13 February 2015

Talking about history, memories, war and vision
in the chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield

Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, with the Master’s House and the chapel on the left … the location for five films made by Dave Moore (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

I spent a day working in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, last month [16 January 2015] being interviewed for a series of films by the historian, photographer and filmmaker David Moore.

Dave studied public history at Ruskin College, Oxford, and we first met when I was leading a guided walking tour of the Cathedral Close, Lichfield, and lecturing on the history of the close at the invitation of the local history group, Lichfield Discovered.

He is passionate about public history, and the need to hear the voice of local people and their memories of history in their area. One definition says: “Public History is history that is seen, heard, read, and interpreted by a popular audience. Public historians expand on the methods of academic history by emphasising non-traditional evidence and presentation formats, reframing questions, and in the process creating a distinctive historical practice … Public history is also history that belongs to the public. By emphasising the public context of scholarship, public history trains historians to transform their research to reach audiences outside the academy.”

The Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital has played a crucial role in the development of my faith and in the beginning of my sense of a call to ordination to the priesthood.

Over the course of many hours in the chapel, Dave asked me about my values and beliefs and how they were first shaped in Lichfield, my memories of Lichfield, my family connections with the cathedral city, my life story from a defining moment in the chapel of Saint John’s, through a career in journalism that took me from the Lichfield Mercury to the Wexford People and The Irish Times, my call to ordination and the priesthood, and my views about war, peace and nationalism.

These five films were made in association with the local history and environment groups, Lichfield Discovered and the Friends of Sandfields Pumping Station, and with the hospitality of Canon Andrew Gorham, Master of Saint John’s Hospital, and the staff and residents of Saint John’s.

A Self Defining Moment

The first in this series of films is A Self Defining Moment, was published on 21 January 2015. In this film, I talk to David Moore talk about my own self-defining moment, and the scenic route I took to ordination and priesthood.

I first arrived in Lichfield in my teens, and began his career in journalism as a freelance contributor to the local newspaper, the Lichfield Mercury. I continue to be grateful for the encouragement and opportunities provided by the Lichfield Mercury and its then editor, Neil Beddows, in the early 1970s.

Lichfield and the Comerfords

The second film, Lichfield and the Comerfords, was published on 21 January 2015. In this film, I talk to Dave Moore about my connection with Lichfield and my links with the Comberford family.

I originally came to Lichfield following in the footsteps of my great-grandfather, James Comerford, about 70 years earlier. Like him, I was seeking the story of the origins of the Comberford family, which was intimately linked with Lichfield for many generations, spanning centuries of the history of the family.

The Vision

The Vision is the third in this series of films. It was published on 26 January 2015, and has been described by Dave Moore as a “very powerful and moving film.”

In this film, I talk about my grandfather, Stephen Comerford, and the impact that World War I had on him.

The Causes of War

The fourth in this series of films, The Causes of War, was published on 12 February 2015. In this episode, I talk about the causes of war, and the impact of nationalism.

Here Dave gives me an opportunity to develop some of the ideas I had spoken about in a short film made for Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, last year [2014] as part of the commemorations there marking the centenary of World War I.


Humanity is the fifth and final film in the series. In this last episode, I talk to David about those personal feelings that define my views of humanity, and how I answered the call to ordained ministry in the Anglican tradition.

Dave and I worked for most of that day in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital before heading off to a late lunch in the centre of Lichfield. I am looking forward to returning to Lichfield and to Saint John’s later this year to preach at the Patronal Festival Eucharist on the Feast of the Birth of Saint John the Baptist [24 June 2015].

Updated: 14 March 2015 following the production of the fifth film in this series.


Unknown said...

I my name is jeoffrey Warren i live in Stoke on Trent i would like to meet up with patrick comerford to have a chat about my life as a child in beacon school Lichfield i would have been 4 years old then till 16 i am now 71 but for sum reason the old school keeps coming into my head good times but some bad so i thought Patrick may help thank you. J Warren could you please email me if you like at fairyfeet9@gmail.com

Jo Bentley said...

I came across your website after searching online for a translation of 'Thermopylae', as the poem seems a fitting response to the results of the General Election in the UK.
Your blog on Cavafy is excellent, I love his work, it led me to visit Alexandria which is a beautiful city. He has much to tell us about how little human beings really change, it's a shame he is not better known.

Anonymous said...

Dear Patrick,

Thank you for the article on Ardagh House.
I do however have some questions about some of the information.
Is it possible to ask you or you are too busy or it is impractical for you to answer questions on your posts?

If you can, how can I get in touch?
I am not on facebook.

Thank you,
Bernard Hughes

Patrick Comerford said...

Thank you Bernard. I don't make my email address available on this site, but if you send another comment with your email address, I can see it is not made public on this site and still reply to you. Patrick

Naomi Calligaro said...

What evidence is there, please, that Dr Erasmus Darwin attended Anna Maria Edgeworth on her deathbed? I have read numerous accounts of her death, but no other account makes reference to Dr. Erasmus Darwin attending her on her deathbed. As Dr. Darwin lived approximately a two day coachride from where she died, and her husband was away in France at the time, it seems improbable that Dr. Darwin attended her. Dr. Darwin did however treat Richard Lovell Edgeworth's next wife, Honora, who died of consumption (TB) some years later.