Tuesday, 1 March 2016

‘Lichfield ... I have just arrived’

‘Lichfield ... I have just arrived.’ An old postcard (Courtesy Dave Gallagher/You’re probably from Lichfield, Staffs, if ...)

Patrick Comerford

There is a wonderful network on Facebook called ‘You’re probably from Lichfield, Staffs, if ...’

The group members and activists, particularly Dave Gallagher and others such as Trevor Morrison, John Clarke, John Godley and Jayne Preston, regularly post old photographs, postcards, cuttings from the Lichfield Mercury and programmes, and other memorabilia from Lichfield, as well as beautiful photographs of Lichfield today.

The next meeting of the group is at 7 p.m. this evening [1 March 2016], at Lichfield Social Club on Purcell Avenue, with photographs and memorabilia of Lichfield, and informal meeting to meet old and new friends, tea and coffee, and a quiz about Lichfield.

Dave recently posted this old postcard of Lichfield, and it seems appropriate to repost it as I arrived back in Lichfield earlier today for a days with family, cousins and friends.

Previous arrangements mean I cannot get to this evening’s meeting, but it’s worth trying to get there if you live in Lichfield.

I am staying in the Hedgehog Vintage Inn on Stafford Road, and looking forward to lengthy meals in some of my favourite restaurants, some walks in the countryside along Cross in Hand Lane behind the Hedgehog, or walks along Beacon Street into the centre of Lichfield.

I hope to attend some of the services in Lichfield Cathedral tomorrow to mark Saint Chad’s Day [2 March 2016], and might enjoy showing off some of my favourite places in Lichfield, including Lichfield Cathedral, Vicar’s Close, the Cathedral Close, the chapel in Saint John’s Hospital, the site of the old Franciscan Friary, the museum in Saint Mary’s, Darwin House, the Guildhall, Stowe Pool and Minster Pool, the Samuel John Birthplace and Museum – considering I am blogging my reflections on Samuel Johnson each morning during Lent this year.

There may even be a chance to visit the little-known Roman site at Wall in the countryside south of Lichfield.

Sunset at Stowe Pool and Lichfield Cathedral on Sunday night (Photograph: Rob Ings/You’re probably from Lichfield, Staffs, if ...)

A journey through Lent 2016
with Samuel Johnson (21)

‘London: A Poem in Imitation of the Third Satire of Juvenal’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

During Lent this year, I am taking time each morning to reflect on words from Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the Lichfield lexicographer and writer who compiled the first authoritative English-language dictionary.

I am spending a few family days in Lichfield this week. Today [1 March 2016] is Saint David’s Day, celebrating the patron saint of Wales. In 1738, Johnson wrote a poem in which he writes about leaving London for Cambria or Wales. In this poem, ‘London: A Poem in Imitation of the Third Satire of Juvenal,’ he also refers to his friend ‘Thales’ or Richard Savage, who had left London to travel to Wales.

This poem was Johnson’s first major published work and runs to 238 lines. Here he describes the many problems of a decadent London, emphasising its corruption, crime and the squalor suffered by the poor. To highlight this message, Johnson created beings that were to seek out and destroy London; so he personified these very abstract problems. Johnson named these beings as Malice, Rapine, and Accident, these names tie in with their mission, to conspire and attack those who live in London.

In this poem, Johnson then resolves to leave London, and

To breathe in distant fields a purer air,
And, fixed on Cambria’s solitary shore,
Give to St David one true Briton more.


Ellie Gray, who is on work experience at the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum and Bookshop in Lichfield, has been researching this poem in her quest to know more about this great literary figure. She points out that in his youth Johnson was influenced by the Roman poet Juvenal, and had a personal fondness for him. But he was following a popular trend in the 18th century, with the arrival of ‘Augustan literates,’ headed by Alexander Pope.

Augustan literature is associated with the first half of the 18th century, from the reign of Queen Anne (1702-1714) to the reign of King George II (1727-1760). The term ‘Augustan’ refers to King George I’s desire to be compared to the Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar, when poetry and the arts flourished. These Augustan writers, essayists and poets in the 18th century favoured imitations of classical poets.

In Ellie Gray’s chosen poem, Johnson begins:

Though grief and fondness in my breast rebel,
When injured Thales bids the town farewell,
Yet still my calmer thoughts his choice commend,
I praise the hermit, but regret the friend,
Resolved at length, from vice and London far,
To breathe in distant fields a purer air,
And, fixed on Cambria’s solitary shore,
Give to St David one true Briton more.


To read the rest of this poem and to discover its captivating past, visit the Johnson Museum in Lichfield and find out more.

Yesterday’s reflection.

Continued tomorrow.


Thinking about 1916 and 2016:
the centenary commemorations

The GPO in O’Connell Street, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

For easy access, these are links to some of my recent postings related to the Easter Rising in 1916 and the centenary commemorations this year [2016]:

1, 1916: Finding a voice for the Church of Ireland (20 February 2016): my lecture in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick on 20 February 2016.

2, Dispelling the myths while we remember the events of 1916 (6 March 2016): my monthly column in Church Review (Dublin and Glendalough), looking at the events in 1916 and the consequences for how we read history today.

3, Criticism over impact of 1916 events on Christ Church service (23 February 2016): a report in The Irish Times on 23 February 2016 on my lecture in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick on 20 February 2016.

4, 1916: Finding a voice for the Church of Ireland (5 March 2016): a report in the March 2016 edition of Newslink, the Limerick and Killaloe Diocesan Magazine, on my lecture in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick on 20 February 2016.

5, Remembering the events of 1916 (21 September 2015): the introduction to the resources produced by the Liturgical Advisory Committee of the Church of Ireland for commemorations.

6, Press Releases / Dispelling the Myths While We Remember the Events of 1916: the Dublin and Glendalough Diocesan Website version of my column in the Church Review, March 2016.

Charles Comerford and Adelaide Margaret Field on their wedding day in 1910 … he was the only member of the Comerford family in the GPO during Easter Week 1916 (Photograph courtesy Angela Marks)

7, The role of members of the Comerford family in the events of Easter 1916 (28 March 2016): stories about members of the Comerford family who were caught up in the events of 1916, in various factions with a variety of experiences.

8,Surgeons and Insurgents’ – a 1916 exhibition at the College of Surgeons (5 April 2016): a look at the exhibition ‘Surgeons and Insurgents’ in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, with particular focus on the live of one surgeon, Sir Thomas Myles, and one insurgent, Sergeant Joe Doyle of the Irish Citizen Army.

9, Missing a unique event recalling a pacifist voice in Easter 1916 (9 April 2016): My reflections on an event marking the 100th anniversary of the illegal execution of Francis Sheehy-Skeffington in Easter Week 1916, and a visit to the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, which was a baracks and military hospital in 1916 and during World War I.

10, A walk on the beach and meeting the extended family in Co Wexford (12 April 2016): a personal account of attending a commemoration of Máire Comerford and her role in 1916 at Hollyfort, Co Wexford.

11, ‘1916: Tales from the Other Side’ – an exhibition in Marsh’s Library (12 April 2016): a review of the exhibition in Marsh’s Library, Dublin.


12, Rubicon 2016: ‘1916–2016: Before, Between and Beyond … Ireland: 100 Years On’ (16 April, 2016): the prepared text for my talk on the 1916 commemorations and Ireland 100 years after 1916 at the Rubicon conference in Dublin.

13, Speaking about 1916 at the Rubicon Conference (22 July 2016): The video clip of my talk on the 1916 commemorations and Ireland 100 years after 1916 at the Rubicon conference in Dublin.

14, ‘1916–2016: Before, Between and Beyond’ – speaking at Rubicon 100 years after 1916 (14 April 2016): my ‘curtain-raiser’ on speaking on 1916 and 2016 at the Rubicon conference.

15, Remembering 1916: ‘they shall beat their swords into ploughshares’ (24 April 2016): a sermon in Christ Church, Taney, at a Service of Commemoration of the Easter Rising, 1916.

16, Remembering 1916: ‘nation shall not lift up sword against nation’ (24 April 2016): a sermon in Saint Nahi’s Church, Dundrum, at a Service of Commemoration of the Easter Rising, 1916.

17, How Irish do I have to be before I answer ‘Irish’ on the census form? (25 April 2016): A tongue-in-cheek look at the 2016 census return forms, asking how Pearse, de Valera and Markievicz might have answered some of the questions I had difficulty with.

18, Finding a distant family link to a battle during the 1916 Rising (26 April 2016): the story of Thomasina Lynders, her sister and two brothers, who involved in 1916 Rising; her husband was a second cousin of my grandmother.

19, New on-line collection shows how three Comerfords responded in 1916 (27 April 2016): the story of three members of the Comerford family and why they sought compensation in 1916 for damage to two shop premises and to church buildings in Dublin during Easter Week.

20, Former Comerford house in Rathgar with an Easter 1916 story is for sale (5 September 2016): the story of Charles Comerford of Kenilworth Square, Rathgar, who worked in the GPO in 1916, and the sale of his family home in Rathgar 100 years later.

21, Little remains of the former 1916 prison camp in Frongoch (1 May 1916): a visit to Frongoch, the prison camp in north Wales where 1,800 Irish prisoners were held after the Easter rising in 1916.

22, Another 1916 anniversary – the day my grandfather was sent home from the war (3 May 2016): the story of how my grandfather, Stephen Edward Comerford, contracted malaria in Thessaloniki and was discharged from the Royal Dublin Fusiliers on 3 May 1916, the day the first leaders of the Easter Rising were executed, and was sent back to Dublin as the political atmosphere became deeply polarised.

23, ‘The Doctor, the Countess and the Organist: 1916 tales from Saint John’s, Sandymount’ (31 July 2016): how the events of 1916, including the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme, had an impact on the lives of parishioners in Saint John’s, Sandymount.

24, It was the summer before the ‘Summer of Love’. But did I learn much Irish in Kerry? (23 July 2016): Personal recollections of the 1916 commemorations in 1966, and their influences on my attitudes as a teenager.

25, A romantic Edwardian wedding story points to the former grandeur of Bellingham Castle (3 August 2016): Part 1 of the story of the Bellinghams of Castlebellingham, Co Louth, and how the events of World War I and 1916 changed their lives.

26, Despite wars and a century of change, Bellingham Castle retains its grandeur (4 August 2016): Part 2 of the story of the Bellinghams of Castlebellingham, Co Louth, and how the events of World War I and 1916 changed their lives.

27, The forgotten surgeon who masterminded the Kilcoole gunrunning 100 years ago (4 May 2014): the story of Sir Thomas Myles, who organised the Kilcoole gunrunning in 1914 and later became honorary surgeon to King George V and an officer in the Royal Army Medical Corps.

28, Sir Thomas Myles (1857-1937): surgeon and forgotten organiser of the Kilcoole gunrunning (1914) (17 July 2014): my lecture on Sir Thomas Myles for Kilcoole Heritage Group in Kilcoole Golf Course Club House, Kilcoole, Co Wicklow, on 17 July 2014.

29, Church History (2014-2015, part-time) 7.3: Challenging myths and memories (3): The Decade of Commemorations and centenaries: how history shapes the Church agenda today (15 May 2015): a lecture on the MTh programme looking at 1916 and the decade of commemorations.

30, The Revd Professor RM Gwynn (1877-1962): priest (19 September 2013): a lecture at a seminar in Whitechurch Parish, Dublin, on the centenary of the 1913 lockout, on the Revd Professor RM Gwynn, a founding member of the Irish Citizen Army.

31, 1916 Commemoration Services in Dublin parishes (3 June 2016): a news report by Nigel Pierpoint in the Church of Ireland Gazette on the sermons I preached in Christ Church, Taney, and Saint Nahi’s, Dundrum, on 24 April 2016.

32, The Victorian legacy of a lodge in a corner in Saint Stephen’s Green (5 December 2016): the Park Superintendent’s Lodge in Saint Stephen’s Green had an interesting place in the events of Easter Week 1916.

This page is being updated during 2016. It was last updated on 5 December 2016.