Wednesday, 17 January 2018

The Hares of Listowel:
a family that witnessed
major political changes

The arms of the Earls of Listowel … not to be seen at the Listowel Arms Hotel

Patrick Comerford

I was discussing the Listowel Arms Hotel earlier today, and the place of this boutique style hotel in the social and political history of Listowel. The hotel, which I visited earlier this week, has played host to literary figures such as the Victorian writer William Makepeace Thackeray, who recommended the hotel in 1843 in his Irish Sketchbook, and political guests in the 19th century included Daniel O’Connell and Charles Stewart Parnell, who spoke from first floor windows to large crowds gathered below in the Square.

The name of the hotel recalls the Hare family, who have held the title of Earl of Listowel for almost 200 years since 1822, and who were the proprietors of Listowel Castle after they bought the Listowel Estate from the FitzMaurices of Kerry at the end of the 18th century.

Although the actual coat-of-arms of the Earls of Listowel is not displayed at the Listowel Arms Hotel, the story of this family is an interesting one, that moves from opportunism at passage of the Act of Union to socialism and the end of colonialism in the 20th century.

The title of Earl of Listowel in the Irish peerage was given in 1822 to William Hare (1751-1837), 1st Viscount Ennismore and Listowel, who had been an MP in the Irish House of Commons for Cork City and Athy before the Act of Union.

He had already obtained for himself the hereditary titles of Baron Ennismore, of Ennismore in Co Kerry in 1800, and Viscount Ennismore and Listowel, in 1816, also in the Peerage of Ireland.

In 1825, the Limerick-based architect James Pain and his brother, George Richard Pain, designed Convamore Castle for Lord Listowel. The house was one of the first in Ireland to boast large plate glass windows. When Listowel died in 1837, he was buried in Westminster Abbey.

His eldest son and heir, Richard Lysaght Hare (1773-1827), known by the courtesy title of Lord Ennismore, had died in 1827. So, when the first earl died, he was succeeded by his grandson, William Hare (1801-1856), as the second earl. His Irish titles did not give him a seat in the House of Lords, and he sat in the Commons as MP for Kerry (1826-1830) and later for St Albans (1841-1846). He was outspoken in advocating Catholic Emancipation, and Queen Victoria was the godmother of his daughter, Lady Victoria Hare.

William Hare (1833-1924), 3rd Earl of Listowel … a Crimean veteran and Liberal politician

The Irish peerage titles passed to his eldest son, William Hare (1833-1924), as 3rd Earl of Listowel. He was an officer with the Scots Fusiliers Guards in the Crimean War (1854-1856). He was wounded at the Battle of Alma on 30 September 1854, and was invalided back to England by ship. In the 1855 general election, he stood for the Liberal party in Co Cork. He succeeded his father as 3rd Earl of Listowel a year later, but his Irish peerage still did not give him a seat in the House of Lords.

Although the family owned over 20,000 acres in the Listowel area, the Hares never lived at Listowel Castle, close to the Listowel Arms Hotel. The castle had fallen into ruins at the end of the 17th century, and instead the family lived at Convamore Castle, near Ballyhooly, Co Cork.

When it came to giving Lord Listowel a British peerage that gave him a seat in the House of Lords in 1869, he chose the title of Baron Hare of Convamore, Co Cork. He commissioned the new Church of Ireland parish church in Ballyhooly, designed by George Coppinger Ashlin, a pupil of Pugin, and opened in 1870. He was briefly a government whip in the House of Lords (Lord-in-Waiting) in 1880 at the beginning of Gladstone’s second Liberal administration, and also held the largely ceremonial post of Vice-Admiral of Munster.

The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, visited Convamore in 1885 as a guest of the family, and planted a magnificent blue cedar that still stands at Convamore.

During the Irish War of Independence, the IRA burned down Convamore in March 1921, claiming Lord Listowel was ‘an aggressively anti-Irish person,’ despite his lifelong Liberal politics and his popularity in Ballyhooly, where he had lived for 60 years. In retaliation, soldiers blew up the Castle Tavern at the crossroads. Convamore was never rebuilt, and its ruins are derelict and abandoned.

When the third earl died in 1924 at the age of 91, he was the second oldest member of the House of Lords at the time. He was succeeded by his son Richard Hare (1866-1931), as 4th Earl of Listowel.

William Francis Hare (1906-1997), 5th Earl of Listowel, better known as Billy Listowel, was a Labour politician who played a key role in Indian and Burmese independence

Perhaps the most colourful Earl of Listowel was his son, William Francis Hare (1906-1997), 5th Earl of Listowel, better known as Billy Listowel. This colourful peer became a socialist when he experienced profound shock on discovering how poor children lived in a slum near his parents’ home in London. He was the last British Secretary of State for India and Burma, and the last Governor-General of Ghana, the last surviving Labour member of Churchill’s war-time coalition government, and the longest-serving member of the House of Lords. He was also the first and only Labour peer to have been the Lord Chairman of Committees.

William Francis Hare born on 28 September 1906, and after his father succeeded as the 4th Earl of Listowel in 1924, he held the courtesy title of Viscount Ennismore.

At Eton, where he was the only known socialist – apart from Hester Alington, wife of the headmaster, the Revd Cyril Alington. He debated with Quintin Hogg, later Lord Hailsham, opposing both the House of Lords and the hereditary principle. Although he held the courtesy title of Viscount Ennismore at the time, he preferred to be known at school as Mr Hare.

From Eton he went up to Balliol College, Oxford, to read Modern Greats. He found a platform at the Oxford Union to express of his political views, and as the socialist heir to an earl he quickly attracted press attention. His father removed him after only a year and asked the Marquess of Willingdon, then Governor-General of Canada, to accept his son as an aide-de-camp.

Eventually, he continued his university education at Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he read English. He went to study at the Sorbonne, and at London University he wrote a doctoral thesis later published as A Critical History of Modern Aesthetics (1933).

Meanwhile, shortly after his father’s death in 1932, Listowel took his seat in the House of Lords, not as Earl of Listowel, which remained an Irish peerage, but as Lord Hare of Convamore. At the time, the small number of Labour peers, led by Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, could be accommodated comfortably on two benches. He was also a Labour member of London County Council for East Lewisham from 1937 to 1946.

When World War II broke out in 1939, Billy Listowel volunteered to join the ranks. Because of his poor eyesight, he joined the RAMC, but was selected for Intelligence Corps training. One of his fellow second lieutenants was the philosopher AJ Ayer.

When he was appointed Opposition Chief Whip in 1941, he was released from the forces. Three years later, he became Deputy Leader in the Lords, and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the India Office.

When Labour came to office in 1945 with Clement Attlee’s post-war election victory, Listowel was appointed Postmaster-General, a post he held until April 1947, and was briefly Minister of Information from February to March 1946, when the office was abolished.

Lord Mountbatten was appointed Viceroy of India in 1947, and at his request Listowel became Secretary of State for India. When the India Independence Bill was introduced, Listowel steered it through the House of Lords without amendment. Although he was invited to Balmoral to receive King George VI’s personal thanks for presiding over India’s transition to independence, he received no other honour.

As Secretary of State for India, his duties extended to Burma, and he remained Secretary of State for Burma until independence in 1948. Despite the assassination of Aung San and most of his ministers, the transition to independence moved forward in Burma, with Listowel steering the legislation through the Lords.

His next appointment was as Minister of State for the Colonies, visiting Malaya, Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, British Guiana, British Honduras, and the Windward and Leeward Islands.

He returned to London County Council as a Labour member for Battersea North from 1952 until 1957, when he was invited by Kwame Nkrumah, the socialist Prime Minister of Ghana, to become Ghana’s Governor-General.

His three years in Ghana were especially happy, and Ghana became an independent republic in the Commonwealth in 1960. Because of a mechanical fault, Listowel’s plane, which was scheduled to leave Ghana two hours before the country became a republic, took off only minutes before the deadline expired, narrowly avoiding a constitutional crisis.

He was Chairman of Committees in the House of Lords from 1965 to 1976, and for many years after he continued to sit on the Woolsack as one of the Lord Chancellor’s Deputy Speakers. He maintained a keen interest in foreign and Commonwealth affairs, human rights and Third World aid. He died in London on 12 March 1997.

The titles are held by his eldest son, the sixth Earl. Lord Listowel is one of the 90 elected hereditary peers who remain in the House of Lords since the House of Lords Act 1999 was passed. He sits as a cross-bencher and is known as an advocate of children’s rights.

Inside the Listowel Arms Hotel … a reminder of an interesting political family

Listowel Arms Hotel is a part of the
town’s architectural and social history

The Listowel Arms Hotel is part of the architectural and social history of Listowel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

The main archaeological interest in Listowel is provided by the ruins of Listowel Castle while the main architectural interests are provided by the work of the local plasterer and builder Pat McAuliffe (1846-1921), whose stucco artwork decorates many of the façades of the townhouses and shops in the town.

McAuliffe’s best-known work in Listowel is, perhaps, ‘The Maid of Erin,’ depicting a romantic image of Mother Ireland surrounded by a harp, a wolfhound and other symbols of Ireland.

But just a few steps away, on this side of The Square, the Listowel Arms Hotel is an interesting former coaching house that is part of the architectural and social history of Listowel.

This is a terraced, five-bay three-storey hotel, built mainly around 1820, with a round-headed door opening to centre. It was extended to the south-west around 1910, with a single-bay two-storey wing at right angles and with a square-headed integral carriage arch at the ground floor.

The carriage arch facing a corner of the Square in Listowel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The hotel was renovated around 1920, with render façade enrichments. It was extended to the rear around 1975, with a four-bay three-storey flat-roofed return, and it was extended again in 1998, with the addition of a 19-bay two-storey and three-storey wing over a raised basement wing. A section of the cast-iron railings date from around 1820.

The Listowel Arms is one of the best-known hotels in north Kerry and despite its Georgian appearance this landmark hotel has a story in inn-keeping that dates back to the late 17th century.

By the early 19th century, the Listowel Arms was owned and operated as an inn by John Leonard until 1824, when he leased it to a man named Adams. Daniel O’Connell was a regular guest refers to it in his writings in the 1820s. He gave one of his rousing speeches from a first-floor window overlooking the Square.

The Victorian writer William Makepeace Thackeray visited Listowel in the 1840s, and recommended the hotel in 1843 in his Irish Sketchbook.

The Listowel Arms Hotel was recommend by Thackeray in 1843 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Meanwhile, Adams had an only a daughter who took over running the inn in the 1850s with her husband, McElligott.

McElligott rebuilt the premises, and added to parts of the building, and the McElligott family ran the inn for most of the rest of the 19th century.

Local lore says that in 1865, Richard Colt-Hoare described the Listowel Arms as ‘one of the best in Ireland.’

However, the travel writer and antiquarian Sir Richard Colt-Hoare (1758-1838) toured Ireland in 1806 and his reference to Listowel is very brief, without reference to any hotel:

The road continued dull and uninteresting, or at least the heavy rain made it appear so. Listowel is the first stage, a town on the Feal [sic], having a handsome bridge over that river. It is rather remarkably situated upon a steep eminence, rising on a sudden from a wide-extended flat; and the remains of an old castle frowning over the brow of the height give it a striking appearance in approaching it. This castle once extended a considerable way; the principal part that remains is a gateway, a lofty circular arch, between two lofty round-towers. From hence we proceeded to Glynn on the Shannon, where were to be our night quarters. For a long way beyond Listowel there is a dismal dreary bog without an object of any kind to excite interest.

Charles Stewart Parnell made a famous speech while he was staying at the Listowel Arms Hotel in 1891 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

We are sure, however, that shortly before his death Charles Stewart Parnell (1846-1891) stayed in the Listowel Arms on 13 September 1891, and made one of his last speeches from the same hotel window Daniel O’Connell had spoken from. It was here that Parnell repeated his famous words that ‘no man has the right to fix the boundary to the march of a nation.’

He proclaimed: ‘We assert today in this town of Listowel what we asserted in 1885 and the years before it, that no man has the right to fix the boundary to the march of a nation – that no man has the right to limit the aspirations of our people.’

Parnell died within a month in Hove on 6 October 1891.

The Listowel Arms was restored and renovated by the O’Callaghan family (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The Listowel Arms had many owners in the 20th century, including the singer Joseph Locke, who was here for three or four years in the 1960s and changed the name of the hotel to the White Horse.

Later, the hotel was owned for a while by three Listowel businessmen. It was then bought by the Ryan family, hoteliers from Limerick. They owned the hotel for about three years. In 1995, it was bought by the Bernard and Josephine O’Callaghan family.

Earlier, Bernard O’Callaghan had built and developed the Cliff Hotel and restaurant in Ballybunion in 1960. A one-time Kerry footballer, he grew up in Moyvane, five miles outside Listowel, and married Josephine Ahern from Ballylongford in north Kerry. He had an affection and enthusiasm for the Listowel Arms and, managed to buy it on his second attempt to buy it from the Ryan family in 1995.

The Listowel Arms Hotel has been brought back to its original style (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Bernard O’Callaghan died in 1998, but had passed on his enthusiasm to his family. The Listowel Arms was then run by his daughter Patrice, and her husband Graham Gleasure. Her brothers Kevin, Colm and Brian O’Callaghan are also involved in the business. Their work since 1995 has rectified the 1970s decor, unearthed original features and brought the building back to its old, original style.

They have reinstated for timber floors, added 12 bedrooms and added the restaurant, function rooms and conservatory overlooking the River Feale Room and designed a new reception area.

A plaque on the wall is a reminder of the eventful history of the Listowel Arms and the place of this hotel in the heritage of Listowel.

The Listowel Arms Hotel has a place in the heritage of Listowel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Listowel Castle has been
restored on the banks
of the River Feale

Listowel Castle stands on the Square in the heart of Listowel, Co Kerry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Listowel Castle is one of the best examples of Anglo-Norman architecture in Co Kerry. The earliest castle at Listowel was probably built by the FitzMaurice family as a fortress in the 13th century.

The town of Listowel developed out from the castle on the banks of the River Feale, and Listowel is first documented in 1303-1304 when it first in the Plea Roll as Listokill.

The present castle, built in the 15th and 16th centuries by the FitzMaurice family, Lords of Kerry, stands in the centre of Listowel on an elevated site at the top of a steep bank, overlooking the River Feale. Although the castle was not the main family residence, it was strategically important standing above this strategic ford, 16 miles north of Tralee.

Archaeological excavations and records show Listowel Castle was originally similar in form to Bunratty Castle, Co Clare. The castle was built mainly with local limestone, bound with lime and sand mortar.

The two surviving large, square towers are four storeys tall, standing almost to the original height of 15.3 metres. They are joined by a heavy curtain wall, and the unusual feature of an arch below the battlements. This façade is punctuated by small windows with inner splays.

The many defensive features of the castle included thick walls, small lancet windows and ‘murder holes’ through which boiling water, stones and missiles could be dropped down on any attacking forces. At the base, the walls of the four towers were almost two metres thick.

The town grew up around the castle from the 15th century, and the town first appears as Lios Tuathail in the Annals of the Four Masters under the year 1582.

Listowel Castle was the last of the Geraldine fortresses to hold out against Queen Elizabeth I during the First Desmond Rebellion. During a four-week siege in 1600, Sir Charles Wilmot (1570-1644), who had already captured Carrigafoyle Castle near Ballylongford, made two attempts to tunnel under the castle and to place explosives under the walls.

The first attempt was thwarted by flooding, but in the second attempt the besieging forces reached a vaulted chamber that made it possible to take the castle. After a 28-day siege, the castle fell to Wilmot on 5 November 1600.

After the surrender, Wilmot released the women and children, and in the following days he executed nine men in retribution for nine of his soldiers who had been killed during the siege.

However, Lord Kerry’s eldest son was smuggled out of the castle during the siege and hidden in a cave a few kilometres away. Wilmot heard of the whereabouts of the heir, Thomas FitzMaurice, caught up with him, and sent him to England.

Elizabeth rewarded Wilmot’s efforts by giving him the title Viscount Wilmot of Athlone in 1616. Meanwhile, Thomas FitzMaurice succeeded as 18th Lord Kerry. He died at Drogheda in 1630, and is buried in Cashel. His direct descendant, Thomas FitzMaurice (1668-1741), was MP for Kerry in 1692-1697 and became the 1st Earl of Kerry in 1723.

Thomas FitzMaurice was the grandfather of William Petty (1737-1805), 2nd Earl of Shelburne, 1st Marquess of Lansdowne and British Prime Minster. Shelburne left an unflattering picture of his grandfather as ‘a tyrant ... the most severe and inflexible character that can be imagined, obstinate and inflexible ... his family did not love him but dreaded him, as did his servants.’

An external staircase has been erected at Listowel Castle, giving the public to access the upper storeys (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The castle had been considerably damaged in the siege, and in the 18th and 19th centuries it fell into ruin. Much of the stonework was taken away and used in nearby buildings, including a nearby mill and some of the townhouses in Listowel. About a third of the castle had been demolished or dismantled when FitzMaurice family sold the castle and Listowel estate to the Hare family.

The Hare family came to Ireland after the Cromwellian settlement and acquired property initially in Dublin and later in Cork. Their influence extended to Co Kerry at the end of the 18th century, when Richard Hare bought 20,000 acres around Listowel.

His son, William Hare, afterwards became first Baron Ennismore and later Earl of Listowel. The Ordnance Survey Name Books indicate that Stephen Collis acted as the Earl of Listowel’s agent in Kerry.

The main Hare family seat was at Convamore, near Ballyhooly, Co Cork, however, and Listowel Castle was left to fall into ruins. Today, the remnants of the castle include two of its four towers. The keep and two towers are totally missing.

The Office of Public Works began restoration work in 2005, and it is now a national monument. The stonework was cleaned by a team of expert craftsmen, while the upper section, which had become particularly distressed over time, was restored and rendered waterproof.

In keeping with the original architecture of the building, an external staircase was erected, giving the public to access the upper storeys.

I walked around to the back of the castle, where I could appreciate its elevated location on a steep bank overlooking the river Feale, and its strategic location above the ford on the River Feale.

The castle is open to the public during the summer months for guided tours on a daily basis. However, each tour is limited to a maximum of 12 visitors at a time.

Now surrounded by a bustling town, the façade of the 15th century tower house is just off the Square, with a neat garden and small amphitheatre at the front.

Close to the castle, the Seanchaí Literary Centre is housed in one of the many fine Georgian townhouses in the Square. It offers visitors an opportunity to learn more about the history of the castle, and presents the works of many great Kerry writers, including John B Keane, Bryan MacMahon, George Fitzmaurice, Brendan Kennelly and Maurice Walsh.

The River Feale flows below the ramparts of Listowel Castle (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

A popular funeral poem
that began as part of
of a funeral sermon

Henry Scott-Holland (1847-1918) … author of ‘Death is nothing at all’

Patrick Comerford

I have been at a number of funerals in recent weeks. Often, families ask to read ‘Death is nothing at all,’ by Henry Scott-Holland. It is often presented as a poem, but is, in fact, part of a sermon preached over a century ago.

The author, then Canon Henry Scott-Holland (1847-1918), died 100 years ago on 17 March 1918. At the time he preached this sermon, he was the Canon Precentor of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London. He never imagined his words would become a poem, and he spoke them as part of his sermon, ‘Death the King of Terrors,’ preached in 1910 while King Edward VII was lying in state at Westminster Hall.

Later that year, Henry Scott Holland was appointed Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford. He was also a canon of Christ Church, Oxford, and the Scott Holland Memorial Lectures are held in his memory.

Henry Scott Holland was born at Ledbury, Herefordshire, on 27 January 1847. He was the eldest son of George Henry Holland (1818-1891) of Dumbleton Hall, Evesham, and of the Hon Charlotte Dorothy Gifford, eldest daughter of Robert Gifford (1779-1826), 1st Lord Gifford and Lord Chief Justice (1824).

At Eton, he was a pupil of the influential William Johnson Cory (1823-1892). But he was not an outstanding student, and at his first attempt he failed his entrance exam at Oxford University. He tried again in 1866 – and this time he was successful.

At first, Holland struggled academically at Balliol College Oxford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

At Balliol College Oxford, Holland struggled academically until he came under the influence of Thomas Hill Green (1836-1882), the senior tutor in philosophy. Green has been described by Roy Hattersley as ‘the first philosopher of social justice.’ Holland was inspired by Green’s ideas on religion and social reform and he eventually obtained a First in Greats.

In 1870, he was elected to a Senior Studentship (fellow) of Christ Church, Oxford. where he became tutor in 1872. He was ordained deacon in 1872 and priest in 1874 by William Mackarness, Bishop of Oxford. Later, he would also receive his DD and an honorary DLitt at Oxford. At Oxford, he lectured and published several books and articles, including The Duties of the Parochial Clergy Toward Some Forms of Modern Thought (1873). Meanwhile, he was senior proctor of Oxford University in 1882.

When his friend George Wilkinson (1833-1907), future Primus of the Episcopal Church of Scotland, became Bishop of Truro in 1883, he appointed Holland as honorary canon of St Petroc in Truro Cathedral, and made him examining chaplain.

Holland became a canon of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London, in 1884, and Precentor in 1886 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Holland left Oxford for Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London, in 1884, when he was appointed a canon, and two years later he was made Precentor. His appointment greatly strengthened the preaching power of the chapter.

His friends included WE Gladstone and John Ruskin, whom he introduced to each other. Because of his surname, Mary Gladstone referred to him affectionately as ‘Flying Dutchman’ and Fliegende Hollander.

His obituary in The Times said he came to Saint Paul’s ‘with a desire to solve the social problems of London.’ In this, he was influenced by Brooke Foss Westcott (1825-1901), then Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, and from whom he learnt the methods of Greek Testament study. Westcott was one of three theologians known as the ‘Cambridge Triumvirate,’ along with Joseph Barber Lightfoot and the Dublin born Fenton John Anthony Hort (1828-1892). Later Westcott became Bishop of Durham and gave his name to Westcott House, the Anglican theological college in Cambridge.

It is said the formation of the Christian Social Union drew its inspiration from ‘this Cambridge prophet and the Oxford son of the prophets.’

Holland’s experience of social problems in London convinced him that the Church of England needed to change. He began visiting industrial slums, was deeply shocked by what he saw, and began to argue for mission houses to be built that would serve as a point of contact between the ‘academic community and the deprived classes.’

Holland was one of a distinguished group of Christian Oxford found themselves ‘compelled for their own sake, no less than that of others, to attempt to put the Catholic faith into its right relation to modern intellectual and moral problems.’

In his contribution to Lux Mundi (1889), the controversial collection of essays edited by Charles Gore, Holland argued that Christianity was to be experienced, not contemplated. He suggested that the Church needed to reject the ‘old truths’ and to ‘enter into an understanding of the new social and intellectual movements of the present.’ Holland pointed out that the ‘streets of London reek with human misery’ and the Church could no longer afford to ignore this suffering. Holland advocated radical reform, or what he called, the ‘Christianisation of the social structure whereby all men live in accordance with the principles of divine justice and human brotherhood.’

Four of the 12 contributors to Lux Mundi would become bishops; Holland contributed the first essay, on Faith.

Later that year, he formed the Christian Social Union to provide direction to the social gospel. The purpose of the CSU was to ‘investigate areas in which moral truth and Christian principles could bring relief to the social and economic disorder of society.’

Other influential figures in the formation of CUS included Frederick Denison Maurice, once a professor of theology at London University, Charles Kingsley, John Malcolm Forbes Ludlow and William Temple, later Archbishop of Canterbury (1942-1944).

By the end of the century, at least 60 branches of the CSU had been formed throughout Britain, and the CSU also published a journal, the Commonwealth, that provided a forum for discussions on religion and social reform.

In 1893, Holland declined Gladstone’s offer of the See of Norwich when Bishop John Pelham retired.

Holland and the CSU journal upset the leaders of the Liberal Party in 1897 when he claimed that the party had failed to protect labour from capitalism. The Commonwealth suggested that wealthy Liberals who showed no sympathy for the poor should be expelled from the party.

The Commonwealth also investigated the injustices of bad housing, pollution and low wages and campaigned strongly against the Poor Law that forced people into the workhouse. The CSU also published a large number of pamphlets and booklets that suggested solutions to social problems. This included a minimum wage and state benefits for the unemployed.

In Holland’s opinion, modern capitalist companies had no conscience and were acting immorally. According to Holland, capital and labour should be co-operating forces, sharing a common objective, but the system had turned them into unequal rivals. Holland’s solution to the problem was state regulation; only the state was powerful enough to ‘evoke, to direct, to supervise, to empower, and to regulate the actions’ of capital and labour.

The role of the Anglican Church, he declared, should be to convince society that ‘duty to God and duty to man are the same thing.’

The ‘Personal Studies’ he contributed to the Commonwealth were published in book form in 1905.

After the Liberal election victory in 1906, he was outspoken in condemning the Education Bill.

In his sermon after the death of King Edward VII in 1910, Holland explored the natural but seemingly contradictory responses to death: the fear of the unexplained and the belief in continuity. It is from his discussion of the latter that perhaps his best-known writing, ‘Death is nothing at all,’ is drawn.

The frequent use of this passage at funerals has provoked critics to argue that it fails to accurately reflect either Holland’s theology as a whole, or the focus of the sermon in particular. What has not provoked as much criticism is the affinity of Holland’s passage to Saint Augustine’s thoughts in his fourth century letter in 263 to Sapida, in which he writes that Sapida’s brother and their love, although he has died, are there still, like gold that still is yours even if you save it in some locker.

Christ Church Oxford … Holland returned to in 1910 as Regius Professor of Divinity (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Holland returned to Oxford University in 1910 when he was appointed Regius Professor of Divinity by Asquith following the death of William Ince. In spite of his years, the new professor retained his youthfulness and his abounding enthusiasm. He published seven or eight volumes of sermons, and a biography of the Swedish-born opera singer Jenny Lind (1820-1877).

However, Holland’s health deteriorated after 1914, and he was restricted in his work. He died at Christ Church, Oxford, on 17 March 1918, and is buried in the churchyard of All Saints’ Church, Cuddesdon, near Oxford.

Death is nothing at all, by Henry Scott-Holland (1847-1918)

Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened.

Everything remains exactly as it was.
I am I, and you are you,
and the old life that we lived so fondly together
is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.

Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without an effort,
without the ghost of a shadow upon it.

Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was.
There is absolute and unbroken continuity.
What is this death but a negligible accident?

Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval,
somewhere very near,
just round the corner.

All is well.
Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!

Monday, 15 January 2018

Rathkeale’s former Victorian
courthouse and Bridewell
is now a community centre

The former courthouse and Bridewell in Rathkeale is now the community centre (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

The community centre in Rathkeale, which has served in the past as a courthouse and a Bridewell, dominates the Market Square in Rathkeale, and with its green paintwork and its very visible clock it is a landmark building in this west Limerick town.

In 1836, Rathkeale was the largest town in Co Limerick. It had a large constabulary barracks, a courthouse, a gaol, a flour mill and a fever hospital.

A new courthouse and Bridewell were built in Rathkeale in 1843, probably by Michael Fitzgerald, drawing on plans designed by the Limerick-based architect James Pain. In that year, an architect named Fitzgerald won the contract for building same to designs by James Pain.

The architect and builder Michael Fitzgerald, who probably lived in Limerick, designed the bridewells at Ennistymon and Tulla, Co Clare, and was responsible for alterations to Ennis courthouse in 1825, and for minor works at Ennis gaol in 1826.

He is probably the same Michael Fitzgerald who worked on several Church of Ireland parish churches in Co Limerick, Co Tipperary and Offaly, carrying out minor works at Kildimo, Co Limerick, in 1813 and 1814, supplying the plans for Ballymackey, Co Tipperary, (1817), and Dunkerrin, Co. Offaly (1817), and building Modreeney, Co Tipperary (1826).

A ‘Michael FitzGerald, Architect’ voted for John Prendergast Vereker in the Limerick parliamentary election in 1817. In 1843, a Mr Fitzgerald, ‘architect,’ won the contract for rebuilding the court house at Rathkeale, Co Limerick.

The four-bay, two-storey courthouse and Bridewell in Rathkeale was built as a detached building, with a gabled breakfront, and flanked by wings, each with a hipped roof. The court was on the first floor and the prison below.

A cut limestone flight of steps leads up to the entrance. The cut limestone plinth boundary wall has cast-iron railings and there are circular-profile cast-iron piers at the entrance and double-leaf cast-iron gates.

Petty Sessions were held in the courthouse on alternate Thursdays and Quarter Sessions sat in January, April, July and October.

There were proposals were in the early 1970s to demolish the building. But this provoked strong local resistance and the courthouse was developed by Rathkeale Community Council as a community centre.

Reconstruction work began in 1977 and the hall was made available in 1980. Although the building was in good structural condition, the entire interior had to be gutted, and building and refitting became a complex project.

A new entrance was opened at ground level and is now a prominent feature of the building. The original old cells for prisoners awaiting trial had been later been used by the administrative staff of the County Council. This area underwent considerable change with the provision of meeting rooms and a kitchen for Meals on Wheels, the Senior Citizens Centre and Civil Defence.

The old clock that had adorned the façade for more than a century could not be restored, but its replacement provides an excellent substitute.

FAS contributed to a large extent and voluntary help ensured the completion of the work when there was a shortage of local skilled trades.

President Patrick Hillery formally opened the Community Centre in 1983.

Martin Luther King and
the End of a Dream

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the murder of Martin Luther King on 4 April 1968. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, and this year it falls on the birthday of King, who was born on 15 January 1929.

This feature was published in ‘The Irish Times’ on 3 January 1981 as part of a series ‘The Spell of the Sixties.’

Martin Luther King and
the End of a Dream


The Spell of the Sixties – 8

By Patrick Comerford

During the summer of 1967, the Six Days War in the Middle East may have dominated the news bulletin, but when we returned to school in September only one of my classmates actually claimed to have worn a black eye patch over the holidays. Accordingly, for the rest of the school year he was nicknamed “Moshe”.

The rest of us claimed we had worn our hair longer and would have kept it so only for the demands of parents who wanted to send us back to school neat and clean. Most of us fantasised, even if we never expressed it, about hanging out in San Francisco, and admired how the Maharishi had persuaded the Beatles to let their hair down, put flowers in it, and turn on to peace.

Having entered our teens instilled with the music of Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, we were now preparing to leave them with the ideals of love, peace and non-violence.

But before that school year came to an end, that dream was dealt its most terrible blow. Martin Luther King was shot dead in April 1968, and we soon got used to the idea of political violence. Black Panthers came into vogue, clenched fists were given at the Olympics, Mayor Daley’s police went on the rampage during the Democratic National Convention, Che Guevara was shot dead, and Richard Nixon was elected to the White House.

Few at school came from the United States. Martin Luther King’s organisation and mobilisation of southern American blacks meant little to us, and the message of peace came through strongest. But it was his organisation and mobilisation that proved to be a success and a lasting political contribution. King had received the support of a Democrat in the White House, and black leaders were later to return that backing.

One of King’s right-hand men, Andrew Young, mobilised the southern black vote which helped put Jimmy Carter in the White House last time round, but Carter later turned on Young, and the failure of black voters to turn out in the same numbers this year contributed a large part to Carter’s collapse in the southern states.

Many of King’s former aides called for black abstention; some went so far as to urge black voters to support Reagan. Even Reagan recognised the strength of the mobilised black vote, and demonstrated this as the benefit of the press in a New York ghetto, recalling Carter’s broken promises on combatting urban decay.

But despite having one, probably token, black member in his incoming administration, Reagan could hardly be said to have shown great compassion for the black voter – his nominee for the Energy Department, Dr James Edwards, a former Governor of South Carolina, came out in support of apartheid during a recent visit to South Africa.

Reagan has played on the evangelical Christian vote, but it was also from this deep evangelical Christianity that Martin Luther King drew his strength and which gave him his ideals: “In accepting this responsibility my mind, whether consciously or unconsciously, was driven back to the Sermon on the Mount and the Gandhian method of nonviolent resistance. This principle became the guiding light of our movement. Christ furnished the spirit and motivation while Gandhi furnished the method.”

But Reagan and King have little, if anything, in common. The injustice which Martin Luther King fought against are still prevalent in the United States, and conditions are likely to get even worse under the Reagan Administration. So, was Martin Luther King a failure of the ’60’s?

***

Like Gandhi, who “furnished the method”, King was a man of peace who brought violence on himself. Gandhi, too, had failed to achieve a united India free and without military ambitions. But King and Gandhi ruled out violence either in the hope of speedy results or in revenge. Revenge was not possible for the Christian, according to King: “I have lived these few years with the conviction that unearned suffering is redemptive. There are some who will find the cross a stumbling block, and others consider it foolishness, but I am more convinced than ever that it is the power of God unto social and individual salvation.”

Martin Luther King was resigned to the fact that he might die before his cause was won, but the need for nonviolence was imperative, not only because of the commands of Christ in the Gospel, but because of the terrible development of nuclear weapons.

“I would not want to give the impression that nonviolence will accomplish miracles overnight … But the nonviolent approach does something to the hearts and souls of those committed to it. It gives them new self-respect. It calls up resources of strength and courage that they did not know they had. Finally, it so stirs the conscience of the opponent that reconciliation becomes a reality …

“I now believe that the destructiveness of modern nuclear weapons totally rules out the possibility of war ever again achieving a negative good. In our day, the choice is either non-violence, or non-existence.”

For King, pacifism was not passive, reconciliation did not necessarily imply compromise. Nonviolence was also the end, as well as being a practical means towards achieving that end. In conquering the institutionalised violence of the southern states, King had marshalled all the strength of loving, nonviolent, but direct action.

Nonviolence involved suffering and waiting for 283 days as the black citizens of Montgomery walked, went to jail for forming car pools, and used the boycott until the violence of segregation on the buses had been broken. Nonviolence meant holding out with the students of Atlanta until segregation had been broken in the restaurants, going to jail and suffering on the long marches until blacks were able to register for the vote.

Nonviolence was withstanding the violence of police dogs, fire hoses, might sticks, bombings, and imprisonment until Birmingham, Alabama, was desegregated.

Nonviolence was the power of love, and being willing to suffer in that love. His concern for the blacks of the south was no racism in reverse. After his home had been bombed he reminded his followers: “We must love our white brothers, no matter what they do to us. We must make them know that we love them.”

***

His nonviolence not only gave greater hope and courage to his fellow blacks, but it was exercised for the benefit of all Americans, and brought higher standards of living for deprived blacks, Puerto Ricans, Indians and Appalachian whites.

With the Nobel Peace Prize, the middle class Baptist parson seemed to gain more respect among American whites. But he resisted opposition without his own camp and risked alienating some of the sympathy he had won in the White House when his pacifism moved him, eventually, to challenge America’s most institutionalised form of violence, its military might, and to condemn the Vietnam War.

“A Voice echoing through the corridors of time, says to every intemperate: ‘Peter, Put up thy sword.’ History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations that failed to follow Christ’s command.”

King’s demands were easily met in the comfort of the liberal northern states while these demands were limited to rights already won by blacks of the north. But once he started talking about the ghettoes of Chicago and New York, once he started talking about the evil of war, King began to lose the tolerance of those who had hoped they had found a “moderate” leader to keep America’s blacks in line.

Like the murder of Kennedy, there are numerous conspiracy theories surrounding Martin Luther King’s assassination in Memphis. The most telling evidence is that James Earl Ray, a man with no apparent wealth, was able to dismiss his lawyer at his trial and hire, at a reputed $250,000, Percy Foreman, the Texan millionaire who had defended Jack Ruby, killer of Lee Harvey Oswald.

The Rev Andrew Young, then vice-president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, wondered if his fellow parson from Atlanta had a premonition of his death. On the night before he was killed, King said he was aware that “some of our sick white brothers” might do him harm. “I won’t mind,” he told a crowd in Memphis, where he had come to speak out for the city’s black garbage workers. “I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the Promised Land.”

King certainly failed to enter the Promised Land, but he would have refused to accept, despite all the wrongs still abounding, that he had been a failure. “I refuse to accept the idea that man is a mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life. I refuse to accept that all mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.”

For King, nonviolence was no mere tactic, it was a necessary form of action, of sacrificial love, in a world of increasing hatred and violence. The question is not so much was he a failure of the ’60’s, but whether he can be a success in the ’80’s before it is too late.

“In our day, the choice is either nonviolence or non-existence.”

Sunday, 14 January 2018

We are gathered ‘from every
tribe and language and nation’

The call of Philip and Nathanael … a modern icon

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 14 January 2018, the Second Sunday after the Epiphany

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

Readings: I Samuel 3: 1-10; Psalm 139: 1-5, 12-18; Revelation 5: 1-10; John 1: 43-51.

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

Last Sunday, as part of our Epiphany celebrations, children placed the three Wise Men in the cribs in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, and Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin (Tarbert).

Then, in our Gospel reading, we recalled another great Epiphany moment, when we heard about the Baptism of Christ and asked questions about what Baptism means for how God recognises us as his children and calls us into a loving relationship in the life of Christ.

This morning, our readings continue those Epiphany themes, asking us to consider our own call to discipleship, challenging us to think about who is the Christ who calls us to follow him.

God’s call comes to a variety of people, and in a variety of surprising ways.

The Old Testament reading (I Samuel 3: 1-10) recalls the call of Samuel. The boy Samuel is confused about who is calling him. He keeps thinking Eli is calling him. But his confusion does not keep Samuel from being willing, again and again, to respond to the call.

Alongside the Psalm and the readings from the Book of Revelation and Saint John’s Gospel, we are being asked to think of how we know who we are and what we are meant to be doing.

The Psalm prays out: ‘O Lord, you have searched me out and known me’ (Psalm 139: 1).

Not only did God knit us together in our mother’s wombs, but this whole passage reads like we are in God’s womb, hemmed in by God, behind and before. Our life is in God’s womb, which is a peaceful and comforting thought. We cannot go where God is not, and God, in a sense, is also chasing after us, insisting on having a relationship with us.

The saints coming before the Lamb on the Throne (see Revelation … from the Ghent Altarpiece

The New Testament reading (Revelation 5: 1-10) tells us the Church or the saints are ‘from every tribe and language and nation.’ Here we are reminded that Christ, the Lamb on the Throne, has made us ‘to be a kingdom and priests serving our God’ (Revelation 5: 10), preparing the world for the Kingdom of God, inviting the world into the Kingdom of God.

The Church in its ministry, its membership and its life, should reflect the diversity of skills and talents and personalities that God gives to the Church both as gift and as blessing.

That diversity is emphasised in our Gospel reading (John 1: 43-51), telling the story of the call of Philip and Nathanael, which comes immediately after the story of the call of Andrew and Peter.

The back story is that immediately after his baptism by Saint John the Baptist in the River Jordan, Christ begins calling his first disciples. First, he calls Andrew and Simon Peter. Andrew is called first, but before responding to that call, he goes back and fetches his brother Simon and brings him to Jesus (John 1: 35-42).

Andrew and Peter are brothers, but their names indicate the early differences and divisions in the Church. Andrew’s name is Greek ('Ανδρέας, Andreas), meaning ‘manly’ or ‘valorous,’ while Peter’s original name, Simon (שמעון‎, Shimon), meaning ‘hearing,’ is so obviously Jewish.

It is the same again with Philip and Nathanael: Philip is a strong Greek name – everyone in the region knew Philip of Macedon was the father of Alexander the Great; while Nathanael’s name is a Hebrew compound meaning ‘the Gift of God.’

So, from the very beginning of the story of the call of the disciples, the diversity and divisions within the Church are represented, even in the names that show they are Jews and Greeks, the Hebrew-speakers and those who are culturally Hellenised.

In reacting to false divisions in the early Church, the Apostle Paul tells us: ‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3: 28; see Colossians 3: 11).

Christ’s call came to the first disciples as a diverse group of people, from a wide variety of backgrounds, often – as with Philip and Nathanael – when they were least expecting it.

But they responded to that call faithfully. Andrew went and fetched Simon Peter, Philip found Nathanael.

How do we keep that call to follow Christ so fresh in our minds that it still inspires infectious enthusiasm?

Are we inspired with enough infectious enthusiasm to want to go back like Andrew to call Peter, to go back like Philip and Nathanael?

Because, despite what popular preachers and tele-evangelists may say, Christianity is never just about a personal relationship with Christ. It is about a life in relationship with God as Trinity; and it is about a life in relationship with others.

There are no individual Christians. Christianity and Christian discipleship are experiences in community, experiences we share with others.

And sharing with others, sharing in community, moves us from the tolerance of diversity to the respect for diversity and then on to the point of speaking up for diversity as a gift in the Church, so that truly, as the Apostle Paul tells us: ‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.’

Later, this Philip who goes back for Nathanael is the first of the apostles to bring Samaritans into the Church (see Acts 8: 4-13), much to the surprise of the other disciples, who had not yet agreed to bring the Gospel to people who were not Jews.

This Philip goes on to baptise an Ethiopian court official (see Acts 8: 26-40), who is an outsider in so many ways, as an Ethiopian and as a eunuch. Before the conversion of Saint Paul, Saint Philip, who is called in this morning’s Gospel reading, is the great missionary in the Apostolic Church, bringing the Good News to those who are seen as outsiders in terms of religion, ethnicity, nationality and sexuality.

The mission of the Church is founded not just on respect for diversity, but on loving and embracing diversity. This is not a matter of tolerance – it is a matter of knowing what the Kingdom of God is like, and knowing how that should be reflected in our values in the Church today.

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

A traditional icon of the Twelve Apostles: Philip and Nathanael (Bartholomew) are in the middle row, first and second from the left; Andrew is beside them in the middle of icon as the first-called of the Twelve; Peter is second from the left in the front row, facing the Apostle Paul.

This sermon was prepared for the Second Sunday after Epiphany, 14 January 2018

The Penitential Kyries:
God be merciful to us and bless us,
and make his face to shine on us.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

May your ways be known on earth,
your saving power to all nations.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

You, Lord, have made known your salvation,
and reveal your justice in the sight of the nations.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect:

Almighty God,
in Christ you make all things new:
Transform the poverty of our nature
by the riches of your grace,
and in the renewal of our lives
make known your heavenly glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Introduction to the Peace:

Our Saviour Christ is the Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there shall be no end. (Isaiah 9: 6, 7)

Blessing:

Christ the Son be manifest to you,
that your lives may be a light to the world:

The Lamb of God on the throne (see Revelation 5: 6, 8) … a stained glass window in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

God’s call comes to
a variety of people,
in surprising ways

The calling of Saint Nathanael, also identified with Saint Bartholomew … a window in Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Ballsbridge, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 14 January 2018, the Second Sunday after the Epiphany

9.30 a.m.: The Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Castletown Church, Kilcornan (Pallaskenry), Co Limerick.

Readings: I Samuel 3: 1-10; Psalm 139: 1-5, 12-18; Revelation 5: 1-10; John 1: 43-51.

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

Last Sunday, as part of our Epiphany celebrations, children placed the three Wise Men in the cribs in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, and Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin (Tarbert).

Then, in our Gospel reading, we recalled another great Epiphany moment, when we heard about the Baptism of Christ and asked questions about what Baptism means for how God recognises us as his children and calls us into a loving relationship in the life of Christ.

This morning, our readings continue those Epiphany themes, asking us to consider our own call to discipleship, challenging us to think about who is the Christ who calls us to follow him.

God’s call comes to a variety of people, and in a variety of surprising ways.

The Old Testament reading (I Samuel 3: 1-10) recalls the call of Samuel. The boy Samuel is confused about who is calling him. He keeps thinking Eli is calling him. But his confusion does not keep Samuel from being willing, again and again, to respond to the call.

Alongside the Psalm and the readings from the Book of Revelation and Saint John’s Gospel, we are being asked to think of how we know who we are and what we are meant to be doing.

The Psalm prays out: ‘O Lord, you have searched me out and known me’ (Psalm 139: 1).

Not only did God knit us together in our mother’s wombs, but this whole passage reads like we are in God’s womb, hemmed in by God, behind and before. Our life is in God’s womb, which is a peaceful and comforting thought. We cannot go where God is not, and God, in a sense, is also chasing after us, insisting on having a relationship with us.

The saints coming before the Lamb on the Throne … from the Ghent Altarpiece

The New Testament reading (Revelation 5: 1-10) tells us the Church or the saints are ‘from every tribe and language and nation.’ Here we are reminded that Christ, the Lamb on the Throne, has made us ‘to be a kingdom and priests serving our God’ (Revelation 5: 10), preparing the world for the Kingdom of God, inviting the world into the Kingdom of God.

The Church in its ministry, its membership and its life, should reflect the diversity of skills and talents and personalities that God gives to the Church both as gift and as blessing.

That diversity is emphasised in our Gospel reading (John 1: 43-51), telling the story of the call of Philip and Nathanael, which comes immediately after the story of the call of Andrew and Peter.

The back story is that immediately after his baptism by Saint John the Baptist in the River Jordan, Christ begins calling his first disciples. First, he calls Andrew and Simon Peter. Andrew is called first, but before responding to that call, he goes back and fetches his brother Simon and brings him to Jesus (John 1: 35-42).

Andrew and Peter are brothers, but their names indicate the early differences and divisions in the Church. Andrew’s name is Greek ('Ανδρέας, Andreas), meaning ‘manly’ or ‘valorous,’ while Peter’s original name, Simon (שמעון‎, Shimon), meaning ‘hearing,’ is so obviously Jewish.

It is the same again with Philip and Nathanael: Philip is a strong Greek name – everyone in the region knew Philip of Macedon was the father of Alexander the Great; while Nathanael’s name is a Hebrew compound meaning ‘the Gift of God.’

So, from the very beginning of the story of the call of the disciples, the diversity and divisions within the Church are represented, even in the names that show they are Jews and Greeks, the Hebrew-speakers and those who are culturally Hellenised.

In reacting to false divisions in the early Church, the Apostle Paul tells us: ‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3: 28; see Colossians 3: 11).

Christ’s call came to the first disciples as a diverse group of people, from a wide variety of backgrounds, often – as with Philip and Nathanael – when they were least expecting it.

But they responded to that call faithfully. Andrew went and fetched Simon Peter, Philip found Nathanael.

How do we keep that call to follow Christ so fresh in our minds that it still inspires infectious enthusiasm?

Are we inspired with enough infectious enthusiasm to want to go back like Andrew to call Peter, to go back like Philip and Nathanael?

Because, despite what popular preachers and tele-evangelists may say, Christianity is never just about a personal relationship with Christ. It is about a life in relationship with God as Trinity; and it is about a life in relationship with others.

There are no individual Christians. Christianity and Christian discipleship are experiences in community, experiences we share with others.

And sharing with others, sharing in community, moves us from the tolerance of diversity to the respect for diversity and then on to the point of speaking up for diversity as a gift in the Church, so that truly, as the Apostle Paul tells us: ‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.’

Later, this Philip who goes back for Nathanael is the first of the apostles to bring Samaritans into the Church (see Acts 8: 4-13), much to the surprise of the other disciples, who had not yet agreed to bring the Gospel to people who were not Jews.

This Philip goes on to baptise an Ethiopian court official (see Acts 8: 26-40), who is an outsider in so many ways, as an Ethiopian and as a eunuch. Before the conversion of Saint Paul, Saint Philip, who is called in this morning’s Gospel reading, is the great missionary in the Apostolic Church, bringing the Good News to those who are seen as outsiders in terms of religion, ethnicity, nationality and sexuality.

The mission of the Church is founded not just on respect for diversity, but on loving and embracing diversity. This is not a matter of tolerance – it is a matter of knowing what the Kingdom of God is like, and knowing how that should be reflected in our values in the Church today.

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

A traditional icon of the Twelve Apostles: Philip and Nathanael (Bartholomew) are in the middle row, first and second from the left; Andrew is beside them in the middle of icon as the first-called of the Twelve; Peter is second from the left in the front row, facing the Apostle Paul.

This sermon was prepared for the Second Sunday after Epiphany, 14 January 2018

The Penitential Kyries:
God be merciful to us and bless us,
and make his face to shine on us.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

May your ways be known on earth,
your saving power to all nations.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

You, Lord, have made known your salvation,
and reveal your justice in the sight of the nations.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect:

Almighty God,
in Christ you make all things new:
Transform the poverty of our nature
by the riches of your grace,
and in the renewal of our lives
make known your heavenly glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Introduction to the Peace:

Our Saviour Christ is the Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there shall be no end. (Isaiah 9: 6, 7)

Preface:

For Jesus Christ our Lord
who in human likeness revealed your glory,
to bring us out of darkness
into the splendour of his light:

The Post-Communion Prayer:

God of glory,
you nourish us with bread from heaven.
Fill us with your Holy Spirit
that through us the light of your glory
may shine in all the world.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Blessing:

Christ the Son be manifest to you,
that your lives may be a light to the world:

The Lamb of God on the throne (see Revelation 5: 6, 8) … a stained glass window in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saturday, 13 January 2018

An old boat club is on the site
of the Viking port of Limerick

The slipway at Curraghgour Boat Club … the site of the Viking port in Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

As I was wandering around the back of the Courthouse and the Potato Market on Merchant’s Quay on the banks of the Shannon in Limerick earlier this week, I came across the Curraghgour Boat Club and a site by the river’s edge that is said to date back to the very beginnings of the city in the Viking age.

The boat club was founded almost a century and half ago in 1877, and the signs on the railings and at the boathouse spell the name Curraghgour, although there is a number of local variants, including Curragour, Curragower and Curraghgower.

This is the place where the Nordic Vikings landed their warships off the River Shannon to invade Limerick City.

The gate at the boat club appeared locked, but there were a few boats on the slipway, and as I began to photograph the area the door opened, and I was invited it.

I found I was standing on the very site of the ancient port of Limerick, known as Luimneach na Loinge or ‘Limerick of the Ships.’

The Curragour or Curraghgower Falls derive their name from a derivative of Corach Dhobhair, meaning the moving, eddying or whirling water, Cora Dhobhair, the water weir, or Carraig Dhobhair, the rock of the water.

Inside the boathouse at Curraghgour Boat Club (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The mediaeval harbour was the economic heart of the city, accommodating ships weighing up to 200 tons. This harbour was defended by two great stone towers, linked by a great iron chain that was vital to the defence of the city during the many sieges over the centuries.

Two mills called the King’s Mills, stood side by side between the weir and the rock, on the falls in the middle of the river, and were there in 1615.

The south tower was also a gunpowder store, and violently exploded in 1693. Over 240 people were killed in the huge explosion, and many were killed over a mile away by the falling stones and debris.

The mill was acquired by James Fisher, who went into partnership with Larry Quinlivan, and they set up a company known as Fisher and Quinlivan. The mill was destroyed by a fire in 1850, and the site fell into a ruin and was abandoned.

Meanwhile, the Potato Market was built nearby in 1843 on the site of the Long Dock, but in time it failed become a general market area.

Later in the 19th century, the site of the South Tower became the home of the Curraghour Boat Club when it was established in 1877.

The club members represent generations of boatmen and their families who claim to trace their ancestry back to the times of the sieges of Limerick. They cherish the history and the heritage of the river, carrying on the ancient traditions of boat making and fishing.

The slipway still marks the site of the ancient Viking port of Limerick.

The Curraghgour Boat Club has been on the site of the Viking port of Limerick since 1877 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Saint Joseph’s, a Limerick church
that features in ‘Angela’s Ashes’

Saint Joseph’s Church in Limerick features throughout Frank McCourt’s ‘Angela’s Ashes’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Saint Joseph’s Church on Quinlan Street and O’Connell Avenue in Limerick, features throughout Angela’s Ashes. Here the author Frank McCourt made his first Confession, here he stands clutching his father’s hand as he is refused his request to become an altar boy and the door is closed on him, and here he is shocked to see his mother begging in front of the church, which is, in his own words, ‘the worst kind of shame.’

Saint Joseph’s Church stands beside the former Baptist Church, which is now Saint Joseph’s Parish Centre. Together, these two buildings mark the end of the larger-scale Georgian streetscape of Limerick, developed in Newtown Pery at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century.

Saint Joseph’s was built in 1904 on a site donated by a Mr Byrnes. The site was originally a quarry with a natural spring. It was first used as a chapel of ease for Saint Michael’s Parish Church.

William Edward Corbett (1824-1904) was the architect of the church and John Ryan and Sons were the builders. Corbett was born in Limerick on 19 April 1824, the son of Patrick Corbett. He was the architect and borough surveyor of Limerick City from 1854 until 1899, and lived at Patrick Street (1856), Glentworth Street (1863-1898) and Lansdowne Road, until he died on 1 February 1904 at the age of 79.

Corbett’s other works in Limerick city and county include the former Franciscan Church on Henry Street, the former Jesuit church on the Crescent, Saint Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Castleconnell, and the Tait Memorial Clock in Baker Place. Earlier, Corbett had worked with Hardwick on Adare Manor and at Mount Saint Alphonsus.

The church has acquired the nickname ‘the church of the spite’ because it is situated across the street from the Jesuit Church of the Sacred Heart in the Crescent.

At the time Saint Joseph’s was being built, Bishop Edward O’Dwyer of Limerick objected to the Jesuits’ two-tier system for worshippers in their church, so that the wealthy sat at the front while the less affluent sat at the back. Despite Bishop O’Dwyer’s protests, the Jesuits refused to change this system, so he decided a new church was needed in the area so that churchgoers were not segregate worshippers in this manner.

Saint Joseph’s Church was consecrated in April 1904 as a chapel of ease for Saint Michael’s Parish Church, and opened on 24 April 1904. William Corbett had died a few weeks earlier on 1 February 1904.

The mosaic on the tympanum depicts Saint Joseph carrying the Christ Child (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Saint Joseph’s is a very late example of a classical church and it has an exaggerated pediment. The church is designed in the Italian neo-classical style and is cruciform in shape. It was built using Limerick limestone with three-bay pediments façade within its own walled grounds.

The front mosaic, along with the architecture, reinforces the Italianate style and impression of the church. This elaborate mosaic on the tympanum, dating from 1926, shows Saint Joseph carrying the Christ Child.

There is three-bay pedimented façade, a square plan three-stage tower to the south-west, a five-sided apse to the rear and a three-bay single-storey vestry to the south.

There is a central Venetian window opening at the front with architrave surrounds. The square tower between the south transepts and the nave has an additional door opening at the front elevation and a louvered oculus opening at the third stage.

The church still has all its main internal features (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The church still has all its internal and external features, including some fine stained-glass windows, in particular a late Harry Clarke Studio window on the south elevation of the nave.

The high altar is the work of Edmund Sharp in 1903. The story is told that before Saint Joseph’s opened in 1904, the architect William Corbett arrived to view the high altar. Until then, the altar was concealed by scaffolding, and this would be his first opportunity to view the finished product.

As he sat in the front pew, he is said to have been moved to tears as he saw for the first time, the beauty of his design, so brilliantly carried out by Edmund Sharp. He died a short time later.

The Romanesque-style windows inside the church include windows depicting Christ washing the feet of the disciples at the Last Supper, and a stained-glass window of Saint Patrick by the Harry Clarke studio.

A stained-glass window of Saint Patrick by the Harry Clarke studio (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

In the right transept, five stained glass windows depict Christ comforting the dying, Saint Joseph training Christ in carpentry, Christ ascending into Heaven, Christ and Roman soldiers and the Crucifixion.

Over the main door of the church, a stained-glass window depicts the Virgin Mary being taken up into Heaven (the Assumption).

There are statues of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, the Sacred Heart, the Virgin Mary and the Infant Jesus and Saint Joseph. A statue of Christ the King was erected outside the church in 1930.

The interior decoration of the church was designed by Edward Francis Ryan in 1938.

A panoramic view of the interior decoration of Saint Joseph’s Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

This church also holds the chalice used in Saint Mary’s Cathedral in 1646 by the Papal Nuncio, Cardinal Rinuccini, to celebrate the victory of the Battle of Benburb.

Saint Joseph’s remained a chapel of ease for Saint Michael’s until 1973, when the new autonomous parish of Saint Joseph was created. For generations, the church has been the venue each year for the Dockers’ Mass in the last week in November.

The spiral staircase leading to the choir gallery (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Friday, 12 January 2018

Limerick’s former Franciscan
Church still has an imposing
presence on Henry Street

The Franciscan Church and Friary on the corner of Henry Street and Bedford Row, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Earlier this week, before I went in search of the earlier Franciscan sites in Limerick, I visited the Limerick City Museum, housed in the former Franciscan Friary in Henry Street. The Franciscan Church next door has been closed since for ten years, and at present it is closed to the public.

The first Franciscan friary in Limerick is said to have been founded in Limerick in the mid-13th century, and a sign on a house in Gaol Street identifies the site of the former Franciscan Friary or Abbey.

After the Reformation, some Franciscan friars remained in Limerick, and four friars re-established a friary in 1615. They were expelled in 1651, but recovered their chapel in 1687 and rented the site of their old abbey until the 1690s, when they were expelled yet again.

In the 18th century, they moved around between Burke House, near the corner of Nicholas Street and Athlunkard Street, a site in Newgate Lane, and then in Bank Place, until they acquired a site on Henry Street in 1824. There, a new church was built in 1826. and the Franciscans moved to the new friary in 1827 when the new church opened.

However, both the church and the friary were condemned by the Franciscan Visitor General in 1873. The foundation stone for a new church was laid in 1876, and the church was dedicated by Bishop Gregory Butler of Limerick to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on 18 May 1876.

The architect was the Limerick-born architect and civil engineer William Edward Corbett (1824-1904) and the builders were McCarthy and Guerin. It is said the labourers who were working on Wellesley Bridge (now Sarsfield Bridge) contributed generously towards the building of the church.

William Edward Corbett was born in Limerick on 19 April 1824, the son of Patrick Corbett. He was the architect and borough surveyor of Limerick City from 1854 until 1899, and lived at Patrick Street (1856), Glentworth Street (1863-1898) and Lansdowne Road, until he died on 1 February 1904 at the age of 79. His other works in Limerick city and county include the former Jesuit church on the Crescent, Saint Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Castleconnell, Saint Joseph’s Church in Limerick, and the Tait Memorial Clock in Baker Place. Earlier, Corbett had worked with Hardwick on Adare Manor and at Mount Saint Alphonsus.

The Franciscan Church was completed in 1886. However, it was only partially finished and work on the final extension began in 1928. The church was extended and enlarged in 1930 under the supervision of the architects AE Jones and SS Kelly.

The church was consecrated by Bishop David Keane of Limerick on 7 December 1931, the eve of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The apse of the church was not completed until 1942 when the lands behind the church were bought.

The façade of the Franciscan Church consists of an imposing entrance, a classical pediment and a portico of four towering Corinthian capped limestone pillars (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

This church is a formidable exercise in classical church architecture, and the façade consists of an imposing entrance, a classical pediment and a portico of four towering Corinthian capped limestone pillars.

The vertical emphasis of the imposing tetrastyle Corinthian pedimented portico recalls Saint Audoen’s Roman Catholic Church in Dublin. The way this portico reaches over the public pavement draws comparisons with the porticoes of the Bank of Ireland on College Green and the GPO on O’Connell Street in Dublin. It was probably designed like this to emphasise its presence on this relatively narrow streetscape.

The figurative sculptures on top of the pediment are of Saint Francis, the Virgin Mary and Saint Anthony.

The portico of the church emphasises its presence on a narrow street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The church remains closed, and I was unable to gain access this week, but it is said the interior was inspired by the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.

The square-headed window openings to the aisle bays were adorned with triangular pediments. Large granite pillars support the nave, and the clerestory consists of round-headed windows in sets of three which are also supported by granite pillars. I am told words of a Latin hymn the Franciscans used to sing could be seen around the walls of the clerestory.

The church decoration was the work of J Hodkinson & Sons of Henry Street, Limerick. At the back of the left aisle of the church there were stained glass windows of Saint Bernardine of Siena, Saint Louis of France and Saint Elizabeth of Hungary.

The apse was tiled with coloured marbles and mosaics carried out in Venice and Pietra Santa. The painted ceiling depicted Franciscan saints.

The Franciscan logo over the door into the former friary, now housing Limerick Civic Museum (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The former friary next door is a four-bay, three-storey building, built in 1876-1886, but not finished until 1929, with a ten-bay, three-storey elevation facing Bedford Row.

The friars left Henry Street on 13 June 2008. They left taking nothing with them but the Stations of the Cross. The church and friary were handed over to the newly formed Saint Bonaventure Trust chaired by the Bishop of Limerick.

In 2011, the church was the venue for an exhibition of work by local art students, when it opened to the public for the first time since the friars left. In 2014, the church and the friary were leased to the Limerick City and County Councils to become the premises of the Limerick Civic Museum and Archives.

The sculptures on top of the pediment represent Saint Francis, the Virgin Mary and Saint Anthony (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Tomorrow: Saint Joseph’s Church, Limerick.