of Pimm’s.

Originally, there were six different types of Pimm’s:

Pimm’s No 1 is based on gin and can be served on ice or in cocktails. It has a dark tea colour with a reddish tint, and tastes subtly of spice and citrus. It is often taken with English-style, clear and carbonated lemonade, with chopped fresh ingredients, particularly apples, cucumbers, oranges, lemons, limes, strawberries and bruised mint.

Pimm’s No 2 was based on Scotch whisky.

Pimm’s No 3 is based on brandy.

Pimm’s No 4 was based on rum.

Pimm’s No 5 was based on rye whiskey.

Pimm’s No 6 is based on vodka.

Only Pimm’s 1, 3 and 6 are now available. But this evening’s pitchers were made with Pimm’s No 1, which is the true and original version.

Pimm’s was first produced in 1823 by James Pimm, the owner of an oyster bar in the City of London, where he offered a gin-based drink made from quinine and a secret mixture of herbs as an aid to digestion. The spices were intended to soften the hard edge of the gin. He served this drink in a small tankard known as a “No 1 Cup,” which gave the drink its lasting name.

Large-scale production began in 1851, the distillery began selling it commercially in 1859, and over the next century the range was expanded.

The Hedgehog in Lichfield ... where they taught me how to mix Pimm’s this summer (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

How do you serve Pimm’s? After many summers of enjoying it, I was taught how to mix Pimm’s in the Hedgehog in Lichfield this summer.

Take a large pitcher and loads of ice. Mix one par tof Pimm’s No 1 to three parts of chilled lemonade, and add generous and copious amounts of bruised mint, sliced cucumber, orange, lemon, lime and apple and chopped strawberry. Thin slices help the flavours come out, and the bruised leaves impart a stronger mint flavour. Allow the drink to sit in the pitchers for half an hour or so, so the flavours are able to really burst out.

But I suppose everyone has his or her own recipe, and you just have to accept that every pitcher is going to be different – either subtly different, or wildly so. More mint or less lemon is going to affect the taste in quite an obvious way.

Mixtures, Maynooth, manors and mills

Pugin’s corridors and cloisters in Maynooth rival those in any Cambridge or Oxford college (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Patrick Comerford

In Rose Macaulay’s The Towers of Trebizond, Laurie takes a look at Aunt Dot’s things to see what she has taken with her ‘Her miscellaneous collection of medicine bottles was here; it was a largish collection, because she did not know what most of them were, or for what complaints, on account of chemists not caring to say more on the labels than “The Pills”, “The Tablets”, “The Mixture”, and other non-committal titles, so aunt Dot took a great many of these anonymous bottles around with her on her travels and ate and drank them at random when she ailed.”

My kitchen table must look like it contains Aunt Dot’s whole collection at the moment.

The pain from back and shoulder running down into my arm, and sometimes into my fingers is so constant and severe enough to interrupt my sleep each night. I hate being cranky and truculent, and I went back to my GP on Thursday evening. The result was new prescriptions, increased courses of steroids, more pain killers, and what he hopes is a short-sharp, quick treatment.

There are no bruises, my heart is fine, and so my real suspicion is that this pain is related to my sarcoidosis. As if I need this as we face into a round of ordinations and the beginning of the new academic year.

As I said last week, distraction is almost as good as a cure, and so I returned to my research on AWN Pugin on Friday afternoon, and went to Maynooth to photograph some more of his work.

Unfortunately, by then time I arrived the Pugin hall was closed, and so, after some time strolling around and photographing the Pugin cloisters and squares and JJ McCarthy’s overpowering chapel, I decided to visit Maynooth Castle, outside the college gates.

The ruins of Maynooth Castle ... abandoned by the FitzGerald family in 1656 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Maynooth Castle was built around 1200 and for centuries was the principal stronghold of the FitzGeralds, Earls of Kildare and later Dukes of Leinster, once the most important ruling family in Ireland.

During the rebellion of ‘Silken’ Thomas FitzGerald, the strongly-fortified castle was bombarded by Sir William Skeffington in March 1535, and fell after a ten-day siege. In 1629, Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork, restored and remodelled the castle, but the final blow was dealt to the castle when Owen Roe O’Neill seized and dismantled it in 1647.

The FitzGerald family finally abandoned the castle at the death of Boyle’s son-in-law, George FitzGerald, 16th Earl of FitzGerald, in 1656. In the early 18th century, Robert FitzGerald, 19th Earl of Kildare, briefly explored the possibility of restoring the castle, but eventually accepted that it was too dilapidated and built a new residence at Carton, east of Maynooth. His son, Lord Edward FitzGerald, was one of the leaders of the 1798 Revolution.

Partial restoration of the castle began in February 2000. The keep is open to the public, and the castle and its grounds are conserved and managed by the Office of Public Works.

Maynooth in late afternoon summer sunshine (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Sitting in the late afternoon sunshine, enjoying a double espresso at the corner of the Main Street, I appreciated the beauty of Maynooth as a small university town. I was a student here for some years, and Maynooth has befitted in recent years from being bypassed by the motorway.

I went on up to the Manor Mills Shopping Centre to look at the surviving old mill wheel from the 19th-century Kavanagh’s Manor Mills. The old mill dates back to the FitzGerald’s Manor Mills in the 13th century and the 21st century shopping centre provides a beautiful view back over the river to the castle and its grounds, with thr spire of McCarthy’s college chapel in the distance.

The surviving old mill wheel from the 19th-century Kavanagh’s Manor Mills in Maynooth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Later in the evening, I had dinner with two friends who have returned home after working for a month in an orphanage in Ethiopia. Their stories put my own pain in perspective. And I’m still determined that even though I have sarcoidosis, sarcoidosis is not going have me.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Japanese nuclear disaster – ‘a warning call to us all’

The current edition of the Church of Ireland Gazette includes the following photograph and report:

At the Hiroshima Day commemorations in Dublin (from left): Dr David Hutchinson-Edgar, chair, Irish CND; the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Councillor Andrew Montague; the Ambassador of Japan, Mr Chihiro Atsumi; and Canon Patrick Comerford, President of Irish CND.

Japanese nuclear disaster
– ‘a warning call to us all’

The disaster at the Fukushima nuclear reactors in Japan “is a warning call to us all,” the President of the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Canon Patrick Comerford, told this year’s Hiroshima Day commemorations in Dublin. “Now is the time to recommit ourselves to a nuclear-free world, a world free of nuclear energy and a world free of nuclear weapons,” he said.

“With a new government in Ireland, the best commitment it can make to our future and the future of generations to come, the best hope it can offer, is to provide a renewed and a reinvigorated Irish leadership working proactively and taking initiatives for a world free of nuclear weapons,” he said. “It is a challenge that I hope our government takes up so that once again we can restore the moral and ethical image of Ireland that has been lost in recent decades.”

Canon Comerford was addressing Irish CND’s Hiroshima Day commemoration in Merrion Square on 6 August. He welcomed the new Ambassador of Japan, Mr Chihiro Atsumi, who said he was overwhelmed by the warm support from people in Ireland after the Great East Japan Earthquake on 11 March.

Canon Comerford said the disaster at Fukushima in March “was the largest nuclear accident this year – indeed the largest nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986,” and quoted a nuclear industry expert who had described as “the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind.”

But he said the accident at Fukushima was one in a series of nuclear disasters, involving equipment failures, nuclear meltdowns and multiple leaks of radioactive materials.

He said the height of the tsunami that hit Fukushima “was 13.1 metres – two or three times higher than anyone allowed for – either because they were totally unscientific in their predictions, or totally cavalier in their calculations when it came to costs and profits. Worldwide it appears the nuclear industry is indebted to the Montgomery Burns School of Economics, the Waylon Smithers School of Management and the Homer Simpson Employment Agency.”

He listed what he described as “a rapid succession of one disaster after another” at Fukushima in the hours and days that followed. He went on to catalogue a series of at least eight major disasters at Japanese nuclear facilities in the subsequent two-month period.

“It appears we learn nothing from our past mistakes,” he said. “Fukushima, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Bradwell, Sellafield … the list of disasters is endless, yet governments continue to build, to build and to build. And if they build as if there were no tomorrow, we can be assured there will be no tomorrow.”

“There is a symbiotic relationship between the nuclear power industry and the nuclear weapons industry that is both insidious and nefarious,” he said. “There is an unbreakable chain between nuclear weapons and nuclear power … one pays for the other. There is an unbreakable chain between Hiroshima 1945 and Bradwell 2025.”

The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Councillor Andrew Montague, also spoke at the commemoration, and laid a wreath at the Hiroshima cherry tree planted in Merrion Square in 1980.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Three choices of music for a Sunday evening

Patrick Comerford

I was interviewed this afternoon in the Dundrum Town Centre studios of Dublin South Radio (93.9 FM) by my colleague, the Revd Niall Sloane of Taney Parish for the Vision programme, which is broadcast at 5.30 p.m. on Sunday evenings.

This programme is due to go out on Sunday 4 September, and we talked about my new role as Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and he asked me select three pieces of music for the interview.

Niall asked me to choose an opening prayer, a Scripture reading, and three pieces of music for this programme. For my opening prayer I used the first collect at Compline in the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of Ireland:

Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of thy only Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

For a New Testament reading, my choice was I John 4: 7-16:

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.

Obviously, therefore, the themes of the light and love of God permeated the programme. I talked about how these themes have been constant in my life since I was a 19-year-old and first experienced them in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital in Lichfield 40 years ago in the summer of 1971.

I chose Leonard Cohen’s If It Be Your Will, first recorded in 1984 on his album Various Positions; a recording by the choristers of Lichfield Cathedral of The Song of the Tree of Life by Ralph Vaughan Williams; and Méra Magioú, sung by Grigoris Bithikotsis.

Leonard Cohen on stage at Lissadell House last year … he ends most of his concerts singing ‘If It Be Your Will’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

Leonard Cohen, If It Be Your Will

Leonard Cohen is first and foremost a poet, and a deeply spiritual poet. He is Jewish and draws from Jewish religious and cultural imagery throughout his work. Examples include the Story of Isaac and Who by Fire, the words and melody of which echo the Unetaneh Tokef, an 11th-century liturgical poem recited on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The popular Hallelujah begins by evoking King David composing a song that “pleased the Lord” and draws on the stories of Bathsheba and Samson. The lyrics of Whither Thou Goest from Ruth’s pledge to Naomi (see Ruth 1: 16-17).

The poem If It Be Your Will has a strong air of religious resignation. Cohen ends most of his concerts singing this poem, which for me is about submission to God’s will, accepting God’s will, leaving God in control of my spirit. All poets, writers and journalists should be humbled and be prepared to be brought to silence by the words of this poem:

If it be your will
That I speak no more
And my voice be still
As it was before
I will speak no more
I shall abide until
I am spoken for
If it be your will
If it be your will
That a voice be true
From this broken hill
I will sing to you
From this broken hill
All your praises they shall ring
If it be your will
To let me sing
From this broken hill
All your praises they shall ring
If it be your will
To let me sing

If it be your will
If there is a choice
Let the rivers fill
Let the hills rejoice
Let your mercy spill
On all these burning hearts in hell
If it be your will
To make us well

And draw us near
And bind us tight
All your children here
In their rags of light
In our rags of light
All dressed to kill
And end this night
If it be your will

If it be your will.

Wilderhope Manor ... an introduction to the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams 40 years ago

Vaughan Williams, The Song of the Tree of Life

My second choice was The Song of the Tree of Life by Vaughan Williams, recorded by the choristers of Lichfield Cathedral.

I was first introduced to the music of Vaughan Williams when I was 19 and I was staying in Wilderhope Manor on the slopes of Wenlock Edge. It was 1971 and I was walking through Shropshire. Appropriately, the warden of the youth hostel suggested I should listen to Vaughan Williams’s On Wenlock Edge, in which the dominant theme of love outweighs the expressions of disillusionment at the sacrifice and death of the young soldiers in World War I.

Bishop Edward Darling and Donald Davison, in their Companion to Church Hymnal, say: “Many would claim he was the greatest 20th century English composer.”

Vaughan Williams was a vicar’s son from Gloucestershire and studied under the Irish composer Charles Villiers Stanford. His second wife, Ursula Wood, claimed he was an “atheist … [who] later drifted into a cheerful agnosticism.” But Vaughan Williams is a deeply mystical and spiritual composer, and many of his works have religious subject-matters.

His hymn settings include To be a pilgrim, based on John Bunyan’s hymn Who would true valour see; the tune for William Walsham How’s For All the Saints; the tune for the carol O Little Town of Bethlehem; and his setting for Come Down, O Love Divine. He wrote settings for canticles, carols and masses.

With Percy Dearmer and Martin Shaw, Vaughan Williams can be credited with the revival and spread of traditional and mediaeval English musical forms. Without Vaughan Williams, it is impossible to imagine the English Hymnal (1906), Songs of Praise (1925) and The Oxford Book of Carols (1928) which he edited with Percy Dearmer, and which have shaped much of modern Anglican worship and liturgy.

Lichfield Cathedral ... the Song of the Tree of Life was recorded at Hawksyard Priory in 1998 by the choristers of Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

The Song of the Tree of Life, which I chose this afternoon, was recorded by the choristers of Lichfield Cathedral, and is a revised version of one of the songs from a setting of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress as an opera by Vaughan Williams.

It was recorded in Hawksyard Priory in Armitage on 15 and 16 June 1998. Both Lichfield Cathedral and Hawksyard Priory played important roles in my early faith as a 19-year-old, immediately after returning from Wenlock Edge and mu introduction that summer in 1971 to the music of Vaughan Williams.

The words are adapted from Revelation 2, and they say:

Unto him that overcometh shall be given the Tree of Life
which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.
On either side of the river groweth the Tree of Life,
the Leaves of the Tree are for thy healing.
In the midst of that fair City flows the river of Water of Life, clear as crystal.
Who so will, let him take of the Water of Life freely.
Who so drinketh of this water shall never thirst.
Take thou the Leaves of the Tree of Life.
So shalt thou enter in through the Gates of the City.

In these words, the author of Revelation, Bunyan, and Vaughan Williams link the death on the Cross with the Tree of the Life, the Crucifixion outside Jerusalem with the hope for the New Jerusalem. If this is where Vaughan Williams placed his hope, then he shared in the Easter hope that I hope I shared in this afternoon’s interview.

The photograph from Thessaloniki in 1936 that moved Yiannis Ritsos to write his ‘Epitaphios’

Grigoris Bithikotsis, Méra Magioú

My third choice was a Greek tragic song, Méra Magioú, sung by Grigoris Bithikotsis (Γρηγόρης Μπιθικώτσης). I visit Greece two or three times a year – I was in the tiny island of Kastellórizo in the Dodecanese, off the coast of Turkey last month, and hope to visit Thessaloniki later this year.

Grigoris Bithikotsis was a popular Greek singer and songwriter whose career spanned five decades. From 1959, he worked closely with the Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis (Μίκης Θεοδωράκης), interpreting the works of poets like Ritsos and Seferis. This recording of Méra Magioú is their popular interpretation of Canto VI in the epic poem Epitaphios by the Greek poet Yiannis Ritsos (Γιάννης Ρίτσος, 1909-1990).

Ritsos and his poetry were banned at different times by regimes and colonels in times in Greece. His Epitaphios tells the story of a mother who finds her son’s on the streets of Thessaloniki when he was murdered during a strike in 1936. Pieta-like, she weeps over his body, but finds strength in the courage and commitment of his comrades.

There are many other popular interpretations of this piece – particularly by Maria Farantouri, but also by Agnes Baltsa and others, including Nana Mouskouri.

Μέρα Μαγιού μου μίσεψες
μέρα Μαγιού σε χάνω
άνοιξη γιε που αγάπαγες
κι ανέβαινες απάνω

Στο λιακωτό και κοίταζες
και δίχως να χορταίνεις
άρμεγες με τα μάτια σου
το φως της οικουμένης

Και μου ιστορούσες με φωνή
γλυκιά ζεστή κι αντρίκεια
τόσα όσα μήτε του γιαλού
δεν φτάνουν τα χαλίκια

Και μου ‘λεγες πως όλ’ αυτά
τα ωραία θα είν’ δικά μας
και τώρα εσβήστης κι έσβησε
το φέγγος κι η φωτιά μας

Translation by Amy Mims:

On a day in May you left me, on that May day I lost you,
in springtime you loved so well, my son, when you went upstairs,
To the sun-drenched roof and looked out and your eyes never had
their fill of drinking in the light of the whole wide world at large.

With your manly voice so sweet and so warm, you recounted
as many things as all the pebbles strewn along the seashore.

My son, you told me that all these wonderful things will be ours,
but now your light has died out, our brightness and fire are gone.

Ritsos, Bithiokotsis and Theodorakis all suffered exile and imprisonment for their political views. This poem and its interpretation by Theodorakis and many popular Greek singers, remain popular throughout Greece, and have many resonances for Greeks today in their present economic and fiscal crisis.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Rathfarnham arch under threat once again

The doors in the Ely Arch in Rathfarnham have been forced open, and the site is neglected and decaying once again (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Patrick Comerford

It is only a few weeks since I wrote in a posting on 20 July that the Triumphal Arch on the banks of the River Dodder at Rathfarnham has already fallen victim to graffiti vandals, only months after its cleaning and renovation.

The Triumphal Arch was cleaned and renovated in recent months. But I wrote just over ago of being disappointed to see that this monument to the Loftus family of Rathfarnham Castle, once neglected and in danger of crumbling, is already falling victim to graffiti vandals.

After the recent renovations, builders’ rubble and fencing was left strewn around the site. The rusting gates were never painted. And now the graffiti on its walls are spreading.

The Ely Arch in Rathfarnham ... covered in graffiti and vandalised only a few months after renovation work (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

On my way home from work last night, I walked by the arch again. This time I was saddened to see that the padlocks recently fixed to the two doors within the arch have been smashed, the doors have been broken open, and the interior of the arch is now exposed to the weather.

Builders’ rubble and fencing have been abandoned on this tiny site (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

If remedial action is not taken immediately, all the work of recent months will be undone, and what remains of the interior of this sad building is facing destruction.

This triumphal arch, which originally led to Rathfarnham Castle, was built as to mark the recovery of Rathfarnham Castle and estate by the Loftus family in the second half of the 18th century.

The gateway was erected in 1767 by Henry Loftus, Earl of Ely, who was also responsible for the classical redesign of Rathfarnham Castle. The arch is named as the new gate on Frizell’s map of 1779.

After the division of the estate in 1913, the arch became the entrance to the Castle Golf Club, but was later abandoned in favour of the more direct Woodside Drive entrance.

The area around the arch is a haven for wildlife, with the River Dodder home to brown trout, otters and water birds.

I walked on along the banks of the Dodder, where a few walkers were enjoying the late summer weather and a lone angler was failing to catch any fish. A pair of swans swam closely together at the weir below the bridge.

This is a beautiful corner of Dublin, and the local authority must pay more attention to our heritage here. We are approaching the 250th anniversary of the erection of the arch – I hope it’s still standing in 2017, and that it’s fully renovated. Is it too much to ask that it might be fully restored and open to the public?

For other postings on the architectural heritage of South Dublin see:

Berwick Hall.
The Bottle Tower, Churchtown.
Brookvale House, Rathfarnham.
Camberley House, Churchtown.
Dartry House, Orwell Park, Rathfarnham.
Ely Arch, Rathfarnham.
Ely House, Nutgrove Avenue, Rathfarnham.
Fernhurst, 14 Orwell Road, Rathgar.
Fortfield House, Hyde Park, Terenure.
No 201 Harold’s Cross Road, the birthplace of Richard Allen.
Homestead, Sandyford Road, Dundrum.
Kilvare House, also known as Cheeverstown House, Templeogue Road.
Knocklyon Castle.
Laurelmere Lodge, Marlay Park.
Marlay Park.
Mountain View House, Beaumont Avenue, Churchtown.
Newbrook House, Taylor’s Lane, Rathfarnham.
Old Bawn House, Tallaght.
Rathfarnham Castle.
Sally Park, Fihouse.
Scholarstown House, Knocklyon.
Silveracre House, off Sarah Curran Avenue, Rathfarnham.
Synge House, Newtwon Villas, Churchtown, and No 4 Orwell Park, Rathgar.
Templeogue House.
Washington House, Butterfield Avenue, Rathfarnham.
Westbourne House, off Rathfarnham Road.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Looking for Lily and Lolly in the churchyard below the Luas line

Saint Nahi’s Church on Upper Churchtown Road, Dublin, a familiar site to many commuters on the Luas line (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Patrick Comerford

On my way to work this morning, I got off the Luas at Dundrumm, and stopped to spend a little time looking at Saint Nahi’s Church and its surrounding graveyard on Upper Churchtown Road.

Although the churchyard slopes down to Dundrum Village, and the church is a landmark site for all who travel on the Luas, I wonder how many people stop to explore the story of this ancient Christian site.

Saint Nahi was not known for his buildings, teaching or preaching but for his piety, his sanctity and his desire to please God. Tradition says he established a monastic centre on the site of Saint Nahi’s Church in Dundrum in the seventh century. In his Lives of the Saints, Butler names him as Saint Nathy Cruimthir, that is, “the priest.” He was said to be a native of the Luighne district in Sligo. It is said he was sent to Achonry by Saint Finnian of Clonard, and Saint Crumnathy’s Cathedral in Achonry is named after him.

The circular shape of the road to the west and south-west of Saint Nahi’s Church shows the typical circular shape of early mediaeval monastic sites (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

The name Taney may come from the Irish Teach Nahi or “Nahi’s house,” although other source say it comes from the Irish Tamhnach, a green field or arable place. Saint Nathy or Nahi is thought to have lived in a monastery at Churchtown about 600 AD. The circular shape of the road to the west and south-west of the church shows the typical circular shape of early mediaeval monastic sites, and archaeologists confirm that the site at Saint Nahi’s was protected by two circular structures.

The discovery of two Rathdown slabs in Saint Nahi’s Graveyard shows that Vikings settled in Dundrum, that Christians were buried at Saint Nahi’s at least 1,000 years ago, and that the hill on which the church stands was an ancient ecclesiastical centre.

Rathdown Slabs are unique to the Barony of Rathdown and feature a distinctive type of decoration not found in other parts of Christian Ireland. This first Rathdown Slab, discovered in 2002, features a cup mark and a saltire cross formed by elongated X-shaped lines. An incised line runs down the centre of the slab. A second Rathdown Slab was discovered in 2004. Both stones are now kept inside the church.

Saint Nahi’s Church has been was rebuilt several times – in the years 800, 950, 1650 and in 1750 – and the church built in 1750 was restored in 1910.

A report from the Papal Legate, Cardinal Giovanni Paparo, who presided at the Synod of Kells in 1152, shows that a church was standing on this site at that time. A Papal bull from Pope Alexander in 1179 refers to Saint Nahi’s and the bull in the Liber Niger of Archbishop Hugh Allen of Dublin from 1529 to 1534 also mentions the church.

In 1630, the church had fallen into disrepair and was in ruins. The present Saint Nahi’s Church was built in the mid-18th century through the efforts of Archdeacon Isaac Mann and his curate, the Revd Jeremy Walsh. It was consecrated on 8 June 1760 by Bishop Richard Robinson (1709-1794) of Ferns, who later became Archbishop of Armagh, and the church was used the following year by the Bishop of Limerick for the ordination of Priests.

Saint Nahi’s Church was designed as a simple rectangular box shape and its simplicity is part of its present attraction and charm. Because Saint Nahi’s was too small for the parishioners of Dundrum and Churchtown, the vestry decided in 1809 to build a new church nearby, and so Christ Church, Taney, was opened in June 1818. It appears the old church was closed for much of the remainder of the 19th century.

The gates into Saint Nahi’s are dedicated to Canon William Monk Gibbon (1864-1935), who was the Rector of Taney from 1901 until his death. Canon Monk Gibbon initiated the restoration of Saint Nahi’s Church and chose some of the beautiful stained glass windows in the church. He is buried near the entrance to the graveyard, with his family. His son, William Monk Gibbon, was a distinguished writer and poet and a friend of the Yeats sisters, Lily and Lolly, who are also buried here, who presented the beautiful embroideries illustrating the Last Supper behind the Altar.

The baptismal font, which was moved from the Saint Kevin’s Church in Camden Row in 1904, is the one at which the Duke of Wellington was baptised on 30 April 1769. The baptistery window, with a central panel illustrating the Annunciation, is by Evie Hone. The window was completed in 1926 but was placed in its present position only in 1933.

Other stained glass windows in Saint Nahi’s are of interest because most are the work of An Túr Gloine (the Tower of Glass) group of artists who along with Harry Clarke produced much highly esteemed stained glass work in Ireland during the period 1903-1963.

The other artists who worked on the windows in Saint Nahi’s include: Alfred Ernest Child (1875-1939), the Sermon on the Mount (1929, South Wall); Catherine O’Brien (1881-1963), I am the Resurrection and the Life (1914, East Wall), the Disciples at Emmaus (1919, East Wall), the Miraculous Draft of Fishes (1919, East Wall), After the Transfiguration (1936, North Wall), and Christ Blessing little Children (1947, South Wall); and Ethel Rhind (1879-1952), Praise the Lord (1916, South Wall).

Saint Nahi's Graveyard has over 1,200 graves, and the names of 800 of those buried here are known (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Saint Nahi’s Graveyard, the old churchyard surrounding this church, has over 1,200 graves, and the names of 800 of those buried here are known.

Among those buried here are the artists Susan Mary (‘Lily’) and Elizabeth Corbett (‘Lolly’), sisters of the poet WB Yeats and the artist Jack B Yeats. The Yeats family lived at Gurteen Dhas on Lower Churchtown Road, opposite the ‘Bottle Tower’ pub. Lily and Lolly were involved in the Dun Emer Industries in Dundrum, founded by Evelyn Gleeson in 1902, and which produced weaving, embroidery, printing and other crafts. Lolly was the first woman to run a private printing press in Ireland, and Lily and Lolly are buried with their father, John Butler Yeats.

The grave of Patrick Bride, a prominent 18th century pharmacist, banker and politician (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Patrick Bride of Saint Stephen’s Green, who has an impressive if crumbling grave in the churchyard, died on 29 September 1808 aged 88. He was an eminent pharmacist, was High Sheriff of Dublin in 1780, and was a director and governor of the Bank of Ireland.

Also buried in the churchyard are James Burke, one of the spectators shot dead in Croke Park on ‘Bloody Sunday,’ 21 November 1920; Patrick Doyle from Milltown, who was killed at Clanwilliam House during the Easter Rising in 1916, and who gave his name to Patrick Doyle Road in the Windy Arbour and Milltown area nearby; and his son, Patrick Doyle, who was killed in action in the Irish Civil War at Crooksling, Co Dublin, on 7 July 1922.

Taney Parish is the largest Church of Ireland Parish in Ireland. In recent years, Saint Nahi’s Church has enjoyed a revival and is now very much at the heart of the worshipping community in the 21st century.

Monday, 22 August 2011

The sad decay of an old Lichfield hotel

The rusting gate and broken windows of the Angel Croft Hotel in Beacon Street, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Patrick Comerford

I have been writing in the past two weeks about the charms of the Beacon Street area of Lichfield, which runs from the entrance to the Cathedral Close to the Pinfold at the beginning of Stafford Road.

However, one of the saddest architectural sights in Lichfield is the decaying and neglected Angel Croft Hotel, at the bottom of Beacon Street, opposite the entrance to the Cathedral Street. The railings are rusting, the glass in fanlight over the main door is broken and shattered, and the garden at the front is broken.

No 3 Beacon Street was first built in the mid-18th century by George Addams, a Lichfield wine merchant, who also built Maple Hayes House. No 3 was a fine Georgian house and may have been built on the site of the Angel Inn on Beacon Street, and that in turn may have stood on the site of the Lamb Inn.

The house built by George Addams was turned into the Angel Croft Hotel around 1930, and for some decades it was an elegant hotel. By the 1980s its reputation was slipping, and one reviewer has described it as Lichfield’s “very own Fawlty Towers.” But it was still being advertised as recently as 2008, although by then its AA rating had slipped to one star.

The Angel Croft Hotel closed in recent years, although reports say the place was bought by the Best Western chain, which also owns the George Hotel, an historic coaching inn in Bird Street where the playwright George Farquhar was supposed to have stayed.

Renovation work resumed a few years ago, but nothing has been done to repair the building since then. Although there is no sign outside to say the hotel is closed, it lies empty once again. This is Grade 2* listed building, and its front railings and gates, which date from ca. 1750, are now regarded as “at risk” by English Heritage.

As a Grade II* listed building, the property is exempt from non-domestic rates. Around 2008, new owners began refurbishing the hotel, but the property was broken into soon after, the pipes were stolen and the building was flooded.

Since then, some of the window panes – over the main front door and at the rear – are broken and the rear gate is open. Compared to its former days, the Angel Croft Hotel is now a sad sight. Although a conservation team from Lichfield District Council is said to be monitoring the situation and in regular contact with the owners, it appears no work has been carried out for some years, .

There are reports that an enforcement action is pending, but it looks unlikely that the property is going to be brought into use as residential accommodation. It is a shame that at a time when the number of homeless people in Lichfield is rising and tourist numbers are said to be increasing this property cannot be put to good use.

The car park beside the hotel is an eyesore, yet is obviously generating some income. But, unless the current owners and the local authority pay greater attention soon, this historic Georgian building and its elegant gates are not going to be here for much longer.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

A window tells the tragic story that inspired a novelist

The East Window in Kenure Parish Church remembers Mary Ellen Peel who died in 1863, ten days after the birth of her baby daughter (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

After my attempt to reach Lambay Island from Skerries Harbour on Friday night, I was back in the area this morning for three services in the churches in this part of Fingal or north Co Dublin: presiding and preaching at Holy Communion in Kenure Church, Rush; leading Morning Prayer and preaching in Holmpatrick Parish Church in Skerries; and celebrating the Eucharist and preaching in Saint George’s Church, Balbriggan.

In Kenure, I was asked to make an interesting announcement about a local fund set up almost 200 years ago to benefit young women in the Rush area. The fund, which makes no discrimination on religious grounds, is administered by the local St Maur branch of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul and was established in 1820s by Sir Roger Palmer of Kenure House. Later, standing at the altar or Holy Communion table in Kenure Church, I was conscious of the beautiful stained glass window in memory of Mary Ellen Peel and the tragic story this window tells about another member of the Palmer family from Kenure House.

And, little more than a week after another visit to Lichfield, her story also reminds me of how searches for family origins in south Staffordshire brought my great-grandfather into contact with the Peel family.

Mary Ellen Peel was born Mary Ellen Palmer, and was the daughter of Sir Roger Palmer (1802-1869), the 4th baronet, of Kenure House. She grew up in Rush and on 25 May 1857 she married Archibald Peel.

For Ellen and Archie, life must have offered many promises on their wedding day. Archie came from a distinguished political family. His uncle, Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850), had been the British Prime Minister, while his father, General Jonathan Peel (1799-1879), had been Secretary of State for War. Soon after Archie Peel and Ellen Palmer were married, his first cousin, Sir Robert Peel (1822-1895), became the Chief Secretary of Ireland in 1861 – a post that made him the head of government in Ireland, I suppose the equivalent in pre-independence Ireland of being Prime Minister or Taoiseach in those days.

Ellen and Archie Peel moved to Broxbourne in rural Hertfordshire, half-way between Cambridge and London, close to Hoddesdon and the present High Leigh Conference Centre, where I attended the USPG Conference earlier this summer. Ellen and Archie had three children, but only one of those children – their third child, Ellen – survived. To compound the tragedy, Ellen Palmer died on 9 September 1863, only ten days after giving birth to this child.

The East Window in Kenure Church which recalls this sad story is the work of James Powell and Sons, who worked on so many of the Pugin churches in Ireland and England. The three-light window depicts the Crucifixion, with images on either side of Christ in Gethsemane and the Empty Tomb on Easter Morning.

Three years after Ellen Palmer’s death, Kenure Church was built in 1866. A year later, on 15 August 1867, Archie Peel married his second wife, Lady Georgiana Russell, aunt of the philosopher Bertrand Russell. Lady Georgiana Peel was a daughter of the former British Prime Minister, Lord John Russell, and through her mother, Adelaide Lister, she was direct descendant of Nathaniel Lister and the Lister family of Armitage Park or Spode House, halfway between Lichfield and Rugeley.

In 1899, Archbishop Joseph Peacocke of Dublin consecrated the burial grounds around Kenure Church. On that occasion, Ellen Peel’s brother, (1832-1910), Sir Roger Palmer read the lesson, and his wife Lady Gertrude presided at the organ, and “conducted the psalmody of a hearty and efficient choir.” Afterwards, it was reported, the congregation and clergy dined in Kenure House.

A novelist’s story

Ellen (Peel) Graham, whose mother is commemorated in this window in Kenure Church, survived the tragic death of her mother and grew up to be a successful writer. She wrote under her first married name as Mrs Henry Graham, even after she married her second husband, Lord Askwith.

Ellen Peel’s tragic yet colourful and romantic life was also described by her grand-daughter, the novelist Betty Askwith (1909-1995), only daughter of the Askwiths. In her introduction to Crimean Courtship, she draws on the diaries of the two Ellens, her mother Ellen (Peel) Graham and her grandmother Ellen (Palmer) Peel.

Comberford Hall … home to Archie Peel’s cousin, William Fenton Peel, when James Comerford visited around 1900 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Meanwhile, sometime around the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, my great-grandfather, James Comerford (1817-1902), in search of his ancestors, turned up on the doorsteps of Comberford Hall, then the home of William Fenton Peel (1839-1907). This other member of the Peel family was a son of Archie Peel’s second cousin, Captain Edmund Peel (1801-1871).

William Felton Peel was born in Tamworth and worked as a cotton and foreign produce merchant in Alexandria in Egypt and in Bombay in India, where five of his eight children were born between 1868 and 1874. He later returned to England, and was in business in Broughton, Salford, near Manchester, where the other three children were born between 1876 and 1879. He lived at Hawley Hill, Blackwater, Hampshire, before moving to Comberford Hall with his wife Sarah Edith Willoughby and their children around 1900.

Almost a century earlier, Sir Robert Peel had foreclosed the mortgage on Comberford Hall and other estates in the Lichfield area owned by the Chichester family, forcing their sale to the Howard family.

When James Comerford turned up on his doorstep that year, I wonder did William Peel know the tragic story of his cousin’s Irish wife, Ellen Palmer Peel, who is commemorated in the window in Kenure Rush?

James Comerford died in 1902, shortly after publishing privately his account of the Comberford family, based on his travels through south Staffordshire; William Felton Peel died five years later in 1907.

Rock solid faith with everlasting significance

George O’Connor’s circular-plan bartizan clock tower on the library on the corner of Saint George’s Square and High Street, near Saint George’s Church, Balbriggan (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 21 August 2011,

The Ninth Sunday after Trinity:

12 noon, Saint George’s Church, Balbriggan, Co Dublin, the Parish Eucharist.

Exodus 1: 8 - 2: 10; Psalm 124; Romans 12: 1-8; Matthew 16: 13-20

May I speak to you in the name of + the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Last month, I climbed up the cliffs that shape the horse-shoe harbour of Fethiye in south-west Turkey to see the Lycian tombs carved and hewn into the rock face, for all the world looking like the facades of classical temples. Rock-hewn architectural works of cultural significance can be found in many other parts of the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean, in places such as Petra in Jordan.

When you see breath-taking sights like these, you understand how culturally relevant it was for Christ to talk about the wise man building his house on a rock rather than on sand (Matthew 7: 24-26) – a Gospel reading we have missed this year in the Lectionary readings that take us through Saint Matthew’s Gospel Sunday-by-Sunday.

The Tomb of Amyntas, carved into the rock face in the cliffs above Fethiye (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Ordinary domestic buildings might have been built to last a generation or two, at most. But building on rock, building into rock, was laying the foundations for major works of cultural, political and religious significance that would last long after those who had built them had been forgotten.

And so, when Christ says to Peter in our Gospel reading this morning that the Church is going to be built on a rock, he is talking about the foundations for a movement, an institution, an organisation, a community that is going to have lasting, everlasting significance.

In the past, Christians have got tied up in knots over very silly arguments about this morning’s Gospel story. Some of us shy away from dealing with this story, knowing that in the past it has been used to bolster not so much the claims of the Papacy, but all the baggage that goes with those claims. In other words, it was argued by some in the past that the meaning of this passage was explicit: if you accepted this narrow meaning, you accepted the Papacy; if you accepted that, then you also accepted Papal infallibility, Papal claims to universal jurisdiction, and Papal teachings on celibacy, birth control, the immaculate conception and the assumption of the Virgin Mary.

And that is more than just a leap and a jump from what is being taught in our Gospel passage this morning. But to counter those great leaps of logic, Protestant theologians in the past have put forward contorted arguments about the meaning of the rock and the rock of faith in this passage. Some have tried to argue that the word used for Peter, petros (πητρος), is the Greek for a small pebble, but that faith is described with a different Greek word, petra (πητρα), meaning a giant rock, the sort of rock you would use to carve out the rock tombs of Fethiye.

A little pebble, or a fisherman with rock-solid faith?

They were silly arguments. The distinction between these words existed in Attic Greek in the classical days, but not in the Greek spoken at the time of Christ or at the time Saint Matthew was writing his Gospel. Petros (πητρος) was the male name derived from a rock, petra (πητρα) was a rock, a massive rock like Petra in Jordan or the rocks from which the tombs in Fethiye are carved, and the word lithos (λιθος) was used for a small rock, a stone, or even a pebble – it’s the Greek word that gives us words like lithograph and megalithic, meaning Great Stone Age.

And Peter is a rock, his faith is a rock, a rock that is solid enough to provide the foundations for Christ’s great work that is the Church.

How could Peter or his faith be so great? This is the same Peter who in last week’s Gospel reading (Matthew 15: 21-28; 14 August) wanted Jesus to send away the desperate Canaanite woman because “she keeps shouting at us.”

This is the same Peter who a week before (Matthew 14: 22-33; 7 August), tried to walk on water and almost drowned, and Christ said to the same Peter: “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (verse 31).

This is the same Peter who, in the week before that (Matthew 14: 13-21, 31 July), was among the disciples who wanted to send away the crowd and let them buy food for themselves (verse 15).

This is the same Peter who seems to get it wrong constantly. Later in this Gospel, he denies Christ three times at the Crucifixion (Matthew 26: 75). After the Resurrection, Christ has to put the question three times to Peter before Peter confesses that Christ knows everything, and Christ then calls him with the words: “Follow me” (John 21: 15-19).

The Apostle Peter in an icon on Mount Athos (1546): so often he gets it wrong, like I do, but he has rock apostolic solid-faith

Peter is so like me. He trips and stumbles constantly. He often gets it wrong, even later on in life. He gives the wrong answers, he comes up with silly ideas, he easily stumbles on the pebbles and stones that are strewn across the pathway of life.

But eventually, it is not his own judgment, his own failing judgment that marks him out as someone special. No. It is his faith, his rock solid faith.

Despite all his human failings, despite his often tactless behaviour, despite all his weaknesses, he is able to say who Christ is for him. He has a simple but rock-solid faith, summarised in that simple, direct statement: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (verse 16).

Robert Spence (1871-1964), “Woe to the Bloody City of Lichfield,” depicts George Fox preaching barefooted in the Market Square in Lichfield 1651 … George Fox challenged his followers to say who Christ is for them (Lichfield Heritage Centre)

Who do you say Christ is? Who is Christ for you?

This is a question each and every one of us must ask ourselves anew time and time again.

He must be more than a good rabbi or teacher, because the expectations of a good religious leader or a good teacher change over time.

Who is the messiah for you? Again, many people at the time had false expectations of the Messiah. Who is Christ for you?

Visiting Lichfield last week, I was reminded of George Fox, the founding Quaker, who walked barefoot through the streets of Lichfield. But George Fox also challenged his contemporaries with these words: “You may say Christ saith this, and the apostles say this, but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of the Light and hast thou walked in the Light, and what thou speakest is it inwardly from God?”

Who is Christ for you? Is he a personal saviour? One who comforts you? Or is he more than that for you? Who do you say Christ is?

It is a question that challenges Peter in this morning’s Gospel reading. Not who do others say he is, but who do you say Christ is?

Peter’s faith is a faith that proves to be so rock-solid that you could say it is blessed, it is foundational. Not gritty, pebbly, pain-on-the-foot sort of faith. But the foundational faith on which you could build a house, carve out a temple or monastery or treasury, rock-solid faith that provides the foundation for the Church.

There are other people in the Bible and in Jewish tradition who are commended for their rock-solid faith, including Abraham and Sarah (see Isaiah 51: 1f).

It’s the sort of faith that will bring people into the Church, and even the most cunning, ambitious, evil schemes, even death itself, will not be able to destroy this sort of faith (verse 18).

Throughout the Bible, as people set out on great journeys of faith, their new beginning in faith is marked by God giving them a new name: Abram becomes Abraham, Jacob becomes Israel, Saul becomes Paul, and Simon son of Jonah is blessed with a new name too as he becomes Cephas or Peter, the rock-solid, reliable guy, whose faith becomes a role model for the new community of faith, for each and every one of us.

Why would Christ pick me or you? Well, why would he pick a simple fisherman from a small provincial town?

It is not how others see us that matters. It is our faith and commitment to Christ that matters. God always sees us as he made us, in God’s own image and likeness, and loves us like that.

The faith that the Church must look to as its foundation, the faith that we must depend on, that we must live by, is not some self-determined, whimsical decision, but the faith that the Apostles had in the Christ who calls them, that rock-solid, spirit-filled faith in Christ, of which Peter’s confession this morning is the most direct yet sublime and solid example.

Apostolic faith like Peter’s is the foundation stone on which the Church is built, the foundation stone of the new Jerusalem, with Christ as the cornerstone (Ephesians 2: 20; Revelation 21: 14).

It doesn’t matter that Peter was capable of some dreadful gaffes and misjudgements. I’m like that too … constantly.

But Christ calls us in our weaknesses. And in our weaknesses he finds our strengths. So that, as the Apostle Paul reminds us in our Epistle reading this morning, the Church is then built up by the gifts that each one of us has to offer in ministry, in service to Christ, “each according to the measure of faith that Christ has assigned” (Romans 12: 3).

Our weaknesses can be turned to strengths if we accept the unique gifts each of us has been given by God and joyfully use them, lovingly use them, in God’s service, for building up his kingdom.

Let’s not be afraid of our weaknesses. Let’s not be afraid of the mistakes we inevitably make. But let’s accept the gifts God has given us. Let’s use those to build up our faith, to build up the Church, and to serve Christ and the world.

And so, may all we think, do and say be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This sermon was preached at the Parish Eucharist in Saint George’s Church, Balbriggan, Co Dublin, on 21 August 2011.


Almighty God,
who sent your Holy Spirit
to be the life and light of your Church:
Open our hearts to the riches of his grace,
that we may bring forth the fruit of the Spirit
in love and joy and peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Post Communion Prayer:

Holy Father,
who gathered us here around the table of your Son
to share this meal with the whole household of God:
In that new world where you reveal the fullness of your peace,
gather people of every race and language
to share in the eternal banquet
of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.