Saturday, 29 April 2017

First Church of Ireland Synod in Limerick next week

This quarter-page news report and interview is published on page 12 in the current edition of the ‘Limerick Leader’ (29 April 2017):

First Church of Ireland Synod in Limerick next week

Anne Sheridan

The Church of Ireland’s stance on sexuality following the marriage equality referendum will be discussed at its upcoming Synod in Limerick.

The Synod, which predominantly meets in Dublin or Armagh, will be held in Limerick for the first time in its history for three days next week.

Over 600 delegates representing the 12 Church of Ireland dioceses are expected to attend the series of discussions from Thursday, May 4, in the South Court Hotel.

Canon Patrick Comerford, from Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin group of parishes in Limerick, said he is “delighted” the Synod is taking place in Limerick this year, having earlier been held in Cork, Galway, Belfast and Kilkenny.

“It’s a great opportunity for the Church of Ireland in Limerick to engage with the wider church.

“It will help to strengthen links between the dioceses in the west of Ireland,” he said.

A private member’s motion requests the House of Bishops to investigate a means to develop “sensitive, local pastoral arrangements” for public prayer and thanksgiving at key moments in the lives of same-sex couples.

“It will essentially examine how we find a compromise on same-gender relationships,” added Canon Comerford.

Their ideas will be presented to the general Synod in 2018, with a view to making proposals at the 2019 synod.

The select committee on human sexuality in the context of Christian belief will also report on its work since 2013.

A spokesperson said that the committee’s role will end at this general Synod “but members are hopeful that conversation on the issues involved will continue.”

However, the church has admitted that there was some criticism levelled at the make-up of the 16-member committee comprised of the clergy and laity, due to the fact that there were no openly LGBT people amongst its initial membership.

The committee decided that it needed to recognise the “hurt and injury caused to LGBT members who felt the Church was excluding them.”

“The urgent need to improve pastoral care for those who have been or continue to feel the impact of exclusion and hurt and injury by the attitude of the Church, provides the most important message to be heard from the discussions, such as there have been, in the Church of Ireland in 2016-2017,” they outline in the 2017 Synod document.

Other areas of discussion will focus on inter-diocesan conversations, the church’s finances and climate change.

Funds available to the Church Representative Body, the all-island charitable trustee of the Church of Ireland, have increased by just over one per cent to €188.6m, its financial accounts show.

It details that the church’s funds have “recovered well” over the last eight years from a trough of €122m in 2008, reaching a market valuation of €180m at the end of 2016.

However, they have fallen from €238m at the end of 2016 before the recession.

Concerns regarding the “many challenges” posed by Brexit have also been expressed by the church.

“The Church of Ireland would hope that any changes brought about because of Brexit, and the border issue in particular, will reflect the desire for reconciliation and the strengthening of peace,” it states.

Friday, 28 April 2017

The Crescent Church in Limerick is
being restored to its former glory

Inside the former Jesuit Church of the Sacred Heart on the Crescent in Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017; click on images for full-screen resolution)

Patrick Comerford

In the past week, reports throughout the media have told how the Mass is no longer being celebrated on Tuesdays in churches throughout the Roman Catholic Diocese of Limerick. As I walk through Limerick, from one bus and another, I have become aware of recent major changes in the church landscape and the presence of religious communities in the city.

The Jesuits, Franciscans and Dominicans have left their churches, which were once key ecclesiastical landmarks in Limerick. The Jesuits left the Crescent in 2006, the Franciscans left their church on Henry Street in 2008, and then the Dominicans celebrated their last Mass in Saint Saviour’s Church in Glentworth Street last July, bringing an end to a Dominican presence that had been unbroken for almost 800 years, dating back to 1224.

According to the local historian Maurice Lenihan, the Jesuits first came to Limerick in 1560 when a Father Woulfe returned to the city of his birth, as Papal Nuncio ‘to the most illustrious princes and to the whole kingdom of Ireland.’

The Jesuits opened a classics school and an oratory in Limerick after 1575. The Society of Jesus also had a chapel in Castle Lane from 1642. Near the junction of the Crescent and Newenham Street, a surviving stone from this chapel is inscribed with the date 1634.

The Jesuits fled the city after the Siege of Limerick in 1691, but returned in 1728. Later they had a house in Jail Lane in 1766. The school was forced to close in 1773, but Bishop Ryan invited the Jesuits to return to Limerick in 1859 to supervise the new Saint Munchin’s College.

They moved into 1 Hartstonge Street and opened a school and oratory there. In 1862, the college moved to Mungret to make way for a new church at the Crescent.

I stopped on a recent morning to visit the former Jesuit Church of the Sacred Heart.

The Jesuits moved into the houses on this site in 1862 and started building the church in 1864. It was begun while Father Thomas Kelly was the Rector. The church was dedicated in 1869, although still not completed in 1897.

The church was designed by the architect William Edward Corbett and supervised by Charles Geoghegan on the site of Crescent House. It breaks the uniformity of The Crescent, giving it a focus and adding interest to the Georgian fabric.

The architect and civil engineer William Edward Corbett (1824-1904) was born in Limerick on 19 April 1824, the son of Patrick Corbett. He was the architect and borough surveyor of Limerick City from 1854 until 1899, and lived at Patrick Street (1856), Glentworth Street (1863-1898) and Lansdowne Road, until he died on 1 February 1904 at the age of 79.

The architect and engineer Charles Geoghegan (1820-1908) was born and educated in Dublin. He trained as an engineer before going to London, where he trained as an architect. There he set up in practice around 1849, but returned to Dublin in 1851, and practised for over 40 years.

He was employed by the Royal Bank throughout his career and was architect to the Industrial Tenements Co. In 1869, he invented and patented a self-acting regulator of high-pressure water supply.

Geoghegan was a Fellow of the both the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland (FRIAI, 1863) and the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland (FRSAI, 1894). For many years, his practice was based in Great Brunswick Street (No 202, 1857-1870, and No 205, 1870-1894). He retired around 1894, and died at his home at 89 Pembroke Road on 26 June 1908.

The former Jesuit Church on the Crescent in Limerick was designed by the architect William Edward Corbett and supervised by Charles Geoghegan (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The Crescent Church is a terraced, cruciform-plan, three-bay three-storey pedimented brick church, with a seven-sided apse at the liturgical east end. The church was built largely to the rear of two terraced late Georgian houses that were replaced or incorporated into the building, although the northern bay of one house survives.

The tetrastyle, red brick, temple-fronted classical façade dates from 1900 and comprises: four rusticated red brick piers at the ground level flanking round-arched door openings, and joined by limestone entablature delineating a mezzanine level; on this stand limestone ashlar giant order Corinthian pilasters that in turn support a red brick entablature and a pediment with a red brick dentil enriched limestone ashlar raking cornice.

There are elaborate cast foliate terracotta panels to the pediment with a central medallion bearing a plaque with the Jesuit cipher: IHS. There is a carved limestone pediment with a dentil enriched moulded red brick cornice, and red-brick acroteria, each surmounted by a Portland stone figurative sculpture.

The hipped natural slated roof has black ridge tiles and two roof vents. There are cast-iron rainwater goods. The sheer red brick walls to the nave, apse and north transept are laid in Flemish bond.

The façade brickwork is laid in English garden wall bond. The lettering attached to the brick frieze reads Cordi Jesu Sacratissimo, ‘(Dedicated to) the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.’ The church is in Saint Joseph’s Parish. It was originally planned to dedicate the church to Saint Aloysius, but when it was dedicated in 1869 it was called the Church of the Sacred Heart.

A double-height round-arched window opening fills the central bay with a moulded brick archivolt, a scrolled limestone keystone, imposts and pilaster bases with a timber fixed pane window and a spoked fanlight.

The flanking bays have square-headed window openings at mezzanine and first-floor level with lugged and kneed moulded brick architraves, on limestone sill courses, each glazed with timber casement windows. There is an arcade of round-arched door openings with surrounds similar to the central window, and these occupy each bay at ground floor level, having double-leaf timber-panelled doors with some glazing and an overlight, opening onto a granite platform and one step.

There are square-headed window openings with leaded lights and limestone sills to the other elevations.

Inside, the classical treated interior of the church has giant order rendered Corinthian pilasters articulating four bays to each side, supporting a full entablature with modillion cornice, each side having aediculated clerestorey windows and a blind arcade to the ground floor level.

The three-bay transepts and a semi-circular apse are articulated by giant order marble-faced Corinthian pilasters supporting a full entablature with modillion cornice. There were two semi-circular side altars with marble facing. The ceiling was panelled, enriched with floriated ornaments in stucco work.

Saint Francis Borgia, Saint Francis Xavier and and Saint Ignatius Loyola in mosaics above the High Altar in the Crescent Church, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The high altar was designed by William Corbett and was made of 22 types of precious marble. There are nine mosaics above the high altar. The central mosaic is of the Sacred Heart ascending in the presence of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque and Blessed Claude la Colombiere. It is surrounded (from left to right) by depictions of Saint Francis Jerome, Saint Francis Borgia, Saint Francis Xavier, Saint Ignatius Loyola, Saint Stanislaus, Saint Aloysius, Saint John Berchmans and Saint Francis Regis.

The apse originally had elaborate marble altar furniture, altar rail and mosaics. The high altar was made in Rome in 1876. A Sacred Heart shrine was erected in 1920. The marble altar rails were made in 1927. The sanctuary mosaic was worked by Italian craftsmen in 1939.

The mahogany confessionals, plain pews, an encaustic tiled floor, a large carved mahogany gallery, a piped organ and a further pair of semi-circular altars.

The building project was slow, and was delayed by a series of problems. In an arbitration case following the failure of the roof of the new church in 1867, Charles Lanyon and John McCurdy were the arbitrators and Sir John Benson was the umpire.

The builders were Messrs Ryan & Son. In 1900, William Henry Byrne made designs for a proposed façade. In 1922, Patrick Joseph Sheahan designed a chapel inside the church. In 1938, Patrick Joseph Sheahan was responsible for painting and decorating with the architectural firm Sheahan & Clery.

The building of the church utilised the natural focus of the crescent form to give the church the prominence the Jesuits expected. The very fine classical interior, with a wealth of quality materials and craftsmanship, adds to the overall architectural importance of this building.

The church remained empty for six years after the Jesuits left in 2006 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

When the Jesuits left the church in 2006, it remained empty for six years after a developer had bought the building with the intention of turning it into a leisure centre with a swimming pool, but then abandoned the project.

Recently, a group of young priests raised funds to buy the Church of the Sacred Heart Crescent in Limerick. In 2012, the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest bought the vacant church and residence that were in danger of falling into ruin, in the hope of bringing both back to life. Reports said they paid about €4 million for buildings.

The Institute of Christ the King, which has been present in the Diocese of Limerick since 2009, was founded in 1990 and has over 60 members. It is dedicated to the revival of the Latin Mass and says it intends to restore the church and make it a place for worship and community life once more.

The replacement pulpit comes from the Franciscan Church in Henry Street, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

When they moved in, rain was leaking into the church and the residence, the heating was broken and the buildings were empty. The main altar and tabernacle, all statues, the stations of the cross and the pews had been sold or removed.

Recently they acquired a marble pulpit and statues that had once stood in the Franciscan Church in Henry Street, Limerick, which was designed by the same architect.

Meanwhile, the Jesuits maintain a presence in Limerick through their role at the Crescent Comprehensive school and they have plans for a new spiritual centre.

The Jesuits maintain their mission and presence in Limerick through their role at the Crescent Comprehensive school centre(Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Adare cottage gets new thatch
two years after devastating fire

Work on rethatching the Benson cottage is near completion in Adare, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

I had a busy working afternoon in Adare, Co Limerick, today [27 April 2017]. But on my way back to Askeaton, as I was going through Adare, it was a delight to see that work on refurbishing and rethatching one of Adare’s beautiful thatched cottages is nearing completion almost two years after it was badly damaged by fire.

The Benson cottage was approved last year for a grant of €16,000 for repairs, announced by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys. It was one of 57 heritage projects to receive funding under the Structures at Risk Fund for 2016.

In June 2015, a fire completely destroyed two of the thatched cottages, which are popular with tourists. The cottage are attractive assets to Adare, and there are high hopes that that both cottages can be restored to their former glory.

Adare’s thatched cottages are attractive and important assets for tourism (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The fire broke out early in the afternoon as a wedding was about to start across the street in the 13th-century Holy Trinity Abbey Church. One cottage was gutted in the fire, a second was burned to the ground, and serious water damage was caused to a third cottage.

The fire was a ‘horrible tragedy’ for Jane and Henriette Benson, who lived in the cottage that is now being refurbished and rethatched. The second cottage was owned by an Irish-American businessman who lives in New York; the woman who was renting the cottage was preparing to move out and had packed everything, but lost all she owned in the fire. The third cottage, owned by Lucy Erridge, who runs a fashion and crafts shop, sustained serious water damage but was saved from the fire and is back in business.

After the fire, Henriette Benson said that all of the family’s possessions were destroyed, along with the house that had been their family home for many years.

The thatched cottages were built in 1826 by Lord Dunraven for estate workers in Adare (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The two houses that need restoration, refurbishment and rethatching are among 11 remaining thatched cottages built in Adare in 1826 by Lord Dunraven as staff houses, and they have enjoyed landmark status in the town ever since.

This week, it was a joy to see workers busy completing the thatching on the Benson cottage after full refurbishing. The site is fenced off but is attracting considerable attention. Sadly, the second cottage destroyed in that fire remains untouched, and Limerick City and County Council has posted a notice declaring its intention to place the site into the Derelict Sites Register.

The cottage is at the end of a row of thatched cottages, beside the Benson cottage. The council now considers it a ‘derelict site’ and plans to place it on the register unless the ‘unknown owner’ makes representations this month.

The semi-detached three-bedroom cottage is still in the process of being sold, after a sale was agreed in January at ‘substantially above’ its asking price of €130,000. The new owner, reportedly, is from the Limerick area. Thousands of euro would be required to restore it to its former habitable state.

Meanwhile, work continues on the multi-million euro refurbishment of the Adare Manor hotel and golf resort, once the home to the Earls of Dunraven and now expected to reopen in September.

The thatched cottages are part of the tourist attractions of Adare (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Finding some unexpected
Comerford family roots and
branches in Co Limerick

Gardenhill House, Castleconnell, Co Limerick … Owen Comerford died here in 1945

Patrick Comerford

I have come to this county and diocese with very few family connections with Limerick. I know of a few distant cousins on my mother’s side of the family, but I have been surprised to find many Comerford family connections with Limerick, some dating back to at least the 18th century.

The Ennis Chronicle reported from Limerick on Monday 5 October 1795 on the marriage the previous Thursday at Silvermines, Co Tipperary, of William Ferguson, son of John Ferguson, of Limerick, and a Miss Comerford, daughter of Michael Comerford of Silvermines. The Ferguson family were woollen merchants and drapers in Limerick and also lived in Rathkeale, Co Limerick.

The Limerick Chronicle reported on 18 December 1850 that Anne Comerford of Glentworth Street, Limerick had died at the ‘advanced age’ of 97. She was the widow of John Comerford of Killarney, Co Kerry.

Half a century later, JJ Comerford of Kilkenny, who died on 29 March 1902, was a journalist and former Limerick correspondent of the Freeman's Journal.

On 4 January 1883, an inquest was held into the death of Mary Anne Comerford, an elderly woman, after an assault. She was 75 at the time.

Delving further into Comerford links with Limerick, I have come across at least one Comerford from a family with roots in Co Carlow and Dublin, who was baptised in the second half of the 19th century in Castletown Church, near Pallaskenry, one of the four churches in my group of parishes; two Comerford nuns who lived about a century ago in a convent where one of the ‘residents’ in the attached ‘Magdalene Laundry’ was also a Comerford; a family of Comerford carpenters who lived in Limerick for at least four generations – some soldiers and RIC constables; and an interesting and unexpected connection between the Comerfords of Rathdrum, Co Wicklow, and Castleconnell, Co Limerick.

In time, I hope to migrate the stories of some of these branches of the Comerford family in Limerick city and council to my site on Comerford family history. But I thought it was worth sharing these stories as I try to disentangle the roots and branches of these family trees.

Castletown Church, Pallaskenry, where William Henry Comerford may have been baptised in 1875 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Comerford of Graigue, Co Carlow, Dublin and Pallaskenry, Co Limerick

PATRICK COMERFORD, of Graigue, Co Carlow, married Sarah Anne …. They lived in Graigue, Co Carlow, in the 1830s, and were living in Dublin by the 1840s. In 1853, they were living in 26 Anna Villa, Cullenswood, Ranelagh, Dublin. Their children probably included:

1, Thomas Comerford, of whom next.
2, William Comerford, of whom after his brother Thomas.
3, Sarah Anne, was living in Dublin in 1849 when she was a witness at the wedding of her brother William Comerford. She was a dressmaker. On 29 July 1850, she married Timothy McMahon, tailor, of 128 Upper Dorset Street, Dublin, son of John McMahon, in Saint Mary’s Church (Church of Ireland), Dublin.
4, James Comerford (1830-), baptised Killeshin Church (Church of Ireland), Co Carlow, 21 March 1830.
5, William Comerford (1832-), baptised Killeshin Church, 13 May 1832.
6, Helen Mary (1834- ), baptised Killeshin Church, 19 October 1834.
7, Samuel Horatio Comerford (1842- ), born 13 December 1842, at 6 Bachelor’s Walk, Dublin. He was baptised in Saint Mary’s Church (Church of Ireland), Dublin, on 28 December 1842.
8, Mary Anne (1853- ), she was born on 23 September 1853 and was baptised on 28 October 1853 in Saint Peter’s Church (Church of Ireland), Dublin.

The first-named son of Patrick and Sarah Anne Comerford was:

THOMAS COMERFORD, was living at 36 Harcourt Street, Dublin, when he married on 9 November 1846 Mary Whiston, daughter of Isaac Whiston, in Saint Peter’s Church (Church of Ireland), Dublin. They later lived at 5 Tivoli Terrace, Harold’s Cross, Dublin (1867). They were the parents of a son:

1, Samuel Henry Comerford, born 11 April 1867, baptised in Holy Trinity Church (Church of Ireland), Rathmines, by the Revd Loftus Shire.

The second-named son of Patrick and Sarah Anne Comerford appears to be the same person as:

WILLIAM COMERFORD, porter, of 128 Upper Dorset Street, Dublin (1849), 5 Granby Place (1850) and 133 Stephen’s Peer (?) (1851). He married on 9 April 1849, in Saint Mary’s Church (Church of Ireland), Bridget, daughter of Timothy Baker (or Barker), clerk. They were both minors at the time of their marriage. They witnesses at their wedding were Anthony Farington and William’s sister, Sarah Anne Comerford. They were the parents of a son and a daughter:

1, Bridget, born 5 Granby Place, Dublin, 29 May 1850, baptised the same day in Saint Mary’s Church.
2, James Comerford (1851-post 1883), of Pallaskenry, Co Limerick, and Gardiner Street, Dublin, of whom next.

Their son:

JAMES COMERFORD (1851-post 1883), builder or butler, of Pallaskenry, Co Limerick, and Gardiner Street, Dublin. He was born at 133 Stephen’s Peer (?) on 20 August 1851, and was baptised on 29 August 1851 in Saint Peter’s Church (Church of Ireland), Dublin. He was living at 96 Lower Gardiner Street, Dublin, when he married in Saint Thomas’s Church (Church of Ireland), Dublin, on 17 May 1873 Elizabeth Lightly, daughter of Henry Lightly, hotel operator, of 96 Lower Gardiner Street.

They were living in Pallaskenry, Co Limerick, in 1875, when they had a son:

1, William Henry Comerford, born 5 February 1875 in Pallaskenry, Co Limerick.

James and Elizabeth Comerford returned to Dublin, and on 20 January 1883 when he was a witness at the marriage in Saint Thomas’s Church (Church of Ireland), Dublin, of Elizabeth’s sister, Maria Lightly, of 3 Upper Gloucester Street, and John Drew, house painter.

Two nuns in Limerick

Sister Mary Comerford and Sister Catherine (‘Kate’) Comerford, both born in Queen’s County (Co Laois) were nuns living in the Good Shepherd Convent, Clare Street, Limerick in 1901 and 1911.

When Sister Catherine died at the age of 40 on 13 November 1921, it was noted that she was originally from Clonegal, Co Carlow. Sister

The Good Shepherd Convent became known as one of the ‘Mother and Baby’ homes or ‘Magdalene Laundries.’ Ironically, one of the women buried in the convent cemetery is Bridget Comerford who died there in 1958 at the age of 56.

A family of Limerick carpenters

The River Shannon at Arthur’s Quay with King’s Island to the right (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

MICHAEL COMERFORD, carpenter, of Limerick, was the ancestor of a long-tailed family of carpenters associated with the Island in Limerick over four generations. He lived in the mid-19th century and was the father of at least two sons:

1, Michael (‘Mick’) Comerford (ca 1850-post 1887), carpenter of The Island, Limerick, of whom next.
2, James Comerford (ca 1850-post 1901), carpenter, of King’s Island, Limerick, of whom after his brother.

The first named son was:

MICHAEL (‘Mick’) COMERFORD (ca 1850-post 1887), carpenter of The Island, Limerick. He married in 1868 Johanna (‘Hannah’) Hartigan. They were living at Castle Street (1869), King’s Island (1871), and Mary Street (1884), Limerick. They were the parents of three daughters:

1, Mary, born 21 February 1869. On 3 March 1895, she married in the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Limerick James Keane, labourer, son of John Keane, Palmerstown.
2, Margaret, born 31 July 1871.
3, Anne, born 8 October 1884.

Hannah Comerford died in 1887, aged 30. Michael Comerford was a widower when he married on 23 April 1887 in Saint Michael’s Roman Catholic Church, Denmark Street, Limerick, the widowed Bridget McMahon, of Punche’s Row, Limerick, daughter of John O’Hara, farmer. They were living at Bridge Street, Limerick (1887), and he had died by 1895 when his daughter Mary married James Keane.

The second named son of the elder Michael Comerford, carpenter, of Limerick, was:

JAMES COMERFORD (ca 1850-post 1901), carpenter, of Castle Street, Limerick (1869), King’s Island (1870-1876), and Francis Street, Limerick (1870-1872). He married ca 1868 Mary Elligott. They were living in Little Dominick Street, Limerick, at the census on 31 March 1901. Their children included three sons and four daughters:

1, Mary (1869- ), born 25 May 1869, died in infancy.
2, Michael Comerford (1870-1907), born 17 December 1870, died 1907, of whom next.
3, Margaret (1871- ), born 31 July 1871.
4, Mary Anne (1872- ), born 10 July 1872. At the age of 19, she married on 16 January 1892, Thomas Joseph Jones (23), a soldier.
5, John Comerford (1876- ), born 7 July 1876.
6, Bridget, born ca 1877/1878, seamstress, aged 23 and living with her parents at the census in 1901. On 28 July 1901, in Saint Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, she married Michael Hourigan (23), sailor, of Shannon Street, Limerick. Their children included two sons and two daughters: Mary (born 18 March 1903, died in infancy); James Hourigan (born 18 March 1903); Mary (born 16 June 1910); and Michael Hourigan (born 25 February 1914).
7, James Comerford (1879-post 1901), born 15 May 1879, carpenter, aged 22 and living with his parents at the census in 1901.

Mary Comerford died aged 52 on 9 October 1908.

The first named son was:

MICHAEL COMERFORD (1870-1907), carpenter, of Limerick. He was born 17 December 1870. He married in Saint Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Limerick, on 2 March 1889, Mary Ann O’Dea, daughter of John O’Dea. Their addresses in Limerick included Mary Street (1892), King’s Island (1893-1895), Bank Place (1896), Saint Nicholas Street (1899), Castle Street (1900, 1901), Robert Street (1902), 18 Arthur’s Quay (1903-1904) and Edward Street (1905).

Michael Comerford died in 1907 at the age of 36. Mary Comerford was a widow, aged 38 and living at 11 Arthur’s Quay, Limerick, on the census night 2 April 1911. They seem to have had 13 children, although the 1911 census said they were the parents of 12 children, six of whom were still alive:

1, John (‘Jack’) Comerford (1889/1890-post 1915), general labour, of Limerick, of whom next.
2, Mary, aged 19 when she married in Saint Michael’s Church, Limerick, on 19 September 1890, Robert Murphy, aged 21, pork butcher, of Humphries Lane. Their children included three sons and a daughter: Michael Murphy (born 25 April 1910); Margaret (born 15 April 1911); John Murphy (born 15 October 1912); and Robert Murphy, born 6 March 1914.
3, Hannah (1892-1893), born 15 May 1892, died 3 November 1893.
4, …, an unnamed daughter, born 14 September 1893, who probably died at birth.
5, James Comerford (1895-1895), born 4 July 1895, died 9 July 1895.
6, James Comerford (1896-1901), born 13 July 1896, died 11 February 1901.
7, Michael Comerford (1898-post 1911), born 8 April 1898, aged 12 at the 1911 census.
8, Hannah, born 23 September 1900, died in infancy.
9, Bridget (1899-1958), born 10 August 1899, aged 11 in 1911, she was unmarried when she died on 22 July 1958, aged 59.
10, Norah, born ca 1901/1902, aged 9 in 1911.
11, Christopher Comerford (1902-1904), born 22 May 1902, died 18 March 1904.
12, Martin Comerford (1903-post 1911), born 9 November 1903, aged 7 in 1911.
13, Katie, born 30 December 1905, aged 5 in 1911.

Mary Ann Comerford married her second husband, Michael Downey, clerk, of 9 Tailor Street, Limerick, son of John Downey, in Saint Joseph’s Church, Limerick, on 17 August 1915.

The eldest son of Michael and Mary Ann Comerford was:

JOHN (‘Jack’) COMERFORD (1889/1890-post 1915), general labourer, of Limerick. He was born ca 1889/1890, and living with his parents, aged 21 at the 1911 census. On 29 April 1911, he married in Limerick Roman Catholic Cathedral Mary Ellen Bennis.

John and Mary Comerford lived at Sullivan’s Row, Clare Street. Their children included one son and four daughters:

1, Martin Comerford (1911- ), born 20 August 1911.
2, Maryanne, born 11 August 1911.
3, Mary Ellen, born 20 September 1913. She married in Limerick Roman Catholic Cathedral on 4 September 1938 Christopher Kennavane.
4, Josephine, born 11 March 1915.
5, Mary Bridget (1922-1923), born 1922, died 3 March 1923, aged 12 months.

A Cork and Limerick family:

RICHARD COMERFORD, pork butcher, of Limerick (? born ca 1850). He was the father of:

PATRICK COMERFORD, saw mechanic or mill sawyer, of Henry Street, Limerick. He was born in Cork ca 1869/1871. He was 31 when he married in Saint Michael’s Roman Catholic Church, Limerick, on 1 February 1911, Mary Noonan (aged 23). They were the parents of two sons and two daughters:

1, Mary, born 10 March 1911.
2, Patrick Comerford, born 21 March 1912.
3, Richard Comerford, born 29 March 1914.
4, Margaret, born 12 August 1915.

Soldiers and Constables in Limerick:

Two men named Daniel Comerford, one a police constable, and the other the father of a soldier, and a second policeman, Thomas Comerford, an RIC sergeant, are also found in Limerick in the late 19th century.

JOHN COMERFORD, farmer, was the father of:

DANIEL COMERFORD, constable, Royal Irish Constabulary, Limerick. He married on 12 July 1898, Saint Michael’s Roman Catholic Church, Limerick, Mary Anne Murphy. They lived at 3 Veyes Fields. They were the parents of:

JOHN ALPHONSUS COMERFORD, born 2 June 1899.

DANIEL COMERFORD, labourer, was the father of:

JAMES COMERFORD (1875-1940), soldier, New Barracks, Limerick, aged 23, when he married on 20 April 1899 in Saint Michael’s Roman Catholic Church, Limerick, Nora Robinson, daughter of Joseph Robinson of Laurel Hill Avenue, Limerick.

They later lived at 4 Saint Joseph’s Place Limerick. Nora died on 25 November 1936, aged 59; James was a British army pensioner and a widower, aged 65, when he died on 3 August 1940.

Their daughter:

1, Josephine married Ivor Francis Widger, soldier, of New Barracks, Limerick, son of Frank Widger, on 1 September 1920, in Saint Joseph’s Church, Limerick.

THOMAS COMERFORD, a sergeant in the Royal Irish Constabulary, and his wife, Mary Agnes (Little), were living in Ieverstown, Co Clare, when their daughter, Agnes Margaret Comerford, was born in Limerick on 24 November 1899.

A Rathdrum connection:

OWEN COMERFORD (1869-1945), who died at Garden Hill House in Castle Connell, Co Limerick, on 15 June 1945, was a member of the Rathdrum branch of the Comerford family from Co Wicklow who lived at Ardavon House, Rathdrum, Co Wicklow, and owned Rathdrum Mills.

Owen Comerford was born on 11 December 1869. He was educated, with his brothers Edward Comerford (1864-1942) and James Comerford (1868-1924), at Oscott College, Birmingham (1880-1883). He was a shareholder in Rathdrum Mill. On 8 February 1898, in Saint Michael’s Church, Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire), he married Kathleen Byrne, daughter of Laurence Byrne of Croney Byrne, Rathdrum. They later lived at ‘Coolas,’ Seafield Road, Clontarf, and he was still living there in 1940. Kathleen died on 17 October 1932.

Owen later went to live with his daughter and son-in-law, at Gardenhill House, Castleconnel, Co Limerick. This house, built by the Blackhall family, is a substantial version of the characteristic three-bay two-storey house. Retaining much of its original form, the façade is enlivened by the timber sliding sash windows, limestone sills and slate roof. The ornate doorway adds artistic interest to the façade. The outbuildings add context to the composition and enhance the overall group setting.

Owen Comerford died at Garden Hill House, Castleconnell, Co Limerick, on 15 June 1945. Owen and Kathleen were the parents of an only daughter:

1, Nora Kathleen (‘Norrie’). On 23 September 1940, she married James Henry Montgomery, civic guard, of Chapelizod Garda Barracks, Co Dublin. They later lived at Gardenhill House, Castle Connell, Co Limerick (1945). They had no children. Norrie Montgomery died in 1972.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Dungarvan-born High Sheriff
dies at home in Liverpool

With Professor Helen Carty, then High Sheriff of Merseyside, and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Liverpool, the Most Revd Patrick Kelly, at Judges’ Service in Liverpool Cathedral on Sunday 16 October 2011

Patrick Comerford

It was sad to read today of the death in Liverpool of Professor Helen Carty, who died at home earlier this week [23 April 2017]. As High Sheriff of Merseyside, Dr Carty warmly welcomed me to Liverpool in October 2011, when I was invited by Archbishop Justin Welby, the then Dean of Liverpool, to preach at the Annual Judges’ Service in Liverpool Cathedral.

Archbishop Welby was about to be consecrated Bishop of Durham later that month. But he was delighted that Helen was attending the service, and she was delighted to welcome an Irish theologian who was preaching in the city she had made her home. Later that day, I was the guest of honour at a lunch Helen and her husband Austin hosted for the judges in the Artists’ Club in Liverpool.

Helen Carty had a distinguished career as a radiologist at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, and her career gained wide international recognition.

Professor Carty was born Helen M.L. Moloney in Dungarvan, Co Waterford, and spent most of her working life with children and their families.

She received her degrees in Medicine and Surgery Obstetrics from University College Dublin in 1967. Her clinical studies were in the Mater Hospital. Initially, she studied internal medicine, obtaining membership of the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland and she was subsequently elected a Fellow.

Shen then began training in radiology and completed her residency in radiology at Saint Thomas’ Hospital, London. In 1974, she became a fellow of the Royal College of Radiologists and in 1975 she became Consultant Radiologist in 1975 at the Royal Liverpool Children’s NHS Trust, Alder Hey, becoming Director of Radiological Services there in 1977. She continued to hold that post for 27 years.

Shortly after her appointment as a consultant, she was appointed a lecturer in radiology and orthopaedic radiology at Liverpool University. In 1996, she became Professor of Paediatric Radiology at Liverpool University and Alder Hey, a position she held until she retired from clinical practice in 2004.

She had broad interests within paediatric radiology, and she introduced interventional procedures to the children’s hospital. She had a special interest in the radiology of non-accidental injuries and lectured extensively on that subject.

She believed she and Austin were fortunate to work in radiology at a time of unprecedented development, when many of the techniques now taken for granted were developed, including Ultrasound, CT and MR were all developed.

She seized the opportunity to introduce and adapt these techniques for use in children and to develop paediatric radiology, locally, nationally and internationally. The first CT scanner in Alder Hey was bought through a public appeal that raised £1.25 million. She was the medical lead for this appeal which raised the money in 1984-1987, a tribute to the generosity of the people of Merseyside.

She became involved in European radiology through the European Congress of Radiology (ECR), founded in 1991 in Vienna, and she contributed to the development of Radiology particularly in Eastern Europe following the collapse of communism. Her election as President of ECR in 2004 marked the culmination of a lifetime’s work.

She was President of the Liverpool Medical Institution (1993-1994) and served on many committees of the Royal College of Radiologists, including serving a four-year term as Warden of the College. She was also an external examiner or supervisor of MD and PhD theses in Dublin, Pakistan, Malaysia and Singapore, and on many occasions she was a visiting professor or lecturer in Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East, South America, South Africa and the US.

She published extensively on many aspects of paediatric radiology, and was editor-in-chief of a two-volume textbook of paediatric radiology. Her many honorary fellowships included the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, and the Faculty of Radiologists of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

Austin is also a radiologist, and they were married in 1967. They have three children and six grandchildren. They retired on the same day to have time to spend with each other and their children.

She was appointed Deputy Lieutenant of Merseyside in 2005 and was the High Sheriff of Merseyside for the year 2011-2012.

Helen is survived by Austin, their three adult children Tim, Jenny and Sarah, and by six grandchildren, Robyn, Sebastian, Barney, Lauren, Tom and Charlie.

Her private cremation next week is for her family only. Later next month, a Service of Remembrance will be held in Liverpool Cathedral at 11 a.m. on Tuesday 30 May. She has asked for no flowers, but donations can be made to the Liverpool Cathedral Foundation 2024 Appeal.

In search of the architect of the
former glebe house in Castletown

The former glebe house in Castletown is the second on the site … was James Pain the architect (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

On Sunday morning, before Morning Prayer in Castletown Church, Co Limerick, I stood looking across the road at the former glebe house in Castletown, which would have been the residence of my predecessors as Rectors of Kilcornan.

In recent weeks, I have written about Castletown Church as one of the fine churches in Co Limerick designed by the great Regency architect, James Pain (1779-1877). The church was partly funded by the Board of First Fruits, which gave grants and loans for building new Church of Ireland churches and glebe houses and gave financial assistance to clergy in need.

The work of the board increased ushered in a period of intensive church building, and in the half century between 1779 and 1829, the Board of First Fruits built, rebuilt or enlarged 697 churches and 829 glebe houses.

Both the church and the glebe house in Castletown benefitted from the grants made available by the Board of First Fruits. However, the most significant benefactor of the church building project in Castletown was John Waller (1763-1836) of Castletown Manor and estate.

This John Waller was the son of John T Waller and Elizabeth Maunsell, and he later became an MP for Limerick. He married Isabella Oliver of Castle Oliver and was buried in the Waller vault in Castletown cemetery.

Castletown Church cost £1,500, of which John Waller donated £700, and he also gave the site for the church as an outright gift. Waller also undertook to pay off the balance of £800, which came as a loan from the Board of First Fruits.

The monument to Bolton Waller in Castletown Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

John Waller was succeeded by his brother, Bolton Waller. Bolton Waller died in 1854 and his son and heir, the Revd William Waller, held a large estate in the early 1850s, mainly in the parish of Kilcornan. His son, the Revd John Thomas Waller of Castletown, was Rector of Kilcornan and still owned 6,636 acres in Co Limerick in the 1870s. He died in 1911.

The former glebe house opposite Castletown Church, which was once the residence of the Rectors of Kilcornan, was built in 1810. I can find no information about the architect of this glebe house, which is the second house on this site, but wonder whether it was designed by James Pain, who was also the architect of both Castletown Church and the Regency-style former rectory in Askeaton, next door to the present modern rectory in Askeaton.

The first house, which was the residence of the Revd Roger Throp, was burned down in suspicious circumstances in 1735. Throp blamed Colonel John Waller for an arson attack and for shooting dead his valuable saddle horse. Throp described Waller as his ‘bitter and vindictive enemy.’

Following these incidents, Throp became depressed and ‘fell into a rapid decline.’ He died soon after in 1736, and Dean Jonathan Swift lampooned Waller in a ballad, ‘The Legion Club’:

See the scowling visage drop,
just as when he murdered Throp
.

Captain John Waller, who paid for the building of Castletown Church, may also have been the main driving force in building the glebe house in Castletown in 1810. Originally, 60 acres of land were attached to glebe house. By 1850, Griffith’s Valuation lists only 57 acres, and this area was gradually reduced over the years.

The monument to the Revd William Waller in Castletown Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The main part of the glebe house consists of a three-bay, two-storey house, with a recessed four-bay, two-storey addition on the east side. There is a hipped slate roof with rendered chimney stacks and terra cotta ridge tiles.

Before recent renovations, there were large nine-over-six pane windows to the south and six-over-six pane windows to the north. However, this arrangement was changed in recent times.

There is a round-headed opening to the south elevation, flanked by timber pilasters, with fluted consoles. There is a fanlight over the front door. To the south of the house are the remains of a walled garden. The restraint in ornamentation adds symmetry to the building and focuses on the front entrance.

Some years ago, the Church of Ireland sold the glebe house, and it is now in private ownership. But this former glebe house retains much of its original form and is characteristic of glebe houses of that period.

The monument to the Revd John Thomas Waller in Castletown Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Dr Johnson pays a return
visit to Lichfield Cathedral

John Fullylove, ‘Dr Samuel Johnson visits Lichfield Cathedral’ … one of the paintings in the exhibition ‘Mr Turner comes to Lichfield’ (Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum, Lichfield)

Patrick Comerford

The timing of my visit to Lichfield last week meant I missed yesterday’s opening of the exhibition ‘Mr Turner Comes to Lichfield.’ This exciting exhibition, celebrating the works of the painter JMW Turner (1775-1851), continues in Lichfield Cathedral until 11 June.

This is a rare opportunity to see Turner’s watercolour of Lichfield Cathedral, which he painted in 1832 and which is the centrepiece of this exhibition. Until recently, this painting was in a private collection, and it is now on public display for the first time in many years. Alongside it are Turner’s sketches for the painting, loaned by Tate Britain. In all, there are five works by Turner on exhibit.

Other artists whose work is included in the exhibition include the brothers Samuel and Nathaniel Buck, John Glover, John Buckler, John Louis Petit, John Piper, who also designed the East Window in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, Peter Walker, who is the Artist-in-Residence in Lichfield Cathedral and curator of this exhibition, and two winning entries in last year’s art and photography exhibition at Lichfield, Carl Knibb and Dawn Futton.

The beautifully-produced catalogue that accompanies this exhibition includes reproductions and descriptions of each of the 22 works on display and of the artists.

The English landscape artist and illustrator John Fulleylove (1845-1908) was born in Leicester and originally trained as an architect before becoming an artist in watercolour and oils. His painting in this exhibition, ‘Dr Samuel Johnson visits Lichfield,’ dates from 1891, and is a work in oil on canvas, measuring 745 x 700 mm. This is one of nine works in the exhibition on loan from the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum in Lichfield.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) was born in the house that now houses this museum, within sight of the three spires of Lichfield Cathedral. It was his family home, and he was born above his father’s bookshop on the corner of Breadmarket Street and the Market Square, opposite Saint Mary’s, the guild and civic parish church of Lichfield. His immediate family members are all buried in Saint Michael’s Church.

Samuel Johnson’s statue on the exterior choir of Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Although Johnson loved Lichfield Cathedral, there are few references to him worshipping there. As a child, he visited the cathedral with his father to hear the controversial High Church preacher and theologian Henry Sacheverell. Later, as an adult, Johnson borrowed books from the cathedral library.

When he was working on this painting, Fulleylove was probably thinking of Johnson’s visit to Lichfield Cathedral in 1776 with his friend and biographer James Boswell. Describing that visit, Boswell wrote ‘it was grand to see him at worship in the Cathedral of his native city.’

As an architect, Fulleylove was interested in the architectural details of Lichfield Cathedral, and this interest is borne out in this painting.

The bust commemorating Samuel Johnson in a corner of the south transept in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The principal monument to Samuel Johnson in Lichfield faces his birthplace. But there are other monuments to him in Lichfield Cathedral, which I looked at last week.

One is a statue on the exterior choir, close to similar statues of Brian Walton (1600-1661), the priest, divine and scholar who compiled the Polyglot Bible, the architect Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723), holding a model of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London, and the Lichfield-born antiquarian and herald Elias Ashmole (1617-1692), who was born 400 years ago and is the subject of an exhibition in Lichfield Cathedral, later this year, ‘Discovering Elias Ashmole,’ from 19 October 2017 to 18 February 2018.

A second monument, inside the cathedral, is a bust set up in the former Consistory Court in the South Transept in 1793. The inscription reads:

The friends of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.,
a native of Lichfield,
erected this Monument,
as a tribute of respect to the Memory of
a Man of extensive learning,
a distinguished moral writer, and a sincere Christian.
He died the 13th of December, 1784, aged 75 years.


Samuel Johnson also wrote the inscription on a nearby monument to the actor David Garrick (1717-1779), who was born 300 years ago and who grew up in Beacon Street, Lichfield:

His death eclipsed the gaiety of nations,
and impoverished the public stock of harmless pleasure.


Garrick’s monument in Lichfield Cathedral was designed by the architect James Wyatt (1746-1813), who was born in Weeford, a small village south of Lichfield that I also visited last week. Interestingly, at an early stage in his life, Turner also worked for Wyatt and originally considered a career as an architect.

JMW Turner’s watercolour of Lichfield Cathedral (1832) is on display for the first time in many years

Monday, 24 April 2017

Looking for more Kempe windows in
the chapel of Saint John’s, Lichfield

Charles Eamer Kempe’s window depicting Saint John the Baptist and Saint George in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford
In recent days I have been writing about both the windows in Saint John’s Church, Wall, including the window by the Tractarian artist Charles Eamer Kempe, and about the celebrations of Saint George’s Day over the past few days.

Of course there is also a two-light Kempe window in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, showing Saint John the Baptist on the left and on Saint George the right.

The best-known window in Saint John’s is John Piper’s striking East Window, ‘Christ in Majesty.’ This striking Resurrection image is Piper’s last major undertaking and it was executed by Patrick Reyntiens in 1984.

John Piper’s striking East Window in Saint John’s, ‘Christ in Majesty’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

But there are other windows in the chapel that are often overlooked and that are worth seeing, including one – if not two – windows by the Victorian stained glass designer and manufacturer Charles Eamer Kempe (1837-1907).

Kempe was best known in the late Victorian period for his stained-glass windows, some of which can also be seen in Lichfield Cathedral.

The Cambridge Church Historian Owen Chadwick, who died in 2015, has said his work represents ‘the Victorian zenith’ of church decoration and stained glass windows. His studios produced over 4,000 windows and designs for altars and altar frontals, furniture and furnishings, lichgates and memorials that helped to define a later 19th century Anglican style.

Kempe studied architecture under George Frederick Bodley and then at the Clayton & Bell studio, where his first work was produced in 1865. He worked independently from 1866 into the 20th century, with his own workshop from 1869. The English cathedrals that display his work include Lichfield, as well as Chester, Gloucester, Hereford, Wells, Winchester and York.

Kempe’s works in Lichfield Cathedral include the Lady Chapel altar and carved wooden reredos (1895). He designed half the windows in the cathedral, including: the Bishop Hacket Window (1901) in the South Quire Aisle, celebrating the completion of the Victorian restoration; the Barnabas Window (1898); Saint Stephen preaching to the Sanhedrin (1895); Saint Peter and Saint John healing (1894/1895); King David training the musicians (1890); ‘Self-Sacrifice’ in Saint Michael’s Chapel (1904); the imposing South Transept window, ‘The Spread of the Christian Church’ (1895); other windows depicting saints; the windows in the Chapel of Saint Chad’s Head; and some of the windows in the Chapter House.

Nearby, in Christ Church, Leomansley, Kempe designed the glass for the north transept west window in 1894.

Saint John the Baptist and Saint George in CE Kempe’s window in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

In the chapel of Saint John’s, Kempe’s window on the south side depicts Saint John the Baptist and Saint George the Martyr. The window was commissioned as a memorial to Captain Peter Charles Gillies Webster (1830-1877), of Penns, near Sutton Coldfield, Adjutant of the Staffordshire Yeomanry.

Surprisingly, despite Webster’s lifelong interest in genealogy and heraldry, there are no heraldic images on this window, nor could I see Kempe’s trademark golden wheatsheaf.

The dedication below the window reads: ‘To the glory of God and in memory of Peter Charles Gillies Webster, born May 20th 1830, died April 28th 1877.’

Saint Philip the Apostle and Bishop William Smyth in window that may be the work of CE Kempe (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Kempe may also have designed the window opposite this on the north side of the chapel depicting Saint Philip the Apostle and William Smyth, the 15th century Bishop of Lichfield who re-founded Saint John’s Hospital in 1495 as an almshouse for ‘thirteen honest poor men upon whom the inconveniences of old age and poverty, without any fault of their own, have fallen.’

Above Saint Philip is the coat-of-arms of the Bishops of Lichfield; above Bishop Smyth is his coat-of-arms as Bishop of Lichfield.

Around Saint Philip’s head, a scroll reads: ‘We have found Jesus of Nazareth’ (see John 1: 45). Bishop Smyth is holding a crozier with his left hand and in his right hand he holds an illustration of the chapel. Above him, the words on a scroll read: ‘Except the Lord build the house’ (Psalm 127: 1).

The image of Saint Philip was chosen because this window commemorates the Victorian Master of Saint John’s, the Revd Philip Hayman Dod (1810-1883), who carried out the repair and the rearrangement of this chapel in 1871.

While he was Master and Warden of Saint John’s Hospital (1842-1883), Dod was also a minor canon or priest-vicar of Lichfield Cathedral.

The large window depicting Christ the healer in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The largest window on the south wall of the chapel is the earliest stained glass window in Saint John’s and dates from around 1855. This window depicts Christ healing the crippled man at the pool of Bethesda (see John 5: 1-16).

This window has no dedication, but the choice of this image from Saint John’s Gospel alludes to Saint John’s title as a ‘hospital.’

The window depicting Christ with the children commemorates Catherine Browne of the Friary, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Between this and the Kempe window is a two-light window to commemorate Catherine Browne (1813-1880), depicting Christ with the children. The Biblical text in the lower window reads: ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not for of such is the kingdom of God’ (see Matthew 19: 14; Luke 18: 16; Mark 10; 14).

The dedication reads: ‘To the glory of God and in memory of Catherine, the wife of William Browne MD of the Friary, born 12th July 1813, died 6th December 1880.’

The Friary site is a little north of Saint John’s and it a curious coincidence, given the Biblical theme in this window, that many years later her home become the site of the Friary School.

Kempe was seen by his contemporaries as a Tractarian, but primarily he saw his task ‘to beautify the place in which to celebrate the glory of God.’ His window – or perhaps two windows – in the Chapel of Saint John’s offers or offer an interesting illustration of this principle.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Celebrating Saint George,
a day early or a day late

The George and Dragon, Beacon Street, Lichfield … marking Saint George’s Day with family fun today (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today [23 April] is normally marked in the Church Calendar as Saint George’s Day. However, most churches probably marked today as the Second Sunday of Easter, or Low Sunday.

The ‘Rules to Order the Christian Year’ in Common Worship advise: ‘When St George’s Day or St Mark’s Day falls between Palm Sunday and the Second Sunday of Easter inclusive, it is transferred to the Monday after the Second Sunday of Easter. If both fall in this period, St George’s Day is transferred to the Monday and St Mark’s Day to the Tuesday.’

Because Saint George’s Day falls on a Sunday this year, the Saint George’s Day celebrations in Lichfield were held instead yesterday [Saturday 22 April 2017]. The historic Saint George’s Court, an Ancient Manorial Court dating back to 1548, was held in the Lichfield Guildhall yesterday, where the court took place in a light-hearted and entertaining atmosphere, with the Mayor of Lichfield, as Lord of the Manor, presiding, assisted by the Town Clerk as Steward of the Manor.

The Court Baron and View of Frankpledge, commonly known as Saint George’s Court, is an ancient manorial court. The manorial rights of the Barony of Lichfield were transferred by Charter of Edward VI in 1548 to the Bailiffs, Burgesses and Commonalty of the City, which in today’s terms mean the Mayor, councillors and citizens.

The Court is now held in a light-hearted manner but still appoints the ancient officers of the manor: two High Constables, seven Dozeners (or petty constables), two Pinners and two Ale Tasters.

The High Constables report on their work during the previous year, and a jury is empanelled and then imposes fines on those who have rejected the summons to attend, after first hearing their amusing excuses.

The George Hotel, Lichfield ... commemorated Saint George and the Dragon until the 19th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The George Hotel in Bird Street is one of the oldest hotels in Lichfield. In the 19th century, the hotel’s sign depicted Saint George and the Dragon, and – despite changes over the years – the name George has been retained in the hotel name.

A little further north, the George and Dragon on Beacon Street is a friendly local pub with stunning views of Lichfield Cathedral from the garden behind, including the site of Prince Rupert’s Mound, an important battle site during the Siege of Lichfield in the English Civil War in the 1640s.

Today, this quiet corner of Lichfield has a quaint, semi-rural atmosphere about it.

Despite Saint George’s Court being moved a day this weekend, there is a Family Fun Day entertainment in the George and Dragon today to celebrate ‘England’s most noble patron saint.’ Only the most pedantic critic would point out that Saint George is not English at all – after all, the English might then end up laying claim to Saint Patrick.

A family fun day at the George and Dragon today (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Some years ago, Archbishop John Sentamu of York launched a campaign for a bank holiday in England to mark Saint George’s Day. ‘As someone who is inspired by Saint George’s refusal to renounce his discipleship of Jesus Christ,’ he said, ‘I have long campaigned for us to have a special holiday where we can celebrate our patron saint and all that is great about our wonderful nation.’

But sometimes I think it is the way Saint George and Saint George’s Day have been hijacked by far-right elements in England that prevents many English people from enjoying Saint George’s Day in ways similar to the celebrations marking Saint Patrick’s Day in Ireland.

And I often think it is it due to lingering Irish antagonism towards England – unspoken, but for all that no less distasteful – that Saint George’s Day is seldom marked in Ireland, even in churches that bear his name.

We have North Great George’s Street, and South Great George’s Street in Dublin; there is a George’s Street in Wexford, and there was once a George’s Street in Limerick, although it was renamed O’Connell Street many years ago.

I imagine there are similarly named streets in most Irish cities and large towns. In his recent book, Churches of the Church of Ireland Dedicated to Saint George, Duncan Scarlett records how the cult of Saint George was popular in the Pale until the Reformation.

Many of these are Georgian churches, and may have been named not in memory of Saint George but in honour of one the Hanoverian monarchs, usually King George III or King George IV.

The pediment of the former Saint George’s Church, Hardwicke Place, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

There never was a liturgical provision for the Feast of Saint George – not even in the period when the Church of Ireland the Church of England were united, from the Act of Union in 1801 to disestablishment in 1871.

Since 1928, Saint George’s Church in Belfast has celebrated this feast day liturgically – but only since 23 April 1928. But the bells of Saint George’s in Hardwicke Place, Dublin, were rung throughout the afternoon of 23 April at one stage in the 19th century.

Statues of Saint George in Lisbon (top) and Barcelona (below) (Photographs: Patrick Comerford)

I have noticed in recent years how Saint George is the patron saint of both Lisbon and Barcelona. So why have Irish people come to see Saint George as being particularly English? And why has George lost popularity in Irish families as a child’s name?

Indeed, who is Saint George?

Was there ever such a person?

Can we separate the historical George from the mythical George of the stories of George and the Dragon?

And why is he so popular universally – apart from Ireland?

Saint George slaying the Dragon … a Cappadocian martyr depicted in the chapel of Saint Basil in Goreme in Cappadocia (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Greek name Γεώργιος (Geōrgios, Latin Georgius) means ‘worker of the land.’ It is likely that Saint George was born to a Christian noble family in Lydda or Lod, south-east of present-day Tel Aviv, in the late third century, sometime between about 275 AD and 285 AD, and that he died in Nicomedia, present-day Izmit, about 100 km east of Istanbul in modern Turkey.

It is said that his father was a Roman army official from Cappadocia, and his mother was from Palestine. They were both Christians and from noble families of Anici, and the child was raised a Christian.

At the age of 14, George’s father died, and his mother died a few years later. George then decided to visit the Emperor Diocletian in the imperial city of Nicomedia seeking a career as a soldier. Diocletian welcomed him with open arms, and by his late 20s George was a tribunus, attached to the imperial guard in Nicomedia.

In the year 302, Diocletian issued an edict that every Christian soldier in the army should be arrested and every other soldier should offer a sacrifice to the pagan gods. But George objected and with the courage of his faith approached the Emperor.

Diocletian was upset, not wanting to lose his best tribune and the son of his best official. George loudly denounced the emperor’s edict, and in front of his fellow soldiers and tribunes declared himself a Christian. Diocletian attempted to convert George, even offering him gifts of land, money and slaves if he made a sacrifice to the Roman gods. But George declined all the offers from the emperor.

Accepting the futility of his efforts, Diocletian ordered his execution. Before the execution, George gave his wealth to the poor and prepared himself. After being tortured, George was beheaded before the city walls of Nicomedia on 23 April 303. When the Empress Alexandra and Athanasius, a pagan priest, saw his suffering they too became Christians, and they too were martyred.

Saint George’s body was returned to Lydda or Lod for burial, and Christians began to revere him as a martyr. He is honoured by the Eastern Orthodox Church, which refers to him as a ‘Great Martyr,’ and is a popular saint in Greece, Romania, Russia and other Orthodox countries.

Inside Saint George’s Church in Panormos, east of Rethymnon, in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

But how did Saint George become the patron saint of England?

Saint Edward the Confessor, who died on 5 January 1066, was canonised by Pope Alexander III in 116. For some reason, he is commemorated on 13 October by the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church, and he was regarded as the patron saint of kings, difficult marriages, and separated spouses. From the reign of Henry II until 1348, he was revered as the patron saint of England.

However, during the reign of Edward III he was replaced as patron by Saint George, although Edward has remained the patron saint of the British royal family.
Saint George was mentioned among the martyrs by Bede. His feast day soon gained widespread popularity throughout England, especially with the Crusades. Saint George’s flag, a red cross on a white background, was adopted by England and the City of London in 1190 for ships entering the Mediterranean to benefit from the protection of the Genoese fleet during the Crusades.

In 1222, the Synod of Oxford declared Saint George’s Day a feast day throughout England. The English were heard invoking Saint George as a battle cry on several occasions during the Hundred Years’ War.

The now-closed Saint Mary’s and Saint George’s Church in Comberford, Staffordshire, between Lichfield and Tamworth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

When the English Reformation severely curtailed the saints’ days in the Church Calendar, Saint George’s Day was one that managed to survive. Nevertheless, it is still surprising that England’s patron saint was never selected from a list of English saints that includes Saint Alban (died 209, 251, or 304, feast day 22 June), Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne (died 687, feast day 20 March), Saint Edmund the Martyr (870, 20 November), Saint Edward the Confessor (1066, 30 November) or Saint Thomas a Becket of Canterbury (1170, 29 December).

The English far right has tried to capture Saint George and to use his flag as they claim immigration poses a threat to English national identity. In the post-Brexit atmosphere in England today, and amid all the clamour of nationalist rhetoric that is going to be sounded during this election campaign, it is worth remembering that Saint George was born in Palestine to a Turkish father and Palestinian mother, that he lived in the Middle East.

He would never have made it to Britain if he had tried to flee those who vilified his religious beliefs. Instead, he was murdered by people who persecuted him because of his religious beliefs. He stands for anything but the anti-migrant rhetoric, racism and xenophobia that we are in danger of hearing over the next few weeks.

The apse and nave in Saint George-in-the East, Wapping (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Collect (Common Worship):

God of hosts,
who so kindled the flame of love
in the heart of your servant George
that he bore witness to the risen Lord
by his life and by his death:
give us the same faith and power of love
that we who rejoice in his triumphs
may come to share with him the fullness of the resurrection;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion Prayer (Common Worship):

Eternal God,
who gave us this holy meal
in which we have celebrated the glory of the cross
and the victory of your martyr George:
by our communion with Christ
in his saving death and resurrection,
give us with all your saints the courage to conquer evil
and so to share the fruit of the tree of life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

A glass of wine on a summer afternoon at Fort St George, the oldest pub on the River Cam in Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Why love and not death has the
final triumph on ‘Low Sunday’

‘Quasimodo Sunday’ takes its name from the Latin introit ‘Quasi modo geniti infantes ...,’ ‘Like new-born infants ...’

Patrick Comerford,

Sunday, 23 April 2017:

The 2nd Sunday of Easter (Low Sunday),


11.15 a.m., The Eucharist, Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick.

Readings: Acts 2: 14a, 22-32; Psalm 16; I Peter 1: 3-9; John 20: 19-31.

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

This Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter, has a number of names that introduce us to important Christian values, ideas and concepts.

In the Eastern Churches, this day is known as Thomas Sunday, because of the dramatic story about the Apostle Thomas in our Gospel reading this morning.

In many places, this Sunday is known as Low Sunday. Some say it was called ‘Low Sunday’ because today’s liturgy is something of an anti-climax after the solemn Easter liturgy and celebrations a week ago. Some even joke that today is known as Low Sunday because this is the Sunday choirs take off after their hard work during Holy Week and Easter.

In some places, including parts of France and Germany, this day is called ‘Quasimodo Sunday.’ The Latin introit for the day begins: ‘Quasi modo geniti infantes ...,’ ‘Like new-born infants ...,’ words from I Peter 2: 2 reminding newly-baptised Christians and all baptised members of the Church that we have been renewed, like new-born infants, in the waters of Baptism.

Quasimodo, the sad hero in Victor Hugo’s novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831), was abandoned as a new-born baby in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on this Sunday, and so was given the name Quasimodo by Archdeacon Claude Frollo who found him.

Perhaps Quasimodo and his love for Esméralda would make a wonderful sermon topic some day. It is a story of how people are often judged, and judged wrongly, because of their looks, their clothes and their social status. Quasimodo is despised because of the large, ugly wart on his face and his disfigured body, and he is ridiculed for his inarticulate speech and for his deafness. And Esméralda fails to appreciate the true beauty and undying nature of the love Quasimodo offers her.

Esméralda, for her part, despite her beauty, her compassion and her talents, is despised because of her ethnic background, her manners and her clothes: those who see her first see her as a gypsy, and so is side-lined and objectified. You might expect an anchorite to be a holy woman, but even Sister Gudele, figuratively representing the Church, curses the gypsy girl who is her true daughter, while Archdeacon Frollo’s all-consuming lust and desire for Esméralda run contrary to the ideals of his ministry and the mission of the Church.

Yet, there is a hint at the Easter theme in this story: Phoebus is not dead, Esméralda is put on trial and sentenced to death unjustly, and is saved from death by Quasimodo. In the end, despite its sadness, it is love and not death that has the final triumph in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Victor Hugo may be a little old-fashioned today, but Quasimodo and Esméralda have important lessons and values for us today. Beauty is not merely in the eye of the beholder, and seeing is not always believing. Quasimodo may appear to be ugly, but his love is pure and has an eternal quality. Esméralda appears to be beautiful, but those who are stirred to passion on seeing her put little value on love, respect and inner integrity.

In our society today, are we easily deceived by appearances?

Do we confuse what pleases me with beauty and with truth?

Do we allow those who have power to define the boundaries of trust and integrity merely to serve their own interests?

Are we are happy to live in a society where a fiscal lack of accountability on the part of politicians, and where obvious obfuscation are accepted instead of honest explanation or confession, as long as my future continues to look prosperous and I continue to be guaranteed a slice of the economic cake?

But appearances often deceive. Those who appear to be ugly are not so due to any fault or sinfulness, and they are often gentle and good-at-heart. Those who appear to be beautiful may threaten our personal confidence and security. And those who appear to guarantee economic, social or political stability may simply be serving their own needs and interests – as Esméralda finds out with Captain Phoebus and the jealous Archdeacon Frollo.

In life, how often do we fail to make the vital connection between appearances and deceptions on the one hand, and, on the other hand, between seeing and believing?

Quiet often, I think, this comes down to our different styles of learning and approaches to integrating information. How do you learn?

Think of how you go about learning yourself. Can you remember the latest gadget you bought? When you get a new car, or a new computer, do you first open the manual and read through the instructions carefully? Once you have read the handbook thoroughly and understand how all it works, you then get to work on your own.

Or perhaps you love buying flat-pack furniture, taking it home, and without ever looking at the instructions, figure out how to assemble it. Others, like me, get frustrated and end up with odd bits and pieces, but you see it as a challenge. Like a game of chess, you know that once all the pieces are placed correctly you are ready to move in and to win. The prize is that new coffee table or that new wardrobe.

And then there are those who prefer to have someone sit down beside them, show them how to do things, from switching on the new computer, to setting up passwords, folders and email accounts.

What sort of learners are Mary in last week’s Resurrection story, Thomas in this morning’s Gospel reading, and the other disciples in those readings?

For Mary, appearances could be deceiving. When she first saw the Risen Lord on Easter morning, she did not recognise him. She thought he was the gardener. But when he spoke to her she recognised his voice, and then wanted to hold on to him. From that moment of seeing and believing, she rushes off to tell the Disciples: ‘I have seen the Lord.’

Two of them, John the Beloved and Simon Peter, had already seen the empty tomb, but they failed to make the vital connection between seeing and believing. When they heard Mary’s testimony, they still failed to believe fully. They only believe when they see the Risen Lord standing among them, when he greets them, ‘Peace be with you,’ and when he shows them his pierced hands and side.

They had to see and to hear, they had to have the Master stand over them in their presence, before they could believe.

But Thomas the Twin, or Thomas Didymus, is missing from the group on that occasion. He has not seen and so he refuses to believe.

We can never be quite sure about Saint Thomas in this Gospel. After the death of Lazarus, he shows that he has no idea of the real meaning of death and resurrection when he suggests that the disciples should go to Bethany with Jesus: ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him’ (John 11: 16). And while Saint Thomas saw the raising of Lazarus, what did he believe in? Could seeing ever be enough for a doubting Thomas to believe?

At the Last Supper, despite assurances from Christ, Thomas protests that he does not know what is happening (John 14: 5). He has been with Christ for three years, and still he does not believe or understand. Seeing and explanations are not enough for him.

On the first Easter Day, the Disciples locked themselves away out of fear. But where is Thomas? Is he fearless? Or is he foolish?

For a full week, Thomas is absent and does not join in the Easter experience of the remaining disciples. When they tell him what has happened, Thomas refuses to accept their stories of the resurrection. For him hearing, even seeing, are not enough.

Thomas wants to see, hear and touch. He wants to use all his learning faculties before he can believe this story. See, hear and touch – if they had manuals then as we now have, I’m sure Thomas would have demanded a manual on the resurrection too.

His method of learning is to use all the different available approaches. He has heard, but he wants to see. When he sees, he wants to touch … he demands not only to touch the Risen Jesus, but to touch his wounds too before being convinced.

And so for a second time within eight days, Christ came and stood among his disciples, and said: ‘Peace be with you.’

Do you recall how Mary was asked in the garden on Easter morning not to cling on to Christ? So why then is Thomas invited to touch him in the most intimate way? He is told to place his finger in Christ’s wounded hands and his hand in Christ’s pierced side.

Caravaggio has depicted this scene in his painting, The Incredulity of Saint Thomas. Yet we are never told whether Thomas actually touched those wounds. All we are told is that once he has seen the Risen Christ, Thomas simply professes his faith in Jesus: ‘My Lord and my God!’

In that moment, we hear the first expression of faith in the two natures of Christ, that he is both divine and human. For all his doubts, Thomas provides us with an exquisite summary of the apostolic faith.

Too often, perhaps, we talk about ‘Doubting Thomas.’ Instead, we might better call him ‘Believing Thomas.’ His doubting led him to question. But his questioning led to listening. And when he heard, he saw, perhaps he even touched. Whatever he did, he learned in his own way, and he came not only to faith but faith that for this first time was expressed in that eloquent yet succinct acknowledgment of Christ as both ‘My Lord and My God.’

Too often, in this world, we are deceived easily by the words of others and deceived by what they want us to see. Seeing is not always believing today. Hearing does not always mean we have heard the truth, as we know in Irish life and politics today. It is easy to deceive and to be deceived by a good presentation and by clever words.

Too often, we accept or judge people by their appearances, and we are easily deceived by the words of others because of their office or their privilege. But there are times when our faith, however simple or sophisticated, must lead us to ask appropriate questions, not to take everything for granted, and not to confuse what looks like being in our own interests with real beauty and truth.

May all our thoughts, all our prayers and all our deeds be + in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Carravagio: The Incredulity of Saint Thomas

Collect:

Almighty Father,
you have given your only Son to die for our sins
and to rise again for our justification:
Grant us so to put away the leaven
of malice and wickedness
that we may always serve you in pureness of living and truth;
through the merits of your Son
Jesus Christ our Lord.

Post-Communion Prayer:

Lord God our Father,
through our Saviour Jesus Christ
you have assured your children of eternal life
and in baptism have made us one with him.
Deliver us from the death of sin
and raise us to new life in your love,
in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Priest-in-Charge, the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. This sermon was prepared for Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick, on Sunday 23 April 2017, the Second Sunday of Easter (Low Sunday).