03 November 2017

A search for the childhood
homes of the Kilcoole
gun-runner in Limerick

Sir Thomas Myles as President of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland … he was born in Catherine Street, Limerick in 1857

Patrick Comerford

I have written about Sir Thomas Myles (1857-1937) in my monthly column in two diocesan magazines in 1914, and that year I also spoke to the Kilcoole Heritage Group, Co Wicklow, about the role of this forgotten surgeon in the Kilcoole gunrunning. In 1914, he used his own private yacht Chotah in an episode that paralleled the Howth gunrunning involving the Asgard.

Myles was born over the family shop in Catherine Street, Limerick, in 1857, and was a leading surgeon of his day and was also an outstanding sports figure politics before he died in Dublin in 1937.

He was President of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, was knighted by King Edward VII, at the outbreak of World War I he was commissioned an officer in the Royal Army Medical Corps and appointed an honorary surgeon to King George V in Ireland. During the 1916 Rising, he attended victims of the violence on all sides at the Richmond Hospital.

Perhaps Myles has been conveniently forgotten in the narratives of the 1916 Rising because he does not fit easily into the exclusivist definitions of national identity.

No 13 Catherine Street, where the Myles family had their home and shop, is now No 21 Catherine Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Sir Thomas Myles was the second child son of the Limerick merchant John Myles and his second wife Prudence Bradshaw. He was born on 20 April 1857 at 13 Catherine Street, which was later numbered 15 Catherine Street.

But which house was this? The street numbers have changed in more than a century and a half, and the numbers 13 and 15 were later used for the vicarage and female orphanage attached to Trinity Episcopal Church in the 19th century. So, I was sure Thomas Myles could not have been born at either of these addresses.

Later, in the mid-1860s, John Myles moved with his family to 13 Upper Mallow Street.

As I walked through Limerick’s city centre yesterday [2 November 2017], I went in search of these houses, the house where Thomas Myles was born, and the house that was his family home throughout his teens before he went to Trinity College Dublin as an undergraduate.

The numbers were confusing, and there are no civic or historical plaques on either street to mark these houses, despite the significant role Thomas Myles has played in national history.

So, on Thursday morning I turned to the work of the local historian, Paddy Waldron, who attended my lecture in Kilcoole three years ago marking the centenary of the Kilcoole gunrunning. Paddy is distantly connected by marriage to the Myles family and also has an interest in the genealogical stories of the Comerford families in Co Clare.

He has traced how the houses on Catherine Street were renumbered in the mid-19th century, and identifies No 13 with No 21 Catherine Street. The house looks neglected today, and is close to the corner with Cecil Street.

No 13 Upper Mallow Street … once the childhood home of Sir Thomas Myles (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The Myles family later moved around the corner from Trinity Episcopal Church to No 13 Upper Mallow Street.

Despite its present use, it is possible to image how this house was once one of the elegant late Georgian townhouses that formed a terrace of largely uniform houses. They share a parapet height and their windows are aligned. No 13 still has its original doorcase, balconettes and coach house.

In recent narratives, the role of Sir Thomas Myles has been overshadowed by other Limerick members of the Church of Ireland, including Conor O’Brien, his sister Kitty O’Brien and their cousin Mary Spring-Rice from Mount Trenchard. All three were great-grandchildren of Thomas Spring-Rice (1790-1866), 1st Baron Monteagle, remembered in a public monument in the People’s Park in Limerick.

But surely Sir Thomas Myles is worthy of a plaque in the city of his birth.

The decorations and medals received by Sir Thomas Myles (Photograph: Patrick Comerford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

A two-page spread of photographs
from the Acropolis in Athens

The two-page centrefold spread in the ‘Diocesan Magazine’ in November (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

My monthly column in the November editions of two diocesan magazines – the Church Review (Dublin and Glendalough) and the Diocesan Magazine (Cashel, Ferns and Ossory) – looks back on my visit three months ago to the Acropolis in Athens and the new Acropolis Museum, and argues for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Athens.

The two magazines are printed in different formats, so these columns normally receive a two-page spread in the Church Review and run over six pages in the Diocesan Magazine.

This month, the editor of the Diocesan Magazine, the Revd Patrick Burke of Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny, has supplemented my column and photographs with an extra two-page centrefold spread, using some of my photographs from Athens.

But more about this on Sunday afternoon [5 November 2017].

Shop fronts tell tales
of a once prosperous
past in Ballingary

Main Street, Ballingarry, Co Limerick … the colourful shopfronts illustrate how this was once a thriving market town (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

Walking around Ballingarry one afternoon earlier this week, the places of immediate architectural interest included the two parish churches, the former Church of Ireland parish church and JJ McCarthy’s Gothic Revival Church of the Immaculate Conception, and two dominant houses of historical interest, the ruins of Ballingarry Castle or Parson’s Castle and The Turret, with its Dutch gable and the curious tale of its Cross and three Crescents.

But this sleepy Co Limerick village also has a number and shops and interesting commercial and domestic buildings that from the early and mid-19th century that illustrate how Ballingarry was once a thriving market town until the Victorian era and the Great Famine.

Aherns and Burkes … the lettering on these paired former shopfronts indicate how Ballingarry was once a prosperous shopping town (Photographs: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The sign at Trainor’s Bar on Main Street says it was founded in 1820, but other signs on the windows indicate that Ballingarry once had its own hotel long before the Mustard Seed opened in the former convent.

The raised letterings, entablatures and fascia boards on façades indicate how many once busy shops and public houses have closed in recent decades or have been converted into private residences.

Aidan Quaid’s on the corner of Main Street and Knight Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Aidan Quaid’s Fitted Furniture business, which stands on the prominent corner of Main Street and Knight Street, near the bridge, may have been a pub in the past, judging by its appearance and its location.

This is an end-of-terrace, three-bay three-storey premises and was built around 1840. The front of the shop and house has a render shopfront. There is a pitched slate roof with rendered chimney-stacks, there are rendered walls and render quoins, and the square-headed windows have moulded render surrounds and painted sills, while the square-headed door opening has a timber panelled door, a moulded render surround and a glazed over-light.

The three-part shopfront has render pilasters, scrolled consoles with acanthus style motifs supporting the moulded render entablature over a render fascia with raised lettering.

This is a substantial building with a strong façade that has many artistic details and its solid massing and decorative render elements make this building stand out in Ballingarry.

Sheehy’s, opposite the gates of the former Church of Ireland parish church, has an attractive shopfront (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Sheehy’s is an earlier, terraced, three-bay two-storey house and former shop that was built around 1800. It stands on the Main Street, opposite the gate and tower of the former Church of Ireland parish church and one time also served as the post office.

The building has a timber shopfront, a pitched slate roof with rendered chimney-stacks, lined-and-ruled rendered walls with render quoins, a half-glazed timber panelled door, one-over-one pane timber sliding sash windows and painted stone sills.

The still-attractive shopfront is in three parts, with timber engaged columns supporting the entablature over the fascia with raised lettering. The round-headed fixed windows have carved timber surrounds, the square-headed opening is flanked by timber engaged columns and there are timber battened double-leaf doors.

Quaid’s Corner House and Barret’s form an interesting corner at Main Street and Pound Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Further up Main Street, on the corner with Pound Street, Quaid’s Corner House is another pub in the town with raised lettering and attractive signage, and it forms a colourful corner on the streetscape alongside Barrett’s next door.

A six-bay house with dormer windows … probably built as a separate shop and house (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

On the hill. leading up to the Turret and McCarthy’s church, a long pink house with dormer windows is one of the many unusual private family homes in the town.

This house may have been built first as two separate houses, and the ground floor window and door arrangement suggests that the building may have once been a shop or pub.

This terraced, six-bay, single-storey house with two dormer windows was built around 1840. The house has rendered chimneystacks and carved timber bargeboards with finials to the dormer windows. The rendered walls have render quoins at the north end-bay.

The windows have square-headed openings with decorative render surrounds, painted stone sills and one-over-one pane timber sliding sash windows. An interesting square-headed display window has a bipartite fixed window and tripartite overlight. The square-headed windows in the dormer attic have one-over-one pane timber sliding sash windows and timber surrounds with recessed panels.

Throughout the town, there are many other attractive and often half-hidden Georgian, Regency and early Victorian houses that could benefit from further attention by architectural historians.

One of the many pretty half-hidden Georgian and Regency houses on the streets of Ballingarry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)