Thursday, 17 August 2017

Jack Yeats and Paul Henry
brought together in
Hunt Museum exhibition

‘Keel, Achill’ (ca 1910-1919) by Paul Henry, on loan from the Ulster Museum (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

I have not been back to Achill Island yet this year. But I was transported back to Achill through the paintings of Paul Henry during the weekend when I visited the summer exhibition at the Hunt Museum in Limerick of paintings by Jack B Yeats and Paul Henry, two of Ireland’s most important 20th century artists.

The exhibition, ‘Jack B Yeats and Paul Henry: Contrasting Visions of Ireland,’ features 50 works, bringing together paintings drawn from private and public collections.

Many of these works are normally not available for public viewing. They include works on loan from the European Investment Bank Collection in Luxembourg and other paintings have been borrowed from private collections.

The former Abbot of Glenstal Abbey, Father Mark Patrick Hederman, launched the exhibition earlier this summer. Speaking in the Hunt Museum, he said this unique exhibition encourages ‘visitors to see Ireland through the eyes of two very different artists working before, during and after the establishment of the Irish Free State.’

The two artists were contemporaries and had much in common. Both were born in the 1870s, and they died within two years of each other in the 1950s after long and prolific careers. Both had family links with the west of Ireland, both began their working lives in London, both married fellow artists, and both returned to Ireland in 1910.

Ten years later, they collaborated in setting up the Society of Dublin Painters in 1920. Each separately discovered and recreated the West of Ireland in ways that captivated the imagination of critics and the Irish public.

Their paintings provided the new Irish Free State with a distinctive and positive image of its people and its land, offering insights into the ‘soul’ of Ireland through its traditions, its landscapes and streetscapes and the ways of life of the Irish people.

Yet, their paintings differ profoundly in style and scope, and demonstrate the diverse ways in which the creative mind responds to its environment, transforming sensations, memories and experiences in their different visions.

‘From Portacloy to Rathlin O’Beirne’ (1932) by Jack B Yeats, oil on canvas, in a private collection (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

John (Jack) Butler Yeats (1871-1957) was a brother of the poet William Butler Yeats and was immensely prolific and innovative in his style and technique. He was born in London and his early style was that of an illustrator – he created the first cartoon strip for Sherlock Holmes and the works of Arthur Conan Doyle. He began to work regularly in oils in 1906, and he moved to Ireland permanently in 1910.

His early pictures are simple lyrical depictions of landscapes and figures, mainly from the west of Ireland, especially in his boyhood home in Co Sligo.

He responded to the distinctive nature of the West of Ireland, especially in his beloved Sligo and in Irish mythology, and to the practices and traditions of its people. He also celebrates the city life of the new Ireland, the Irish love of sport, and social events at the heart of rural Ireland.

Yeats also holds the distinction of winning the Irish Free State’s first medal at the Olympic Games. At the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, his painting The Liffey Swim won a silver medal in the arts and culture segment.

Paul Henry (1876-1958) was born in Belfast, and lived and worked on Achill Island for a decade, from 1910 to 1919. His works are incredibly atmospheric and evocative, and he continued to produce Achill landscapes in later life. He portrays traditional habits and ways of life, as well as the unmistakable landscape features of the West of Ireland. An immensely popular artist, his work has influenced many peoples’ perceptions of the uniqueness of Ireland.

● The exhibition opened on 2 June and continues until the end of next month [Saturday 30 September 2017].

The Jack B Yeats and Paul Henry exhibition continues at the Hunt Museum until 30 September (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Two surviving Art Deco
buildings in Limerick

Debenhams, built in the Art Deco style as Roche’s Stores, is a landmark building in Limerick City Centre (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

Limerick has a rich architectural heritage, particularly in the Georgian buildings that are part of the 18th and 19th century development and growth of Newtown Pery. In recent months, I have been enjoying this heritage and also exploring Limerick’s Edwardian architecture and the earlier mediaeval town around Saint Mary’s Cathedral and King John’s Castle.

There are classical banks and Gothic revival churches too. But I have been slower in coming to appreciate some of the mid-20th century buildings that also enrich the city’s streets.

The Art Deco style was popularised in the 1930s, and two of its best-known examples in Limerick were the Savoy Cinema on Bedford Row, which was designed by the English architect Leslie C Norton and demolished in 1989, and the Lyric Cinema on Glentworth Street, also built in the 1930s and demolished in 1981.

Art Deco as a style in the visual arts, architecture and design first developed in France in the years before before World War I. Its name, shortened from Arts Décoratifs, comes from the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts) in Paris in 1925.

Art Deco combines modernist styles with fine craftsmanship and rich materials. In its heyday, Art Deco represented luxury, glamour, exuberance, and faith in social and technological progress.

Many of the best surviving examples of Art Deco are cinemas built in the 1920s and 1930s, and I have written in the past about the sad loss of the former Regal Cinema in Lichfield, which was built in the Art Deco style.

. Two surviving buildings in the Art Deco style in Limerick, and that look like so many of those Art Deco cinemas, are the former Roche’s Stores, now Debenhams, on the corner of O’Connell Street, Patrick Street, Sarsfield Street and Arthur’s Quay, and the former ACC Bank, now the Permanent TSB, close-by at 131 O’Connell Street.

The former Roche’s Stores opened around 1937, and despite the change of name and ownership this remains a landmark building in Limerick City Centre. It stands on an important corner site and although its origins are relatively modern, it is the only corner building at this junction with architectural and historical significance. The other three sides were rebuilt in recent decades.

This fine Art Deco style department store, which is virtually intact externally, shows a stripped classicism with Art Deco features on the fluted piers that rise from the first to the third storey.

The angled corner entrance bay has tripartite windows on the second and third floor level over a double-height polished limestone entrance, and the corner is further emphasised by the flanking bipartite window bays.

A five-bay elevation faces O’Connell Street, and a 12-bay elevation faces Sarsfield Street. The building is prolonged by a large red-brick extension, added around 1980, with a frontage on Sarsfield Street and Arthur’s Quay.

The roof is concealed behind a parapet entablature, with a stepped acroteria to the end bays, and a blocking course stepping upwards over the corner entrance bay.

The elevations are arranged with channel rusticated walls framing recessed smooth window bays. These are articulated by the stepped stylised Doric piers with fluted capitals, rising from the first to the third-floor level.

There is a modern glazed shopfront, where the window bays are enhanced by wrought-metal balconettes. Throughout the building there are square-headed window openings with painted sills. The windows are glazed with either nine-over-nine, six-over-six, or four-over-four timber sash windows.

The polished granite doorcase rises to the second floor level and is surmounted by a masonry balconettte with a wrought-metal balustrade. It has canted reveals and a large glazed display window over the entrance, and both are separated by a canopied display window that dates from around 1980.

Classicism is given an Art Deco twist in the former ACC Bank on O’Connell Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Further along O’Connell Street, the Permanent TSB building, formerly the ACC bank, is an Art Deco building at 131 O’Connell Street. This is a unique building in Limerick, as it has the only known ceramic tile clad Art Deco façade in the city.

Its location close to the former Roche’s Stores gives added significance to this building. It is may have been built by Patrick James Sheahan in 1941. The building is largely intact, except for the fascia tiling, which may conceal the original tilework. The metal window is integral to the design of the structure.

This is a terraced, three-bay, two-storey ceramic tiled bank building, built in 1941 in the Art Deco style with Egyptian and Greek Revival motifs, with a pedimented parapet and two modern separate shopfronts at the ground floor.

The roof is hidden behind a parapet wall with a central pediment rising from an entablature of frieze with round discs, and a Greek-style key cornice below with a plain frieze and roll moulding.

Until recently, the pediment had raised ceramic tiled lettering reading: ACC Bank. Above the blank space, there is a palmette keystone that is flanked by two stylised flame burning urns.

On the first floor, the window openings are square-headed with a central tripartite opening flanked by bipartite openings, sharing a moulded ceramic tiled sill course and lintel course. Each opening has half pilasters with palm leaf capitals. The original metal casement windows to each opening have vertical lights and an over-light with a series of square-openings to the metal panels above.

The building has modern shopfronts with fixed-pane display windows and glazed doors, each with a polished granite clad surround. The original fascia above has a lead flashed cornice forming a sill course, and is flanked by the original console brackets with modern tiling to the fascia, dating from 2000, and with an imitation Greek key motif.

It is sad that the lettering reading ‘ACC Bank’ has been removed as this added a distinctive and dashing flourish to this building.

Three tree stumps come to life
as three sculptures in Tarbert

‘The Spirit of Night’ carved into a tree stump in the Forge Park in Tarbert, Co Kerry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

While I was in Tarbert, Co Kerry, yesterday [15 August 2017] for the annual memorial service for the Shannon Boating Tragedy in 1893, I took time to visit the Forge Park beside the river walk.

The park includes three sculptures by the West Limerick wood sculptor Will Fogarty. In 2014, Tarbert Development Association commissioned him to work on the tall stumps of three trees that had to be shortened after the storms of the New Year in 2014.

Will Fogarty cut two faces from fables into two of the stumps and the Salmon of Knowledge from the Fianna myth into the third stump.

The two faces are of wood spirits; one is ‘The Spirit of Night,’ asleep with a wise owl by his beard; the second face, ‘The Spirit of Dawn,’ is awake to represent the dawning of the day, and has fish jumping out of his beard.

A third image, ‘The Salmon of Knowledge,’ marks Tarbert’s connection with salmon fishing in the River Shannon and also celebrates the local centre of knowledge at Tarbert Comprehensive School.

‘The Spirit of Dawn’ carved into a tree stump in the Forge Park in Tarbert, Co Kerry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Will also fashioned a number of seats from the tops of the trees he felled, and these make for a perfect spot to stop at in the Forge Park these days and to enjoy the summer sunshine.

Will Fogarty also calls himself Fear na Coillte in reference both to the wood spirits in his work and to myself. He lives in the foothills of the Ballyhouras in Co Limerick, surrounded by mountains and forests, and spends time walking in them with Wag, his Labrador.

‘The Salmon of Knowledge,’ a third image carved by Will Fogarty in Tarbert, Co Kerry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

He began carving some years ago with walking sticks and staffs, made from hazel he collected in those forests. He still makes them on commission, but evolved into chainsaw carving and found his passion.

Most of his work is on a commission basis following briefs from clients. A large part of his work is done on stumps that are left behind when a tree is felled. All his work is in wood that has been felled by nature or has been cut down in a way that is sustainable.

The carved trees in the Forge Park in Tarbert, Co Kerry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Three memorials provide
a mosaic of life in Tarbert

The Shannon Boating Tragedy memorial in Tarbert, Co Kerry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

I was in Tarbert, Co Kerry, earlier today [15 August 2017] to take part in the annual memorial service for the Shannon Boating Tragedy in 1893.

I was invited to speak briefly and to lead some short prayers at the commemoration, which takes place each year at the Memorial Plaza in Tarbert.

For many years, 15 August was both a church holiday and a welcome holiday at the end of the harvest season in West Limerick and North Kerry, and at the end of the 19th century the new West Clare Railway offered an additional attraction for young workers planning a day off and a day’s fun.

We were reminded this morning how 124 years ago, on 15 August 1893, a party of young people from Tarbert – 10 men and seven women with an average age of 24 – decided to spend the day’s holiday in West Clare. It was a beautiful fine morning, and planned to cross the River Shannon in two boats sailing from Tarbert to Kilrush, to spend the day in Kilkee and to return later that evening on the same three-mile boat journey.

However, when they arrived at their point of embarkation at Coolnanoonagh there was no second boat for the crossing. There and then, the 17 day-trippers decided to crowd into Maurice Murphy’s 17-ft-long fishing boat. When they arrived at Moyne Quay in Co Clare, they expressed concern that the boat was overloaded and in an unseaworthy condition. The women complained that the hems of their skirts were getting wet, while the men described bailing out water with their boots.

Spirits were high, and the 17 enjoyed the afternoon in Kilrush and Kilkee. Towards evening, they returned to Moyne Quay for the journey back to Tarbert. Despite pleas and warnings, the whole party decided to make the return boat trip. There was a strong current and only two oars to steer the boat.

They appeared to have crossed the Tarbert Race, a strong choppy bit of current running down the middle of the estuary. But they were about 300 yards from the Tarbert shoreline and darkness was falling when disaster struck. Some of the group may have stood up in the boat looking out for their landing place, and this may have caused the boat to overturn, plunging them into the sea.

Despite frantic searches the next day, there was no sign of boat or bodies. By the end of September, 12 bodies had been recovered and buried in family graves. But five bodies were never recovered – the River Shannon remains their grave.

The Scanlon family of Kilpadogue suffered the greatest loss with the death of four of the eldest in a family of 14. Two inquests later found that the boat was overcrowded and not in a seaworthy condition. At least four of the 17 who drowned were Church of Ireland parishioners.

The 17 who died were: Maurice Murphy, Patrick Murphy, Michael Scanlon, Mary Scanlon, Kate Scanlon, Bridget Scanlon, Mary Lyndon, Patrick Lyndon, John Holly, Michael Bovenizer, Thomas Bovenizer, Nora Fitzgerald, Hannah O’Sullivan, Thomas Glazier, Johanna McGrath, William Naughton and Richard Allen.

The 15 August 1893 boating tragedy remains the biggest loss of life on the lower River Shannon, and the memorial to the 17 who died was erected by the people of Tarbert in 1988.

In my short address, I recalled that Sunday’s Gospel reading (Matthew 14: 22-33) was about Saint Peter stepping out of the boat when he saw Christ walking on the water, panicked, and reached out his hand. I said we needed in the face of tragedies to reach out to those who suffer, and to those who carry memories, sadness and fears for generations.

The War Memorial in Tarbert recalls the dead of two World Wars (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Beside the memorial for this tragedy, the War Memorial is a limestone memorial in scroll format remembering 14 young men from Tarbert who fought and died in two World Wars.

Ten of those who died in World War I (1914-1918) fought in Irish-based regiments and two men named fought in the US army. Seven of them were under 30, including two who enrolled in the Tralee-based Royal Munster Fusiliers.

The 10 are: Robert Murray (1915), John Liston (1915), Duncan Hunter (1916), Michael Lynch (1916), Thomas Whitaker (1916), Henry de Courcy (1917), Gerald Harris (1918), William Fitzmaurice (1918), John Donovan (1918), Desmond Quinn (1918), Michael Pattwell (1918), and Stephen Cregan (1918).

Stephen Cregan, who was in the 308th US infantry regiment, may have been the last Kerry man to die in World War I. He was killed on 9 November 1918, two days before the Armistice was signed at 11 a.m. on 11 November 1918.

The two men from Tarbert who died in World War II (1939-1945), Maurice (‘Mossie’) Langan (1940) and Eamon Brandon (1944), were killed while serving with the Royal Navy.

The lines of poetry at the base of the memorial were written by a local poet, Thomas MacGreevy (1893-1967) of Tarbert, who was wounded twice at the Somme offensive 100 years ago in 1917:

Those who live between wars may not know,
but we who die between peace know
whether we die or not.


Thomas MacGreevy was one of Ireland’s first modernist poets and was also Director of the National Gallery of Ireland (1950-1963). During World War I, he was a second lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery. His training lasted nearly 20 months, and by Christmas 1917 he was at the Somme.

During his lifetime, MacGreevy wrote hundreds of articles on art, literature, dance, and religion, an unpublished novel, and several plays. Although he published only one volume of poetry during his lifetime, his strikingly original verse paved the way for younger poets and playwrights, such as Samuel Beckett, Brian Coffey and Denis Devlin, to emerge from under the shadow of WB Yeats.

In London, he met TS Eliot, who as the editor of The Criterion, who took him on as a reviewer. It was possibly Eliot’s poetry that had the most profound effect on MacGreevy’s own style. MacGreevy’s long ‘cab’ poem, Crón Tráth na nDéithe, is greatly indebted to The Waste Land.

It said that in Paris MacGreevy introduced Samuel Beckett to James Joyce. Later, he was the Art Critic of The Irish Times (1941-1944). He died 50 years ago on 16 March 1967.

A few steps away, the left of these monuments, a third memorial recalls the 1916 rising, with images of a harp and the seven signatories of the 1916. The inscription on the plinth includes a quotation from Tom Fitzgerald from Tarbert at this trial in 1918 for the drilling of rebels: ‘As long as the grass grows and water flows, there will be men to do and dare for Ireland.’

All three memorials represent tragic stages in the history of Tarbert. In their diversity, they help to present this Memorial Plaza as a mosaic of the past in Tarbert to those who live there today.

The 1916 Memorial at the Memorial Plaza in Tarbert (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The Dormition and exploring
Martin Luther’s views on
traditional Marian teachings

Saint Mary’s Church Askeaton, with the ruins of the earlier mediaeval church and the Templar Tower (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

Today is known in the Orthodox Church is the Feast of the Dormition, and in the Western Church it is known as the Feast of the Assumption.

In the Orthodox Church, the Dormition of the Mother of God (Η Κοίμησις τησ Θεοτόκου, Koímēsos tis Theotokou) is a Great Feast and recalls the ‘falling asleep’ or death of the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, and her body being taken into heaven. In the Greek of Scripture and Orthodoxy, death is often called a ‘sleeping’ or ‘falling asleep.’

This day [15 August] is marked in the Calendar of Common Worship in the Church of England, this is a Festival of the Virgin Mary, without any reference to either the Dormition or the Assumption. Other Anglican churches, including the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, mark this day as a commemoration of ‘The Falling Asleep of the Blessed Virgin Mary,’ and in the Episcopal Church in the United States of America it is observed as the holy day of ‘Saint Mary the Virgin, Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ.’

Surprisingly, she is perhaps the only New Testament saint who is not remembered in the Calendar of Church of Ireland on the traditional or supposed day of death.

I spent the morning yesterday [14 August 2017] finishing the last in a series of features on Martin Luther for the diocesan magazine, Newslink, marking the 500th anniversary of his posting his 95 Theses in Wittenberg on 31 October 1517. Later in the afternoon, as I walked around the churchyard of Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, I wondered about Luther’s theology of the Virgin Mary.

Martin Luther’s Marian theology was developed out of the deep Marian devotion he experienced in his childhood and in his training for the priesthood. Later, it became an integral part of his theology and piety.

Luther asserted dogmatically what he considered firmly established biblical doctrines, including the divine motherhood of Virgin Mary and held to what were then pious opinions about the Immaculate Conception and the perpetual virginity of Mary, although they only became dogmatic teachings of the Roman Catholic Church as recently as the 19th and 20th centuries.

But Luther also taught that all doctrine and piety should exalt and not diminish the person and work of Jesus Christ. He emphasised that the Virgin Mary was a recipient of God’s love and favour, but could not see her as a mediatrix of intercession or redemption.

Luther accepted the Marian decrees of the ecumenical councils and the dogmas of the Church, and held to the belief that the Virgin Mary was a perpetual virgin and the Theotokos, the Mother of God.

Luther accepted the popular view of the Immaculate Conception, over three centuries before Pope Pius IX declared it a dogma in 1854, and he believed in the Virgin Mary’s life-long sinlessness. Although he pointed out that the Bible says nothing about the Assumption of Mary, he believed that Virgin Mary and the saints live on after death.

In his Commentary on the Magnificat (1521), Luther extolled the magnitude of God’s grace towards the Virgin Mary and her own legacy of Christian instruction and example demonstrated in this canticle of praise.

Throughout his life, Luther also believed in the perpetual virginity and sinlessness of the Virgin Mary. He wrote a number of pious poems that focus on her virginity, and translated into German old devotional Latin hymns about her. In his interpretation of the Magnificat of Mary, he maintains traditional Marian piety.

Many Lutheran communities in Germany continued to sing the canticle Magnificat in Latin. In the Church Order in Brandenburg and other places, the Lutheran Church maintained three Marian feast days.

Lurther approved keeping Marian paintings and statues in churches, said ‘Mary prays for the Church,’ and advocated the use of the portion half of the ‘Hail Mary.’

Throughout his life, Luther called the Virgin Mary by the title Theotokos, Mother of God. He believed that as Christ was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary and was ‘born of the Virgin Mary,’ then she is the Theotokos, the God-bearer. He wrote:

[S]he became the Mother of God, in which work so many and such great good things are bestowed on her as pass man’s understanding. For on this there follows all honour, all blessedness, and her unique place in the whole of mankind, among which she has no equal, namely, that she had a child by the Father in heaven, and such a Child … Hence men have crowded all her glory into a single word, calling her the Mother of God … None can say of her nor announce to her greater things, even though he had as many tongues as the earth possesses flowers and blades of grass: the sky, stars; and the sea, grains of sand. It needs to be pondered in the heart what it means to be the Mother of God.

This belief is officially endorsed in the Lutheran Formula of Concord, which declares:

On account of this personal union and communion of the natures, Mary, the most Blessed Virgin, did not conceive a mere, ordinary human being, but a human being who is truly the Son of the most high God, as the angel testifies. He demonstrated his divine majesty even in his mother’s womb in that he was born of a virgin without violating her virginity. Therefore she is truly the mother of God and yet remained a virgin.

The Dormition of the Theotokos … an icon completed last year by Alexandra Kaouki for a church in the old town of Rethymnon © Alexandra Kaouki

The title Theotokos (Θεοτόκος) is translated as ‘Mother of God’ or ‘God-bearer.’ The Council of Ephesus decreed in 431 that the Virgin Mary is the Theotokos because her son Jesus is both God and man: one divine person with two natures (divine and human) intimately and hypostatically united.

The word Theotokos is an adjectival compound of two the Greek words Θεός, God, and τόκος, childbirth, parturition; offspring.’ A close paraphrase is ‘[she] whose offspring is God’ or ‘[she] who gave birth to one who was God.’

The full title of the Virgin Mary in Greek is Ὑπεραγία δεσποινίς ἡμῶν Θεοτόκος καὶ ἀειπαρθένος Μαρία, ‘Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary.’

The theological dispute over the term revolved around the use of words Θεός, God, against Χριστός, Christ, and τόκος, bearer, against μήτηρ (mater, mother). The two terms have been used as synonyms throughout Christian tradition, but the word Θεοτόκος was preferred to reject the views of Nestorius without implying that the Virgin Mary was the Mother of God from eternity.

The status of the Virgin Mary as Theotokos was decreed at the Council of Ephesus in 431 because her son Jesus Christ is one person who is both God and man, divine and human. Nestorius argued that divine and human natures of Christ are distinct, and while the Virgin Mary is evidently the Christotokos or ‘bearer of Christ,’ it could be misleading to describe her as the ‘bearer of God.’

At the heart of this debate is the Orthodox understanding of the Incarnation, and the nature of the hypostatic union of Christ’s human and divine natures between Christ’s conception and birth.

In Article 2 of the 39 Articles, Anglican tradition reaffirms this understanding of the Incarnation and rejects Nestorianism, when it states:

The Son, which is the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God, and of one substance with the Father, took Man’s nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance: so that two whole and perfect Natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one Person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God, and very Man; who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for actual sins of men.

An icon of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child … a present from a friend in Crete last year (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Collect (Common Worship):

Almighty God,
who looked upon the lowliness of the Blessed Virgin Mary
and chose her to be the mother of your only Son:
grant that we who are redeemed by his blood
may share with her in the glory of your eternal kingdom;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion Prayer:

God most high,
whose handmaid bore the Word made flesh:
we thank you that in this sacrament of our redemption
you visit us with your Holy Spirit
and overshadow us by your power;
strengthen us to walk with Mary the joyful path of obedience
and so to bring forth the fruits of holiness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton … a walk in the churchyard yesterday focused attention on the Dormition and Martin Luther’s Marian teachings (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Monday, 14 August 2017

Finding a cross linked to
Pugin in the Hunt Museum

The Pugin Crucifix in the Hunt Museum, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

There is a large collection of crosses in the Hunt Museum in Limerick, including carved and wooden crosses, processional and rood crosses, reliquary and rosary crosses. There is a small array of Penal crosses and Rosary crosses, and a large selection of miscellaneous crosses collected throughout Europe.

These crosses are displayed throughout the museum on every floor and they range from a large French-made, polychrome Romanesque cross, made of wood in the 12th century as a rood cross to a gold, partly-enamelled reliquary cross that is also known as the Mary Queen of Scots Crucifix and that is anecdotally linked to Mary Queen of Scots (1542-1587).

I posted last month [15 July 2017] about the processional cross in the museum that is similar in almost every detail to the Bosworth Crucifix or Comerford Cross that was once owned by James Comerford (1807-1881), said to have been made for Richard III, and found in a field near the site the site of the Battle of Bosworth.

But two crosses that caught my attention in particular at the weekend were a cross known as the Pugin Crucifix and the early Irish cross known as the Antrim Cross.

The Pugin Crucifix is a Romanesque figure that is said to have been once owned by the English architect AWN Pugin (1812-1852), whose passion for the Middle Ages helped to ensure the success of the Gothic Revival in architecture.

The Christ figure made for this crucifix has a head that is large in relation to the body, falling forward onto his breast. His moustache, beard and hair are finely engraved. The loin-cloth has a V-shape fold like an apron in the centre. The drapery is treated with some freedom, falling well below knee level at the back. The feet are parallel, the arms bend gently upwards, and the arms and legs ate engraved with fine lines to indicate the muscles and tendons.

This figure was once owned by Dr Leonard Mackey of Edgbaston, the senior physician to the Queen’s Hospital, Birmingham. In 1910, he married Pugin’s granddaughter, Florence Marion Pugin, eldest daughter of the Peter Paul Pugin (1851-1904), which may explain how he inherited the cross.

Leonard Mackey died in 1940, and at one stage the cross was on loan to the British Museum. But it is not clear from the exhibition details how the cross came to the Hunt Museum.

Apart from Pugin’s role in church architecture in Ireland, this crucifix has a special relevance for Ireland as a crucifix of this type served as a model for the head of the 12th century market cross in Tuam, Co Galway.

The Antrim Cross dates from ca 800 AD and was found in the River Bann in the 19th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The Antrim Cross is a bronze and enamel cross dating from ca 800 AD and was found in the River Bann in Co Antrim in the 19th century.

The cross was probably intended to decorate the wooden cover of a shrine or reliquary or was used as the central piece on a cross. It is decorated with enamel and millefiori – cut bundles of coloured glass rods – in geometric and animal designs.

The Antrim Cross is a bronze cross with five equal arms. The cross has five pyramidal bosses each in the form of a truncated pyramid. The side of the pyramids are decorated with interlocking angular fields of yellow enamel, alternating with a similar-coloured design of an arrow within a truncated triangle.

The pyramidal boss at the centre is taller and has angular enamelled panels on two of its four sides. The other two sides, back-to-back, differ in that they are decorated with an animal design, once fully enamelled between its raised outlines.

The flat tops of the bosses are decorated with small squares of millefiori enamel. Rivet-holes in the separately cast base-plate show that this cross was attached to a flat surface, perhaps that of a house-shaped reliquary.

Part of a collection of miscellaneous crosses in the Hunt Museum, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Rummaging for books
on Athens and finding
Limerick’s tiny bookshop

Quay Books claims to be ‘Ireland’s Most Amazing Small Bookstore’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

I was looking for a few books in Limerick at the weekend. I needed two new guidebooks for my visit to Athens later this week, and I wanted a copy of the Lonely Planet Guide to Ireland to thank Anthony Sheehy for a recent guided tour of the Desmond Castle in Askeaton, Co Limerick.

There is nothing as frustrating as taking an out-of-date guidebook with you on a city visit. Restaurants change, new museums open or galleries close, coffee shops spring up, some areas loose or gain their charm.

I have visited and worked in Athens many times from the 1980s on, but since I was last there my guidebooks are totally out-of-date. The economic and political climate has changed completely, and while I have kept up-to-date with political and social changes in Greece, it is many years since I worked in Athens as a journalist.

The refugee crisis has changed many aspects of life in the Greek capital, and I am also hoping to see at first-hand the work on the street among refugees and migrants by Canon Malcolm Bradshaw and the parishioners of Saint Paul’s Anglican Church in the centre of Athens.

In the years since my last visit to Athens, the New Acropolis Museum opened in 2006 – it is hard to believe that it is that long since I have been in Athens – and I have booked a guided visit to the Museum and to the Acropolis on Saturday afternoon [19 August 2017].

But I still need up-to-date guidebooks to Athens. I am sure many of the places I was once familiar with have changed, and I need to find my way around, recovering my familiarity with a city that I once knew intimately.

After lunch in Olio e Farina in Little Catherine Street, two of us took some time browsing and rummaging in a number of bookshops in Limerick before I found two guidebooks I think I am going to be happy with for my short return visit to Athens later this week.

Happy with my acquisitions, I headed off for a stroll through the older parts of Limerick and then visited the Hunt Museum and the current exhibition of works by Jack Yeats and Paul Henry.

A joy for book browsers and rummagers (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

I was on my way back towards O’Connell when by accident I stumbled across Quay Books in the Arthur’s Quay Shopping Centre.

Although I regularly catch buses on Arthur’s Quay, I am not one for shopping centres, and I had given this shopping centre a miss until now.

Quay Books is just inside the Patrick Street entrance to the shopping centre, in a kiosk opposite the Tesco checkout points. It may be a kiosk rather than a full-size shop, but it justly claims to be ‘Ireland’s Most Amazing Small Bookstore.’

They source their books from suppliers in the UK and the US, and boast: ‘Nearly all of the time you will find that on price we beat online suppliers, including Amazon, for the books we stock.’

Quay Books is one of the smallest independent bookstores and is every book lover’s dream. In a tiny space, the books are stacked high on shelves and on one another around and inside the kiosk, from poetry and classics to contemporary novels, from nonfiction to out-of-print biographies.

The tight space makes rummaging and browsing all the more fun because every book browser’s dream is to find something you want and need to read but never knew about until you stumble across it.

And if you cannot find it or cannot see it, Quay Books invite customers to call them to see if can help.

In one small space, between the piled-high books, a notice quotes from Fyodor Dostoyevsky:

In vain does the dreamer rummage about in his old dreams, looking for some spark, however tiny, to fan a flame, to revive all that he held so dear before, all that touched his heart, that made his blood course through his veins.

And then, added beneath, are the proprietor’s own inviting words:

Dear Reader

Please feel free to rummage among our books. We hope you will find something you will enjoy, even make the blood course through your veins!

Don’t worry if you make the books untidy. Just enjoy rummaging!


Another similar notice tells the book browser:

The difference between who you are now and who you are five years from now, comes down to the people you meet and the books you read.

Quay Books is in Kiosk 1 on the Ground Floor at the Patrick Street entrance to the Arthur’s Quay Shopping Centre, and is open Monday to Saturday, 10 am to 6 pm.

https://quaybooks.wordpress.com/

Sunday, 13 August 2017

When they got into the boat,
the wind ceased. And those
in the boat worshipped him

Boats on the River Shannon at Arthur’s Quay in Limerick last week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017; click on image for full-screen view)

Patrick Comerford

The Ninth Sunday after Trinity


13 August 2017

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

Readings: Genesis 37: 1-4, 12-28; Psalm 105: 1-6, 16-22, 45b; Romans 10: 5-15; Matthew 14: 22-33.

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

Since last weekend, I have been down to the slipway at Gort in Askeaton a few times, watching the comings and goings at Desmond Rowing Club.

At 65, it is 50 years since I first went rowing as a teenager on Lough Ramor in Virginia. In more recent years, I have enjoyed walking along the Backs in Cambridge, watching sculling and rowing on the River Cam. I have even had the pleasure of one college boat club asking to use one of my photographs in a fundraising drive.

But I had long thought that I would be left regretting that I had gone to Cambridge as a student too late in life to learn, or to re-learn how to row.

I had come to enjoy rowing as a sport and an activity, but in a very passive way.

A lone rower at the Sidney Sussex Boat Club on the Backs in Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Then one recent evening, as I was standing casually at the slipway at Gort, I was suddenly and unexpectedly invited to get into a boat and started to row.

I was fearless. It was a pleasure I had often hoped for and wished for. And for almost an hour, three of us rowed upstream, under the bridge at Askeaton, and as far as the castle, and then downstream past the factory, although not as far as the estuary.

When I suggested that I might be too old to learn, I was told brusquely and with humour, that once I stopped learning I had stopped living.

Later, in the past week, I have watched children and teenagers hop in and out of boats, freely and fearlessly, confident of their own ability and the ability of those who are training them.

Fearlessly. But as we were messing about on boats in Crete last summer, hopping on and off them in the sun as we visited smaller islands and lagoons off the coast, I thought of how this was a pleasure that I was paying for, but how many refugees were full of fear as they boarded boats in the dark trying to arrive on Greek islands, having paid exorbitantly for the risk and the dangers.

Fearlessly. What are your worst fears?

I know, at present, many of us have fears of a possible nuclear war involving the United States and North Korea.

As we grow up and mature, we tend to have fewer fears of the outside world, and as adults we begin to cope with the fears we once had as children, by turning threats into opportunities.

The fears I had as a child – of snakes, of the wind, of storms at sea, of lightning – are no longer the stuff of recurring nightmares they were as a child. I have learned to be cautious, to be sensible and to keep my distance, and to be in awe of God’s creation.

But most of us have recurring dreams that are vivid and that have themes that keep repeating themselves. They fall into a number of genres, and you will be relieved to know if you suffer from them that most psychotherapists identify a number of these types of dreams that most of us deal with in our sleep at various stages in adult life.

They include dreams about:

● Drowning.

● Finding myself unprepared for a major function or event, whether it is social or work-related.

● Flying or floating in the air, but then falling suddenly.

● Being caught naked in public.

● Missing a train, a bus or a plane.

● Caught in loos or lifts that do not work, or that overwork themselves.

● Calling out in a crowd but failing to vocalise my scream or not being heard in the crowd or recognised.

● Falling, falling into an abyss.

There are others. But in sleep the brain can act as a filter or filing cabinet, helping us to process, deal with and put aside what we have found difficult to understand in our waking hours, or to try to find ways of dealing with our lack of confidence, feelings of inadequacy, with the ways we confuse gaining attention with receiving love, or with our needs to be accepted, affirmed and loved.

In our Old Testament reading this morning (Genesis 37: 1-4, 12-28), Joseph is dismissed by his brothers, is seen by his brothers as a threat, because he is a ‘dreamer.’ His perhaps naïve behaviour in his youth is threatening them as the older brothers, the adults.

But rather than confronting their fears and dealing with them, they decide to get rid of Joseph – it is another play-out of the constant theme of shooting the messenger rather than listening to the message.

We sometimes think of the idealists in our midst as dreamers or day-dreamers. They imagine that things can be done another way, they point to potentials or possibilities, they confront us with our greatest fears. But, like Joseph’s brothers, we often confuse dreams that help us deal with our worst fears and the worst fears themselves.

Rowing boats on the River Deel at Askeaton last week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017; click on image for full-screen view)

Saint Peter’s plight in our Gospel reading (Matthew 14: 22-33) this morning seems to be the working out of a constant, recurring, vivid dream of the type that many of us experience at some stage: the feelings of drowning, floating and falling suddenly, being in a crowd and yet alone, calling out and not being heard, or not being recognised for who we are.

Peter sees Christ walking on the lake or floating effortlessly above the water. At first, he thinks he is seeing a ghost. But then Christ calls to him, and Saint Peter responds.

Once he recognises Christ, Saint Peter gets out of the boat, starts walking on the water, and comes towards Christ. But he loses his confidence when he notices the strong wind, he is frightened, and he begins to sink.

He cries out: ‘Lord, save me.’ Christ immediately reaches out his hand and catches him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’

They get back into the boat, the wind ceases. And those in the boat worship him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’

Was the sight of Christ walking on the water an illusion?

Was Peter’s idea that he could walk on the water the product of an over-worked mind while it was sleeping?

Did he realise he was unprepared for the great encounter?

Did the wind cease when he woke from the dream?

All of these questions are over-analytical and fail to deal with the real encounter that takes place.

Even before the Resurrection, in his frailty, in his weakness, in his humble humanity, Saint Peter calls out to Christ: ‘Lord, save me’ (verse 30).

Do the others in the boat fall down at Christ’s feet and worship him because he can walk on water? Because he can lift a drowning man out of the depths? Or because they recognise that in Christ they can find the end to all their worst dreams and nightmares?

Saint Paul almost chides us for these questions, reminding us that people have a variety of experiences that help them to grow in faith (see Romans 10: 10).

In the sunshine this past week, the waters on the River Deel have been calm, the sun has been shining (mostly), and on most days there were few clouds in the sky.

But, in this come-and-go summer, we know too, as they say, to expect the unexpected. On a few occasions, black clouds have moved across the river. The weather could have turned, the waters could have become choppy, and this can be a frightening experience, even on the River Deel, close to the river bank and close to firm land.

As seasoned boat-handlers, the Disciples know not to try walking on water. They know the risk of sudden storms and swells, and they know the safety of a good boat, as long as it has a good crew.

An icon of the Church as a boat, including Christ, the Apostles and the Church Fathers (Icon: Deacon Matthew Garrett, www.holy-icons.com)

But since the early history of the Church, the boat has symbolised the Church.

The bark (barque or barchetta) symbolises the Church tossed on the sea of disbelief, worldliness, and persecution but finally reaching safe harbour. Part of the imagery comes from the ark saving Noah’s family during the Flood (I Peter 3: 20-21). Christ protects Peter’s boat and the Disciples on the stormy Sea of Galilee (see also Mark 6: 45-52; John 6 16-21). The mast forms the shape of the Cross.

It is an image that appears in Apostolic Constitutions and the writings of Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria. We still retain the word nave for the main part of the church, which, architecturally often looks like an up-turned boat.

So, this morning, I do not want any of us to risk walking on water, or to play stupidly in boats on the River Deel or in choppy waters or storms on the Shannon Estuary.

But if we are to dream dreams for our parish, for the Church, for the Kingdom of God, we need to be aware that it comes at the risk of feeling we are being sold out by those we see as brothers and sisters, and risk being seen as dreamers rather than people of action by others: for our dreams may be their nightmares.

If we are going to dream dreams for our parish, for the Church, for the Kingdom of God, we may need to step out of our safety zones, our comfort zones, and know that this comes with a risk warning.

And if we are going to dream dreams for our parish, for the Church, for the Kingdom of God, we need to keep our eyes focussed on Christ, and to know that the Church is there to bring us on that journey.

Let us dream dreams, take risks for the Kingdom of God, step outside the box, but let us keep our eyes on Christ and remember that the boat, the Church, is essential for our journey, and let us continue to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

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

Learning to row on the River Deel at Askeaton last week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Collect:

Almighty God, who sent your Holy Spirit to be the life and light of your Church: Open our hearts to the riches of his grace, that we may bring forth the fruit of the Spirit in love and joy and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Priest-in-Charge of the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. This sermon was prepared for Sunday 13 August 2017.

When they saw him walking on the
lake, he said, ‘do not be afraid’

Learning to row on the River Deel at Askeaton last week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

The Ninth Sunday after Trinity

13 August 2017


9.30 a.m.: Castletown Church, Kilcornan, Co Limerick, the Parish Eucharist.

Readings: Genesis 37: 1-4, 12-28; Psalm 105: 1-6, 16-22, 45b; Romans 10: 5-15; Matthew 14: 22-33.

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

Since last weekend, I have been down to the slipway at Gort in Askeaton a few times, watching the comings and goings at Desmond Rowing Club.

At 65, it is 50 years since I first went rowing as a teenager on Lough Ramor in Virginia. In more recent years, I have enjoyed walking along the Backs in Cambridge, watching sculling and rowing on the River Cam. I have even had the pleasure of one college boat club asking to use one of my photographs in a fundraising drive.

But I had long thought that I would be left regretting that I had gone to Cambridge as a student too late in life to learn, or to re-learn how to row.

I had come to enjoy rowing as a sport and an activity, but in a very passive way.

A lone rower at the Sidney Sussex Boat Club on the Backs in Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Then one recent evening, as I was standing casually at the slipway at Gort, I was suddenly and unexpectedly invited to get into a boat and started to row.

I was fearless. It was a pleasure I had often hoped for and wished for. And for almost an hour, three of us rowed upstream, under the bridge at Askeaton, and as far as the castle, and then downstream past the factory, although not as far as the estuary.

When I suggested that I might be too old to learn, I was told brusquely and with humour, that once I stopped learning I had stopped living.

Later, in the past week, I have watched children and teenagers hop in and out of boats, freely and fearlessly, confident of their own ability and the ability of those who are training them.

Fearlessly. But as we were messing about on boats in Crete last summer, hopping on and off them in the sun as we visited smaller islands and lagoons off the coast, I thought of how this was a pleasure that I was paying for, but how many refugees were full of fear as they boarded boats in the dark trying to arrive on Greek islands, having paid exorbitantly for the risk and the dangers.

Fearlessly. What are your worst fears?

I know, at present, many of us have fears of a possible nuclear war involving the United States and North Korea.

As we grow up and mature, we tend to have fewer fears of the outside world, and as adults we begin to cope with the fears we once had as children, by turning threats into opportunities.

The fears I had as a child – of snakes, of the wind, of storms at sea, of lightning – are no longer the stuff of recurring nightmares they were as a child. I have learned to be cautious, to be sensible and to keep my distance, and to be in awe of God’s creation.

But most of us have recurring dreams that are vivid and that have themes that keep repeating themselves. They fall into a number of genres, and you will be relieved to know if you suffer from them that most psychotherapists identify a number of these types of dreams that most of us deal with in our sleep at various stages in adult life.

They include dreams about:

● Drowning.

● Finding myself unprepared for a major function or event, whether it is social or work-related.

● Flying or floating in the air, but then falling suddenly.

● Being caught naked in public.

● Missing a train, a bus or a plane.

● Caught in loos or lifts that do not work, or that overwork themselves.

● Calling out in a crowd but failing to vocalise my scream or not being heard in the crowd or recognised.

● Falling, falling into an abyss.

There are others. But in sleep the brain can act as a filter or filing cabinet, helping us to process, deal with and put aside what we have found difficult to understand in our waking hours, or to try to find ways of dealing with our lack of confidence, feelings of inadequacy, with the ways we confuse gaining attention with receiving love, or with our needs to be accepted, affirmed and loved.

In our Old Testament reading this morning (Genesis 37: 1-4, 12-28), Joseph is dismissed by his brothers, is seen by his brothers as a threat, because he is a ‘dreamer.’ His perhaps naïve behaviour in his youth is threatening them as the older brothers, the adults.

But rather than confronting their fears and dealing with them, they decide to get rid of Joseph – it is another play-out of the constant theme of shooting the messenger rather than listening to the message.

We sometimes think of the idealists in our midst as dreamers or day-dreamers. They imagine that things can be done another way, they point to potentials or possibilities, they confront us with our greatest fears. But, like Joseph’s brothers, we often confuse dreams that help us deal with our worst fears and the worst fears themselves.

Rowing boats on the River Deel at Askeaton last week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017; click on image for full-screen view)

Saint Peter’s plight in our Gospel reading (Matthew 14: 22-33) this morning seems to be the working out of a constant, recurring, vivid dream of the type that many of us experience at some stage: the feelings of drowning, floating and falling suddenly, being in a crowd and yet alone, calling out and not being heard, or not being recognised for who we are.

Peter sees Christ walking on the lake or floating effortlessly above the water. At first, he thinks he is seeing a ghost. But then Christ calls to him, and Saint Peter responds.

Once he recognises Christ, Saint Peter gets out of the boat, starts walking on the water, and comes towards Christ. But he loses his confidence when he notices the strong wind, he is frightened, and he begins to sink.

He cries out: ‘Lord, save me.’ Christ immediately reaches out his hand and catches him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’

They get back into the boat, the wind ceases. And those in the boat worship him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’

Was the sight of Christ walking on the water an illusion?

Was Peter’s idea that he could walk on the water the product of an over-worked mind while it was sleeping?

Did he realise he was unprepared for the great encounter?

Did the wind cease when he woke from the dream?

All of these questions are over-analytical and fail to deal with the real encounter that takes place.

Even before the Resurrection, in his frailty, in his weakness, in his humble humanity, Saint Peter calls out to Christ: ‘Lord, save me’ (verse 30).

Do the others in the boat fall down at Christ’s feet and worship him because he can walk on water? Because he can lift a drowning man out of the depths? Or because they recognise that in Christ they can find the end to all their worst dreams and nightmares?

Saint Paul almost chides us for these questions, reminding us that people have a variety of experiences that help them to grow in faith (see Romans 10: 10).

In the sunshine this past week, the waters on the River Deel have been calm, the sun has been shining (mostly), and on most days there were few clouds in the sky.

But, in this come-and-go summer, we know too, as they say, to expect the unexpected. On a few occasions, black clouds have moved across the river. The weather could have turned, the waters could have become choppy, and this can be a frightening experience, even on the River Deel, close to the river bank and close to firm land.

As seasoned boat-handlers, the Disciples know not to try walking on water. They know the risk of sudden storms and swells, and they know the safety of a good boat, as long as it has a good crew.

An icon of the Church as a boat, including Christ, the Apostles and the Church Fathers (Icon: Deacon Matthew Garrett, www.holy-icons.com)

But since the early history of the Church, the boat has symbolised the Church.

The bark (barque or barchetta) symbolises the Church tossed on the sea of disbelief, worldliness, and persecution but finally reaching safe harbour. Part of the imagery comes from the ark saving Noah’s family during the Flood (I Peter 3: 20-21). Christ protects Peter’s boat and the Disciples on the stormy Sea of Galilee (see also Mark 6: 45-52; John 6 16-21). The mast forms the shape of the Cross.

It is an image that appears in Apostolic Constitutions and the writings of Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria. We still retain the word nave for the main part of the church, which, architecturally often looks like an up-turned boat.

So, this morning, I do not want any of us to risk walking on water, or to play stupidly in boats on the River Deel or in choppy waters or storms on the Shannon Estuary.

But if we are to dream dreams for our parish, for the Church, for the Kingdom of God, we need to be aware that it comes at the risk of feeling we are being sold out by those we see as brothers and sisters, and risk being seen as dreamers rather than people of action by others: for our dreams may be their nightmares.

If we are going to dream dreams for our parish, for the Church, for the Kingdom of God, we may need to step out of our safety zones, our comfort zones, and know that this comes with a risk warning.

And if we are going to dream dreams for our parish, for the Church, for the Kingdom of God, we need to keep our eyes focussed on Christ, and to know that the Church is there to bring us on that journey.

Let us dream dreams, take risks for the Kingdom of God, step outside the box, but let us keep our eyes on Christ and remember that the boat, the Church, is essential for our journey, and let us continue to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

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

Boats on the River Shannon at Arthur’s Quay in Limerick last week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017; click on image for full-screen view)

Collect:

Almighty God, who sent your Holy Spirit to be the life and light of your Church: Open our hearts to the riches of his grace, that we may bring forth the fruit of the Spirit in love and joy and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Post Communion Prayer:

Holy Father, who gathered us here around the table of your Son to share this meal with the whole household of God: In that new world where you reveal the fulness of your peace, gather people of every race and language to share in the eternal banquet of Jesus Christ our Lord.

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Priest-in-Charge of the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. This sermon was prepared for Sunday 13 August 2017.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Finding an unexpected
architectural delight on
Millstreet’s Main Street

Tangney’s shop on the Main Street is an architectural gem in Millstreet, Co Cork (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

Walking around any provincial town in Ireland, it is always a source of wonder to realise the number of buildings – commercial and domestic – that display thoughtful architectural creativity.

These aesthetic delights are easy to see in the works of Pat McAuliffe that can be found throughout Listowel and Abbeyfeale, the Georgian and Regency doorways of Rathkeale or the Wyatt windows in the houses in Bunclody.

Every town, it seems, has its architectural surprises that even local people seem to pass nonchalantly without comment.

Strolling through Millstreet, Co Cork, earlier this week, in search of the houses and shopfronts that were once part of the lives of the Crowley and Murphy families, I found the brightly coloured shopfronts lifted my spirits on a grey and misty afternoon.

The more obvious architectural treasures in the town include the local branch of the Bank of Ireland and the tower that marks the site of Saint Anna’s former Church of Ireland parish church. Outside the town, there are once great country homes such as Drishane Castle and Coole House. But on the Main Street of Millstreet, Tangney’s shop in its bright colours is an example of those architectural delights that the discerning eye can find in any provincial Irish town.

This shop and house are made up of twin buildings that have been combined into one, so that they present a single shopfront at street level and one dwelling above.

The main terraced, three-bay, three-storey house, on the left (west) side was built ca 1880. At first it may have been intended as a townhouse, and was converted into commercial premises in the years that followed.

The decorative scheme of the façade of this building marks it out on the streetscape of Millstreet. It incorporates classical elements, such as the cornice and parapet and pilasters. The use of shamrock motifs on the first-floor opening surrounds is a distinguishing feature, showing the influence of the Celtic Revival influence.

There is a render shopfront at the ground floor. This shopfront has channelled render pilasters with round recessed panels to the caps, a moulded render cornice and fascia with attached timber lettering. The square-headed plate-glass display windows have tiled stall risers and chrome edging, and there is a flanking recessed entrance with a square-headed timber-glazed door.

The plate-glass windows, tiled riser walls and simple form are elements typical of the Modern Movement and shopfronts of this time in Ireland. The shopfront to the ground floor adds context to the site and works well with the overall façade.

At the first-floor level, there are round-headed openings with one-over-one pane timber sliding sash windows, render sills with square-headed recessed panels below, a moulded render continuous impost course and moulded render surrounds incorporating flanking engaged banded columns and archivolts with shamrock motifs.

These shamrock motifs must have been painted in green originally, so that they stood out dramatically in previous decades, adding a modest McAuliffe-type of decorative presentation.

There are camber-headed openings on the second floor, with a continuous moulded render hood-moulding course, one-over-one pane timber sliding sash windows and render sills with square-headed recessed panels below.

There is a pitched roof with rendered chimney-stacks and a render bracketed cornice and parapet wall. There are painted rendered walls with render pilasters to the upper floors, with square-headed recessed panels, and a render string course between the upper floors.

The shamrock motifs on Tangney’s shopfront must have been painted in green originally, so that they stood out dramatically in previous decades (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The building next door, which has been incorporated in a visually pleasant way into one building, is a terraced two-bay three-storey house, built at the same time, with a gablet to top window. There is a pitched roof with rendered chimney-stacks, cast-iron rainwater goods and a render corbel course.

There are moulded render barges to the gablet with a ball finial and a terracotta tiled decorative inset. There are ainted rendered walls with chevron details in the relief flanking the top-floor window, and render brackets to the cast-iron rainwater gutter under this window.

There is a square-headed window opening to the top floor, partly within the roof space, and this has a moulded render sill and a tripartite one-over-one pane timber sliding sash window.

On the first floor, there are paired camber-headed window openings with a continuous moulded render sill, replacement timber windows, a roll moulded render surround and incised arch details above.

At the ground floor, there is a segmental-headed opening with a moulded render sill and decorative cast-iron railings, a roll moulded render surround, fixed timber windows and an incised arch detail above. The camber-headed door opening has a timber panelled door, a paned over-light, a chamfered and roll moulded render surround and a moulded render bracketed cornice above.

The decorative emphasis of the façade of this building makes it an unusual and notable feature in Millstreet. A Dutch influence can be seen in the steep gablet to the front façade, and this feature is highlighted by the tiled decoration, which adds variety of texture and materials to the site and to the street.

The rainwater goods are also unusual and are notable for their inclusion as a decorative feature within the façade. The variety of openings and styles in the building adds to and enlivens the appearance.

Colourful shopfronts in The Square in Millstreet (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017; click on image for full-screen view)

The tower is all that remains
of the former Church of
Ireland church in Millstreet

The tower is all that survives of Saint Anna’s Church, Drishane, on a hill on the south side of Millstreet, Co Cork (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

On a hill overlooking most of Millstreet, and clearly visible from the former shops and pubs once run by my grandmother and my aunt, the early 19th century square tower is all that is left standing of Saint Anna’s, the former Church of Ireland parish church.

The former Church of Ireland church that once stood on this site was built by the local landlord, J. Wallis of Drishane Castle, replacing an earlier church that stood close to Drishane Castle and that probably dated from the late 15th century.

For centuries, the parish was part of the Diocese of Ardfert, which covered much of Co Kerry, and the parochial territory traversed the boundaries of Co Kerry and Co Cork. Many of the Vicars of Drishane were also Treasurers of Ardfert Cathedral or Archdeacons of Aghadoe, but the parish was often unable to financially support its own resident priest, and at times was united with neighbouring parishes, including, at times, parishes in north Cork that were part of the Diocese of Cloyne, such as Dromgtariffe and Nohovaldaly.

The earliest vicars of Drishane are recorded in 1463 or 1464, when Canon Matthew O’Falvey was holding Drishane as a sinecure, and was Treasurer of Ardfert Cathedral, Co Kerry. Soon after, the Revd Donald O’Sullivan was found guilty of simony in 1466.

If Drishane was treated as a sinecure and embroiled in accusations of simony, it is surprising that there are few or new records of serving clergy in the difficult years of the Reformation and throughout the 16th century.

By 1615, when the Revd John Proudville or Prenderville was Vicar of Drishane and Dromtariffe, it was noted that he was a ‘reading minister’ and that the church and chancel were being repaired.

Canon Deane Hoare, who Vicar of Drishane from 1784 until he died in 1795, was typical of the pluralist clergy of his time, holding many Church appointments at the same time, and delegating his church duties in the Millstreet area to a poorly-paid curate. When he died, the parish was virtually inherited by his son, Canon John Hoare, who probably lived in Limerick until 1803, when he became Chancellor of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick.

While John Hoare was the Vicar of Drishane, the Wallis family built a new church for the parish. The town of Millstreet was developing an expanding to the west of Drishane, expanding around a new and lengthy main street that offered easier access to the mills that give the new town its name.

The Wallis family built the new church on a prominent hill above the town, and the church may have been named Saint Anna’s in the mistaken belief that the name Drishane was linked to Saint Anne.

John Hoare was succeeded as Vicar of Drishane in 1804 by Canon William Maunsell, who lived in Millstreet, unlike many of his predecessors. While he was vicar, the church was enlarged between 1807 and 1814 and the tower and belfry were built during this time. The church building covered an area of about 1,500 sq ft, and had seating for about 70 to 80 people.

Maunsell became Archdeacon of Limerick in 1814, and he was succeeded in 1815 by his brother-in-law, Charles Warburton, a son of Bishop William Warburton of Limerick. Howeverf, Warburton was also a pluralist, and he lived in Rathkeale, Co Limerick, where he was one of my predecessors as rector. He was also Chancellor of Limerick and Archdeacon of Tuam at the same time.

When Warburton resigned from Drishane in 1820, he was succeeded in Drishane by his first cousin, John Charles Mongan. He was ordained before he reached the canonical age, although this probably provided no obstacle for his uncle the bishop.

A Church report in 1835 said the average attendance at the Church on Sundays was about 60. But Mongan was a particularly negligent Vicar of Drishane, even though he married Elizabeth Wallis, a daughter of John Wallis of Drishane Castle, and left much of the work in the parish to his curate, the Revd Francis Young.

Mongan seems to have spent most of his clerical career in Belize, then British Honduras, where he had secured a post as chaplain, and he died there in 1860.

Due to the gradual decline in the Church of Ireland population from the late 19th century on, the Parish of Drishane was united with the neighbouring parish of Dromtariffe in 1904. In 1917, Drishane and Dromtariffe were united to another neighbouring parish, Clontarf, and were transferred to the Diocese of Cloyne.

In the decades that followed, Church services were held with less frequency in Saint Anna’s. The last regular church service in Saint Anna’s was held in the 1930s, and the church was officially closed for public worship on 16 November 1958. The main part of the church building was demolished the following year, and the tower was all that was left standing.

The four-stage, square tower, built ca 1810, is the all that survives of the former parish church. It has carved stone pinnacles to the corners, rubble sandstone walls with carved limestone string courses dividing the stages, and cut sandstone voussoirs, with cut-stone sills to some openings.

The ground stage of the tower has a segmental arched blind doorway to the east and a round arched doorway to the north with dressed limestone voussoirs and a sheet metal door.

The second stage has round blind oculus windows to the north and south faces, a blind camber-arched opening to the east and a round-headed glazed window opening to the west. The third stage has round-headed blind windows. The top stage of the tower has oculus openings with inset metal clock faces to all four faces.

The surrounding graveyard has carved limestone gravestones and carved limestone box-tombs. For example, here is an elaborate carved limestone stepped rectangular-profile tomb to the south, with an elaborately carved headstone. But in the rain and the grey mists on Sunday afternoon, I was unable to read the inscriptions.

In 1994-1995, the Millstreet Tidy Town Association, with support from FÁS and Cork County Council, began restoring the church tower and the surrounding graveyard, and recording its history. Saint Anna’s Amenity Park was officially opened by Bishop Roy Warke, Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, on 4 May 1997. This restoration project has enhanced the image of the town and preserved an important part of its ecclesiastical, social and architectural history and heritage.

Nearby, the former rectory that was built in 1879 is now a private house. Together, the tower of the church, graveyard and the former rectory form an interesting group of church structures.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Two ‘holy wells’ and their
patron saints in Millstreet

Saint John’s Well on Mushera Mountain … one of the many holy wells near Millstreet, Co Cork (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

Millstreet has about half a dozen mills that gave the town its name. But it also has almost the same number of ‘holy wells.’ We visited two of these earlier this week, but wondered less about their miracle-working than we did about the saints they are supposed to be linked with.

Saint John’s Well, otherwise known as Tobair na Faithni, is on the north slopes of Mushera, about 6 km from Kilcorney and 8 km from both Rylane and Macroom.

The well is in a rugged but dramatic location on the slopes of the mountain and at the edge of a new forestry plantation. I could imagine on Sunday, despite the rain and the mist, that on clear days there are expansive panoramic views across the surrounding countryside, looking upwards are the formidable slopes of the mountain, while the valley below is splattered with patchwork fields, glowing rich with colour.

Mushera is the highest mountain in the Boggeragh range, and there are three holy wells here, all dedicated to Saint John. But this is best-known of the three wells, and attracts a steady stream of visitors, some attracted by its reputation for offering a cure of warts.

A pattern or festival is held at this well each year on 24 June, the Feast of the Birth of Saint John the Baptist. But local people say the well is dedicated to Saint John of Mushera.

The statue of Saint John the Evangelist at Saint John’s Well near Millstreet (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

We found all this very confusing, as the principal statue at the well is of neither saint, but of Saint John the Evangelist or Saint John the Divine, also known as Saint John the Theologian or the Beloved Disciple, the author of the Fourth Gospel and the Book of Revelation.

I pointed out that a statue of Saint John the Baptist might be expected to show him as a very hairy figure with coarse clothing – perhaps even carrying his head on a platter, as he is depicted so often in Greek icons.

Local legends place Saint John of Mushera in the mountains of Muskerry and say he had three sisters, all revered as saints and named as Lasair, Inghean Buidhe and Latiaran, the patron saint of the nearby parish of Cullen, and each her own feast day on 6 May, 24 June and 22 July.

Saint Berihert is said to be a member of the same family, and these legends say Saint John and Saint Berihert lived with their sisters at Cullen before setting out on their missionary journeys, Saint John to Mushera and Saint Berihert to Tullylease.

Until about 1940, Saint John’s Day was marked with a pattern at the well. Tents were set up on the mountain near the well, with stalls selling sweets, cakes, lemonade, cigarettes and porter. Pilgrims visited the well in the morning, and the secular entertainment continued for the rest of the day, with singing and dancing. Over the years, however, the crowds dwindled in size, and the pattern was abandoned.

Then on Saint John’s Day, 24 June 1954, the late Michael Buckley of Aubane placed a picture of Saint John the Evangelist in the grotto. The late Sonny Buckley from Tullig, near Millstreet, who visited the well later that day, decided to erect a timber altar to protect this picture.

A committee was formed in Aubane to build a stone grotto, and when this was completely by voluntary labour the picture of Saint John was placed inside the stone grotto.

In 1958, a statue of Saint John the Evangelist was placed in the centre grotto, and two side grottos were built. The statue of Saint John was blessed in 1958 by Canon Costello of Millstreet. The first Mass at the grotto was celebrated on 24 June 1974 and Mass has been celebrated there every year since.

When Sonny Buckley died in 1979, he left £500 in his will towards the erection of the Stations of the Cross at the well. These 14 stations were designed by Liam Cosgrove of Blackpool in Cork City.

Tubrid Well at the western fringes of Millstreet (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Back in Millstreet, we visited a second holy well at Tubrid, on the western fringe of the town, and once again the three of us found ourselves wondering about the origins of the name of the well, and the saint it might refer to.

A sign at the entrance to the well briefly tells the stories of the well, its history and folklore.

Local people differ about the identity of the patron saint of Tubrid Well. Some say the well is Saint Gobnait of Ballyvourney, and that the source of the well is there, with the water coming north under Clara Mountain. Others say the name of the well is Tobar Íde, Saint Ita’s Well, and that over time this name was abbreviated to Tubrid.

Although the sign does not mention it, another tradition suggests the name of the well is derived from Saint Bride or Saint Brigit. In any case, Saint Ita is said to have been a niece of Saint Brigit and that after she founded a nunnery in Killeedy she stayed there until her death in 570.

Tubrid Well has been a place of pilgrimage for the people of Duhallow for countless generations. The well is 40 feet in diameter and is said to be the second largest well in Britain and Ireland.

Tubrid Well was almost forgotten and abandoned until the middle of the 20th century when it is said it was rediscovered by a blind man from Limerick. Now large numbers of people visit the well at Tubrid in May each year to pray the Rosary and to drink the waters that are said to have healing properties.

According to local traditions a fish appears in the well on occasions, and pilgrims who catch a glimpse of the fish are said to have their requests granted. But while we saw bubbles in the water, we saw no fish, and instead of pilgrims the only other visitor was a man filling large containers with natural spring water – a healing and miraculous alternative to the water that flows through many of our taps today.