Thursday, 31 May 2018

Celebrity clerics and
carousing bishops
meet in one new book



Patrick Comerford

I missed the recent launches of Life in the Church of Ireland 1600-1800, a new edition of a book by the late Robert Wyse Jackson, former Bishop of Limerick.

This enticing 250-page book, published in recent weeks by Ballinakella Press, Whitegate, Co Clare, is the result of painstaking research into the turbulent life of clergy and laity of the Church of Ireland during political upheavals, the influences of plantation and of ecclesiastical establishment. Robert Wyse Jackson, one-time lawyer, country priest and eventually Bishop of Limerick, had a deep understanding of both rural and urban life in the Church in the 17th and 18th century Ireland. In this book, he writes with confidence and uses contemporary quotations to present a true, amusing — even compulsive — read.

John Wyse Jackson, who runs the fascinating Zozimus bookshop and café in Gorey, Co Wexford, had invited me to write the introduction to this new book, which received an interesting notice in The Irish Times last Saturday [26 May 2018].

In my introduction to this book, I write:

Robert Wyse Jackson was a barrister before he was ordained and Dean of Cashel before he was returned to Limerick as the diocesan bishop. He is remembered half a century later for his humorous approach to history and as a raconteur. These experiences in their unique combination mark the very individual approach to his stories and vignettes in this book.

It is not all about priests and bishops, for he also introduces us to some curious preachers, parish clerks and churchwardens; nor is this solely a series of tales within the Church of Ireland, for he introduces us to a variety of ‘non-conformists,’ from Limerick Quakers to Cork Huguenots and Waterford Presbyterians.

Nor, is this all about men either: the letters of Mrs Delaney provide a taste of society life in Georgian Ireland, and the autobiography of Elizabeth Pilot is an introduction to the values that shaped an evangelical enthusiasm for mission, at home and abroad.

Of course, the Church of Ireland had more than its share of notorious clergy in the centuries we are looking at. Miler Magrath may have been picturesque, and his pluralism is smiled today, but the consequences were grave, and it was said that the ‘people in his dioceses scarcely knew if there was a God.’

Jackson is kind to the gaming and carousing prelates he introduces, and historians would be less willing to accept his judgment that Adam Loftus was ‘good and conscientious.’ But he admits that in the days of patronage and preferment, long before formalised theological education, many of these men were unsuited for their primary tasks in life of administering the sacraments, preaching the Gospel and providing pastoral care. An overwhelming number seldom took services, and even fewer celebrated the Holy Communion or performed Baptisms or were literate enough to pick their way through the pages and rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer, leaving their churches in a pitiful state of neglect.

When the celebrated William Bedell became provost of Trinity College Dublin in 1626, he found to his horror that Holy Communion had not been celebrated in the college chapel for 11 years. John Bramhall, Bishop of Derry, wrote with equal horror to the Bishop of London to complain that the altar in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, was used as a ‘common seat for maidens and apprentices.’ But this is also the story of a church that suffered and survived the massacres of 1647 and suppression by Cromwell in the 1650s.

Later, we come across detailed accounts of the military roles of chaplains during the Jacobite or Williamite wars, and corrupt bishops such as Thomas Hacket of Down, who skilfully combined simony and forgery with almost continuous non-residence in London. Yet, here is a compellingly instructive image of a damaged Church making great efforts to pull itself together. This is the Restoration Church of Johan Bramhall and Jeremy Taylor, erudite church of William Bedell, Narcissus Marsh, Jonathan Swift and George Berkeley … and of Oliver Goldsmith’s parson.

Here are the tales of Devereux Spratt, captured by Algerian pirates and ransomed by Italian merchants; and of John Berridge, who remonstrated against the use of ‘omnipotence’ and ‘omniscience’ — pointing out wittingly, ‘if you had said that God was almighty and knew everything, they would have understood you.’

There are ‘entirely crazy divines’ like Frederick Lord Hervey, Bishop of Derry, who for 20 years startled Europe, and heretics such as Bishop Robert Clayton of Clogher, accused of Arianism and Unitarianism. But they are more than counterbalanced by conscientious figures such as the nonjurors Henry Dodwell and Bishop William Sheridan who preferred exile to betraying a solemn oath.

Jackson draws creatively from tales heard in his own diocese. Archdeacon John Brown, who was one of my predecessors in Rathkeale, was a conscientious archdeacon of Limerick, but equally conscientious as Rector of Rathkeale, where he also paid a curate £40 a year.

There are the visits to Limerick of George Whitefield and the Wesley brothers, and the rector who preached against Charles Wesley as ‘an impostor, incendiary and messenger of Satan.’ John Wesley’s work among the Palatines has left an indelible mark on life in Co Limerick, and, as the bishop notes, families with Palatine names and heritage ‘to this day form the backbone of the rural part of the Diocese of Limerick.’

These are the centuries of revival, and times when new churches and cathedrals were built, new libraries were founded and endowed. These are times that saw the 1798 Rising, the French invasion at Killala, and the Act of Union, and these were the experiences that prepared the Church of Ireland to survive Disestablishment too. As Bishop Jackson tells us, ‘For good or bad, these ponderous dignitaries were typical of an aspect of the Georgian Established Church in Ireland. As symptoms of an age that is past for ever they have their curious interest.’

Patrick Comerford

A vision for a new spiritual
awakening on Achill Island

Saint Thomas’s Church, Dugort … Edward Nangle’s lasting legacy on Achill Island (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Last week I was invited to speak at the launch in Limerick of Patricia Byrne’s new book on Edward Nangle and the Achill Mission, The Preacher and the Prelate.

But the debates stirred up by Nangle and his Achill Mission and their protagonists often detract from the good news and developments that are taking place around Saint Thomas’s Church in Dugort, which is Nangle’s lasting legacy on Achill Island.

At the General Synod in Armagh earlier this month, Maedbh O’Herlihy shared with me her vision for the Sacred Path, a Centre for Spirituality that is an initiative of the Church of Ireland in the Diocese of Tuam, Killala and Achonry.

Maedbh, who is the co-ordinator of the Centre for Spirituality, says the ‘Sacred Path offers place and time to reconnect with nature in all its magnificence, and through this re-connection, come to a deeper awareness of the divine presence within each individual which is, in turn, a true gift to all creation.’

As a centre for spirituality, the Sacred Path is planning to offer a programme of retreats, workshops and pilgrimages.

In her promotion of the Sacred Path, Maedbh says the centre is offering ‘the quiet space, the hospitality of welcome, the meditative atmosphere, the friendship in the practice of the Anam Cara – the Friend of the Soul, and the opportunities to both reawaken, and refresh, the spiritual within each of us.’

She continues: ‘These quiet encounters with Christ through prayer, reflection, workshops, pilgrimages, meditation – both indoors and out in the beauty of nature, and in retreats are stepping stones of opportunity.’

‘The retreats may be silent, individual or group, facilitated, or simply accompanied through gentle direction,’ she promises.

So something new is coming out of Achill this summer. It promises to be a new spiritual awakening in a way that Edward Nangle could have imaged a century and half ago, and a blessing reaching far beyond the parish and diocese in the Church of Ireland.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Saint Stephen Walbrook,
from Saxons to Samaritans
and Mithras to the ‘Eagle’

Saint Stephen Walbrook … listed by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner lists it as one of the 10 most important buildings in England (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

During my regular visits to London, I have tried to visit Saint Stephen Walbrook, which is next to the Mansion House and near to Bank and Monument Underground stations, and the architectural historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner lists it as one of the 10 most important buildings in England.

This is the parish church of the Lord Mayor of London, but it is best-known for its dome by Sir Christopher Wren, the once-controversial altar by the sculptor Henry Moore, and its associations with the founder of the Samaritans, the late Canon Chad Varah.

When I was in London three weeks ago [9 May 2018] for a meeting of the trustees of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), I arrived at Wren’s domed church early in the morning before it opened, and late in the afternoon shortly after it had closed. But it remains high on my ‘must visit’ list.

There was once a seventh century Saxon church here, and this was probably built on the foundations of a second or third century temple of Mithras. In this temple Roman soldiers sought valour and virility in shower-baths of hot blood from slaughtered bulls. After the recall of the legions to Rome in 410 the building became a quarry.

The original Church of Saint Stephen stood on the west side of the Walbrook, a brook or stream running south across the City of London from the City Wall near Moorfields to the Thames. This brook was later concealed in a culvert.

Saint Stephen’s Church is first mentioned around 1096. In 1100, during the reign of Henry I, it was given by one of the king’s courtiers, Eudo, to the monastery of Saint John at Colchester.

The church moved to its present site, on the east side of the Walbrook in the 15th century. In 1428, Robert Chichely, acting as executor of will of the former Lord Mayor of London, Sir William Stondon, bought a piece of land on the east side of the Walbrook from the Grocers' Company to build a new, larger church, and presented it to the parish. Several foundation stones were laid on 11 May 1429, and the church was consecrated on 30 April 1439.

This church was 38 metres long (125 ft) long and 20 metres wide (67 ft), and was considerably larger than the present building. That church also had a memorial to the composer John Dunstaple.

At the east end of the church was Bearbidder Lane, the source of the Great Plague of 1665.

The dome inside Saint Stephen Walbrook, designed by Sir Christopher Wren (Photograph: Saint Stephen Walbrook website)

The church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. The nearby Church of Saint Benet Sherehog was also destroyed in the Great Fire, was not rebuilt; instead its parish was united with the parish of Saint Stephen.

The present church was built in 1672-1679 to a design by Sir Christopher Wren, at a cost of £7,692, becoming one of his largest parish churches.

The church is rectangular in plan, with a dome and an attached north-west tower. Entry to the church is up a flight of 16 steps, enclosed in a porch attached to the west front.

Wren also designed a porch for the north side of the church. This was never built, and the north door was bricked up in 1685 because it let in offensive smells from the slaughterhouses in the neighbouring Stocks Market. The walls, tower, and internal columns are made of stone, but the dome is of timber and plaster with an external covering of copper.

The 19 metre (63 ft) high dome is based on Wren’s original design for Saint Paul’s Cathedral. It is centred over a square of 12 Corinthian columns. The circular base of the dome is not carried, in the conventional way, by pendentives formed above the arches of the square, but on a circle formed by eight arches that spring from eight of the 12 columns, cutting across each corner in the manner of the Byzantine squinch. This all creates what many believe to be Wren’s finest church interior.

The contemporary carved furnishings of the church, including the altarpiece and Royal Arms, the pulpit and font cover, are attributed to the carpenters Thomas Creecher and Stephen Colledge, and the carvers William Newman and Jonathan Maine.

The spire was added to the square tower in 1713-1715 as were the square urns on the tower balustrade, and may have been designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor. The design is similar to those of Saint James Garlickhithe and Saint Michael Paternoster. The architect Sir John Vanbrugh was buried in the north aisle of the church. George England provided a new organ in 1760.

The central window in the east wall was bricked up in 1776 to allow for the installation of Benjamin West’s painting, Devout Men Taking Away the Body of Saint Stephen, which was commissioned for the church by the rector, the Revd Thomas Wilson.

Wilson also set up a statue of the radical Whig republican historian, Catharine Macaulay (1731-1791), in the church the following year. Macaulay was still alive and Wilson admired her political ideals, but the statue was removed after protests.

The east window was unblocked and West’s painting was moved to the north wall in 1850 during extensive restorations.

The church suffered some bomb damage during the London Blitz in 1941. It was restored after World War II, was designated a Grade I listed building in 1950, and was rededicated in 1954. The united parishes of Saint Mary Bothaw and Saint Swithin London Stone, which were merged in 1670, were united with Saint Stephen’s in 1954.

The church was closed for structural repairs from 1978 to 1987. Chad Varah’s son, Andrew, built chairs to replace the pews as part of this programme of repairs and reordering.

Henry Moore’s altar in Saint Stephen Walbrook (Photograph: Saint Stephen Walbrook website)

But the greatest great controversy followed the installation of a large circular altar in travertine marble by Henry Moore (1898-1986), commissioned by Varah and his churchwarden, the property developer and art collector Peter Palumbo, later Lord Palumbo and chair of the Arts Council.

This massive white polished stone altar was carved in 1972 and was installed in the centre of the church. Its unusual positioning required the authorisation of a rare judgement of the Court of Ecclesiastical Causes Reserved, which granted a retrospective faculty for its installation.

By carving a round altar table with forms cut into the circular sides, Henry Moore suggested that the centre of the church reflected the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, commemorating the sacrifice of Abraham and Isaac as a prefiguring of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross and the place for the offering of the Eucharist at the heart of worship. This place was designed for people to gather as a community around the altar where God could be found at the centre.

A circle of brightly coloured kneelers designed by Patrick Heron (1920-1999), was one of Britain’s foremost abstract painters, was added around the altar in 1993.

West’s Devout Men Taking Away the Body of Saint Stephen, which once hung on the north wall, was put into storage following the reordering. This decision was controversial, as the initial removal of the painting was illegal.

In 2013, the church was given permission to sell the painting to a foundation, despite opposition from the London Diocesan Advisory Committee for the Care of Churches, and by the Church of England’s Church Buildings Council. The foundation has since loaned it to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, which has undertaken restoration work on the painting.

Saint Stephen Walbrook seen from the garden (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The pleasant tree-lined and largely paved raised churchyard is tucked behind Saint Stephen’s, bounded by wall topped with iron railings, with access from Saint Stephen’s Row through ornamental gate flanked by fine stone piers with steps up to churchyard garden. Today the churchyard has seats and modern sculptures.

At one time, a prayer written by the nonjuror, Bishop Thomas Ken (1637-1711), was inscribed on the door of the church:

‘O God, make the door of this house wide enough to receive all who need human love and fellowship, narrow enough to shut out all envy, pride and strife.

‘Make its threshold smooth enough to be no stumbling-block to children, nor to straying feet, but rugged and strong enough to turn back the tempter’s power.

‘God make the door of this house the gateway to thine eternal kingdom.’

The list of rectors includes Henry Pendleton, the ‘Vicar of Bray,’ several divines, one of whom was later sent to the Tower of London, and the Revd Robert Stuart de Courcey Laffan (1853-1927), who was born in Dun Laoghaire and who helped Baron Courbetin to revive the Olympic Games.

The Irish poet, novelist, historian and Anglican priest, George Croly, was rector of Saint Stephen Walbrook from 1835 until he died in 1860. His hymns included ‘Spirit of God, descend upon my heart,’ written in 1854:

Spirit of God, descend upon my heart,
wean it from earth, through all its pulses move;
stoop to my weakness, mighty as thou art,
and make me love thee as I ought to love.


Charlotte and Anne Brontë visited Saint Stephen’s Walbrook, on their first visit to London, hoping to hear Croly preach, as he was by then a famous author and cleric. Unfortunately, he was absent that Sunday. Croly was buried at Saint Stephen Walbrook, where there are and memorials to him, his wife, daughter and eldest son.

Chad Varah was the best-known Rector of Saint Stephen Walbrook (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

But, undoubtedly, the best-known rector of Saint Stephen’s must be Canon Chad Varah (1911-2007), who founded the Samaritans, the world’s first crisis hotline telephone support for people contemplating suicide, in 1953. The first branch of the Samaritans met in the crypt beneath the church. A telephone in a glass box in the church was the first telephone used by the Samaritans.

Canon Edward Chad Varah was born in Barton-upon-Humber, Lincolnshire, on 12 November 1911, the eldest of nine children of Canon William Edward Varah, Vicar of Saint Peter’s. Edward Varah was a strong Tractarian and named his son after Saint Chad of Lichfield. According to the early historian of England, the Venerable Bede, Saint Chad had founded the 7th century monastery ad Bearum, ‘at Barrow,’ that may have stood in an Anglo-Saxon enclosure beside Barton Vicarage.

Chad Varah studied Natural Sciences and then Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) at Keble College, Oxford, and graduated in 1933. He then moved to Lincoln Theological College, where his lecturers included Michael Ramsey, later Archbishop of Canterbury.

He was ordained deacon in 1935 and priest in 1936. He was a curate at Saint Giles, Lincoln (1935-1938), Saint Mary’s, Putney (1938-1940), and Barrow-in-Furness (1940-1942). He was then Vicar of Holy Trinity, Blackburn (1942) and Saint Paul, Battersea (1949).

The Grocers’ Company offered him the living of Saint Stephen Walbrook in 1953, and he became rector of the Wren church.

Chad Varah supported the ordination of women, but preferred the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer. Despite the absence of a permanent congregation, his church remained popular for weddings, and he officiated at the marriage of Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones, only daughter of Princess Margaret, to the actor Daniel Chatto in 1994.

He became an Honorary Prebendary (canon) of Saint Paul’s Cathedral in 1975, becoming Senior Prebendary in 1997. He retired in 2003, aged 92, by which time he was the oldest incumbent in the Church of England.

Canon Chad Varah was the oldest incumbent in the Church of England when he retired in 2003 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Varah began to understand the problems facing the suicidal when he was taking a funeral as an assistant curate in 1935, his first church service, for a 14-year-old girl who had taken her own life because she had begun to menstruate and feared that she had a sexually transmitted disease.

Chad Varah also influenced my childhood reading habits because he was also closely associated with founding the comic The Eagle with another Anglican priest, the Revd Marcus Morris, in 1950. He supplemented his income by working as a scriptwriter for The Eagle and its sister publications Girl, Robin and Swift until 1961.

He used his scientific education to be ‘Scientific and Astronautical Consultant,’ as he put it, to Dan Dare. He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1961 with by Eamonn Andrews.

Canon Varah was awarded the Albert Schweitzer Gold Medal in 1972, and became an Honorary Fellow of Keble College in 1981. He held several honorary doctorates, was made OBE in 1969, CBE in 1995, and a Companion of Honour (CH) in 2000, and he also received the Romanian Patriarchal Cross.

When Chad Varah retired at the age of 92 in 2003, he was the oldest serving incumbent in the Church of England. His wife Susan (Whanslaw) was World President of the Mothers’ Union in the 1970s. Chad Varah died on 8 November 2007, four days before his 96th birthday.

Until recently, the rector of Saint Stephen Walbrook was the Revd Jonathan Evens. The Revd Stephen Baxter became the Parish Priest of Saint Stephen Walbrook in March 2018. He was ordained in 2014 and spent 3½ years as curate and then associate vicar of Saint Olave Hart Street and Saint Katharine Cree in the City of London.

A sculpture in the garden of Saint Stephen Walbrook (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

A French museum for people
who know nothing about
art but know what they like

‘Le Port de Collioure’ (ca 1890-1900), attributed to Étienne Terrus

Patrick Comerford

The French painter Étienne Terrus (1857-1922), who lived most of his life in Roussillon, is seen as one of the precursors of Fauvism. During his life, he worked closely with many of the artists who worked in Collioure in the south of France at the beginning of the last century, including George-Daniel de Monfreid, André Derain, and Henri Matisse.

Although Terrus lapsed into obscurity for a time, he was rediscovered in the late 20th century.

So, after a visit the week before last [17 May 2018] to Collioure, the coastal resort where Terrus and Matisse had worked, it seemed appropriate to our friend that on our way back to Ste-Marie-Le-Pen we should visit Elne, the town where Terrus was born, did much of his work, and died.

The Musée Terrus in Elne opened in 1994 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The Musée Terrus, a museum dedicated to his work, opened in his home town of Elne, near the French border with Spain, in 1994. Then 20 years ago, a major exhibition of what were believed to be his major works, Le Roussillon à l’origine de l’Art Moderne, was held in Perpignan in 1998.

However, when we arrived in Elne that Thursday evening, the Terrus Museum was closed. Initially we thought this was because we had arrived too late in the day. But soon we were told how in recent weeks it was discovered that more than half the collection in the museum, 82 paintings, have been identified as counterfeit works.

The council in Elne bought the paintings, drawings and watercolours for about €160,000 for the museum over a 20-year period. Some paintings were bequeathed by collectors, others were bought through fundraising efforts. But staff at the museum were not aware of the forgeries until a visiting art historian alerted them earlier this year.

The Étienne Terrus Museum commissioned the art historian Eric Forcada to rehang its collection following the recent restoration of the building. During his assignment, Forcada discovered that 82 paintings – or about 60 percent of the museum’s holdings – were not painted by Terrus.

Forcada said he noticed the works were fake almost immediately. ‘On one painting, the signature was wiped away when I passed my white glove over it,’ he told the Guardian.

‘At a stylistic level, it’s crude,’ Forcada said, referring to the fakes. ‘The cotton supports do not match the canvas used by Terrus. And there are some anachronisms.’ For example, some of the paintings show buildings built after Terrus had died, France 3 said.

The art historian informed the region’s cultural minister and convened a panel of experts, who confirmed his suspicions and agreed that 82 of the 140 paintings and watercolours that have been on display in the museum for more than two decades were not painted by Terrus.

The news was announced a few weeks ago as the museum was opening following a renovation. Local people are shocked, including the Mayor of Elne, Yves Barniol, who has apologised to people who have visited the museum in good faith.

‘Étienne Terrus was Elne’s great painter. He was part of the community, he was our painter,’ the mayor told the Guardian. ‘Knowing that people have visited the museum and seen a collection, most of which is fake, that’s bad. It’s a catastrophe for the municipality.’

‘I put myself in the place of all the people who came to visit the museum, who saw fake works, who took a ticket of entry, whatever the price,’ he said.

The mayor has now opened an investigation into the forgeries and he insists those responsible will be caught. ‘We’re not giving up,’ he has told journalists.

The town hall has filed a complaint against those who ordered, painted, or sold the fake paintings. A legal complaint has been filed, the fakes have been seized by police and French police have launched an investigation into the alleged forgery and fraud.

Police also believe other museums may have been similarly duped; they suspect an organised ring. It is now thought that works by other regional artists in other locations near Perpignan and Collioure may also be fakes.

Étienne Terrus (1857-1922) … a sculpture on a terrace near the cathedral and the museum in Elne (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Harbour House and Duke’s
Harbour: part of Maynooth’s
Georgian past and elegance

Harbour House or Bean House … a reminder of the Georgian elegance of Maynooth, Co Kildare (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Today Maynooth is primarily associated with Maynooth University and Saint Patrick’s College, and the dominant architectural features are Pugin’s college buildings and McCarthy’s college chapel.

But Maynooth, Co Kildare, is also an elegant Georgian town, with planned streets, squares, public buildings and townhouses that owe much to both the benign interest and patronage of the FitzGeralds, Dukes of Leinster, and the prosperity brought by routing the Royal Canal through Maynooth.

Maynooth is on the Royal Canal, which is navigable from central Dublin to this point. Although it is now used mostly for leisure purposes, the Royal Canal once provided an important stopping point before Dublin in the period directly before the coming of the railways to Ireland in the first half of the 19th century.

The harbour, known locally as Duke’s Harbour, is roughly triangular in shape and on the north side of the canal, opposite the railway station, and it is a popular fishing area. Leinster Street, named after the Dukes of Leinster, links the college gates, the old castle and the Main Street with Duke’s Harbour.

The former Church of Ireland school on Leinster Street which is now a scout den, the former RIC barracks which is now a Garda station, and the surviving Georgian townhouses on one side of the street indicate that this street was once at the heart of social life and fashionable living in Maynooth in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

But the visitor has to look for these buildings, and this search is not helped by the presence of a large and ugly car park that occupies much of the west side of the street.

On our way back to Askeaton from Dublin at the weekend, two of us stopped in Maynooth on Saturday afternoon, where we spent time enjoying the presence of a pair of swans and their family in Duke’s Harbour, before making our way back to a family lunch in a restaurant on the Main Street.

I knew many of these streets in Maynooth as a theology student and church history researcher in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But I had often passed by Harbour House or Bean House of Leinster Street, from my way from the campus to the train station, without appreciating its contribution to the Georgian streetscape of Maynooth.

The name Harbour House indicates the connection of this house with Duke’s Harbour and the Royal Canal. Work on this major project began in 1790 and lasted 27 years before finally reaching the Shannon in 1817, at a total cost of £1,421,954.

Building was unexpectedly expensive, and the project was riven with problems, so that in 1794 the Royal Canal Company was declared bankrupt. William FitzGerald (1749-1804), 2nd Duke of Leinster and elder brother of the 1798 leader Lord Edward FitzGerald, was a leading member of the board of the company building the Royal Canal and a major investor. He insisted that the new waterway would take in Maynooth, and the builders had to deviate from the planned route. This diversion required building a ‘deep sinking’ between Blanchardstown and Clonsilla, and called for building the Ryewater Aqueduct at Leixlip.

Harbour House, which takes its name from Duke’s Harbour, is also known as Bean House. This is a terraced, five-bay, two-storey house, built ca 1760 over a raised basement house.

This was first built as a detached house, and it is possible to imagine how much more elegant it was than its present appearance. The house was built on a symmetrical plan with its round-headed door opening at the centre approached by flight of ten stone steps that has cast-iron railings.

At the main door, the cut-stone Gibbsian surround is painted and has a keystone. The original door was replaced with a timber panelled door around 1990, but the original overlight has been retained. The roughcast walls are unpainted. There is a cut-stone stringcourse to the basement, and there are square-headed window openings and stone sills. Around 1990, the original windows in the house were replaced with uPVC casement windows.

The house is set back from the line of the road on Leinster Street, and sections of the original cast-iron railings can be seen at the forecourt. It has a gable-ended roof with slate, clay ridge tiles and roughcast chimney stacks, and cast-iron rainwater goods on the eaves course.

The house has an attached, three-bay, two-storey outbuilding to the right, on the south-east side of the house. This was also built ca 1760, and has a square-headed integral carriageway on the left ground floor, and a gable-ended roof with slate.

Harbour House or Bean House is an attractive and imposing substantial residence that is of social and historical importance, representing the early development of the suburbs of Maynooth. The scale and massing of the house, together with the fine detailing that includes the attractive Gibbsian doorcase, suggest that the house was originally built by a patron of high status in the locality.

Although the house was renovated in the 1990s, the replacement windows are not attractive. Yet this house and its complementary outbuilding retain most of their original form and character and they remain an attractive feature on Leinster Street and an integral part of Georgian Maynooth.

A family of swans at Duke’s Harbour in Maynooth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Summer brings its
own hues, colours and
comforting memories

Monday evening on the River Deel, close to the Shannon Estuary (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018; click on images for full-screen view)

Patrick Comerford

Summer has come when the temperatures rise about 16, people are happy to sit outdoor in the evening, when it’s still bright after 9.30 and still seems to be bright after 10, and people go out for evening walks, or want to play cricket, or to go rowing on the river in the evening.

Rowing was supposed to resume with the Desmond Rowing Club on the River Deel in Askeaton last week. But sudden showers and warnings of floods put an end to those plans.

Despite flash thunder storms in some places in recent days, there are summer smells and sounds in the back garden at the rectory and in the fields around Askeaton.

Rowing resumed on the River Deel late yesterday. It had been a lengthy working day, with a training programme and all the preparation that goes with that.

But after the last colleagues had left, after the dishwasher had been emptied, and after I had cleared up the unattended emails that had built up during the day, read proofs for a chapter in a new book, and checked the captions on the photographs that accompany my chapter, I walked down to the River Deel, enjoyed watching the last few remaining rowers at Gort, and took in the joys of a summer evening.

It may be going to rain a little today, if only for a short times, and I have a number of commitments in Rathkeale during the day. So I thought I would linger a little longer, taking in the sounds of the birds and the beauty of the late evening sunshine.

On the River Deel near Askeaton on Monday evening (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018; click on images for full-screen view)

But Patsy invited some of us to join us on his boat tied up at Deel Boat Club. The sun was still setting slowly in the west when we made our way on his boat, Sile Cinn Oir (‘Golden-Haired Sile’), first up-river as far as the rowing club at Gort, and then back down river as far as the point where the Deel spreads out and joins the Shannon Estuary.

The river is lined with former seaweed quays and piers, and there are numerous small islands in the river and the estuary that were once inhabited and that provided grazing and a subsistence existence for whole families.

Here someone is working into the evening in a boatyard or there is the site of planned marina that was never developed.

My two companions could point out old country houses, now abandoned, but could name the generations of families that had once lived in them.

A summer evening on the River Deel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018; click on images for full-screen view)

Memories play an important part in talk on the river, especially on summer evenings like these.

I have comforting memories of evening like this in my childhood as we drove back from Cappoquin, out to my grandmother’s farm at Moonwee in Co Waterford, or in my early 20s being brought by work colleagues in Wexford out to Kilmore, Kilmuckridge or Cahore.

Summer brings its own hues, colours and comforting memories.

But the only way to share these memories is to leave a few photographs of this summer evening on the River Deel:








Photographs: Patrick Comerford, 2018; click on images for full-screen viewing

Monday, 28 May 2018

An elegant Victorian
building on Dame Street
in search of a new life

No 68-70 Dame Street … a large Victorian stuccoed block and an eye-catching building (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

During my brief visit to Dublin at the end of last week, I was hoping to have lunch in one of my favourite Greek restaurants in the city centre.

But when I arrived at Kostas on Dame Street, I found out, sadly, that Kostas has closed and the whole building has been vacated and refurbished, so that this block is now on the market to rent as a ready-made hotel.

Yet, the whole building at No 68-70 Dame Street is one of the more eye-catching buildings on this street.

Dame Street became one of the principal streets in the centre of Dublin in the 18th century. It leads from Trinity College Dublin and the former Parliament House, now the Bank of Ireland, on College Green, to City Hall and Dublin Castle, and became the ceremonial route for parades between Parliament and the Castle.

Dame Street was widened and remodelled by Samuel Sproule and Charles Tarrant for the Wide Street Commissioners in the late 18th century, and the street now continues through Lord Edward Street to the east end of Christ Church Cathedral and the Chapter House.

No 68-70 Dame Street is a large Victorian stuccoed block with lion-head-and-paw console brackets. It presents a cohesive and balanced composition that typifies the best of early-Victorian architectural design.

Although I have not yet identified the architect, the high-calibre artistry and the execution of the classical details on the building can be seen in the stuccowork, the render detailing, the shopfronts and well-composed doorcases.

These all add to the prominent location of this building on the north side of Dame Street, on the corner of Dame Street and Sycamore Street, right beside the Olympia Theatre and opposite one of the entrances to Dublin Castle.

The paired front doors at 68 and 69 Dame Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Although visibly one building, this is a corner-sited pair of three-bay and four-bay five-storey over basement commercial buildings, built on this corner site, with two shopfronts on the front (south) side, a shopfront on the west side, facing Sycamore Street and the Olympia Theatre, and a bow to the rear or north elevation.

On the ground floor, the masonry and timber shopfronts have Doric pilasters supporting fluted console brackets that have lions’ head detail and flanking timber fascia with egg-and-dart moulding and moulded cornices.

The square-headed shopfront windows have timber mullions, raised carved timber stall risers and matching timber panelled doors.

The paired round-headed door openings have carved timber panelled doors flanked by timber Doric pilasters supporting egg-and-dart mouldings to the arch and with a carved keystone over the original fanlight with rounded glazing panels, floral motifs to the spandrels and frieze, and all surmounted with a carved timber cornice that has lions’ heads on the scrolled finial.

Also on the ground floor, the square-headed and round-headed windows have granite sills at the side (or west), with three-over-three pane, six-over-six pane and one-over-one pane timber sliding sash windows. There is also a timber-panelled door in the west side. There are cubed glass basement lights with bronze glazing bars inset on the granite paving on the Sycamore Street side of the building.

The lined-and-ruled rendered wall at the front of the building has circular medallions at the rendered eaves course. On the first floor there are paired fluted Corinthian pilasters, surmounted by a decorative panel with a floral motif, and there rendered quoins on the second and third floors.

The segmental-headed window openings on the first floor are paired on the east bays and are tripartite on the west bays. They have fluted mullions, set within segmental-headed moulded window surrounds. They are flanked by fluted Corinthian pilasters supporting square-headed hood moulding with acanthus leaf keystones and lions head medallions to the spandrels.

There are square-headed window openings with moulded architraves on the upper floors, and these have moulded render entablatures on the second and third floors. There they have pediment details and geometric medallions, and string courses form continuous sill courses. There are console brackets on the second floor, with infills of circular medallions. There are three-over-three pane and one-over-one pane timber sliding sash windows.

There are lined-and-ruled rendered walls at the east and west side, and smooth rendered walls at the rear.

There is an L-plan hipped slate roof, and a pitched roof to the rear, with rendered chimneystacks, hidden behind the rendered parapet with cut granite coping.

Inside the building when it was Kostas (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

For many years, the corner restaurant on the ground was Beirut Express, before it became Kostas.

I was to find Kostas has closed. It served authentic Greek food, organic Cretan produce, real Greek raki and homemade baklava. Hopefully, the former owners open a new restaurant in Dublin soon.

Kostas once offered authentic food produce from Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

June 2018 in Rathkeale and
Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes

The Choir of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, is visiting Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, to sing Choral Evensong on at 5 p.m. on Sunday 24 June

From Saint Mary’s to Saint Mary’s:

Sunday 24 June:

5 p.m.,
Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton,

Choral Evensong with the Choir of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick.

Sunday 3 June (Trinity I):

9.30 a.m., the Eucharist (Holy Communion II), Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick.

11.30 a.m., Morning Prayer, Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin, Tarbert, Co Kerry.

Readings: I Samuel 3: 1-10; Psalm 139: 1-5, 12-18; II Corinthians 4: 5-12; Mark 2: 23 to 3: 6.

Hymns: 78, 104, 569.

Sunday 10 June (Trinity II):

9.30 a.m., the Eucharist (Holy Communion II), Castletown Church, Kilcornan, Co Limerick (with the Revd Joe Hardy).

11.30 a.m., Morning Prayer, Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick (with the Revd Joe Hardy).

Readings: I Samuel 8: 4-11; Psalm 138; II Corinthians 4: 13 to 5: 1; Mark 3: 20-35.

Hymns: 662, 250, 432.

Sunday 17 June (Trinity III):

9.30 a.m., Morning Prayer, Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton (with the Revd Joe Hardy).

11.30 a.m., the Eucharist (Holy Communion), Saint Brendan’s, Kilnaughtin (with the Revd Joe Hardy).

Readings: I Samuel 15: 34 to 16: 13; II Corinthians 5: 6-10, 14-17; Mark 4: 26-34.

Hymns: 630, 226, 634.

Sunday 24 June (Trinity IV and the Birth of Saint John the Baptist):

9.30 a.m., Morning Prayer, Castletown Church.

11.30 a.m., the Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), with Baptism, Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale.

Readings: Isaiah 40: 1-11; Psalm 85: 7-13; Acts 13: 14b-26; Luke 1: 57-56, 80.

Hymns: 3, 20, 358.

5 p.m., Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton:

Choral Evensong with the Choir of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick.

Also in June:

Saturday 23 June:

The Diocesan Synod, Villiers School, Limerick, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Mother’s Union visits the gardens of Tommy and Valerie Downes. Including afternoon tea, at 4 p.m.

Sunday 24 June is the Fourth Sunday after (Trinity IV) and the Feast of the Birth of Saint John the Baptist ... an icon of the Birth of Saint the Baptist from the Monastery of Anopolis in the Museum of Christian Art in Iraklion, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Sunday, 27 May 2018

‘If God were not Trinity,
God could not have loved
prior to creating other beings
on whom to bestow God’s love’

A modern copy of Andrei Rublev’s icon, the Old Testament Trinity or the Hospitality of Abraham, by Eileen McGuckin

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 27 May 2018, Trinity Sunday.

11.30 a.m., The Festal Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick.

Readings: Isaiah 6: 1-8; Psalm 29; Romans 8: 12-17; John 3: 1-17.

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

Today is Trinity Sunday. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity was proclaimed to the world after the first great Pentecost. So, it is fitting that the feast of the Trinity today follows immediately after that of Pentecost last Sunday.

I remember a time when the Athanasian Creed was used on Trinity Sunday in parishes in the Church of Ireland and the Church of England.

This is one of the three great creeds of the Church, alongside the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed. But in recent years, this Creed has been relegated to a place in the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of Ireland between the Catechism and the Preamble to the Constitution.

It is in a difficult place to find, between pages 771 and 773, and there are no directions about when or where it might be used.

So how do we explain the Holy Trinity, a key understanding of God, in a world that today finds it difficult to wrestle with deep and often abstract philosophical concepts?

How do we explain, or even introduce, the topic of the Trinity in a way that people can understand without being boring?

The Athanasian Creed is not the most popular of creeds nowadays, nor is it the easiest to understand. But on Trinity Sunday, as we worship God, it is worth recalling how it says:

‘And the Catholic Faith is this:
That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity.’

But some other parts of the Athanasian Creed would be harder work to explain this morning.

On the other hand, the Belfast-born writer, CS Lewis, well-loved by many as the author of the Narnia Chronicles, writes in Mere Christianity:

‘A world of one dimension would be a straight line. In a two-dimensional word, you still get straight lines, but many lines make one figure. In a three-dimensional world, you still get figures but many figures make one solid body. In other words, as you advance to more real and more complicated levels, you do not leave behind you the things you found on the simpler levels: you still have them, but combined in new ways – in ways you could not imagine if you knew only the simpler levels.

‘Now the Christian account of God involves just the same principle. The human level is a simple and rather empty level. On the human level one person is one being, and any two persons are two separate beings – just as in two dimensions (say on a flat sheet of paper) one square is one figure, and two squares are two separate figures.

‘On the Divine level, you still find personalities; but up there you find them combined in new ways which we, who do not live on that level, cannot imagine. In God’s dimension, so to speak, you find a being who is three Persons while remaining one Being, just as a cube is six squares while remaining one cube.’ [CS Lewis, Mere Christianity, pp 137-138]

The mediaeval fresco of the Holy Trinity in the south choir aisle in Lichfield Cathedral … severely damaged by 17th century Puritans (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

As I was praying and thinking about this morning’s theme, I spent time in prayer and reading, and found my prayers were helped by a photograph I have of a fresco on the wall of the south choir aisle in Lichfield Cathedral depicting the Holy Trinity.

This scene, showing the Trinity flanked by two censing angels, was painted sometime between the 14th and mid-15th century.

This painting was damaged severely by the Puritans in the religious strife later in the mid-17th century. But it is still possible to look closely and to see how it originally depicted the Holy Trinity.

As I look at it closely, I can just make out the representation of God the Father seated on a golden throne, clad in a red robe.

He is holding his crucified Son, God the Son, Jesus Christ, before him. Originally, this fresco would have shown a full depiction of the Crucifixion. However, all that can be seen today are the legs of Christ, with his feet nailed to the Cross.

God the Holy Spirit, traditionally depicted as a white dove, is now missing from this painting because of Puritan vandalism. But originally the Holy Spirit was placed in this painting between the heads of God the Father and God the Son.

What this fresco teaches me is that we can always catch glimpses of God. When we see the work of Christ, we see the work of God the Father, and so on. We may not always see how the Holy Spirit is working in us, or in others, but we still know that God is working in love in us and in others.

And the best way we experience that is being open to the love of God and in loving others.

The late Thomas Hopko (1939-2015), a renowned Orthodox theologian, has argued that if God were not Trinity, God could not have loved prior to creating other beings on whom to bestow God’s love … if God were not Trinity, God could not have loved prior to creating other beings on whom to bestow God’s love.

This love or communion of God as Trinity is extended to us in the communion of the Church. It is not just the Trinitarian faith into which we are baptised, but also the love or fellowship of the Trinity.

That message of love at the heat of what we believe and experience in the truth of the Holy Trinity was explained in a very non-dogmatic, non-doctrinal, non-philosophical way by three students at the Graduation Ceremony in Coláiste na Trócaire in Rathkeale on Wednesday night when they read this:

I believe …

That our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for who we become.

That no matter how good a friend is, they’re going to hurt you every once in a while and you must forgive them for that.

That just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want them to doesn’t mean that they don’t love you with all they have.

That true friendship continues to grow even over the longest distance, same goes for true love.

That it’s taking me a long time to become the person I want to be.

That you should always leave loved ones with loving words. It may be the last time you see them.

That you can keep going long after you think you can’t.

That we are responsible for what we do, no matter how we feel.

That either you control your attitude, or it controls you.

That heroes are the people who do what has to be done, when it needs to be done, regardless of the consequences.

That my best friend and I can do anything or nothing and still have the best time.

That sometimes the people you expect to kick you when you are down will be the ones to help you get back up.

That sometimes when I’m angry I have the right to be angry, but that doesn’t give me the right to be cruel.

That it isn’t always enough to be forgiven by others. Sometimes you have to learn to forgive yourself.

That no matter how bad your heart is broken, the world doesn’t stop for your grief.

That you shouldn’t be so eager to find out a secret, it may change your life forever.

That two people can look at the exact same thing and see something totally different.

That your life can be changed in a matter of hours by people who don’t even know you.

That the people you care about in life are taken from you much too soon.

And I realised then that their teachers had taught them so much about the truth that lies behind everything we try to teach about why the doctrine of the Holy Trinity matters now more than ever in the Church.

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

This sermon was prepared for Trinity Sunday, 27 May 2018.


Trinitarian truths expressed in in a stained-glass window in Michaelhouse, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Resources:

Penitential Kyries:

Father, you come to meet us when we return to you.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Jesus, you died on the cross for our sins.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit, you give us life and peace.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty and everlasting God,
you have given us your servants grace,
by the confession of a true faith,
to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity
and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the Unity:
Keep us steadfast in this faith,
that we may evermore be defended from all adversities;
for you live and reign, one God, for ever and ever.

Introduction to the Peace:

Peace to you from God our heavenly Father.
Peace from his Son Jesus Christ who is our peace.
Peace from the Holy Spirit the Life-giver.
The peace of the Triune God be always with you.
And also with you.

Preface:

You have revealed your glory
as the glory of your Son and of the Holy Spirit:
three persons equal in majesty, undivided in splendour,
yet one Lord, one God,
ever to be worshipped and adored:

Post-Communion Prayer:

Almighty God,
may we who have received this holy communion,
worship you with lips and lives
proclaiming your majesty
and finally see you in your eternal glory:
Holy and Eternal Trinity,
one God, now and for ever.

Blessing:

God the Holy Trinity
make you strong in faith and love,
defend you on every side,
and guide you in truth and peace:

The Visitation of Abraham or the ‘Old Testament Trinity’ … a fresco in the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist in Tolleshunt Knights, Essex, interprets a Trinitarian and Eucharistic theme (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Hymns:

321, Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty
323, The God of Abraham praise
468, How shall I sing that majesty.

An image of the Trinity in Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos in Greece

‘And the Catholic Faith is this:
That we worship one God in Trinity,
and Trinity in Unity’

Trinitarian truths expressed in in a stained-glass window in Michaelhouse, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 27 May 2018, Trinity Sunday.

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

Readings: Isaiah 6: 1-8; Psalm 29; Romans 8: 12-17; John 3: 1-17.

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

Today is Trinity Sunday. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity was proclaimed to the world after the first great Pentecost. So, it is fitting that the feast of the Trinity today follows immediately after that of Pentecost last Sunday.

I remember a time when the Athanasian Creed was used on Trinity Sunday in parishes in the Church of Ireland and the Church of England.

This is one of the three great creeds of the Church, alongside the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed. But in recent years, this Creed has been relegated to a place in the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of Ireland between the Catechism and the Preamble to the Constitution.

It is in a difficult place to find, between pages 771 and 773, and there are no directions about when or where it might be used.

So how do we explain the Holy Trinity, a key understanding of God, in a world that today finds it difficult to wrestle with deep and often abstract philosophical concepts?

How do we explain, or even introduce, the topic of the Trinity in a way that people can understand without being boring?

The Athanasian Creed is not the most popular of creeds nowadays, nor is it the easiest to understand. But on Trinity Sunday, as we worship God, it is worth recalling how it says:

‘And the Catholic Faith is this:
That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity.’

But some other parts of the Athanasian Creed would be harder work to explain this morning.

On the other hand, the Belfast-born writer, CS Lewis, well-loved by many as the author of the Narnia Chronicles, writes in Mere Christianity:

‘A world of one dimension would be a straight line. In a two-dimensional word, you still get straight lines, but many lines make one figure. In a three-dimensional world, you still get figures but many figures make one solid body. In other words, as you advance to more real and more complicated levels, you do not leave behind you the things you found on the simpler levels: you still have them, but combined in new ways – in ways you could not imagine if you knew only the simpler levels.

‘Now the Christian account of God involves just the same principle. The human level is a simple and rather empty level. On the human level one person is one being, and any two persons are two separate beings – just as in two dimensions (say on a flat sheet of paper) one square is one figure, and two squares are two separate figures.

‘On the Divine level, you still find personalities; but up there you find them combined in new ways which we, who do not live on that level, cannot imagine. In God’s dimension, so to speak, you find a being who is three Persons while remaining one Being, just as a cube is six squares while remaining one cube.’ [CS Lewis, Mere Christianity, pp 137-138]

The mediaeval fresco of the Holy Trinity in the south choir aisle in Lichfield Cathedral … severely damaged by 17th century Puritans (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

As I was praying and thinking about this morning’s theme, I spent time in prayer and reading, and found my prayers were helped by a photograph I have of a fresco on the wall of the south choir aisle in Lichfield Cathedral depicting the Holy Trinity.

This scene, showing the Trinity flanked by two censing angels, was painted sometime between the 14th and mid-15th century.

This painting was damaged severely by the Puritans in the religious strife later in the mid-17th century. But it is still possible to look closely and to see how it originally depicted the Holy Trinity.

As I look at it closely, I can just make out the representation of God the Father seated on a golden throne, clad in a red robe.

He is holding his crucified Son, God the Son, Jesus Christ, before him. Originally, this fresco would have shown a full depiction of the Crucifixion. However, all that can be seen today are the legs of Christ, with his feet nailed to the Cross.

God the Holy Spirit, traditionally depicted as a white dove, is now missing from this painting because of Puritan vandalism. But originally the Holy Spirit was placed in this painting between the heads of God the Father and God the Son.

What this fresco teaches me is that we can always catch glimpses of God. When we see the work of Christ, we see the work of God the Father, and so on. We may not always see how the Holy Spirit is working in us, or in others, but we still know that God is working in love in us and in others.

And the best way we experience that is being open to the love of God and in loving others.

The late Thomas Hopko (1939-2015), a renowned Orthodox theologian, has argued that if God were not Trinity, God could not have loved prior to creating other beings on whom to bestow God’s love … if God were not Trinity, God could not have loved prior to creating other beings on whom to bestow God’s love.

This love or communion of God as Trinity is extended to us in the communion of the Church. It is not just the Trinitarian faith into which we are baptised, but also the love or fellowship of the Trinity.

That message of love at the heat of what we believe and experience in the truth of the Holy Trinity was explained in a very non-dogmatic, non-doctrinal, non-philosophical way by three students at the Graduation Ceremony in Coláiste na Trócaire in Rathkeale on Wednesday night when they read this:

I believe …

That our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for who we become.

That no matter how good a friend is, they’re going to hurt you every once in a while and you must forgive them for that.

That just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want them to doesn’t mean that they don’t love you with all they have.

That true friendship continues to grow even over the longest distance, same goes for true love.

That it’s taking me a long time to become the person I want to be.

That you should always leave loved ones with loving words. It may be the last time you see them.

That you can keep going long after you think you can’t.

That we are responsible for what we do, no matter how we feel.

That either you control your attitude, or it controls you.

That heroes are the people who do what has to be done, when it needs to be done, regardless of the consequences.

That my best friend and I can do anything or nothing and still have the best time.

That sometimes the people you expect to kick you when you are down will be the ones to help you get back up.

That sometimes when I’m angry I have the right to be angry, but that doesn’t give me the right to be cruel.

That it isn’t always enough to be forgiven by others. Sometimes you have to learn to forgive yourself.

That no matter how bad your heart is broken, the world doesn’t stop for your grief.

That you shouldn’t be so eager to find out a secret, it may change your life forever.

That two people can look at the exact same thing and see something totally different.

That your life can be changed in a matter of hours by people who don’t even know you.

That the people you care about in life are taken from you much too soon.

And I realised then that their teachers had taught them so much about the truth that lies behind everything we try to teach about why the doctrine of the Holy Trinity matters now more than ever in the Church.

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

This sermon was prepared for Trinity Sunday, 27 May 2018.


A modern copy of Andrei Rublev’s icon, the Old Testament Trinity or the Hospitality of Abraham, by Eileen McGuckin

Liturgical Resources:

Liturgical Colour: White.

Penitential Kyries:

Father, you come to meet us when we return to you.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Jesus, you died on the cross for our sins.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit, you give us life and peace.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty and everlasting God,
you have given us your servants grace,
by the confession of a true faith,
to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity
and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the Unity:
Keep us steadfast in this faith,
that we may evermore be defended from all adversities;
for you live and reign, one God, for ever and ever.

Introduction to the Peace:

Peace to you from God our heavenly Father.
Peace from his Son Jesus Christ who is our peace.
Peace from the Holy Spirit the Life-giver.
The peace of the Triune God be always with you.
And also with you.

Preface:

You have revealed your glory
as the glory of your Son and of the Holy Spirit:
three persons equal in majesty, undivided in splendour,
yet one Lord, one God,
ever to be worshipped and adored:

Post-Communion Prayer:

Almighty God,
may we who have received this holy communion,
worship you with lips and lives
proclaiming your majesty
and finally see you in your eternal glory:
Holy and Eternal Trinity,
one God, now and for ever.

Blessing:

God the Holy Trinity
make you strong in faith and love,
defend you on every side,
and guide you in truth and peace:

The Visitation of Abraham or the ‘Old Testament Trinity’ … a fresco in the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist in Tolleshunt Knights, Essex, interprets a Trinitarian and Eucharistic theme (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Hymns:

321, Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty
323, The God of Abraham praise
468, How shall I sing that majesty.

An image of the Trinity in Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos in Greece

‘The Irish Times’ reports on
an introduction to a new book

The memorial plaque commemorating Bishop Robert Wyse Jackson (1908-1976) in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The ‘Church of Ireland notes’ in ‘The Irish Times’ yesterday [26 May 2018] included the following report:

Robert Wyse Jackson was described by Dean Robert MacCarthy in an appraisal, published in Search, in 2013, as ‘the last of the polymaths’. Wyse Jackson, born in Ireland but trained as a barrister in London and ordained in the Church of England, returned to Ireland in 1936 and served in the dioceses of Killaloe, Limerick and Cashel, before his election as Bishop of Limerick in 1961. He wrote widely, especially on church history, Irish silver and Jonathan Swift. His Scenes from Irish clerical life in the 17th and 18th century, published in 1961, has been produced in a new edition by the Ballinakella Press. Life in the Church of Ireland, 1600-1800 reproduces the text of the 1961 book with an introduction by Canon Patrick Comerford, and the welcome addition of an index and some of the bishop’s drawings.

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Adare Methodist Church
has a story dating back
to John Wesley’s visits

The Methodist Church in Adare was built in 1872-1873, but has a story dating back to 1765 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

During my afternoon visit to Adare, Co Limerick, earlier this week, I took time after lunch on Thursday afternoon [24 May 2018] to visit Adare Methodist Church. Like the former courthouse in Adare, which reopened as a museum on Thursday evening, the Methodist Church in Adare was built thanks to the patronage of the Dunravens of Adare Manor, and was also designed by the Limerick-born architect William Fogerty (1833-1878).

The church was built in 1873, but the Methodist presence in Adare dates back more than a century before that. Adare has a long tradition of Methodist worship, and two and half centuries ago John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, visited Adare and the surrounding area at least ten times between 1765 and 1778.

A strong local tradition says John Wesley preached under an ash tree near the ruins of the Franciscan Abbey on least one of those occasions. A stone now marks the place, and since 1819 Methodists have held a field meeting there each year, on the first Tuesday in June.

The first Methodist chapel in Adare was built in 1794 on the north side of the road to Patrickswell, in the townland of Gortnaganniff. The road has since been realigned and the site, in the present Adare manor Golf Course, is now unmarked.

No images of this early chapel survive today. But it was probably similar to many other Methodist chapels of the time, with their more simple style.

By the 1870s, the centre of the village in Adare had moved westwards as the Earls of Dunraven built the cottages that have since made this one of the prettiest villages in Ireland. The site for a new Methodist church was bought at this end of Adare, on Black Abbey Road, a little outside the town.

The Countess of Dunraven laid the foundation stone of the new church on 25 January 1872. She was Florence Kerr, a daughter of Lord Charles Kerr and a granddaughter of William Kerr, 6th Marquess of Lothian. Her husband, Windham Thomas Wyndham-Quin, 4th Earl of Dunraven (1841-1926), succeeded to the family titles and to Adare Manor in 1871, and was a member of both the House of Lords and the Irish Senate.

The new church, which opened in 1873, was designed by the architect William Fogerty,

Adare Methodist Church is similar to many Methodist churches built at that time in this area. It is a gable-fronted church, with a three-bay nave, a lower gabled chancel at the west end, and a gable-fronted, single-bay, single-storey porch at the south side.

The church has a pitched slate roof with cut limestone copings and carved limestone brackets at the gables.

There are snecked limestone walls with a cut limestone plinth course and dressed limestone quoins. There is a dressed limestone pointed arch plaque at the east gable.

Fogerty’s preference for the Gothic style in church architecture is also seen in the pointed arch openings with dressed limestone chamfered block-and-start surrounds and the quarry glazed windows. The triple lancet openings at the east gable have a shared dressed limestone chamfered block-and-start surround and have three quatrefoil openings above within circular chamfered surrounds. This window has a carved limestone hood moulding over.

The original porch new serves as the vestry, and the small porch is a later addition. There is a square-headed opening at this porch with a dressed limestone chamfered surround, plinth blocks and timber battened double-leaf doors.

The hall was added in 1950. The church and hall are surrounded by a cut limestone boundary wall with cut limestone copings, cut limestone square-profile piers with caps and a cast-iron gate.

For more than 80 years, the Methodists rented a house for their minister in Adare. In 1955, a site was bought was bought and a manse was built on the Rathkeale Road. Part of the site was later developed as sheltered housing for the elderly. This opened as Embury Close in 1988.

The Revd Ruth Watt is the present Methodist minister in Adare. Many of the members are descendants of the Irish Palatines, who moved here in the 1760s or later from the parent settlement in Ballingrane.

The restraint in ornamentation and the church’s modest gabled form are characteristic features of Methodist churches. The fine stonework adds artistic interest, along with the east window and its surround, and the church complements the variety of church buildings in Adare.

The triple lancet window at the east end illustrates William Fogerty’s preference for the Gothic Revival style in church architecture (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Maria Edgeworth, an
Irish writer whose father
lived an extraordinary
life in Lichfield

Stowe House in Lichfield ... home in the 1770s to Richard Edgeworth, who also gave his name to a town in Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

There is a number of interesting literary anniversaries this year.

This year marks the two-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx who was born in Trier on 5 May 1818, and whose Das Kapital was a best-seller; the bicentenary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein on 1 January 1818; and it is 200 years since the birth of Cecil Frances Alexander in April 1818.

But it slipped my attention that this year also marked the 250th anniversary of the birth of the writer Maria Edgeworth on 1 January 1768.

Maria Edgeworth (1768-1849) was a prolific writer of adults’ and children’s literature and a significant figure in the evolution of the novel in Europe, and she strongly influenced the work of other writers of the day, including Sir Walter Scott.

Although Maria Edgeworth was born at Black Bourton in Oxfordshire, she is often regarded as an Irish writer, and her father lived an extraordinary life in Lichfield, where he was part of the literary and intellectual circle that included Anna Seward, Erasmus Darwin and the members of the Lunar Society.

Maria Edgeworth was the second child of Richard Lovell Edgeworth, who eventually fathered 22 children by four wives, and Anna Maria Edgeworth (née Elers). She spent her early years with her mother's family in England, until her mother died when Maria was five.

When her father married his second wife Honora Sneyd in 1773, she went with him to his Irish estate at Edgeworthstown, in Co Longford.

When Maria’s stepmother Honora died in 1780, her father married Honora’s sister Elizabeth – a marriage that was socially scandalous at the time and legally forbidden after 1833.

As an adult, she took charge of managing her father’s run-down Irish estate, and she lived and wrote there for the rest of her life.

Maria Edgeworth (1768-1849) … lived with her father, Richard Lovell Edgeworth (1744-1817) at Stowe House, Lichfield, and in Edgeworthstown, Co Longford

The Edgeworth family has given its name to Edgeworthstown in Co Longford, and to Edgeworth House on Oakenfield in Lichfield.

Stowe House, overlooking Stowe Pool in Lichfield, is a Grade II listed building that was built in the 1750s by Elizabeth Aston. At first, Stowe House was home to the Revd Thomas Hinton of Saint Chad’s, who died in 1757.

However, the most famous resident of Stowe House must be Richard Lovell Edgeworth (1744-1817). Although he never owned Stowe House, Edgeworth came to live there in 1770 with his large, growing family, and his friend Thomas Day, and he stayed on in Lichfield for many years.

Edgeworth was a failure as a student at both Trinity College Dublin and Oxford. He was still an undergraduate at Oxford when he eloped with Maria’s mother, Anna Maria Elers. The two were married in Gretna Green in 1763, and a church wedding took place on 21 February 1764. Their first child followed immediately, a son named Dick, who was born on 29 May just before Richard’s twentieth birthday.

Richard first visited Lichfield in 1776 at the invitation of Erasmus Darwin, who introduced him to the intellectual and cultural circles centred in the Close. In Darwin’s house, he saw the doctor revive his drunken brother, found ‘nearly suffocated in a ditch.’ At dinner with the Seward family in the Bishop’s Palace, he flirted briefly with the poet and biographer of Erasmus Darwin, Anna Seward (1747-1809), the ‘Swan of Lichfield’ – until Darwin’s wife Polly revealed that Edgeworth was married.

Richard later reminisced: ‘How much of my future life has depended on this visit to Lichfield.’ He returned regularly to Lichfield, and came to live in Stowe House in 1770. He was a tall, dark and handsome Irishman who made friends easily, and befriended other members of the Lunar Society. He channelled his energies into several inventive projects, and was a pioneer in a number of fields, including telegraph communications, agricultural machinery, and transport. He also flirted with Anna Seward’s attractive young ward and cousin, Honora Sneyd, and fell in love with her although he was married man with children.

Richard Lovell Edgeworth (1744-1817) ... the most famous resident of Stowe House, Lichfield

Richard’s wife, Anna Maria Edgeworth, who was the mother of four small children, was only 29 when she died in March 1773. On her deathbed, she was attended by Dr Darwin, who tried in vain to save her. Within weeks, Richard married Honora in the Lady Chapel in Lichfield Cathedral, with Anna’s father, Canon Thomas Seward, officiating at the wedding on 17 July.

Honora, who had earlier rejected Thomas Day’s proposal, had lived with the Sewards in the Close from the age of nine. Richard took her back to live on the large estate he inherited from his father in Ireland, and there they had two more children.

The former Bishop’s Palace … home to Anna Seward and her cousins, Honora and Elizabeth Sneyd (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

By 1779, Honora was dying from tuberculosis, but still Richard visited Lichfield alone in 1779, calling on Anna Seward in the Close. Honora died on 30 April 1780 in Beighterton, near Shifnal, 30 miles west of Lichfield – once again attended by Darwin. Anna blamed Richard’s neglect for her ill-health and her death. By then, Anna was causing scandal though her relationship with John Saville, a married man and a Vicar Choral of Lichfield Cathedral, for whom she bought No 6 The Close.

Darwin House … Richard Edgeworth was first invited to Lichfield by Erasmus Darwin in 1766 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Oddly, Honora had suggested that Richard should marry her sister Elizabeth. This they did eight months later, on Christmas Day 1780, in Saint Andrew’s Church, Holborn – where no-one knew them and no-one could oppose the banns. Elizabeth too had earlier rejected a proposal from Thomas Day.

Richard and Elizabeth – who had six more children between 1781 and 1794 – moved to Ireland in 1782. Elizabeth died there in 1797, and Richard – never the man to be a heart-broken widower – married for the fourth time a few months later on 31 May 1798, this time marrying Frances Ann Beaufort, the daughter of an Irish archdeacon. But he kept in touch with his friends in the Lunar Society, and when Erasmus Darwin died in 1802 he wrote his obituary in the Monthly Magazine.

When John Saville died in 1803, Anna Seward erected a monument to his memory in the cathedral. But she never forgave Richard, and she carried that hurt until she died in 1809.

Richard Lovell Edgeworth and his third wife, Elizabeth Sneyd, with some of his many children (Adam Buck, 1787)

Richard died on 13 June 1817, and was buried in the family vault in Edgeworthstown churchyard. He had fathered 22 children in all. His kinsman, the Abbé Edgeworth, attended Louis XVI on the scaffold during the French revolution and later escaped to Russia. Richard’s widow Frances outlived him by many years, and died in 1865.

Richard’s daughter Maria is best remembered for her novel Castle Rackrent, but in her day she was recognised as a talented author, respected and admired by writers such as Sir Walter Scott and Jane Austen. When She died on 22 May 1849, she was buried in Edgeworthstown, but Sir Walter Scott composed her epitaph for a memorial in Lichfield Cathedral.

Edgeworthstown, a small market town in the Irish Midlands, recalls the most famous resident of Stowe House. The town, in east Co Longford, developed on Richard’s large Irish estate. When he was an MP in the Irish Parliament (1798-1800) it was known as St Johnstown, and the Anglican parish church he built there is still known as Saint John’s. In the 19th century, the town became Edgeworthstown.

In a fit of nationalist pique in 1935, Longford County Council changed the town’s name to Mostrim. But local residents reused to cast aside the memory Richard and his family. The new name was seldom used, and in 1974, a government order restored the name of Edgeworthstown.

Edgeworthstown House … the former Edgeworth family mansion is now a nursing home and has lost much of its character.

Further Reading

Teresa Barnard, Anna Seward: A Constructed Life: A Critical Biography (Ashgate, 2013).
Howard Clayton, Cathedral city: a look at Victorian Lichfield (Lichfield, ca 1977).
Howard Clayton, Coaching City: A glimpse of Georgian Lichfield (Lichfield: Abbotsford, 2009, 4th ed).
Maria Edgeworth, Castle Rackrent(1800), (Oxford, 1995).
MW Greenslade (ed), The Victoria History of the County of Stafford (Oxford, 1990), Vol 14, Lichfield.
Wendy Moore, How to Create the Perfect Wife (Hachette, 2013).
Marion Roberts, ‘Close Encounters: Anna Seward, 1742-1809, a woman in provincial cultural life’ (unpublished MLitt thesis, University of Birmingham (December 2010).
Jenny Uglow, The Lunar Men (London: Faber and Faber, 2002).
Philip K Wilson, Collecting the Instruments of Life Around Me: Anna Seward’s Creation of a Life in her Memoirs of Dr Erasmus Darwin (1804) (Lichfield, 2007).

The two-storey Market House at the south end of Edgeworthstown, designed by James Bell, bears the Edgeworth family arms (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)