Friday, 22 February 2019

Childhood memories and
suburban Jewish life in
Terenure and Rathfarnham

A dinner in Terenure this week brought back memories of a childhood move to Rathfarnham Road in 1960 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford
Four of us were at a family dinner in Bellagio, an Italian restaurant in Terenure, on Wednesday night. It was one of those dinners that was a late but long-promised celebration of birthdays, anniversaries and a much delayed Christmas get-together.

Inevitably, when families get together, we remember the houses we grew up and the houses we moved to or lived in as children.

We were just 500 metres from the house on Rathfarnham Road that I remember as one of the happy and secure homes in my childhood. I have clear memories of the move from No 9 Arbutus Avenue in Harold’s Cross to No 104 Rathfarnham Road.

But was it 1961 or 1960?

The details of that move are so clear in my memory that the memories of moving house in south Dublin in the mid-1990s have come back in emotional torrents at different times. As my sons ran around an empty house, discussing in a very boyish way who would have which room, and as I listened to their running steps on the bare floorboards above, I recalled my own awe-filled impressions of that house.

But on Wednesday night I came to figure out the year that move had taken place. We finally settled on 1960, which explained why I had returned to the Comerford family that summer, when I went with them on holidays that summer to a house in Kilcoole, Co Wicklow.

It must have been a very vivid year for a boy of my age, shaping memories for the man of the future. I recall not only my interest in the Rome Olympics that summer, but also how I found my own space, distancing myself from a family that seemed strange and different, and finding my own, independent reading that filled many of those days when I felt alone, different and estranged: the King James Version of the Bible, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, and the novels of Robert Louis Stevenson, including Kidnapped and Treasure Island.

But this week’s dinner brought me back to that house on Rathfarnham Road. I had been born a few doors away, in No 28, a house between the Laundry and the Synagogue, and across the road from the Classic Cinema.

Nos 2 to 142 on the east side of Rathfarnham Road and Nos 1 (the Bank of Ireland) to No 75 on the west side were listed in Terenure, while Nos 144 to 200 were in Rathfarnham.

No 14-18 was the Terenure Laundry, later the premises of the Sunday World and is now Lidl.

Across the street were Terenure Library (Nos 11-13), the Classic Cinema in the former tram station (No 17), and Rathfarnham War Memorial Hall (No 39). The Revd George S Nowlan lived in Rathfarnham Rectory at No 41 – his son, Dr David Nowlan, was later a colleague on the staff of The Irish Times.

Terenure Synagogue, Rathfarnham Road ... I was born a few doors away in 1952 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Synagogue at No 32-34 Rathfarnham dates back to a meeting in 1936, when it was agreed to set up a synagogue in the Rathmines, Rathgar or Terenure area to cater for families in those areas who found it was too far to walk to the synagogues on Adelaide Road or at Greenville Hall on the South Circular Road.

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

At Rosh Hashanah 1948, the congregation moved from Rathmines to a Nissen hut in the grounds of ‘Leoville’ on Rathfarnham Road, bought a few years earlier for £1,490 on behalf of the congregation by Woulfe Freedman and Erwin Goldwater.

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

In typical Dublin wit, some members of the Adelaide Road synagogue referred to the new synagogue opposite the Classic Cinema as the ‘cinema-gogue.’

The synagogue was supported by or attracted a number of Jewish families to this part of Terenure and Rathfarnham, including the Leon, Citron, Lazarus, Gafson, Khan and Davis families who lived on Rathfarnham Road.

The Kerr family moved from No 9 Arbutus Avenue in Harold’s Cross to No 104 Rathfarnham Road in 1960. I can still remember the names of some of the families who were neighbours on Arbutus Avenue, including the Dormer and Byrne families.

No 104 Rathfarnham Road had been the home of Samuel Rosenthal and his family. As I recall running around the empty house, and hearing the sound of my footsteps on the bare floorboards upstairs, I also recall where the mezuzot had been hung at tilted angles on the right-hand doorposts at adult shoulder-height, and in my mind’s eye I can still see the double sink in the kitchen meeting kosher requirement to separate cutlery, crockery and utensils for meat and milk produce.

Samuel Rosenthal and his wife Rosie had established the ‘Modern Pharmacy’ as a family business at 6 Merrion Row in the 1920s. Ray Rivlin, in Jewish Ireland tells how Sam Rosenthal was born in Cork in 1894, and first worked as a pharmacist with Hayes, Cunningham and Robinson, and fell in love with 20-year-old Rosie Isaacson when he saw her photographed.

They married in 1923, and opened their ‘Modern Pharmacy’ that year, dispensing a wide variety of cures for ailments from Rosenthal’s Cough Balsam and Rosenthal’s Corn Cure to his own unique cure for a hangover – in the words of Hugh Leonard a combination of a ‘telling off’ and a pink mixture that tasted ‘like drinking sand’ but that ‘did the trick.’

In his book Jewish Dublin, the late Asher Benson recalls how the Rosenthal daughters, Sonia Patt and Audrey Sless, remembered their father as ‘a humanitarian,’ not only a chemist but considered by many customers – from Leeson Street, Baggot Street and Ely Place – as their doctor, his advice available for the modest sum of ‘tuppence in the poor box on the way out.’

Sam Rosenthal was also a peace commission (PC). Asher Benson lists a clientele that included Mr Justice Reddin, the then Archbishop of Dublin, the artist Louis le Brocquy, Captan Hepburn, father of the actress Aubrey Hepburn, Hugh Leonard, Professor Abrahamson, Harry Wine, and Míchéal Mac Liammóir and Hilton Edwards.

The ‘Modern Pharmacy’ continued until 1964, when Sam Rosenthal moved to the Harcourt Street Pharmacy, which finally closed in 1969.

In the 1960s, our other interesting neighbours on Rathfarnham Road included Colonel JJ Burke-Gaffney (96), who had been decorated with the Military Cross (MC), at least three doctors – Dr Joseph Davis (No 48), Dr George Donald (No 71) and Dr Richard Brady (No 94) – and the Revd Johnstone Hunter (No 116) of Centenary Methodist Church, beside Wesley College on Saint Stephen’s Green.

As we came out of Bellagio into the night air in Terenure on Wednesday, I realised we were just across the street from one of Dublin’s almost-unknown synagogues, the Machzikei haDas, at Rathmore Villas, behind Terenure Road North, which moved in April 1968 from an older synagogue at Saint Kevin’s Parade off Clanbrassil Street, in the ‘Little Jerusalem’ area of Portobello in Dublin.

In recent months, I have been visiting synagogues and former synagogues in Porto, Prague, Venice, Tangier, Seville, Berlin, Chania, Thessaloniki, London and Limerick. But I realised this week that are many synagogues and former synagogues in Dublin that are part of my childhood story and that I need to reacquaint myself with.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the beginning of World War II. With antisemitism on the rise throughout Europe, and one of the causes of this week’s rupture in the Labour Party in Britain, it is important that we continue to remember and to tell the stories of these communities, and that we should never forget.

Stars of David in the darkness of the night at the synagogue on Rathfarnham Road in Dublin ... the spirituality that sustained a people and a faith through the dark night of the Holocaust is rich, deep and profound (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Thursday, 21 February 2019

An insight into the role
of the Comerford family in
late mediaeval Waterford

Ornamentation in ‘The Great Parchment Book of Waterford’ recording James Walsh as Mayor of Waterford and Patrick Comerford as bailiff in 1575

Patrick Comerford

I think we all find it fascinating to find our own names on someone else’s gravestone or memorial, to find that other people with the same name want to be friends on Facebook, or to find our names in a footnote or in the index of a book.

I was browsing through the local history section in the Book Centre in Wexford last month [18 January 2019] when I came across The Great Parchment Book of Waterford, Liber Antiquissimus Civitatis Waterfordiae, edited by Niall J Byrne and published in Dublin by the Irish Manuscripts Commission in 2013.

I have written on many occasions in the past about the contribution of members of the Comerford family to civic, political, social and ecclesiastical life in Waterford City. But when I turned to the index in Niall Byrne’s book, I came across no less than 60 entries for members of the Comerford family, including ten entries for family members with the name Patrick Comerford.

These entries begin in 1438, and continue until 1663, a span of 225 years. They include three mayors: Fulke Comerford (1448), Philip Comerford (1570) and Nicholas Comerford (1586); nine sheriffs: Patrick Comerford (1574), Patrick Comerford (1577), Nicholas fitzPhilip Comerford (1579), Edward Comerford (1581), Nicholas fitzPhilip Comerford (1581), George Comerford (1593), John Comerford (1594), George Comerford (1596), John Comerford (1598); and 14 bailiffs: Fulke Comerford (1438), Fulke Comerford (1478, 1480, 1481, 1489, 1493, 1497 and 1499), George Comerford (1503), George Comerford (1516), Philip Comerford (1558), Philip Comerford (1567), Patrick Comerford (1572) and Patrick Comerford (1575); as well as many aldermen and freemen.

Ornamentation in ‘The Great Parchment Book of Waterford’ recording Peter Aylward as Mayor of Waterford and Patrick Comerford as sheriff in 1577

Throughout this period, the Mayor of Waterford was also ‘admiral of the great port and haven.’

Obviously, there is some overlapping, so that many of the same family members held different offices on different occasions. But it shows how politically engaged members of the Comerford family were in late mediaeval and early modern Waterford.

Many of the details in these archives relate to the lease of lands and houses. By today’s ethical standards, it would be unacceptable that family members benefited from property transactions at a time when other members of their family were holding influential public offices.

While he was mayor in 1448-1449, Foulk or Fulke Comerford was attacked with a dagger before the council by John May, a former bailiff, who was jailed for shedding the mayor’s blood. With Peter Forstall and 31 other citizens of Waterford, he was killed in a battle with the O’Driscolls, who had landed at Tramore at the invitation of the Le Poers, on 19 June 1452.

The book shows how commercial and political life in Waterford was closely integrated with life in the neighbouring towns and cities in New Ross, Kilkenny and Wexford, and with the interests of the Ormonde Butlers.

The book, which is preserved in the Waterford Museum of Treasures, reveals the disquiet within the municipal community in Waterford with the religious at the religious and political changes introduced by the Tudor reforms in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, and with the upheavals in the mid-17th century that would lead eventually to the execution of Charles I and Cromwell’s coming to power.

Of course, there are many influential members of the Comerford family who do not come to notice in thus book, including the Jesuit theologian Nicholas Comerford (1544-1599) and Patrick Comerford (1586-1652), who was Bishop of Waterford and Lismore (1629-1652).

Ornamentation in ‘The Great Parchment Book of Waterford’ recording Richard Strange as Mayor of Waterford and Nicholas fitzPhilip Comerford and Edward Comerford as sheriffs in 1581

A mound that stands on
the soft border between
counties and provinces

The motte or hill between Ikerrin and the Barack Obama Plaza is clearly visible where the M7 weaves in and out between Tipperary and Offaly (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

On the road between Limerick and Dublin, I regularly pass an interesting motte or hill on the M7 near Ikerrin in Co Tipperary and close to the Barack Obama Plaza in Moneygall, Co Offaly.

On this short stretch of the road, the county and provincial boundaries between Tipperary and Offaly, between Munster and Leinster, weave in and out, backwards and forwards, through the motorway – the very model of a ‘soft border’ and how the lines drawn on maps in the past are irrelevant to the needs of today’s commerce and traffic.

This motte or hill looks look an up-turned or inverted pudding bowl, and is, perhaps, a reminder of past divisions and boundaries in this locality. But I still have to explore its true history and significance.

The motte stands on a hill overlooking a small stream in townland of Moatquarter, close to Castletown and with a clear view of the countryside for miles.

It is shaped like an inverted bowl, is about 10 metres high and measures 44 metres across at the base. It is surrounded by a deep fosse and a protective bank about two metres high. The bailey to the north was extensive but the surrounding bank has been levelled.

Local tradition has claimed that this may have been the inauguration mound of the O’Carrolls of Ely O’Carroll country, a powerful local family of Gaelic Irish chieftains. But perhaps that mound was just an Anglo-Norman motte.

The motte is described on the website as standing near the south end of a roughly north-south ridge, overlooking a valley, in pasture. The land rises steadily east of the site, although the slope is still overlooked by a motte. A church and graveyard, a rectangular enclosure and sunken ways can be seen on the opposing ridge to the south-south-west.

The site consists of a steep-sided, flat-topped mound with a classic pudding-bowl profile. It is enclosed from east to south to north-west by a fosse that has been dug into the ridge. The enclosing bank on the south-east side appears to be the remains of the original ridge and is actually a false bank or counterscarp. There is no visible trace of a bailey. A National Monuments Preservation Order was placed on the site in 2008.

There is also a church and graveyard site nearby at Drumroe with a bullaun stone.

In her book Royal Inauguration in Gaelic Ireland c. 1100-1600: a Cultural Landscape Study, Elizabeth Fitzpatrick says this ‘motte’ at Moatquarter, in the Barony of Ikerrin in north Tipperary, has been described in conflicting terms as both ‘the best known Anglo-Norman earthwork in Ely O'Carroll’ and ‘the old inauguration site of the kings of Éile.’

However, she points out that the traditions that this mound was once the inauguration place of the Ó Cearbhaill in only 90years old and ‘derives solely from a local “tradition” documented in 1929.’

This local tradition can only be traced to A History of the Diocese of Killaloe by the Revd Aubrey Gwynn and Dermot Gleeson, where it is stated: ‘Hereabouts was certainly the centre of the Ua Cerbaill rule, and also of the Norman lordship.’

Fitzpatrick also points to the proximity of the mound to an Anglo-Norman caput at Dunkerrin, less than 3 km miles away, and the fact that Drumroe is on the other side of a river, in a different parish and county. She questions the defensive uses of the mound and she compares it to another inauguration mound at Coggins Hill, Co Sligo.

Derek Ryan points out that the mound is right on the border between two baronies – Clonlisk and Ikerrin – but is actually in Ikerrin. In later times, Ikerrin is referred to as O’Meagher country during the reign of Henry VIII. He asks whether it could also have been an inauguration mound for the O’Meaghers in later times.

There are no precise records of the mediaeval function of this mound in an area of many boundaries and borders, where the control of lands and the claims of clans in control ebbed and flowed over the decades and the centuries. I must get out during the journey some day, and explore the site on foot myself.

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

IOCS announces details of 2019
summer school in Cambridge

Patrick Comerford

The Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies in Cambridge has announced details of this year’s Summer School.

The two-day Summer School takes place on 30-31 August 2019 at Wesley House in Cambridge. This taught course is open to everyone and discusses the topic of ‘Community, Difference and Division in the Orthodox Church.’

The team of lecturers this year includes: Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, the Revd Professor Andrew Louth, Emeritus Professor of Patristic and Byzantine Studies at Durham University, the Revd Dr John Jillions, the Revd Professor Nikolaos Loudovikos, President of the University Ecclesiastical Academy of Thessaloniki, Dr Elizabeth Theokritoff, Senior Research Associate, IOCS, the Revd Dragos Herescu, Principal, IOCS, Dr Razvan Porumb, Lecturer and Vice-Principal, IOCS, and Dr Christoph Schneider, Academic Director, IOCS.

The Summer School addresses these questions:

● How are we to understand the unity of the Church and what are the main characteristics of the ecclesial community?

● What is the theologically correct understanding of creaturely differences within the ecclesial community?

● How can we distinguish between positive differences that need to be preserved and cultivated, and destructive divisions that need to be overcome?

● What is the relationship between the Church, cultural diversity and historical change?

All participants will be asked to do some preparatory reading before the Summer School starts, and texts will be made available prior to the course.

Apart from lectures, there will be time for guided discussions and student presentations.

Participation is open to everyone, but some basic theological knowledge about Orthodox theology is required to profit from the course.

All participants will receive a certificate confirming the successful completion of the Summer School. The level of teaching roughly corresponds to a second-year or third-year BA course.

The participation fees are:

● Conference enrolment (two days), with lunch and coffee/tea during breaks, £120;

● Conference enrolment (two days), student discount, with lunch and coffee/tea during breaks, £70;

● Conference enrolment for one day, with lunch and coffee/tea during breaks, £70.

Places can be booked either by paying the full fee, or by paying a non-refundable pre-enrolment fee of £50.

An online payment option will be made available shortly on the summer school page here.

The Deanery in Killaloe
and a remote link with
the ‘pickled’ Earl of Mayo

The Deanery in Killaloe, Co Clare … not to be confused with the deanery said to have been designed by Gandon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

When I was preaching in Saint Flannan’s Cathedral, Killaloe, Co Clare, on Sunday morning and presiding at the Cathedral Eucharist, I also paid a brief visit to the late Georgian Deanery that stands on a hill in Killaloe.

This is a detached, L-plan, three-bay, two-storey house, built ca 1825, with a three-bay, two-storey return. There is a hipped slate roof with cut-stone chimney-stacks, and rubble sandstone walls with cut-stone quoins. The round-headed door opening has a timber pilaster doorcase, a radial fanlight and a timber panelled door. There are dressed stone voussoirs and brick dressings with the timber sliding sash windows.

The deanery retains many of its original features inside, and the wrought-iron gate is set in rebuilt stone piers.

We parked the car in the driveway beside this elegant house. But this is not the original deanery in Killaloe.

Past Deans of Killaloe have included John Parker DD (1643-1649), a chaplain to the Earl of Ormond, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, during the wars in the 1640s. He was jailed the Cromwellians and then expelled from Ireland. He returned to Ireland after the Restoration of Charles II, and became Bishop of Elphin (1661-1667), then Archbishop of Tuam (1667-1679) and finally Archbishop of Dublin (1679-1681).

Jerome Ryves, who was Dean of Killaloe in 1692-1699, later became Dean of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin (1699-1705), the predecessor but one of Jonathan Swift.

The Hon Charles Talbot Blayney (1714-1761) had succeeded as 8th Baron Blayney in 1732 before becoming Dean of Killaloe in 1750, and he remained in office until he died in 1761.

An early deanery was built in Killaloe ca 1770 for the Very Revd Joseph Deane Bourke (1740-1794), the second son of John Burke, 1st Earl of Mayo.

Burke came to Killaloe as dean in 1768 when he was still only 28. But he already had his eyes on a path towards a successful ecclesiastical career. He left Killaloe in 1772 to become Dean of Dromore, but within weeks he had moved on again with his appointment as Bishop of Ferns and Leighlin in September that year. He was consecrated bishop on 11 October 1772 in Saint Thomas’s Church, Dublin, by Archbishop John Cradock of Dublin, Bishop Charles Jackson of Kildare and Bishop William Newcome of Dromore.

Ten years later, Burke was appointed Archbishop of Tuam in 1782. In 1792, he succeeded his brother as 3rd Earl of Mayo. When he died on 20 August 1794 at the age of 54, he was buried in the Burke family plot in Johnstown, Co Kildare.

Dean Burke was the great-grandfather of Richard Burke (1822-1872), 6th Earl of Mayo and Viceroy of India (1869-1872). The circumstances of his funeral from India to Johnstown gave him the sobriquet of the ‘Pickled Earl,’ and he is the focus of one of my chapters in Death and the Irish: a miscellany (2016), edited by Professor Salvador Ryan of Maynooth.

For many years, it was believed that the Georgian deanery in Killaloe built for Lord Mayo had been designed by James Gandon (1743-1823), the Dublin neo-classical architect who designed the Four Courts, the Bank of Ireland, and other famous buildings in Dublin.

Burke’s successors in Killaloe included William Cecil Pery (1721-1794), 1st Baron Glentworth, was Dean of Killaloe (1772-1780) and later Dean of Derry (1780-1781) , Bishop of Killala and Achonry (1781-1784), and Bishop of Limerick and Ardfert (1784-1794); the Hon Thomas Stopford (1781-1787), later Dean of Ferns (1787-1794) and Bishop of Cork (1794-1805); and John Bayly (1808-1828), later Dean of Lismore (1828-1831).

The deanery said to have been designed by Gandon was leased from 1820 to 1860 by the Bishop of Killaloe to Captain Michael Martin, JP. Captain Martin and his nephew, Dr James Martin, County Coroner who died from cholera, did much to alleviate suffering during the Great Famine in the 1840s.

At this time, the Martin family owned the house built ca 1825 that would become the present deanery. The two houses were exchanged, and the newer house became the Deanery.

More recent Deans of Killaloe who have lived in this deanery include Robert McNeil Boyd (1936-1943), afterwards Bishop of Killaloe and Kilfenora, Francis Robert Bourke (1972-1986), Ernon Cope Todd Perdue (1987-1995), who died two months ago [10 December 2018], Nicholas Marshall Cummins (1996-2001), and the writer and theologian Dr Stephen Ross White (2002-2012), who is now Priest-in-Charge at Dunsfold with Hascombe in Surrey.

The Very Revd Gary Paulsen has been the Dean of Killaloe since 2013.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

What would Phineas Finn find
if he returned to Killaloe today?

Killaloe, Co Clare, took its shape as a Georgian and Victorian town in the late 18th and early 19th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Part of the pleasure of walking through the streets of Killaloe, Co Clare, on Sunday afternoon came in admiring the elegant, brightly-coloured buildings in the narrow streets of a town that is obviously conscious of having been an important centre in political and social life in Munster for centuries.

Although the O’Briens of Thomond moved their main political centre from Killaloe to Limerick, Killaloe retained its importance for many centuries.

Queen Elizabeth directed Sir Nicholas Malby (1530-1584), Lord President of Connaught, to make a choice in 1579 between Killaloe, Quin and Ennis and to designate one of them as the capital town of Co Clare. Malby chose Ennis.

But Killaloe continued to have strategic importance. Cromwell’s army was encamped for ten days at Ballina in 1650, exploring a passage across the river to Killaloe. Forty years later, the Jacobite army of King James II marched through Killaloe on its way to defend Athlone.

Patrick Sarsfield maintained a strong garrison to defend the river crossing. In August 1690, he crossed the Shannon with a select body of cavalry to destroy an ammunition train on its way to William III’s army at the siege of Limerick City.

Following the Treaty of Limerick in 1691, Killaloe began to take on its present shape and appearance. Many of the houses on Main Street and at the lower end of the town were built in the 18th century, and a distillery was built at John’s Street.

The flourishing woollen and cloth industry employed over 150 people at five shillings a week, there were two weekly markets, and the first Post Office opened in Killaloe in 1793.

By 1837, Killaloe included Saint Flannan’s Church of Ireland Cathedral, one square, a principal street, several smaller streets, about 300 houses, with the Church of Ireland bishop’s palace at Clarisford House. At this time, Saint Flannan’s Roman Catholic Church was being built on the Green.

The Shannon Steam Navigation Company had its headquarters here and had ran regular steam packets up the Shannon, through Lough Derg to Portumna, Athlone and Banagher, and from Banagher by canal boats to Dublin.

However, during the famine years the town of Killaloe lost 191 people, and between 1841 and 1851, the number of inhabited houses in the parish dropped from 1,253 to 920. By 1861 the parish had lost a total of 441 families.

Bridge Street, Killaloe, on Sunday afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

In Victorian literature, Killaloe is the home town of Phineas Finn, the fictional hero of two of Anthony Trollope’s Palliser novels, Phineas Finn (1869) and Phineas Redux (1874).

In Phineas Finn, Trollope presents Killaloe as a lively, provincial, town. Phineas Finn’s father, Dr Malachai Finn, is well-known and respected ‘in counties Clare, Limerick, Tipperary, and Galway.’ Dr Finn is a friend of the Roman Catholic Bishop, another prominent Killaloe resident, and personal physician to the Earl of Tulla, who lives on his estate ‘not more than ten miles from Killaloe.’

Phineas Finn returns to Killaloe for extended periods to spend time with his parents and with his five sisters and their friend, Miss Mary Flood Jones, who later becomes his first wife.

In the 19th century, Killaloe was described as being pleasantly situated on rising ground on the western bank of the Shannon, near the falls of Killaloe and connected with Co Tipperary by a bridge of 13 arches. The falls have since disappeared beneath the high waters needed for the Shannon Hydroelectric Scheme.

Today Killaloe is the southern limit of the recommended navigable part of the River Shannon by small craft. Today, Killaloe is the most important boating and fishing centre within the three counties of Clare, Limerick and Tipperary.

One of the surviving buildings that make a statement about the 19th century importance of Killaloe is Killaloe Courthouse, a detached, five-bay two-storey courthouse built in 1838-1840 for the Clare Grand Jury for £1,000. It has a three-bay, double-height, central block, flanked by breakfront entrance end bays.

The old courthouse in Killaloe closed in 1994. Since then, Killaloe District Court has sat at the Lakeside Hotel in Ballina on the opposite bank of the river, and in the Kincora Hall Hotel, Killaloe, and there was speculation in recent years that the Courts Service was considering moving the court to Ennis.

The Courts Service is reported to be planning to hand over the old courthouse and Clare County Council has expressed an interest in acquiring the building for community use.

Killaloe Courthouse was built for the Clare Grand Jury in 1838-1840 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Saint Lua’s Oratory, Killaloe:
a small church saved from
the rising Shannon waters

Saint Molua’s Church, or Saint Lua’s Oratory, was carefully rebuilt beside Saint Flannan’s Church in Killaloe, Co Clare, in 1930 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Saint Molua’s Church, or Saint Lua’s Oratory, is an interesting surviving part of a monastic foundation that dates back to the seventh century and that now stands in the grounds of Saint Flannan’s Roman Catholic parish church in Killaloe, Co Clare.

This small stone oratory is associated with Saint Molua, or Saint Lua, who gives his name to Killaloe. The name Killaloe (Cill Lua), originates from ‘the Church of Lua.’ Saint Lua was a seventh or eighth century monk who founded a monastery on a nearby island in the River Shannon, later known as Inis Lua (Lua’s Island).

The name ‘Molua’ derives from the popularity of the saint as people came to refer to him as Mo Lua or ‘my Lua.’ Saint Lua was from a noble family in the Limerick area, a grandson of Eacha Baildearg, King of Munster. He trained for the priesthood in Bangor, Co Down, where Saint Columba had also studied, and established a small monastery on Friar’s Island, about 1 km downriver from Killaloe.

The saint’s small church or oratory originally stood on Friar’s Island, south of Killaloe (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The saint’s small church or oratory, which originally stood on Inis Lua or Friar’s Island, south of Killaloe, is an early example of a nave-and-chancel church, and was built in two phases.

The single-storey nave, where a small congregation assembled, was probably built in the tenth or eleventh century and is likely to have had a roof of timber or thatch. The chancel was added to the east end of the nave at some stage in the 12th century, around the same time that Saint Flannan’s Oratory was being built beside Saint Flannan’s Cathedral in Killaloe. Some sources suggest Muirchertach Ua Briain commissioned some of the masons working on Saint Flannan’s Oratory to build this new chancel.

The pitched stone roof of the chancel is a rare example of stone roof building from this time. The narrow dimensions of the building and the use of mortar allowed the construction of this straight-sided roof without an internal propping arch. This stone roof has survived for almost 1,000 years.

Lintelled doorways give access through the west end of the nave and the south wall of the chancel. There is a modest round arch linking the chancel and the nave. Two aumbry niches – recesses in which the sacred vessels and the elements of the Eucharist were stored) – are located inside at the east end of the north and south chancel walls.

The pitched stone roof of the chancel is a rare example of stone roof building from its time (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

When the Shannon Hydroelectric Scheme was being built at Ardnacrusha in 1925-1929, it was necessary to raise in the river’s water level and to submerge Friar’s Island. The level of Lough Derg was raised by 18 inches, and it was decided at the time to relocate the oratory to its present location beside Saint Flannan’s Church in Killaloe.

Before the waters were raised, Saint Molua’s Oratory was dismantled stone-by-stone and transported to Killaloe on a specially-built barge. A rope was stretched between the shore of the river and the island and the workers ‘handed’ the barge between the shores.

Two small temporary jetties were built on the shore and an inclined trackway with truck and winch were used to transport the masonry across land. The oratory was rebuilt in the grounds of Saint Flannan’s Church in July 1930.

The oratory has been beautifully rebuilt with careful attention to detail, and now offers an insight into the way life lived by priests and monks in the Middle Ages.

The oratory has been beautifully rebuilt in Killaloe with careful attention to detail (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Monday, 18 February 2019

A church in Killaloe
with a collection of
Harry Clarke windows

A detail of Harry Clarke’s ‘Presentation Window’ in Saint Flannan’s Church, Killaloe, Co Clare (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019; click on images for full-screen viewing)

Patrick Comerford

After preaching in Saint Flannan’s Cathedral, Killaloe, Co Clare, on Sunday morning [19 February 2019], and presiding at the Cathedral Eucharist, I walked around this charming town on the banks of the Shannon, and after lunch in Ponte Vecchio it seemed appropriate to visit Saint Flannan’s Roman Catholic Church on The Green in Killaloe.

The area surrounding Saint Flannan’s Catholic Church is Kincora, the former site of King Brian Ború’s palace, although there are no visible remains of the palace today.

Saint Flannan’s Church is particularly known for the beautiful stained-glass windows that are the work of the internationally renowned stained-glass artist Harry Clarke (1889-1931), his father and his studio.

Saint Flannan’s Church, Killaloe, built in 1837-1838 and consecrated in 1840, with Saint Molua’s Church or Saint Lua’s Oratory to the right (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

This T-plan, double-height parish church was built in 1837-1838. It has a three-bay gabled entrance front, four-bay side elevations and single-bay transepts. There is a pitched slate roof with a cast-iron downpipe, a dentilated eaves course and metal cross finials. There is coursed cut-stone on the entrance front and rubble stone on the remaining walls.

There are lancet openings with cut-stone voussoirs, stained glass windows and windows from the Harry Clarke studios.

The four-centred arch door openings have timber matchboard doors. The features inside include render panels behind the High Altar, a timber cross-rib vaulted ceiling, a winged dove at the crossing, a carved marble altar and tabernacle, a choir gallery with a sheeted balustrade and chamfered timber columns.

Although the church was completed in 1838, it was not consecrated until 1840. The church was consecrated by Patrick Kennedy, Bishop of Killaloe (1836-1851). The sermon was preached by the Temperance campaigner, Father Theobald Mathew (1790-1856). It is said that by the following day 20,000 people had taken the temperance pledge in Killaloe.

Harry Clarke’s ‘Presentation Window’ in Saint Flannan’s Church, Killaloe (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The real gems in this church are the two magnificent Clarke stained-glass windows on each side of the High Altar. These windows are two remarkable examples of Irish stained-glass art. One celebrates the life of an early Irish saint while the other depicts Gospel scenes from the childhood of Christ. Although quite different in subject matter and also very different in their artistic styles, the windows are the work of father and son, Joshua and Harry Clarke.

Harry Clarke is regarded as Ireland’s greatest stained-glass artist. Internationally, his name is synonymous with quality craftsmanship and imaginative genius in his stained-glass work. His use of deep rich colours, his delicate depiction of beautiful elongated figures with their finely carved features and deep expressive eyes, are characteristic of his work.

The offering of two turtle doves in Harry Clarke’s ‘Presentation Window’ in Saint Flannan’s Church, Killaloe (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The ‘Scanlan Window’ to the right of the altar, was commissioned in February 1927 and was created by Harry Clarke. His design for this window is similar to the Presentation window, one of eight windows he designed three years earlier in 1924 for the Chapel of Our Lady at the Convent of Notre Dame, now the Ashdown Park Hotel at Wych Cross, near Forest Row in East Sussex.

The main panel in Harry Clarke’s window in Killaloe depicts the Presentation of the Christ Child in the Temple by the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph (see Luke 2: 22-38). The Virgin Mary is portrayed handing the Christ Child to the righteous Simeon, with the prophet Anna in the background. Saint Joseph stands below then holding two turtle doves as the offering for the Temple. Three angels oversee the event from above.

The Flight into Egypt in Harry Clarke’s ‘Presentation Window’ in Saint Flannan’s Church, Killaloe (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The top panel of this window depicts the Annunciation, while the lower panel depicts the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt (see Matthew 2: 13-15).

The window is in memory of Eliza Scanlan, who died 21 May 1925, and her son Michael.

In their book, Strangest Genius: the stained glass of Harry Clarke, Lucy Costigan and Michael Cullen say that ‘the window is a fine example of the spectacular colours and exquisite decoration of drapery and robes that Clarke is so famous for creating.’

The ‘Ryan Window’ in Saint Flannan’s Church, Killaloe (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Two other windows in the church also have connections with Harry Clarke and his family and studios.

The ‘Ryan Window’ to the left of the High Altar, was made in the studio of Harry Clarke’s English-born father, Joshua Clarke (1858-1921) of 33 North Frederick Street, Dublin. Joshua Clarke moved from Leeds to Ireland at the age of 18 in 1877 and became a Roman Catholic. As part of his church decoration business, he made stained-glass windows.

The main panel in the ‘Ryan Window’ depicts the figure of an Irish saint and bishop, either Saint Patrick or Saint Flannan, and is flanked by other panels with depictions of four angels, the Christ Child with Saint Joseph (above) and the dying Saint Francis (below).

The death of Saint Francis depicted in the ‘Ryan Window’ in Saint Flannan’s Church, Killaloe (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The window was commissioned by the Revd Michael Ryan of Melbourne in memory of his parents, John and Susan Ryan. Joshua Clarke’s signature is in the bottom right corner.

The ‘Courtney Window’ in Saint Flannan’s Church, Killaloe (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

A third window, the ‘Courtney Window’ in the south wall, depicts the Sacred Heart. This window is also thought to be the work of the Clarke Studios.

The panel on the High Altar in Saint Flannan’s Church depicts the Supper at Emmaus (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The panel on the High Altar depicts the Supper at Emmaus (see Luke 24: 13-35).

Two plaques in the nave of the church commemorate Victorian coadjutor bishops of Killaloe: Nicholas Power (1804-1871), who was coadjutor bishop in 1865-1871 as Bishop of Sarepta, and attended the first Vatican Council; and Bishop James Ryan (1806-1889), who was coadjutor bishop in 1872-1888 as Bishop of Echinus.

Outside, in the grounds of the church, Saint Molua’s Church or Saint Lua’s Oratory, is a separate, single-bay, single-storey, gable-fronted rubble stone-built early Christian oratory that was moved to this site when the original site was being flooded in 1925-1929 as part the Ardnacrusha scheme. But more about that tomorrow morning.

Inside Saint Flannan’s Church, Killaloe (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Visiting the library that
tells the moving story of
a church in Ballybunion

Saint Augustine’s, the former Church of Ireland parish church in Ballybunion, Co Kerry, is now a local library (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Two years ago, for the first time, I visited Saint Augustine’s Church, the former Church of Ireland parish church in Ballybunion, Co Kerry, on a Saturday afternoon [19 February 2017]. It was my first time to visit the most westerly town and church in this group of parishes, although the church is now used as a library.

I have visited Ballybunion many times since that afternoon, but until this past weekend I never managed to see inside this church.

Three of us went for a walk on the beach in Ballybunion this Saturday afternoon [16 February 2019], and for the first time in two years I found the library was open and I was able to visit one of my former parish churches.

Walking on the beach in Ballybunion, Co Kerry, on Saturday afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019; click on image for full-screen view)

The library and former church stands at the corner of Sandhill Road in Ballybunion. This building that was once Saint Augustine’s parish church in the Church of Ireland. It is a single-storey Gothic Revival style church. The walls are of snecked limestone with Portland stone dressings. The entrance is through a projecting porch.

Saint Augustine’s Church was originally built at Rattoo, near Ballyduff, in 1877-1879. However, after the original Church of Ireland parish church in Ballybunion was demolished in the 1950s, it was decided to move Saint Augustine’s to Ballybunion.

From 1669 to 1882, the parish of Ballybunion was held by the Rectors of Aghavillan. Killehenny Church was built as the parish church in Ballybunion on a site donated by HB Harene, close to the cliffs, and was consecrated in 1858.

The parish was united with Rattoo in 1883, and the first rector of the new union was the Revd Cecil Richard Hoggins, a former naval chaplain. Hoggins was succeeded by the Revd Charles Edward Fry. Later, it was recalled, ‘the rector suffered terribly from shyness. His manner was painfully nervous.’

In 1922, the parish was joined with Listowel. By then, Killehenny Church and its clocktower had become familiar landmarks in Ballybunion.

But for almost a century, the church was battered by the weather and the elements. A local historian, Russell McMorran of Tralee, mused that it must have been an exciting experience going to church there on a stormy, winter’s day.

After almost 100 years, the decision was taken in 1957 to close the church and to demolish it.

Meanwhile, another Church of Ireland church in the neighbourhood had fallen into disuse. Saint Augustine’s Church was originally built at Rattoo, near Ballyduff, in 1877-1879, on a site ‘within the shadow of the ancient round tower.’ It was built by Wilson and Gertrude Gun for their family, friends, tenants and workers, and for the Staughton family, who were neighbouring landlords.

The church, dedicated to Saint Augustine of Hippo, was designed by the Kerry-born architect, James Franklin Fuller (1835-1924), an eccentric snob who also wrote high-Victorian melodramatic novels. He claimed to have ‘carried out professional work in every county in Ireland’ and the Dictionary of Irish Architects lists over 200 of his works.

Fuller undertook considerable work for the Guinness family and Lord Ardilaun, most notably Kylemore Abbey in Co Galway, the refurbishment of Farmleigh House, next to the Phoenix Park, in 1881-1884, the refurbishment of Iveagh House on Saint Stephen’s Green, Dublin, and the Superintendent’s Gate Lodge in Saint Stephen’s Green.

His other works include Saint Mary’s Church, Julianstown, Co Meath, the wonderful terracotta-decorated Gallaher building at the corner of D’Olier Street and Hawkins Street, Dublin, the former National Bank building on Arran Quay in Dublin, the now lost gate lodge for Cherryfield House in Firhouse, and the rectory at Saint Brigid’s Church, Stillorgan.

The library in Ballybunion retains many of the features of Saint Augustine’s Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The foundation stone of Fuller’s new church at Rattoo was laid on 20 September 1877 by Wilson Gun, who paid the cost of the contract, excluding the tower and belfry. The church was consecrated in October 1879.

Fuller designed Saint Augustine’s as a single-storey Gothic Revival style church. This church, dated 1879, has a four-bay nave, a single-bay single-storey gabled projecting porch to the south-west, a single-bay single-storey lower chancel to the north gable end, and a single-bay single-storey gabled vestry projection to the north-west.

There is a steeply-pitched slate roof with a clay ridge comb, the gable parapets have Portland stone copings and there are profiled cast-iron gutters on a Portland stone corbel table.

There are rock-hewn snecked grey limestone walls with Portland stone quoins and springers, and buttresses with Portland stone dressings. The Portland stone plate-tracery windows have paired pointed lancets and cinquefoils over. There are triple lancets with trefoil heads to transept.

The Portland stone doorcase has a double-leaf boarded door and limestone steps. There are triple windows to the porch.

There are exposed timber trusses inside the former church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Inside, there are exposed timber trusses and white marble plaques on the west wall. The retaining timber door to the vestry is set in an arched niche. There is a snecked rubble wall to the street, with replacement concrete copings.

When the old church in Ballybunion was demolished, Saint Augustine’s was dismantled stone-by-stone by local builders Boyle and Harnett. The work involved numbering, cleaning and polishing each stone as the building was transported and reconstructed in its exact original state on the present site in Sandhill Road, Ballybunion. Wilson and Gertrude Gun were buried beneath the nave of the church in its new location.

The church was rededicated on Saint Augustine’s Day, 28 July 1957, by Bishop Hodges of Limerick. Radio Eireann broadcast the ceremony, and this was the national broadcaster’s first-ever outside broadcast event.

The Church of Ireland community in Ballybunion was strong until the end of the 1980s, and the decision was taken to close Saint Augustine’s in 1987. The church was deconsecrated on 1 June 1987, almost 30 years after it had been moved to this site.

The church was handed over to the Co Kerry Library Service and it opened to the public as a library on 20 December 1990. Ballybunion Library is open from Tuesday to Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 1.30 p.m. and 2.30 p.m. to 5 p.m.

As well as lending books, the library hosts several successful events, including an Active Retirement Group’s Creative Writing Workshop and a Children's Book Festival.

A plaque on the west wall in the former parish church in Ballybunion, Co Kerry, commemorates Wilson and Gertrude Gun (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Sunday, 17 February 2019

A fountain with no function,
a forgotten synagogue
and a lost Wren church

‘La Maternité’, a charity fountain at Royal Exchange, is a reminder of a forgotten synagogue and three lost London churches (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

A fountain without a function, the monument to the memory of Paul Reuter and the Peabody statue in Royal Exchange eventually led me to the story of a lost synagogue in London and of three lost churches, including one designed by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire.

‘La Maternité’ is a charity drinking fountain at Royal Exchange that shows a breast-feeding mother with two children, one at her breast. It is difficult to imagine how this fountain caused controversy when it was erected in 1878-1879.

The inscription on the front of the plinth reads:

Erected 1878 at the expense of John Whittaker Ellis Esq Alderman & William Hartridge Esq Deputy, supplemented by a vote in Wardmote.

The inscription continues just above the basin:

Also by donations from The Drapers Company and the Merchant Taylors Company.

There are two smaller inscriptions. One on the right side of the plinth reads:

J Edmeston – Archt 1878.

The name and date on the back of the sculpture read:

Dalou, 1879.

The marble group was carved in 1877 by the French-born sculptor, Aimé-Jules Dalou (1838-1902), and was erected in 1878. However, it was altered by weathering and was replaced by an inferior copy in bronze in 1897.

The fountain and marble group were erected by the Drapers’ Company and the Merchant Taylors’ Company. A number of sources say the fountain commemorates Alderman William Bartman, but it appears to have been erected without the specific intention of commemorating anyone or anything.

However, the depiction of a breast-feeding mother was controversial at the time. A letter in the Globe, headed ‘An arrangement in milk and water’ and referring to the nearby statue of George Peabody, complained: ‘Do you not think, Sir, that propriety demands that Mr Peabody’s chair should be turned, at least until the delicate operation of lacteal sustentation be concluded, or until the Drapers or Merchant Taylors, to whom the young woman and youngsters belong, provide them with the requisite clothing.’

This collection of the three monuments – the fountain, the Reuter sculpture and the Peabody statue – stand on the site of the church of Saint Benet Fink. The church originally stood on Threadneedle Street, but was later rebuilt on this site by Sir Christopher Wren after an earlier church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London.

Saint Benet’s, Saint Bartholomew by the Exchange and Saint Anthony’s Hospital Chapel, were demolished in 1842-1844 to make way for the third, enlarged Royal Exchange and for widening Royal Exchange Avenue.

The churchyard was acquired by Act of Parliament but had a long history, and a 10th century wheel-headed cross was discovered on the site.

The church of Saint Benet Fink originally stood on Threadneedle Street. The church was rebuilt in 1670-1675 by Sir Christopher Wren in after an earlier church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890) was baptised in Saint Benet Fink on 9 April 1801.

Saint Anthony’s Hospital Chapel was first built as a synagogue in 1231 but became a chapel of the French Hospital in 1243. It was destroyed and rebuilt in 1666.

Demolition to make way for commercial expansion was the fate of many City churches in the economic boom of the Victorian era. These three churches were demolished in 1842-1844 to make way for the new, much expanded Royal Exchange built by Sir William Tite in 1841-1844 and for widening Royal Exchange Avenue. At the same time, the churchyard was acquired by Act of Parliament.

Tite’s Royal Exchange was the third on the site, London’s first Exchange was founded by Sir Thomas Gresham in 1566-1570. The original Renaissance-style building replaced after the Great Fire by a building erected in 1667-1671 that was described as ‘the grandest monument of artisan classicism in the City.’

This second exchange burnt down in 1838 and Tite won the competition for the new Exchange. General trading in the building carried on until 1939 and was then replaced by specialist exchanges. The building has a central courtyard area that was designed by Tite as an open space but covered in 1883.

A paved area to the west end of the Royal Exchange has a number of statues: an equestrian statue of Wellington (1844) designed by Chantrey on a plinth; a War Memorial (1919-1920) by Sir Aston Webb with a sculpture by Alfred Drury; a statue in Cornhill of JH Greathead (1993) by James Butler. This area at the junction of Threadneedle Street and Cornhill was re-landscaped in 1985 with low walls, some planting and seating, cast-iron lamps.

Royal Exchange Square, to the east of the Royal Exchange, is a paved pedestrian piazza beside Royal Exchange Buildings (1906-1910) designed by Sir Ernest George & Yeates.

The sculptures and monuments here include the fountain with Dalou’s bronze figure of a nursing mother set on a granite plinth surrounded by planting, as well as Michael Black’s sculpture of Paul Julius Reuter by Michael Black (1976) and WW Story’s seated figure of the philanthropist George Peabody (1795-1869), erected in 1868).

A drinking fountain commemorating the Jubilee of the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association is at the south end, a copy of one that was stolen and placed here in 1911 but which had originally been where the War Memorial now stands to the west of the Royal Exchange.

This paved area with seating set around flower beds marks the site of the forgotten Wren church.

‘La Maternité’ caused controversy when the breast-feeding mother was unveiled (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

‘They had come to hear him and
to be healed of their diseases’

Inside Saint Flannan’s Cathedral, Killaloe, Co Clare (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 17 February 2019,

The Third Sunday before Lent.

Saint Flannan’s Cathedral, Killaloe, Co Clare

11.30 a.m.:
The Cathedral Eucharist

Readings: Jeremiah 17: 5-10; Psalm 1; I Corinthians 15: 12-20; Luke 6: 17-26.

‘Power came out of him and he healed them’ (Luke 6: 19) … the chapel in Dr Milley’s Hospital, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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

It is good to be back this Cathedral this morning, and to be invited to preach here as the Precentor of the Cathedral.

The Cathedral Chapter in this diocese decided last year that the cathedral canons should preach once a year in either Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, or Saint Flannan’s Cathedral, Killaloe, and that, for their part, the deans of Limerick and Killaloe would preach on those Sundays in the parish churches of the canons.

So, this morning, the Dean of Killaloe [the Very Revd Gary Paulsen] is visiting Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick, and Saint Brendan’s Church, Tarbert, Co Kerry, and we had breakfast in the Rectory in Askeaton earlier this morning before heading off to each other’s churches.

It is two years since I was installed as Precentor, but this is my first time to preach here as Precentor, although I preached here three years ago [21 February 2016] as a visitor, and I have been back to Killaloe a few times for chapter meetings and similar events.
In other words, it’s a delight to be back here, thank you for your welcome, and I’m sorry you’re losing Gary as Dean and Rector within the next few weeks.

These few weeks before Lent are seen in the Church as a time for preparation, a time to get ready, a time to think and reflect before we move into Lent itself.

Does anyone remember how this Sunday, the Third Sunday before Lent, was once known as Septuagesima?

These Latin names were a reminder that Lent is just around the corner. But, of course, Lent itself is a reminder too that Holy Week and Easter are just around the corner – a reminder to prepare for Good Friday and Easter Day, to get ready for the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.

The Epistle reading this morning (I Corinthians 15: 12-20) continues Saint Paul’s reflections on the meaning of faith in the Resurrection, a reminder that our faith is an Easter faith, that the Resurrection is at the very heart of Christian faith.

Our Gospel reading (Luke 6: 17-26), therefore, tells us what this faith should look like to the outsider. We have just listened to Saint Luke’s version of the ‘Sermon on the Mount,’ which sets out what our Christian faith, our faith in the Risen Christ, should look like to everyone else.

Saint Luke presents us with a set of contrasts between the two sets of people, although those who first heard this must have been surprised by who fits into which category.

Christ has ascended a mountain to pray. While there, he has chosen twelve of his disciples. Now he descends the mountain as far as a level place. Here he finds a large number of people, including other followers, as well as many Jews (‘people from all Judea and Jerusalem’) and many Gentiles (‘people from … the coast of Tyre and Sidon’). They come to hear and to be healed – they are here in mind and body, expecting their spiritual and their physical needs to be met.

Many are healed, so they realise in their own bodies that they have been restored to their rightful place in the Kingdom of God: those who were once regarded as unclean now have a place in the religious and worshipping community.

Saint Luke then narrates his account of the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ (verses 20-26). Here he tells of four beatitudes and four corresponding woes or warnings. It is a form of blessing that we have heard in the psalm (Psalm 1).

The word blessed (Greek μακαριοι, makarioi) also means ‘happy’ or ‘fortunate.’

Some are blessed, happy, fortunate to be included in the Kingdom of God, others are warned of the consequences of their choices in life.

The paired blessings and warnings are:

● to the poor (verse 20), and to the rich (verse 24);
● to the hungry (verse 21), and to the ‘full’ (verse 25a);
● to those who weep (verse 21), and to those are laughing (verse 25);
● to those who are hated, excluded, reviled and defamed (verse 22), and to those who are held in esteem (verse 26).

Saint Luke records the ‘poor’ without any qualification (verse 20), compared with Saint Matthew’s ‘poor in spirit’ (see Matthew 5: 3). In Jewish tradition, the poor and the hungry are not cursed or impure, but are deserving recipients of divine and earthly care (see Deuteronomy 11: 15; Isaiah 49: 10; Jeremiah 31: 25; Ezekiel 34: 29). The poor are to receive the Kingdom of God; the rich have their reward today in their comfortable lifestyles.

Those who are excluded are denied their right to worship in the Temple and in the synagogue. But in the past, the prophets – including Jeremiah – were hated, excluded, reviled and defamed (verse 23), while the people in power spoke well of the false prophets (verse 26; see Jeremiah 5: 31).

Our Gospel reading this morning begins by telling us a large crowd of people came to hear Jesus and to be healed, and that those who were troubled were cured. If the same people came to our churches today – if they came to me as a priest of the church today – would they know from how we behave – from how I behave – that Jesus cares for them, that he seeks to restore them to the fullness of life?

Poverty comes in many forms today. Exclusion and marginalisation are common experiences for many in our society today.

Those who hunger and who weep are not just around us, but among us, in the Church, in our community, in this society.

If you feel you are excluded or marginalised, if you know you are hungry and you are often close to tears, do you feel the rest of us in the Church do enough to see to it that you know you are counted in when it comes to the Church being a a sign of the Kingdom of God?

If you think you are financially secure, that you have enough to eat, if you have plenty of good reason to laugh and be happy, if you know people respect you and treat you properly, do you see the rest of us in the Church as a blessing to you, as an opportunity to share your blessings, to share your joys, to share your Easter faith in the Risen Christ?

In Oscar Wilde’s satirical play, A Woman of No Importance (1893), Lord Illingworth observes wisely: ‘The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.’

In the past, the Church made Lent, and these few weeks before Lent, as a time of gloom and doom, of penitence and of sorrow.

But perhaps we ought to have also stressed that this a time to take stock again, to realign our priorities, so that we can show one another that we truly are looking forward to the Church being a living sign of our faith in the Living, Risen, Christ and in the Kingdom of God.

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

‘They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases’ (Luke 6: 18) (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 6: 17-26 (NRSVA):

17 He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. 18 They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19 And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.

20 Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
‘Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 ‘Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
‘Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
22 ‘Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23 Rejoice on that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
24 ‘But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
25 ‘Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
‘Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.
26 ‘Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

‘He came down with them and stood … with a great multitude of people from … the coast’ (Luke 6: 17) (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Colour: Green

The Collect:

Almighty God,
who alone can bring order
to the unruly wills and passions of sinful humanity:
Give your people grace
so to love what you command
and to desire what you promise;
that, among the many changes of the world,
our hearts may surely there be fixed
where true joys are to be found;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Post-Communion Prayer:

Merciful Father,
you gave Jesus Christ to be for us the bread of life,
that those who come to him should never hunger.
Draw us to our Lord in faith and love,
that we may eat and drink with him at his table in the kingdom,
where he is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
now and for ever.


10, All my hope on God is founded
630, Blessed are the pure in heart
494, Beauty for brokenness
324, God, whose almighty word (Moscow)

‘And all in the crowd were trying to touch him …’ (Luke 6: 19) (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.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

A note in ‘The Irish Times’ today
on Killaloe Cathedral tomorrow

Saint Flannan’s Cathedral, Killaloe (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The ‘Church of Ireland notes’ on p 22 in The Irish Times today [16 February 2019] includes the following news report:

As part of a programme of exchanges between deans and canons in Limerick and Killaloe, Canon Patrick Comerford will be in St Flannan’s Cathedral, Killaloe, tomorrow (Sunday) and the Dean of Killaloe, the Very Revd Gary Paulsen, will visit the Rathkeale group of parishes. Last year, St Mary’s Cathedral celebrated its 850th anniversary and during the year a Community Awards Scheme was launched. This scheme was created to highlight the “unsung heroes” of Limerick. A special service will be held tomorrow (Sunday) evening at 7 pm to present the winners of the Community Award – the recipients are Sr Delia O’Connor, Mr Paul Carey, Mr Philip Doran, Mr Tom Naughton, Ms Maura O’Neill, and the Bedford Row Project.

Reuter’s statue in London
is a reminder of the need
for journalistic freedoms

The statue of Paul Julius Reuter (1816-1899) at the Royal Exchange in London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Tucked away in a small corner in the City of London, close to the statue of George Peabody at Royal Exchange, a fine granite sculpture by the Oxford-based sculptor Michael Black commemorates Paul Julius Reuter, the 19th century pioneer in communications and news delivery.

I stopped to visit this monument earlier this week as I was walking back to Liverpool Street Station from a meeting of trustees of the Anglican mission agency, USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

Paul Julius Baron von Reuter (1816-1899) was a German-born, British entrepreneur who was a pioneer in telegraphy and news reporting, a reporter and media owner, and the founder of Reuters News Agency.

Reuter was born as Israel Beer Josaphat in Kassel on 21 July 1816. His father, Samuel Levi Josaphat, was a rabbi; his mother was Betty Sanders. While he was working in a bank as a young man in Göttingen, he became friends with a local physicist Carl Friedrich Gauss, who was experimenting with the transmission of electrical signals by wire.

Reuter moved to London on 29 October 1845, calling himself Julius Josaphat. In a ceremony in Saint George’s German Lutheran Chapel in London, he converted to Christianity on 16 November 1845, and changed his name to Paul Julius Reuter. A week later, in the same chapel, he married Ida Maria Elizabeth Clementine Magnus from Berlin, the daughter of a German banker.

Back in Germany in 1847, the former bank clerk became a partner in Reuter and Stargardt, a Berlin book-publishing firm. Reuter later became involved in the Revolutions of 1848, challenging the authority of the German Confederation with protests demanding freedom of the press and a national assembly. The distribution of radical pamphlets by the firm at the beginning of the 1848 Revolution may have brought official scrutiny to Reuter.

When the movement was suppressed later that year, Reuter left for Paris and worked in Charles-Louis Havas’s news agency, Agence Havas, now known as Agence France Presse.

In Aachen, Reuter set up an organisation that used carrier pigeons to send messages between Brussels and Aachen. This was before telegram became available, and Reuter had found the missing link to connect Berlin and Paris. The carrier pigeons were much faster than the post train, giving Reuter faster access to news from the Paris stock exchange.

As telegraphy evolved, Reuter founded his own news agency in Aachen, transferring messages between Brussels and Aachen using carrier pigeons and so linking Berlin and Paris. The pigeons were speedier than the post train and gave Reuter faster access to financial news from the Paris stock exchange. Eventually, pigeons were replaced by a direct telegraph link.

A telegraph line was between Britain and Europe was being set up, and so Reuter moved to London, rented an office near the Stock Exchange, and founded the international news organisation that bears his name in No 1 Royal Exchange in the City of London on 19 October 1851.

The Reuters News Agency, which he founded, originally used carrier pigeons to send dispatches. But later, combining journalism with the telegraph, it became a ‘news-wire service,’ using the telegraph to send news stories to subscribing newspapers. Over the following decades, his agency became the leading source for breaking news across Europe, with wire connections to Asia and North and South America.

On Saint Patrick’s Day, 17 March 1857, Reuter became a naturalised British subject. But the Irish connection is more interesting than this. In 1863, he privately erected a telegraph link to Crookhaven, Co Cork, the farthest south-west point in Ireland. When ships from America approached Crookhaven, they threw canisters containing news into the sea. These were retrieved by Reuters and telegraphed directly to London, arriving long before the ships reached Cork.

On 7 September 1871, Ernest II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and elder brother of Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, gave Reuter the German title of freiherr (baron). Two decades later, in November 1891, Queen Victoria gave Reuter and his male heirs the right to use that German title in Britain as Baron von Reuter.

Reuter died on 25 February 1899 at Villa Reuter in Nice. He was buried in West Norwood Cemetery in south London.

This bust of Paul Julius Reuter near the Royal Exchange in London is next to the Royal Exchange where he founded his Reuters news service. This granite monument set there by Reuters to mark the 125th anniversary of the Reuters Foundation and was unveiled by Edmund L de Rothschild on 18 October 1976.

The words on the front of the sculpture read:

Paul Julius Reuter

Born 1816 Kassel, Germany. Died 1899 Nice, France. Founded the world news organisation that bears his name in No. 1 Royal Exchange Buildings in the City of London, near this site, on 14 October 1851.

On the back of the sculpture, the words read:

The supply of information to the world’s traders in securities, commodities and currencies was then and is now the mainspring of Reuters activities & the guarantee of the founder’s aims of accuracy, rapidity and reliability. News services based on those principles now go to newspapers, radio & television networks & governments throughout the world. Reuters has faithfully continued the work begun here. To attest this & to honour Paul Julius Reuter this memorial was set here by Reuters to mark the 125th anniversary of Reuters Foundation & inaugurated by Edmund L de Rothschild, TD, 18.10.76.

The Reuters News Agency Reuters News Agency has been part of the Thomson Reuters conglomerate since 2008.

At a time when journalistic freedoms are under assault from President Trump and other world leaders, and when ‘Brexit’ is coming to typify isolationism and nationalism, Reuter’s statue was a good reminder this week of one of the key founding figures in modern journalism.

Reuter should be remembered not only for his innovations but as voice that spoke out for civil liberties, human rights and religious freedom, and who understand the need for different voices to speak to one another internationally.