04 July 2019

A missing sandwich at
Lough Gur and a glass
of wine in Cambridge

A glass of white wine on a summer afternoon on King’s Parade, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Last week, I spent a little quiet time on King’s Parade in Cambridge, enjoying the summer sunshine, the view of King’s College Chapel, the passing pleasures of families celebrating graduations, and lingering over a welcome glass of white wine.

The wine list at the Cambridge Chop House is quite unique in Cambridge as it focuses on the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. They have visited the region many times and have met most of the wine makers on their list.

But this restaurant had another unique feature: in the men’s rooms downstairs, they were playing soundtracks of Blackadder.

In ‘Ink and Incapability,’ the second episode of the third series (1987), Blackadder and Baldrick are supposed to be rewriting a lost manuscript of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary.

I walked in to hear this exchange:

Blackadder: Now, Baldrick, go to the kitchen and make me something quick and simple to eat, would you? Two slices of bread with something in between.

Baldrick: What, like Gerald, Lord Sandwich had the other day?

Blackadder: Yes, a few rounds of geralds.

Playing recordings of Blackadder on a loop in any restaurant or bar is one way to leave a long queue outside the men’s rooms. But I still had that glass of summer wine on King’s Parade to pay attention to.

Of course, there was no Gerald, Lord Sandwich, and the Cambridge Chop House is not the sort of place to include sandwiches on its menu.

But the sandwich owes its name to John Montagu (1718-1792), 4th Earl of Sandwich, who inherited large estates on the shores of Lough Gur, Co Limerick, including Bourchier’s Castle.

Bourchier’s Castle is a ruined five-storey tower house on the shores of Lough Gur, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

I had spent the previous Saturday afternoon visiting Lough Gur, 10 km south of Limerick. Admittedly, we had brought no sandwiches with us, but Lough Gur has a visitors’ centre, with a car park and picnic area, though no café or restaurant.

Beside the picnic area on the lake shore, Bourchier’s Castle is a ruined five-storey tower house. It was also known as Castle Doon and guarded the northern approach to Knockadoon on Lough Gur.

Bourchier’s Castle was built in the 16th century by Sir George Bourchier (1535-1605), a son of John Bourchier (1499-1561), 2nd Earl of Bath. The family benefitted from royal patronage, and John Bourchier was a cousin of Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset and sister-in-law of two queens, Jane Seymour and Catherine Parr.

Sir George Bourchier acquired 18,000 acres in Co Limerick from the estates of the Earls of Desmond by Elizabeth I in 1583. He was MP for King’s County (Offaly) in 1585-1586, and he built his castle at Lough Gur in 1586.

George Bourchier had a large family, including two sons buried in Saint Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny. His vast estates in Co Armagh and Co Limerick were inherited eventually by his fifth son, Henry Bourchier (1587-1654).

Henry Bourchier was educated at Trinity College Dublin (BA 1605, MA 1610), and was elected a fellow of the college in 1606. Although a distant heir, he became the 5th Earl of Bath in 1636 at the death of his first cousin once removed, Edward Bourchier (1590-1636), 4th Earl of Bath. During the English Civil War in the 1640s, Henry was a royalist and was jailed for his support for Charles I.

Henry died in 1654, and was buried in Tavistock, Devon. He had no male heirs, and his large estates in Ireland and England passed to his wife, Lady Rachael Fane (1613-1680), a daughter of Francis Fane, 1st Earl of Westmorland. The Co Limerick estate alone, which spilled over into Co Tipperary, covered 12,800 acres (52 sq km) and included the manors of Lough Gur and Glenogra.

As Dowager Countess of Bath, Rachael Fane was a formidable woman. One writer says, ‘She was a great lady and a busybody, and her cloud of kinsfolk held her in fear as their patroness and suzerain ... a masterful woman, she lived feared and respected by her numerous kindred whom she advanced by her interest at court.’

She secured her husband’s Irish estates for her nephew, Sir Henry Fane (1650-1706), as his guardian. His son, Charles Fane (1676-1744), was MP for Killybegs (1715-1719). On the strength of his large estates in Co Limerick and Co Armagh, including Lough Gur, he was given the titles of Viscount Fane and Baron Loughguyre [sic] in 1719.

The estates and titles, including Lough Gur, passed to Charles Fane’s son, Charles Fane (1708-1766), 2nd Viscount Fane, a Whig MP and British ambassador in Florence. But this Charles Fane had no male heirs either, and when he died his Irish estates were divided between two sisters: Mary Fane who married Jerome de Salis (1709-1794), 2nd Count de Salis; and Dorothy Fane who married John Montagu (1718-1792), 4th Earl of Sandwich.

John Montagu was a direct descendant of Sir Sidney Montagu, whose brother James Montagu (1568-1618), was the first Master of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, and later Dean of Lichfield and Bishop of Bath and Well.

But John Montagu was known as one of the most corrupt and immoral politicians of his age. It was he – and not Blackadder’s Gerald – who gave his name to the humble sandwich and to the Sandwich Islands. But part of the Blackadder joke is that the word sandwich is not included in Johnson’s Dictionary, which was published in 1755.

There is no public access to Bourchier’s Castle on the shores of Lough Gur, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

At the time of Griffith’s Valuation, the Earl of Sandwich held lands in the parishes of Ballinlough, Glenogra and Tullabracky, Co Limerick. The Limerick estates of the Earl of Sandwich amounted to 3,844 acres in the 1870s, while the Count de Salis owned over 4,000 acres in Co Limerick and 3,663 acres in Co Armagh.

Other branches of the Bourchier family lived nearby at Kilcullane, Baggotstown and Maidenhall, Co Limerick. James David Bourchier (1850-1920) from Baggotstown, Co Limerick, was a journalist and political activist. He was active in the cause of Bulgarian independence and the unification of Crete with the modern Greek state. He has given his name to a street and a metro station in Sofia, and to other landmarks throughout Bulgaria.

The Sandwich Islands have since been renamed Hawaii, but the humble sandwich remains. Even if it’s not on the menu at the Cambridge Chop House, I must take a sandwich with me to Lough Gur on another week, and spend more time exploring the archaeological sites around the lake and close to Bourchier’s Castle.

A summer afternoon on the shores of Lough Gur, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019; click on image for full-screen view)

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