Sunday, 30 September 2018

October in the Rathkeale and
Kilnaughtin group of parishes

The Temptation of Job … a panel in ‘The Purgatory Window’ by the Harry Clarke Studios, designed by Richard King, in the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Athlone … we read through the Book of Job in October (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Friday 4 October: 8 p.m., Group Harvest Thanksgiving Service, Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, followed by Harvest Auction in Rathkeale No 2 National School.

Readings: Joel 2: 21-27; Psalm 126; Matthew 6: 25-33.

Hymns: 37, Come, ye thankful people, come (CD 3), 47 We plough the fields and scatter (CD 3), 365, Praise to the Lord, the Almighty (CD 22).

Visiting preacher: The Revd Michael O’Sullivan (Cork).

Sunday 7 October (Trinity XIX): 9.30, the Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton.

Readings: Job 1: 1, 2: 1-10; Psalm 26; Hebrews 1: 1-4, 2: 5-12; Mark 10: 2-16.

Hymns: 638, On for a heart to praise my God (CD 49), 259, Christ triumphant, ever reigning (CD 16), 634, Love divine, all loves excelling (CD 36).

11.30, Morning Prayer and Harvest, Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin, Tarbert.

Readings: Joel 2: 21-27; Psalm 126; Matthew 6: 25-33.

Hymns: 37, Come, ye thankful people, come (CD 3), 47 We plough the fields and scatter (CD 3), 365, Praise to the Lord, the Almighty (CD 22).

Sunday 14 October (Trinity XX): 9.30, the Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Castletown Church; 11.30, Morning Prayer, Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale (with Sunday School).

Readings: Job 23: 1-9, 16-17; Psalm 22: 1-15; Hebrews 4: 12-16; Mark 10: 17-31.

Hymns: 218, And can it be that I should gain (CD 14), 643, Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart (CD 37), 553, Jesu, lover of my soul (CD 32).

Sunday 21 October (Trinity XXI): 9.30, Morning Prayer, Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton; 11.30, the Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin, Tarbert.

Readings: Job 38: 1-7; Psalm 104: 1-10, 26, 37c; Hebrews 5: 1-10; Mark 10: 35-45.

Hymns: 34, O worship the King (CD 2), 226, It is a thing most wonderful (CD 14), 366, Praise my soul, the king of heaven (CD 22).

2.30 p.m., Holy Baptism, Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton.

Sunday 28 October (V before Advent; Saint Simon and Saint Jude): 9.30, Morning Prayer, Castletown Church; 11.30, the Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale (with Sunday School).

Readings: Isaiah 28: 14-16; Psalm 119: 89-96; Ephesians 2: 19-22; John 15: 17-27.

Hymns: 327, Christ is our corner-stone (CD 20), 528, The Church’s one foundation (CD 30), 459, For all the saints, who from their labours rest (CD 27).

Thursday 1 November (All Saints’ Day): 11 a.m., the Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton.

Readings: Wisdom 3: 1-9; Psalm 24; Revelation 21: 1-6a; John 11: 32-44.

Hymns: 459, For all the saints, who from their labours rest (CD 27); 466, Here from all Nations (CD 27).

Saints days in October: 11, Saint Philip the Deacon; 18, Saint Luke; 23, Saint James, the Brother of our Lord; 28, Saint Simon and Saint Jude.

Advance notice:

Remembrance Day Service: Sunday 11 November, 11 a.m., Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale. This is a united service for the group of parishes, with a time of silence and commemoration at 11 minutes past 11, on 11 November.

Readings: Isaiah 2: 1-5 or Psalm 47; Psalm 4; Romans 8: 31-39 or Revelation 1: 1-7; Matthew 5: 1-12 or John 15: 9-17.

Hymns: 62, Abide with me (CD 4), 647, Guide me, O thou great Jehovah (CD 37), 666, Be still, my soul (CD 39), 81, Lord for the years (CD 5).

‘Our help is in the name of the Lord,
who made heaven and earth’

The Megillah or Scroll of Esther (bottom right) in an exhibition in a synagogue in Thessaloniki … this is the only book in the Bible not to mention God’s name (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 30 September 2018

The Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XVIII), Proper 21.

11 a.m.:
The Parish Eucharist (United Group Service), Castletown Church, Co Limerick.

Readings: Esther 7: 1-6, 9-10, 9: 20-22; Psalm 124; James 5: 13-20; Mark 9: 38-50.

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

Some years ago, when I was discussing our readings this morning with a colleague, I jested that I was going to preach from a phrase in the Epistle reading that reminds us: ‘Elijah ... prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth’ (James 5: 17).

After the summer we have had in Ireland this year, it is easy for some to make childish jokes about praying for rain. Indeed, the Old Testament reading, despite its tragic background, is part of a book that creates entertaining and rowdy occasions in synagogues to this day.

But there is a more serious context to this reading, and both the Old Testament reading and the Gospel reading are serious warnings against the consequences of plotting and scheming that could destroy the innocence of children and the quality of life in wider society.

The Old Testament reading (Esther 7: 1-6, 9-10, 9: 20-22) is one that creates entertaining and rowdy occasions in synagogues to this day.

As the story of Esther is read at the festival of Purim, which usually falls in March [28 February to 1 March 2018, 20 to 21 March 2019], synagogues are crowded with men, women, and children, the adults wearing their best Sabbath clothes, and many children, and some adults too, dressed up in colourful costumes, funny beards and masks.

Children in particular enjoy dressing up as the characters in the Book of Esther, including King Xerxes, the banished queen Vashti, Queen Esther, her cousin Mordecai and the evil, scheming Haman.

In some communities, they still burn an effigy of Haman. So for Jewish communities, Purim is like Hallowe’en, Carnival, Mardi Gras and Guy Fawkes Night ... all rolled into one, and usually focussed on children.

Purim and Hanukkah are two Jewish festivals that are not prescribed in Mosaic law. Indeed, the Megillah or Scroll of Esther is the only book in the Bible not to mention God’s name. It tells the story of the villain Haman who plots the genocide of the Jews in Persia.

Whenever his name is mentioned during the reading, everyone in the synagogue boos and hisses and stamps their feet, and they make a racket with graggers or rattles and cymbals.

The purpose of all this fun is to blot out the name of Haman. Originally, when his name was read, the congregation would shout ‘Cursed be Haman,’ or ‘May the name of the wicked rot!’

Any noise will do, and it is a mitzvah that Jewish people should eat, drink and be merry at Purim. According to the Talmud, a person is required to drink until they cannot tell the difference between ‘Cursed be Haman’ and ‘Blessed be Mordecai’ … although opinions differ as to exactly how drunk that is.

In this morning’s reading, we can tell the difference, for we have the end of the story: Haman the villain is hanged on the gallows he built for Mordecai, and Mordecai is given Haman’s job.

There is no reference to God at all throughout this book. But a later tradition grew up in Judaism that Esther was protected by the Archangel Michael, whose feast day fell yesterday [29 September 2018], and which we could have commemorated this morning.

So why, as Christians and Jews, is the story of Esther so important in our traditions, even though there is no reference to God in this story?

This story of Xerxes and Esther, Mordecai and Haman, is not relevant for Jews alone today. It is a story that reminds us constantly, with or without reference to God, that there are always people who plan and plot evil on a grand scale, happy to wallow in the misery and deaths of millions, men, women and children.

The fate of Haman – and of the 70,000 Persians over the course of three days – may seem severe and unconscionable by today’s standards. But it is not their executions, but rather the plots they planned to execute that faithful Jews are asked to call to mind at Purim.

For those with young children, trying to protect them from stories of evil and genocide is fraught with difficulties, and trying to fill their lives with appropriate but fun-filled and joyous occasions is not possible to sustain.

During my visit to Berlin earlier this month, visiting the concentration camp at Sachsenhausen, and spending a day walking through the Jewish Quarter of Berlin, I was reminded that while Haman and Hitler planned and plotted on a grand scale, there are always people who plot and plan evil and the destruction of innocence on varying scales of intensity and application.

We would be naïve to ever underestimate the capacity of people to do evil, nor ever undervalue the importance of our contribution to protecting the vulnerable, the frightened and the victimised children in our society today.

When we realise that we have been saved from disasters or from our enemies, then it is not only a matter for celebrating among ourselves. When sorrow has been turned into gladness and mourning into a holiday, we should not only feast and celebrate among ourselves but also mark these as ‘days for sending gifts of food to one another and presents to the poor’ (Esther 9: 22).

I sometimes wonder how the story in the Book of Esther was read by Jews during the horrors of the Holocaust, how they could possibly have sung the words of this morning’s Psalm:

If it had not been the Lord who was on our side
– let Israel now say –
if it had not been the Lord who was on our side,
when our enemies attacked us,
then they would have swallowed us up alive,
when their anger was kindled against us …
– (Psalm 124: 1-3)

But during my recent visit to Sachsenhausen, I came across a story told by Menachem Rosensaft, who was born in the displaced persons camp at Bergen-Belsen.

He later learned how Janusz Korczak, had set up an orphanage in Warsaw. When the Nazis came, he had an opportunity to leave the children behind and make good his own escape. Instead he stayed with these children on the train to Treblinka and the gas chambers.

Abandoned by the world, Janusz did not want these children to feel they had been abandoned by him too.

At Bergen-Belsen, Menachem Rosensaft’s own mother and several other Jewish women took care of the abandoned children they found in the concentration camp. She said, ‘We gave them all our love and whatever strength was left within us.’

Many years later, Menachem Rosensaft could write:

‘If God was at Treblinka, I want to believe that he was within Janusz Korczak as he accompanied his children to their death. I feel certain that the mystical divine spark … was within my mother as she and other women in her group rescued 149 Jewish children from almost certain death at Bergen-Belsen.’

The story of Esther is a reminder that even when God’s name is not mentioned or invoked, even when we think God is absent, God can act through the decisions of others and through the ways of the world to protect the rights of the vulnerable, the abused and the violated. For, as the Psalmist says this morning, and as we – and all children – should be able to sing:

Our help is in the name of the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
(Psalm 124: 8)

In the Gospel reading (Mark 9: 38-50), one of the Twelve, John, complains that someone who is not part of their inner circle has been casting out demons in Christ’s name.

But did the disciples welcome him?

Did they praise him for bringing comfort to distressed people and for restoring them to a good quality of life?

Christ rebukes the disciples for attempting to stop this exorcist who is curing in his name. Just as the Book of Esther makes no mention of God, we are reminded in this Gospel reading here that God can work even through those who are not followers of Christ.

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

‘ … the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday … they should make … days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and presents to the poor’ (Esther 9: 22) … (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Mark 9: 38-50 (NRSV):

38 John said to him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.’ 39 But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterwards to speak evil of me. 40 Whoever is not against us is for us. 41 For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

42 ‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, 48 where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

49 ‘For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.’

‘ … it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye’ (Mark 9: 47) … (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Resources:

Liturgical Colour: Green.

Penitence (Michaelmas):

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Woe is me, for I am lost;
I am a person of unclean lips.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Your guilt is taken away,
And your sin is forgiven.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God:
Increase in us your gift of faith
that, forsaking what lies behind,
we may run the way of your commandments
and win the crown of everlasting joy;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Post-Communion Prayer:

All praise and thanks, O Christ,
for this sacred banquet,
in which by faith we receive you,
the memory of your passion is renewed,
our lives are filled with grace,
and a pledge of future glory given,
to feast at that table where you reign
with all your saints for ever.

Post-Communion Prayer (Michaelmas):

Lord of heaven,
in this Eucharist you have brought us near
to an innumerable company of angels
and to the spirits of the saints made perfect.
As in this food of our earthly pilgrimage
we have shared their fellowship,
so may we come to share their joy in heaven;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Blessing (for Michaelmas):

The God of all creation
guard you by his angels,
and grant you the citizenship of heaven:

Hymns:

712, Tell out my soul (CD 40);
643, Be thou my vision (CD 37);
446, Strengthen for service (CD 26).

The dome of the Neue Synagogue in Berlin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Saturday, 29 September 2018

How a doctor’s daughter
from Charleville became
the ‘Queen of Paraguay’

The Community Centre on Chapel Street in Charleville, Co Cork, was built as the Roman Catholic parish church in 1812 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

The Community Centre on Chapel Street in Charleville, Co Cork, looks for all the world like an old Welsh chapel, with its matching pair of doors that could be separate entrances for men and women, its high, almost austere, Georgian Classical façade, and its decorative bellcote with a decorative urn and obelisks.

You would be right in thinking that this had once been used for worship, for it was built over 200 years ago – not as a Presbyterian meeting house or Methodist chapel, but as a Roman Catholic church in the days before the last of the Penal Laws were finally abolished. For almost a century it served as the parish church of the north Cork town, and it was here almost 200 years ago that Eliza Lynch, the doctor’s daughter who would become ‘Queen of Paraguay,’ was baptised in 1834.

This former church was built in 1812 in the Classical style, and it retains its grand and splendidly composed façade. The fine details include a cut limestone clock face and polychrome glass.

The building is unusual as a Roman Catholic church of this size and style built before Catholic Emancipation. The Georgian Classical style was more popular in building 18th century dissenting chapels, including those for Presbyterians, Methodists, Congregationalists and Baptists.

This is a free-standing gable-fronted multiple-bay two-storey building, with multiple-bay two-storey extensions at the rear corners.

The ground floor has an elliptical-arched entrance opening flanked by round-headed window openings, with cut limestone block-and-start surrounds and timber panelled double-leaf doors. There is a fanlight and a keystone with the date 1812 at the central opening.

The elliptical-arched central opening on the first floor is flanked by segmental-headed openings, with cut limestone block-and-start surrounds, cut limestone sills, and margined timber framed polychrome glass with a double lancet motif in the central window.

The ashlar limestone bellcote at the apex was added in 1829, the year of Catholic Emancipation. It is designed like a triumphal arch, with free-standing columns supporting the lintel over a round-headed arch, and it is surmounted by a carved limestone urn and flanked by obelisks.

Local lore claims the bellcote was the first erected and the bell the first tolled in the immediate aftermath of Catholic Emancipation.

This building continued to serve as the Catholic parish church in Charleville for more than 90 years until Holy Cross Church was built in 1898-1902. It then became a Parochial Hall, and is now Charleville Community Centre.

Eliza Lynch, the ‘Queen of Paraguay’ … photographed in Paris in 1855 when she was about 21

A plaque on the façade of the former church recalls that this was the place where Eliza Lynch, ‘National Heroine of Paraguay’, was baptised on 2 May 1834.

At one time, Eliza Lynch (1833-1886) was the most vilified woman in Latin American history, and was seen as an ambitious courtesan who had seduced the future President of Paraguay, Francisco Solano López, turning him into a bloodthirsty dictator. However, this reputation was created by propaganda during the Paraguayan War. In recent years her reputation has been restored, thanks to the work of two Irish historians, and she is now regarded the ‘National Heroine’ of Paraguay.

Eliza Alice Lynch was born in Charleville on 19 November 1833. Her father was Dr John Lynch, and her mother, Jane Clarke Lloyd, came from a long line of naval officers. She was baptised in the former Catholic Church on Chapel Lane in Charleville on 2 May 1834.

At the age of 10, she emigrated with her family to Paris to escape the Great Famine. When her father returned to Ireland and died in north Cork in 1846, Eliza’s mother took refuge with her brother-in-law, Commander William Boyle Crooke, in Boulogne-sur-Mer, and Eliza remained in France.

In 1850, when she was only 16, Eliza married Xavier Quatrefages, a young French officer who was soon posted to Algeria. She moved with him to North Africa, but deteriorating health caused her to return to Paris at the age of 18 to live with her mother in the Strafford household.

With the right social introductions, Eliza soon found herself in the elite circle surrounding Princess Mathilde Bonaparte and quickly set herself up as a courtesan.

Eliza was described as having a Junoesque figure, golden blonde hair and a provocative smile. In 1854, Eliza met General Francisco Solano López, son of President Carlos Antonio López of Paraguay.

At the time, the young general was training in the Napoleonic army. Eliza returned with him to Paraguay later that year. There she became his partner, and they had six children.

Her marriage to Quatrefages was annulled on the grounds that he had not received permission from his commanding officer to marry and that he and Eliza had no children together. He remarried in 1857, but Eliza and Francisco Solano López never married.

It is said that Eliza was the reason Lopez was so ambitious, although she later claimed she had no knowledge of politics and did not meddle in political affairs. She was detested by the elite but adored by the common people. By 1860 she had become famous as hostess to Latin America’s leading statesmen and diplomats.

After President Carlos Antonio López died in 1862, his son, Francisco Solano López succeeded him as president. Eliza became the de facto first lady, and she spent the next 15 years as the most powerful woman in Paraguay and the unofficial ‘Queen of Paraguay’ for two ecstatic years.

Eliza became a national heroine in her adopted country and fought alongside López during the War of the Triple Alliance (1864-1870) in which Paraguay was at war with Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.

Throughout the war, Eliza led a group of women, Las Residentas, including soldiers’ wives, daughters, lovers and sisters, who supported the soldiers.

Eliza was at the Battle of Cerro Corá on 1 March 1870 when López was killed by the Brazilian forces. The Brazilians then headed towards the civilians in order to capture them. The eldest son of López and Lynch, Juan Francisco, who had been promoted to colonel and was 15, was with her. The Brazilians told him to surrender, but he replied Un coronel paraguayo nunca se rinde (‘A Paraguayan colonel never surrenders’).

When he was shot dead by the allied soldiers, Eliza jumped to cover her son’s body, and called out, ¿Ésta es la civilización que han prometido? (‘Is this the civilisation you have promised?’).

Eliza then buried both López and her son with her bare hands in the jungle before she was taken prisoner.

She was taken on the Princesa to Asuncion, where she was banished from Paraguay by the new government. She returned to Europe with her remaining children, but five years later she returned to Paraguay to claim her former property. On arriving, however, she was tried and banished from the country permanently by President Gill.

Eliza Lynch died in obscurity in Paris on 25 July 1886. In 1961, she was proclaimed a ‘National Heroine.’ Later, her body was exhumed and brought back to Paraguay on the orders of the dictator, General Alfredo Stroessner. She is now buried in the national cemetery, Cementerio de la Recoleta.

In their book Eliza Lynch – Queen of Paraguay, the Irish historians Michael Lillis and Ronan Fanning discuss Eliza’s Irish origins and life story, and restore her reputation, rescuing her from the legacy of the propaganda of her 19th century detractors.

Eliza Lynch, the ‘Queen of Paraguay,’ is honoured each year in her native Charleville. In 2014, her great-grandson, Miguel Angel Solano Lopez, the ambassador of Paraguay to Ireland, visited Charleville and unveiled a plaque at the former church recalling her baptism there in 180 years earlier.

The plaque on the former parish church commemorates the baptism of Eliza Lynch in 1834 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Thinking of blackberries
and poems on the feast
Saint Michael and All Angels

Saint Michael (centre) with Saint Gabriel (right) and Saint Raphael (left) in stained-glass windows in Saint Ailbe’s Church, Emly, Co Tipperary (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Today is the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels [29 September]. The Readings in the Revised Common Lectionary as adapted in the Church of Ireland are: Genesis 28: 10-17; Psalm 103: 19-22; Revelation 12: 7-12; John 1: 47-51.

Some parishes have transferred the commemoration of Saint Michael and All Angels to tomorrow (30 September 2018).

Churches dedicated to Saint Michael in the Dioceses of Limerick, Killaloe and Clonfert include Saint Michael’s, Pery Square, Limerick, Saint Michael’s Church, Killorglin, and Saint Michael and All Angels, Waterville, and the monastic settlement on the Skelligs Rocks was dedicated to Saint Michael. In the Diocese of Tuam, Killal and Achonry, Saint Michael’s Church, Miloremoy, is in Ballina, Co Mayo.

There are few references to Saint Michael in the Bible (Daniel 10: 13, 21, 12: 1; Jude 9; Revelation 12: 7-9; see also Revelation 20: 1-3). Yet Saint Michael has inspired great works in our culture, from John Milton’s Paradise Lost to Jacob Epstein’s powerful sculpture at Coventry Cathedral and poems by Philip Larkin and John Betjeman.

In all our imagery, in all our poetry, in stained glass windows throughout these islands, Saint Michael is depicted and seen as crushing or slaying Satan, often Satan as a dragon.

Culturally, today’s feast day of Saint Michael and All Angels has been an important day for the Church: the beginning of terms, the end of the harvest season, the settling of accounts.

It is the beginning of autumn, and as children in West Waterford we were told that Michaelmas Day is the last day for picking blackberries. As I grew up, I realised that this is a superstition shared across the islands, from Achill to Lichfield, from Wexford to Essex and Cambridge.

In his poem ‘Trebetherick,’ the late John Betjeman seems to link ripening blackberries and the closing in of the autumn days with old age and the approach of death:

Thick with sloe and blackberry, uneven in the light,
Lonely round the hedge, the heavy meadow was remote,
The oldest part of Cornwall was the wood as black as night,
And the pheasant and the rabbit lay torn open at the throat
.

Betjeman had spent much of his childhood there, and he died in Trebetherick on 19 May 1984, at the age of 77. But the former poet laureate had a more benign view of blackberries on a visit to the Isle of Man, when he described ‘wandering down your late-September lanes when dew-hung cobwebs glisten in the gorse and blackberries shine, waiting to be picked.’

In his poem ‘At the chiming of light upon sleep,’ first drafted on this day 72 years ago [29 September 1946], the poet Philip Larkin links Michaelmas and a lost paradise with chances and opportunities he failed to take in his youth.

A beehive hut at Saint Michael’s Well in Ballinskelligs, Co Kerry, associated with monastic settlement on the Skellig Rocks (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

This is a day to allow the mind to wander back to childhood memories, and a time for contemplation and unstructured prayers, giving thanks for the beauty of creation. September is the beginning of the Church Year in the Orthodox tradition, so this too is a day to think about and to give thanks for beginnings and ends, for starting and ending, for openings and closings, for memories and even for forgetfulness.

When I worked as Foreign Desk Editor of The Irish Times, Michael Jansen was a good friend and close colleague. We shared many of her hopes and fears, values and visions while she worked in Israel and the West Bank. Later, when she moved to Cyprus and shortly before my ordination, she invited me to spend Orthodox Easter in her village on the outskirts of Nicosia.

Friends and readers alike were surprised to find Michael is a woman. Most of us presume Michael is a man’s name. Yet the name Michael (Hebrew: מִיכָאֵל‎, Mîkhā'ēl; Greek: Μιχαήλ, Mikhaíl; Arabic: ميخائيل‎, Mikhā'īl) is not gender specific. The Talmudic tradition says Michael means ‘who is like El (God)?’ It is a popular mistake to translate the name as ‘One who is like God.’ It is, however, meant as a question: ‘Who is like the Lord God?’

The name was said to have been the war-cry of the angels in the battle fought in heaven against Satan and his followers. With a name like that, is it any wonder that my friend Michael lived up to her father’s expectations, taking a strong stand against the twin evils of oppressive violence and political corruption.

Saint Michael depicted in a stained-glass window in Saint Michael’s Church, the Church of Ireland parish church in Killorglin, Co Kerry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The Archangel Michael is one of the principal angels in the Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions. In John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost, Michael commands the army of angels loyal to God against the rebel forces of Satan. One of the best-known sculptures by Sir Jacob Epstein is Saint Michael’s Victory over the Devil at Coventry Cathedral.

Yet Michael is mentioned by name in the Bible only in the Book of Daniel, the Epistle of Jude and in the Book of Revelation.

After a period of fasting by Daniel, Michael appears as ‘one of the chief princes’ (Daniel 10: 13). Michael contends for Israel and is the ‘great prince, the protector of your (Daniel’s) people’ (Daniel 10: 21, 12: 1).

In the Epistle of Jude (verse 9), Michael contends with the Devil over the body of Moses, a story also found in the Midrash. In the Book of Revelation (Revelation 12: 7-12), we read of the war that ‘broke out in heaven’ between Michael and his angels and the dragon.

The later Christian traditions about Michael draw on Midrashic traditions and accounts in the Hebrew Apocrypha, especially the Book of Enoch, where he is the ‘viceroy of heaven,’ ‘the prince of Israel,’ and the angel of forbearance and mercy, who teaches clemency and justice, who presides over human virtue.

Rabbinic lore and the Midrash made Michael the special patron of Adam, the rescuer of Abraham, Lot and Jacob, the teacher of Moses, and the advocate of Israel; Michael tried to prevent Israel from being led into captivity, to save the Temple from destruction, and to protect Esther.

In the early Church, Michael was associated with the care of the sick, an angelic healer and heavenly physician associated with medicinal springs, streams and rivers. The Orthodox Church gave him the title Archistrategos or ‘Supreme Commander of the Heavenly Hosts.’ Saint Basil the Great and other Greek fathers placed Michael over all the angels and so called him ‘archangel.’

In the Middle Ages, Michael became the patron saint of warriors, and later became the patron saint of police officers, soldiers, paratroopers, mariners, paramedics, grocers, the Ukraine, the German people, of many cities, including Brussels, Coventry and Kiev, and, of course, of Marks and Spencer.

There are legends associating Michael with Castel di S. Angelo in Rome, Mont-Saint-Michel in France and mountain chapels all over Germany, and with Skellig Michael off the Kerry coast, which is a World Heritage Site. Saint Michael was also popular in the early Irish monastic tradition.

More practically, Michaelmas Day became one of the regular ‘quarter days’ in England and in Ireland. It was one of the days set aside for settling rents and accounts. Traditionally, in England and Ireland, university terms and court terms began on Michaelmas.

In the modern world, where angels and archangels are often the stuff of fantasy, science fiction and new-age babble, it is worth reminding ourselves about some Biblical and traditional values associated with Saint Michael and the Angels. Angels are nothing more than – but nothing less than – the messengers of God, the bringers of good news.

Saint Michael in a window in Saint Cronan’s Roman Catholic parish church in Roscrea, Co Tipperary (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Saint Michael’s virtues – standing up for God’s people and their rights, taking a clear stand against manifest evil, firmly opposing oppressive violence and political corruption, while always valuing forbearance and mercy, clemency and justice – are virtues we should always keep before us in our ministry and mission.

There is no special preface in the Book of Common Prayer for Michaelmas because in the Preface to the Eucharist, we already declare: ‘And so with all your people, with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven, we proclaim your great and glorious name, for ever praising you and saying ...’

We should always be prepared, like Saint Michael and the angels to ask and to answer to the question: ‘Who is like the Lord God?’

The ruins of Ballinskelligs Priory, Co Kerry, founded by the monks from Skellig Michael (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

John 1: 47-51

47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ 48 Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ 49 Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ 50 Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ 51 And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’

The Church of Saint Michael and All Angels in Waterville, Co Kerry, reopened on Trinity Sunday, 27 May 2018, with an ecumenical service (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Liturgical Resources:

Liturgical colour: White

Penitence:

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Woe is me, for I am lost;
I am a person of unclean lips.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Your guilt is taken away,
And your sin is forgiven.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Saint Michael depicted in a stained glass window in Holy Cross Church, Charleville, Co Cork (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The Collect:

Everlasting God,
you have ordained and constituted the ministries
of angels and mortals in a wonderful order:
Grant that as your holy angels always serve you in heaven,
so, at your command,
they may help and defend us on earth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Introduction to the Peace:

Hear again the song of angels:
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace. (Luke 2: 14)

Post-Communion Prayer:

Lord of heaven,
in this Eucharist you have brought us near
to an innumerable company of angels
and to the spirits of the saints made perfect.
As in this food of our earthly pilgrimage
we have shared their fellowship,
so may we come to share their joy in heaven;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessing:

The God of all creation
guard you by his angels,
and grant you the citizenship of heaven:

The beach at Saint Finian’s Bay, near Ballinskelligs, Co Kerry, with Skellig Michael in the distance (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Suggested Hymns:

The hymns suggested for today in Sing to the Word (2000), edited by Bishop Edward Darling, include:

Genesis 28: 10-17:

561, Beneath the cross of Jesus
562, Blessèd assurance, Jesus is mine
330, God is here, As we his people
331, God reveals his presence
67, God, who made the earth and heaven
656, Nearer, my God, to thee

Psalm 103: 19-22:

682, All created things, bless the Lord
250, All hail the power of Jesus’ name
453, Come to us, creative Spirit
465, Hark, hark, my soul! angelic songs are swelling
321, Holy, holy, holy! Lord God almighty
708, O praise ye the Lord! Praise him in the height
366, Praise, my soul, the King of heaven
709, Praise the Lord! You heavens, adore him
376, Ye holy angels bright

Revelation 12: 7-12:

269, Hark ten thousand voices sounding
487, Soldiers of Christ, arise
112, There is a Redeemer
492, Ye servants of God, your master proclaim

John 1: 47-51:

460, For all your saints in glory, for all your saints at rest (verses 1, 2n, 3)
97, Jesus shall reign where’er the sun

Other hymns that are also suitable include:

346, Angel voices ever singing
316, Bright the vision that delighted
332, Come, let us join our cheerful songs
696, God, we praise you! God, we bless you!
476, Ye watchers and ye holy ones

Legends associate Saint Michael with Castel di S. Angelo in Rome (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Friday, 28 September 2018

Searching for elephants
and finding an Olympic
medallist in Charleville

Charleville Park was turned into flats in the late 20th century, but is now derelict, boarded up and fenced off (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Charleville is a busy market town in North Cork, close to the border with Co Limerick. I spent the morning there yesterday [27 September 2018], in in the heart of the rich farming area known as the Golden Vale that spreads through Cork, Limerick and Tipperary.

The lands around Charleville bought in the late 16th century by Richard Boyle (1566-1643), 1st Earl of Cork and one of the most successful Elizabethans in Ireland. His third son, Roger Boyle (1621-1679), Lord President of Munster and 1st Earl of Orrery, founded the town of Charleville in 1661 and named it in honour of the recently-restored King Charles II.

Charleville became the centrepiece of a vast estate owned by the Boyle family. The town was laid out in a formal plan with two parallel wide streets. It was granted a charter in the 17th century with a sovereign (mayor) and two bailiffs elected annually by the 12 burgesses or town councillors.

The principle Boyle residence was Charleville House, built in 1668 and set in a vast deer park north of the town. It was regarded as one of the finest houses in Ireland at the time. It occupied one side of a large walled court and could be defended with 16 guns.

However, during the lifetime of Lionel Boyle (1671-1703), 3rd Earl of Orrery, Charleville House was burnt down by Jacobite forces under the command of the Duke of Berwick, after he had dined in the house in 1690. The house was later demolished and nothing remains of it today. All that remains of the ‘notable gardens and fine park’ are symmetrical fields, masonry walls and earthworks, including the site of four fish ponds.

Although the Boyles remained the lords of the manor, William Sanders of Charleville leased The Park ‘for ever’ from the Boyles on 20 September 1697.

The Sanders estates expanded through intermarriage with the Knight family, and in the late 18th century Christopher Sanders built Charleville Park, which was also known as Sanders Park.

Like many Irish towns, Charleville went through a period of rebuilding in the late 18th early 19th centuries and most of its elegant streetscape dates from this period, along with the many side lanes that gave access to the areas behind the streets.

Charleville became an important market town with a weekly market on Saturdays and six fairs during the year, and with a number of industries, including tanyards, flour mills and a blanket factory.

Christopher Sanders’s son, William Sanders (1773-1819), was living in the house in 1814, and his son, Christopher Sanders (1808-1839), was living there in 1837. The estates were divided between his sons, Christopher Sanders (1808-1839), who inherited Deer Park, and William Robert Sanders (1810-1851), who was living at Charleville Park at the time of Griffith’s Valuation, holding the property from the Earl of Cork.

The third son, Colonel Robert Sanders (1814-1860) inherited Deer Park when his brother Christopher died and Charleville Park when his brother William died. But he too died without male heirs, and in 1860 the estates passed to another younger son, Thomas Sanders (1816-1892) of Sanders Park or Charleville Park, Charleville.

By the 1870s, he owned 1,024 acres in Co Cork and 942 acres in Co Limerick. A barrister, magistrate and landowner, he was boycotted by the tenant farmers in Charleville, who refused to pay the rents. It was said, ‘Not a blacksmith could be found to shoe his horse and not a living creature to cook his food.’

Robert Massy Dawson Sanders, a land agent, inherited Charleville Park from his father in 1892. He was an elder brother of Evelyn Francis Sanders (1864-1909), who in 1903 married Maria Elizabeth Coote Townshend (1865-1942), who was born in Ireland, and they lived in Calcutta.

Robert Sanders was educated at Trinity College Dublin and was High Sheriff of Co Cork in 1901. He managed the family estate at Charleville Park and a number of other estates, and in 1916 he inherited the Ballinacourty Estate in Co Tipperary from his mother’s uncle, Captain Francis Evelyn Massy-Dawson, a retired naval officer.

During the Irish Civil War, the anti-treaty Republicans occupied Ballinacourty House, but on the approach of Irish Free State soldiers the Republicans burned the house and made good their escape.

Ballinacourty House was never rebuilt, but the stables have since been restored as Ballinacourty House Restaurant. Robert Massy Dawson Sanders later rebuilt and extended an old school house and opened it as an hotel and convalescent home. The Glen Hotel now stands on the site.

During the Irish Civil War, Robert Sanders moved to Buckland Court in Surrey, which was owned by his elderly father-in-law, Francis Henry Beaumont, who transferred the estate to Sanders in 1923. Later, around 1932, Robert Sanders built a lodge on the Ballinacourty Estate where he could stay when he was in Ireland; the Aherlow House Hotel stands there today.

Terence Robert Beaumont Sanders (1901-1985) was born at Charleville Park and became an Olympic gold medallist (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Robert and Hilda Sanders were the parents of two sons, Charles Craven Sanders (1899-1985) and Terence Robert Beaumont Sanders (1901-1985), who were born at Charleville Park and educated at Eton and Trinity College Cambridge.

Charles Craven Sanders lived at Coolnamuck Court, near Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary, up to the mid-1950s, and later lived in Whitechurch, Rathfarnham. His brother Terence was an Olympic gold medallist and a lecturer in engineering in Cambridge.

Terence Sanders was born at Charleville Park on 2 June 1901 and was educated at Eton and Trinity College Cambridge. At Cambridge, Sanders, Maxwell Eley, Robert Morrison and James MacNabb, who had rowed together at Eton, made up the coxless four that won the Stewards’ Challenge Cup at Henley in 1922 as Eton Vikings and the Visitors’ Challenge Cup as Third Trinity Boat Club.

Sanders stroked for Cambridge in the Boat Race in 1923, which was won by Oxford. The coxless four won the Stewards’ Challenge Cup at Henley again in 1923, the crew won Stewards’ at Henley again in 1924 and went on to win the gold medal for Great Britain rowing at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris. The British crew won comfortably over the 2000 metre course and winning, with Canada finishing second and Switzerland taking the bronze medal.

Sanders became a Fellow of Corpus Christi, Cambridge in 1925, and was appointed university lecturer in engineering in 1936. He was honorary treasurer of the University Boat Club from 1928 to 1939, and was in the Leander Club eight that won the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley in 1929. In 1929, he co-wrote The University Boat Race: Official Centenary History 1829-1929.

During World War II, he was active in Operation Crossbow that countered the threat of German V2 rockets. He was made a Companion of the Bath (CB) in 1950, and retired from the army as colonel in 1951. Sanders died at Dorking, Surrey, on 6 April 1985 at the age of 83, and is buried in Buckland churchyard near Reigate.

Meanwhile, Charleville Park was the residence of a Mr Binchy, a merchant in Charleville, in the 1940s. By the end of the 20th century, Charleville Park was turned into flats, and new housing estates were built on part of the land.

When I visited Charleville yesterday [27 September 2018], the house was derelict, boarded up and fenced off. But an unusual octagonal gate lodge still stands near the original entrance to the house and demesne.

This two-storey gate lodge was built around 1830, with one-bay faces. The projecting slate roof forms a shallow canopy at the entrance face, with carved timber bargeboards supported on carved timber brackets. There are rendered chimneystacks, rendered walls, square-headed openings with quarry glazed transomed and mullioned windows and rendered sills. An elliptical-headed opening has a raised brick surround and a timber panelled door.

This former gate lodge at Charleville Park is an interesting example of theatrical architecture, and its shape and size are unusual as gate lodge are typically single-storey structures, as can be seen nearby at the former gate lodge at Knight’s Lodge.

I had wondered whether I would find any clues at Charleville Park about the choice of name for Fort St George nearby. After all, the Sanders family coat-of-arms has three elephants’ heads on the shield and an elephant’s head in the crest, and Evelyn Sanders and his wife Maria were living in Calcutta in the early part of the 20th century.

But Calcutta was too far from Fort St George and too late a connection to explain the name, and the elephants’ heads provided no clues at all.

Instead, there was another link with Fort St George, as I imagined Robert Sanders as a regular visitor as he rowed for Cambridge or walked along the banks of the River Cam.

At the time Sanders rowed for Britain in the 1924 Olympics, it was a matter of chance rather than choice whether Irish Olympians were categorised as Irish or British, and his opportunities came from his experiences at Eton and Cambridge. But Robert Sanders should not be forgotten as an Irish-born Olympic gold medallist.

The octagonal gate lodge at Charleville Park is an interesting example of theatrical architecture (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Fort St George starts a flight
of fantasy from Charleville
to Cambridge and Chennai

Fort St George … an intriguing name in Charleville that has resonances from Cambridge to Chennai (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

I spent a morning in Charleville in north Co Cork yesterday [27 September 2018], visiting the Gothic Revival Holy Cross Church, the former Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland parish churches, now used as a community centre and a library, and other sites of architectural interest.

However, as I wandered around the town in delightful late autumn sunshine, under bright blue skies, one of the most puzzling sites was a plaque on a gate pier on The Turrets, the street leading off Charleville’s Main Street.

This carved limestone plaque is set into a square-profile, rendered limestone pier with a roll-moulded frame. It is inscribed ‘Fort St George 1800.’ It has tooled bevelled edging and an ashlar face, and it is possible to make out a faded carving of the Masonic emblem of a set square and compass.

The decorative features of this plaque are typical of late 18th and early 19th century stone carving. The bevelled edging shows the tool marks of the mason and also provides textural variation to the plaque.

The set square and compass motif may mean that this was once the site of a former Freemasons lodge. The masonic lodge in Charleville was Emerald Lodge 49, and was part of the North Munster Provincial Grand Lodge, based in Limerick.

A broadsheet from the North Munster Provincial Grand Lodge, dated December 1845, is in the collection in the City Museum in Limerick, and lists the officials of the Charleville lodge: John Hallinan, master, John Darcy Evans, senior warden, and Daniel Meares Maunsell, junior warden.

Fort St George (left)gives its name to Fortville House (right), with its decorative terracotta frieze and unusual façade (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Fort St George gives its name to the neighbouring house, Fortville House, a detached, three-bay, two-storey house, built ca 1910, with a gabled entrance breakfront and chamfered corners. The house has painted rendered walls with a decorative terracotta frieze on the eaves of the façade and a terracotta panel on the upper gable of the breakfront, with terracotta floral motifs at the junction with the walls. This house also has decorative terracotta keystones.

These features make this a house worth noting for its ornamentation and unusual façade to the streetscape of Charleville.

But while Fort St George explains the name of Fortville House, I wondered how Fort St George in Charleville got its name over 200 years ago. The gate piers lead into nothing more than an empty field, and I wondered whether a house named Fort St George had stood here long before any masonic lodge was formed in Charleville.

Fort Saint George is the oldest pub on the River Cam (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

It all reminded me of Fort St George, an old pub on the banks of the River Cam in Cambridge, almost opposite the boathouse of Sidney Sussex Boat Club, and on the edge of Midsummer Common.

Fort St George – or the Fort St George In England, to give the pub its full name – is the oldest pub on the River Cam. It is a Grade II listed timber-framed building dating in part from the 16th century. The name is commonly abbreviated to just ‘Fort St George,’ but the pub is often known simply as ‘The Fort.’ The full name reflects a supposed resemblance to the East India Company’s Fort St George at Madras (now Chennai) in India.

This sprawling pub looks much larger from the outside than it is inside. It has three rooms of differing sizes and styles: the large open wooden-floored bar area, a traditional dark snug, and a light (dining) room, with windows overlooking the river. Outside, there is a large pleasant pub garden, on two sides, and a substantial covered area overlooking the Common.

Over the years, it has been much altered and enlarged, but it retains much of its charm. The walls are lined with photographs from the 1960s and 1970s of winning boat clubs, the snug to the right of the main entrance has some ancient panelling, and a sign over the bar boats proudly: ‘Welcome to Fort St George, proudly serving Cambridge since the 16th century.’

Fort Saint George claims it is ‘proudly serving Cambridge since the 16th century’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The building dates from the 16th century, with alterations and additions in the 19th century and later. It was refurbished most recently ten years ago, in 2008. It is timber-framed, rendered and painted, in part refaced or rebuilt in brick, especially the east and west gables and the ground floor south front. It is a two-storey building with modern casement windows, three below and five above and one small-paned sash window. Originally it had a T-shaped plan, but the 19th century additions make it difficult to see this. The first floor has an overhang on carved timber brackets, there are some chamfered ceiling beams, a great central brick stack, and an old tile roof.

During the high summer, the pub has a reputation of being rowdy and unpleasant. During many events on the Common, such as Midsummer Fair, it often closes to avoid trouble. But on summer days in Cambridge I have found it pleasant place to sip a glass of wine and watch life go by on the river.

Fort St George, the first English fortress in India, was founded in 1644 at the coastal city of Madras, now the modern city of Chennai. When the fort was built, it provided the impetus for further settlements and trading activity and the city evolved around the fortress. The fort now houses the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly and other official buildings.

The East India Company (EIC), which entered India around 1600, completed building the fort on Saint George’s Day, 23 April 1644. The fort soon became the hub of merchant activity and gave birth to a new settlement area called George Town that led to the formation of the city of Madras.

Saint Mary’s Church in Chennai, the oldest Anglican church in India, was built in 1678-1680, and the gravestones in the churchyard mark the oldest English graves in India. Fort St George has associations with Clive of India, Lord Cornwallis, Richard Wellesley, Governor General of India and brother of the Duke of Wellington.

And yet, none of this explains for me how Fort St George in Charleville originally got its name. Perhaps I was going to find some clues when I visited Charleville Park, the former home of the Sanders family

There is no Fort St George behind the gate piers … was there a house by that name here in the 19th century? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Thursday, 27 September 2018

A modern office block
recalls Limerick’s lost
‘Hanging Gardens’

Gardens International Office on Lower Henry Street, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

A sign on the corner of Lower Henry Street and Glentworth Street in Limerick advertises the advanced stage of the Gardens International Office, an office development that has been inspired by a lost but creative concept developed over two centuries ago.

William Roche created the Hanging Gardens of Limerick in 1808, a breath-taking series of tiered gardens between Henry Street and the back of his house on George’s Street, now 99 O’Connell Street, that he bought in 1804.

The Roches were a prominent banking and merchant family in Limerick at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries.

William Roche’s unique gardens covered almost an acre, reached 70 feet into the air, and produced exotic fruits, beautiful flowers and an extensive range of vegetables, on terraces over vast vaulted storehouses that were used as stores.

The terraced gardens on arched vaults were developed by William Roche in 1808. The old limestone-faced building with red-bricked internal barrel vaults was a revolutionary project for its day. It was designed with a sophisticated heating and irrigation system to support roof-top hanging and vertical gardens with vegetation and fruits then regarded as exotic.

At the time the gardens were regarded as folly, but they quickly became a unique site in Limerick, and the stores beneath the gardens were rented by the government, enhancing Roche’s wealth and ensuring his prosperity.

The series of arches ranged in height from 25 to 40 feet. The elevated terraced or hanging gardens were created on top of these arches, and the whole structure was crowned by classical statues.

The work cost £15,000 to complete and involved sophisticated heating and irrigation systems to maintain the vegetation.

At the top level were oranges, grapes, peaches and pineapples. On the middle tier there were hardy vegetables and fruit trees, and there were flowers at the bottom level. One section was devoted to melons and cucumbers, and flights of stairs led from one level to the next.

Roche’s Bank survived a baking crisis in 1820, but it was eventually taken over by the new Provincial Bank, which opened a branch in Limerick in 1825.

William Roche was an active supporter of Daniel O’Connell and Catholic Emancipation, and in 1832 he was elected MP for Limerick. He died on 27 April 1850, and his gardens fell into decline after his death.

At the end of the 19th century, the Revd James Dowd, in his book Limerick and its Sieges (1890), described the gardens as ‘a curiosity … without a parallel in in the empire.’ But by then the gardens were no more than a memory in Limerick.

Two arches hint at the story of William Roche’s ‘Hanging Gardens’ in Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Today only two bays of the store and substantial parts of the original vaulting that supported the terraces are still intact.

This two-bay, two-storey structure, which can still be glimpsed in midst of the current development work had a roof structure that was concealed behind a parapet wall at the front and on the sides.

The surviving limestone ashlar faced façade has an irregular composition of two red brick arches, one larger than the other, standing on limestone ashlar piers. Both arches were filled in with red brick laid in Flemish bond at the first-floor level and rubble limestone at the ground floor level.

The red-brick parapet wall stands on a limestone stringcourse above a red-brick, dog-tooth course, and there were barrel vaults at first-floor level.

Although Roche’s ‘Hanging Gardens’ are now long gone, the legend lives on, and the vision that inspired Roche is being invoked in the Gardens International development on Henry Street.

The Henry Street site was part developed during the boom, but it then remained a shell development and an eyesore for several years. Now the 100,000 sq ft office development in the centre of Limerick is one of the key projects in the €500 million Limerick 2030 economic plan.

The plan sets out a strategy embracing three city-centre sites with the expectation of creating 5,000 jobs within five years. The plan provides for the development of a number of sites, including the Opera Centre near Patrick Street, which plans the creation of a third-level campus with hundreds of students from the University of Limerick Institute of Technology and Mary Immaculate College moving into the city centre to study and live.

Other ideas include a new world rugby experience in the heart of the city on O’Connell Street and developing the area in King’s Island that includes King John’s Castle and Saint Mary’s Cathedral.

Work on the Gardens International Office on Henry Street involves an investment of €17.6 million. The centre will offer space for up to 750 workers, with the hope that the Gardens will trigger a new wider programme of investment in infrastructure for Limerick.

The aim is to create a city centre setting capable of attracting new inward business investment and encourage new local enterprises by providing high-quality space and necessary business supports.

Denis Brosan, who chairs Limerick 2030, sees the Gardens development as the catalyst for a new era of growth for Limerick. One of the main goals of the Limerick 2030 plan is to ensure the city centre fulfils its economic potential by becoming a desirable place in which to do business.

William Roche built his ‘Hanging Gardens’ behind his house at 99 O’Connell Street, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Ghost bicycles, the bicycle
blues, bikes on the beach,
and nine million bicycles

Ghost bicycles have become popular tributes to cyclists who have died in traffic … at Harold’s Cross Bridge in Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford; click on images for full-screen views)

Patrick Comerford

If there are nine million bicycles in Beijing, then it seems there are nine million bicycles in Amsterdam, Berlin, Cambridge, Dublin, and many other cities and towns I visit.

My reflection last week on the death of Paul Nelson, who had developed the Phoenix Bicycle in Dublin in the 1980s brought me to reflect on the way white bicycles or ghost bicycles have come to be used as tributes to cyclists who die tragically in traffic, but also awakened me to how I have built up a collection of photographs from my travels throughout Ireland and England, and further afield.

Bicycles in Cambridge:

A chained bicycle defies the sign on the railings at No 12 Portugal Place (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A sign placed on railings on No 12 Portugal Place in 2015 upset many classicists in Cambridge. Reports said the owners of the building were so perturbed by the number of bicycles left chained to the railings by students that they erected an angry sign in both classical Greek and Latin.

The notice was intended to warn cyclists that all bicycles would be ‘removed or destroyed.’ However, it seems the sign-writer might have benefitted from some further tutoring. Despite appearing to be the work of a well-educated person, critics quickly pointed out that the wording includes a number of mistakes.

Dr Rupert Thompson of Selwyn College, a classics lecturer, said: ‘It’s trying to say, “bicycles left here will be destroyed”.’ But he pointed out that the second word on the sign, ληφθεντεσ, actually means ‘taken’ not ‘left.’ In other words, bicycles taken here will be destroyed.

‘It’s definitely trying to be ancient Greek but it’s not quite,’ he told the BBC. He said both lines of the Greek inscription use the wrong letters. ‘I don’t know what to make of it really, but it’s very amusing and it’s absolutely great to see this in the city.’

Professor Mary Beard of Newnham College, a leading Cambridge and international classicist, said the Latin – Duae rotae hic relictae perimentur – may be correct, but she pointed out that it translates literally as ‘two wheels left abandoned here will be removed.’

Students were critical too and said the sign was pompous, elitist and patronising. Bicycles continued to be chained to the railings in defiance – or in ignorance – of the intended meaning of the sign.

Others might have pointed out that Greek speakers are available in plentiful supply in Cambridge: Saint Clement’s hosted the Greek Orthodox parish for many years, while Sidney Sussex College, the annual venue for the summer school of the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, is just two or three minutes walking distance.

Bicycles parked in front of an ATM at a bank on Sidney Street, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A sign at a bank on Sidney Street, Cambridge, says: ‘Cycles, Motor Scooters Etc must not be parked in front of this night safe machine.’ Obviously, it has little effect, and parked bicycles make the sign difficult to read even in the day time.

It seems there has been more than one owner, although not necessarily one careful owner … bicycles piled up between Mong Hall and South Court in Sidney Sussex College (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

This bicycle on Sidney Street was locked … but the bags were left open and accessible (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Bicycles against the railings of Great Saint Mary’s Church in Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Black bikes in the centre of Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The front wheel is missing, but this bicycle in Cambridge was worth keeping under lock and key (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Smokeworks … but does the advertising work? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Recycling words of recommendation in Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Praying in cycles … a bicycle outside Saint Bene’t’s Church in Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Everyone knows where Bill’s is … outside Sidney Sussex College this summer (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The snow comes in cycles … winter weather at Sidney Sussex College (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Cycling along Trinity Street in Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Seen in Dublin

Barista Bike … especially for coffee lovers at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Bikes, bags and bottles in Howth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Reserved Parking … at the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Oh I do like a bike beside the seaside … at an ice cream parlour in Skerries (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Tangled bikes in the snow in Temple Bar (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Bicycles for hire in Temple Bar (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

This bike on the Quays in Dublin seems to be made from wine bottle corks (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Say it with flowers on Strand Street in Skerries (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Only bicycles like this may be parked here in Baggot Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Outside Dublin

Matching wall and bicycle in Bray (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Bicycle Blues in Bray (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Advice from the gardai in Bray (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Searching for Hen’s Teeth in Wexford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Bill Hassett ran a bicycle repair shop near Matt the Thresher’s in Birdhill until he died in 1973 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A colourful bicycle near King John’s Castle in Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Well-matched on High Street in Kilkenny (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Plenty of opportunities in Abbeyleix (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

By a tree at Mount Usher Gardens in Co Wicklow (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Up, up and away … did ET find a home in Adare? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In the heart of Bellewstown (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Sean’s Bar in Athlone is the oldest pub … but is this the oldest bike? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Bikes for Greeks

I find myself photographing this house near the Fortezza every time I am in Rethymnon, and there is always a different bicycle outside (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A blue bicycle in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A blue bicycle on Arkadiou Street in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A red bicycle on Arkadiou Street in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A red bicycle and a wire model in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A bike outside Julia Apartments and the Garden Taverna in Platanes, Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Is it really a bicycle … seen in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A bike by the beach at Platanes in Rethymnon this summer (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Air transport? Seen in Thessaloniki (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

And travelling further afield:

The Anglican Cycle of Prayer? A bicycle by a font in a church in Leicester (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A bicycle in a courtyard in Berlin earlier this month (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

No cars are allowed in the villages of Cinque Terre in Italy … but I spotted this bicycle (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Bicycles under an arch in the Italian city of Lucca (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Seen in the Jewish quarter of Krakow in Poland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A pair of two-wheelers at an hotel in La Carihuela near Torremolinos in Spain (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

There are nine million bicycles in Beijing … and that’s a fact (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

And if you think it difficult to imagine how someone could cycle on the beach at Platanes on that bicycle in Rethymon, I have actually seen people cycling on the beach in Bettystown, Co Meath, in winter weather:

Cycling alone on the beach in Bettystown in winter (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Cycling on the beach in Bettystown in winter with the most important family member (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)