14 September 2019

How Templeglantine
grew up around the
church built in 1829

The Church of the Holy Trinity, Templeglantine, was built 190 years ago in 1829 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

During the commemorations of Max Macauliffe and his contribution to Sikh life in Templeglantine earlier this week [11 September 2019], I also visited the Church of the Holy Trinity, across the street from the community centre and the school once attended by Max Macauliffe.

The name Templeglantine (Teampall an Ghleanntáin) means ‘the church of the little glen,’ although it is also known locally as Inchebaun or An Inse Bhán, meaning the ‘White River meadow.’ The village is on the N21 from Limerick to Tralee, five miles south-west of Newcastlewest.

Templeglantine is a chapel village that grew up around the church built 190 years ago in 1829 by Father James Cleary, who was Parish Priest of Monagea. Templeglantine parish was created in 1864 following the transfer of Father James O’Shea to Rathkeale. He had been parish priest of Monagea, and Templeglantine was a part of Monagea parish until this change.

The O’Macasa family ruled the area until the 12th century when they were replaced by the FitzGerald family, Earls of Desmond. After the defeat of the Desmond FitzGeralds in 1583, this part of West Limerick passed to Sir William Courtenay and the Earls of Devon.

Inside Holy Trinity Church, Templeglantine (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Westropp describes an old church ruin in Templeglantine. The site of this church is now surrounded by Templeglantine graveyard. The east end of the church was levelled before 1840. The remainder of the church was defaced and overgrown with ash and thorn.

The walls of the church were about 6 or 7 feet in height, according to Westropp. While the ruins of the church no longer exist, a small wall has been built to show the site of the west gable of the church. The church was originally about 70 ft by 30 ft.

According to Tadhg O’Maolcatha, there was a thatched Mass House at Roche’s Cross in Meenoline before 1829. Earlier still there was an Abbey in Templeglantine West.

The gallery and west end of Holy Trinity Church, Templeglantine (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Holy Trinity Church in Templeglantine is one of the oldest churches still in use today in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Limerick. An inscription on the wall says the church was dedicated to the Holy Trinity in 1829. The baptismal font and the holy water fonts in the porch are presumed to date from 1829. The year 1829 also marked the passing of legislation on Catholic Emancipation.

This is double-height, gable-fronted church, with a three-bay nave and a later porch, built in the 1930s, a single-bay chancel, a two-bay single-storey sacristy, and a single-bay lean-to and flat-roofed extensions.

The church retains many attractive architectural features, including the dressed rubble stone walls with limestone quoins, and the numerous window styles, including unusual bipartite windows. The use of tooled limestone to the window surrounds and hood mouldings enhance the appearance of the church.

The stained-glass window of Saint Patrick in Holy Trinity Church, Templeglantine (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Inside, the well-maintained interior has a finely carved marble reredos. Behind the High Altar, the stained-glass window depicts the Holy Spirit and the Body and Blood of Christ.

There are stained-glass windows of Saint Patrick and Saint Brigid at the back of the church, and a stained-glass window in the gallery of Christ gathering or minding his flock.

The wooden medallion of the Holy Trinity by Fergus Costello (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The wooden medallion of the Holy Trinity on the north side of the nave was commissioned in 1999 to mark the millennium in 2000. The medallion is the work of the liturgical artist Fergus Costello at his studios in Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary.

At the centre of the medallion, a motif from the Book of Kells shows unending circles, without beginning or end, as a symbol of Divinity. The Father is represented by the all-seeing eye; the Son is represented by the Cross of Redemption; the Holy Spirit is represented by the Dove.

The Dove is carved in pine; the all-seeing eye and the cross are carved in bog oak and bog yew wood that is probably thousands of years old.

The Stations of the Cross date from around 1946 when they replaced the original Stations of the Cross. The church also has a silver chalice from 1796, predating the church.

The porch was built in the 1930s through a donation from parishioners who had emigrated to America.

The free-standing belfry in the grounds of the church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Bridget (Sexton) Kiely of Glenshesk donated a bell to the church in the early 20th century, and it was mounted on the west gable. By the mid-1950s, the bell was taken down for safety reasons, a new free-standing belfry was built in the church grounds, and the old bell was sent to the missions in Africa.

A large stone statue of the Virgin Mary was erected in front of the church in 1995. It was sculpted from limestone and is the work of the sculptor Annette McCormack from Newbridge, Co Kildare.

The stained-glass window of Saint Brigid in Holy Trinity Church, Templeglantine (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

A new graveyard behind the church opened in September 1983. Before that, the only graveyard in the parish had been in the grounds of the old church in Templeglantine West. That graveyard is said to have been in use for around 800 years, but the oldest headstone is from 1866, in memory of Michael Gallwey RM.

The community centre across the road was officially opened in 1977 by Bishop Jeremiah Newman, and was the venue for this weeks commemorations of Max Macauliffe.

Today, Holy Trinity Church, Templeglantine, forms a pastoral unit with Tournafulla and Mountcollins.

Holy Trinity Church, Templeglantine, is one of the oldest churches in use in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Lichfield celebrates
Samuel Johnson’s 310th
birthday this weekend

Samuel Johnson in the winter darkness and with the Christmas lights in the Market Square in Lichfield last month (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Today marks the 310th Birthday of Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the Lichfield-born lexicographer and writer, who compiled the first standard dictionary in the English language, and who is also commemorated the calendar of saints in Common Worship in the Church of England.

As part of Lichfield’s Heritage Festival, the man of many words is being celebrated this weekend with a series of fun activities throughout the day.

In the Samuel Johnson Birthplace and Museum, which is open from 10:30 to 4:30, they are continuing an annual tradition of offering free birthday cake for all visitors – while stocks last – and the Small Print Company is giving visitors an opportunity to print their very own posters using a traditional press.

The formal civic celebration takes place on the Market Square at 12 noon and is followed by demonstrations from different groups, including the Three Spires Morris dancers, Wildfire Folk and the City of Lichfield Concert Band.

Saint Michael’s Church on Greenhill is open from 10am to 6pm. This 13th century church, set within the oldest churchyard in England, has a memorial to Samuel Johnson’s family.

As part of the Birthday Celebrations, the Lichfield Poets are reading a selection of ‘Nature Poems’ this afternoon. They are meeting in the Monks Walk Garden at 2:15.

‘Georgian Jono,’ Jonathan Oates, is signing copies of his new book, The A-Z of Lichfield, in Lichfield Library from 1 pm to 3 pm.

A Pool Walk with Saint Chad meets outside Saint Mary’s in the Market Square at 2:30 and is an opportunity to learn more about Saint Chad, his contemporaries and the Midland saints. The programme also offers guided tours of the Guildhall and Dr Milley’s Hospital.

As part of the celebrations, the Samuel Johnson Society holds its annual candle-lit supper this evening in the Guildhall. Guests will be addressed by the new President, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. He is speaking on the subject of Samuel Johnson and the tradition of Tory Anarchism.

The vote of thanks to the incoming president is being proposed by the Lichfield author and blogger Annette Rubery.

A walk to the Sandfields pumping station and guided walks of the Lichfield Canal restoration is being offered today and tomorrow by the Lichfield Waterworks Trust and Lichfield and Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust. This includes a walk along part of the line of the tunnel under Lichfield to the Sandfields pumping station.

Walkers may then take an optional guided walk along the trails and towpaths of the nearby Fosseway Heath section of the Lichfield Canal, and there is a free heritage bus ride back to the city centre, stopping off at the restored Gallows Wharf.

The Calendar in Common Worship in the Church of England commemorates Samuel Johnson on 13 December.

Johnson was a devout Anglican and a compassionate man whose works are permeated with his morality. His faith did not prejudice him against others, and he respected members of other churches who demonstrated a commitment to the teachings of Christ. He admired John Milton’s poetry but could not tolerate his Puritan and Republican beliefs. He was a Tory, yet he opposed slavery and once proposed a toast to the ‘next rebellion of the negroes in the West Indies.’

He would write on moral topics with such authority and in such a trusting manner that one biographer could say: ‘No other moralist in history excels or even begins to rival him.’

Shortly before his death, Johnson composed an inscription for a floor slab in the centre of the nave in Saint Michael’s Church, Lichfield, to commemorate his father, Michael Johnson (died 1731), his mother, Sarah Johnson (died 1759), and his brother, Nathaniel Johnson (died 1737), who were all buried in the church.

The original stone was removed when Saint Michael’s was repaved in the late 1790s, but it was replaced with the same inscription in 1884 to mark the centenary of Samuel Johnson’s death.

On his last visit to church, the walk strained Johnson. However, while there he wrote a prayer for his friends, the Thrale family: ‘To thy fatherly protection, O Lord, I commend this family. Bless, guide, and defend them, that they may pass through this world, as finally to enjoy in thy presence everlasting happiness, for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.’

In his last prayer, on 5 December 1784, before receiving Holy Communion and eight days before he died, Samuel Johnson prayed:

Almighty and most merciful Father, I am now, as to human eyes it seems, about to commemorate, for the last time, the death of thy Son Jesus Christ our Saviour and Redeemer. Grant, O Lord, that my whole hope and confidence may be in his merits, and his mercy; enforce and accept my imperfect repentance; make this commemoration available to the confirmation of my faith, the establishment of my hope, and the enlargement of my charity; and make the death of thy Son Jesus Christ effectual to my redemption. Have mercy on me, and pardon the multitude of my offences. Bless my friends; have mercy upon all men. Support me, by the grace of thy Holy Spirit, in the days of weakness, and at the hour of death; and receive me, at my death, to everlasting happiness, for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.

As he lay dying, Samuel Johnson’s final words were: ‘Iam Moriturus’ (‘I who am about to die’). He fell into a coma and died at 7 p.m. on 13 December 1784. He was buried in Westminster Abbey a week later.

I am going to miss the opportunity to enjoy any of these events this weekend, but I am back in Lichfield next week to speak at Lichfield Civic Society on Tuesday evening [17 September 2019] on the story of the Comberford family of Comberford Hall and the Moat House, Lichfield Street, Tamworth.

The Samuel Johnson Birthplace and Museum at night (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)