15 March 2018
When I was visiting Bray last week, I was reminded of the story of the Revd Bolton Charles Waller (1890-1936), a member of the Waller family of Castletown, Co Limerick, who was one of the early forerunners of the modern international peace movement.
Bolton Waller is claimed by the people of Bray because after his father’s death he lived during his childhood and teenage years on Meath Road in Bray and then on Carlton Terrace. But he was born in Cork in 1890, and he was the fourth generation of priests in a family that was once one of the largest land-owning families in West Limerick.
The Waller family of Castletown Manor, near Palleskenry, Co Limerick, was descended from the regicide, Sir Hardress Waller (1604-1666), who was MP for Askeaton in 1634 and 1640 and one of the judges who passed the sentence of death on King Charles I in 1649. At the restoration of Charles II in 1660, all his friends deserted him, and he fled to France. When he returned to England, he pleaded guilty to regicide. His death sentence was reduced to exile, and he died in Jersey in 1666.
Bolton Charles Waller’s great-grandfather, the Revd William Waller (1794-1863), Rector of Kilcornan from 1842. He married Maria O’Grady, and inherited Castletown manor from his father, Bolton Waller, in 1854, so that he was both lord of the manor and rector of the parish, and he increased the extent of the Waller estates by buying up the neighbouring Bury estate.
Bolton Charles Waller’s grandfather was the Revd John Thomas Waller (1827-1911), was appointed Rector of Kilcornan by his father and predecessor, the Revd William Waller. He was the secretary of the Irish Church Missions, and in this role he was an ardent and zealous evangelical who did much damage to community relations in this part of West Limerick. He used vile language in his tirades, thrived on creating sectarian tensions and stirred up a riot in Pallaskenry in 1861. His land ownings extended to over 6,600 acres.
Bolton Charles Waller’s father and two uncles were also clergymen. One uncle, the Very Revd Edward Hardress Waller (1859-1938), who was born in Castletown, was the Rector of Athy, Co Kildare (1891-1913), and a canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (1908-1913), before becoming Dean of Kildare (1913-1928). During the Irish Civil War, when Erskine Childers was about to face the firing squad in Beggar’s Bush Barracks on 24 November 1922, he asked for Dean Waller to be present and to pray with him. He died in Delgany, Co Wicklow, in 1938.
A second uncle, the Revd John Thomas Waller, was Rector of Saint Lawrence and Trinity Church, Limerick.
Bolton Charles Waller’s father was the Revd Bolton Waller, who was also born at Castletown Manor. He was the Rector of Saint Munchin’s Parish in Limerick (1892-1895), and died in Switzerland in 1897.
Bolton Charles Waller was born in Cork in 1890. While he was a student at Trinity College Dublin, Bolton Waller wrote a prize-winning essay, ‘Paths to Peace.’ These were the years in the immediate aftermath of World War I, and an American had created a prize fund for essays on better ways than war to deal with international conflict. The prize fund totalled £3,000, offering a first prize of £1,000 and other £2,000 shared among the writers of rest of the ten best essays.
Bolton Waller’s essay, ‘Paths to Peace’ not only won first prize in the competition, but was also adopted by the League of Nations and subsequently by the United Nations.
Waller was an early advocate in 1923 of the Irish Free State being admitted to membership of the League of Nations. He became secretary of the League of Nations Society Ireland and went on to publish four titles on world peace: Towards the Brotherhood of Nations (London: Student Christian Movement, 1921), Ireland and the League of Nations (Dublin: Talbot Press, 1925), Paths to World Peace (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1926), and Hibernia, or the Future of Ireland (London: Taylor and Francis, 1928), as well as a 20-page pamphlet on Saint Patrick to mark the Patrician anniversary, Patrick – the Man (Dublin: APCK, 1932).
Bolton Waller was ordained deacon in 1931 and priest in 1932. After a time as curate of Rathmines (1931-1936), Dublin, he became Rector of Saint John’s Parish, Clondalkin, Co Dublin in February 1936. But he died with six months of that appointment at the age of 46 in Kilpeacon, Co Limerick, in July 1936. He is buried in Saint John’s Churchyard, Clondalkin.
A year earlier, his first cousin, John Thomas (‘Jack’) Waller (1889-1965), had demolished Castletown Manor, and in 1936 he sold the Castletown estate on behalf of his dying father, William Waller (1857-1937).
There are still traces of Castletown Manor and the Castletown estates in Kilcornan Parish, and there are memorials to members of the Waller family line the walls of Castletown Church. Unlike his grandfather, the Revd John Thomas Waller, there is still a need for priests like Bolton Charles Waller who have a vision for finding alternatives to international conflict and a vision of working for world peace.
In my meditations and reflections in Lent this year, I am being guided by the Stations of the Cross from three locations. The idea for this series of morning Lenten meditations came from reading about Peter Walker’s new exhibition, ‘Imagining the Crucifixion,’ inspired by the Stations of the Cross, which opened in Lichfield Cathedral last month and continues until the end of Lent.
Throughout Lent, my meditations each morning are inspired by three sets of Stations of the Cross that I have found either inspiring or unusual. They are the stations in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, at Saint John’s Well on a mountainside near Millstreet, Co Cork, and in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield.
In my meditations, I am drawing on portions of the Stabat Mater, the 12th century hymn of the Crucifixion (‘At the cross her station keeping’) attributed to the Franciscan poet Jacopone da Todi. Some prayers are traditional, some are from the Book of Common Prayer, and other meditations and prayers are by Canon Frank Logue and the Revd Victoria Logue of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia.
For these two weeks, I am looking at the 14 Stations of the Cross at Saint John’s Well in a forested area on the slopes of Mushera, outside Millstreet in north Co Cork and close to the Cork/Kerry border.
Saint John’s Well is 8 or 9 km south-east of Millstreet, on the slopes of Mushera, on the Aubane side of the mountain, opposite the entrance to Millstreet Country Park. The Stations date from 1984 and were designed by Liam Cosgrave and Sons, Sculptors, of Blackpool, Cork.
Millstreet 13, Jesus is taken down from the cross
In the thirteenth station by Liam Cosgrave in Millstreet, the Virgin Mary holds the limp body of her dead son on her lap, gazing lovingly into his now dead eyes.
They are alone, forlorn, abandoned. Does she remember now how she once cradled the Christ Child on her lap?
The grave cloth hangs loosely on the bare arms of the cross. Are the grave clothes he is to be wrapped in as he is laid in the grave a reminder to her of the swaddling clothes she wrapped him in as she laid him down to sleep in his crib in Bethlehem?
From Stabat Mater:
Lord Jesus, crucified, have mercy on us!
Let me mingle tears with thee,
Mourning Him who mourned for me,
All the days that I may live.
Mourning mother. Broken child.
A sword of grief pierces her soul.
Women surround her, but none can comfort her.
Her name is bitterness.
Crucified Saviour, you are resurrection and life and in your death and resurrection we who mourn find the peace and comfort your own mother lacked as your body came down from the cross. Help us to bring the hope of the resurrection to all who mourn. This we pray in the name of Jesus, our crucified Lord, the King of Glory, the King of Peace. Amen.
We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.
Because by your holy cross You have redeemed the world.
Jesus, how brutally you were put to death. How gently your are taken from the cross. Your suffering and pain are ended, and you are put in the lap of your mother. The dirt and blood are wiped away. You are treated with love.
Jesus, let me take a few moments now to consider your love for me. Help me thank you for your willingness to go to your death for me. Help me express my love for you!
A prayer before walking to the next station:
Holy and mighty Holy immortal one,
Have mercy on us.
Tomorrow: Station 14: Jesus is laid in the tomb.
Coole House, near Drishane Castle, Millstreet … home of Cornelius Denis Crowley in the last century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)