Sunday, 30 April 2017

‘Do you not know that you are God’s temple
and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?’

‘George Herbert (1593-1633) at Bemerton’ (William Dyce, 1860)

Patrick Comerford,

Sunday 30 April 2017,

The Third Sunday of Easter,

Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton,

7.30 p.m., Evening Prayer:


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

The readings for this evening are a reminder of where we should find the true Temple, the Temple of our hearts.

In the first reading (Haggai 1: 13 to 2: 9), the people are called to work on rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem. Perhaps they are thinking it is going to be a place for themselves, an exclusive place for themselves alone.

But any hint of a seeking an exclusive, elitist place apart in the Temple is challenged with the arrival of the Prophet Haggai, who tells them that the true Temple is a place that will be open to the heavens and the earth, and it will only be truly a place of worship when it is a place where all the nations can offer their gifts to God: ‘the treasure of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with splendour, says the Lord of hosts.’

This future Temple, open to all nations, will be far greater than any past or present Temple.

In one of the New Testament readings available this evening (I Corinthians 3: 10-17), the Apostle Paul writes to the church in Corinth, talking about how we should carefully lay the foundations for any building project. He uses this image to talk about how we should prepare our hearts as a true Temple for God.

And then he tells them: ‘Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? … God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.’

Instead, we have heard the Gospel reading (John 2: 13-22) for a second service today, and which has been specially selected in the lectionary for these weeks in the Easter season. In this reading, Christ alludes to his own resurrection, and talks about the Temple in Jerusalem, and the Temple of his Body.

As the Church, we are the body of Christ, and so the Church, embracing every member of the Church, builds up into the true Temple, into which all are invited and all are welcome.

Our office hymn for Evening Prayer this evening, ‘King of Glory, King of Peace’ (Church Hymnal, 358), is part of his collection of poems, ‘The Temple,’ by the great English priest-poet George Herbert (1593-1633), edited by his friend Nicholas Ferrar of Little Gidding and published immediately after his death.

In this hymn, we are challenged to see ourselves, in body, heart and soul, as the Temple of God in which true worship is found. That true worship is found in love that never ceases (verse 1), in prayer throughout the week that never ceases (verse 2), and in praise that includes our Sunday worship, but is not just Sunday praise and never ceases (verse 3).

George Herbert died on 1 March 1633, but he is commemorated in the Church of England in the Calendar in Common Worship on 27 February. The Collect of that day in Common Worship prays:

King of glory, king of peace,
who called your servant George Herbert
from the pursuit of worldly honours
to be a priest in the temple of his God and king:
grant us also the grace to offer ourselves
with singleness of heart in humble obedience to your service;
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. Amen.

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

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Priest-in-Charge of the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. This sermon was prepared for Evening Prayer in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, on Sunday 30 April 2017.

He made himself known to them
‘in the breaking of the bread’

‘Then they told ... how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread’ … the ‘Road to Emmaus’ icon by Sister Marie Paul OSB of the Mount of Olives Monastery, Jerusalem (1990), commissioned by Father Thomas Rosica

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 30 April 2017,

The Third Sunday of Easter

11 a.m., Castletown Church, Pallaskenry,

United Group Service, The Eucharist.

Readings:
Acts 2: 14a, 36-41 or Isaiah 43: 1-12; Psalm 116: 1-3, 10-17; I Peter 1: 17-23; Luke 24: 13-35.

In the name of + the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Some years ago, during a world Synod of Bishops on the Bible, the Bible story quoted most often was the story of the disciples meeting Jesus on the road to Emmaus.

According to a Canadian theologian, Father Thomas Rosica, who does much of the Vatican PR work on television, this Gospel story kept coming up at the synod in Rome in 2008 because so many bishops and other synod members saw it as the perfect example of what the Church must do with the Scriptures: discuss them with people, explain them and let them lead people to recognise Jesus.

Father Pascual Chavez Villanueva, then the Superior General of the Salesians, who have a house near here in Pallaskenry, told the synod that the story shows evangelisation, sharing the good news of the Gospel, the good news of the Risen Christ, takes place by walking alongside people, listening to their sorrows, and then giving them a word of hope and a community in which to live it.

Father Chavez told the synod that today’s young people definitely share with the disciples ‘the frustration of their dreams, the tiredness of their faith and being disenchanted with discipleship.’ They ‘need a church that walks alongside them where they are.’

But perhaps he could have gone further. I think this applies to so many people whose dreams have been frustrated, whose faith has become tired, who have failed to find the Church walking alongside them.

The story of Christ and the Disciples on the Road to Emmaus is a very rich one and one that offers us a model for Christian life and travelling on the pilgrimage that is Christianity.

After seeing all their hopes shattered on Good Friday, two disciples – Cleopas and another unnamed disciple – head out of Jerusalem, figuratively turn their back on Jerusalem, and walk away from it all. As their make their way together, they are walking and talking on the road.

Emmaus was about seven miles from Jerusalem, so it would have taken them two hours, perhaps, to walk there, maybe more if they were my age.

Somewhere along the way, they are joined by a third person, ‘but their eyes were kept from recognising him’ (verse 16, NRSV), or to be more precise, as the Greek text says, ‘but their eyes were being held so that they did not recognise him.’

These two cannot make sense of what has happened over the last few days, and they cannot make sense of the questions their new companion puts to them. When Christ asks them a straight question, they look sad and downcast.

I get the feeling that Cleopas is a bit cynical, describing Jesus as a visitor and responding to Jesus as if he really does not know what has happened in Jerusalem. In his cynicism, Cleopas almost sounds like Simon the Pharisee who asks Jesus when he is dining with him whether he really knows who the woman with the alabaster jar is.

Like Simon that evening, Cleopas and his friend once thought of Jesus as a Prophet. But now they doubt it. And the sort of Messiah they hoped for was not the sort of Messiah Jesus had been preparing them for, was he?

And they have heard the report of the women visiting the tomb, and finding it empty. Hearing is not believing. Seeing is not believing. And believing is not the same as faith.

When I find myself disagreeing fundamentally with people, I wonder do I listen even half as patiently as Christ did with these two.

There are no interruptions, no corrections, no up-braidings. Christ listens attentively and patiently, like all good counsellors should, and only speaks when they have finished speaking.

And then, despite their cynicism, despite their failure to understand, despite their lack of faith, these two disciples do something extraordinary. They press the stranger in their company not to continue on his journey. It is late in the evening, and they invite him to join them.

On re-reading this story I found myself comparing their action and their hospitality with the Good Samaritan who comes across the bruised and battered stranger on the side of the road, and offers him healing hospitality, offering to pay for his meals and his accommodation in the inn.

These two have also come across a bruised and battered stranger on the road, and they offer him healing and hospitality, they offer him a meal and accommodation in the inn.

Christ had once imposed himself on Zacchaeus and presumes on his hospitality. Now Cleopas and his companion insist on imposing their hospitality on Christ. The guest becomes the host and the host becomes the guest, once again.

Christ goes in to stay with them. And it is not just a matter of finding him a room for the night. They dine together.

And so, in a manner that is typical of the way Saint Luke tells his stories, the story of the road to Emmaus ends with a meal with Christ.

And at the meal – as he did with the multitude on the hillside, and with the disciples in the Upper Room – Christ takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to those at the table with him (verse 30).

Their time in the wilderness is over, the Lenten preparation has been completed. The one who has received their hospitality now invites them to receive the hospitality of God, and to join him at the Heavenly Banquet.

Their journey continues. Our journey continues. Christ is not physically present with us on the road. But we recognise him in the breaking of the bread. And we, being many, become one body, for we all share in the one bread.

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

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Priest-in-Charge, the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes in Co Limerick and Co Kerry.

The Resurrection, by the 15th-century artist Piero della Francesca, is in the civic museum, formerly the town hall, in the Tuscan market-town of Borgo San Sepolcro

The Collect:

Almighty Father,
who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples
with the sight of the risen Lord:
Give us such knowledge of his presence with us,
that we may be strengthened
and sustained by his risen life
and serve you continually in righteousness and truth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Post-Communion Prayer:

Living God,
your Son made himself known to his disciples
in the breaking of bread.
Open the eyes of our faith,
that we may see him in all his redeeming work;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Luke 24: 13-35

13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognising him. 17 And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ 19 He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’ 25 Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Comberford residents are upset at
abandoned state of closed church

A recent report in the ‘Tamworth Herald’ describes how people in Comberford feel about the abandoned state of the closed church in the village

Patrick Comerford

During my recent visit to Lichfield, I missed an opportunity for a return visit to Comberford village. Now I have read a sad report, published in the Tamworth Herald earlier this month that talks about the distress local residents are feeling about the state of the church in Comberford, which was closed at the end of 2013.

In a report headed ‘Tamworth family furious after they claim diocese left church ‘gutted’,’ Jordan Coussins reports how a heartbroken family have spoken of their disgust after the church in Comberford was gutted of its artefacts by the local diocese.

According to the report, descendants of the Paget family, who own the land on which Saint Mary’s and Saint George’s Church stands, the ‘Church of England has taken contents not belonging to them.’

The church, which stands in Manor Lane, has been locked in a legal battle of ownership for almost four years since it was closed by the Diocese of Lichfield and the Paget family now claims that the diocese tried to sell the church.

Charles Hodgetts, who is a direct descendent of Francis Paget, a former owner of the church site, has called the situation ‘disgusting’ and has vowed to continue the fight for justice.

‘It’s tragic,’ he told the Tamworth Herald. ‘It’s complete vandalism what they have done to it. They have just ripped out items that were gifted by the Paget family.

‘These things should never have been taken from here – the church has been left like a building site.

‘There is loose wiring everywhere. They have reduced a once beautiful church into nothing.

‘It should have never have come to this. I’m so disappointed with the state it has been left in.’

The church was originally donated to a Lichfield Diocesan Trust for the people of Comberford by the Paget family who lived at Elford Hall. The first stone was laid at a special ceremony in 1914 and the building was completed in 1915.

Joanne Cliffe, who is an active member of the Friends of Comberford Church, has vowed to give the church back to the people.

She told the Tamworth Herald: ‘What we want to do is, first and foremost, get the building reinstated as it was when the church closed. And the now owners have agreed for the building to be for the community. The aim is to hold some events for the community as a whole, not just the people of Comberford.’

She added: ‘Because the church was given to the people of Comberford, we want to give it back.’

A spokesman for the Diocese of Lichfield told the Tamworth Herald: ‘Following the church's closure in 2013 it was agreed to give the building to the family who originally donated the land on which it stands. Under due legal process, after permission was granted by the Chancellor of the Diocese, the fixtures of the building were removed and given to other local churches.’

Charles Hodgetts stands inside Saint Mary's and Saint George’s Church

The church has been gutted of its artefacts

How the church looked before it was closed

Local residents and friends of the church visit the site

Photographs: Tamworth Herald

For many generations, my family continued to regard Comberford as our ancestral home, despite some of the complicated details in the family tree. My great-grandfather, James Comerford, had a very interesting visit to Comberford and Tamworth at the end of the 19th or in the early 20th century, visiting the Peel family who lived there … he probably had his heart set on consolidating those family links.

I first visited Comberford and Comberford Hall in 1970 and have been back many times since then. I have written before how – when my mind and imagination go wild – I think of how nice it would be to buy back Comberford Hall, and even dream of using that grand old house as a retreat centre or as a centre for spirituality and the arts, with the village church close at hand, across the fields at the end of a public right-of-way footpath.

Comberford Hall … ancestral seat of the Comberford family, set in the south Staffordshire countryside (Photograph: Patrick Comberford, 2016)

But the closure of the church can be the harbinger of the death of a village … and the church should be the last place to condemn a village to death. Comberford village, in Lichfield Rural District, is two or three miles north of Tamworth and about four or five miles east of Lichfield … as the crow flies. The village is without either a post office or a pub, and in recent years the village church closed, having been at the heart of the village for over a century, is closing.

Until recently, the parish described itself on its website as being ‘on the traditional side of the Church. That said, we have embraced the new services of Common Worship very happily and also enjoy a mixture of traditional hymns and modern music. But we are Catholic in the best sense of that word, seeing ourselves as rooted in the Holy Eucharist, and the traditional vestments and the reserved sacrament.’

It is a description of a church that would have appealed to many members of the Comberford family in previous centuries. However, they would have worshipped in Saint Editha’s Church in Tamworth, where generations of the family are buried in the Comberford Chapel ... although the original Comberford Hall may also have been used for Roman Catholic Masses in the late 16th century and for Quaker meetings for a short time in the mid-17th century.

The church in Comberford was built on a site donated in May 1914 by Howard Francis Paget (1858-1935) of Elford Hall to the Lichfield Diocesan Trust for the erection of a mission church. Howard Paget’s father, the Revd Francis Edward Paget (1806-1882), was Rector of Elford, an early follower of the Oxford Movement, and the author of Tractarian fiction, including The Curate of Cumberworth (sic) (1859).

The Paget family’s interest in the area continued for generations. Howard Paget’s daughter, Charlotte Gabrielle Howard Paget, married Joseph Harold Hodgetts, and died in Lichfield in 1979. Their son, the late Harold Patrick Hodgetts, lived nearby at Model Farm in Elford, and Pat Hodgetts was proud that his grandparents had given the church to the village.

The church is of architectural interest as one of the churches designed by Andrew Capper. A well-known Gothic revival architect, he worked closely with George Edmund Street. He designed, refurbished or contributed to rebuilding other churches in the Diocese of Lichfield, including Saint Leonard’s Church, Dunston, South Staffordshire; Saint Cuthbert’s, Donington, a Grade II Listed Building; and, I think, Saint Mary’s, Dunstall. His work alone makes the village church in Comberford of interest to architectural and heritage groups.

The emblems of Saint Mary (white rose) and Saint George (red cross) recall the church in Comberford on a hassock in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

The closure of the post office or the local pub is a bitter blow to a village. But if the village church stays open against all the odds, then it is a living testimony to our faith in the villagers and to our faith in the Resurrection, affirming the people who live there and asserting that their value is not to be assessed in merely fiscal terms or by counting the financial contributions they make to the life of the wider Church.

I have visited Comberford many times since 1970 … following in the footsteps of many generations of my family

Some estimates say about 20 Church of England church buildings are closed for worship each year, and the church in Comberford joined that list in 2013.

Saint Mary’s and Saint George’s Church is on Manor Lane, but the parish does not own the surrounding land, and access to the church is along a public right of way. But still this church has been the focus and point of contact in Comberford village for years. The attractive interior decoration and the rounded ceiling – both in wood – helped to created a sense of peace and tranquility.

There is a truism that we do not inherit what we have from the past but hold it in trust for the future. The future for the church in Comberford may be something very different than we can imagine. It would be sad to see it become another private house in the village. It still seems to me that its location offers the potential for a retreat centre or a centre for the arts and spirituality. The expansion of Tamworth may open potential for future generations. Who knows?

Despite the report in the Tamworth Herald earlier this month, I hope that with a little imagination this church this church can remain a great resource for local people and a centre for the community for generations to come.

Saint Mary’s and Saint George’s Church in summer sunshine last year (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Talking about Rathkeale at
the General Synod in Limerick

The River Shannon at Arthur’s Quay, Limerick, with King’s Island, Saint Mary’s Cathedral and King John’s Castle to the right (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The ‘Church of Ireland Notes’ in ‘The Irish Times’ today (p. 20) includes the following paragraphs:

This year the General Synod will, for the first time be held in Limerick and will begin in the South Court Hotel next Thursday, continuing until Saturday. The business will be preceded by a celebration of the Eucharist in St Mary’s cathedral at which the preacher will be the Bishop of Limerick, the Rt Revd Kenneth Kearon. In a departure from previous practice the daily devotions will be led by a Synod Chaplain who, this year, will be the Dean of Killaloe, the Very Revd Gary Paulsen.

In addition to the consideration of the annual reports of the RCB, the Standing Committee and its various committees and commissions, the Synod will be asked to debate proposed legislation on a number of issues including clergy pensions, a requirement to keep confirmation registers, and a proposal for lay and ecumenical canons for Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.

One new feature for this year’s General Synod will be an informal session on the second day which will celebrate ministries undertaken by parishes to their local communities. This will include contributions highlighting the Rathkeale group of parishes’ social cohesion project and Lisburn Cathedral’s foodbank and Christians Against Poverty centre.

The General Synod’s website is now live: https://synod.ireland.anglican.org/2017/general-synod-2017 and has all the relevant documentation, Reports and information, including a summary of business done, will be posted daily during Synod. In advance, you can also access the Bills Pamphlet and explanatory memoranda: https://www.ireland.anglican.org/cmsfiles/pdf/Synod/2017/Bills/Bills2017.pdf and the List of Motions: https://www.ireland.anglican.org/cmsfiles/pdf/Synod/2017/Motions2017.pdf

There will be an audio broadcast during Synod and a Twitter feed using the hashtag #coigs. This hashtag will also be used for Facebook and Instagram as well as other social media outlets.

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, Castle Connell, Co Limerick … Owen Comerford died here on 15 June 1945 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

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

The former Good Shepherd Convent is now home to Limerick School of Art and Design (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

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 (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.

7-9 Bank Place, Limerick … Michael and Mary Ann Comerford were living at 4 Bank Place when their son James Comerford was born in 1896 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

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 at the Lying-In Hospital, Bedford Row, Limerick; 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 Gardenhill 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 Gardenhill 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.

Last updated with additional photographs: 5 November 2017; 6 November 2017.

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.