14 April 2014

A one-name study that disentangles myths
about the origins of the Comerford family

In Comberford – but had I found the families origins?

Patrick Comerford

Since November 2007 I have been maintaining a blog/website as part of my Comerford one-name study, looking at the history of the Comerford family in Ireland, especially in Co Kilkenny, Co Wexford and Dublin, and the history of the Quemerford family in Wiltshire and the Comberford family in Staffordshire.

The Comerfords in south-east Ireland can delight in the discovery and enjoy the diversity found in the family over many centuries. Because of the lasting tradition that the Comerfords of Ireland were descended from the Comberford family from Comberford, between Lichfield and Tamworth in Staffordshire, I have spent much unravelling the family trees of the Comerford, Quemerford and Comberford family, and devoted web space their homes, houses and heraldry.

It is a work in progress that began in 1969-1970. It was inspired by the love of family history handed on to me by two aunts who lived in my grandparents’ home, and with it handed on the legend that we were descended from the Comberfords of Staffordshire. I was still in my teens when I started to trace these stories and sought the family origins between Lichfield and Tamworth.

According to the 18th century genealogist, Sir William Betham, the Comerford family came from Comberford in Staffordshire to Ireland in 1189. This account gained wide currency in the 18th and 19th century, and was accepted by the Kilkenny historians William Healy and John G.A. Prim. Edward MacLysaght perpetuated this misunderstanding that the Comerfords of Kilkenny originated in Staffordshire.

In Comberford – but had I found the families origins?

The Comberford family, which took its name from the village of the same name, dominated the political life of Tamworth for a brief time, and gave its name to the Comberford Chapel, where some of the most prominent family members were buried, in Saint Editha’s, the town’s parish church. A plaque erected in the Comberford Chapel in 1725 claims the Comerfords of Ireland were a branch of the same family, and a similar claim is made through the use of the Comberford coat-of-arms by the Comerfords of Co Kilkenny and Waterford from the early 17th century.

However, these claims were first questioned by the Victorian genealogist and historian GD Burtchaell, who pointed out: “The family of Comerford is said to have come from Cumberford in Staffordshire, but the spelling Quemerford was used consistently by the family in Ireland until at least the 16th century, indicating the sources for the family’s origins must be sought elsewhere.” In initialled, pencilled notes on the margins of one of the pedigrees signed by Betham, Burtchaell wrote: “no such man,” “no such marriage,” and, more tellingly, “All this is pure and unadulterated rubbish... G.D.B.”

In Quemerford – but had the family’s origins been forgotten?

In Quemerford – but had the family’s origins been forgotten?

In my search for Quemerford in the 1970s, I found the origins of the Comerford family of south-east Ireland are not in Staffordshire but can be traced to the village of Quemerford, now part of the small town of Calne in Wiltshire.

In my search, I came across a collection of manuscripts kept at Home House, Much Marcle, Herefordshire, at the beginning of the 20th century and now in the Wiltshire and Swindon Record Office in, Chippenham. This collection shows that the first member of the family using the name of Quemerford village was Bartholomew de Quemerford, ca 1230-1240. Nicholas de Quemerford in 1344 was the last member of the family in Quemerford.

Over a century ago, the Calne historian, AEW Marsh, identified a notable movement of people from Calne to Ireland at the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries. William de Dene, Seneschal of Ossory, Sheriff of Wexford and Justiciar of Ireland, died in 1261, probably from wounds at the Battle of Callan. His widow, Roesia de Longespee, married William de Calne, who at times nominated lawyers from Calne to look after his interests in Ireland while he and his wife were in England. Marsh says these lawyers, including Philip of Cummerford (sic) and others, show “there was then quite a little colony of people from Calne and the neighbourhood settled in Ireland.”

By the early 14th century, Philip of Cummerford or Philip de Quemerford and his family were living permanently in Co Kilkenny, and a continuous presence of the Quemerford or Comerford family can be traced ever since through the Ormond deeds and papers, first in Co Kilkenny and later in the neighbouring counties.

The name was modernised from the late 16th and early centuries as Comerford, and the story of kinship with the Comberford family of Staffordshire soon developed to the point of being accepted, as though the Comerfords of Ireland and the Comberfords of Staffordshire had adopted each other as family and kin with mutual bonds of affection.

Perpetuating the myth – my grandfather's small publication, shortly before his death

Perpetuating the myth – my grandfather's small publication, shortly before his death

My great-grandfather, James Comerford (1817-1902), perpetuated these myths when he visited Comberford, Tamworth, Wednesbury and Lichfield in August 1900 or 1901, describing himself as “a descendant” of the Comberford family. In the Comberford Chapel in Tamworth, he took detailed notes of the Comberford plaque erected in 1725; at Comberford Hall, he visited the Peel family.

He collected his findings in a small, seven-page pamphlet, that was privately published in a small print run on 26 November 1902, and bound with it photographs of the Moat House and Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth. Shortly afterwards, he added a bookplate similar to that of James Comerford, the London book collector and antiquarian, and additional handwritten notes.

The surviving copy of this publication is in Tamworth Library, along with a pencilled page of notes recording the details of his visit that August day. The binding of this slim volume may have been a final tribute by his family to James Comerford, who died 18 days later in Dublin, on 14 December 1902.

All these ties of affection amount to bonds of kinship, and they make it natural to include the Comerford, Quemerford and Comberford families in one, single, one-name study.

The one-name study by the Revd Canon Professor Patrick Comerford can be found at: http://comerfordfamily.blogspot.ie/

Fíona’s note:

Now that Patrick has shown us the way, I look forward to getting more offers! I have contributions from Joss Le Gall and Pádraic to hand already, and promises of material from Kate Tammemagi and Michael Egan, but there is plenty of space available in future issues.

This essay and these photographs are published in the April 2014 edition of the Guild of One-Name Studies Newsletter, Irish region (pp 1-5), edited by Fiona Tipple

Spending a few days in Saint
Macartin’s Cathedral, Enniskillen

The tower and spire of Saint Macartin’s Cathedral, Enniskillen, can be seen for miles around the Fermanagh countryside (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I am in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, for two or three days this week with the students of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute who have been invited by the Dean of Clogher, the Very Revd Kenneth Hall, to take part in this year’s Holy Week mission in Saint Macartin’s Cathedral, Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh.

I am staying in the Belmore Court & Motel on Tempo Road, and this is my second time in Co Fermanagh within four of five days. Since I was last in Enniskillen two years ago (March 2012), Queen Elizabeth visited the town in 2012 as part of her diamond jubilee celebrations, and Enniskillen hosted last year’s G8 summit in June 2013. That was the biggest international diplomatic gathering in Northern Ireland, and the world leaders present included President Obama, President Putin, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.

The first and second year ordinands are taking part in a week-long programme built around the theme ‘This is Our Church.’ The Holy Week mission seeks to engage both parishioners and the wider community of Enniskillen.

The Bishop of Clogher, the Right Revd John McDowell, is the preacher at several special evening services. Other activities during the week include family, children’s and youth activities, pastoral visits and work in local schools.

Saint Macartin’s Cathedral is one of two cathedral churches in the Diocese of Clogher – the other is St Macartan’s Cathedral, Clogher. The dean and chapter of Clogher have their stalls in both cathedrals.

The cathedral in Enniskillen stands on high ground overlooking the town and was originally a parish church. It became a cathedral just over 90 years ago in 1923. The first Saint Anne’s Church built on this site was completed around 1627 as part of the original building of the town of Enniskillen.

Captain William Cole from Devon and the other people responsible for creating the new town of Enniskillen from 1611 on chose the site for the new parish church because it was the higher of the two hills on the island that gives its name to Enniskillen. The lower hill became the site for the original Market House, overlooking the Diamond or town square. That site is now the site of the town hall.

The first church building was probably completed in 1627. However, hardly any of the original church remains, although part of its tower was incorporated into the present one and can be seen above the main entrance door where there is a small, old three-light lattice window and a carved stone dated 1637 together with the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God).

The first church was small and simple and roofed with shingles that needed constant pair and maintenance. By the beginning of the 19th century the old parish church could no longer accommodate the growing number of parishioners, and in 1826 its length was extended in length. At the time, the Rector of Enniskillen was the Revd John Charles Maude, who was rector 1825-1860.

By 1832, the old parish church and its spire had become structurally unsafe and they were demolished. By 1832, the spire was so unsafe that it was demolished. This offered the opportunity to rebuild the church completely. The new Saint Anne’s Parish Church was consecrated in 1842, and what we see today is essentially the church built that year.

Enniskillen is one among less than a dozen parish churches in Northern Ireland with a tower that has a peal of eight bells or more. When the church was rebuilt in 1842, eight bells were installed, hung on oak frames.

The bust of Archbishop William Magee of York, former Rector of Enniskillen, in the Henry Jones Room in the Old Library in Trinity College Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

William Connor Magee (1821-1891) was Rector of Enniskillen from 1860 to 1864. Later, he became Dean of Cork, and then Bishop of Peterborough. In 1891 he became Archbishop of York and he is buried in York Minster. A bust of Archbishop Magee stands on a window ledge in the Henry Jones Room in the Old Library in Trinity College Dublin. Among his memorable sayings is: “The man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything.”

The chancel of Saint Anne’s Church was enlarged in 1889. By the early 20th century, the population of Enniskillen was growing steadily but many of the nearby villages were in decline. By then, Enniskilled was one of the largest parishes in the Diocese of Clogher.

An act of General Synod in 1921 designated Saint Anne’s as the Cathedral Church of Saint Macartin in the Diocese of Clogher, although retaining the original Diocesan Cathedral Church of Saint Macartan in Clogher – both named after the same saint but with a slight variation in spelling. Saint Anne’s Church was rededicated as Saint Macartin’s Cathedral in 1923, with stalls for the Dean and Chapter.

Two more bells were added in 1936, making a peal of ten, and the present pipe organ was installed that year. Part of the nave became the Regimental Chapel of the Inniskilling regiments in 1970.

In 2006, the Diocese of Clogher marked the 1500th anniversary of the death of its founding saint, Saint Macartan. As part of the celebrations, Archbishop Magee’s successor, Archbishop John Sentamu visited the diocese during Saint Macartan’s Day.

Today, the Diocese of Clogher is unique in both the Church of Ireland and the Anglican Communion in having two cathedrals. The cathedral can be seen for miles around because it stands on a high hill overlooking the town, topped by a tower and spire that rise to 45 metres.

The Collect of Saint Macartan’s Day:

Heavenly Father,
we thank you for Macartan,
faithful companion of Saint Patrick
and builder of your church in Clogher:
Build up your church through
those whom you call to leadership in this generation,
and strengthen your church
to proclaim the gospel of reconciliation and peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Art for Lent (41): ‘Mary anointing Jesus’
Feet’ (1998), by Dinah Roe Kendall

‘Mary anointing Jesus’ Feet’ (1998), by Dinah Roe Kendall

Patrick Comerford

The Revised Common Lectionary as used in the Church of Ireland provides readings, collects and post-communion prayers for each of the days in Holy Week. The readings for today, Monday in Holy Week [14 April 2014], are: Isaiah 42: 1-9; Psalm 36: 5-11; Hebrews 9: 11-15; and John 12: 1-11.

My choice of a work of Art for Lent this morning illustrates the Gospel reading:‘Mary anointing Jesus’ Feet’ (1998), by Dinah Roe Kendall.

This Gospel reading brings us back to the home of Lazarus, Mary and Martha after Lazarus has been raised from the dead, and during dinner Mary anoints the feet Christ with costly perfume, to the chagrin of Judas. Christ rebukes Judas, and talks about his death and burial:

John 12: 1-11

1 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2 There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3 Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5 ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’ 6 (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) 7 Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’

9 When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

The artist and her painting

Dinah Roe Kendall was born in Bakewell, Derbyshire, in 1923 into a family of professional artists. Her grandfather and great-grandfather were both well-known artists. Her great-grandmother was the daughter of the Victorian sculptor whose statue of Lord Nelson stands in Trafalgar Square, London.

Her father planned for her to proceed to full-time training, but World War II and his early death occurred before these hopes could be realised. After her wartime nursing, she attended Sheffield Art School and was then received an ex-service grant to enable her to study at the Slade School of Fine Art in London (1948 to 1952).

There Lucien Freud asked her to sit for him, Stanley Spence’s daughter Unity was a fellow-student, and Dinah learned from Jacob Epstein, Stanley Spencer and many other artists.

The nostalgic world of primitive painting is far removed from her vibrant Biblical scenes, placed in modern contexts and painted in modern materials. Although the influence of her teachers can be seen in her work, she has moved on from them, developing a style that is distinctly her own.

Her paintings are drenched in colour, reflecting five years of living in Cyprus and the influence of modern artists she has admired, including Peter Howson and Ana Maria Pacheco.

She usually paints in acrylic on board or canvas, mixing the paint with thickening media. Her angels wear robes built up of thick knife and brush strokes flecked with gold. She paints the cross as a visual sermon: no mere philosophical concept, but a hunk of wood along which, as Francis Schaeffer used to remark, one could have run a finger and got a splinter.

Despite changing fashions and much pressure to explore abstract art, she has always remained a figurative painter. Her biblical scenes are cast in modern contexts: Christ visits a school in Sheffield; Lazarus is raised from the dead from an alcove in a wall borrowed from Chatsworth House; Jairus’s daughter wakes up upstairs in a modern home, surrounded by modern neighbours as an abandoned teddy-bear on a chair in by the window watches on in amazement; the infant Christ presented in the Temple is looking right at the viewer; in the case of the Woman taken in Adultery, Christ’s finger writing in the dust points out of the canvas and at the viewer.

Her ‘Entry into Jerusalem’ is set in the playground of the Porter Croft School in Sheffield, where the painting now hangs, and the Baptism of Christ takes place in a swimming pool.

Her paintings constantly engage the viewer, but show intimacy too. At the ‘Supper at Emmaus,’ Christ sits at the head of a table, with two disciples whose hands reach out towards his. He is holding a loaf of bread; wine and glasses stand ready. His pose recalls Stanley Spencer’s 1939 painting of a lonely Christ in the Wilderness, cradling in his hands a scorpion.

There is social comment and humour too in her work: the Good Samaritan is a black man; ‘The Marriage at Cana in Galilee’ is a witty footnote to a famous painting by Breughel; and ‘Jesus visits Bethany’ is a delightful depiction of an off-duty Christ, even though the crowds are pressing in at the door. Inside the house in Bethany, Lazarus sits apart from the others in a curtained alcove as if the shadow of the tomb has not quite left him. His eyes are fixed not upon Christ but upon some faraway place, as if contemplating a landscape that only he has seen.

At the opening of an exhibition of her paintings in Winchester Cathedral some years ago, Dinah Roe Kendall said that she wants to show that meeting Christ is an unsettling and life-changing experience that could happen at any point in time.

Many of her paintings were included in Allegories of Heaven: an artist explores the greatest story ever told (Carlisle: Piquant, 2002), drawing on texts from The Message text by Eugene Peterson.

Writing about her paintings in her preface that book, she said: “I try to remove them from ‘religious unreality’ and endeavour to convey the sense that it could happen at any moment amongst us today!”

She now lives in Sheffield. She has two studios in her home, where she is constantly at work. Her personal faith in Christ and her reading of the Bible have provided persistent stimulation that has directed her to visualise many of the Bible stories in contemporary form.

The Revd Tom Devonshire Jones, Founder and Director Emeritus of ACE (Art and Christianity Enquiry), has commented: “Dinah Roe Kendall’s fresh, sassy and devout paintings are breathing new life into religious art at the start of the third millennium. Already receiving the grateful attention of worshipper and enquirer alike, they are finding a secure place in the world of faith and of art.”


Almighty God,
whose most dear Son went not up to joy,
but first he suffered pain,
and entered not into glory before he was crucified:
Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of his cross,
may find it none other than the way of life and peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Post Communion Prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ,
you humbled yourself in taking the form of a servant
and in obedience died on the cross for our salvation.
Give us the mind to follow you
and to proclaim you as Lord and King,
to the glory of God the Father.

Tomorrow:Pythagoras’ (1989), by Nikolaos Ikaris, Pythagóreio, Samos.