06 July 2014
Lavender fields, fresh raspberries, and walks
in the gardens, mountains and by the beach
I often pass the Lavender Farm at Kilmacanogue, but I seem to continually miss the turn into the lavender field opposite Avoca Handweavers in Kilmacanogue, near Bray, Co Wicklow.
Either we have been busy watching for the turn off to Kilmacanogue on N11, or enjoying the view of the Wicklow Mountains on our way further south in Co Wicklow or Co Wexford.
This afternoon, after celebrating the Eucharist and preaching in Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Ballsbridge, this morning, two of us were on our way to lunch at Avoca in Kilmacanouge when we noticed the sign for the Lavender Field just in time.
The Lavender Farm owes its origins to Brian Cox, father of David Cox, the current Managing Director of Avoca Handweavers, and Donald Pratt, the founder of Avoca. In 1983, they had the idea to start an Irish perfume company. They started by producing a perfume named ‘Innisfree’ after the WB Yeats’s poem, The Lake Isle of Innisfree, and the Yeats estate gave the young company permission to use the name with the perfume.
Innisfree was an immediate success. In 1987 David Cox, Brian’s son, came to work with his father as the company moved to new premises in a converted dairy barn that was part of the former Jameson Whiskey family estate in Kilmacanogue. In the early 1990s, new ranges were added, with some of the fragrances sourced from lavender from their own field, across the road from their offices in Kilmacanogue.
Nestling between the two Sugarloaf Mountains, this “field of dreams” still produces top quality lavender oil and provides the inspiration for many of the company’s ideas.
In 2005, the company launched its ‘Garden of Ireland’ range of soaps and bath products, inspired by the Wicklow countryside and using lavender oil from the company’s lavender field.
The lavender is harvested every summer in July, and the Lavender Harvest Party is a festival celebrating nature’s amazing gift of the golden oil from the lavender.
After lunch in Avoca, we found ourselves walking around the garden centre beside the restaurant and shops. After last night’s description of my visit to the Botanical Gardens in Glasnevin on Saturday afternoon, I hardly realised I was going to spend part of another afternoon walking through flowers, plants and trees that I am still unable to name.
But the sun was pouring down, despite the rain that had been forecast, and I enjoyed yet another unexpected surprise
Later, we want for a walk along the shore on the beach in Bray, and stopped for double espressos in Carpe Diem, the Italian coffee and wine bar on Brennan’s Parade on Albert Avenue, close to the corner with Strand Road and across the street from the Promenade and Sealife.
We had another walk along the shoreline before driving up into the foothills, along the Rocky Valley Drive, with breath-taking views of the Sugar Loaf and the Wicklow Mountains on one side and down towards Bray and the bay between Bray and Dun Laoghaire on the other.
We stopped to buy fresh raspberries at Conroy’s, where the Conroy family has been in the business of growing Irish raspberries ever since Annie set her first canes over 40 years ago. Today, this harvest of rich and fruity berries is grown on specially chosen plants. Each day, punnets of raspberries are handpicked for freshness and quality, and the raspberries are sold directly from the farm from late June to early August.
The Conroys boast “the rich green countryside and panoramic views overlooking Powerscourt, the south Dublin and north Wicklow hills are as revitalising as the raspberries we grow,” and their website includes many imaginative recipes for their raspberries.
From the Rocky Valley Drive, we made our way back down to Powerscourt and Enniskerry, and then on to Kilternan and Stepaside, where we stopped to look at the ruins of the old church at Kilgobbin, with its High Cross, situated beside a large, new housing estate.
I did not manage to get inside the ruins of the Kilgobbin Church to see the Rathdown Slabs or Viking burial stones on the inner walls of the church.
The area may have been populated during pre-Norman times, and remnants of Belarmine pottery made in Germany ca 1500-1600 were found in the area. These Belarmine jugs were primarily used for storing wine, which indicates the former wealth and prosperity of the area.
The stone church on a hilltop in Kilgobbin was built in 1707 on the site of an earlier wooden church. It is claimed locally that this was the first church built in Ireland after the Reformation.
When the graveyard was being extended in the early 1800s, a three-armed 12th century high cross was unearthed. The cross was erected at the foot of the site, on what seems to be the remnants of an old ballaun stone. One side of the cross is said to depict a robed figure.
The church fell into ruin during the 1820s when a larger Church of Ireland parish church was built at Kilternan.
Earlier this morning, the setting for the Eucharist in Saint Bartholomew’s was the Missa de Sancta Maria Magdalena by the English/Canadian composer Healey Willan (1880-1968), sung by the Elgin Chorale. The setting is named after the Anglo-Catholic church in Toronto where Willan was organist from 1921 until his death.
Willan once described himself whimsically as being: “English by birth; Canadian by adoption; Irish by extraction; Scotch by absorption.”
The Elgin Chorale never got to singing this morning’s planned Communion motet, which is a setting by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) of words by George Herbert (1593-1633).
I joked with them that the combination of the music of Vaughan Williams and the poetry of George Herbert is a sacramental expression of Anglican culture. But the words of that missing motet seem to summarise many of the joys and blessings of this weekend:
Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
Such a Way, as gives us breath:
Such a Truth, as ends all strife:
Such a Life as killeth death.
Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength:
Such a Light, as shows a feast:
Such a Feast, as mends in length:
Such a Strength, as makes his guest.
Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:
Such a Joy, as none can move:
Such a Love, as none can part:
Such a Heart as joys in love.
Recalling World War I and
the greatest deployment of
armed forces in Irish history
Later this month, commemorations begin to mark the centenary of World War I, which started on 28 July 1914. Over four years, more than nine million combatants were killed in the ‘Great War,’ making it one of the deadliest conflicts in history.
The commemorations are never likely to descend into a glorification of war. Instead, they are likely to focus on the horrors of war, its impact on the lives of many millions of people, and a legacy that includes major changes that reshaped the political map of Europe.
The war is often been seen as a conflict between the jealous crowned heads of Europe and it brought about the downfall of many royal houses. But its impact on the lives of ordinary people must never be forgotten: more than 70 million people were mobilised in a period that lasted long after the war ended.
The immediate trigger for the war was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, the heir to the throne of Austria, who was murdered in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914 by Gavrilo Princip, a Serb nationalist. The murder set off a diplomatic crisis when Austria delivered the “July Ultimatum” to Serbia. On 28 July 1914, Austria invaded Serbia, and Germany declared war on Tsarist Russia on 1 August, invaded France on 2 August, and neutral Belgium on 3 August. On 4 August, Britain declared war on Germany. In November, the Ottoman Empire joined the war; Italy and Bulgaria went to war in 1915, Romania in 1916, and the US in 1917. The last country to enter the war was Romania – albeit for the second time – on 10 November 1918, one day before the war ended.
War and the Home Rule crisis
Ireland was involved throughout the war as part of the United Kingdom. The war began as Ireland was embroiled in a major political crisis over Home Rule, but the crisis was temporarily defused when nationalist and unionist leaders alike initially supported Britain’s war efforts.
The Unionist leader, Edward Carson, offered his immediate support. On 3 August 1914, the Wexford-born leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, John Redmond (1856-1918), then MP for Waterford City, declared in the Commons that the government could withdraw every soldier from Ireland and yet be assured that the coast of Ireland would be defended by Ireland’s armed sons.
The first British engagement in Europe involved the 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards when they met a German patrol near Mons on 22 August 1914, and Corporal Edward Thomas had the distinction of firing the first British shot in Europe in the War.
The first major battle was the Battle of Mons. On 27 August, the 2nd Battalion Royal Munster Fusiliers formed the rearguard to cover the retreat of British forces and made an epic stand. The Irish Guards also suffered heavily at Mons, and the experience of the Munsters and the Irish Guards was typical of the first campaigns in France and Belgium.
Home Rule passed into law on 17 September, and in a speech at Woodenbridge, Co Wicklow, on 20 September, John Redmond called on the Irish Volunteers to enlist in Irish regiments. He believed Imperial Germany threatened the freedom of Europe and that it was Ireland’s duty, having achieved future self-government, “to the best of her ability to go where ever the firing line extends, in defence of right, of freedom and of religion in this war. It would be a disgrace forever to our country otherwise.”
Redmond’s son, William Redmond, then MP for East Tyrone, enlisted, as did his brother, Major Willie Redmond, then MP for Clare East and a former MP for Wexford Borough. Four other Irish MPs enlisted: Sir John Esmonde, MP for North Tipperary; Stephen Gwynn, MP for Galway and son of the Revd John Gwynn, Regius Professor of Divinity at Trinity College Dublin; and Daniel Desmond Sheehan, MP for mid-Cork. In addition, Tom Kettle, former MP for East Tyrone, enlisted, and Redmond’s call was supported by many parliamentary leaders, including William O’Brien, Thomas O’Donnell and Joseph Devlin.
A large majority of the Irish Volunteers followed Redmond’s call. In all, 206,000 Irishmen fought in the British forces during World War I. Of these, 58,000 had already enlisted in the army or navy before the war broke out. Half of the Irishmen who enlisted in the first year were from what is now the Republic of Ireland; the other half from what is now Northern Ireland. It was the greatest deployment of armed manpower in Irish military history.
Some of Redmond’s Volunteers enlisted in regiments in the 10th and 16th Divisions, while many members of the Ulster Volunteer Force joined regiments in the 36th (Ulster) Division. However, most Irish recruits lacked military training to become officers, and with the exception of Major-General Sir William Bernard Hickie, from Terryglass, Co Tipperary, the 16th was led by English officers.
The 10th Division was the first Irish Division to take part in the war, under the command of General Sir Bryan Mahon, from Belleville, Co Galway. This division was sent to Gallipoli and took part on 7 August 1915 in the disastrous landing at Cape Helles and the August offensive. Irish battalions suffered extremely heavy losses among the Royal Munster Fusiliers, and the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. From Suvla, the division was moved in September to Thessaloniki, where it remained for two years.
In September 1917, the 10th moved to Egypt and fought in the Third Battle of Gaza, which broke Turkish resistance in southern Palestine. In 1918, the division was split between the Middle East and the Western Front.
The 16th Division spent most of World War I on the Western Front. At the 2nd Battle of Ypres in May 1915, the 2nd Royal Dublin Fusiliers were nearly wiped out as a result of a German-initiated poison gas attack. Until March 1916, the 16th was commanded by Henry Wilson, who had called them “Johnnie Redmond’s pets.” Hickie, who replaced Wilson, called them as “riff-raff Redmondites,” but was more diplomatic and tactful and later spoke with pride of his command.
In July 1916, the 16th suffered heavy casualties at the Somme. The battle began early on 1 July 1916 and the day ended with a total of 60,000 allied casualties, of whom 20,000 were killed in action. The 36th (Ulster) Division suffered 5,500 casualties and 2,000 of these were killed in action. The 1st Royal Dublin Fusiliers fought next to the 36th and counted 147 casualties – 22 killed and 64 missing in action. The 2nd Royal Dublin Fusiliers lost 14 of their 23 officers, and 311 out 480 in other ranks.
The battle continued until the following November. The former MP Tom Kettle, a barrister and Professor of Economics at UCD, was among those killed at the Somme. Irish soldiers also fought at the Somme in the Royal Irish Rifles, Royal Irish Fusiliers, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, Royal Irish Regiment, and four battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers.
In 1917, the 16th fought at the Battle of Messines alongside the 36th (Ulster) Division, and at Passchendaele and Ypres. Messines saw the largest-ever concentration of Irish soldiers on a battlefield. Among those killed in the advance was John Redmond’s 56-year-old brother, Major Willie Redmond. By mid-August, the 16th counted over 4,200 casualties and the 36th had almost 3,600 casualties, or more than 50 per cent of its numbers. The losses were so heavy that when the 16th was reconstituted in England the only original battalion left was the 5th Royal Irish Fusiliers.
The 36th included three existing Irish regiments: the Royal Irish Fusiliers, the Royal Irish Rifles and the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. The division fought on the Western Front throughout the war, and included men from all nine counties of Ulster. Apart from the Somme, the division’s other battles included Cambrai, Messines and two at Ypres (1917), Ypres (1918).
Irish regiments and VCs
Irish regiments in the British army also included the Connaught Rangers, the Leinster Regiment, the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, the Royal Irish Fusiliers, the Royal Irish Regiment, the Royal Irish Rifles and the Royal Munster Fusiliers. In addition, there were Irish regiments based outside Ireland, including the Royal Irish Dragoon Guards, the King’s Royal Irish Hussars, the Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars, the Irish Guards, the Liverpool Irish, the London Irish Rifles, the Royal Irish Artillery, the Royal Irish Lancers, the Royal Irish Rangers, the Tyneside Irish Brigade, the Royal Irish Regiment and the London Irish.
In all, there were 37 Irish VCs in World War I. Lieutenant Maurice Dease from Coole, Co Westmeath, was the first British soldier to be awarded the VC on 23 August 1914, the first day of engagement by the British army. He was killed as he continued to operate a machine gun despite being shot four times at the Battle of Mons.
One of the last Irish VCs was Sergeant-Major Martin Doyle from New Ross, Co Wexford. He was awarded a VC in September 1918, but later he fought in the War of Independence.
By the end of the war, the attitude at home towards Irish soldiers in the British army had changed completely in the aftermath of the Easter Rising in 1916. The poet Francis Ledwidge, who died at Ypres in 1917, wrote after the Easter Rising: “If someone were to tell me now that the Germans were coming in over our back wall, I wouldn’t lift a finger to stop them. They could come!”
The Armistice on 11 November 1918 brought an end to World War I. But the war also brought about the fall of the German, Russian, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires, and the map of Europe was redrawn.
When the Irish divisions were demobilised, about 100,000 veterans returned to Ireland. But another 70,000-80,000 never returned home. There was high unemployment in Ireland, and the rising militant nationalism was hostile to the men who had served in the British forces.
Counting the dead
The number of Irish deaths is officially recorded as 27,405. However, the numbers may be higher, and the National War Memorial at Islandbridge in Dublin is dedicated “to the memory of the 49,400 Irish soldiers who gave their lives in the Great War, 1914-1918.”
In 1927, the Irish government donated £50,000 in 1927 towards a Great War Memorial. But it was located in Islandbridge, outside the city centre, rather than in Merrion Square. It was not until 2006, on the 90th anniversary of the Somme, that the Irish state held an official commemoration for the Irish dead of World War I.
Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This essays and these photographs were first published in July 2014 in the Church Review (Dublin and Glendalough) and the Diocesan Magazine (Cashel, Ferns and Ossory).
Dancing and mourning with
each other in the cycle of life
Saint Bartholomew’s Church,
Clyde Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4,
Sunday 6 July 2014,
The Third Sunday after Trinity,
11 a.m.: The Parish Eucharist.
Genesis 24: 34-38, 42-49, 58-67; or Zechariah 9: 9-12; Psalm 45: 10-17 or Psalm 145: 8-14; Romans 7: 15-25a; Matthew 11: 16-19, 25-30.
May I speak to you in the name of + the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
If confession is good for the soul, then let me confess I have stayed up too late, far too late, too many nights during the past few weeks.
I have found this year’s World Cup gripping entertainment.
Even though Ireland did not qualify, I thought it was worth following our nearest and best neighbours, even to the point of watching the match against Costa Rica when the result was not going to make one whit of difference.
And I followed Greece to the bitter end too … once again against Costa Rica.
I have stayed up far too late, on too many nights, even last night (once again watching Costa Rica), watching teams battle it out in extra time and at penalty shoot-outs.
Even if I have not flown any flags nor had my face painted, I really have entered into the spirit of this year’s World Cup.
Entering into the spirit of a game moves us from being mere spectators to feeling we truly are participants … that every shout and every roar is a passionate response, is true encouragement, that is wish fulfilment … the more passion the more we not only hope but believe that our team is going to win.
When we go to weddings and funerals … and as a priest I get my fair share of weddings and funerals … when we go to weddings and funerals, the attitude we go with makes a world of difference: do I go as a spectator or as a participant?
Imagine going to a funeral and failing to offer sympathy to those who are grieving and mourning.
Shortly after my ordination, I was asked to officiate at my first wedding. Initially, I declined the invitation to go to the reception afterwards, until someone chided me gently and asked me: are you at this wedding as a spectator or as a participant?
Perhaps, as a new curate, I was too worried about sending out the wrong signals. If I stood back, would I be reproached for not eating and drinking with the people I was there to serve (see Matthew 11: 18)? If I went, would I be seen as being too interested in eating and drinking (verse 19; cf Romans 7: 15-16)?
But it was never about me, surely. It was only ever about the couple getting married.
Recently, a student in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute was telling me about her parish placement as an ordinand. Initially, she was uncomfortable with the style of worship and the theological emphasis of the parish she was placed in. But the parish reacted to her warmly and gently. And as the weeks rolled over she realised she had moved from being an observer on Sunday mornings, to being an engaged visitor, to being a participant.
When we join in waves and chants at a match, join in the dance at weddings, sing the hymns and enter into the prayers at another church, we are moving from being observers and spectators to being participants. And the great opportunity for this transformation is provided Sunday after Sunday here, not at the Liturgy but in the Liturgy.
If you have been to the Middle East, or have just seen Fiddler on the Roof, you know that dancing at Jewish weddings was traditionally a male celebration. I have seen at funerals in Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean that the open mourning and weeping is usually expressed on behalf of the community by women in particular.
Indeed, we know since classical times how a man’s worth in life was once counted by the number of women crying at his funeral.
These traditions were passed on through the generations by children learning from adults and by children teaching each other.
In this morning’s Gospel reading, we see how Christ has noticed this in the streets and the back alleys as he moves through the towns and cities, probably in Galilee and along the Mediterranean shore.
He sees the children playing, the boys playing wedding dances, and the girls playing funeral wailing and mourning.
He notices the ways in which children can reproach each other for not joining in their playfulness:
We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn. (verse 17)
Even as he speaks there is playfulness in the way Jesus phrases his observation poetically. There is humour in the way he uses Greek words that rhyme for dance and mourn at the end of each line of the children’s taunts:
καὶ οὐκ ὠρχήσασθε:
καὶ οὐκ ἐκόψασθε.
Perhaps he was repeating an everyday rebuke in Greek at the time for people who stand back from what others are doing. We might put poetic rhyme on his lips here:
A wedding song we played for you,
The dance you did but scorn.
A woeful dirge we chanted too,
But then you would not mourn.
The boys playing tin whistles and tin drums are learning to become adult men. The girls wailing and beating their breasts in mock weeping are learning to become adult women. Each group is growing into the roles and rituals that will be expected of them when they mature.
Like all good children’s games, the point is the game, not who wins.
Do you remember the games you played as a child? They now seem silly and pointless. But when you were a child they mattered as a communal and community experience. The fun was not because there was anything to win. The fun was in taking part. And in taking part we were helped in the process of growing and maturing and making the transition from childhood to adolescence, and from adolescence to adulthood.
To and fro, back and forth, these boys and girls in the market place play the games of weddings and funerals.
The music they play shifts and changes its tones and tunes. This endless, pointless, repetition is their inherited way of learning and socialising. Their playfulness ensures their tradition and culture is reinforced and is handed on to the next generation.
But if the boys make music and the girls do not dance, if the girls wail, and the boys do not weep, how can they have a shared story, a shared adulthood, a shared culture, a shared future, a shared humanity?
When we refuse to take part in the game, in the ritual, we refuse to take part in the shaping of society, we are denying our shared culture.
When reciprocity collapses, we are denying our shared humanity.
We can become paralysed by our inability to enter into the game of others. And then the game turns from song and dance to what we might call “the blame game.”
It is so easy when I withdraw from the social activities of others to blame them.
Yes, there is a time for dancing and a time for mourning: each has its proper place, and they flow into each other, like the children’s game when it is working. But when vanity gets in the way, there is a break-down in our understanding of time and of humanity.
If I stand back detached, and remain a mere observer of the joys and sorrow in the lives of others, I am not sharing in their humanity.
And in not sharing in your humanity, I am failing to acknowledge that you too are made in the image and likeness of God.
But when we rejoice with people in their joys, and when we mourn with people in their sorrows, we are putting into practice what the doctrine of the Trinity teaches us about us being not only made in the image and likeness of God individually but communally and collectively too as humanity.
And so, may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.
Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This sermon was preached at the Parish Eucharist in Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Ballsbridge, Dublin, on Sunday 6 July 2014.
you have broken the tyranny of sin
and have sent the Spirit of your Son into our hearts
whereby we call you Father:
Give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service,
that we and all creation may be brought
to the glorious liberty of the children of God;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Post Communion Prayer:
whose beauty is beyond our imagining
and whose power we cannot comprehend:
Give us a glimpse of your glory on earth
but shield us from knowing more than we can bear
until we may look upon you without fear;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour.
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