Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Former creamery buildings are
part of Rathkeale’s heritage

The former creamery buildings date back almost two centuries (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

In searching for the architectural heritage of Rathkeale, it is easy to pay attention to the Georgian houses and historical buildings such as the churches, castles and convent, the schools, the former courthouse and vacant cinema, the shops and the old pubs, or the five-arched bridge over the River Deel dating from 1747 and the former railway station.

But Rathkeale also has an interesting architectural heritage in its old industrial and commercial buildings, such as the banks and the old buildings associated with the disused gasworks and the former creamery.

The former creamery buildings, which are almost two centuries old, are now incorporated into the Kerry Agribusiness Farm Store on Rathkeale’s Main Street, close to the bridge over the River Deel.

The principal building in this complex is the detached former creamery, built around 1820. This is a three-bay, two-storey block with a lower four-bay two-storey block to the north-west. It has pitched slate roofs with a rendered eaves course, and rendered walls.

Throughout the building there are square-headed openings, which had bipartite timber sliding sash windows until recent years. The square-headed opening on the first floor of the north-west block also had a fixed timber multiple pane window. The bipartite timber sash windows once added interest to the façade of the building, but have been removed in the past decade.

There are square-headed openings at the ground floor level with metal doors, and a rubble stone boundary wall to the north-west.

These tall buildings retain much of their form and materials. Their simple design, scale and size are characteristic of warehouses and stores of their era, but they also mean that it is easy to overlook the potential of this site while walking through Rathkeale.

Praying in Advent with USPG
and Lichfield Cathedral
(11): 13 December 2017

Celebrating her faith, a woman declares her faith at a market in Elmina in Ghana … the USPG Prayer Diary this week is sharing reflections and experiences from Ghana

Patrick Comerford

We are in the second week of Advent. Today [13 December], the Church Calendar commemorates Saint Lucy, or Lucia of Syracuse (283-304), a young Christian martyr who died during the persecution of the Emperor Diocletian.

This day once coincided with the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, before calendar reforms, so the feast day of Saint Lucy became a festival of light, in which she is celebrated as the bearer of light in the darkness of winter.

Her feast day was commonly described as the shortest day of the year, as it is in John Donne’s poem, ‘A Nocturnal upon St. Lucie’s Day, being the shortest day’ (1627). The poem begins with: ‘’Tis the year’s midnight, and it is the day’s.’

In celebrations in Scandinavian countries, a young girl is dressed in a white dress and a red sash as the symbol of martyrdom, and she carries palms and wears a crown or wreath of candles on her head in procession as songs are sung.

John Myatt's mural on a wall in Bird Street, Lichfield, commemorating Samuel Johnson (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The Calendar in Common Worship in the Church of England today also recalls Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the Lichfield-born lexicographer and writer.

In his Dictionary, first published in 1755, Samuel Johnson offers a definition of Advent in these words: ‘The name of one of the holy seasons, signifying the coming; that is, the coming of our Saviour: which is made the subject of our devotion during the four weeks before Christmas.’

Throughout this season of Advent, I am spending a short time of prayer and reflection each morning, using the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency, USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) and the Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar from Lichfield Cathedral.

USPG, founded in 1701, is an Anglican mission agency supporting churches around the world in their mission to bring fullness of life to the communities they serve.

Under the title Pray with the World Church, the current prayer diary (22 October 2017 to 10 February 2018), offers prayers and reflections from the Anglican Communion.

This week, the Prayer Diary continues its Advent series, looking at how the church is reaching out to mothers and babies through ‘a USPG-supported Anglican health programme in Ghana that has helped to eradicate cholera in parts of the Cape Coast.

In the Prayer Diary on Sunday, Gloria, told her story and how she had benefitted from this programme.

The USPG Prayer Diary:

Wednesday 13 December 2017:


Pray for all mothers and children in Ghana who struggle to access health services and information.

The shrine of Saint Lucy in Syracuse in Sicily (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Lichfield Cathedral Advent and Devotional Calendar:

The calendar suggests lighting your Advent candle each day as you read the Bible and pray.

Today, the calendar suggests reading Matthew 21: 28-32.

The reflection for today suggests:

Saint Lucy is the ‘light bearer’. Pray for strength and joy in God’s service, to be obedient to the Gospel, for us to be ‘light bearers’.

Readings (Revised Common Lectionary, the Church of Ireland, Holy Communion):

Isaiah 40: 25-31; Psalm 103: 8-13; and Matthew 11: 28-30.

The Collect of the Second Sunday of Advent:

Father in heaven,
who sent your Son to redeem the world
and will send him again to be our judge:
Give us grace so to imitate him
in the humility and purity of his first coming
that when he comes again,
we may be ready to greet him with joyful love and firm faith;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Advent Collect:

Almighty God,
Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light
now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post-Communion Prayer:

Lord,
here you have nourished us with the food of life.
Through our sharing in this holy sacrament
teach us to judge wisely earthly things
and to yearn for things heavenly.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

The Sisters of Mercy have
left but Saint Anne’s Convent
is still a part of Rathkeale

Saint Anne’s Convent remains part of the architectural streetscape of Rathkeale (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

One of Leonard Cohen’s earliest hit songs opens with the line:

Oh the sisters of mercy, they are not departed or gone.

The Sisters of Mercy left Rathkeale over four years ago, but the convent they built soon after their arrival in Rathkeale in 1850 remains a landmark building on Thomas Street.

Saint Anne’s, the former Convent of Mercy, forms an interesting ecclesiastical and architectural group with the neighbouring Roman Catholic parish church, Saint Mary’s Church.

The form and detailing of the former convent mark out this building on the streetscape of Rathkeale. The gabled bay is characteristic of convent buildings of its time, along with the stone quoins, the cross finial and the lancet recess.

The size and scale of the building give it an imposing appearance that is complemented by the boundary railings. The rubble stone boundary wall behind the convent on the west side has a pointed arch entrance set in a slight projection and once surmounted by a carved and dated cross with raised lettering.

The convent, which predates Saint Mary’s Church, was built around 1850, when the Sisters of Mercy first arrived in Rathkeale.

Saint Anne’s is a detached, seven-bay, two-storey building, with a projecting gabled north bay at the front on Thomas Street or east and the west or rear elevations and a three-bay two-storey hipped-roofed block to the north side.

A statue of Saint Michael vanquishing the devil remains in front of the former convent (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

After more than a century and a half in the town, the Sisters of Mercy left Rathkeale in April 2013. Neighbouring Saint Mary’s Church was thronged for a special Mass before the last three nuns left Saint Anne’s Convent.

Sister Jerome Darcy arrived in Rathkeale in 1958, Sister Joseph Conway was at Saint Anne’s for 25 years and Sister Mary Galvin had been there for nine years. Sister Jerome and Sister Mary moved to their community’s house in Westbourne in Limerick city, while Sister Joseph moved to Mount Saint Vincent on O’Connell Street, Limerick.

The three Sisters were joined for the Mass and celebration by other members of the community who had served in Rathkeale down through the years. The Mass was celebrated by the parish priest of Rathkeale, Father Alphonsus Cullinan, now the Bishop of Waterford and Lismore.

Later, at a reception in the Rathkeale House Hotel, presentations were made to each nun who had lived in Rathkeale.

The convent building is now vacant, but it remains diocesan or parochial property. Behind the old convent building, the pointed arch entrance remains, but the carved and dated cross with raised lettering that once stood above the gate have since gone missing.

The arched gate remains behind the convent, but the carved and dated cross that once stood above it are now missing (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Praying in Advent with USPG
and Lichfield Cathedral
(10): 12 December 2017

Local industry and fishing boats near Cape Coast Castle, Ghana … the USPG Prayer Diary this week is sharing reflections and experiences from Ghana

Patrick Comerford

We are in the second week of Advent.

Throughout this season of Advent, I am spending a short time of prayer and reflection each morning, using the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency, USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) and the Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar from Lichfield Cathedral.

USPG, founded in 1701, is an Anglican mission agency supporting churches around the world in their mission to bring fullness of life to the communities they serve.

Under the title Pray with the World Church, the current prayer diary (22 October 2017 to 10 February 2018), offers prayers and reflections from the Anglican Communion.

This week, the Prayer Diary continues its Advent series, looking at how the church is reaching out to mothers and babies through ‘a USPG-supported Anglican health programme in Ghana that has helped to eradicate cholera in parts of the Cape Coast.

In the Prayer Diary on Sunday, Gloria, told her story and how she had benefitted from this programme.

The USPG Prayer Diary:

Tuesday 12 December 2017:


Give thanks for the success of the Anglican Church’s health programme in Ghana that has helped to eradicate cholera in many parts of Africa (see article).

How do we make his ways our ways? … tracks in the snow in the Cathedral Close in Lichfield on Sunday evening (Photograph: Steve Johnson, 2017)

Lichfield Cathedral Advent and Devotional Calendar:

The calendar suggests lighting your Advent candle each day as you read the Bible and pray.

Today, the calendar suggests reading Matthew 21: 23-27.

The reflection for today suggests:

Jesus faced constant opposition. Think how he answered his critics. How do we make his ways our ways?

Readings (Revised Common Lectionary, the Church of Ireland, Holy Communion):

Isaiah 40: 1-11; Psalm 96: 1, 10-13; and Matthew 18: 12-14.

The Collect of the Second Sunday of Advent:

Father in heaven,
who sent your Son to redeem the world
and will send him again to be our judge:
Give us grace so to imitate him
in the humility and purity of his first coming
that when he comes again,
we may be ready to greet him with joyful love and firm faith;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Advent Collect:

Almighty God,
Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light
now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post-Communion Prayer:

Lord,
here you have nourished us with the food of life.
Through our sharing in this holy sacrament
teach us to judge wisely earthly things
and to yearn for things heavenly.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Catching a glimpse of
Mount Southwell through
winter trees and boughs

Mount Southwell seen through winter trees and boughs this morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

In my search for the ancient rath that gives its name to Rathkeale, I was mistaken in my identification of Mount Southwell, Rathkeale, and confused it with a townhouse in the centre of the town.

But today, as I went for a walk in the crisp winter sunshine, I caught a glimpse of Mount Southwell through the trees just a short stroll in Enniscoush, south of Rathkeale.

Local tradition says Mount Southwell stands on the site of the fort of Rathguala or Rath Caola. But the house I was looking for is at the end of a long drive beside Holy Trinity Church, and in the springtime and in summer months the house cannot be seen because of surrounding trees.

The name Rathkeale is a suggested anglisisation of Rathguala (Rath Caola), which is mentioned in The Book of Rights in the year 902. The name translates as ‘The fort of Caola,’ and it is said that Caola was a local king. Local tradition suggests that the location of the fort was at the back of the shrine and to the side of Mount Southwell.

During the Plantation of Munster, the lands of Rathkeale and Kilfinny were granted in 1582 to Edward Billingsley, who decided to centre his estate on the village of Kilfinny, which he renamed Knockbillingsley.

The estate was sold on to the Dowdall family, and in 1611 King James I granted Sir John Dowdall seignory of Knockbillingsley, an estate of over 4,000 acres in Co Limerick.

This estate eventually passed through marriage to the Southwell family, who had their principal residence in the area at Castle Matrix. In the 1630s, during the reign of Charles I, the lands of Rathkeale, Knockbillingsley and Kilfenny were brought together to form the Manor of Knockbillingsley or Mount Southwell, when John Southwell of Rathkeale married Anne Dowdall, eldest daughter and co-heir of Sir Thomas Dowdall and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Thomas Southwell.

Thomas Southwell, whose family inherited much of the Billingsley and Dowdall estates, invited the Palatine refugee families to Co Limerick in 1709. In all, about 120 families were introduced to local townlands, including Courtmatrix, Killeheen, Ballingrane and Pallaskenry.

Cattle grazing in the fields in front of Mount Southwell (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Archdeacon John Brown was the Rector of Rathkeale and Chancellor of Limerick from 1740 to 1746. He lived at Danesfort and Mount Brown, Co Limerick and he married Meliora Southwell, a granddaughter of the 1st Viscount Southwell.

The Brown family is descended from John Brown, an officer in the Dragoons who fled to Ireland and settled in the Dungannon area. His son, Colonel William Brown, moved to Co Clare in the early 18th century, and was the father of the Ven John Brown, Archdeacon and Chancellor of Limerick.

Archdeacon Brown’s son, John Brown of Danesfort and Mount Brown, Co Limerick, married the Hon Mellora Southwell, daughter of the 1st Viscount Southwell, and so came to live at Mount Southwell.

Members of his family become agents for the Southwell estate and they built a number of significant houses in the area. These include Mount Southwell, which was the property of the Brown family while they were agents of the Southwell family. It remains an important house Rathkeale, both architecturally and historically.

Although I did not get close enough to see the house in detail, architectural descriptions say Mount Southwell is a detached, five-bay, two-storey house, built ca 1800, with a central breakfront. I understand the house has an elliptical-headed door opening with a doorcase and fanlight, approached by a flight of steps, and a Wyatt-style window above the central doorway.

The rest of the main windows in the house are square-headed openings with timber sliding sash windows.

The house is approached through rendered square-profile piers with rendered pyramid caps, flanking a recent gate, between the shrine and Holy Trinity Church.

Francis Brown was living in this house in 1837 when Samuel Lewis visited Rathkeale, and it was still his property in the early 1850s, although it was leased to Edward John Collins. It was valued at £24.

At the time of Griffith’s Valuation, Archdeacon Brown’s grandson, John Southwell Brown, held a vast estate in the parishes of Croagh, Rathkeale, Killeenagarriff, Kilmurry and Stradbally, Co Limerick.

In March 1853, Castle Matrix and the lands at Rathkeale and Croagh were advertised for sale. They were held by John Southwell Brown from Viscount Southwell, on a lease for 99 years dated 20 September 1849.

Mount Southwell later passed by marriage to the Hill family of Graig, and more recently it was the home of the Enright family.

Fields south of Mount Southwell in the winter sunshine this morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Praying in Advent with USPG
and Lichfield Cathedral
(9): 11 December 2017

Worship at Saint James’s Anglican Church, Elmina, Ghana … the USPG Prayer Diary this week shares reflections from Ghana

Patrick Comerford

We are in the second week of Advent.

Throughout this season of Advent, I am spending a short time of prayer and reflection each morning, using the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency, USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) and the Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar from Lichfield Cathedral.

USPG, founded in 1701, is an Anglican mission agency supporting churches around the world in their mission to bring fullness of life to the communities they serve.

Under the title Pray with the World Church, the current prayer diary (22 October 2017 to 10 February 2018), offers prayers and reflections from the Anglican Communion.

This week, the Prayer Diary continues its Advent series, looking at how the church is reaching out to mothers and babies through ‘a USPG-supported Anglican health programme in Ghana that has helped to eradicate cholera in parts of the Cape Coast.’

In the Prayer Diary yesterday, Gloria, told her story and how she had benefitted from this programme.

The USPG Prayer Diary:

Monday 11 December 2017:


In this Advent period, join USPG in praying for mothers and babies around the world. This week, give thanks for health intervention in Ghana that are helping mothers like Gloria (see article).

Lichfield Cathedral and the Cathedral Close covered in snow last night (Photograph: Steve Johnson, 2017)

Lichfield Cathedral Advent and Devotional Calendar:

The calendar suggests lighting your Advent candle each day as you read the Bible and pray.

Today, the calendar suggests reading Matthew 11: 2-11.

The reflection for today suggests:

Today make a list of the things that speak of God’s love to you. Give thanks for them. Pray for the people in your life who help you see God’s love.

Readings (Revised Common Lectionary, the Church of Ireland, Holy Communion):

Isaiah 35: 1-10; Psalm 85: 7-13; and Luke 5: 17-26.

The Collect of the Second Sunday of Advent:

Father in heaven,
who sent your Son to redeem the world
and will send him again to be our judge:
Give us grace so to imitate him
in the humility and purity of his first coming
that when he comes again,
we may be ready to greet him with joyful love and firm faith;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Advent Collect:

Almighty God,
Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light
now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post-Communion Prayer:

Lord,
here you have nourished us with the food of life.
Through our sharing in this holy sacrament
teach us to judge wisely earthly things
and to yearn for things heavenly.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Charlie Comerford, a friend
and cousin who took my name
when he became an Anglican

With Charlie Comerford in Dublin Castle in 2014 (Photograph: Bill Cross)

Patrick Comerford

Charlie Comerford was more than a Facebook Friend. He became a real friend, he regarded me as his cousin, and when he became an Anglican and was received into full membership of the Episcopal Church, he asked me to be the equivalent of his godfather.

We became friends on Facebook over 7 years ago, in August 2010 through the suggestion of Rory Murphy in Bunclody, Co Wexford.

Charlie believed his great-grandfather was from Bunclody, although his birth certificate says he was born in New York, and we shared a lot of time trying to find our shared ancestors and links of kinship in Co Wexford.

Charlie’s interest in my family tree website quickly brought to reading my main website, and soon he was describing me as ‘my Anglican mentor and Comerford family genealogist!’

He rigorously read through my postings on theology, prayer, spirituality, liturgy and church history. He said his local Anglican parish priest, the Revd Robert Griner of Christ Church Episcopal Church, Newton, New Jersey, was ‘one of the two men who made an Anglican out of me … the other was distant cousin Patrick Comerford.’

He took my name as the equivalent of his ‘confirmation’ name when he was received into the Episcopal Church on 29 April 2012, by Bishop Mark Beckwith of Newark in Trinity and All Saints’ Cathedral, Newark. From then on, he gave his full name as Charles William Patrick Comerford, which was an honour and a privilege I would never have sought or requested.

Charlie frequently reposted my postings from Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, and other churches, my posts on liturgy, church history, family history, travel and even some of my sermons, as well as postings from Lichfield and travel throughout England and Europe. He became an Anglo-Catholic in his expression of his Anlicanism.

‘I really enjoy reading about your range of activities, interests, and research,’ he told me, ‘you are a Renaissance man for certain.’

Eventually, we met two years later in Dublin on May 2014. He had a quick one-day visit with his friend Bill Cross from Liverpool, and we visited Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin Castle, including the Chapel Royal and the Throne Room, Trinity College Dublin, including the Book of Kells and the Long Room, and the Mansion House.

We ended up in a pub in Temple Bar, discussing ties of kinship, Irish pubs, de Valera’s place in Irish history, and the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church (TEC), before Charlie and Bill set off to catch the last flight back to Liverpool. He left me with a copy of the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

We found we shared a number of Facebook friends, including Father Peter Pearson. He was delighted when Norman Lynas, canon residentiary of Holy Trinity Cathedral in Hamilton, Bermuda, was a visiting preacher in his parish church and realised that we had been friends and colleagues in Ireland for many years, including serving together on the board of the Church of Ireland Gazette.

He recalled, ‘I asked if he knew my distant cousin, you, and he just beamed and said he knew you very well and you were doing important work.’ And he added: ‘That made my day!’

While we did not always see Irish history and politics in the same light, we certainly shared the same outlook on recent political developments in the United States. At the end November, he shared his pleasure that Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury had spoken out about American Christians who supported Donald Trump.

In September, he made a donation in my honour towards USPG’s work in the Caribbean, and told me: ‘Thank you so much for introducing me to this gentle spirituality. It literally changed my life.’

Charlie celebrated his birthday last month, on 8 November. But recently he was spending a lot of time at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in New Jersey. He was treated for throat cancer and a chest lymph node and he visited thoracic surgeons, although he denied he was in any real physical pain.

Still ever hopeful, he was planning another trip to Ireland and Britain, and had hoped this would happen last month or this month, in late November or mid-December, visiting London and Liverpool, spending five days in Ireland, and visiting Dublin, Limerick and Askeaton.

However, his treatment was taking a greater toll than Charlie could know. There were CT scans every three months and a scope down his throat every two. There were some nodules in his chest, but he was still fully functional: ‘If you did not know what I have been through you could never tell by seeing me.’

His next chest scan was brought forward to early December from early January, and so the next trip was delayed. He was still hoping to see me in Ireland early in 2018.

Last weekend, he was taken into Morristown Hospital for pneumonia and with a bad pain in his left lung. He was moved to the ICU on Thursday, and his condition has worsened on Friday. The doctors were not sure what was wrong.

His condition worsened and there was no hope for improvement. Charlie died late on Saturday afternoon. His death was peaceful and he was surrounded by friends and family.

Many of his Facebook friends are numbed. Another Comerford has posted on his page: ‘I’m so sorry to hear this. I only know Charlie through Facebook because we share a last name and a mutual friend in Ireland. Likely related somehow. I always found him to be witty and interesting in his posts. My thoughts are with you during this terribly sad time. So sorry.’

This evening my sympathies are with his wife Mollie, who posted earlier today: ‘Charlie was the love of my life and I am devastated. I’ll post the arrangements once they’ve been made.’

Charlie Comerford took my name when he became an Anglican was received into full membership of the Episcopal Church

Waiting for ‘a day to astonish
us, reduce us to silence
and bring us to our knees’

Saint John the Baptist and the Prophet Isaiah … a window in Saint John’s Church, Wall (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 10 December 2017,

The Second Sunday of Advent.


11.30 a.m.: Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick, Morning Prayer.

Readings: Isaiah 40: 1-11; Psalm 85: 1-2, 8-13; II Peter 3: 8-15a; Mark 1: 1-8.

Part 1: Lighting the Second Candle on the Advent Wreath (the Prophets):

Last week, I explained in Askeaton and in Tarbert that on each Sunday in Advent, instead of preaching one long sermon, I’m going to offer three short reflections: looking at the Advent Wreath and Candles; looking at the Gospel reading and our hopes for the Coming of Christ; and looking at the meaning of Santa Claus.

In Year B in the Lectionary readings, we are focussing on Saint Mark’s Gospel.

Last Sunday, we heard his account of the Coming of the Son of Man (Mark 13: 24-37). This morning, we return to the beginning of this Gospel (Mark 1: 1-8).

While Saint John’s Gospel begins at the beginning of Creation (‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God,’ John 1: 1), Saint Mark, unlike Saint Matthew or Saint Luke, has no Nativity narrative, has no story of the first Christmas (see Matthew 1: 18 to 2: 23; Luke 1: 1 to 2: 40).

Saint Mark begins his Gospel with his account of the Baptism of Christ by Saint John in the River Jordan, which comes later in the other three Gospels (see Matthew 3: 1-17; Luke 3: 1-21; John 1: 19-34).

Indeed, there is no Christmas story in Saint Mark’s Gospel. Instead, the theme for the readings this morning is the Prophets, and then next Sunday [17 December, Advent III), we look at Saint John the Baptist, who in his own way is the last in the line of the Prophets, the bridge between the Prophets and Christ.

The prayers at the Advent Wreath on the Sundays in Advent can help us to continue our themes from the Sunday before Advent [26 November 2017], which we marked in these dioceses as Mission Sunday, supporting projects in Swaziland in co-operation with the Anglican mission agency, the United Society Partners in the Gospel (USPG).

As we light our Advent candles in anticipation of celebrating the coming of the Christ child, USPG is inviting churches and parishes to pray for mothers and children who are served by USPG in the world church in Tanzania, Ghana, Bangladesh and Palestine.

The first candle to light on the Advent Wreath on the First Sunday of Advent was the Purple Candle, recalling the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, our fathers and mothers in faith, like Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Jacob. The purple second candle, which we light this Sunday, represents the Prophets.

USPG suggests this prayer when we light the second candle:

The Prophets:

O God of history,
who has spoken through the prophets;
we pray for mothers in Ghana
who have learned to protect their children from cholera.
Bless those who bring life-saving knowledge
and bless families whose children are now healthy and full of life.

A stained-glass window in the Chapel of Jesus College, Cambridge, designed by Edward Burne-Jones and made by William Morris, depicting four Old Testament prophets (from left): Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel

Part 2: Waiting for Christ

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

Our Old Testament reading (Isaiah 40: 1-11) is familiar to many of us because of the opening words of Handel’s Messiah. The promise of the Prophets is central to our understanding of waiting and hope in the weeks of Advent, the weeks immediately before Christmas.

In the Psalm (Psalm 85: 1-2, 8-13), we also hear God’s promise that he will bless the people with peace and steadfast love, which shall be the visible signs of God’s presence and power (verses 8-13).

In the Epistle reading (II Peter 3: 8-15a), Saint Peter, by now at the end of his life, leaves an assurance of the fulfilment of God’s promises.

Now, in the Gospel reading (Mark 1: 1-8), the story of the Baptism of Christ gives us the first revelation of the Trinity to the creation in the New Testament. It is like the story of a new creation. God’s promises, expressed by the Prophets and the Psalmists, are being fulfilled.

But rather than retell those stories, as my commentary on our readings and as the second part of my sermon this morning, I want to read a letter I received a few days ago in an email from another Mark, the Revd Mark Aitken, Master of the Royal Foundation of Saint Katharine in Limehouse, in the East End of London.

In his letter, he sums up a modern interpretation of the hope that was expressed in the past by the Prophets:

It is very strange that the time of the year which should be greeted with awe, wonder and bated breath; a time which should be focused on the kind of quiet that we hold so a baby won’t wake, is actually greeted with crackers, the loud singing of carols and noisy parties.

In the middle of winter, in a time of political uncertainty, and with many people living under all kinds of pressure, a reason to be cheerful should be grasped with both hands.

A season of goodwill and glad tidings feels very necessary.

However, what if there were more than just an excuse for a midwinter party going on here?

What if Christmas Day could be a day to astonish us and fill us with wonder, cut through our chatter, reduce us to silence and possibly bring us to our knees?

It could be in church, or as you sense the overwhelming love offered to you in a thoughtfully chosen present, or just in a stolen, quiet moment in the middle of a party, that your thoughts will turn to that child born in a dark stable, in the middle of the night all those years ago.

You might even catch your breath, feeling a deep longing inside you, and sense the gentle hint that this child will have something to say to you when he grows up.


Santa in the window of a café in Bird Street, Lichfield, a few days ago (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Part 3: Waiting for Santa Claus

Last Wednesday, we recalled the real Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, during our mid-week Advent Eucharist in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, and last Sunday I spoke a little about Saint Nicholas and his willingness to go to Alexandria, where God sent him, as a real example among the saints of how life is a pilgrimage, an Advent, that looks forward to the coming of Christ and his Kingdom.

That funny hat that Santa Claus wears is derived from the mitre that Saint Nicholas wore as Bishop of Myra.

Saint Nicholas’s election as bishop was unusual. After the former bishop died, other bishops gathered to elect the next Bishop of Myra. As they met, the wisest bishop heard a voice in the night telling him to watch the doors of the church the next morning at Matins. The first person to enter named Nicholas was to be the new bishop.

The wise one told the others, asking them to be at prayer while he waited at the doors. When the hour came, the first to arrive was the young man who had just arrived back from Alexandria.

When asked his name, he replied, ‘I am Nicholas.’

The bishop said to him: ‘Nicholas, servant and friend of God, for your holiness you shall be bishop of this place.’ They brought him into the church and placed him in the bishop’s throne where he was to be consecrated the new Bishop of Myra.

Myra suffered famine in the years 311, 312, and 333. The crops failed, and the people were hungry. Bishop Nicholas learned that ships bound for Alexandria with cargoes of wheat had anchored in the harbour.

The bishop implored the sailors to take a measure of grain from each ship so that the people would have food.

The sailors said ‘No’ as the wheat was ‘meted and measured’ and every bit must be delivered.

Nicholas replied: ‘Do this, and I promise, in the truth of God, that it shall not be lessened or diminished when you get to your destination.’

So, the sailors took a measure from each ship and continued on to Alexandria. When the wheat was unloaded, the full amount was accounted for. When the tale was told, the emperor’s ministers all worshiped and praised God with thanksgiving for his servant Nicholas.

Throughout the famine people came to Bishop Nicholas for wheat. He gave it to all who had need, and the grain lasted for two years, with enough remaining to plant new crops.

It’s a story that can remind us of Christ feeding the multitude with five loaves and two fish. But it also points to the generosity of Christ giving himself to us in the Eucharist or Holy Communion, and to the generosity of God in sending us the most wonderful gift of Christ at Christmas-time and the promises of the generosity and blessings of the Kingdom of God.

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

The Organ Trophy and a carving depicting 17 musical instruments in Saint Michan’s Church, Dublin ... the church is associated with Handel’s ‘Messiah’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Penitential Kyries:

Turn to us again, O God our Saviour,
and let your anger cease from us.

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Show us your mercy, O Lord,
and grant us your salvation.

Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Your salvation is near for those that fear you,
that glory may dwell in our land.

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Collect:

Father in heaven,
who sent your Son to redeem the world
and will send him again to be our judge:
Give us grace so to imitate him
in the humility and purity of his first coming
that when he comes again,
we may be ready to greet him with joyful love and firm faith;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Advent Collect:

This collect is said after the Collect of the day until Christmas Eve:

Almighty God,
Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light
now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Introduction to the Peace:

In the tender mercy of our God,
the dayspring from on high shall break upon us,
to give light to those who dwell in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1: 78, 79)

Blessing:

Christ the sun of righteousness shine upon you,
gladden your hearts
and scatter the darkness from before you:

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Priest-in-Charge, the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. This sermon was prepared for the Second Sunday of Advent, 10 December 2017.

Waiting with the prophets for
the promised coming of Christ

A stained-glass window in the Chapel of Jesus College, Cambridge, designed by Edward Burne-Jones and made by William Morris, depicting four Old Testament prophets (from left): Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 10 December 2017,

The Second Sunday of Advent.


9.30 a.m.: Castletown Church, Kilcornan, Co Limerick, The Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion).

Readings: Isaiah 40: 1-11; Psalm 85: 1-2, 8-13; II Peter 3: 8-15a; Mark 1: 1-8.

Part 1: Lighting the Second Candle on the Advent Wreath (the Prophets):

Last week, I explained in Askeaton and in Tarbert that on each Sunday in Advent, instead of preaching one long sermon, I’m going to offer three short reflections: looking at the Advent Wreath and Candles; looking at the Gospel reading and our hopes for the Coming of Christ; and looking at the meaning of Santa Claus.

In Year B in the Lectionary readings, we are focussing on Saint Mark’s Gospel.

Last Sunday, we heard his account of the Coming of the Son of Man (Mark 13: 24-37). This morning, we return to the beginning of this Gospel (Mark 1: 1-8).

While Saint John’s Gospel begins at the beginning of Creation (‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God,’ John 1: 1), Saint Mark, unlike Saint Matthew or Saint Luke, has no Nativity narrative, has no story of the first Christmas (see Matthew 1: 18 to 2: 23; Luke 1: 1 to 2: 40).

Saint Mark begins his Gospel with his account of the Baptism of Christ by Saint John in the River Jordan, which comes later in the other three Gospels (see Matthew 3: 1-17; Luke 3: 1-21; John 1: 19-34).

Indeed, there is no Christmas story in Saint Mark’s Gospel. Instead, the theme for the readings this morning is the Prophets, and then next Sunday, [17 December, Advent III), we look at Saint John the Baptist, who in his own way is the last in the line of the Prophets, the bridge between the Prophets and Christ.

The prayers at the Advent Wreath on the Sundays in Advent can help us to continue our themes from the Sunday before Advent [26 November 2017], which we marked in these dioceses as Mission Sunday, supporting projects in Swaziland in co-operation with the Anglican mission agency, the United Society Partners in the Gospel (USPG).

As we light our Advent candles in anticipation of celebrating the coming of the Christ child, USPG is inviting churches and parishes to pray for mothers and children who are served by the USPG in the world church in Tanzania, Ghana, Bangladesh and Palestine.

The first candle to light on the Advent Wreath on the First Sunday of Advent was the Purple Candle, recalling the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, our fathers and mothers in the faith, like Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Jacob. The purple second candle, which we light this Sunday, represents the Prophets.

USPG suggests this prayer when we light the second candle:

The Prophets:

O God of history,
who has spoken through the prophets;
we pray for mothers in Ghana
who have learned to protect their children from cholera.
Bless those who bring life-saving knowledge
and bless families whose children are now healthy and full of life.

Saint John the Baptist and the Prophet Isaiah … a window in Saint John’s Church, Wall (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Part 2: Waiting for Christ

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

Our Old Testament reading (Isaiah 40: 1-11) is familiar to many of us because of the opening words of Handel’s Messiah. The promise of the Prophets is central to our understanding of waiting and hope in the weeks of Advent, the weeks immediately before Christmas.

In the Psalm (Psalm 85: 1-2, 8-13), we also hear God’s promise that he will bless the people with peace and steadfast love, which shall be the visible signs of God’s presence and power (verses 8-13).

In the Epistle reading (II Peter 3: 8-15a), Saint Peter, by now at the end of his life, leaves an assurance of the fulfilment of God’s promises.

Now, in the Gospel reading (Mark 1: 1-8), the story of the Baptism of Christ gives us the first revelation of the Trinity to the creation in the New Testament. It is like the story of a new creation. God’s promises, expressed by the Prophets and the Psalmists, are being fulfilled.

But rather than retell those stories, as my commentary on our readings and as the second part of my sermon this morning, I want to read a letter I received a few days ago in an email from another Mark, the Revd Mark Aitken, Master of the Royal Foundation of Saint Katharine in Limehouse, in the East End of London.

In his letter, he sums up a modern interpretation of the hope that was expressed in the past by the Prophets:

It is very strange that the time of the year which should be greeted with awe, wonder and bated breath; a time which should be focused on the kind of quiet that we hold so a baby won’t wake, is actually greeted with crackers, the loud singing of carols and noisy parties.

In the middle of winter, in a time of political uncertainty, and with many people living under all kinds of pressure, a reason to be cheerful should be grasped with both hands.

A season of goodwill and glad tidings feels very necessary.

However, what if there were more than just an excuse for a midwinter party going on here?

What if Christmas Day could be a day to astonish us and fill us with wonder, cut through our chatter, reduce us to silence and possibly bring us to our knees?

It could be in church, or as you sense the overwhelming love offered to you in a thoughtfully chosen present, or just in a stolen, quiet moment in the middle of a party, that your thoughts will turn to that child born in a dark stable, in the middle of the night all those years ago.

You might even catch your breath, feeling a deep longing inside you, and sense the gentle hint that this child will have something to say to you when he grows up.


Santa in the window of a café in Bird Street, Lichfield, a few days ago (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Part 3: Waiting for Santa Claus

Last Wednesday, we recalled the real Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, during our mid-week Advent Eucharist in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, and last Sunday I spoke a little about Saint Nicholas and his willingness to go to Alexandria, where God sent him as a real example among the saints of how life is a pilgrimage, an Advent, that looks forward to the coming of Christ and his Kingdom.

That funny hat that Santa Claus wears is derived from the mitre that Saint Nicholas wore as Bishop of Myra.

Saint Nicholas’s election as bishop was unusual. After the former bishop died, other bishops gathered to elect the next Bishop of Myra. As they met, the wisest bishop heard a voice in the night telling him to watch the doors of the church the next morning at Matins. The first person to enter named Nicholas was to be the new bishop.

The wise one told the others, asking them to be at prayer while he waited at the doors. When the hour came, the first to arrive was the young man who had just arrived back from Alexandria.

When asked his name, he replied, ‘I am Nicholas.’

The bishop said to him: ‘Nicholas, servant and friend of God, for your holiness you shall be bishop of this place.’ They brought him into the church and placed him in the bishop’s throne where he was to be consecrated the new Bishop of Myra.

Myra suffered famine in the years 311, 312, and 333. The crops failed, and the people were hungry. Bishop Nicholas learned that ships bound for Alexandria with cargoes of wheat had anchored in the harbour.

The bishop implored the sailors to take a measure of grain from each ship so that the people would have food.

The sailors said ‘No’ as the wheat was ‘meted and measured’ and every bit must be delivered.

Nicholas replied: ‘Do this, and I promise, in the truth of God, that it shall not be lessened or diminished when you get to your destination.’

So, the sailors took a measure from each ship and continued on to Alexandria. When the wheat was unloaded, the full amount was accounted for. When the tale was told, the emperor’s ministers all worshiped and praised God with thanksgiving for his servant Nicholas.

Throughout the famine people came to Bishop Nicholas for wheat. He gave it to all who had need, and the grain lasted for two years, with enough remaining to plant new crops.

It’s a story that can remind us of Christ feeding the multitude with five loaves and two fish. But it also points to the generosity of Christ giving himself to us in the Eucharist or Holy Communion, and to the generosity of God in sending us the most wonderful gift of Christ at Christmas-time and the promises of the generosity and blessings of the Kingdom of God.

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

The Organ Trophy and a carving depicting 17 musical instruments in Saint Michan’s Church, Dublin ... the church is associated with Handel’s ‘Messiah’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Penitential Kyries:

Turn to us again, O God our Saviour,
and let your anger cease from us.

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Show us your mercy, O Lord,
and grant us your salvation.

Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Your salvation is near for those that fear you,
that glory may dwell in our land.

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Collect:

Father in heaven,
who sent your Son to redeem the world
and will send him again to be our judge:
Give us grace so to imitate him
in the humility and purity of his first coming
that when he comes again,
we may be ready to greet him with joyful love and firm faith;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Advent Collect:

This collect is said after the Collect of the day until Christmas Eve:

Almighty God,
Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light
now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Introduction to the Peace:

In the tender mercy of our God,
the dayspring from on high shall break upon us,
to give light to those who dwell in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1: 78, 79)

Preface:

Salvation is your gift
through the coming of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ,
and by him you will make all things new
when he returns in glory to judge the world:

Post Communion Prayer:

Lord,
here you have nourished us with the food of life.
Through our sharing in this holy sacrament
teach us to judge wisely earthly things
and to yearn for things heavenly.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessing:

Christ the sun of righteousness shine upon you,
gladden your hearts
and scatter the darkness from before you:

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Priest-in-Charge, the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. This sermon was prepared for the Second Sunday of Advent, 10 December 2017.

Praying in Advent with USPG
and Lichfield Cathedral
(8): 10 December 2017

USPG: In partnership with the Anglican Church in Ghana from USPG on Vimeo.

Patrick Comerford

Today is Second Sunday of Advent, and we are beginning the second week of Advent.

This morning’s theme, as we light the second, purple candle on the Advent Wreath in many churches is ‘The Prophets.’ This theme may also run through the readings, hymns, prayers and sermons in churches.

Later this morning [10 December], I am preaching and presiding at the Parish Eucharist in Castletown Church, Kilcornan, Co Limerick at 9.30, and leading Morning Prayer and preaching in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale.

As we light the second, purple candle on the Advent Wreath, the Anglican mission agency, USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) suggest this prayer:

O God of history,
who has spoken through the prophets,
we pray for mothers in Ghana
who have learned to protect their children from cholera.
Bless those who bring life-saving knowledge
and bless families whose children are now healthy and full of life.

Throughout this season of Advent, I am spending a short time of prayer and reflection each morning, using the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency, USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) and the Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar from Lichfield Cathedral.

USPG, founded in 1701, is an Anglican mission agency supporting churches around the world in their mission to bring fullness of life to the communities they serve.

Under the title Pray with the World Church, the current prayer diary (22 October 2017 to 10 February 2018), offers prayers and reflections from the Anglican Communion.

This week, the Prayer Diary continues its Advent series, looking at how the church is reaching out to mothers and babies. This week, it says, ‘we look at a USPG-supported Anglican health programme in Ghana that has helped to eradicate cholera in parts of the Cape Coast.

In the Prayer Diary today, one beneficiary tells her story:

My name is Gloria. I have two children, aged three and one-and-a-half years old.

The health programme has helped me and my family. Before, I didn’t know I needed to wash my children’s hands with soap and water before they eat. They would be playing, but I wasn’t washing their hands afterwards. But now, because of the programme, I make sure I wash their hands.

Also, before the programme, whenever I bought fruit and vegetables from the market, I wasn’t washing them. But not I wash them with a soap and salt solution before I use them to prepare food.

Another thing I learned was that before breast-feeding my baby I first needed to wash my breasts. I learned that a child can contract diseases if I do not wash in this way.

Before the programme, I was not outing these things into practice and my children, in fact the whole family, would visit the hospital a lot because of diarrhoea and sickness. But now it is five months since we visited hospital.

The USPG Prayer Diary:

Sunday 10 December 2017, Second Sunday of Advent:


O God, who spoke through the prophets,
we pray for mothers in Ghana protecting their children
from sickness. Bless those who bring life-saving knowledge
and give thanks for children now healthy and full of life.

‘Pray for light’ ... candlelight in the Choir Stalls in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Lichfield Cathedral Advent and Devotional Calendar:

The calendar suggests lighting your Advent candle each day as you read the Bible and pray.

Today, the calendar suggests going to church and reading Matthew 17: 9-13.

The reflection for today suggests:

As Advent unfolds think of the muddle and confusion that stops us understanding God’s truth. Pray for light.

Readings (Revised Common Lectionary):

Isaiah 40: 1-11 Psalm 85: 1-2, 8-13; II Peter 3: 8-15a; and Mark 1:-8.

The Collect of the Second Sunday of Advent:

Father in heaven,
who sent your Son to redeem the world
and will send him again to be our judge:
Give us grace so to imitate him
in the humility and purity of his first coming
that when he comes again,
we may be ready to greet him with joyful love and firm faith;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Advent Collect:

Almighty God,
Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light
now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post-Communion Prayer:

Lord,
here you have nourished us with the food of life.
Through our sharing in this holy sacrament
teach us to judge wisely earthly things
and to yearn for things heavenly.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Colbert Station is part of
Limerick’s architectural
and railway heritage

Colbert Station in Limerick was designed by Sancton Wood, who designed many railway stations in Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

On my way through Limerick this week, I was looking at the old Railway Hotel, and wondering about its future now that it has been sold after a search for buyers for about a year and a half.

The hotel takes its name from and built its business on its location across the street from Limerick’s main railway station on Parnell Street.

Colbert Station on Parnell Street is the main bus and rail station in Limerick. About 2,500 rail passengers travel through Limerick on four rail routes, while the Bus Éireann station on the same site serves about a million passengers a year, with 125 buses leaving the station each day.

The railway station opened on 28 August 1858, replacing a temporary station 500 metres further east, which had operated for 10 years from 9 May 1848. It was built by the Waterford and Limerick Railway (W&LR), which ran its first train, as far as Tipperary, on Tuesday 9 May 1848. Two months later, the Great Southern and Western Railway Company (GS&WR) connected its Dublin-Cork line with the W&LR line at Limerick Junction, near Tipperary. This work was carried out at the height of the Great Famine, causing great financial difficulties for the company.

The new station was designed by the English architect Sancton Wood (1815-1886), who also designed the former Kilkenny station, Heuston Station (Kingsbridge) in Dublin, and the stations in Portlaoise (Maryborough) and Thurles, Co Tipperary.

Sancton Wood was born in Hackney, the son of John Wood and Harriet Russell, a niece of the painter Richard Smirke (1778–1815). He first worked in the office of his cousin, the architect Sir Robert Smirke (1781–1867), who rebuilt Covent Garden Theatre in 1809 and who is best known for the General Post Office in St Martin’s-le-Grand and the British Museum. Later Wood worked for Robert Smirke’s brother, Sir Sydney Smirke (1798–1877), who restored the Temple Church and the Savoy Chapel and completed the British Museum.

Wood studied in the Antique School at the Royal Academy before travelling on the Continent, where he spent much time in Spain and Portugal and made drawings of many significant buildings.

On his return to England, he set up his own practice, designing stations for the growing railway networks in British and Ireland. He also designed houses in London, including some at Lancaster Gate.

In 1844, Wood presented drawings for railway stations for the Great Southern and Western Railway Company. A year later, in 1845, he won the company’s competition for designing Kingsbridge Station in Dublin. His design was selected unanimously by the company’s London committee, although the Dublin Committee had favoured the design of John Skipton Mulvany.

That year, Wood was also appointed architect to the company. He designed the stations between Monasterevin and Limerick Junction, all in a gabled picturesque Gothic style. He was also architect to the Irish South Eastern Railway, which developed a line from Carlow to Kilkenny in 1848-1850.

Aristocratic and middle-class interests objected to Wood’s station being built in the more fashionable parts of Limerick City, and so it was thus built at the edge of the Victorian part of the city.

Wood designed his station in a restrained classical idiom with the intent of achieving a maximum presence on the street from which it is set back quite dramatically. It is a seven-bay, two-storey over partially concealed basement. It is faced with fine carved limestone detailing in a restrained classical style.

The terminus building consists of two-bay, two-storey breakfront ends that flank an arcaded entrance front that is reached by a series of steps. It is faced with fine carved limestone detailing that testifies to the craftsmanship and skill involved in its execution.

Wood’s work in Ireland seems to have come to an end by 1856. He returned to live in London, and died at his home at Putney Hill on 18 April 1886.

The station was originally known as Limerick Station, but was renamed on 10 April 1966 to commemorate Cornelius Colbert, one of the executed leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising.

In recent years, a new pedestrian plaza in the form of a limestone paved area of 3,350 sq metres has replaced the car park at the front of the station. Work continues on refurbishing the interior of station with new finishes throughout and providing new ticketing office and retail units.

Sancton Wood was also the architect of Kingsbridge Station in Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Praying in Advent with USPG
and Lichfield Cathedral
(7): 9 December 2017

USPG is helping to combat the transmission of HIV from mother to child in Tanzania

Patrick Comerford

This is the first week of Advent, and in many parts of the church today [8 December] is Feast of the Conception of the Virgin Mary, or the Immaculate Conception.

Throughout this season of Advent, I am spending a short time of prayer and reflection each morning, using the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency, USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) and the Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar from Lichfield Cathedral.

USPG, founded in 1701, is an Anglican mission agency supporting churches around the world in their mission to bring fullness of life to the communities they serve.

Under the title Pray with the World Church, the current prayer diary (22 October 2017 to 10 February 2018), offers prayers and reflections from the Anglican Communion.

Introducing this week’s prayers, the Prayer Diary says: ‘Throughout Advent, as we remember the Nativity, we’re looking at how the world is reaching out to mothers and babies.’

This week, the diary follows the theme of the story told yesterday from the USPG-supported PMTCT (Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission) HIV programme run by the Church of Tanzania.

The USPG Prayer Diary:

Saturday 9 December 2017:


Pray for more openness in the church regarding HIV and AIDS so that people may know they can turn to the church for support.

Lichfield Cathedral Advent and Devotional Calendar:

The calendar suggests lighting your Advent candle each day as you read the Bible and pray.

Today’s suggested reading is Matthew 11: 16-19.

The reflection for today suggests:

Pray for all who find it hard to believe and trust in God. Pray for all who resist and oppose faith and religious expression. Ask for the courage to do one random act of kindness today.

Readings (Revised Common Lectionary, the Church of Ireland, Holy Communion):

Isaiah 30: 19-21, 23-26; Psalm 146: 4-9; and Matthew 9: 25 to 10: 1, 6-8.

The Advent Collect:

Almighty God,
Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light
now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Sold signs raise questions
about the future of the
Railway Hotel in Limerick

The Railway Hotel in Limerick … a landmark building that closed last year (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

The Railway Hotel in Limerick is closed and stands forlorn opposite the Colbert Station, the rail and bus station in Limerick city centre. The hotel, which was once a popular venue for travelling GAA fans, was built almost a century and a half years ago. It closed last year with the loss of 15 jobs. But this week I noticed signs on the hotel and the sop next door saying they had been sold.

The Railway Hotel, once owned by the former Fianna Fáil TD Michael Collins and one of Ireland’s longest-running hotels, closed in June last year [2016] ‘with immediate effect’ and with loss of seven full-time jobs and eight part-time jobs.

The Railway Hotel dates from 1871, but it incorporates older buildings dating from 1800-1840 and began life as an old coach inn. In time, it developed into a 30-bed hotel, and for almost half a century it was a popular venue for hurling supporters travelling to and from Limerick for matches.

This is a landmark corner building, at the junction of Boherbuoy, Davis Street and Parnell Street, with obvious associations with the train station on the other side of the street.

It has a late 19th-century façade and is an amalgamation of two earlier buildings. The façade decoration has extended to a terrace of three buildings on Davis Street at ground floor level, and the hotel had become a highly visible and familiar building to everyone arriving in Limerick at Colbert Railway Station.

This terraced, seven-bay, three-storey hotel was first built around 1800. The north side facing Davis Street has a three-bay three-storey elevation and incorporates three two-bay three-storey terraced buildings, built around 1840.

The main block is distinguished by the stucco façade detailing, dating from 1890, which unifies all the buildings through an arcaded stucco shopfront.

The building has painted rendered walls with stucco façade embellishment that includes rusticated corner pilasters, over which the parapet entablature breaks forward and is further elaborated by a dentil and egg-and-dart motif. The parapet entablature has a frieze of blind oculi, and a lead flashed blocking course.

The ground floor front is rusticated, with four bays on the façade. Each floor level is delineated by a continuous sill course, which continues along the entire north side at the first-floor level.

For almost 50 years, the Railway Hotel was run by members of the Collins family for almost 50 years. The former Fianna Fáil TD Michael Collins comes from a well-known political dynasty from Abbeyfeale in West Limerick. A former publican and chairman of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland, he was a TD from 1997 to 2007. His brother Gerry Collins is a former MEP and Minister for Foreign Affairs, and his nephew is Niall Collins, a sitting Fianna Fáil TD.

The hotel was taken over by Michael Collins’s daughter, Michelle Collins, and her husband Patrick McEnery. But a downturn in the hospitality sector, increased competition and general trading difficulties forced Michelle Collins to take a tough decision last year. In a statement, she said that ‘after 46 years in business’ the hotel had to close ‘for economic reasons.’ She described the closure as ‘a very difficult and emotional time for the Collins family.

The hotel was placed on the market by GVM Auctioneers with a guide price of €525,000. McEnery’s shop next door had an asking price of €125,000.

The 31-bedroom hotel was described by GVM as ‘very prestigious [and] an ideal investment opportunity with much potential to develop.’ The facilities include a ‘well furnished’ modern bar with mahogany fittings, a meeting room with fireplace, an office, laundry room and 19 double bedrooms.

The ‘Sold’ signs I noticed this week hopefully mean that once again this building could be a part of the social and business life of Limerick city centre. But the site also offers interesting commercial and development potential. I suppose we shall just have to watch this space.

The Railway Hotel at the corner of Davis Street in Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Praying in Advent with USPG
and Lichfield Cathedral
(6): 8 December 2017

Tanzania is one of the countries most severely affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, with an estimated 1.4 million people living with the virus, of whom more than half are women

Patrick Comerford

This is the first week of Advent, and in many parts of the church today [8 December] is Feast of the Conception of the Virgin Mary, or the Immaculate Conception.

Later this evening [7 p.m.] I am taking part in the Service of Carols and Lessons in Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin (Tarbert), Co Kerry, followed by refreshments in Tarbert Community Centre.

Throughout this season of Advent, I am spending a short time of prayer and reflection each morning, using the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency, USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) and the Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar from Lichfield Cathedral.

USPG, founded in 1701, is an Anglican mission agency supporting churches around the world in their mission to bring fullness of life to the communities they serve.

Under the title Pray with the World Church, the current prayer diary (22 October 2017 to 10 February 2018), offers prayers and reflections from the Anglican Communion.

Introducing this week’s prayers, the Prayer Diary says: ‘Throughout Advent, as we remember the Nativity, we’re looking at how the world is reaching out to mothers and babies.’

This week, the diary follows the theme of the story told yesterday from the USPG-supported PMTCT (Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission) HIV programme run by the Church of Tanzania.

The USPG Prayer Diary:

Friday 8 December 2017:


Pray for an end to discrimination levelled at those with HIV and AIDS in Tanzania and around the world. Give thanks for the work of the church to combat HIV-related stigma.

Today is Feast of the Conception of the Virgin Mary ... the colourful triptych that forms the reredos in the Lady Chapel in Lichfield Cathedral tells the full Christmas story (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Lichfield Cathedral Advent and Devotional Calendar:

The calendar suggests lighting your Advent candle each day as you read the Bible and pray.

Today’s suggested reading is Luke 1: 26-38.

The reflection for today suggests:

As you write Christmas cards and messages think about how Mary received good news from God. Give thanks for all who’ve brought good news into our lives.

Readings (Revised Common Lectionary, the Church of Ireland, Holy Communion):

Isaiah 29: 17-24; Psalm 27: 1-4, 16-17; and Matthew 9: 21, 27-31.

The Advent Collect:

Almighty God,
Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light
now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Donegal House is the finest example
of Baroque architecture in Lichfield

Donegal House on Bore Street … seen in winter lights on a recent night (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

I was writing yesterday [6 December] about the rich heritage in Lichfield of 50 or so timber-framed buildings dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, including Lichfield House or the Tudor café and Five Gables on Bore Street, and the Cruck House.

But the notable feature of houses in Lichfield in the early 18th century is the variety of baroque elements found in the decoration of the street façades.

The best example of this is probably Donegal House, beside the Guildhall, both of which are between the Tudor and the Five Gables on Bore Street.

Donegal House, now the offices of Lichfield City Council, was built in the earlier Georgian style in brick and stucco in 1730 for the Lichfield merchant James Robinson, probably to designs by the architect Francis Smith (1672-1738) of Warwick.

James Robinson’s great-grand-daughters, Ellen-Jane and Marianne Robertson, who died in 1812, are commemorated in a marble memorial sculpture by Sir Francis Chantrey (1817) in Lichfield Cathedral known as the ‘Sleeping Children.’ The architect Francis Smith of Warwick was involved with his brothers, William and Richard Smith, in building many cathedral, churches and country houses in the Midlands.

The front of Donegal House is five bays, with three storeys above the basement, and the ends are marked by pilasters that support a heavily moulded cornice.

The central doorway has a segmental pediment on Tuscan columns and supports the cill and architrave of the central window on the first floor. The window has a triangular pediment that also runs into the architrave of the corresponding window on the second floor. This has a shaped head flanking a prominent keystone that runs into the cornice.

The other windows are without architraves, but they have elaborately shaped stone heads with tabled keystones. The windows on the two upper floors also have aprons below the cills.

Arthur Chichester (1739-1799), 1st Marquess of Donegall, painted by Thomas Gainsborough ... he was owner of Comberford Hall from 1789, and gave his name to Donegal House on Bore Street, Lichfield

The house was used by the Marquess and Earl of Donegall, who lived at Fisherwick Hall from 1761 until his death in 1799. The Chichester family held large estates near Lichfield but who were a politically powerful family in Ireland, where they had the titles of Marquis of Donegall and Earl of Belfast.

Arthur Chichester (1739-1799), 5th Earl of Donegall, was educated at Eton and Oxford, and he became the 1st Marquess of Donegall in 1791. Through the properties he inherited from his father, he became the greatest landowner of his day in Ireland. His estates included 11,000 acres at Dunbrody, Co Wexford, almost 90,000 acres in Co Antrim, 160,000 acres in Co Donegal, the whole town of Belfast, and the townland of Ballynafeigh in Co Down, totalling over quarter of a million acres.

However, he never lived on his Irish estates. Instead, he made his principal residence in Staffordshire, tearing down the Skeffington family’s old Tudor manor house at Fisherwick, replacing it with a vast Palladian mansion set in a park of 4,000 acres, all designed and constructed by Capability Brown. At Fisherwick, he also collected an expensive library and rare specimens of natural history.

Before he ever inherited his Irish estates, he bought the Manors of Comberford and Wigginton, including lands in Hopwas and Coton, on 1 August 1789, from Viscount Weymouth – who was about to become the 1st Marquis of Bath – and his son, the Hon Thomas Thynne. Within a year, Lord Donegall had raised £20,000 from the banker Henry Hoare, using the Manors and Lands of Comberford and Wigginton as collateral security.

Lord Donegall is said to have rebuilt Comberford Hall, replacing the original half-timbered Tudor manor house dating back to the late 15th century, at the same time as he rebuilt neighbouring Fisherwick Hall. Eventually, the Chichester family, crippled by the gambling debts of a profligate son, would find it impossible to pay off this loan, and would be forced to sell Comberford Hall and the manorial rights and lands that went with it.

Donegal House was bought in 1910 to serve as an extension to the Guildhall. The clock on the façade with on enriched brackets dates from 1928.

Donegal House was refurbished in 1990. I understand that inside the house still has several of its original panelled rooms with window shutters, and that an original open-well staircase with slender turned balusters also survives.

Donegal House and the Guildhall next door were bought by Lichfield City Council in 2012 from Lichfield District Council, reportedly for £275,00.

The city council leader Terry Finn told Lichfield Live: ‘This decision will ensure that the historic Donegal House will remain in public ownership as an asset to the city and it will mean that we can save on the rent we presently pay for our offices in Wade Street. Donegal House is interconnected with the Guildhall, even sharing the same heating system, so it makes sense at the same time to purchase the freehold of the Guildhall instead of leasing it from the District Council.’

Today, Donegal House is the offices of Lichfield City Council, Lichfield Arts and the Lichfield Festival.

The architectural elements seen on the Bore Street façade of Donegal House can also be seen on several other houses, but nowhere else have they such richness. For example, less elaborate shaped window heads are features seen at 8-10 Bird Street, 17 Bird Street, and 15 Market Street.

After the mid-18th century, the most fashionable architectural element of Lichfield house fronts was the Venetian window, which was either centrally placed over the entrance, as at 73 Saint John Street, or used to light the principal rooms on the ground and first floors, as can be seen at Davidson House at 67 Upper Saint John Street and Darwin House on Beacon Street.

Darwin House, which dates from about 1760, has two other features that were common in Lichfield at the time and may have continued for the rest of the century. These are a string course that continues the line of the first-floor cills and a shallow cornice supported on curved brackets.

Further reading:

MW Greenslade, Victoria History of the County of Stafford, Lichfield, (Oxford: 1990-), pp 43, 83, 242-243.

Joss Musgrove Knibb, Lichfield in 50 Buildings (Amberley, 2016).

Nikolaus Pevsner, Buildings of England: Staffordshire (London, 1974), p 194.