30 December 2017

Former dispensary is
an unusual religious
building in Limerick

The Kingdom Hall of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Limerick is the former City Dispensary (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

The Kingdom Hall of the Jehovah’s Witnesses on the corner of Lower Gerald Griffin Street and James’s Street, may be one of the more unusual looking religious buildings in the heart of Limerick’s city centre. But this is because it was built originally as a dispensary around 1890.

As the old name suggests, the City Dispensary was the focal point of dispensed prescriptions and medical care in Limerick for much of the 20th century. There were dentists and doctors here, and people who gave coal and food vouchers to the cold and the hungry.

In the 1940s and 1950s, this was a place too for food parcels for impoverished people in Limerick City.

The City Dispensary was made famous by Frank McCourt in Angela’s Ashes. It was here that the writer came with his mother Angela to beg for shoes and grocery vouchers.

This is a detached building on the corner of Lower Gerald Griffin Street and James’s Street, and it is a seven-bay, two-storey, red-brick, east-facing late Victorian building.

The central, raised, single-bay, gabled breakfront has a large pediment with a natural slate covering and a terracotta dentil cornice supported by a pair of red brick pilasters flanking a recessed frame with an egg-and-dart frame and a modern inscribed panel.

This breakfront has a single round-headed window opening with red brick voussoirs and a terracotta fluted keystone and a uPVC window on a nosed limestone sill course to the entire breakfront.

There is a similar round-headed door opening with a terracotta rosette to either side and a modern hardwood double-leaf timber-panelled door opening onto three limestone steps.

The building is flanked by a low rendered wall with a red-brick plinth course and a moulded limestone coping supporting wrought-iron railings and a pair of wrought-iron gates.

The red brick walls are laid in stretcher bond with a red brick pilaster flanking each bay.

The camber-headed window openings have a fluted terracotta keystone and a terracotta cyma reversal stringcourse. There are nosed limestone sills and the original windows have been replaced with uPVC windows.

At the north side, on the front facing James’s Street, there is a second, round-headed door opening with a keystone and a timber-panelled door. This is flanked by a pair of round-headed window openings with one-over-one timber sash windows on limestone nosed sills.

After the establishment of the Limerick Health Authority in 1960, the building fell into dilapidation. It was restored in recent years by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who have a congregation here of about 70 people. The Witnesses do not use altars, and their Kingdom Halls are devoid of religious symbols or decorations.

The former dispensary remains a pleasant building with its slender, yet dramatic, pedimented breakfront. The sober red brick fa├žade is enlivened by the double-height pilasters, and the string and sill courses add a decorative element to this narrow street in the city centre.

Praying at Christmas with USPG
and Lichfield Cathedral
(6): 30 December 2017

‘Pray that the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem might be strengthened in its witness to the reconciling and healing power of Christ’ … with Archbishop Suheil Dawani of Jerusalem during his visit to Dublin last December

Patrick Comerford

We are coming towards the end of the year today [30 December 2017], and tomorrow is New Year’s Eve.

Until the end of this month, I am continuing a practice I began at the beginning of Advent this year. I am spending a short time of prayer and reflection each morning, using the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency, USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) and the Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar from Lichfield Cathedral.

USPG, founded in 1701, is an Anglican mission agency supporting churches around the world in their mission to bring fullness of life to the communities they serve.

Under the title Pray with the World Church, the current prayer diary (22 October 2017 to 10 February 2018), offers prayers and reflections from the Anglican Communion.

This week, the Prayer Diary visits the Holy Land, and this theme was introduced on Sunday by Salwa Khoury, who is based at Saint Luke’s Hospital in Nablus on the West Bank.

The USPG Prayer Diary:

Saturday 30 December 2017:

Pray that the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem might be strengthened in its witness to the reconciling and healing power of Christ.

Lichfield Cathedral Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar:

The BBC World Service has broadcast a 30-minute documentary on the Bethlehem Icon Centre which can now be listened to on iPlayer. The Bethlehem Icon Centre trains Palestinian Christians to be iconographers, and reconnect with a nearly lost part of their spiritual heritage.

Students from the Bethlehem Icon Centre are coming to Lichfield Cathedral next year [2018] to work on a new commission, the Icon of Christ Crucified. The icon will complete the ‘triptych’ of icons, including the icons of the Virgin Mary, and the Archangel Gabriel that were completed last year.

The Lichfield Cathedral Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar suggests lighting a candle each day as you read the Bible and pray.

Today, the calendar suggests reading Matthew 2: 13-15 and 19-23.

The reflection for today offers this challenge:

Pray for the homeless, the refugee and the migrant – all seeking a home, security and stability.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow.