Wednesday, 16 October 2019

The Synagogues of Dublin:
17, Rathfarnham Road

Terenure Synagogue on Rathfarnham Road dates from 1936 and first opened in 1953 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

When I was born on a house in Rathfarnham Road, I was born opposite the then Classic Cinema and between the old Terenure Laundry and the new site for Terenure Synagogue.

The synagogue at 32a Rathfarnham Road, Dublin 6, dates back to a meeting held on 26 September 1936 to set up a synagogue in the Rathmines, Rathgar or Terenure area to cater for the young families now living in these suburbs and who found it was too far to walk on Saturdays and Festivals to the synagogues on Adelaide Road and at Greenville Hall on the South Circular Road.

The shul started in rented rooms at No 6 Grosvenor Place, Rathmines, until No 52 Grosvenor Road was bought in April 1940.

On Rosh Hashanah, 4 October 1948, the congregation moved from Rathmines to a Nissen hut in the grounds of ‘Leoville’ on Rathfarnham Road, Terenure. The house had been bought some years earlier on behalf of the congregation by the late Woulfe Freedman and Erwin Goldwater for £1,490.

Building work on the new Terenure Synagogue began in August 1952, and it was completed and dedicated on 30 August 1953.

Stars of David in Terenure Synagogue face onto Rathfarnham Road (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Some sources say the synagogue was designed in 1950 by the Dublin architect, John Joseph Gerard Devaney. However, Sharman Kadish, in Jewish Heritage in England (2006), agrees with most authorities that it was designed by Wilfrid Cantwell in 1952-1955.

Wilfrid Cantwell (1921-2000) graduated from the School of Architecture, UCD, with his BArch degree in 1944, and was elected a member of the RIAI in 1946. He was President of RIAI in 1966 and 1967. He worked with Michael Scott, alongside Kevin Roche, Kevin Fox and Robin Walker, and worked on Bus Arús. He later worked with JN Kidney before setting up his own practice (1947-1975), where he attained distinction in the area of church architecture, particularly in years immediately after Vatican II.

His two major religious buildings are the Synagogue in Terenure and the Church of the Holy Spirit, Ballycullane, Co Wexford in 1971. His favourite church project was the renovation of the Pugin Chapel in Ushaw College, Durham. In 1985, he was the co-author with Richard Hurley of Contemporary Irish Church Architecture.

From 1976, he specialised as a consultant in church design and in the legal aspects of building. He retired in 1993 and died on 26 December 2000.

Cantwell said his new synagogue in Terenure met the committee’s specifications for a building that would ‘cost less than half the normal place, look as if it cost the full amount and be an example of good modern design.’ It was praised for its ‘original, modern, commanding and attractive design.’

A stained glass window in the synagogue on Rathfarnham Road

The ‘master builder’ of the synagogue was the Dublin timber merchant Sam Noyek, who worked tirelessly for the synagogue all his life. The synagogue was built with a capacity for 600 people.

Nick Harris, in his Dublin’s Little Jerusalem, says most families linked with Terenure Synagogue associate it with the Revd Solly Bernstein and his wife Bertha, affectionately known as Belke; he was born in Dublin, and she was born in Yashenovska, Poland. He taught many bar mitzvah boys their portion of the Law in what was known as BBC – Bernstein’s Bar Mitzvah Class.

The shul was set on fire on Wednesday 9 February 1966. Several Siffrei Torah were destroyed, and the shul itself was very badly damaged. The Nissen hut that had been turned into a function hall was quickly converted back into a shul, and no Shabbat services were missed.

The newly refurbished synagogue was rededicated on Sunday 26 May 1968. Its features include the striking stained-glass windows on the north and south walls by Stanley Tomlin, who began his career in the Harry Clarke Studios in 1932.

The Samuel Taca Hall, endowed by Mrs Fanny Taca in memory of her husband, opened behind the synagogue in the 1980s.

Rabbi Zalman Lent with the Aron haKodesh and Torah scrolls in Terenure Synagogue

At extraordinary meetings of the Terenure and Adelaide Road congregations in January 1999, the two congregations agreed to merge. It was agreed that the Adelaide Road Synagogue would be sold, and that some of the proceeds of the sale would be used to build a new synagogue complex, including a new mikveh and a community centre, on the grounds at Rathfarnham Road.

From then, the Terenure Synagogue hosted the members of the former synagogue on Adelaide Road. This arrangement continued until 15 December 2004, when both congregations held simultaneous extraordinary general meetings and agreed to merge as the new Dublin Hebrew Congregation.

The first council meeting of the new Dublin Hebrew Congregation was held in Terenure on 25 January 2005.

The agreed new synagogue was never builtm and Terenure Synagogue remains the last major orthodox synagogue in the Republic of Ireland.

A recent Church of Ireland Interfaith Conference visiting Terenure Synagogue on Rathfarnham Road, Dublin

Tomorrow: 18, Machzikei Hadass, Rathmore Villas, Terenure.

Yesterday: 16, The Progressive Synagogue, Leicester Avenue, Rathgar.

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

An evening in Porthleven,
the most southerly port
and harbour in Britain

Porthleven is the most southerly port in the United Kingdom (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

After visiting Marazion and St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall on an overcast, wet afternoon, last week, the family group I was with continued on south along the coast of Mount’s Bay to the fishing harbour of Porthleven, where we had dinner that evening.

Porthleven, with its granite harbour and pier and its famous clock tower, has a population of about 3,000, and is the most southerly port in the United Kingdom.

During winter storms, many people visit the town to watch the waves crashing over the sea defences and storms roll in from the Atlantic.

The Bickford-Smith Institute in Porthleven is one of the landmark buildings of Cornwall (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Porthleven’s harbour is best known for the Bickford-Smith Institute, a prominent building next to the pier and harbour entrance. It looks like a church, and its clock tower, standing 20 metres high, makes it one of the landmark buildings of Cornwall.

The tower has been painted by many artists and is used as popular image of Porthleven. A photograph of the building with large breaking waves often appears in the background of BBC weather forecasts, particularly when windy conditions and rough seas are expected.

The institute has a plaque to Guy Gibson VC, the leader of the Dambuster Raid, on the wall facing the harbour. Gibson was born in India, but his mother was from Porthleven, his parents were married here, and he regarded Porthleven as his hometown.

Gibson visited the town regularly during World War II, and occasionally attended Porthleven Methodist Church. He was killed in 1944 and his name is included on the community’s war memorial and Gibson Way in the town is named after him.

Today, the institute building houses the town council offices and is also used by a snooker club.

The present village began with the construction of the harbour in 1811(Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The history of Portleven dates back to at least the mid-11th century, and nearby Methleigh is said to have been the site of a fair and annual market from the year 1066. After the Norman Conquest, the Manor of Methleigh was held by the Bishop of Exeter but the Earl of Cornwall possessed the fair.

The name Porthleven is probably connected with Saint Elwen or Elwyn, who gave his name to a chapel that stood here before 1270. There were also chapels in neighbouring Higher Penrose and Lanner Veor and a holy well at Venton-Vedna.

Saint Elwen’s chapel was rebuilt about 1510, but it was destroyed at the Reformation in 1549.

The Ship Inn in Porthleven dates from the 17th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The Ship Inn in Porthleven at the harbour is said to date from the 17th century. However, Porthleven did not develop until the days of sail, when it became a harbour of refuge at a time when this part of the Cornish coast was a black spot for wrecks. Due to the prevailing westerly winds, it was easy for a ship under sail to be trapped in Mount’s Bay and wrecked nearby.

The present village began with the construction of the harbour in 1811. The harbour faces south west into the prevailing wind and so building the harbour and sea walls was a major undertaking.

From the cliffs there are views of the abandoned engine houses of the tin mine at Rinsey and of Tregonning Hill, an extinct volcano where china clay was first discovered in England.

William Cookworthy leased the quarries at Tregonning Hill quarries and shipped china clay from Porthleven to his porcelain factory in Plymouth. In 1826, 150 tons of china-stone and 30 tons of china clay were shipped, and by 1838 this amount had risen to 500 tons of china-stone. Granite from the quarries at Coverack Bridges and Sithney was also shipped from the harbour.

Although Saint Bartholomew’s, the parish church, was built in Porthleven in 1842, the town remained part of the neighbouring small parish of Sithney until 1844.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution stationed a lifeboat at Porthleven in 1863. A boat house was built at Breageside, and from there the boat was taken to the water on a carriage.

Shipping china clay from Porthleven came to an end in 1880. But by then Porthleven had also become a centre for shipbuilding, employing up to 20 people at times. Between 1877 and 1883, 52 fishing boats were built here, ranging in length from 6.7 m to 17 metres. The harbour once had a fleet of more than 100 drifters used to fish pilchard and mackerel.

A new boat house opened on the west side of the harbour entrance in 1894 with a slipway to make launching easier. The station was closed in 1929 and the slipway was dismantled. The boat house was used as a store for a while, later become the Shipwreck Centre museum, and is now a gallery, studio and party venue.

The small beach below the harbour at Porthleven (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Porthleven lies within the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and the South West Coast Path, which follows the coast from Somerset to Dorset and passes through the town.

Porthleven remains the most southerly working port in the United Kingdom. But it is also popular with artists and has several studios and craft shops, as well as several good restaurants and a small beach.

We stopped briefly for a drink in the Harbour Inn, and had dinner that evening at Kota Kai in Celtic House at Harbour Head. Kota Kai and its neighbour, Kota Restaurant, where Jude Kereama is the head chef.

The Harbour Inn at the harbour uses the clock tower as its pub sign (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Elizabeth Anscombe
Limerick-born philosopher

Patrick Comerford

Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick,

October Lunchtime Lecture Series,

Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick,

1 p.m., Tuesday 15 October 2019

Professor Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe (1919-2001), one of the greatest English philosophers of the 20th century … she was born in Limerick in 1919


Professor Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe (1919-2001) was one of the greatest English philosophers of the 20th century. Few modern philosophers can claim solid footing in two traditions, she was deeply grounded in three: classical philosophy (particularly Aristotle), Catholicism (especially Aquinas and Anselm), and the flowering of modern philosophy stimulated by Gottlieb Frege.

To summarise her work and her importance, Elizabeth Anscombe was an analytic philosopher who wrote on the philosophy of mind, philosophy of action, philosophical logic, philosophy of language, and ethics, and she was a prominent figure of analytical Thomism.

But she is also remembered as Ludwig Wittgenstein’s student, and she became an authority on his work, introducing him to the English-speaking world and editing and translating many of books and writings, above all his Philosophical Investigations.

Her 1957 monograph Intention is generally recognised as her greatest and most influential work, and the continuing philosophical interest in the concepts of intention, action, and practical reasoning can be said to have taken its main impetus from this work.

Her paper ‘Modern Moral Philosophy’ (1958) introduced the term ‘consequentialism’ into the language of analytic philosophy, and had a seminal influence on contemporary virtue ethics.

There was a persistent tenacity in Elizabeth Anscombe’s moral activism too, from the time she denounced Britain’s participation in World War II as an undergraduate, because it was plain to her that Britain would be carrying out deliberate attacks on civilians, through her widely publicised opposition as a young don to Oxford awarding an honorary degree to Harry Truman – on the ground that ‘having a couple of massacres to his credit’ disqualifies a man for public honours – to her arrests in her 70s for participation in ‘pro-life’ protests.

Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe was baptised in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, on 7 May 1919 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe was born 18 or 19 March 1919, at Glanmire House, North Strand (now Clancy’s Strand), Limerick. Her baptismal record in Saint Mary’s Cathedral says she was born on 19 March, but all her biographies and obituaries say she was born the day before in Limerick.

She was baptised in this cathedral seven weeks later on 7 May 1919. Her father, Allen Wells Anscombe (1885-1939), was born in London on 11 February 1885, and at the time of her birth he was a captain in the Royal Welch Fusiliers. He was posted to Limerick at the outbreak of the Irish War of Independence. Other officers in the same regiment in Limerick at the same time included the poet and writer Robert Graves (1895-1985), and his friend the war poet Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967).

Allen Anscombe’s father, Alfred Wells Anscombe (1859-1934), was a commercial traveller, from Brighton, who lived in Highgate.

Elizabeth’s mother, Gertrude Elizabeth (Thomas), a former headmistress in Wales and was from Radnor, which may explain why Allen Anscombe was in a Welsh regiment.

There were two older brothers in the family, John and Tom, and who were twins who were born in Wales in 1915.

From Limerick, the family returned to England, and her father became head of physics and engineering at Dulwich College in south London. He died on 25 August 1939 in Beckenham, Kent, aged 54.

Elizabeth Anscombe read ‘Mods & Greats’ at Oxford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Student days

Elizabeth went to Sydenham High School for Girls, where she became intensely interested in Roman Catholicism and the writings of GK Chesterton.

She went up to Oxford in 1937, where she read ‘Mods & Greats’ (classics, ancient history, and philosophy) at Saint Hugh’s College. During her first undergraduate year she received instruction from Father Richard Kehoe, a Dominican priest at Blackfriars. She was received into the Roman Catholic Church, and she remained a devout Roman Catholic throughout her life.

After Mass at Blackfriars on the Feast of Corpus Christi in 1938, she met Peter Geach (1916-2013), who was three years older than her. Three years earlier, he too had become a Roman Catholic. He too was a student of Wittgenstein and he too would become an eminent philosopher. But philosophy played no role in bringing about the romance that blossomed. Smitten by Elizabeth’s beauty and voice, Peter immediately inquired of mutual friends whether she was ‘reliably Catholic.’

But three years of the ‘Greats’ curriculum were still before her, and they postponed marriage. Meanwhile, she did not avoid controversy: as an undergraduate she publicly criticised Britain’s entry into World War II in 1939.

After she graduated with a First in Greats in 1941, she was awarded a research fellowship at Saint Hugh’s College, Oxford, in 1941. Peter Geach and Elizabeth Anscombe married in the Brompton Oratory in London on 26 December 1941.

Elizabeth Anscombe accepted a research fellowship at Newnham College, Cambridge, so she could attend the lectures of Ludwig Wittgenstein

Wittgenstein’s student and friend

After graduating, she was awarded a research fellowship for postgraduate study at Newnham College, Cambridge, from 1942 to 1945. Her purpose was to attend the lectures of Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951), perhaps the greatest philosopher of the 20th century.

During his lifetime, he published just one small, 75-page book, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921), one article, one book review and a children’s dictionary. His major work, Philosophical Investigations, was not published until two years after his death, yet it has become an important modern classic. Bertrand Russell said he was ‘the most perfect example I have ever known of genius as traditionally conceived.’

Anscombe’s interest in Wittgenstein’s philosophy arose from reading the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus as an undergraduate. She said she decided to study with Wittgenstein as soon as she opened that book in Blackwell’s and read section 5.53, ‘Identity of object I express by identity of sign, and not by using a sign for identity. Difference of objects I express by difference of signs.’

She became an enthusiastic student, feeling that Wittgenstein’s therapeutic method helped to free her from philosophical difficulties in ways that her training in traditional systematic philosophy could not.

As she wrote:

‘For years, I would spend time, in cafés, for example, staring at objects saying to myself: ‘I see a packet. But what do I really see? How can I say that I see here anything more than a yellow expanse?’ … I always hated phenomenalism and felt trapped by it. I couldn’t see my way out of it but I didn’t believe it. It was no good pointing to difficulties about it, things which Russell found wrong with it, for example. The strength, the central nerve of it remained alive and raged achingly. It was only in Wittgenstein’s classes in 1944 that I saw the nerve being extracted, the central thought ‘I have got this, and I define ‘yellow’ (say) as this’ being effectively attacked.’

After her fellowship at Cambridge ended, she was awarded a research fellowship at Somerville College, Oxford. But during the academic year of 1946-1947 she continued to travel to Cambridge once a week to attend tutorials with Wittgenstein that were devoted mainly to the philosophy of religion.

She became one of Wittgenstein’s favourite students and one of his closest friends. Wittgenstein affectionately referred to her by the pet name ‘old man.’ According to Ray Monk, she was ‘an exception to his general dislike of academic women.’

Wittgenstein’s confidence in Anscombe’s understanding of his perspective is shown by his choice of her as translator of his major work, Philosophical Investigations, published after his death.

The plaque at the Ashling Hotel on Parkgate Street, Dublin, recalls Wittgenstein’s time as a guest when it was Ross’s Hotel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Wittgenstein visited his Irish friend the psychiatrist Con Drury in Dublin in August 1947, and when he returned to Cambridge he resigned his professorship, planning to move to Dublin.

He arrived back in Dublin in November, and stayed at Ross’s Hotel, now the Ashling Hoteloin Parkgate Street, until 9 December, when he moved to Kilpatrick House in Red Cross, Co Wicklow, as a guest of the Kingston family.

At first, Wittgenstein enjoyed life in the countryside, between the Wicklow Mountains and Brittas Bay. But by early 1948 he was complaining of indigestion, then ‘nervous instability,’ ‘terrible depressions’ and a bad ’flu. He suffered what we now call a nervous breakdown, and was attended at Saint Patrick’s Hospital in Dublin by Dr Moore.

After spending Easter 1948 with the Kingstons, Wittgenstein moved to the Drury cottage at Killary Harbour, Co Mayo, where he worked hard and had few visitors. He was back in Dublin for a few days that August, and then returned to Cambridge to complete his Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology, although it was not published until 1980.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Anscombe visited Wittgenstein many times after he left Cambridge in 1947. By then, he was a friend as well as a mentor and lodged with Anscombe and her family in Oxford from April 1950 to February 1951.

Before his death in 1951, Wittgenstein arranged for Anscombe to spend an extended time in Vienna to strengthen her German and absorb nuances of his own Viennese dialect. She travelled to Cambridge in April 1951 to visit him on his death bed.

Wittgenstein named Anscombe, along with Rush Rhees and Georg Henrik von Wright, as his literary executor. After he died, she was responsible for editing, translating, and publishing many of Wittgenstein’s manuscripts and notebooks.

A jubilee feature in ‘Koinonia’ in 2013, marking the 50th anniversary of the death of CS Lewis

CS Lewis and Harry S Truman

Her international reputation as a formidable debater had early roots. In a paper at a meeting of the Socratic Club in Oxford in 1948, she disputed CS Lewis’s argument that naturalism was self-refuting, found in the third chapter of the original publication of his book Miracles.

Of course, CS Lewis (1898-1963) was also Irish-born, having been born in Belfast.

Everyone present that evening, including Lewis, recognised that the young philosophy don’s penetrating critique had undone his arguments.

Some writers think that it had also undone Lewis. AN Wilson, ignoring Lewis’s actual literary production after 1948, asserts that ‘The confrontation with Elizabeth Anscombe drove him into the form of literature for which he is today most popular: children’s stories.’ More scrupulous writers also portray the debate as a ‘humiliating experience’ (George Sayer), a turning point in his life that Lewis recalled ‘with real horror’ (Derek Brewer).

George Sayer asserts that the experience led Lewis to abandon theology and turned entirely to devotional writing and children’s literature.

However, Anscombe’s impression of the effect upon CS Lewis was different. She pointed out that Lewis rewrote that chapter, taking account of her objections, and she said this ‘shows his honesty and seriousness.’

In 1956, she protested against Oxford awarding an honorary degree to Harry S Truman. She denounced him as a mass murderer for using the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, and she privately published a pamphlet in which she said she ‘should fear to go’ to the Encaenia or degree conferral ceremony ‘in case God’s patience suddenly ends.’

She courted controversy with some of her colleagues by defending the Roman Catholic Church’s opposition to contraception. Later in life, she was arrested protesting outside an abortion clinic after abortion had been legalised in Britain.

Elizabeth Anscombe was Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge from 1970 to 1986 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Reputation as a philosopher

Anscombe remained at Somerville College from 1946 until 1970, when she was elected Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge, the chair once held by Wittgenstein. She also became a Professorial Fellow of New Hall, now Murray Edwards College. She retired in 1986. Indeed, but she continued to live in Cambridge for the rest of her life.

Some of Anscombe’s most frequently cited works are her translations, editions, and expositions of Wittgenstein’s work, including an influential exegesis of his 1921 book, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.

This brought to the fore the importance of Gottlob Frege for Wittgenstein’s thought and, partly on that basis, attacked ‘positivist’ interpretations of the work.

She co-edited his posthumous second book Philosophische Untersuchungen or Philosophical Investigations (1953). Her English translation of the book appeared simultaneously and remains the standard.

The publication in 1953 of Anscombe’s translation of Philosophical Investigations was a landmark of 20th century thought. One writer has noted that a corrected or revised version of her translation has ever appeared. Her translation is quoted everywhere as if it were verbatim Wittgenstein rather than a translation, being written in an English style that is compelling.

The task of translating a great work of philosophy, apart from requiring exquisite command of two languages, demands philosophical powers of a high order. Had her translations of Wittgenstein constituted her entire corpus, she would have made a signal contribution to philosophy. But those valuable translations were only part of her life’s work.

Her most important work is the monograph Intention (1957). This book is regarded as the founding document of the field of action theory and it is an undisputed classic of 20th century philosophy. The American philosopher Donald Davidson has said that ‘Anscombe’s Intention is the most important treatment of action since Aristotle.’

The aim of Intention was to make plain the character of human action and will. Anscombe approaches the matter through the concept of intention, which, as she notes, has three modes of appearance in our language.

This book is also the classic source for the idea that there is a difference in ‘direction of fit’ between cognitive states like beliefs and conative states like desire.

Anscombe used the example of a shopping list to illustrate the difference. The list can be a straightforward observational report of what is actually bought (thereby acting like a cognitive state), or it can function as a conative state such as a command or desire, dictating what the agent should buy. If the agent fails to buy what is listed, we do not say that the list is untrue or incorrect; we say that the mistake is in the action, not the desire.

She held that Truman’s decision to drop atomic bombs on Japanese centres of civilian population had been a violation both of international law and of Christian teachings about justice in warfare. When the proposal for the honorary degree was put to the meeting of congregation Anscombe said ‘Non placet,’ the formula for voting No. Many dons had turned up for the vote and a large majority were in favour of giving the president his degree; Anscombe and three others voted against. The incident gained much publicity.

Among her articles, ‘Modern Moral Philosophy’ (1958) introduced the term ‘consequentialism’ and transformed 20th century moral philosophy by delivering a damaging blow to the utilitarianism that had until then reigned largely unquestioned.

This essay is credited with reviving interest in and study of virtue ethics in Western academic philosophy.

Her paper ‘The First Person’ buttressed remarks by Wittgenstein arguing for the now-notorious conclusion that the first-person pronoun, ‘I,’ does not refer to anything (not, for example, to the speaker) because of its immunity from reference failure. Having shown by counter-example that ‘I’ does not refer to the body, Anscombe objected to the implied Cartesianism of its referring at all.

Few people accept the conclusion – though the position was later adopted in a more radical form by David Lewis. But her paper was an important contribution to work on indexicals and self-consciousness that has been carried on by philosophers as varied as John Perry, Peter Strawson, David Kaplan, Gareth Evans, John McDowell, and Sebastian Rödl.

She edited or co-edited several volumes of selections from Wittgenstein’s notebooks, translating or co-translating many important works such as Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics (1956) and Wittgenstein’s ‘sustained treatment’ of GE Moore’s epistemology, On Certainty (1969).

Three volumes of collected papers were published in 1981: From Parmenides to Wittgenstein; Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Mind; and Ethics, Religion and Politics. A posthumous collection, Human Life, Action and Ethics was published in 2005.

As well as contributing to several volumes, such as New Essays on Plato and Aristotle (1965), she published various monographs, many influential articles, and seven books.

Anscombe made great contributions to ethics as well as metaphysics. She is credited with having coined the term ‘consequentialism.’

Hawkesyard Priory at Spode House, near Rugeley and Lichfield … Elizabeth Anscombe and Peter Geach took part in Father Columba Ryan’s Philosophical Enquiry Group in 1954-1974

Anscombe at Hawkesyard Priory

Anscombe was a close friend of Father Columba Ryan OP (1916-2009), the Dominican priest, philosopher, university chaplain and peace activist. Father Columba was born Patrick Ryan in Hampstead on 13 January 1916 into an Irish family, the second son of the Cork-born diplomat Sir Andrew Ryan (1876-1949).

Father Columba was teaching philosophy at the Dominican House of Studies at Hawkesyard Priory in Spode House, between Rugeley and Lichfield in Staffordshire, when he set up the Philosophical Enquiry Group in 1954.

This annual meeting for Catholic philosophers continued to took place at Spode House for 20 years, until 1974. Elizabeth Anscombe and Peter Geach were among the first philosophers invited to those gatherings at Spode House. They remained leading figures of the group for the 20 years it lasted. Other participants included Sir Anthony Kenny of Oxford and Herbert McCabe (1926-2001), editor of New Blackriars.

I knew Hawkesyard Priory and Spode House well in my late teens and early 20s, when the Philosophical Enquiry Group was still meeting there with Father Ryan and Elizabeth Anscombe. At the time, the Folk Masses in the priory chapel were popular with many of my friends from Rugeley, Brereton and Lichfield. But we were too young, or too immature, at that time to appreciate that we were in the company of some of the great minds of our time.

Ludwig Wittgenstein’s memorial in the chapel in Trinity College Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Elizabeth Anscome’s reputation and legacy

Anscombe’s writing is pure and concentrated, often making severe demands on her reader. A baffled reader might try reading her difficult passages aloud slowly in order to grasp them. According to a possibly apocryphal tale, she once said to AJ Ayer: ‘If you didn’t talk so quickly, people wouldn’t think you were so clever.’ To this, Ayer replied: ‘If you didn’t talk so slowly, people wouldn’t think you were so profound.’

Uncritical scholars who view such translation as mostly routine transposition not requiring creative philosophical ability are badly mistaken. When the text in question is by an author as deep and as passionately concerned with precise expression as Wittgenstein, the demands on the translator’s powers of expression and philosophical discernment are especially severe.

Anscombe combined her philosophy and her faith throughout her life. She wrote:

‘Analytical philosophy is more characterised by styles of argument and investigation than by doctrinal content. It is thus possible for people of widely different beliefs to be practitioners of this sort of philosophy. It ought not to surprise anyone that a seriously believing Catholic Christian should also be an analytical philosopher.’

Her own standards of rigour in argument and trenchancy of expression were uncommonly high even in a field that prizes those virtues. She also had a rare gift of drawing others into the projects on which she was working. Colleagues and students found themselves caught up in the excitement and difficulties of the problem or line of investigation then absorbing her energies.

A contributor to a Festschrift in her honour wrote: ‘Philosophy as she does it is fresh; her arguments take unexpected turns and make unexpected connections, and show always how much there is that had not been seen before.’ She had a knack of beginning with seemingly obvious remarks and proceeding by apparently simple steps to the nerve of deep problems and truths.

She also published articles brilliantly articulating and defending Catholic teachings, including ‘On Transubstantiation’ (1967), which explores the mysteries of the Eucharist, ‘Faith’ (1981), and ‘Contraception and Chastity’ (1974), which argues against contraception. She once declared, ‘You might as well accept any sexual goings-on, if you accept contraceptive intercourse.’

After the publication of her collected papers in 1981, Anscombe published a number of other notable papers, including a delightful syllabus of errors (‘Twenty Opinions Common Among Modern Anglo-American Philosophers’) in the proceedings of a Vatican conference (1986); bold reassessments of Saint Anselm’s 900-year-old ‘Ontological Argument,’ exploring interpretations under which it does not treat existence as a property and, thus, escapes Kant’s criticism (Thoreau Quarterly, 1985, and Philosophical Quarterly, 1993); and a searching, unsigned study of euthanasia and murder in the third chapter of the first part of Euthanasia, Clinical Practice, and the Law (1994).

Writing about her work on Anselm, Anscombe remarked she had ‘thought harder about Anselm’s argument than I did before. But I still think that I haven’t thought hard enough. I don’t know whether Anselm’s argument is valid or invalid – only that it is a great deal more interesting than its common interpretation makes it.’

Her work remains topical and relevant to today’s political debates in Britain and debates about war and ethics. In ‘The Source of the Authority of the State,’ Anscombe explores the state’s claim to exclusive authority over the exercise of deadly force and decides that the ground of this claim is the state’s assumption of a particular task, namely, the protection of the innocent from unjust attack. She concludes that deliberate killing of the innocent, the canonical case of murder, is something civil authority can never engage in or authorise.

She writes: ‘There is one consideration here which has something like the position of absolute zero or the velocity of light in current physics. It cannot possibly be an exercise of civic authority deliberately to kill or mutilate innocent subjects.’

Cardinal Seán Brady preached at Elizabeth Anscombe’s memorial service in the Church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Final years

In her later years, Anscombe suffered from heart disease, and she was almost killed in a car crash in 1996. She never fully recovered, and she spent her last years in the care of her family in Cambridge. She died of kidney failure in Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, on 5 January 2001. She was 81, and her husband and four of their seven children at her hospital bedside.

Her funeral Mass took place on 20 January in the Dominican chapel in Buckingham Road, Cambridge. She was buried in Saint Giles’s graveyard, Huntingdon Road, near her home, in a grave that is corner-to-corner with the plot where Wittgenstein had been buried half a century earlier.

Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh, delivered the homily at her memorial service in the Church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs, Hills Road, Cambridge, on 24 February 2001.

She was survived by her husband Peter Geach, seven children, Barbara, John, Mary, Charles, Jennifer, More, and Tamsin (all practicing Roman Catholics), ten grandchildren, and her brother Thomas.

Her elder twin brothers John and Tom were born in Llandudno in Wales during World War I, on 23 April 1915.

Captain John Allen Anscombe (1915-1944) was a captain in the South Staffordshire Regiment, and died in Burma on 21 April 1944, at the age of 28, a casualty of World War II.

The Revd Canon Thomas Anscombe (1915-2004), who died on 6 December 2004, was the Principal of Clifton Theological College, Bristol, in the 1950s and 1960s. It grew and flourished it those years, but he struggled with those who wanted to drive the Bristol colleges down a conservative and Reformed path. He had the courage to leave and return to parish ministry rather than yield what he believed to be in the best interests of the college.

What is Elizabeth Anscombe’s standing in the field of philosophy today?


What is Elizabeth Anscombe’s standing in the field of philosophy today?

Her progeny of former students and distinguished philosophers includes Nicholas Denyer, Sir Michael Dummett, Hidé Ishiguro, Sir Anthony Kenny, Anselm Müller, Thomas Nagel and Roger Scruton. Other distinguished philosophers who were not her students have acknowledged their indebtedness to her, including Donald Davidson, Philippa Foot and Iris Murdoch.

Candace Vogler says her ‘strength’ is that ‘when she is writing for [a] Catholic audience, she presumes they share certain fundamental beliefs,’ but she is equally willing to write for people who do not share her assumptions.’

Roger Scruton, whose PhD she co-supervised, has said that she was ‘perhaps the last great philosopher writing in English.’ Mary Warnock has described her as ‘the undoubted giant among women philosophers.’ John Haldane said she ‘certainly has a good claim to be the greatest woman philosopher of whom we know.’

So, this afternoon we remember a Limerick-born philosopher, Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe, who was baptised in this cathedral 100 years ago, and who is responsible for introducing Wittgenstein to the English-speaking world and, perhaps, for CS Lewis taking a new direction in his life that has given us the Chronicles of Narnia.

Elizabeth Anscombe was Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge from 1970 to 1986 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is priest-in-charge, the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes, Precentor of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, and former Adjunct Assistant Professor, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute and Trinity College Dublin.

The Synagogues of Dublin:
16, Leicester Avenue

The Dublin Jewish Progressive Synagogue at 7 Leicester Road, Rathgar … the foundation stone was laid in 1952 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

The Dublin Jewish Progressive Synagogue, Knesset Orach Chayim, at 7 Leicester Road, Rathgar, dates from 1946.

The proposal for a Liberal or Progressive Jewish congregation was first put forward by Lawrence Eleazar (Larry) Elyan (1902-1992), a civil servant from Cork. The first members included Dr Bethel Solomons (1885-1965), the Master of the Rotunda Hospital and a former Irish rugby international (1908-1910), who became the congregation’s first president; Professor Mervyn Abrahamson, of the Royal College of Surgeons; Abraham Jacob (Con) Leventhal (1896-1979), Lecturer in French at TCD and a friend of Samuel Beckett, and who interviewed James Joyce in Paris on the day of the publication of Ulysses; and Dr Ernst Schreyer, a prominent lawyer in Germany before World War II, who taught German at TCD.

Dr Hans Waldemar Rosen (1904-1994), the conductor of the RTÉ Singers, was the congregation’s organist for more than 40 years, although he was not Jewish himself.

The congregation was formed at the same time as a new Orthodox congregation was worshipping nearby, first at 6 Grosvenor Place (1936-1940), and later at 52 Grosvenor Road (1940-1948), before moving to Rathfarnham Road, Terenure, in 1948.

The first meetings of this congregation were held in a Quaker meeting house until 1952, when the foundation stone of the new synagogue in Leicester Avenue was consecrated. The synagogue is beside the Church of the Three Patrons in Rathgar.

This was a good time for Dublin’s Progressive Jews, with the numbers of children in religion classes rising to 55 by 1956.

The first cantor was the Revd D. Friedmann, from about 1946 to about 1948, and the minister from 1948 to 1951 was Rabbi Dr Jakob Jankel Kokotek.

Rabbi Kokotek was born in Bedzin, Poland, on 22 June 1911, and was brought up in Germany. After arriving in England as a refugee, he served as rabbi and minister of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, St John’s Wood (1941-1945) and Southgate and Enfield Progressive Synagogue, now Southgate Progressive Synagogue (1946-1948), before coming to Dublin in 1948.

Later, he served at Liverpool Liberal Synagogue, Hope Place (1951-1956), and the New Jewish Liberal Association, later known as Belsize Square Synagogue (1956-1979). He died on 10 September 1979.

The last resident rabbi left in 1972.

Rabbi Dr Charles Middleburgh has served the congregation part-time since 2005. He was the founder rabbi of Congregation Shir HaTzaphon in Copenhagen and later he was Dean and Director of Jewish Studies at the Leo Baeck College, London. He was the rabbi of Wembley and District Liberal Synagogue, now the Mosaic Liberal Synagogue (1983-1997).

Rabbi Emeritus Charles Middleburgh remains a frequent visitor to the synagogue.

The Aron haKodesh or Holy Ark in the Dublin Jewish Progressive Synagogue (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Since its foundation, the congregation has been based on values of inclusivity and the practice of Liberal Judaism. Membership is open to all Jews, and the participation of non-Jewish spouses or partners in the life of the congregation is welcomed. The synagogue has a reputation for providing a warm welcome at its services.

Services are held every Erev Shabbat, on High Holy Days and the Festivals, and on many Shabbat mornings. Frequent family services are also held as are special events marking key milestones in Jewish life – births, Bar and Bat Mitzvah, Kabbalat Torah, weddings and anniversaries.

Jacqueline Solomon, a founder member of the synagogue, celebrated her bat mitzvah 10 years ago at the age of 82, when the service was led by Rabbi Middleburgh.

DJPC celebrated its 70th anniversary in May 2016 with a gala dinner and a weekend of services and events, attended by representatives of many traditions, including Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop Michael Jackson, and leaders of the Romanian Orthodox, Unitarian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Bahá’í communities.

The shul is an international partner in Mitzvah Day UK and members are involved in a wide variety of Irish interfaith and other local cross-community activities. This was one of the synagogues I frequently visited with students when I was teaching the module on Liturgy on the MTh course at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. Earlier, as a young teenager, I passed this synagogue regularly, visiting an uncle who lived around the corner, and in my late teens visited here for Kol Nidre night.

Cheder is held on Sunday mornings during school term for the children of members. In addition to teaching Hebrew and Bible studies along with Jewish customs and practices, there is a variety of outings and special events for the pupils and their families.

Each year some of the older youth and young adults attend Jewish camps organised by Liberal Judaism in Britain, Europe and Israel. The synagogue is a constituent community of Liberal Judaism, formerly known as the Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues (ULPS). I continue to use the ULPS frequently in my personal, daily prayers.

The congregation has its own cemetery in Woodtown, near Rathfarnham, established in 1952.

Inside the Dublin Jewish Progressive Synagogue with students on the liturgy module at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Tomorrow 17, Rathfarnham Road, Terenure

Yesterday 15, Grosvenor Road

Monday, 14 October 2019

A rainy afternoon at
Saint Michael’s Mount
and Marazion in Cornwall

St Michael’s Mount, the small tidal island in Mount’s Bay, has become the picture postcard image of Cornwall (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

During my few days in Cornwall last week, one of the most spectacular sights I visited was St Michael’s Mount, the small tidal island in Mount’s Bay that has become the picture postcard image of Cornwall.

We had travelled the short distance around Mount’s Bay from Penzance to the small coastal town of Marazion. The blue skies and sunshine we had enjoyed earlier in the day at St Ive’s had turned to grey, the seas had turned from blue to green, and the waves were beginning to churn up.

As the rain threatened, St Michael’s Mount was covered in a slight haze that made it difficult to photograph. By then, there was a high tide, and there was no possibility of walking across from Marazion to St Michael’s Mount along the man-made causeway of granite setts that makes it accessible on foot between mid-tide and low water.

This is one of the 18 unbridged tidal islands in England – others include Lindisfarne – that it is possible to walk to from the mainland. However, the tides and waves put an end to any notions we had of being able to walk across on Thursday afternoon.

Instead, we walked along the shore, enjoying the spectacular sight, and continued to enjoy the view of St Michael’s Mount, with its castle and former Benedictine abbey, from the terraces at the Godolphin Arms Hotel.

A walk along the beach at Marazion (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

St Michael’s Mount is the Cornish counterpart of Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy. They share the same tidal island characteristics have a similar conical shape. However, St Michael’s Mount, at 57 acres, is much smaller than Mont St Michel, with 247 acres.

The Cornish language name Karrek Loos yn Koos – ‘the grey rock in a wood’ – may represent a folk memory of a time before Mount’s Bay was flooded, when the mount was set in woodland.

The island was formed when the hazel wood in Mount’s Bay was submerged ca 1700 BC. Some writers suggest the Mount could be the island of Ictis, described as a tin trading centre by the Sicilian-Greek historian Diodorus Siculus in his Bibliotheca Historica in the first century BC.

According to legend, the island sits on the site of the cave that was the home of Cormoran, an 18-ft giant with an appetite for cattle and children and who terrorised local people. Jack, the young son of a local farmer, killed the giant by trapping him in a concealed pit and bringing down his axe on his head. And so the legend developed of ‘Jack the Giant Killer.’

Local lore also says the Archangel Michael appeared before local fishermen on the Mount in the 5th century AD. St Michael’s Mount may have been the site of a monastery from the 8th to the early 11th centuries. One of the earliest references to the mount is in the mid-11th century, when it was ‘Sanctus Michael beside the sea.’

Saint Michael’s Mount seen from the terrace of the Godolphin Arms Hotel on a winter-like October afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Before the Norman invasion of England, King Edward the Confessor (1042-1066) gave the monastery and the island to the Benedictines of Mont Saint-Michel at Looe Island, also dedicated to the Archangel Michael.

The island became a place of pilgrimage, and pilgrims were further encouraged by an indulgence granted by Pope Gregory in the 11th century. The earliest monastic buildings on the summit and the castle, date from the 12th century. Chapel Rock, on the beach, marks the site of a shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary, where pilgrims paused to pray before ascending the Mount.

Sir Henry de la Pomeroy captured the Mount on behalf of Prince John in 1193, during the reign of King Richard I. But St Michael’s Mount remained a priory of the abbey in Normandy until ‘alien priories’ in England were dissolved houses by Henry V during the Hundred Years’ War.

Henry V gave St Michael’s Mount to the Abbess and Convent of Syon at Isleworth, a monastery of the Bridgettine Order, at its foundation in 1415. However, Henry VI bestowed the mount on King’s College, Cambridge, at its foundation in 1441. But when Edward IV became king during the Wars of the Roses, the mount was returned to Syon Abbey in 1462.

The chapel of Saint Michael, a 15th-century building, has an embattled tower, one angle of which is a small turret that served guide ships.

John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford, seized and held the Mount during a siege of 23 weeks against 6,000 troops loyal to Edward IV. Later, Perkin Warbeck, a Yorkist pretender to the throne, occupied the Mount in 1497.

Sir Humphrey Arundell, Governor of St Michael’s Mount, led the ‘Prayer Book Rebellion,’ a popular revolt against the imposition of the English language, in 1549. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the Mount was given to Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury. His son sold it to Sir Francis Bassett.

John Milton used the Mount as the setting for the finale of his poem Lycidas’ in 1637. He drew on the traditional sea-lore that said the Archangel Michael sat in a great stone chair at the top of the Mount, seeing far over the sea and protecting England.

During the Civil War, Sir Arthur Bassett, brother of Sir Francis, held the Mount against the Parliament until July 1646. The Mount was sold in to Colonel John St Aubyn in 1659.

Until the early 18th century, that there were a few fishermen’s cottages on the shore. After improvements to the harbour in 1727, St Michael’s Mount flourished as a port.

Following the Lisbon earthquake in 1755, a tsunami to hit the coast of over 1,600 km away. The sea rose 2 metres in 10 minutes at St Michael’s Mount, ebbed at the same rate, and continued to rise and fall for five hours.

The structure of the castle was romanticised in the 18th and 19th centuries.

There were 53 houses and four streets on the Mount by 1811. The pier was extended in 1821 and the population peaked that year, when the island had 221 people. There were three schools, a Wesleyan chapel, and three public houses, mostly used by visiting sailors.

The harbour was enlarged in 1823 to accommodate vessels of up to 500 tonnes deadweight, and Queen Victoria disembarked from the royal yacht at St Michael’s Mount in 1846, and a brass inlay of her footstep can be seen at the top of the landing stage.

The architect James Piers St Aubyn (1815-1895) made additions to the South Court for his cousin, Sir John St Aubyn, in 1850. But the village went into decline following major improvements to nearby Penzance harbour and the extension of the railway to Penzance in 1852, and many of the houses and buildings were demolished, although a short underground, narrow gauge railway was built in Victorian times.

The causeway linking the Mount and Marazion was improved in 1879 by raising it by 30 cm with sand and stones from the surrounding area. Several houses are built on the hillside facing Marazion. Elizabeth Terrace, a row of eight houses at the back of the village, was built in 1885.

In the late 19th century the remains of an anchorite were found in a tomb inside the domestic chapel.

The Mount was fortified during World War II. The former Nazi Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, frequently visited Cornwall when he was Ambassador to London and planned to live at the Mount after a German conquest.

Saint Michael’s Mount seen through the side streets of Marazion (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Mount’s Bay stretches from the Lizard Point to Gwennap Head. In winter, onshore gales present maritime risks, and there are more than 150 known wrecks from the 19th century in the area.

The town of Marazion (population 1,440) on the shore of Mount’s Bay is 3 km east of Penzance and is a thriving tourist resort with an active community of artists.

At an early period, this was a centre for tin smelting, and Marazion prospered because of the pilgrims who visited St Michael’s Mount until the Reformation.

Although Marazion was not recorded in the Domesday Book in 1088, William the Conqueror’s half-brother, Robert, Count of Mortain and Earl of Cornwall, granted lands and liberties to St Michael’s Mount opposite Marazion, with a market on Thursdays.

The King’s Arms in the Market Place in Marazion (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

These markets were known as Marghasbighan (Parvum Forum or ‘small marketplace’) and Marghasyewe (Forum Jovis, ‘Thursday Market’ or ‘Marketjew’). The names Marketjew and Marazion have given rise to erroneous stories about Jewish origins for the town. Three fairs were also held, on the two feasts of Saint Michael and at Mid-Lent, and the Priors of St Michael’s Mount held three markets. Later, markets were held on Mondays, with a three-day fair on the vigil, feast and morrow of Saint Andrew at ‘Marghasyon.’

Marazion was plundered twice in the first half of the 16th century, first by the French and later by Cornish rebels.

Queen Elizabeth granted Marazion a charter of incorporation in 1595. The corporation consisted of a mayor, eight aldermen and 12 capital burgesses.

As neighbouring Penzance developed as a borough, Marazion was eclipsed in the 17th century marginalised Marazion. A new parish church, All Saints’ Church, was designed for Marazion in 1861. He had been involved in earlier designs for the castle on Mount St Michael, and he was the architect of the parish church in the village of Saint Agnes.

The corporation was dissolved in 1835. From 1894 to 1974, Marazion was part of West Penwith Rural District and then from 1974 part of Penwith District Council. Marazion regained its town status in 1974, with the right to elect a Mayor from the Marazion Town Council.

In The Square in the centre of Marazion (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Meanwhile, Francis Cecil St Aubyn (1895-1978), who succeeded as 3rd Baron St Levan in 1940, gave most of St Michael’s Mount to the National Trust in 1954, along with a large endowment fund. The St Aubyn family retained a 999-year lease to inhabit the castle and a licence to manage the public viewing of its historic rooms. This is managed in conjunction with the National Trust.

Today, St Michael’s Mount is managed by the National Trust, but the castle remains the home of the St Aubyn family and Lord St Levan. For local government purposes, St Michael’s Mount forms its own civil parish, with a parish meeting chaired by Lord St Levan. The chapel is extra-diocesan and continues to serve the Order of St John by permission of Lord St Levan.

Part of the island was designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1995 for its geology. The east side of the bay centred around Marazion and St Michael’s Mount was designated as a Marine Conservation Zone in January 2016.

A small cottage near the Marketplace in Marazion (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The Synagogues of Dublin:
15, Grosvenor Road

There was a synagogue at 52 Grosvenor Road from 1940 to 1948, when the congregation moved to Rathfarnham Road, Terenure (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

The synagogue on Rathfarnham Road, Terenure, dates back to 1936, when a meeting was called on 26 September 1936 to discuss providing a new synagogue for members of the Jewish community in Dublin who had moved out to suburbs such as Rathgar, Rathmines, and Terenure.

The larger synagogues at Adelaide Road and Greenville Hall on South Circular Road, and the smaller synagogues in the ‘Little Jerusalem’ area between South Circular Road and Portobello, were no longer within the 1 km walking distance of those suburbs on the Sabbath.

At first, the congregation rented rooms from 1936 at 6 Grosvenor Place, Rathmines, a large Victorian suburban house in a residential area close to Rathmines and Rathgar and just off Kenilworth Square.

However, the rented rooms were too small for the new congregation, and in April 1940 they bought another house nearby, at 52 Grosvenor Road with a loan from the Provincial Bank. The small synagogue at 6 Grosvenor Place may have been one of the shortest-living synagogues in Jewish history in Dublin.

The houses on Grosvenor Road were designed and built by Edward Henry Carson (father of Sir Edward Carson), George Palmer Beater, and the brothers James and William Beckett – William Beckett was the grandfather of Samuel Beckett.

But this terrace of houses on Grosvenor Road was designed by the architect Alfred Gresham Jones (1824-1915). It has been described by Jeremy Williams in his book, Architecture in Ireland 1830-1921, as ‘the most ambitious Gothic Revival speculative terrace built in the Dublin suburbs.’

Jones also designed Mytilene, the house that is now the French embassy on Ailesbury Road, Merrion Hall (now the Davenport Hotel), Wesley College on Saint Stephen’s Green, Saint Paul’s Church, Glenageary, Saint Barnabas Church, North Lotts, Tullow Parish Church in Carrickmines, the Dublin Exhibition Palace and the Winter Garden on Earlsfort Terrace, and the Methodist Churches in Athlone, Bray, Sandymount, and rebuilt Holy Trinity Church, Rathmines.

The Winter Garden was an ambitious project that included heated winter gardens. All that remain of this incredible structure, known as the Crystal Palace, are a few statues and rustic grotto in what are now the Iveagh Gardens, the original site of the palace.

For reasons unknown, Jones and his family – at the height of his prolific career in Dublin – emigrated to Australia in 1888, where he established an architectural practice and wrote poetry.

However, the Rathmines congregation did not stay for long at 52 Grosvenor Road. At Rosh Hashanah in 1948, they moved to a Nissen hut at ‘Leoville,’ opposite the Classic Cinema on Rathfarnham Road in Terenure.

If the small synagogue that was housed at 6 Grosvenor Place from 1936 to 1940 was the shortest-living synagogues in Jewish history in Dublin, then the synagogue at 52 Grosvenor Road from 1940 to 1948 may have been the second shortest-living synagogue in Dublin.

The house was bought by the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, which in turn sold it as a parish centre to the Roman Catholic Parish of the Three Patrons in Rathgar. No 52 Grosvenor Road was bought with a loan of £2,000 (€2,500).

Today, the parish youth club has priority for the use of the centre, but it is also used for religious instruction classes and for parish organisations and outreach activities.

The terrace of houses at Grosvenor Road was designed by the architect Alfred Gresham Jones (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Tomorrow: 16,, Leicester Avenue Synagogue

Yesterday: 14, Grosvenor Place Synagogue

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Sukkot remembers how
God’s ‘providence upheld
us in our wanderings’

‘In the mornings, when it is not raining, I sit here and watch the morning light move across the valley’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During the High Holy Days in the Jewish Calendar this year, I have been posting blog-postings each morning on the synagogues of Dublin.

The Festival of Sukkot this year begins at sundown this evening [Sunday 13 October 2019] and continues until sundown next Sunday [20 October]. The conclusion of Sukkot marks the beginning of the separate holidays of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.

Sukkot (סוכות or סֻכּוֹת, sukkot or sukkos), the Festival of Tabernacles or Feast of Booths, is also known as the Festival of Ingathering (חג האסיף, Chag HaAsif) and in some translations the Festival of Shelters.

This Festival is mentioned in Exodus as agricultural in nature – ‘Festival of Ingathering at the year’s end’ (see Exodus 34: 22) – and it marks the end of the harvest time and of the agricultural year in the Land of Israel. A more elaborate religious significance in Leviticus describes the Exodus and the dependence of the People on the will of God (see Leviticus 23: 42-43).

This Biblical holiday celebrated on the 15th day of the month of Tishrei, usually between late September and late October. It is one of the three biblically mandated festivals when Jews were expected to undertake a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem, along with Passover and Shavuot.

In the times of the Temple in Jerusalem, Sukkot was also the time of a water-drawing ceremony, a joyous and upbeat celebration. It is celebrated today with its own customs and practices.

The holiday lasts seven days in Israel and eight in the diaspora. The first day (and the second day in the diaspora) is a Shabbat-like holiday when work is forbidden. This is followed by intermediate days called Chol Hamoed, when some work is allowed. The festival closes with another Shabbat-like holiday called Shemini Atzeret, and the second day is called Simchat Torah [22 October 2019] in the diaspora.

It is traditional in Jewish families and homes to mark this festival by building a sukkah or a temporary hut to dwell in during the holiday. The customs include buying a lulav and etrog and shake them daily throughout the festival.

A sukkah is a temporary dwelling in which farmers once lives during the harvest. Today, it is also a reminder of the type of the fragile dwellings in which the people lived during their 40 years wandering through the wilderness after fleeing slavery in Egypt.

A meditation on Sukkot in Service of the Heart, a prayer book I use regularly in my daily prayers and meditations, offers this Kiddush for welcoming Sukkot, composed by Rabbi Sidney Brichto (1936-2009), a Jewish authority on both the Old Testament and New Testament and translator of the People’s Bible:

‘The Festival of Sukkot teaches us to give thanks to God for the harvest of fruit and grain and to share these and all nature’s blessings with our fellow men.

‘Let us praise God with this symbol of joy and thank him for his providence which has upheld us in our wanderings and sustained us with nature’s bounty from year to year. May our worship lead us to live this day and all days in the spirit of this Festival of Sukkot with trust in God’s care, with thanksgiving for his goodness, and with determination that all men shall enjoy the blessings of the earth.’

Throughout the holiday, meals are eaten inside the sukkah and some people even sleep there as well.

On each day of the holiday it is mandatory to perform a waving ceremony with the Four Species or specified plants: citrus trees, palm trees, thick or leafy trees and willows.

Prayers during Sukkot include reading the Torah every day, the Mussaf or additional service after morning prayers, reciting Hallel, and adding special additions to the Amidah and Grace after Meals.

On each day of Sukkot, worshippers walk around the synagogue carrying the Four Species while saying special prayers known as Hoshanot. This ceremony commemorates the willow ceremony at the Temple in Jerusalem, in which willow branches were piled beside the altar with worshippers parading around the altar reciting prayers.

Another custom is to recite the ushpizin prayer to invite one of seven ‘exalted guests’ into the sukkah. These ushpizin or guests represent the seven shepherds of Israel: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David. According to tradition, each night a different guest enters the sukkah followed by the other six. Each of the ushpizin has a unique lesson that teaches the parallels of the spiritual focus of the day on which they visit.

‘Sometimes I sing the psalms of Hallel. Sometimes I sip coffee’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

On her blog Velveteen Rabbi, Rabbi Rachel Barenblat shared this poem for Sukkot last year [29 September 2018]:

Small scenes from a sukkah

I got a new sukkah this year.
A simple white metal frame.
Three canvas walls with windows in them.
Cornstalks overhead, twined with autumnal garlands.

In the mornings, when it is not raining, I sit here
and watch the morning light move across the valley.
Sometimes I sing the psalms of Hallel.
Sometimes I sip coffee.

During the afternoon I listen to the wind rustle the cornstalks
and the tinsel garlands overhead.
Every now and then I listen to a small plane overhead,
or a flock of geese.

As afternoon gives way to evening,
the sky goes through its rapid costume change.
If I’m paying attention at the right moment
I can see it happen.

Once evening falls
the sukkah gleams
on my mirpesset,
a little house filled with light.

‘The sukkah gleams … a little house filled with light’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

When the quality of
mercy is not strained
in an in-between land

James Tissot (1836-1902), ‘The Healing of Ten Lepers’ (‘Guérison de dix lépreux’), 1886-1896, Brooklyn Museum

Patrick Comerford

Sunday, 13 October 2019

The Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XVII).

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

The Readings: Jeremiah 29: 1, 4-7; Psalm 66: 1-11; II Timothy 2: 8-15; Luke 17: 11-19. There is a link to the readings HERE.

‘Be joyful in God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; sing the glory of his praise’ (Psalm 66: 1) … the River Deel at the Deel Boat Club near Askeaton, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

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

This morning’s Gospel reading provides many opportunities for many sermons on faith and healing, inclusion and exclusion, how Christ meets our every need, how we need conversion, on the connection between healing of the body and healing of the soul, perhaps even on the value of good manners and learning to say thank you.

Some parishes are going to hear about one Samaritan who returns and says thank you. Others may hear about nine other lepers who did exactly as they were told, went and showed themselves to the priests, received a clean bill of health and were restored to their rightful place in the community of faith.

But which is the greatest miracle for you: the healing of these 10 people? Or their restoration to their rightful places in the community of faith?

Perhaps it is worth noting that it is the 10 men, not Christ, who keep their distance on the outskirts of the village, because they are forced to behave this way, to be marginalised and to live on the margins.

Christ keeps his distance, as might be expected. Yet, from that distance, he sees. Many Bibles have verse 14 to say that ‘he saw them.’ But the Greek says simply, καὶ ἰδὼν, ‘and having seen,’ without any object, there is no ‘them.’

For Christ, we are not mere objects; and for Christ there is no ‘us’ and ‘them.’ He sees the future without the limits of the present.

This is a story about trusting in God’s plans for the future, rather than living in the past, living with the fears of the present, living without hope for the future … precisely the context for the urgings and exhortations to the exiles by the Prophet Jeremiah in the Old Testament reading (Jeremiah 29: 1, 4-7), precisely the hope the Apostle Paul has for Saint Timothy in the epistle reading (II Timothy 2: 8-15).

But we foil those plans, we quench those hopes, we continue to live in the past, when we continue to limit Christ’s saving powers with our own limitations, continue to look at him with our own limited vision.

Christ sees … sees it as it is in the present, and as it could be in the future.

Perhaps that is why Saint Luke has placed this story in a location that is an in-between place, the region between Galilee and Samaria. The place between Galilee and Samaria is neither one nor the other, neither this earthly existence nor what the future holds, but still on the way to Jerusalem.

Even the village here is not named.

We should not forget that not one but 10 were healed. Christ does good – even to those who will not be thankful.

And even then, we do not know why the other nine did not return to say thanks. It took an eight-day waiting process for a person with leprosy to be declared clean by the priests.

After those eight days, did they then go and give thanks to God in their local synagogues?

Did they first breathe sighs of relief and return to the families they loved but had been isolated from for so long?

Did they return to that unnamed village, and find that 10 days later Jesus had moved on … the next named place we find him in is Jericho (see Luke 19: 110, the Fourth Sunday before Advent, 3 November 2019)?

Surely Christ does good without expecting a thanks that comes straight from some Victorian book on good manners.

How often when we give a gift to someone do we want to control how they use it?

I give a Christmas or birthday gift, and then I am upset when they do not like it, when they trade it in for something else, or pass it on to someone else, or simply just never say thank you or acknowledge what I have done for them.

But who was the gift supposed to benefit: me as the giver, or you as the receiver? What was it a token of: my love for you, or my need for you to acknowledge how important I am to you?

A begrudging attitude to how others receive and use the gifts I give, or taking offence when I feel they have not thanked me enough, amount to a passive aggressive attitude on my part, a desire to control. If we give gifts only to be thanked, are we truly generous?

And if I only say thank you so I remain in someone else’s esteem, perhaps even to be rewarded again, to be kept on their invitation list, am I truly grateful?

Christ is not passively aggressive in this story. He is not seeking to control. He sends the 10 on their way … and they go. If he had expected them to return, he would not have been surprised that one returned; he would have waited around in that unnamed village until the other nine had time to make their humble ways back there to thank him.

Instead, it is more important what Christ frees them for, and where he frees them.

He frees them to regain their place in the community, in the social, economic and religious community that is their rightful place.

For the Samaritan, his ‘faith has made him well’: ἡπίστις σου σέσωκέν σε, or, more accurately, your faith has saved you, rescued you, restored you. The word σῴζω is all about being saved, rescued, restored, ransomed, and not just about regaining health and physical well-being.

That land between Samaria and Galilee is where we find Christ today. The in-between place, the nowhere land, the place where people need to be saved, rescued, restored, ransomed.

We all find ourselves in the in-between place, the nowhere land … to borrow a phrase from TS Eliot, wandering in the ‘Waste Land.’

Perhaps, just for one moment, it is possible to imagine that Christ has arrived in that particular in-between place for a reason. For the land between Samaria and Galilee is neither one place nor the other.

And that in-between place is a place where I might find myself unsure of who belongs and who does not, where I might be uncertain, untrusting, even frightened and afraid. It is a place where the usual rules may not apply, where I do not know my place, where I do not fit in, where I appear not as the person God see as the true me, but as others want to see me.

This is the place where Christ is travelling through in this Gospel story. It seems to me that I am often travelling in that place every day, today.

It is difficult travelling in this in-between land. When we realise we are there, then it may be easier to identify with the 10 Lepers, cast out into the in-between land, not knowing where to go, rather than with those who appear certain about where they are going.

When we get to where you are going, we should remember how we feel about the present unknown, whether it is fear – ‘I will show you fear in a handful of dust’ – whether it is trepidation, anticipation, or joy that is tinged with all of these, in this in-between time, this nowhere place.

Shakespeare reminds us, in the words of Portia in The Merchant of Venice,

The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
… (The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene 1)

These 10 lepers were cut off from all they knew and loved, all the certainties they once enjoyed or took for granted.

And when we move from an in-between place and nowhere land, we should not hold back from the call to join the task of cleansing, healing, restoration. We do it not for ‘Thank Yous’ and plaudits. It is not about you, it is not all about me.

Indeed, it is not this one man’s thanks that is important, but that his thanks is expressed in turning around, conversion, and praising God, bowing down before Christ as his Master and as the Lord God.

Martin Luther was once asked to describe the nature of true worship. His answer was the tenth leper turning back.

Christ invites us into that region between Samaria and Galilee, that space between wrong-doing and right-doing, between them and us – and bids us find our healing and salvation – and theirs. And in doing that we find ourselves engaged, quite naturally, in true worship. And in Christ we realise that there is no us and them – there is only us.

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

As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him … they called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ (Luke 17: 12-13)

Luke 17: 11-19 (NRSVA):

11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13 they called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ 14 When he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ 19 Then he said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.’

The ‘Leper’s Squint’ and the Arthur Memorial behind the organ in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Liturgical Colour: Green (Ordinary Time)

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty God,
you have made us for yourself,
and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you:
Teach us to offer ourselves to your service,
that here we may have your peace,
and in the world to come may see you face to face;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Collect of the Word:

O God,
you have made heaven and earth
and all that is good:
help us to delight in simple things
and to rejoice always
in the riches of your bounty;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

‘Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David – that is my gospel’ (II Timothy 2: 8) … the icon cross in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)


59, New every morning is the love (CD 59);
596, Seek ye first the Kingdom of God (CD 34);
81, Lord, for the years (CD 5).

‘Be joyful in God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; sing the glory of his praise’ (Psalm 66: 1) … at the mouth of the river in Messonghi, Corfu (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

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.

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.