Thursday, 31 August 2017

Greece is good for tourists, but
is tourism good for Greece?

The Acropolis is the single-most important site for tourists visiting Athens (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

I came back last week from my second visit to Greece this summer – there was a visit to Crete in June and July, and an extended weekend in Athens in mid-August.

Each time I visit Greece, I am regularly asked two questions on my return:

Did you see much poverty on the streets?

and:

Is tourism ruining Greece?

These two questions are interconnected and it is not easy to give separate answers. But, asking whether tourism is good for Greece is quite separate from asking whether Greece is good for tourists.

Table for two and two questions … a café in Koutouloufari in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Undoubtedly, the economic crises that hit Greece in wave after wave for almost a decade now have made Greece more affordable for tourists. Despite the collapse in the exchange rate for Sterling, Greece is still exceptionally good value even for British tourists, even though it is still in the Euro-zone – albeit clinging in there by its fingernails.

In addition, the political turmoil that has rocked for Turkey for over a year, and recent attacks on tourists in North Africa, means Greece is benefitting from an influx of tourists who find it a safer, attractive safe option to Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia or Morocco.

Athens has become a more attractive destination for city breaks in recent years. The new airport at Athens and a clean and easy-to-use transport system that brings passengers from the Airport straight into Syntagma Square in the heart of Athens means arriving in Greece a stress-free experience.

The area around the Acropolis has been spruced up, queueing for tickets has become less chaotic, the new Acropolis Museum has enriched the visitors’ experience, and eating out is better value per head than in most European capitals.

Eating out in Greece means good food and good value (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

But if Greece is good value, it is because the debt crisis is keeping prices down. Taxes are high, wages are low, and take-home pay creates major crises for families.

A record-breaking 30 million tourists are expected to have visited Greece this year once the peak season is over, up from 27.5 million last year, and 23.5 million the year before. This is welcome news for the government and the economy. The tourism sector provides a fifth of all jobs in Greece and is the largest contributor to the economy, accounting for 16 to 24 per cent of Greek GDP.

After eight years of austerity, these figures are a gift to the Greek economy, equal in value to the €8.5 billion financial lifeline the troika gave to Greece earlier this year.

In Crete, hoteliers, restaurateurs, taverna owners and taxi drivers all confirm that tourism has cushioned them against the effects of austerity measures. But new austerity measures continue to be introduced and continue to bite, and take-home pay continues to drop despite increases in tourist numbers this year.

Some people in the sector also complain that the increasing popularity of ‘all-in’ hotels and packages deprived the local economy of a potential spin-off, and isolate the holidaymakers from the reality of life outside the hotel gates.

Graffiti and closed shutters can be seen on street corners in every part of Athens (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

In recent years, three out of four university graduates have left Greece, at least 23% are unemployed, youth unemployment is now at 2-in-3, many families cannot pay everyday bills, and even among people are in employment, public sector workers in hospitals and schools find they are barely able to afford rents and soaring consumer prices. Whole streets between Syntagma Square and Omonoia Square in central Athens seem to have drawn their shutters as shop after shop has closed, one after another, now covered in ugly graffiti.

Indeed, ugly, graffiti-covered walls and shutters can be seen on every street in Athens, even in tourist areas. The boom in tourism cannot be positively assesses without taking account of social and economic tensions and taking account of the demands tourism make on over-burdened infrastructures. Greeks pride themselves on the virtue of philoxenia (φιλοξενία), welcoming the stranger, and are not as vocal as people in Barcelona in expressing their increasing unease with tourists. But, behind the scenes, many Greeks are becoming disillusioned and questioning the benefits of tourism.

Despite the rise in tourist numbers, foreign visitors are spending less on average per person. With rises in VAT rates for hotels, restaurants and tavernas, some business owners in the tourism sector are asking whether the government risks killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

Of course, there have been cuts in public transport and the occasional strike or street protest can disrupt holiday plans. But Greeks remain both hospitable and optimistic, Greece is still safe for travellers, and tourism is good for the Greek economy. The beaches are unrivalled and the sunsets are beyond imagination.

The attractions of Crete include the white beaches and the blue sky and sea (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Tourism may return to Turkey and North Africa if the political situation stabilises in years to come. But the biggest threat to the stability of tourism as the key sector in the Greek economy comes not from Greece’s neighbours but from climate change.

A recent study in Greece shows that the number of days where the temperature is above 35 C will probably increase by five to ten days, and the number of warm nights in a year (above 20 C) will probably increase by about 30 days, a whole month.

As a consequence, the length of the tourism season, defined as days with maximum temperatures above 25 C, could increase by 20 or more summer days in all tourist areas of Greece. This estimate rises to 30 days, or an extra month a year, in coastal areas of Crete.

Water shortages could be experienced in most years on islands such as Crete, partly due to the fact that tourists use far more water per capita than the local population.

This is not all the good news that a superficial reading might suggest. Many tourists may find this increase in heat in the islands, particularly in Crete, is going to put them off a holiday in Greece. The problems facing Santorini were highlighted by Helena Smith in the Guardian earlier this week.

Other problems that are beginning to show include shortages of water, which will have a knock-on effect on tourist facilities such as swimming pools and golf courses, and the increasing risk of forest fires in many areas. Some reports are even warning of a return of malaria to the southern Mediterranean region.

Restaurants and tavernas in a shaded corner of the old Venetian walled town of Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

One taxi driver in Rethymnon claimed a group of English tourists he picked up at one of these hotels asked to be taken into the nearest area for night clubs and bars. When he asked what they thought of Greece, they said none of them had ever been to Greece – they did not know Crete was in Greece. He told me they had booked their holiday without realising which country they were going to.

When I shared this story with tourists in Crete they were shocked. In Athens, every tourist is there to visit the Acropolis and some of the other archaeological sites. In the course of a two-week holiday, most English-speaking tourists I met made some effort to visit an archaeological or historical site, such as Knossos, the monastery at Arkadi, a museum in Iraklion, the Venetian Fortezza in Rethymnon.

On the other hand, beyond enjoying the food, listening to some bouzouki music in restaurants, tasting retsina and joining in an occasional ‘Zorba’ dance, few foreigners make any effort to engage with modern Greek culture. A handful may stray into a church and find they are taken aback by the icons and frescoes, but are unlikely to stay on for the liturgy. Only a tiny number, I imagine, could name Nikos Kazantzakis as the author of Zorba or Mikis Theodorakis as the composer of the theme music for the movie. Fewer still could name any other modern Greek writer, poet, composer or artist.

Few tourists in Crete notice the poverty in the suburbs just a few metres away from the narrow resort strip along the coast. Poverty is more visible on the streets of Athens, and I have had heart-breaking encounters with whole families reduced to begging on the streets.

The tourist sector may be continuing to give hope to the Greek economy. But it is not true that a rising tide lifts all boats.

If the economy recovers, a rising tide is not going to raise all boats … the harbour in Panormos in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

The Stoics of Athens and their
influence on Christian thinking

The Stoa of Attalos beneath the Acropolis in Athens … is this where Saint Paul met the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

One of the many splendid buildings beneath the slopes of the Acropolis in Athens is the Stoa of Attalos, a stoa (στοά), covered walkway or portico in the Agora.

It was built by and named after King Attalos II (159-138 BC) of Pergamon. Its arcades were divided into shops and stalls, and it was a popular place for wealthy Athenians to meet and gossip.

There were many stoas in Athens, including the Stoa Poikile (ἡ ποικίλη στοά) or Painted Porch, originally called the Porch of Peisianax (ἡ Πεισιανάκτειος στοά), built in the fifth century BC on the north side of the Agora.

The Stoa Poikile was one of the most famous sites in ancient Athens, owing its fame to the paintings and loot from wars displayed in it. It was in this porch that Zeno of Citium taught Stoicism, the philosophical school that takes its name from place.

The Stoa Poikile stood for over six centuries, but was damaged when Athens was sacked the Goths in 267 AD, and again when paintings were removed by a Roman governor around 396 AD. The Stoa may have continued to stand for another 50 to 100 years until it was demolished used for building material for a city wall.

The Stoa Basileios (στοά βασίλειος) or Royal Stoa, was built in the sixth century BC and rebuilt in the fifth century, in the north-west corner of the Agora. Socrates met Euthyphro in front of this stoa, and had the conversation recreated by Plato in his Euthyphro, and it was here that Socrates was formally charged with impiety.

The Stoa of Zeus Eleutherios, in the north-west corner of the Agora, was built ca 425 BC-410 BC and was one of the places where Socrates taught.

The large Middle Stoa took up the major part of the central marketplace or Agora, and its aisles were lined with Doric columns.

Close to the Theatre of Dionysos and the Asclepion on the slopes of the Acropolis, the Stoa of Eumenes was built by Eumenes, King of Pergamon. This colonnade was used as a shelter and promenade for theatre goers.

The Stoa of Eumenes on the slopes of the Acropolis was a shelter and promenade for theatre goers (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The Stoics took their name from the Stoa Poikile, where Zeno of Citium (ca 333-262 BC), who taught in the early third century BC. As a school of philosophy, Stoicism flourished in the Greek and Roman world until the third century AD.

The Stoics believed in a God, and this God played an important role in their general philosophy. But Stoic theology was fluid in its conception of god. The theology of the Stoa began with its founder, Zeno of Citium, presenting arguments that the cosmos is an intelligent being, although he seems not to have explicitly identified that intelligent being as god.

But there is confusion about the true intent of Zeno’s arguments because the sources have been distorted. Sextus Empiricus, for example, presents several of Zeno’s arguments for the rationality of the cosmos as if they were intended as arguments to establish the existence of God.

Zeno was followed by Cleanthes, and he in turn was followed by Chrysippus of Soli, the third head of the school, who died of laughter. Chrysippus claimed that the cosmos is the ‘substance of god,’ while Epictetus speaks of God in a clearly theistic fashion.

According to the Roman orator and philosopher Cicero, in his De Natura Deorum (On the Nature of the Gods), the Stoics recognised four main questions in theology: they prove that the gods exist; they explain their nature; they show that the world is governed by them; and that they care for the fortunes of humanity.

Essentially, Stoicism is a philosophy of personal ethics that is informed by its system of logic and its views on the natural world. It teaches that the path to happiness is found in accepting this moment as it presents itself, by not allowing ourselves to be controlled by our desire for pleasure or our fear of pain, by using our minds to understand the world around us and to do our part in nature’s plan, and by working together and treating others in a fair and just manner.

The Stoics taught that emotions resulted in errors of judgment that were destructive, due to the interaction between cosmic determinism and human freedom, and the belief that it is virtuous to maintain a will that is in accord with nature. To live a good life, one had to understand the rules of the natural order since they taught that everything was rooted in nature.

Later Stoics, including Seneca and Epictetus, believed that virtue is sufficient for happiness.

During his visit to Athens, the Apostle Paul debated with Stoic and Epicurean philosophers in the marketplace or the agora, probably at the Stoa of Attalos rather than the Stoa Poikile. They took him to the shrine of the unknown god at the Areopagus (see Acts 17: 16-19).

In his letters, Saint Paul drew on his knowledge of Stoic philosophy, using Stoic terms and metaphors to assist his new Gentile converts in their understanding of Christianity.

In his translation of the Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, the Anglican Patristic scholar, the Revd Maxwell Staniforth, discussed the profound impact Stoicism had on Christianity. He claimed connected the use of term Logos for Christ in Saint John’s Gospel was influenced by a term that ‘had long been one of the leading terms of Stoicism, chosen originally for the purpose of explaining how deity came into relation with the universe.’

He says other theological thinking that is influenced by Stoicism includes debates about the Holy Spirit and the Trinity. Stoic influence can also be seen in the works of Saint Ambrose and Tertullian, and Stoic writings such as the Meditations by Marcus Aurelius have been highly regarded by many Christian writers throughout the centuries.

Stoicism went into decline after Christianity became the state religion in the fourth century. Yet Gregory of Nazianzus (329-390), in his Five Theological Orations, uses Stoic and Aristotelian logical rules to develop a systematic approach to major doctrines such as the Trinity and Christology. In Duties of Saint Ambrose (339-397), Maxwell Staniforth says, ‘The voice is the voice of a Christian bishop, but the precepts are those of Zeno.’

In 1952-1956, the Stoa of Attalos was fully rebuilt and the Ancient Agora Museum was established by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. The Stoa of Attalos now houses the Museum of the Ancient Agora, and its exhibits are mostly connected with the Athenian democracy.

The Stoa of Attalos beneath the Acropolis at night (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

A gold medal recognised
in Limerick and Athens
but not in Lausanne

The bench on Thomas Street recognises Con Leahy’s gold and silver medals in Athens in 1906 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017; click on image for full-screen view)

Patrick Comerford

On a street corner in Limerick, a street bench remembers Con Leahy, the only Limerick athlete to ever win an Olympic Gold medal.

Seeing the memorial bench in Thomas Street this week brought me back to my visit to Athens the weekend before, but was also a reminder of the controversy surrounding the 1906 Olympics.

Cornelius ‘Con’ Leahy (1876-1921) was born in Creggane, near Bruree, Co Limerick, and was one of seven brothers who were distinguished on the sports fields. His brother Patrick won the British high jump record in 1898 and won Olympic medals in 1900; Timothy jumped competitively; Tom was a talented jumper; and Mick, the youngest brother, was a champion hurdler, pole-vaulter and high jumper who also played rugby for Garryowen and hurling for Limerick, and rowed for Shannon.

In 1906, Con Leahy was entered for the Athens Games, along with Peter O’Connor and John Daly. They were nominated by the Irish Amateur Athletic Association and the Gaelic Athletic Association to represent Ireland.

However, when they arrived in Athens, they found the rules had been changed and that only athletes nominated by National Olympic Committees were eligible. Ireland did not have a National Olympic Committee, and the British Olympic Council claimed the three.

On registering for the Games, Leahy, O’Connor and Day found that they were listed as members of the United Kingdom team and not as part of an Irish team, but they decided to go ahead and take part.

Leahy won the gold medal in the high jump with 1.775 meters, beating Lajos Gönczy of Hungary by 2.5 cm. He then took part in the hop, step and jump (triple jump), which Peter O’Connor won with 14.075 meters, with Leahy coming second with 13.98 meters and winning a silver medal. O’Connor also won the silver medal in the long jump.

Two years later, at the 1908 Olympic Games, Leahy again took part in the high jump, and won a silver medal, sharing second place at 1.88 meters, behind the American Harry Porter at 1.90 meters.

Con and Patrick Leahy emigrated to the US in 1909, and Con died in Manhattan in 1921.

In 2006, to mark the 100th anniversary of his Olympic medal, a memorial was unveiled in Bedford Row, Limerick, and was then moved to a corner of O’Connell Street and Thomas Street when a portion of Thomas Street was pedestrianised. The inscription reads: ‘In honour of Cornelius ‘Con’ Leahy (1876-1921) Olympic Gold Medalist High Jump – Gold / Triple Jump – Silver May 1st Athens 1906.’

Keeping the memory of Athens 1906 alive in Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

To this day, however, the International Olympic Committee refuses to recognise the 1906 Games, and medals awarded at those games in Athens are not displayed with the collection of Olympic medals at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne.

The 1906 Games are still referred to as the Intercalated Games although when they took place they were considered to be Olympic Games and the International Olympic Committee referred to them as the Second International Olympic Games in Athens.

The first modern Olympic Games were staged in Athens in 1896. The Athens games in 1896 had been so successful that the Greeks suggested they could organise the games every four years. But Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the IOC, wanted to keep the games in Paris.

When major problems emerged with organising the 1900 and 1904 Olympic Games, the IOC hoped that the 1906 Games would breathe fresh life and enthusiasm into the Olympics, and agreed to a second Olympics in Athens.

The compromise involved holding special games in Athens every four years, between the regular Olympic Games which would move venue. The 1906 Games in Athens were held from 22 April to 2 May 1906 were a success. Unlike the 1900, 1904 or 1908 games, the 1906 Athens games were neither stretched out over months nor overshadowed by an international exhibition.

The Games took place in the Panathenaic Stadium (Παναθηναϊκό Στάδιο), which had already hosted the 1896 Games and the earlier Zappas Olympics of 1870 and 1875. Several events from the previous two games were excluded, but new events included the javelin throw and the pentathlon.

These were the first games where all athletes registered through the National Olympic Committees, the first games to have the Opening Ceremony as a separate event, with the athletes marching into the stadium in national teams, each following a national flag, the first games with an Olympic Village, at the Zappeion, and the first games with a closing ceremony and the raising of national flags for the medal winners.

A Canadian athlete, Billy Sherring, lived in Greece for two months to adjust to the local conditions. His efforts paid off when he unexpectedly won the Marathon. Prince George accompanied him on the final lap.

Finland made its Olympic debut, and immediately won a gold medal, when Verner Järvinen won the Discus, Greek style event. The Grand Duchy of Finland was part of the Russian Empire at the time, but was treated as a separate nation. This recognition of Finland compounded the feeling among the Irish athletes that they had been treated unfairly.

At the medal ceremony, Peter O’Connor protested at being put on the British team, scaled the flagpole in the middle of the field and waived the Irish flag. Below him, the pole was guarded by Irish and American athletes and supporters, including Con Leahy.

These were the first games too at which that the United States had an official team. One of the US medallists was Martin Sheridan (1881-1918) from Bohola, Co Mayo. He was sent to Athens by the Irish American Athletic Club. Competing for the US, he won gold in the 16-lb Shot put and the Freestyle Discus throw and silver in the Standing high jump, Standing long jump and Stone throw. He scored the greatest number of points of any athlete at the Games. For his accomplishments, he was presented with a ceremonial javelin by King George I. The javelin remains on display in a local pub near Sheridan’s hometown in Bohola, Co Mayo.

Many of the innovations in Athens in 1906 have since become part of the Olympic tradition, and the crisp format may have helped to ensure the continued existence of the games. But they turned out to be the first and only ‘Intercalated Games.’

Due to of political unrest in Greece, the Intercalated Games were cancelled in 1910, World War I broke out in 1914 and continued until 1918, and these alternate games were never held again.

Later, athletes who won medals in Athens in 1906 that they were not really Olympic Games at all. Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the Modern Olympics, decided arbitrarily and unilaterally that the 1906 Olympics should be ignored and considered unofficial. Since then, the 1906 Games are often referred to as the 10th anniversary Games.

In 1948, and again in 2003, attempts were made to convince the IOC to reinstate the 1906 Games as official Olympic Games, but the proposals were rejected without ever being put to a vote.

Con Leahy’s achievements and medals may not be recognised in Lausanne, but they are remembered in Athens and are honoured on the streets of Limerick.

The Panathenaic Stadium in Athens (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017; click on image for full-screen view)

John’s Gate and mediaeval
walls still stand in grounds
of Saint John’s hospital

The round-headed entrance to the Citadel in the grounds of Saint John’s Hospital, with the guardhouse and mediaeval gate seen through the arch (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

I am regularly surprised when I come across parts of the mediaeval fabric of Limerick in some of the most unexpected places.

I was visiting Saint John’s Hospital in Limerick on Monday [28 August 2017], and I was lost momentarily, trying to find my way into the main entrance to the hospital, when I found myself at the Citadel and the remain of John’s Gate.

I suppose I should not have been surprised. John’s Gate stood at the south end of Irishtown in Limerick and was once one of the gates in the mediaeval walls and fortifications around the old walled town. Other places in the name have names that indicated I should have come these mediaeval sites before, including Saint John’s Church, Saint John’s Cathedral, John’s Street and John’s Square.

John’s Gate does not appear on a 1590 map of Limerick, which indicates it was probably built in the late 16th century. But the Citadel became the main fortification in Irishtown, and many of its important features remain including rounded pointed-arched openings and loopholes.

Over the centuries, the substantial and relatively intact late mediaeval fortification at John’s Gate were added to and adapted.

The pointed arch of the mediaeval John’s Gate in Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The Citadel is a mediaeval limestone guardhouse. It is a square-plan, two-bay two-storey over basement heavily fortified guardhouse, built some time between the late 16th century and 1625. It has a portcullis groove, a battered base, and a large pointed arch opening that gives access to a passage running through the building.

The Citadel became the main fortification of Irishtown in the 17th century. In 1651, the city was besieged by Oliver Cromwell’s army, under the command of his son-in-law, Henry Ireton. The Cromwellians captured Limerick after a long siege in 1652, and the citadel was rebuilt in 1652-1653, with two bastions facing the city. The round-arched entrance to the Cromwellian Citadel has a projecting keystone.

Limerick was besieged again in the 1690s by the army of William III. On 27 August 1690, the Williamites launched an assault on the walls of Irishtown. But the attack was short-lived, and they were forced to retreat after 3½ hours of fighting. During the siege of 1690, the ‘Battle of the Breach’ was fought near the Citadel.

The Williamites returned in the autumn of 1691. This time, the Jacobite troops were significantly and surrendered. A plaque at Saint John’s Hospital marks the location of the Citadel Guardhouse, which was the military headquarters of the Jacobites, during these sieges.

The Citadel remained in use as an army barracks until 1752.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, cholera, tuberculosis and smallpox spread throughout Ireland. In 1781, Lady Hartstonge founded the first voluntary hospital in Limerick. She had obtained use of the guardhouse at Saint John’s Gate and converted it into a fever hospital in Limerick.

The former Lucy Pery was a sister of Edmund Pery (1719-1806), Speaker of the Irish House of Commons (1771-1785) and 1st Viscount Pery, who developed Newtown Pery, and of William Cecil Pery (1721-1794), 1st Baron Glentworth, Bishop of Killala (1781-1784) and Bishop of Limerick (1784-1794), who lived at No 104 Henry Street, Limerick.

Her husband, Sir Henry Hartstonge (1725-1797) was MP for Limerick (1776-1790), and he received an annual grant of £100 from the Irish parliament to support the new fever hospital.

Lady Hartstonge was active in giving care to the patients in the hospital, often sitting with them. The present-day Saint John’s Hospital has its roots in these humble beginnings, and it treated epidemics during the Great Famine (1845-1847).

However, the hospital fell into disrepair from the 1850s to the 1880s. In 1888, Bishop Edward Thomas O’Dwyer invited the Nursing Sisters of the Little Company of Mary to Saint John’s Hospital to provide nursing care. In the 20th century, the hospital became highly regarded, thanks to the leadership of Dr John Devane, who was a prominent Limerick surgeon at the time.

Today, the citadel guardhouse stands in the grounds of Saint John’s Hospital and the sally port of the original stronghold has been incorporated into the structure of the hospital. Many of the building’s important features remain, including the rounded pointed-arched openings and loopholes.

The nearby neighbourhood of Garryowen, to the east of the hospital, probably takes its name from the Irish Garraí Eoin, ‘the Garden of John,’ referring to Saint John’s Church, the Limerick house of the Knights Templar and John’s Gate.

The mediaeval walls still standing in the grounds of Saint John’s Hospital (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Monday, 28 August 2017

How to bridge the gap
between expectations
of what a priest does

‘So, what does a priest do? … visits hospices, administers comfort, conducts weddings, christenings’ (Stewart Henderson, ‘Priestly Duties’)

Patrick Comerford

It was a busy weekend. There were two services on Sunday morning – Morning Prayer in Castletown and the Parish Eucharist in Rathkeale – with two sermons, and tea and coffee afterwards in the school in Rathkeale with people who are attending the Irish Palatine conference.

I was one of the speakers at the conference on Saturday morning, and there was a lunch on Saturday afternoon as part of the conference programme.

And there have been pastoral calls, sick calls, meetings with parishioners, selecting hymns, and the normal weekend work of a priest in a parish.

The Revd Michael O’Sullivan, the Unitarian minister in Cork, was in Limerick on Sunday morning, and decided to drive over to Rathkeale after his service to join us at coffee in Rathkeale, and we headed off to lunch later in the afternoon.

It is good to share experiences and the journey in ministry with clerical colleagues, and to exchange ideas with a colleague who stands your own tradition.

At the end of a busy Sunday, I am normally only fit to sit in front of the television, watching cricket or an old movie. It comes with a feeling of knowing that this sort of tiredness comes with trying to work hard at what IK am ordained to do.

Later in the day, in a conversation about the ordination to the priesthood of a former student whose dissertation I had supervised, I was remined of Stewart Henderson’s poem, ‘Priestly Duties,’ in Limited Edition.

Our expectations of ourselves as priests are not always the same as the expectations our parishioners have. We may sometimes wonder what they expect of us, how they see us, and at times they may have very different ideas of what we should be doing.

This poem is a humorous but insightful way of looking at that gap between our expectations of each other.

What do parishioners expect of their priests?

‘Priestly Duties’ by Stewart Henderson
What should a priest be?
All things to all –
male, female and genderless.
What should a priest be?
reverent and relaxed,
vibrant in youth,
assured through the middle years,
divine sage when aging.

What should a priest be?
accessible and incorruptible,
abstemious, yet full of celebration,
informed, but not threateningly so,
and far above
the passing soufflé of fashion.

What should a priest be?
an authority on singleness,
Solomon-like on the labyrinth
of human sexuality,
excellent with young marrieds,
old marrieds, were marrieds, never
marrieds, shouldn’t have marrieds,
those who live together, those who live
apart, and those who don’t live anywhere,
respectfully mindful of senior
citizens and war veterans,
familiar with the ravages of arthritis,
osteoporosis, post-natal depression,
anorexia, whooping-cough and nits.

What should a priest be?
all-round family person
counsellor, but not officially because
of the recent changes in legislation,
teacher, expositor, confessor,
entertainer, juggler,
good with children, and
possibly sea-lions,
empathetic towards pressure-groups.

What should a priest be?
On nodding terms with
Freud, Jung, St John of the Cross,
The Scott Report, The Rave Culture,
The Internet, The Lottery, BSE and
Anthea Turner,
pre-modern, fairly modern,
post-modern, and, ideally,
secondary-modern –
if called to the inner city.

What should a priest be?
charismatic, if needs must,
but quietly so,
evangelical, and thoroughly
meditative, mystical, but not
New Age.
Liberal, and so open to other voices,
traditionalist, reformer and
revolutionary
and hopefully, not on medication
unless for an old sporting injury.

Note to congregations

If your priest actually fulfils all of the above, and then enters the pulpit one Sunday morning wearing nothing but a shower-cap, a fez and declares ‘I’m the King and Queen of Venus, and we shall now sing the next hymn, in Latvian, take your partners please.’ –
Let it pass.


Like you and I
they too sew the thin thread of humanity.
Remember Jesus in the Garden –
beside himself?

So, what does a priest do?
mostly stays awake
at Deanery synods
Tries not to annoy the Bishop
too much
visits hospices, administers comfort,
conducts weddings, christenings –
not necessarily in that order,
takes funerals
consecrates the elderly to the grave
buries children and babies
feels completely helpless beside
the swaying family of a suicide.

What does a priest do?
tries to colour in God
uses words to explain miracles
which is like teaching
a millipede to sing, but
even more difficult.

What does a priest do?
answers the phone
when sometimes they’d rather not
occasionally errs and strays
into tabloid titillation
prays for Her Majesty’s Government.

What does a priest do?
Tends the flock through time,
oil and incense,
would secretly like each PCC
to commence
with a mud-pie making contest
sometimes falls asleep when praying
yearns, like us, for
heart-rushing deliverance

What does a priest do?
has rows with their family
wants to inhale Heaven
stares at bluebells
attempts to convey the mad love of God
would like to ice-skate with crocodiles
and hear the roses when they pray.

How should a priest live?
How should we live?

As priests
transformed by The Priest
that death prised open
so that he could be our priest
martyred, diaphanous and
matchless priest.

What should a priest be?
What should a priest do?
How should a priest live?

Vicar’s Hall, Lichfield … but, ‘How should a priest live?’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Is my faith built on a firm,
rock-solid foundation?

The Acropolis at night, standing on a large rocky outcrop above Athens (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017; click on image for full-screen view)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 27 August 2017,

The Eleventh Sunday after Trinity:


11.30 a.m.: Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick, the Parish Eucharist.

Readings: Exodus 1: 8 - 2: 10; Psalm 124; Romans 12: 1-8; Matthew 16: 13-20.

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

Last weekend in Athens, I stood at the top of Acropolis (Ἀκρόπολις), taking in the breath-taking views in every direction across the city and out to the port of Piraeus.

The Acropolis is the highest point in Athens. It stands on an extremely rocky outcrop and on it the ancient Greeks built several significant buildings. The most famous of these is the Parthenon. This flat-topped rock rises 150 metres (490 ft) above sea level and has a surface area of about 3 hectares (7.4 acres).

Below me, immediately north-west of the Acropolis, was the Areopagus, another prominent, but relatively smaller, rocky outcrop. Its English name comes from its Greek name, Ἄρειος Πάγος (Areios Págos), the ‘Rock of Ares,’ known to the Romans as the Hill of Mars.

In classical Athens, this functioned as the court for trying deliberate homicide. It was said Ares was put on trial here for deicide, the murder of the son of the god Poseidon. In the play The Eumenides (458 BC) by Aeschylus, the Areopagus is the site of the trial of Orestes for killing his mother.

Later, murderers would seek shelter here in the hope of a fair hearing.

Here too the Athenians had altar to the unknown god, and it was here the Apostle Paul delivered his most famous speech and sermon, in which he identified the ‘unknown god’ with ‘the God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth’ (Acts 17: 24), for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’ (verse 28).

This is the most dramatic and fullest reported sermon or speech by the Apostle Paul. He quotes the Greek philosopher Epimenides, and he must have known that the location of his speech had important cultural contexts, including associations with justice, deicide and the hidden God.

The Hill of the Areopagos and the Agora of Athens seen from the Acropolis (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The origin of the name of the Areopagus is found in the ancient Greek, πάγος ( pagos), meaning a ‘big piece of rock.’

Another word, λιθος (lithos) was used for a small rock, a stone, or even a pebble – it is the Greek word that gives us words like lithograph and megalithic, meaning Great Stone Age.

When you see breath-taking sights like these, you understand how culturally relevant it was for Christ to talk about the wise man building his house on a rock rather than on sand (Matthew 7: 24-26) – a Gospel reading we have missed this year in the Lectionary readings that take us through Saint Matthew’s Gospel Sunday-by-Sunday.

Ordinary domestic buildings might have been built to last a generation or two, at most. But building on rock, building into rock, building into massive rock formations like the Acropolis, was laying the foundations for major works of cultural, political and religious significance that would last long after those who had built them had been forgotten.

And so, when Christ says to Peter in our Gospel reading this morning that the Church is going to be built on a rock, he is talking about the foundations for a movement, an institution, an organisation, a community that is going to have lasting, everlasting significance.

In the past, Christians have got tied up in knots in silly arguments about this morning’s Gospel story. Some of us shy away from dealing with this story, knowing that in the past it was used to bolster not so much the claims of the Papacy, but all the packages that goes with those claims. In other words, it was argued by some in the past that the meaning of this passage was explicit: if you accepted this narrow meaning, you accepted the Papacy; if you accepted the Papacy, then you also accepted Papal infallibility, Papal claims to universal jurisdiction, and Papal teachings on celibacy, birth control, the immaculate conception and the assumption of the Virgin Mary.

And that is more than just a leap and a jump from what is being taught in our Gospel reading this morning. But to counter those great leaps of logic, Protestant theologians in the past put forward contorted arguments about the meaning of the rock and the rock of faith in this passage. Some have tried to argue that the word used for Peter, Πητρος (Petros), is the word for a small pebble, but that faith is described with a different word, πητρα (petra), meaning a giant rock, the sort of rock on which the Greeks built the Acropolis or carved out the Areopagus.

But they were silly arguments. The distinction between these words existed in Attic Greek in the classical days, but not in the Greek spoken at the time of Christ or at the time Saint Matthew was writing his Gospel. Πητρος (Petros) was the male name derived from a rock, πητρα (petra) was a rock, a massive rock like Petra in Jordan or the rocks of the Acropolis or the Areopagus, and the word lithos (λιθος) was used for a small rock, a stone, or even a pebble.

And Saint Peter is a rock, his faith is a rock, a rock that is solid enough to provide the foundations for Christ’s great work that is the Church.

How could Saint Peter or his faith be so great? This is the same Peter who in last week’s Gospel reading (Matthew 15: 21-28; 20 August 2017) wanted Christ to send away the desperate Canaanite woman because ‘she keeps shouting at us.’

This is the same Peter who a week before (Matthew 14: 22-33; 13 August), tried to walk on water and almost drowned, and Christ said to the same Peter: ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ (verse 31).

This is the same Peter who, in the week before that (Matthew 14: 13-21, 6 August), was among the disciples who wanted to send away the crowd and let them buy food for themselves (verse 15).

This is the same Peter who seems to get it wrong constantly. Later in this Gospel, he denies Christ three times at the Crucifixion (Matthew 26: 75). After the Resurrection, Christ has to put the question three times to Peter before Peter confesses that Christ knows everything, and Christ then calls him with the words: ‘Follow me’ (John 21: 15-19).

Saint Peter is so like me. He trips and stumbles constantly. He often gets it wrong, even later on in life. He gives the wrong answers, he comes up with silly ideas, he easily stumbles on the pebbles and stones that are strewn across the pathway of life.

But eventually, it is not his own judgment, his own failing judgment that marks him out as someone special. No. It is his faith, his rock solid faith.

Despite all his human failings, despite his often-tactless behaviour, despite all his weaknesses, he is able to say who Christ is for him. He has a simple but rock-solid faith, summarised in that simple, direct statement: ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’ (verse 16).

Robert Spence (1871-1964), ‘Woe to the Bloody City of Lichfield,’ depicts George Fox preaching barefooted in the Market Square in Lichfield 1651 … George Fox challenged his followers to say who Christ is for them (Lichfield Heritage Centre)

Who do you say Christ is?

Who is Christ for you?

I spend much of my time off in Lichfield, where I once worked. George Fox, the founding Quaker, once walked barefoot through the streets of Lichfield. But he also challenged his contemporaries with these words: ‘You may say Christ saith this, and the apostles say this, but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of the Light and hast thou walked in the Light, and what thou speakest, is it inwardly from God?’

Who is Christ for you? Is he a personal saviour? One who comforts you? Or is he more than that for you? Who do you say Christ is?

It is a question that challenges Peter in this morning’s Gospel reading. Not who do others say he is, but who do you say Christ is?

Peter’s faith is a faith that proves to be so rock-solid that you could say it is blessed, it is foundational. Not gritty, pebbly, pain-on-the-foot sort of faith. But the foundational faith on which you could build a house, carve out a temple or monastery, or a place to seek justice and sanctuary, rock-solid faith that provides the foundation for the Church.

There are other people in the Bible and in Jewish tradition who are commended for their rock-solid faith, including Abraham and Sarah (see Isaiah 51: 1f).

It is the sort of faith that will bring people into the Church, and even the most cunning, ambitious, evil schemes, even death itself, will not be able to destroy this sort of faith (verse 18).

Throughout the Bible, as people set out on great journeys of faith, their new beginning in faith is marked by God giving them a new name: Abram becomes Abraham, Jacob becomes Israel, Saul becomes Paul, and Simon son of Jonah is blessed with a new name too as he becomes Cephas or Peter, the rock-solid, reliable guy, whose faith becomes a role model for the new community of faith, for each and every one of us.

Why would Christ pick me or you? Well, why would he pick a simple fisherman from a small provincial town?

It is not how others see us that matters. It is our faith and commitment to Christ that matters. God always sees us as he made us, in God’s own image and likeness, and loves us like that.

The faith that the Church must look to as its foundation, the faith that we must depend on, that we must live by, is not some self-determined, whimsical decision, but the faith that the Apostles had in the Christ who calls them, that rock-solid, spirit-filled faith in Christ, of which Saint Peter’s confession this morning is the most direct yet sublime and solid example.

Apostolic faith like Saint Peter’s is the foundation stone on which the Church is built, the foundation stone of the new Jerusalem, with Christ as the cornerstone (Ephesians 2: 20; Revelation 21: 14).

It does not matter that Saint Peter was capable of some dreadful gaffes and misjudgements. I am like that too … constantly.

But Christ calls us in our weaknesses. And in our weaknesses, he finds our strengths. So that, as the Apostle Paul reminds us in our Epistle reading this morning, the Church is then built up by the gifts that each one of us has to offer, ‘each according to the measure of faith that Christ has assigned’ (Romans 12: 3).

Our weaknesses can be turned to strengths if we accept the unique gifts each of us has been given by God and joyfully use them, lovingly use them, in God’s service, for building up his kingdom.

Let us not be afraid of our weaknesses. Let us not be afraid of the mistakes we inevitably make. But let us accept the gifts God has given us. Let us use those to build up our faith, to build up the Church, and to serve Christ and the world.

And so, may all we think, do and say 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. This sermon was prepared for Sunday 27 August 2017.

The Apostle Peter in an icon on Mount Athos (1546): so often he gets it wrong, like I do, but his faith is rock-solid

Collect:

O God,
you declare your almighty power
most chiefly in showing mercy and pity:
Mercifully grant to us such a measure of your grace,
that we, running the way of your commandments,
may receive your gracious promises,
and be made partakers of your heavenly treasure;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Post Communion Prayer:

Lord of all mercy,
we your faithful people have celebrated
the memorial of that single sacrifice
which takes away our sins and brings pardon and peace.
By our communion
keep us firm on the foundation of the Gospel
and preserve us from all sin;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Building my faith on
a rock-solid foundation

The Hill of the Areopagos and the Agora of Athens seen from the Acropolis (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 27 August 2017,

The Eleventh Sunday after Trinity:


9.30 a.m.: Morning Prayer, Castletown Church, Kilcornan, Co Limerick, Morning Prayer.

Readings: Exodus 1: 8 - 2: 10; Psalm 124; Romans 12: 1-8; Matthew 16: 13-20.

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

Last weekend in Athens, I stood at the top of Acropolis (Ἀκρόπολις), taking in the breath-taking views in every direction across the city and out to the port of Piraeus.

The Acropolis is the highest point in Athens. It stands on an extremely rocky outcrop and on it the ancient Greeks built several significant buildings. The most famous of these is the Parthenon. This flat-topped rock rises 150 metres (490 ft) above sea level and has a surface area of about 3 hectares (7.4 acres).

Below me, immediately north-west of the Acropolis, was the Areopagus, another prominent, but relatively smaller, rocky outcrop. Its English name comes from its Greek name, Ἄρειος Πάγος (Areios Págos), the ‘Rock of Ares,’ known to the Romans as the Hill of Mars.

In classical Athens, this functioned as the court for trying deliberate homicide. It was said Ares was put on trial here for deicide, the murder of the son of the god Poseidon. In the play The Eumenides (458 BC) by Aeschylus, the Areopagus is the site of the trial of Orestes for killing his mother.

Later, murderers would seek shelter here in the hope of a fair hearing.

Here too the Athenians had altar to the unknown god, and it was here the Apostle Paul delivered his most famous speech and sermon, in which he identified the ‘unknown god’ with ‘the God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth’ (Acts 17: 24), for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’ (verse 28).

This is the most dramatic and fullest reported sermon or speech by the Apostle Paul. He quotes the Greek philosopher Epimenides, and he must have known that the location of his speech had important cultural contexts, including associations with justice, deicide and the hidden God.

The Acropolis seen from the new Acropolis Museum, standing on a large rocky outcrop (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The origin of the name of the Areopagus is found in the ancient Greek, πάγος ( pagos), meaning a ‘big piece of rock.’

Another word, λιθος (lithos) was used for a small rock, a stone, or even a pebble – it is the Greek word that gives us words like lithograph and megalithic, meaning Great Stone Age.

When you see breath-taking sights like these, you understand how culturally relevant it was for Christ to talk about the wise man building his house on a rock rather than on sand (Matthew 7: 24-26) – a Gospel reading we have missed this year in the Lectionary readings that take us through Saint Matthew’s Gospel Sunday-by-Sunday.

Ordinary domestic buildings might have been built to last a generation or two, at most. But building on rock, building into rock, building into massive rock formations like the Acropolis, was laying the foundations for major works of cultural, political and religious significance that would last long after those who had built them had been forgotten.

And so, when Christ says to Peter in our Gospel reading this morning that the Church is going to be built on a rock, he is talking about the foundations for a movement, an institution, an organisation, a community that is going to have lasting, everlasting significance.

In the past, Christians have got tied up in knots in silly arguments about this morning’s Gospel story. Some of us shy away from dealing with this story, knowing that in the past it was used to bolster not so much the claims of the Papacy, but all the packages that goes with those claims. In other words, it was argued by some in the past that the meaning of this passage was explicit: if you accepted this narrow meaning, you accepted the Papacy; if you accepted the Papacy, then you also accepted Papal infallibility, Papal claims to universal jurisdiction, and Papal teachings on celibacy, birth control, the immaculate conception and the assumption of the Virgin Mary.

And that is more than just a leap and a jump from what is being taught in our Gospel reading this morning. But to counter those great leaps of logic, Protestant theologians in the past put forward contorted arguments about the meaning of the rock and the rock of faith in this passage. Some have tried to argue that the word used for Peter, Πητρος (Petros), is the word for a small pebble, but that faith is described with a different word, πητρα (petra), meaning a giant rock, the sort of rock on which the Greeks built the Acropolis or carved out the Areopagus.

But they were silly arguments. The distinction between these words existed in Attic Greek in the classical days, but not in the Greek spoken at the time of Christ or at the time Saint Matthew was writing his Gospel. Πητρος (Petros) was the male name derived from a rock, πητρα (petra) was a rock, a massive rock like Petra in Jordan or the rocks of the Acropolis or the Areopagus, and the word lithos (λιθος) was used for a small rock, a stone, or even a pebble.

And Saint Peter is a rock, his faith is a rock, a rock that is solid enough to provide the foundations for Christ’s great work that is the Church.

How could Saint Peter or his faith be so great? This is the same Peter who in last week’s Gospel reading (Matthew 15: 21-28; 20 August 2017) wanted Christ to send away the desperate Canaanite woman because ‘she keeps shouting at us.’

This is the same Peter who a week before (Matthew 14: 22-33; 13 August), tried to walk on water and almost drowned, and Christ said to the same Peter: ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ (verse 31).

This is the same Peter who, in the week before that (Matthew 14: 13-21, 6 August), was among the disciples who wanted to send away the crowd and let them buy food for themselves (verse 15).

This is the same Peter who seems to get it wrong constantly. Later in this Gospel, he denies Christ three times at the Crucifixion (Matthew 26: 75). After the Resurrection, Christ has to put the question three times to Peter before Peter confesses that Christ knows everything, and Christ then calls him with the words: ‘Follow me’ (John 21: 15-19).

Saint Peter is so like me. He trips and stumbles constantly. He often gets it wrong, even later on in life. He gives the wrong answers, he comes up with silly ideas, he easily stumbles on the pebbles and stones that are strewn across the pathway of life.

But eventually, it is not his own judgment, his own failing judgment that marks him out as someone special. No. It is his faith, his rock solid faith.

Despite all his human failings, despite his often-tactless behaviour, despite all his weaknesses, he is able to say who Christ is for him. He has a simple but rock-solid faith, summarised in that simple, direct statement: ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’ (verse 16).

Robert Spence (1871-1964), ‘Woe to the Bloody City of Lichfield,’ depicts George Fox preaching barefooted in the Market Square in Lichfield 1651 … George Fox challenged his followers to say who Christ is for them (Lichfield Heritage Centre)

Who do you say Christ is?

Who is Christ for you?

I spend much of my time off in Lichfield, where I once worked. George Fox, the founding Quaker, once walked barefoot through the streets of Lichfield. But he also challenged his contemporaries with these words: ‘You may say Christ saith this, and the apostles say this, but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of the Light and hast thou walked in the Light, and what thou speakest, is it inwardly from God?’

Who is Christ for you? Is he a personal saviour? One who comforts you? Or is he more than that for you? Who do you say Christ is?

It is a question that challenges Peter in this morning’s Gospel reading. Not who do others say he is, but who do you say Christ is?

Peter’s faith is a faith that proves to be so rock-solid that you could say it is blessed, it is foundational. Not gritty, pebbly, pain-on-the-foot sort of faith. But the foundational faith on which you could build a house, carve out a temple or monastery, or a place to seek justice and sanctuary, rock-solid faith that provides the foundation for the Church.

There are other people in the Bible and in Jewish tradition who are commended for their rock-solid faith, including Abraham and Sarah (see Isaiah 51: 1f).

It is the sort of faith that will bring people into the Church, and even the most cunning, ambitious, evil schemes, even death itself, will not be able to destroy this sort of faith (verse 18).

Throughout the Bible, as people set out on great journeys of faith, their new beginning in faith is marked by God giving them a new name: Abram becomes Abraham, Jacob becomes Israel, Saul becomes Paul, and Simon son of Jonah is blessed with a new name too as he becomes Cephas or Peter, the rock-solid, reliable guy, whose faith becomes a role model for the new community of faith, for each and every one of us.

Why would Christ pick me or you? Well, why would he pick a simple fisherman from a small provincial town?

It is not how others see us that matters. It is our faith and commitment to Christ that matters. God always sees us as he made us, in God’s own image and likeness, and loves us like that.

The faith that the Church must look to as its foundation, the faith that we must depend on, that we must live by, is not some self-determined, whimsical decision, but the faith that the Apostles had in the Christ who calls them, that rock-solid, spirit-filled faith in Christ, of which Saint Peter’s confession this morning is the most direct yet sublime and solid example.

Apostolic faith like Saint Peter’s is the foundation stone on which the Church is built, the foundation stone of the new Jerusalem, with Christ as the cornerstone (Ephesians 2: 20; Revelation 21: 14).

It does not matter that Saint Peter was capable of some dreadful gaffes and misjudgements. I am like that too … constantly.

But Christ calls us in our weaknesses. And in our weaknesses, he finds our strengths. So that, as the Apostle Paul reminds us in our Epistle reading this morning, the Church is then built up by the gifts that each one of us has to offer, ‘each according to the measure of faith that Christ has assigned’ (Romans 12: 3).

Our weaknesses can be turned to strengths if we accept the unique gifts each of us has been given by God and joyfully use them, lovingly use them, in God’s service, for building up his kingdom.

Let us not be afraid of our weaknesses. Let us not be afraid of the mistakes we inevitably make. But let us accept the gifts God has given us. Let us use those to build up our faith, to build up the Church, and to serve Christ and the world.

And so, may all we think, do and say 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. This sermon was prepared for Sunday 27 August 2017.

The Apostle Peter in an icon on Mount Athos (1546): so often he gets it wrong, like I do, but his faith is rock-solid

Collect:

O God,
you declare your almighty power
most chiefly in showing mercy and pity:
Mercifully grant to us such a measure of your grace,
that we, running the way of your commandments,
may receive your gracious promises,
and be made partakers of your heavenly treasure;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

‘Sir Thomas Southwell (1665-1720),
1st Baron Southwell of Castle Mattress,
in Co Limerick: the first protector
of the Palatines and his family’

Sir Thomas Southwell (1665-1720), 1st Baron Southwell and the first protector of the Palatines

Patrick Comerford

Irish Palatine Weekend, in affiliation with Heritage Week

Hosted by the Irish Palatine Association

26 August 2017 (10 a.m.).

‘Sir Thomas Southwell (1665-1720), 1st Baron Southwell of Castle Mattress, in
Co. Limerick: the first protector of the Palatines and his family’


1, Introduction:

Throughout my academic career, I chided and joked with my students that if they cited Wikipedia in their footnotes or as sources in their coursework or dissertations, they would lose 10 per cent marks for each citation.

If you were to look at the entry for Thomas Southwell on Wikipedia – well, at least during this past week, for Wikipedia entries change constantly – you would find a mere nine lines of text, no more than 254 words, and no references to his role in bringing the Palatines to Rathkeale as religious refugees.

You would be forgiven for thinking that all that was important about his life were the titles he held, his brief time in prison during the reign of James, and some genealogical details that tell us nothing about his life and character, and tell us nothing about his family and legacy.

In the title of this presentation, I have referred to Southwell and his family, because this morning I want to put him within the context of Rathkeale local history and identity, and to ask some interesting implications of the legacy he has left, not only through the descendants of the Palatines he welcomed onto his estate, but also in his descendants and their religious activities.

So, this morning, I want to say something first of all about his family background; then to sketch a more rounded biographical report of this man; then look at what happened to later generations of his family; and finally look at the significance of the family that once gave sanctuary to Palatine refugees becoming Roman Catholics.

2, Family background:

Southwell Minister… the nave (Photograph © David Iliff)

One of the failings and shortcomings of popular approaches to genealogy in the past has been a concentration on primogeniture, tracing ancestry back through a direct male line.

When it came to compiling their genealogy for the peerages, the Southwell or Sewell developed a family tree that fits neatly into the genres of the time. Although the family had middle-class merchant and political origins in Essex, the family tried to claim its origins could be traced to Southwell, now a cathedral town in Nottinghamshire.

The town is known for its cathedral, as the place where the Bramley apple was first seeded, and as the place where Lord Byron spent his holidays with his mother while he was at Harrow and Cambridge.

It is about 25 km north-east of Nottingham, but there is no more evidence to suggest that this particular Southwell is the ancestral home of this Southwell family than it is the ancestral home of Robin Hood or Maid Marion.

To boost their genealogical egos, the Southwell family also threw in an heroic mediaeval ancestor who owned a castle in Bordeaux, who rescued the king’s cousin, and later genealogists added embellishments that are found in similar family trees in the Tudor era for families that felt a need to enhance their lineage and find antique origins.

There is no verifiable, impartial evidence to connect the family that was spread throughout East Anglia in the reign of Henry VI with the small town in Nottinghamshire, and even when the claims are pushed, there are so many gaps between generations in the peerages of the 18th and 19th centuries, that they are impossible to verify or trust.

The earliest known ancestor of the family may be John South Southwell of Felix Hall, Essex, MP for Lewes in 1450, although even here I am uncertain about the direct line of ancestry and descent.

Saint Robert Southwell … Jesuit poet and Elizabethan martyr

We can be sure that this family profited considerably from the dissolution of the monasteries during the reign of Henry VIII, buying large estates and becoming minor gentry. It is ironic, then, that one of the better-known members of this family is Saint Robert Southwell (1561-1595), the poet and Jesuit martyr who was hung, drawn and quartered on Tyburn Hill at the age of 33.

But even here, the peerages are confused. The Southwells of Rathkeale claimed that this Robert Southwell was a brother of Edmund Southwell who first came to live at Castle Mattress in the early 17th century. But there are conflicting genealogies, and they distract us from the how rooted Thomas Southwell was in this area and in this region.

If we pursue genealogy only through lines of male primogeniture we often end up with myths and fables, and lose context and relevance.

Castle Matrix was built as a fortress during the early 1400s by FitzGerald, 7th Earl of Desmond. In the early 1600s the castle was granted to the Southwell family who converted it to a manor house.

But this alone does not account for how deeply rooted Thomas Southwell was in this part of Ireland. His father, Richard Southwell, MP for Askeaton (1661-1666), died in 1680 during the lifetime of his own father and while Thomas was in his teens; and his grandfather, Sir Thomas Southwell, a former Cromwellian who became a baronet after the restoration, died a year later in 1681.

Murrough ‘the Burner’ O'Brien, 1st Earl of Inchiquin and grandfather of Thomas Southwell

Young Thomas was still in his teens when he inherited his grandfather’s title of baronet and became Sir Thomas Southwell. He was made a ward of his cousin, Sir Robert Southwell, and was sent to Christ Church Oxford at the end of that year.

But the key family member and single most influential figure in in his life may have been his mother, Lady Elizabeth O’Brien, a daughter of Murrough O'Brien, 1st Earl of Inchiquin, one of the enigmatic figures in 17th century Irish history.

Thomas Southwell’s maternal grandfather, Murrough MacDermod O’Brien (1614-1674), 6th Baron Inchiquin and 1st Earl of Inchiquin, is known as Murchadh na dTóiteán, or ‘Murrough the Burner’, after his troops burned the cathedral on the Rock of Cashel. His family owned vast estates throughout Co Limerick and Co Clare.

During the Irish Civil Wars in the 1640s, he was loyal to Charles I and fought against the Irish Confederates. He became President of Munster, and gradually became the political and military master of the south of Ireland, and declared for Charles I in 1648.

Following the execution of Charles I in 1649 and Cromwell’s subsequent arrival in Ireland, Murrough retreated to the west of the Shannon and then left Ireland for France in 1650, where he became one of close advisers of the exiled and future Charles II, who in 1654 made him Earl of Inchiquin. In 1656, he became a Roman Catholic. His sudden conversion caused an irreconcilable split with his devoutly Protestant wife, Elizabeth St Leger, and alienated him from the Duke of Ormond and his friends at court.

He was taken prisoner by North African pirates in 1660, but he was ransomed, and returned to this part of Ireland, where his estates totalled 60,000 acres (240 sq km), including 39,961 acres in Clare, 1,138 in Limerick, 312 in Tipperary, and 15,565 in Cork. He lived quietly after 1663 and when he died on 9 September 1674 he was buried in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick. His grandson Thomas Southwell was then a nine-year-old.

As a young woman in the exiled Caroline court in Paris, Lady Elizabeth O’Brien seems to have witnessed the persecution of Huguenots. Although her father had become a Roman Catholic, her mother remained an Anglican, and the future Lady Elizabeth Southwell could not have been but sensitive religious divisions, diversity and persecution.

When she was widowed, Lady Elizabeth married John McNamara, and lived at Cratloe, Co Clare. She died in September 1688.

This is social diversity and domestic ecumenism on a scale that shaped the young Thomas Southwell, grandson of ‘Murrough the Burner’ and stepson of John McNamara of Cratloe, near Limerick.

3, The life and career of Thomas Southwell:

Christ Church Oxford … Thomas Southwell was sent there at the age of 16, but there is no record of any degree (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Sir Thomas Southwell had succeeded his paternal grandfather as Sir Thomas Southwell, 2nd Baronet, in 1681, at the age of 16. He was made a ward of his cousin, Sir Robert Southwell, and was sent to Christ Church Oxford at the end of 1681.

Buy there is no evidence that he ever graduated or took a degree, and he probably returned to Ireland shortly after. He was 23 when his mother died in 1688. Following the Williamite revolution that year, he raised 100 horse in support of William III, William of Orange.

During the war in Ireland between the rival supporters of James II and William III, Thomas fought on the side of William, but he was forced to surrender to a Jacobite force at Loughrea, Co Galway, in March 1689.

He was sentenced to death for high treason, imprisoned in Galway, and attainted by the Jacobite Parliament. However, he was pardoned by James II in April 1690, and was allowed to sail for Scotland. Remember that this was still before the Battle of the Boyne, and Thomas was only 24 or 25.

As a political prisoner, he seems to have provided financial support for his fellow prisoners. After the wars were over, he was awarded £500 in compensation. Three years later, he was appointed to a commission inspecting crown lands in April 1663, and his political career began in earnest when he was elected MP for Co Limerick in 1695.

But, despite this run of events, Thomas was no Whig at this stage in his political carfeer, contrary to what may have been the expectations of many. As an MP, he was identified with the Tory interest, and was a key figure in defeating the attempted impeachment of the Tory Lord Chancellor, Sir Charles Porter.

Thomas Coningsby, 1st Earl Coningsby and Vice-Treasurer of Ireland, and father-in-law of Thomas Southwell

In April 1696, he married Lady Meliora Coningsby (1675-1735), eldest daughter of Thomas Coningsby, 1st Earl Coningsby and Vice-Treasurer of Ireland. But, while he tried to gain public office by using his family connections through his father-in-law, and through his cousin, Robert Southwell, who was Secretary of State for Ireland, Thomas found his Tory sympathies made him suspect and worked against him.

Eventually, when he was appointed, Thomas was an active and conscientious revenue commissioner, challenging corruption and idleness among politicians of the day.

He was re-elected an MP for Limerick in 1703, and actively resisted efforts by more powerful politicians to extend Whig interests in Co Limerick. But in 1707, he deserted the interests of the former Tory Lord Chancellor of Ireland, Sir Richard Cox, and switched his allegiance to the Whigs.

But his greatest achievement and contribution to political, social and economic life was his instrumental role in bringing French-speaking and German-speaking Protestant refugees, Huguenots and Palatines, to settle in Ireland.

This role is linked to his part in promoting the linen industry in Ireland. The Irish Parliament appointed him a trustee for the linen industry, and he assisted the French Huguenot Louis Crommelin, to establish the linen industry in Lisburn, Co Antrim.

Southwell championed the Palatines, secured government support for the settlement venture and took care of many of their initial needs at considerable personal expense, being reimbursed only just before his death.

In 1711, only 10 of the original Palatine families who had arrived in 1709 remained on his estate. But by 1714 he had settled about 130 new families on his lands, and to this day the neighbourhood around his demesne in the Rathkeale are has the largest concentration of the descendants of Palatines who moved to Ireland.

Southwell remained a Whig after the Hanoverian succession in 1714, and was re-elected an MP for Co Limerick in 1715.

In 1716, Southwell presented a petition to the Lord Lieutenant requesting the reimbursement of what it cost him to start the colony:

The Humble Petition of Sir Thomas Southwell humbly showeth:

That the said Sir Thomas Southwell, having set down 130 German Protestant families on his estate in County Limerick in or about Michaelmas 1712, and for their encouragement to settle and be a security to the Protestant interest in the country, he (the said Sir Thomas Southwell) set them his lands at almost one half of what it was worth, and gave them timber also to build their houses to a very great value; and for their further encouragement did from time to time supply them with cash and other necessities.

That all these families are since well settled and follow the raising of Hemp and Flax and have a good stock which the said Sir Thomas Southwell (though very unwillingly) must seize upon to reimburse him for his great expense, unless His Majesty will be graciously please to repay Sir Thomas.


On 4 September 1717, 300 years ago, he was made an Irish peer with the title as Baron Southwell, of Castle Mattress, in the County of Limerick.

Southwell died at Dublin on 4 August 1720 and was buried here in Rathkeale, probably in a crypt under the present church.

4, The descendants of Thomas Southwell:

Thomas Southwell and his descendants, Part 1 (Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Thomas Southwell and his wife Lady Meliora Coningsby had six sons and five daughters, of whom five sons and two daughters survived. His six sons were:

1, Thomas Southwell (1698-1766), his eldest surviving son, succeeded to his titles and estate.

2, Henry Southwell (died 1758), his second surviving son, lived at Stoneville, near Rathkeale. He too was an MP (1729-1758), and his wife Dulcinea Royse was the daughter of the Revd Henry Royse of Nantenan.

3, Robert Southwell, his third surviving son, was killed in a duel on 30 May 1724.

4, Edmund Southwell, his fourth surviving son, married Agnes Anne Studdert, daughter of the Revd George Studdert.

5, The Revd Richard Southwell, the fifth surviving son, was the Rector of Dungourney, Co Cork.

6, William Southwell.

The eldest son, Thomas Southwell (1698-1766), 2nd Baron Southwell of Castle Mattress, was MP for Leitrim (1717-1720) until he succeeded his father as the 2nd Lord Southwell of in 1720. He was Governor of Limerick around 1762.

This Thomas Southwell married Mary Coke, and their children included:

1, Meloria Southwell.

2, Thomas George Southwell (1721-1780), 1st Viscount Southwell of Castle Mattress.

He died in London, and he was succeeded in his titles and estates by his only surviving son.

Thomas Southwell and his descendants, Part 2 (Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Thomas George Southwell (1721-1780), 1st Viscount Southwell of Castle Mattress, 3rd Baron Southwell, and 4th baronet, was born on 4 May 1721 and was educated at Christ Church, Oxford, and Lincoln’s Inn, London. He MP for Enniscorthy, Co Wexford (1747-1761), MP for Co Limerick (1761-1766), High Sheriff of Limerick (1759), Constable of Limerick Castle (1750-1780) and Governor of Co Limerick (1762-1780). He succeeded as the 3rd Baron Southwell in 1766, and was given the additional title of Viscount Southwell of Castle Mattress, Co Limerick.

It may have been to mark this occasion that he presented a pair of Communion vessels, a silver chalice and paten, to Holy Trinity Church, the Church of Ireland parish church in Rathkeale in 1769. He died on 29 August 1780 at age of 59.

The Southwell paten and chalice in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

This Thomas George Southwell married Margaret Hamilton of Castle Hamilton, near Killeshandra, Co Cavan, on 18 June 1741. Their children included two sons and a daughter:

1, Thomas Arthur Southwell (1742-1796), 2nd Viscount Southwell.

2, Lieut-Col Robert Henry Southwell (1745-1817).

3, Meliora Southwell, who married John Brown, of Danesfort and Mount Brown, Rathkeale, a son of the Ven John Brown, Archdeacon and Chancellor of Limerick. Their second son, John Brown, was ancestor of the Southwell Brown family, who effectively took over the administration of the Southwell family estates and interests in the Rathkeale area.

The eldest son, Thomas Arthur Southwell (1742-1796), 2nd Viscount Southwell, was MP for Co Limerick (1767-1768). In 1774, he married Sophia Maria Josepha Walsh (1757-1796), third daughter of François-Jacques Walsh (1704-1782), Comte de Serrant, one of the Irish ‘Wild Geese’ in France, descended from an old Catholic family of Jacobite exiles, originally from Co Kilkenny, who had fled Ireland after the Siege of Limerick in 1690.

Gormanston Castle, Co Meath … the Hon Mary Southwell married Jenico Preston, 12th Viscount Gormanston (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Thomas and Sophia were the parents of four sons and four daughters. The family title and estates passed to their eldest son, Thomas Anthony Southwell (1777-1860), who became 3rd Viscount Southwell in 1796. He married Jane, daughter of John Berkeley of Spetchley, and they became Roman Catholics. His sisters also married members if two prominent Catholic families in Co Meath: Mary married Jenico Preston, 12th Viscount Gormanston, and Paulina married Richard O’Ferrall-Cadel.

They were joint owners of vast estates in England that came to almost 3,000 acres, but Lord Southwell only visited his English estates on a few occasions, and then to shoot pheasants. He spent the rest of the time in Ireland, London and the south of France.

They had two sons and three daughters, but neither of their sons survived to succeed to his titles or the estates.

And so, to continue the family line of succession, we turn to his younger brother, Colonel Arthur Francis Southwell (1789-1849). He too married into a prominent Catholic family when he married Mary Anne Agnes Dillon, daughter of Thomas Dillon of Mount Dillon, in Paris in 1834.

He died in 1849, before his elder brother. His children, who were later given the style and titles of a peer’s children, were:

1, Marcella Maria Agnes Southwell (1835-1901), who never married.

2, Thomas Arthur Joseph Southwell (1836-1878), who succeeded his uncle as 4th Viscount Southwell.

3, Jane Mary Matilda Southwell (1838-1910), married John David Fitzgerald, Attorney-General of Ireland.

4, Charles Francis Xavier Southwell (1839-1875), who never married.

5, Mary Paulina Anne Southwell (1842-1891), married Field-Marshal Sir Henry Evelyn Wood.

6, Margaret Mary Southwell (1844-1916), married Charles Standish Barry.

By the early 1800s, Castle Matrix, the home of Sir Thomas Southwell, was being used to manufacture linen and a flour mill was added.

Samuel Lewis notes in 1837 that that the flour mill at Castle Matrix ‘has been fitted up by the proprietor J. Southwell Brown esq in the most complete manner’ and that the Elizabethan square castle was being repaired. John Southwell Brown held Castle Matrix from Lord Southwell. In the mid-19th century, the buildings including the flour mills were valued at £90.

Thomas Arthur Joseph Southwell (1836-1878) became 4th Viscount Southwell in 1860 on the death of his uncle Thomas Southwell, 3rd Viscount Southwell. He was Lord Lieutenant of Co Leitrim in 1872-1878.

This Lord Southwell married Charlotte Mary Barbara Mostyn, daughter of Sir Pyers Mostyn, a member of a leading Roman Catholic family in North Wales. In the 1870s, Lord Southwell was the owner of 4,032 acres in Co Limerick, 2,252 acres in Co Cork, 329 acres in Co Kerry, 1,147 acres in Co Donegal and 4,017 acres in Co Leitrim in the 1870s.

By the 1930s, the castle was abandoned and became a ruin, with wild plants and trees growing within the old stone walls.

Today, the castle and lands in Rathkeale have long passed from the family, but the titles are held by Pyers Anthony Joseph Southwell, 7th Viscount Southwell (born 1930), who succeeded his uncle in 1960. The heir apparent is his son, the Hon Richard Andrew Pyers Southwell (born 1956).

5, Some conclusions:

Holy Trinity Church, the Church of Ireland parish church in Rathkeale (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The conversion of the Southwell family to the Roman Catholic Church may have caused a stir here and there at the time, but it was eased socially by a number of strategic marriages in the family over the space of a few short generations.

It is interesting because it came in stages, with a number of family marriages indicating the Catholic sympathies of the family long before formal conversion. And these family connections, generation after generation were far more influential than the Oxford Movement and the Tractarians, who had influenced the decisions of many of their social class in this part of Co Limerick.

This shift in Church identity may help to explain why earlier I wanted to emphasise the direct link with and possible lasting influence of Thomas Southwell’s grandfather, Murrough ‘the Burner’ O’Brien, Lord Inchiquin, who had been an ardent Anglican but became a Roman Catholic while he was in exile in Paris with the Caroline court in the 1650s.

That relationship, and that change in Church identity or membership also show how the Southwells were embedded in society in this part of Ireland. Despite their ancestry in the male line from English minor gentry, they were part and parcel of the nexus of old Irish chiefdom families in this area, through their immediate descent from the O’Briens and their kinship with families such as the McNamaras of Cratloe.

In their entries in Burke’s Peerage and similar genealogical tomes, they were now seeking to construct, in a very awkward and ham-fisted way, not just a more ancient lineage that found its origins in rural Nottinghamshire rather than Essex and East Anglia, but also trying to recover a kinship with the young Elizabethan Jesuit poet and martyr Robert Southwell.

Long-tailed Catholic credentials had become more important than rustic English roots in a new elitist understanding of lineage and aristocracy.

Nor can these Catholic conversions be dismissed as being merely superficial or socially convenient at a time of social change and upheaval in Ireland. Their Catholic identity has been passed on to successive generations, so that to this day male members of the family sent to Catholic public schools in England such as Ampleforth.

Nor did these conversions incur any loss of social status for a family like this – indeed, quite the opposite. The family was embedded in the Irish Catholic aristocracy, through marriage, for example with the Prestons of Gormanston Castle in Co Meath. It was an experience that they shared with many in their social group in Co Limerick society – consider, for example, Edward Wyndham-Quin 3rd Earl of Dunraven, the de Vere family of Curraghchase, and William Monsell, 1st Lord Emly.

Nor did they lose their political standing and credibility. They continued to be appointed to positions with prestige, such Lord Lieutenant of Co Leitrim, to be admitted to ranks of the Knights of Saint Patrick, the equivalent of the Knights of the Garter, and their name was invoked by Cardinal Manning as he lobbied the government in Westminster for more Catholic peers in the House of Lords.

The Southwell memorial in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

There were consequences for this parish, needless to say. There are few Southwell family graves in Rathkeale parish. Only one Southwell monument is in the church, and this was moved from the old church to the new church.

There may have been a Southwell vault, but the church was rebuilt in 1831, and we would probably need to bring a post-graduate archaeology student to work on the church floor to see how many of the Southwells are buried there.

The church looks quite a poor church when you consider that this was once the largest commercial town in West Limerick and when you compare it with other, better-built Church of Ireland parish churches on the estates of landed aristocrats.

Instead, the Southwells put their interests and their capital into helping to pay for a new Roman Catholic Church in Rathkeale. This was a time when the de Vere and Spring-Rice family brought in JJ McCarthy to build a new Gothic revival church in Foynes, when the family of William Smith O’Brien brought the same architect in to remodel Cahermoyle House, and when the Earls of Dunraven were remodelling the parish churches in Adare.

Had the Southwell family remained Anglicans, they might have rebuilt Holy Trinity Church as a proud Gothic revival church in the 1860s that followed the pattern of other ‘estate churches.’

Saint Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Rathkeale … designed by JJ McCarthy (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Yes, they did build such an ‘estate church’ – but it is Saint Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, built by JJ McCarthy, the most prestigious architect of the Gothic Revival in the Victorian era, who claimed the model of AWN Pugin. And they built it proudly, on the hill that makes it the single most noticeable landmark as one arrives into Rathkeale from Limerick.

The Southwell name heads the last of donors found in the porch of Saint Mary’s Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The decoration and the windows in the apse or east end are nothing less than a retelling of the genealogy of the Southwell in paintings and stained glass, in hagiography and heraldry.

Saints in the reredos in Saint Mary’s Church, Rathkeale (Photographs: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The saints bear painted in the reredos represent names in the family. Although Robert Southwell would not be canonised until 1970, another Saint Robert was found to take his place, upholding the church in his arms.

The coat of arms of Thomas Arthur Southwell, 4th Viscount Southwell, in the centre of the three-light window above the High Altar in Saint Mary’s Church, Rathkeale (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Thomas Arthur, 4th Viscount Southwell, married Charlotte Mary Barbara Mostyn (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The Mostyn family were leading Roman Catholics with large estates across North Wales and elsewhere, including commercial, residential and agricultural holdings in Llandudno. Long after these windows were completed, her younger brother, Francis Edward Joseph Mostyn (1860-1939), became the Roman Catholic Bishop of Menevia (1898-1921) in Wales and Archbishop of Cardiff (1921-1939).

Marcella Maria Agnes Southwell was not married (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Marcella Mary Agnes Southwell was born in Paris while her parents were living there. Her individual coat-of-arms is shown in a diamond shape to indicate she never married.

Jane Mary Matilda married John David Fitzgerald, MP for Ennis and Attorney General for Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

John David Fitzgerald (1818-1889), Baron Fitzgerald, was MP for Ennis (1852-1860), Solicitor General, Attorney General for Ireland and a law lord. Jane Mary Matilda Southwell was his second wife. He was the presiding judge at the trial in Dublin in 1880-1881 of Charles Stewart Parnell and 21 other prominent members of the Land League.

Mary Paulina married Sir Evelyn Wood (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Field Marshal Sir Henry Evelyn Wood (1838-1919) was a distinguished army figure, and a recipient of the Victoria Cross (VC). The Southwell family opposed this marriage in 1867 when Wood refused to leave the Church of England and become a Roman Catholic. There may have been further family embarrassment later, for Wood’s sister Katherine is better known as Kitty O’Shea, the lover of Charles Stewart Parnell.

Nevertheless, his coat-of-arms are up there in the chancel of Saint Mary’s Church, alongside the other Southwell sisters, with Mary Paulina and her other sisters.

Margaret Mary married Charles Standish Barry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Margaret married Charles Standish Barry, a wealthy Co Cork landowner, whose uncle, Garrett Standish Barry, was the first Catholic to be elected a Member of the Parliament after the 1829 Emancipation Act.

Instead of the Church of Ireland parish church in Rathkeale being supported by a rich local landlord living in a castle, Holy Trinity Church was mainly paid for and supported by the descendants of the original Palatines brought to live here by the Southwell, the ordinary parishioners who continue to give their support and to give life to the church, to the school and to this parish

This lecture was prepared for Irish Palatine Association weekend conference in Rathkeale on 26 August 2017. The conference was organised in affiliation with Heritage week. The conference programme included the following biographical note:

Rev Canon Professor Patrick Comerford is priest-in-charge, the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes and Canon Precentor of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick. He is a former Adjunct Assistant Professor at Trinity College Dublin, and has lectured on Church History in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. He worked as a journalist for over 30 years and is a former Foreign Desk Editor of The Irish Times. He has studied at TCD, Maynooth and in Cambridge and has contributed to many books and journals.