Saturday, 22 February 2020

How one man managed
to cross the Shannon
Estuary on a bicycle

Tom Mangan cycled across the Shannon Estuary from the pier at Glin, Co Limerick, in July 1902 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

The rains that have been brought in by the latest storms seem unremitting in the past few days. At times, they have turned to hail and sleet, and sometimes it even takes careful planning and timing to know when to venture down to the local supermarket to buy the daily newspapers.

Standing by the banks of the Shannon Estuary, watching the swells on the water, feeling the strong winds and watching the grey clouds mass overhead, it is hard to imagine how anyone could take out onto the river in a small vessel.

So, I was surprised earlier this week to hear the story of one man who not only tried to, but also succeeded in peddling across the Shannon Estuary from Glin in Co Limerick to Labasheeda in Co Clare, and cycled back again the same day.

Tom Mangan was a resourceful man who was born in Cahera in 1871 and who lived in Glin all his life. At a time of hardship in Ireland, he had the good fortune to work as a clerk with the Shannon Steamship Company which collected and distributed goods all along the Shannon Estuary from Limerick to Kilrush, serving the ports along the way, including Glin.

During the course of his work, Tom Mangan saved a man from drowning at Glin Pier after he had fallen between a boat and the pier.

Tom set out to build a pedal boat. He put his cycle, whose frame he had built himself, on two flat boards like a raft, one under each wheel.

A crack in the boards formed a crevice that allowed the wheels to touch the water.

After a trial run, he set off on a warm sunny Sunday afternoon in July 1902, watched by a crowd on Glin Pier. People lit bonfires to alert the village of Labasheeda of his expected arrival.

Despite the bonfires and the warnings, Tom Mangan caused a huge stir and furore in Labasheeda and the local RIC sergeant sent to Killaloe for reinforcements, before people realised this was not some demon or monster coming over the water but a man.

When he staggered ashore, a crowd of people cheered and a bottle of brandy was pressed to his lips.

The local sergeant thought of arresting him for public disorder, but he cycled back to Glin again later that day.

The day was recalled 70 years later by John B Keane, a regular visitor to Glin, in his column in the Limerick Leader on 14 August 1971.

Inspired by John B Keane, a local man, Kevin Reidy, designed yet another specially adapted bicycle-boat and the late Bill Culhane volunteered to cycle it an re-enact Tom Mangan’s feat.

Local people in Glin used Kevin Reidy’s replica in a charity fundraiser in the 1980s, pushing it from Dublin for display at Shannon Airport.

In this weather, I think I’d prefer to cross the Shannon on the ferry between Tarbert and Killimer. It beats paddling your own canoe, or peddling your own bicycle.

It is safer and wiser to cross the Shannon on the ferry between Tarbert and Killimer (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John Jackson, bookseller,
author and the host at
Zozimus Books in Gorey

John Jackson … the genial and erudite proprietor of Zosimus Books in Gorey, Co Wexford, since 2011

Patrick Comerford

Like many of my friends, I was saddened this week to learn of the sudden death of John Wyse Jackson.

After he moved back to Ireland, John set up Zozimus Books on the Main Street in Gorey, Co Wexford, in 2011. Zozimus Book was an integral part of the Book Café and played an important role in raising the cultural expectations of a north Wexford town that is too easily dismissed these days as a satellite or dormitory town of Dublin.

John’s passion for literature and books was known by all and there was no title he had not heard of, nor was there a book he could not source for a customer. Customers were always welcomed warmly by this friendly and courteous man of letters and author.

He recently told an interview with the Irish Examiner that he had been in business for about 10 years and had 40,000 titles in his Zozimus bookshop, both second-hand and antiquarian books.

John Robert Wyse Jackson was born in Kilkenny on 31 May 1953, when his father, Robert Wyse Jackson (1908-1976), was Dean of Cashel. His mother, Lois, was a daughter of John Phair, Bishop of Ossory.

Dean Jackson, who was also a barrister and a published historian, was elected Bishop of Limerick, Ardfert and Aghadoe at the end of 1960, when John was seven, and the family moved to Limerick in early 1961, and when they were still children he and his brother started a little public library for their friends in their national school in Limerick.

After a degree in English Literature at Trinity College Dublin, John worked as a bookseller in London. There, he became a director of John Sandoe (Books) Ltd, an independent bookshop off the King’s Road in Chelsea, wrote and edited several books, lectured and broadcast on a wide range of topics, and contributed to many journals and newspapers, including the Sunday Times, Hibernia, the Journal of Beachcomber Associatesand the Spectator, and to many collections of poetry.

He had a wide-ranging specialist knowledge of the works of Oscar Wilde, James Joyce and Myles na gCopaleen or Flann O’Brien. He was also one of the founders of the Chelsea Press, whose bestsellers included a facsimile edition of the Freeman’s Journal for the first Bloomsday, 16 June 1904.

I could have been lost for days in the Zozimus Bookshop in Gorey (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John came back to Ireland with his wife and children in 2003. He soon found himself helping out on a bookstall in Arklow, and was soon running it. The opportunity then came to run a bookshop in Gorey. He founded Zozimus Bookshop in 2011, naming his bookshop in honour of Michael Moran (aka Zozimus), the early 19th century Dublin street balladeer and poet.

He tried to have only one copy of a book at any one time, bought books individually and did not go to auctions. But with 40,000 titles it was difficult to find space.

It was a Labyrinth or Aladdin’s Cave of books, packed from floor to ceiling with the most eclectic collection of books from biography to travel.

Coincidentally, one of the first books I put my fingers on in the shop was 84 Charing Cross Road, Helen Hanff’s 1970 book, later turned into a stage play, television play, and film, about her 24-year correspondence with Frank Doel of Marks & Co, the antiquarian bookshop located at 84 Charing Cross Road in London.

Helen Hanff was searching for obscure books she could not find in New York. She and Doel developed a long-distance friendship and their letters discussed topics as diverse as the sermons of John Donne, how to make Yorkshire Pudding, the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the coronation of Elizabeth II.

Visiting Zozimus was as delightful as visiting David’s in Cambridge or the lamentably now-gone Staffs Bookshop in Lichfield – although, of course, Marks is long gone too, and 84 Charing Cross Road is now the site of yet another McDonald’s burger shop.

He had written a dozen or so books, including one about James Joyce’s father with Peter Costello, and a life of John Lennon.

I missed the launches in 2018 of Life in the Church of Ireland 1600-1800, a new edition of a book by his father, Robert Wyse Jackson, and which had been edited by John, who invited me to write the introduction to the book.

This enticing 250-page book, published by Ballinakella Press, Whitegate, Co Clare, was the result of painstaking research into the turbulent life of clergy and laity of the Church of Ireland during political upheavals, the influences of plantation and of ecclesiastical establishment.

John Jackson of Bolaney House, Bolaney, Gorey, and Zozimus Book Shop, died peacefully but suddenly at home on 19 February 2020. He is survived by his wife Ruth, his sons Eoghan, Daniel, Conor and Adam, and his sister, brothers, and a wider family circle. His funeral takes place on Tuesday (25 February) at 3 pm in Christ Church, Gorey, Co Wexford.

He will be missed by his family, friends and customers.

Friday, 21 February 2020

The Vicar of Askeaton whose
son claimed a title and
the Coutts banking fortune

Francis Money-Coutts … a poet and writer, who inherited an obscure title and a banking fortune

Patrick Comerford

While I was researching the priests, rectors, vicars and curates of Askeaton for my lecture in Askeaton earlier this week, I cam across the extraordinary story of the son of one Vicar of Askeaton who inherited one of the largest banking fortunes in Britain and who also managed, by sleight of hand, to wangle a seat in the House of Lords.

Francis Burdett Thomas Nevill Money-Coutts (1852-1923) was born plain Francis Money in London on 18 September 1852, the son of the Revd James Drummond Money (1800-1875), who was Vicar of Askeaton in 1830-1833.

James Drummond Money was born in Bombay on 26 April 1805, a son of Sir William Taylor Money (1769-1834) and MP (1816-1826) who made his fortune in India and Java as a director of the East India Company and who died of cholera in Venice in 1834.

James was educated at Harrow and Trinity College Cambridge (BA, 1828; MA, 1868), and was ordained deacon (1828) and priest (1829), and was the curate (‘lecturer’) in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, for less than a year when he came to came to Co Limerick in 1830 and was presented as Vicar of Askeaton by Sir Matthew Blakiston (1783-1862).

What brought a young man like this to Askeaton? He was then only 25, newly-ordained and with very little parish experience.

The answer is probably provided by his marriage on 10 October 1832 to Charlotte Noel, daughter of Canon Gerard Thomas Noel (1782-1851), Vicar of Romsey Abbey, Hampshire, and a famous evangelical hymnwriter.

She was his first wife, and she was a first cousin of Charles Noel, Earl of Gainsborough … I have told the sad and romantic stories of his daughters’ marriages in ‘The love story that forced Queen Victoria’s god-daughter and an Irish composer to run away from her father’s home’ (5 August 2016).
But, more importantly for this part of Ireland, she was a granddaughter of Sir Lucius O’Brien (1731-1795) of Dromoland Castle and a first cousin of William Smith O’Brien (1803-1864) of Cahermoyle, Co Limerick.

Balindeel House, Askeaton … home of the Revd James Drummond Money in 1830-1833 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Charlotte and James stayed in Askeaton for a very short time. They returned to England in 1833, where he became the Rector of Blatherwyck in Northamptonshire in 1833 and then a year later Rector of Sternfield, Suffolk (1834-1861) in the Diocese of St Edmundsbury.

Charlotte and James had nine children, but most of whom died in infancy and she died in 1848.

James Money’s married his second wife, Clara Maria Money-Coutts, originally Clara Maria Burdett, at Chelsea on 28 April 1850. Clara was one of the three daughters of the wealthy banker Sir Francis Burdett (1770-1844) and his wife Sophia, a daughter of the banker Thomas Coutts. Clara’s sister was the Victorian philanthropist Angela Burdett-Coutts, who eventually inherited the Coutts banking fortune.

James and Clara were the parents of Francis Burdett Thomas Nevill Money-Coutts (1852-1923), who was born Francis Money in London on 18 September 1852, and the Revd Walter Baptist Money (1849-1924), who played cricket for Kent and Surrey and who was ordained in the Diocese of Lichfield.

James Money, former Vicar of Askeaton, died in 1875 and Clara died in 1899.

The Great Court, Trinity College Cambridge … the future Lord Latymer graduated BA in 1875 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Francis Money was educated at Eton and Trinity College Cambridge (BA 1875; MA and LLM 1878). He was admitted to the Inner Temple in 1873 and was called to the bar in 1879.

But, although he was both a barrister and solicitor, he spent most of his life as a poet, librettist and writer. He is now remembered chiefly as a patron and collaborator of the Spanish composer Isaac Albéniz.

In 1875 Francis Money, as he was then named, married Edith Ellen Churchill.

In 1881, his aunt Angela Burdett violated the terms of the will making her the sole heir of the Coutts fortune, by marrying a foreigner – an American who was 40 years her junior.

Seeing an opportunity, Clara and her son adopted the name Coutts under the terms of the will, so that he became Francis Burdett Thomas Nevill Money-Coutts on 20 September 1880, and mother and son then contested Angela’s claims. A settlement was reached, and Angela received two-fifths of the income until her death in 1906, when Francis then became the sole beneficiary.

At one point, Francis was considered for a partnership in the family bank, but this idea was abandoned, as he was thought too unstable in temperament for such a position.

Adopting the pen name of ‘Mountjoy,’ he wrote and published at least 23 works between 1896 and 1923. Many of these were collections of poems. He also worked for the publisher John Lane in London, writing prefaces for, and editing, collections of poems by other authors, including Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Jeremy Taylor.

In 1912, by a genealogical sleight of hand, he became the 5th Baron Latymer through his mother’s family, when the title was called out of abeyance. The title was thought to have been extinct for 335 since the death in 1577 of John Nevill, stepson of Catherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII.

He petitioned for the title in 1911, and by resolution of the House of Lords on 15 July 1912 he was declared to be co-heir to the Barony of Latymer. He was summoned to Parliament by writ on 11 February 1913. Now the son of a Vicar of Askeaton had a seat in the House of Lords.

He changed his name again in 1914 to Francis Burdett Thomas Coutts-Nevill. He died in London on 8 June 1923.

Of course, I also had to find a Greek connection, especially with Crete and Thessaloniki. Francis was the grandfather of Mercy Money-Coutts Seiradaki (1910-1993), born the Hon Mercy Money-Coutts. She worked there in the 1930s as an archaeologist in Crete, where she married Michael Seiradakis in 1947.

She was privately educated and then graduated in modern history at Oxford. There she became a student volunteer for Sir Arthur Evans at Knossos, but John Pendlebury who was her archaeological mentor. He was working at the Temple Tomb and was the Curator of Knossos in the early 1930s.

Mercy was one of the five women post-graduate students at the British School at Athens in 1933-1934. She studied prehistoric pottery that winter in Athens and then left with her fellow student Edith Eccles for Crete to assist Pendlebury in completing his catalogue at Knossos.

She excavated with him in the Lasithi Plateau and illustrated his most important book.

During World War II, Mercy worked for British Intelligence at Bletchley Park, then for the Red Cross, and returned to Crete in 1944. Pendlebury had been shot by the Germans earlier in the war. Back in Crete she joined the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, and acquired almost legendary status for her heroic exploits.

She was whole-hearted not only about her work but also about life on Crete. She learned modern Greek, got to know the island, its people and culture and was known for her ability to get on with local workers on site. She is seen as a pioneer of contemporary approaches to archaeological work.

She married Michaeli Seiradakis, who also worked for UNRRA, and they had two children. They lived in Chania in western Crete, but moved to Athens in 1962 where for several years she worked part-time as a library assistant in the British School.

She spent the last three years of her life in Thessaloniki and died on 1 September 1993. Her son, the physicist and astronomer John Seiradakis, was born in Chania and is a professor emeritus at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

Mercy Money-Coutts Seiradaki worked at Knossos with Sir Arthur Evans and John Pendlebury (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A Sephardic journey with
a family from Thessaloniki
through the 20th century

The Jewish Holocaust Memorial at Liberty Square, Thessaloniki … a bronze sculpture by Nandor Glid of a menorah whose flames are wrapped around human bodies (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Do you recall your first visit to a city you now know well and fell at ease in?

I had been through Thessaloniki airport twice on working trips to the Aegean Islands. But 1997 was my first time to stay in Thessaloniki for longer than the time needed for a cup of coffee.

Thessaloniki was the European City of Culture that year, I was working for The Irish Times, and I visited a number of exhibitions, museums, galleries and universities, attended lectures, and met the Patriarch of Constantinople.

Since then, I have returned to Thessaloniki regularly – for a family break, on my way to and from Mount Athos, and, more recently, to be present for Greek Easter the year before last. During all those visits, I have been fascinated about how comfortable I am in Greece’s ‘co-capital’ (συμπρωτεύουσα, symprōtévousa), how I seem to always know my way around, how I have never got lost in the streets.

But it was not until after my first stopover in 1996 that I realised how 80 years earlier my grandfather was in Thessaloniki with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers during World War I, and that after coming down with malaria he was sent back to Dublin from Thessaloniki in May 1916. I like to explain to friends that I exist today because my grandfather got malaria in Thessaloniki.

Thessaloniki has all the charm of a European second city. But it has only been a part of the modern Greek state since 1913. In 1916, this was the launching pad for an anti-royalist uprising, leading to the abdication of King Constantine I in 1917. The city was devastated by a great fire that swept through the city that year. But it was rebuilt and it retains much of its classical, Byzantine and Ottoman charms.

I have long been fascinated by the stories of the Jewish community in Thessaloniki. At one time, the city had a Jewish majority population and was known in Ladino to Sephardic Jews as la madre de Israel, ‘the Mother of Israel’ and as ‘Jerusalem of the Balkans.’

Over the past quarter of a century, I have visited the synagogues, museums, markets and landmark buildings associated with the Jewish community.

The Jewish population in Greece is the oldest in mainland Europe, and the original Romaniote Jews date back, perhaps, to the time of Alexander the Great. But, the Romaniotes are historically distinct and still remain distinct from the Sephardim, who arrived in Ottoman Greece after the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492.

The arrival of Sephardic Jews from Spain and Portugal before and during the Inquisition, the Jewish community in Thessaloniki became mostly Sephardic, and Thessaloniki became the largest centre of Sephardic Jews.

At one time, Thessaloniki had over 50 synagogues and the city’s Sephardic community made up half the population in the Ottoman census in 1902, and almost 40% in 1913. The Nazis deported almost the entire Jewish community of Thessaloniki to Auschwitz – over 95% were murdered, fewer than 4% survived.

When I read the a book review in the Economist last month (4 January 2020), I could not resist ordering the newly-published Family Papers: A Sephardic Journey through the Twentieth Century, by Sarah Abrevaya Stein (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2019).

This book tells the story of the Levy family of Thessaloniki, which has become far-flung since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the wars of the 20th century and the Holocaust.

The Levys were transformed from Ottomans to Greeks just as family members were scattered across the globe, from Greece to Western Europe, California, Johannesburg, Rio de Janeiro, Bombay, Montreal and Jerusalem. But many branches of the family were also wiped in the Holocaust.

Sarah Abrevaya Stein, who lives in Santa Monica, is a prize-winning Sephardic historian. She is the Sady and Ludwig Kahn Director of the Alan D Leve Center for Jewish Studies, Professor of History and the Maurice Amado Chair in Sephardic Studies at UCLA, and the author or editor of nine books.

She has used the family’s letters, papers and diaries to tell the story of their journeys, to share their grief, to hear their secrets, to reveal their proposals of marriage, plans for divorce, and to retrace their steps. She describes these papers and pages as the frayed and fragile tissue that once held this family together.

This is a rigorously researched family history that offers intimate glimpses not only of one clan but into the history of Sephardic Jews in the 20th century.

Studio portrait of Esther and Jacques (back), Karsa, Michael and Adolphe Salem (front), 1909 (Family Papers: A Sephardic Journey Through the Twentieth Century, p 63)

Professor Stein has interviewed descendants of the Levy family, who spoke about their lives, shared treasured and intimate letters, photographs and documents.

I expected her to trace this family’s ancestry back to Sepharad, mediaeval Spain and Portugal, from which Sephardic Jews were expelled by the Inquisition in the 1490s. But instead, she led me back to Amsterdam and Belsalel a-Levi Ashkenazi and his son Rabbi Yeuda a-Levi Ashkenazi.

Despite the original family name, the a-Levi Ashkenazi line was intermarried with Sephardic families from Italy, Spain and Portugal, became integrated with Sephardic families in Thessalonki, and soon simplified the family name to Levi or Levi.

In Thessaloniki, the family intermarried with Jewish families with familiar Sephardi names … Amarilio, Carmona, Errera, Ferreira, Florentin, Hasson, Matalon, Modiano, Molho, Salem, Sarfatti … The family trees she provides look more like a child’s sketch for school rather than following publisher’s conventions for genealogical charts, but here too I found names like O’Hagan … Pamela Salem O’Hagan, who was born in India, played Miss Moneypenny opposite Sean Connery’s James Bond in Never Say Never Again (1983), and appeared briefly in EastEnders (1988-1989).

I even wondered – in an absent-minded moment – about the origins of the family name of Sam Confortés.

Studio portrait of Sa’adi Besalel Ashkenazi -aLevi and his unidentified second wife, c. 1890s (Family Papers: A Sephardic Journey Through the Twentieth Century, p 21)

Stein begins by introducing us to Sa’adi Besalel Ashkenazi a-Levi (1820-1903), a thriving publisher and pious man who used his printing press to criticise rabbinical excesses. He sang Turkish songs at wedding receptions and sent a daughter to Paris to train as a teacher. Later, he was heart-broken when he was punished for his outspokenness with a rabbinical writ of heremand ostracised from the community in 1874.

He began writing his memoir during the 1880s, and continued to publish a progressive Ladino newspaper, La Epoka.

The family stories are then told in a series of biographical profiles.

At least two of Sa’adi’s children were murdered in Auschwitz, others survived in faraway places. Daoud or David, a skilled linguist and mathematician once honoured by the Ottomans with the honorific effendi, was the director of the Ottoman Passport Office.

When Thessaloniki became part of modern Greece, David’s sons decided to leave: Leon went to Brazil, Emmanuel to France. But David stayed on in Thessaloniki, became a Greek government official, and lived long enough to be murdered in Auschwitz with much of his family in 1943.

Another of Sa’adi’s sons, Sam Lévy, was a journalist who dreamed of a Thessaloniki where Jews could once again enjoy self-governance. After World War I, he proposed to the Versailles peace conference that Thessaloniki should be ‘a free and neutral city administered by Jews’ with a vote in the League of Nations, ‘a Jewish city-state that was neither Zionist nor Greek.’

Sa’adi’s daughter Fortunée remained in Thessaloniki and married Ascher Jacob Salem, becoming a mother of six. Their eldest son Jacques left for Manchester to set up in business, but was arrested as a foreign national in Britain as World War I broke out and spent four years in jail.

The Holocaust decimated large swaths of the Levy clan. Those who fled to Manchester fared better than those who chose Paris.

Regina Hasson, Aron Hasson, and Julie (née Hasson) Sarfatti, 1946 (Family Papers: a Sephardic Journey Through the Twentieth Century, p 239)

Stein also uncovers the family’s most painful secret: one of Sa’adi’s great-great-grandsons, Vital Hasson, was a notorious Nazi collaborator. In a feature in the Greek Reporter last month [27 January 2020], she also recalled his life and death.

He tried to escape to Albania, Italy and Alexandria, and evaded arrest on at least four occasions. But he was so feared and despised that the few Jews remaining in Greece after World War II, demanded his trial.

He was executed in Corfu on 4 March 1948. The Greek civil war was its height. Six communists who were also condemned to death protested against being shot alongside ‘the traitor Hasson.’ When he stepped forward, he faced a fellow Greek Jew, Shlomo Behar, a survivor of Auschwitz, who volunteered to join the firing squad to avenge Vital’s many victims and to testify back in Thessaloniki that justice had been done.

The names of Holocaust victims on the pavement in Vassilisis Olgas Avenue … Sam Levy, murdered in Auschwitz in 1943, is named on the Stolperstein or ‘stumbling stone’ second from right on the bottom row (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Dr Stein has found the descendants of Sa’adi Besalel Ashkenazi a-Levi in Lisbon, Manchester, Barcelona, Paris, Bombay, Montreal, Rio de Janeiro, California, and in Greece. One is a musician, another an ambassador, some are in politics, others are engaged in business.

The Levy cousins, she writes, ‘had lived under Ottoman, Greek, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, British, Indian and Brazilian rule; they had witnessed the 1917 fire in Salonica, the Balkan Wars, the First and Second World Wars; and they had emigrated in multiple directions, some more than once.’

But, in time, old family differences resurfaced, and many descendants of the Levy clan are not aware of the family’s complex past, nor can they speak Ladino, the Judaeo-Spanish dialect once spoken throughout Thessaloniki.

If family members have forgotten Ladino, Thessaloniki too was in danger of forgetting the Levy family: in recent years, officials were still finding Jewish gravestones used to pave the city’s footpaths, including parts of the pyramidal headstone from the tomb of the family patriarch, Sa’adi Besalel Ashkenazi a-Levi.

Dr Stein says in her conclusions, the descendants of this family ‘are amiable, generous souls living culturally vibrant lives full of family, and integrated into the national and cultural contexts they call home.’

This Sephardic journey through the 20th century is another pilgrimage or Camino, a journey that I have already experienced on some of its early stages. As she says in Ladino in the opening pages of this book, Kamino kon Buenos, te hazeras uno de eyos … ‘Walk with good people and you will become one of them.’

● Sarah Abrevaya Stein, Family Papers: A Sephardic Journey through the Twentieth Century (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2019), xi + 319 pp, ISBN 978-0-374-18542-8, $28

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Finding the architect of
the Church of Ireland
Theological Institute

The Church of Ireland Theological College … designed by George Palmer Beater (1850-1928) as the Fetherstonhaugh Convalescent Home for the Adelaide Hospital (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Working at the kitchen table in the rectory in Askeaton this morning, with the sun bathing the garden lawn and streaming in through the window and, I was reminded of many early mornings like that working in the study I had for many years in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute in Dublin.

In my first years on the staff of what was then the Church of Ireland Theological College, I had a room in the new building that designed as the student residential block.

But when the premises were refurbished, I moved into a very fine room upstairs in the original building, looking out onto the lawn and facing the morning sunrise.

I was on the staff of CITI or CITC, first as a part-time lecturer from 2002, and then as a full-time lecturer from 2006 until I moved to west Limerick in 2017. But it was only in recent weeks that I realised the architect of the main building at CITI was George Palmer Beater (1850-1928), an important church architect at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.

George Palmer Beater was born in Dublin on 16 June 1850, the son of Orlando L Beater (1817-1908) and Abigail née Palmer (1824-1891). His father was chairman of Arnott’s and the family lived at Glenarm, Terenure Road East.

He was educated in Dublin and articled to the architect Alfred Gresham Jones (1824-1915), who also designed many churches, including Grosvenor Road Baptist Church and Athlone Methodist Church.

Beater designed the Fetherstonhaugh Convalescent Home for the Adelaide Hospital in 1894. This former convalescent home is now the main redbrick CITI building, with the chapel, lecture and seminar rooms, offices and the rooms of the academic staff.

The former convalescent home … now the main redbrick CITI building (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

His other works include: a new entrance porch for the former Nelson Monument (Nelson’s Pillar) on O’Connell Street, Baptist churches on Harcourt Street and North Circular Road, Dublin, Cork Baptist Church, the former Baptist Church in Limerick, the Slievemore Hotel, Dugort, Achill Island, Co Mayo, for the trustees of the Achill Mission Estate, the Dublin Medical Mission on Chancery Place, the Presbyterian church hall in Rathgar, the façade of Merrion Hall (now the Davenport Hotel), first built by Alfred Gresham Jones in 1863, and Northumberland Hall (now Dun Laoghaire Evangelical Church) for the Plymouth Brethren, the YMCA in Rathmines, Woolworth in Henry Street, and the Northern Bank in Bray, Co Wicklow.

Beater also designed much of the work on Arnott’s premises in Henry Street, Dublin, many of the premises rebuilt on Sackville Street (O’Connell Street), Dublin, after the 1916 Rising, and some of the houses on Grosvenor Road, Rathmines.

He was the architect of the Elvery’s Building on O’Connell Street, and many extensions to both the Adelaide Hospital and Stewart’s Hospital.

In recent years, there has been much interest in his work on the Mill Street Schools and Mission Buildings complex at 10 Mill Street, Dublin 8. When this early 18th century, five-bay building was acquired by the Irish Church Missions in 1891, Beater was commissioned to remodel it as part of the Mill Street Schools and Mission Buildings. His work included building a buttressed porch in place of the door-case and reconstructing the top floor with a conventional hipped roof centring on a corbelled gable. The building has been carefully restored in recent years and is now in use as offices.

He worked from offices at 3 Molesworth Street (1873), Liverpool & London Chambers, Foster Place (1874), 17 Sackville Street Lower (1874-1882, 1886-1915), 57 Dawson Street (1883-1886), and 10 Leinster Street (1916-1926).

The Church of Ireland Theological Institute ... Beater was living at Glenarm, Terenure Road, Rathgar, when he designed the former convalescent home (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Beater was married twice. In 1880, he married Isabel Stokes, daughter of William James Stokes, of Dublin, and they were the parents of one son, Leslie Orlando Beater. Isabel died 28 January 1882 and she was buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery.

Beater married his second wife, Constance Perry, in 1896. She was the daughter of R Middleton Perry, JP, of 73 Leinster Road, Rathmines. Her sister, Annette Marion Perry, was secretary of the Zenana Bible and Medical Mission. George and Constance were the parents of two daughters and one son, George Perry, who died in infancy.

He was a member of the Architectural Association of Ireland (1899-1908), a member (1878) and a fellow (1919) of the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland (FRIAI), and a member of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland (1898).

He was a member of Rathmines and Rathgar Town Council, supported many charities in Dublin and was a governor of the Royal Hospital, Dublin, the Old Men’s Home on Leeson Park, and the Protestant Orphanage at 57 Harold’s Cross Road.

Beater lived at 1 Rostrevor Terrace, Rathgar (1873-1879); St Helen’s, Highfield Road, Rathgar (1881-1882); Glenarm, Terenure Road, Rathgar (1883-1896); and Minore, St Kevin’s Park, Rathmines (1897-1928).

He died at 9 Brighton Road, Rathgar, the home of his brother, Dr Orlando Beater, on 8 February 1928, and was buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery with his first wife. His obituary in the Irish Builder described him as ‘a kindly, courteous gentleman, liked and respected by all who knew him.’

When his widow Constance Beater died on 23 March 1945 at 9 Rathdown Park, Terenure, she was buried at Friends’ Burial Ground, Temple Hill, Blackrock.

His brother, Dr Orlando Palmer Beater of Terenure Road, Rathgar, was a solicitor and a qualified but non-practising medical doctor and surgeon.

For many years, Dr Orlando Beater was a member of the board of Arnott’s and a director of the publishers and printers Cherry and Smalldridge, as well as a governor of the Royal Hospital for Incurables, Stewart’s Hospital and the Northbrook Home.

The student residential block at CITI (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A sculptor who asks us
where are the post-Brexit
guardians of civilisation

‘The Minotaur’ by Michael Ayrton … now at Saint Alphage Gardens, near Salters’ Hall, the Barbican and London Wall (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

One the captivating sculptures I noticed in London recently is ‘The Minotaur,’ a sculpture by Michael Ayrton that has been moved around London since it was acquired by the City of London in 1973.

Although this was one of Ayrton’s favourite works, it has been moved around over the past half century. It now stands Saint Alphage Gardens, next to Saint Alphage House on London Wall, behind the Salters’ Hall.

But ‘The Minotaur’ was originally sited in Postman’s Park beside Saint Botolph without Aldersgate Church when it was unveiled in 1973. It then moved to Saint Alphage High Walk at the Barbican Estate, but there it still looked isolated.

The present location of ‘The Minotaur’, hopefully, allows more people to appreciate the work of Michael Ayrton (1921-1975) as a sculptor and a significant figure in British Arts in the mid-20th century.

The artist and writer Michael Ayrton was renowned as a painter, printmaker, sculptor and designer, and also as a critic, broadcaster and novelist. His output of sculptures, illustrations, poems and stories illustrate his obsession with flight, myths, mirrors and mazes.

Michael Ayrton was born Michael Ayrton Gould, on 20 February 1921, a son of the English writer, journalist and essayist Gerald Gould (1885-1936) and the Labour politician Barbara Ayrton-Gould (1886-1950).

Gerald Gould studied at University College London and Magdalen College Oxford, and was once a Fellow of Merton College Oxford (1909-1916). He and his wife Barbara were activist in suffragist campaigns. He also worked as a journalist on the Daily Herald as one of ‘Lansbury’s Lambs’ after it was bought by George Lansbury in 1913.

Gould probably brought Siegfried Sassoon to the paper as literary editor in 1919. He also wrote for the New Statesman and The Observer, and worked for Victor Gollancz, where he was involved in the early publication of George Orwell.

Barbara Ayrton-Gould was a daughter of Hertha Marks Ayrton and William Edward Ayrton, both prominent electrical engineers and inventors. In March 1912, Barbara was involved in smashing shop windows in the West End of London for suffrage. She spent time in prison, and when she was release, in 1913, she went to France, disguised as a schoolgirl, to avoid being arrested again.

She was the Chair of the Labour Party (1939-1940), and was MP for Hendon North (1945-1950).

Her mother, the electrical engineer and inventor Hertha Marks Ayrton (1854-1923), was the daughter of Levi Marks, a Jewish watchmaker who had fled the pogroms in the Tsarist empire.

Michael Ayrton-Gould used his mother’s maiden name professionally, and so was known throughout his career as Michael Ayrton.

He studied art at Heatherley School of Fine Art and St John’s Wood Art School in the1930s, and then in Paris with Eugène Berman, sharing a studio with John Minton. He travelled to Spain and tried to enlist on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War, but was rejected for being under-age.

He was also a stage and costume designer, working with John Minton on John Gielgud’s production of Macbeth in 1942 at the age of 19, and a book designer and illustrator for Wyndham Lewis’s The Human Age trilogy.

Ayrton took part in the popular BBC radio programme, The Brains Trust. in the 1940s. He also collaborated with Constant Lambert and William Golding.

From 1961, Michael Ayrton wrote and created many works associated with the myths of the Minotaur and Daedalus, the legendary inventor and maze builder. These works included bronze sculptures, his pseudo-autobiographical novel The Maze Maker (1967), and Aspects of British Art (1947).

He died on 16 November 1975.

His work is in several important collections, including the Tate Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery in London and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Michael Ayton’s Talos illustrates the anger and bewilderment of many post-war British sculptors (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

I was late in coming to an appreciation of Michael Ayrton’s work, through his sculpture of ‘Talos’ in Guildhall Street, Cambridge, opposite the Guildhall and close to the Cambridge University Catholic Chaplaincy.

For many years, I had paid little attention to this ‘Talos’ in Cambridge, but it struck me forcibly recently, perhaps because I was just back from Crete, and I noticed both the statue and the inscription, which says:

Talos, Legendary man of bronze,
was guardian of Minoan Crete
the first civilisation
of Europe
Sculptor: Michael Ayrton

According to the stories in Greek mythology, Zeus abducted Europa and took her to Crete, where Talos, a bronze giant, guarded her from pirates by circling shores of Crete three times a day.

Talos was made by Zeus, Daedalus or Hephaistos. A single vein of molten metal gave life to Talos, and this ‘blood’ was kept inside the giant’s body by a bronze peg in his ankle. Talos attacked Jason and the Argonauts when they landed on Crete, Talos attacked them. Medea charmed Talos into removing the bronze peg, all his ichor flowed into the sand, and he died.

Talos was sculpted by Ayrton in 1950. Like the mythical Talos, Ayrton’s Talos is also made of bronze. But he has no arms, no face, and his torso is a bulging box shape. By leaving Talos without his arms, Ayton illustrates the anger and bewilderment of many post-war British sculptors.

The bull depicted on frescoes in Knossos in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In Greek mythology, the Minotaur (Μινώταυρος) is a portrayed with the head and tail of a bull and the body of a man. He lived at the centre of the Labyrinth, the elaborate maze-like construction at Knossos designed by Daedalus and his son Icarus at the command of King Minos of Crete. The Minotaur was eventually killed by Theseus of Athens.

Michael Ayrton’s step-granddaughter and biographer, Justine Hopkins, spent much of her childhood at Bradfields when her mother was Michael Ayrton’s sculpture assistant. She now works lectures in Art History for the Victoria and Albert Museum, at Bristol, London, Oxford and Cambridge universities, and at the Tate, Sotheby’s and Christie’s.’

She has brought to life Ayrton’s evolution as an artist as an artist and offers an insight into some of his major sculptures, including ‘The Minotaur’ and ‘Talos’.

Michael Ayrton’s ‘Talos’ in Cambridge and ‘The Minotaur’ in London show how British art and sculpture cannot be separated from the mainstream of European civilisation, culture and mythology. But as I stood before ‘The Minotaur’ in London I recalled how as I paid new attention to ‘Talos’ in Cambridge just a year after the Brexit referendum. Once again, I asked myself who is going to portray the anger and bewilderment of post-Brexit Britain as its consequences unfold before our eyes.

Where is the guardian in Britain of the civilisation of Europe?

Descending into the labyrinth in Knossos (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Saint Mary’s Askeaton:
priests and people,
a journey through time

Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton … if only these walls could talk? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

Askeaton Civic Trust

Askeaton Tourist Office, Askeaton, Co Limerick

7:30 p.m., 19 February 2020


I imagine that as many of us pass by some of the older buildings in Askeaton, we find ourselves saying things like, ‘If only these walls could talk …’

The banks, the old RIC barracks, the library, the schools, many of the houses … and the two churches.

Perhaps you have said that about Saint Mary’s Church, the Church of Ireland parish church beside Colaiste Mhuire. Some of you may have been inside the church, some may have family members who are buried in the churchyard.

The interesting graves and burials in the churchyard include the Famine rector, George Maxwell, and his family; the interesting Sheehy family, with a coroner, bank manager and solicitor, and a flight-lieutenant who was killed in action in World War II; the poet Aubrey de Vere (1814-1902), the Famine Grave, and the graves of interesting families, including the Wybrants, Champagne, Fosberry, Langford, Griffin, Hunt and O’Grady families.

The grave of the poet Aubrey de Vere (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

But how many of you know anything about the priests and parishioners in this church over the centuries?

It is an important part of the town, and their stories are part of the story of continuity in this community.

This evening I want to say something about these priests and people.

These are stories that take us from the tea plantations in Darjeeling to Bloemfontien in South Africa, from the Bahama Islands to Sorrento, to Finland and to Venice, at least twice, to Japan, Pakistan and Australia, to Zambia, Uganda and Lesotho in Africa, to Canada and to many parts of the United States.

These include priests who got in trouble with archbishops who made life difficult for them; and vicars who make life difficult for their parishioners and their neighbours with their own bigotry. There are rectors who stay with their people through the horrors of the Famine and who saw three children die later of diphtheria.

There are priests who are here part-time, who are here for a short time and some who may have been here for far too long time. Before the Reformation, some of the vicars were not even ordained, and one was ordained when he was only 20, after he had received a Papal dispensation – because he was the son of an Augustinian friar.

There was one whose family owned the ruins of Mellifont Abbey, and another who had an indirect link to Catherine Parr, the last of Henry VIII’s six wives, who married one of the richest banking heiresses on these islands and whose son managed to resurrect for himself an old peerage title that everyone thought had died out centuries before, and so got himself a seat in the House of Lords.

From the 17th century, most were educated at Trinity College Dublin, but there is a sprinkling of clergy who were educated at Oxford and Cambridge.

The east end of the mediaeval church, behind the present church and the tower Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Saint Mary’s Church:

But first let me say a little about Saint Mary’s Church itself.

The present church was built in 1827, but beside it stand the ruins of an earlier, mediaeval church, and on the south-east corner of the church is an unusual tower, associated in local legend with the Knights Templar.

The first recorded priest in the parish is Thomas de Cardiff in 1237, which means he was here before the tower and first recorded church on the site were built.

The church and tower are said to have been built in 1291 or 1298, which means they predate both the Desmond Castle, which was built in the 15th century on the site of an earlier ruined castle, and the Franciscan Abbey, which was founded in 1389 or 1420.

But if there was a priest here 60 years before the tower and that first recorded church, we can presume there was an earlier, perhaps even a pre-Norman church on the site. It is a raised site, a mount high above the flood plains of the River Deel, which indicates this may have been an early site of worship.

The church is said to have been built in 1291. In the Papal tax of 1306, the rectory of Ynsjskyfty is valued at 16 marks and the vicarage at 6 marks.

The tower is about six metres high with a base batter, built on a square plan at the base, but halfway up it becomes an octagonal tower, and the tower has a crenellated top. There is a similar ruined tower by the ruins of a former Augustinian Priory in Knocktopher, Co Kilkenny.

The adjoining mediaeval church is in a very ruined state, and only one window remains in the gable end. The church stands at about four metres in height, and is butted up against the present parish church, built in 1827.

The tower is said to have been built by the Knights Templar (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

In his Topographical Dictionary of Ireland Samuel Lewis said in 1837 that the Knights Templars originally founded this church in 1298. However, this may not be wholly true, and Lewis mistakenly ascribes many early churches in Ireland to the Knights Templars.

The Knights Templar were one of the orders founded during the Crusades by warrior monks took monastic oaths to protect the Holy Land and pilgrims. Similar orders include the Knights Hospitaller, also known as the Knights of Saint John or the Knights of Rhodes or the Knights of Malta, as well as the Teutonic Order and the Order of Saint Lazarus.

The Knights Templar, or the ‘Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Jesus Christ and the Temple of Solomon,’ were formed in 1118 in Jerusalem. They later adopted the Cistercian rule and formally received Papal recognition from Pope Innocent II in 1130. The Templars spread throughout Christendom, with strongholds and estates in most parts of Europe and the in the Holy Land.

The story that there was ever a Templar Commandery here in Askeaton was first challenged by TJ Westropp in a paper in the Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquities in Ireland. Indeed, another local tradition claims that the church is one of three churches that were built by three sisters. However, the legend does not give the name of any saint or founder who is associated with the parish.

Whoever founded the church or built the tower, for centuries this tower also served as the bell tower of the mediaeval church. The bell-cote still has the bell in its place, and a bell rope still hangs from the bell into the tower.

A new church was built in 1827 and was consecrated on 23 August 1840.

The present Saint Mary’s Church was built in 1827-1840 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Rectors, Vicars and priests in charge:

1237: (Canon) Thomas de Cardiff:

An English canon, he was Vicar of Iniskefty or Askeaton 1237. He was probably the same as Thomas de Kerdif, Prebendary of Saint Munchin’s ca 1230 and Chancellor of Limerick ca 1223-1250.

1396: Richard Burchs:

He was the Vicar of Kilscannel a year or more by 1396 without being ordained priest, and was deposed. He was then Vicar of Iniskefty (Askeaton) for year without being ordained priest and the Calendar of Papal Letters show his appointment as Vicar was decreed void in 1396.

1418: Dermit MacGillapadrug:

He was born ca1399, a clerk or priest of Killaloe, ‘noble in his 20th year,’ when he received a dispensation for ordination, needed because he was the son of priest, an Augustinian friar, and an unmarried woman. He became Rector of Ynys Keptyng (Askeaton) in December 1418.

– 1426: Edmund Micadam:

He was Vicar of Askeaton until 1426, when he resigned.

– 1426: Gillabertus Ykatyl:

He was Vicar of Askeaton a year in 1426 without being ordained priest

1427: James Oleayn:

He too had a dispensation for ordination being ‘illegitimate.’ A priest of Killaloe, he became Vicar of Inyskefyiny (Askeaton) when Edmund Micadam resigned and when Gillabertus Ykatyl’s appointment was annulled. He was presented to the parish by John Kyndton, Rector of Ballingarry.

There is then a gap through the years, including the Tudor Reformation, until the reign of Edward VI, when we find:

1552: Nicholas Brenan:
1552: Peter Downdown:
1552: Moroghe McCredan
1552: Donagh O’Madagan
1552: John O’Madagan

These five clerks or priests, possibly Vicars Choral in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, are noted in Atheskethin (Askeaton) on 11 February 1552, during the reign of Edward VI.

The vicars choral of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, may have served the parish of Askeaton during the Reformation period (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

1586-1615: Maurice ‘Oge’ MacPerson:

He was Vicar of Askeaton from 1586 to 1615, and possibly until ca 1617.

He was an Irish-speaker, and it is said that Sir Francis Berkeley, who was granted Askeaton Castle in 1610 after the Desmond Wars, used to employ Irish-speaking ministers, which is said to have made his tenants, whom he brought to church, very attentive.

1617-ca 1633: (Canon) Edward Holcombe (Halcomb):

Vicar of Askeaton and Lismakeery 1617-ca 1633; pres by Crown to Prebend of Saint Munchin’s 28 July 1618. Possibly the same as Edmund Halcomb, minister of Aste (Askeaton). He was still alive in 1637, when he is named as overseer of the will of John Maunsell. He may have been the father of Canon Edward Holcombe, ordained and appointed Prebendary of Croagh in 1626.

1633: Thomas Burtt (Birt):

He became Vicar of Askeaton and Lismakeery on 7 December 1633.

1640-ca 1663: Richard Jermyn:

He was educated at Oxford, and was ordained deacon (1621) and priest (1622) on Cork. He served in parishes in the dioceses of Cork and Cloyne in Co Cork before he Vicar of Askeaton on 4 March 1640. He may have remained in the parish throughout the Cromwellian wars, and was possibly here until ca 1663.

1663-ca 1668: Richard (Robert) Harlowyn:

He became Rector of Lismacderry (Lismakeery) and Vicar of Askeaton and Dromdelly (Dromdeely) on 12 February 1663. He was possibly here until 1668.

1668-1689: (Canon) Henry Royse:

Prebendary of Ardcanny (Limerick), 1661-1669; Rector of Kilcornan, Kildimo and Ardcanny, Limerick, 1663-1689; Rector of Lismakeery and Askeaton, 1668-1689. Died 1689. He was probably the father of the Revd Henry Royse, Rector of Kilcornan, 1689-1739.

1689-1731: (Canon) Solomon Delane (Delany):

Born in 1653 or 1654, he was Prebendary of Kilpeacon (Limerick), 1687-1692; Prebendary of Ardcanny (Limerick), Rector of Askeaton and Lismaleery and Vicar of Kildimo, 1689-1731; Rector of Tipperary (Cashel) and Prebendary of Lattin (Emly), 1691-1731; Vicar of Dromdeely (Limerick) ca 1693-1714. He died in 1731.

He married Anne Baldwin of Dublin in 1691.

1731-1734: Thomas Collis:

He was born at Lisodoge, Co Kerry, and a grandson of Canon Benjamin Cross, Precentor of Cloyne. He was Vicar of Kinnard and Minard, Co Kerry, 1728; Vicar of Askeaton, Lismakeery and Dromdeely, 1731-1734; Vicar of Dingle, 1734-1765; Rector of Ballynacourty and Stradbally, Vicar of Kilflyn and Kilshinane, 1747-1765; Vicar of Dunquin, Dunurlin, Garfinagh, Kilquane and Ventry, 1757.

He married Avis Blennerhassett, and they were the parents of 12 children, many dying in childhood.

1734-1747: (Canon) Henry Collis:

He also born in Co Kerry. He was Vicar of Askeaton and Dromdeely and Rector of Lismakeery (Limerick), 1734-1747; Prebendary of Effin, 1741-1747; Curate, Shanagolden, 1744-ca1757. Precentor of Limerick, 1747-1786. He seems to have died in 1786.

1747-1790: William Sprigg (Sprigge):

He was a son of Canon Nathaniel Sprigge, Rector of Newcastle. He Vicar of Askeaton and Dromdeely (Tomdeely) and Rector of Lismakeery, 1747-1790. He died in October 1790.

The Wybrants and Champagne monument in Saint Mary’s Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

1790-1824: Gustavus Wybrants:

He was born in 1758 in Dublin, the fifth son of Stephen Wybrants, son of the Revd Peter Wybrants, grandson of Peter Wybrants, Mayor of Dublin 1658. Joseph Peter Wybrants came to Dublin from Antwerp in 1622.

He was Vicar of Askeaton and Rector and Vicar of Lismakeery, 1790-1824. He was also Vicar of Castlelyons, Co Cork (Diocese of Cloyne), where he had a curate, but he lived in Askeaton.

In 1797 he married Mary, widow of the Revd Arthur Champagne, and daughter of the Revd Philip Homan. They were the parents of two sons and five daughters. Their children and grandchildren married into the Middleton, Herbert, Nash, Powell, Fosbery, Hobart and Dawson families.

Gustavus Wybrants died at Milltown House, Co Limerick, on 23 March 1824; Mary Wybrants died 24 January 1845 at the home of her son, the Revd Arthur Champagne Wybrants.

Balindeel House, Askeaton … designed by James Pain and built as the rectory for Richard Murray (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

1824-1829: (Very Revd Dr) Richard Murray:

He born in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, in 1776/1777, the son of the Revd William Murray, headmaster of Royal School Dungannon. He went to his father’s school and then to TCD (BA, MA, BD, DD).

He was a curate in the Diocese of Armagh for 17 years, from 1802 to 1819. In 1809, the Archbishop of Armagh, William Stuart, refused him the papers known as bene decessit to move to the Diocese of Ardagh. When Murray took the Primate to court, the archbishop claimed Murray had not conformed to canon law in the Church of Ireland, and the King’s Bench ruled it could not compel the archbishop to issue the papers.

Eventually, Murray was Vicar of Askeaton and Rector of Lismakeery (1824-1829).

Ballindeel House, a detached, three-bay, two-storey over basement former glebe house, was built as the Rectory for Murray in 1827. The former rectory was designed by the architect James Pain (1779-1877). The present church seems to have been built at the same time (1827), although it was not consecrated until 23 August 1840.

Murray was the secretary of the West Limerick Bible Society, and while he was in Askeaton he was involved in what became known as the ‘Second Reformation.’ He stirred up considerable religious controversy because of his aggressive attempts to proselytise Roman Catholics and his polemical and his bruising debates, laced with claim and counter-claim, with his Roman Catholic counterpart, Archdeacon Michael Fitzgerald.

However, Murray’s parishioners were not happy with his approach and his attitude, and saw him as a disruptive intruder. Behind the scenes, moves were to find an alternative appointment for Murray. This became a reality in 1829, the year Catholic Emancipation was passed, when the Lord Lieutenant, the Duke of Northumberland, offered him the post of Dean of Ardagh in Co Longford.

Saint Patrick’s Church of Ireland parish church in Ardagh, Co Longford, was built as a cathedral in 1810-1812 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Later, in evidence to a Commission of Inquiry in 1837, Murray claimed his converts in Askeaton had numbered between 160 and 170 adults, as well as about 300 young people and children. In his evidence, he also expressed his disappointment with the Protestants in the Askeaton area for their lack of zeal in following his own example in proselytising.

Murray remained a member of the militant Protestant Association and was the author of several books, including tracts attacking the Roman Catholic Church such as Outlines of the history of the Catholic Church in Ireland (1840) Ireland and Her Church (1845).

He was Dean and Rector of Ardagh (1829-1854) and Vicar-General of Ardagh. However, the post of Dean of Ardagh was largely nominal after 1839, when the dioceses of Kilmore and Ardagh were united.

Murray married Mary Miller of Moneymore, Co Derry, in 1813. He died in Exmouth, Devon, on 26 July 1854, aged 77.

Sir William Taylor Money died of cholera in Venice in 1834 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

1830-ca 1833: James Drummond Money:

Murray’s more amendable successor as Vicar of Askeaton was the Revd James Drummond Money, who was vicar in 1830-1833.

Money was born in Bombay on 26 April 1805, a son of Sir William Taylor Money (1769-1834), MP (1816-1826), and a director of the East India Company, who died of cholera in Venice in 1834.

Money was presented as Vicar of Askeaton by Sir Matthew Blakiston (1783-1862).

Money married twice, and both wives have interesting stories. In 1832, he married Charlotte, daughter of Canon Gerard Thomas Noel (1782-1851), Vicar of Romsey Abbey, Hampshire, an evangelical hymnwriter. Her mother, Charlotte Sophia, was a daughter of Sir Lucius O’Brien. They had nine children, and she died in 1848.

By then, they had returned to England, and he was later Vicar of Sternfield in the Diocese of St Edmundsbury.

Money’s second wife Clara Maria Money-Coutts, originally Clara Maria Burdett, was a daughter of the banker Sir Francis Burdett (1770-1844) and a sister of the Victorian philanthropist Angela Burdett-Coutts, who eventually inherited the Coutts banking fortune.

Francis Money-Coutts … a poet and writer, who inherited an obscure title and a banking fortune

James and Clara were the parents of Francis Burdett Thomas Nevill Money-Coutts (1852-1923). He was educated at Eton and Cambridge, became both a barrister and solicitor, but spent most of his life as a poet and writer.

In 1913, by a genealogical sleight of hand, he became the 5th Baron Latymer through his mother’s family, when the title was called out of abeyance, although everyone thought the title had died out 336 year earlier at the death in 1577 of John Nevill, stepson of Catherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII. Now the son of a Vicar of Askeaton had a seat in the House of Lords.

The gate lodge at Townley Hall, Drogheda … the family home of the Townley Balfour family (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

1833-1837: Willoughby William Townley Balfour:

Willoughby Townley Balfour was born in 1801 at Townley Hall, Drogheda, the second son of Blayney Townley Balfour, of Townley Hall, MP for Belturbet, and Lady Frances Cole, daughter of the Earl of Enniskillen. The ruins of Mellifont Abbey had been owned by this family for generations.

He was Vicar of Askeaton (1833-1837), and later became Rector of Aston Flamville cum Burbage in Leicestershire (1837-1878).

Why did someone like this move from Askeaton to a rural parish in England, and remain there for half a century? The patron of the living was the Earl de Grey and the Countess de Grey was his aunt, formerly Lady Henrietta Cole, a sister of his mother. Lord de Grey was also Lord Lieutenant of Ireland 1841-1844.

Willoughby Balfour died on 29 June 1888, Fairy Hill, Rostrevor, Co Down.

Sorrento … Willoughby Townley Balfour’s nephew, Bishop Francis Richard Townley Balfour, was born here in 1846 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

His brother, Blayney Townley Balfour, was Governor of the Bahama Islands, and retired to Sorrento.

His nephew, Bishop Francis Richard Townley Balfour (1846-1924), was born in Sorrento on 21 June 1846. Like his uncle Willoughby, he went to Harrow, where his contemporaries included a future Archbishop of Canterbury, Randall Thomas Davidson (1848-1903), a future secretary of the Anglican mission agency, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG, now USPG), Bishop Henry Hutchinson Montgomery (1847-1932) from Co Donegal, the slum priest Father Robert Dolling (1851-1902) from Co Down, and a much younger Bishop Charles Gore (1853-1932), whose parents were from Ireland.

Francis Balfour went on to Trinity College Cambridge, and trained for ordination at Cuddesdon College, Oxford. He moved to Southern Africa as a missionary with the Anglican mission agency SPG (now USPG) in 1875. When ill-health forced him to return home in 1900-1901, he acted as an honorary curate in All Saints’ Parish in Raheny, Dublin.

When Balfour returned to South Africa, he became the Archdeacon of Bloemfontein (1901-1906) and then Archdeacon of Basutoland (1908-1922). When he was consecrated in Cape Town as an Assistant Bishop for the Diocese of Bloemfontein in 1911, he was effectively the first Anglican Bishop of Lesotho.

He was proud of his Irish identity and heritage, and there is a wonderful photograph of him from 1914 in a mitre and cope decorated in shamrocks and ‘Celtic’ designs.

When Bishop Balfour retired in 1923, he returned to Ireland, but died shortly afterwards in Shankill, Co Dublin, on 3 February 1924. He is buried in the grounds of Mellifont Abbey, Co Louth.

Mellifont Abbey … burial place of the Balfour family of Towenley Hall (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

1838-1870: George Maxwell:

George Maxwell (1809-1870) is a real hero among the Vicars and Rectors of Askeaton. He spent all his ministry in this parish, first as curate to Balfour from 1832 or 1833, and then as Vicar Askeaton (1838-1870). While he was here he was also curate of Dromdeely (1862-1869).

He married Margaret Anne Hewson of Ennismore, Listowel, Co Kerry, who had deep family roots in this parish. These links continued when his son, John Francis Maxwell, married Laura, daughter of Edward Hewson of Askeaton.

The new church built in 1827 was consecrated on 23 August 1840.

During the Great Famine, George Maxwell worked tirelessly and ceaselessly in the parish.

He died 8 January 1870.

The grave of the Maxwell family in Saint Mary’s Churchyard, Askeaton (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

1871-1874: (Canon) Edmund Lombard Swan Eves:

Maxwell’s successor was his son-in-law and former curate, Edumnd Eve (1840-1930), who was born in Carlow 1840.

He was ordained to be curate in Askeaton (1864-1865), and then worked as a curate and then rector in parishes in the Dioceses of Leighlin and Rochester, before returning to Askeaton as Rector (1871-1874).

Later he was the Rector of Maryborough (Portaoise), 1874-1916, and Prebendary of Tecolme.

He married Caroline Maxwell, daughter of the Revd George Maxwell. Three of their children, Anne, George and Catherine, died of diphtheria in 1880. Canon Eves died on 14 July 1930, aged 90. A surviving son, the Revd Herbert Lombard Eves (1881-1953) was a priest in parishes in Ireland and England.

1875-1884: James Ashe Sullivan:

He was a grandson of Canon William Ashe, Prebendary of Croagh. He was educated at TCD, but trained for ordination at Wells Theological College.

He was ordained in Armagh, but spent many years as an SPG missionary in Melbourne, Australia (1850-1854 and 1857-1862), and worked in parishes throughout Ireland and England before coming to Askeaton at the age of 60 in 1875.

He retired in 1884, and died in St Albans, Hertfordshire, on 22 July 1888.

1885-1896: (Canon, later Archdeacon) William Malcolm Foley:

William Foley (1854-1944), was a son of the Revd Peter Foley.

He was deputy secretary of the Irish Society 1883-1885, before becoming Rector of Askeaton (1885-1896). He later returned to this area as Rector of Tralee (1907-1922), when he was a canon in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, and Archdeacon of Ardfert. He later moved to parishes in Co Louth.

Two of his sons were ordained, while another son, Lieutenant Thomas Foley, was killed at the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

Archdeacon Foley died on 19 October 1944.

1896-1915: (Canon) Samuel John Hackett:

Canon Samuel Hackett worked in the dioceses of Down, Connor and Dromore before becoming Rector of Askeaton (1896-1915) and Prebendary of Dysart (1911-1915).

He died unmarried at the Rectory in Askeaton on 10 October 1915. The Irish Ecclesiastical Gazette, later the Church of Ireland Gazette, described him as ‘a scholar, a gentleman, and an ideal clergyman.’

1915-1929: (Canon) Thomas Francis (Frank) Abbott:

Canon Abbott was a Vicar-Choral and Succentor of Limerick Cathedral, and a cathedral curate, before becoming Rector of Askeaton (1915-1929. He was also Prebendary of Ardcanny (1913-1919) and Treasurer of Limerick (1919-1940). He returned from Askeaton to Limerick as Rector of Saint Michael’s (1929-1940). He retired in 1940 and died on 8 May 1946.

1929-1963: (Canon) Frederick Alexander Howard White:

At an early stage, White was a curate in Rathkeale (1919-1924). He was Rector of Askeaton, Shanagolden and Loughill (1929-1963), Rural Dean of Askeaton (1940-1963) and Precentor of Limerick (1951-1963).

He retired in 1963 and died on 29 September 1965.

1964-1966: (Canon) Christopher Bruce Warren:

Dublin-born Christopher Warren trained as a teacher and was a curate in Waterford Cathedral (1962-1964) before becoming Rector of Askeaton and Foynes (1964-1966).

He married Karuna from Finland in 1973, and they later moved to Finland, where he was chaplain of the Anglican Church in Helsinki (1988-1994). He returned briefly to Co Galway, but retired to Finland in 1996, and died in 2002.

The grave of Canon George McCann in Castletown churchyard (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

1966-1973: (Canon) George McCann:

A noted Irish-language scholar, he was born Lurgan, Co Armagh. He was Rector of Dingle and Ventry (1944-1954) and Rector of Kilcornan and Ardcanny (1954-1973). When Askeaton parish became vacant in 1966, Canon McCann was appointed priest-in-charge of Askeaton (1966-1973). He was also Prebendary of Donoughmore (1961-1973). He retired in 1973, and died in February 1974 at the Rectory in Kilcornan. He is buried in Kilcornan.

The grave of Canon Daniel Hevenor in Castletown churchyard (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

1974-1977: (Canon) Daniel Miner Stearns Hevenor:

His grandparents were born in Kilcornan Parish and emigrated to the US during the Great Famine.

He was a priest in Olympia, Washington, and an honorary canon of Olympia. He was then curate-in-charge of Askeaton, Foynes and Kilcornan (1974-1977). He returned to the US in 1977 and died there.

1978-1980: John Luttrell Haworth:

He was business in Cork before he was ordained in 1967 at the age of 39. He held a number of positions, including Team Vicar of Tralee (1971-1972), before becoming Bishop’s Curate of Askeaton, Foynes and Kilcornan (1978-1980). He was Rector of Fermoy when he retired in 1996. He died in 2004.

John McKay was later the Anglican chaplain in Venice (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

1982-1985: John Andrew McKay:

He worked in parishes in London and Southwark before returning to Ireland as Rector of Rathkeale, Askeaton, Foynes and Kilcornan (1982-1985). He was the Vicar of Saint Bartholomew’s, Dublin (1985-2000), Chaplain of Venice and Trieste (2000-2003), and chaplain, Saint John, Sandymount (2005-2006). He died on 29 July 2010.

1986-1989: (Canon) Patrick Leo Towers:

He was ordained in Japan in the 1970s while he was working there as a teacher. He moved to England in 1981, where he was a school chaplain. He was Rector of Rathkeale with Askeaton and Kilcornan (1986-1989). Later, he worked in Nenagh, and Galway. He was Prebendary of Saint Munchin’s and Tulloh (1997-2000) and Provost of Tuam (2000-2008). He is now retired.

1990-1992: Kevin Samuel Dunn:

He studied theology in Canada and was ordained in the US. He was a priest in the Episcopal Church until 1990, before coming to Ireland as Rector of Rathkeale, Askeaton and Kilcornan in 1990. He moved to California in 1992.

1992-1996: Ronald Gaven Graham:

He moved from England to Ireland, and was ordained while he was working in Shannon and Limerick. He was NSM curate in Adare and Diocesan Information Officer before becoming Curate-in-Charge, Rathkeale, Askeaton and Kilcornan (1992-1996). He later moved to Wexford.

1996-2000: Sidney Eric Mourant:

He was born in Darjeeling in India in 1939, and studied theology in England. He was a CMS mission partner and lectured at theological colleges in Uganda (1975-1977) and Pakistan (1978-1981) and then at the Church Army College in London (1981-1988).

He was ordained in 1989, and was a curate in Cheshire and a Vicar in Douglas in the Isle of Man before being appointed Rector of Rathkeale, Askeaton and Kilcornan (1996-2000). He then moved to Nenagh, Co Tipperary. He retired in 2004, and lives in Co Armagh.

2001-2003: Iain John Edward Knox:

He worked in Northern parishes before moving to Clonmel in 1980-1996. He was priest-in-charge, Rathkeale, Askeaton and Kilcornan (2001-2003). He retired in 2003, and died in Cashel in 2012, where he is buried.

2003-2008: William Miller Romer:

Bill Romer was a school chaplain, teacher and assistant headmaster, and a priest in parishes throughout the US from 1960 to 2003, before moving to Ireland as the NSM priest-in-charge of Rathkeale, Askeaton and Kilcornan (2003-2008). Bill and Molly returned to the Diocese of New Hampshire in 2008 and retired in 2010.

2009-2016: Keith Brouneton de Salve Scott:

He was the Rector of Ardclinis, Tickmacrevan, Layde and Cushendun for about 14 years before going to Zambia for the first time as a CMS mission partner. He was the curate-in-charge, Rathkeale, Askeaton and Kilcornan from 2009 and returned to Zambia as a CMS mission partner in 2016.

2017- : (Canon) Patrick Comerford

Inside the ruins of the east end of the earlier church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)


1714: (Canon) Simon Warner

1785: Alexander Hunter, died in Limerick, 1793

1795: Joseph Jones, later Vicar Choral, Limerick (1799), Vicar of Crecoragh (1803-1843), Rector of Brosna (1805-1843), died 1843

ca 1828: John C Miller

1833: George Maxwell, later Rector of Askeaton

1834: Nicholas Wilkinson

1836-1837: (Archdeacon) Edward Henry Brien (1812-1891), later Precentor of Waterford (1854) and Archdeacon of Emly (1858-1879)

1838: Nicholas Columbine Martin (1812-1888), died in Saint Clement’s Parsonage, Selkirk, Manitoba, Canada

1842: Frederick James Clark

1852-1854: Andrew Peard Nash (1825-1872)

– 1858: Bennet Dugdale Hastings McAdam

1860: J Watson

1860-1864: Richard Edward Fletcher (1836-1900)

1864-1866: Edmond Lombard Swan Eves, later Rector of Askeaton (1871-1874)

1866-1867: John Omsby Stenson (1810-1870), probably the father of the Revd John William Stenson, SPG missionary in Southern Africa, including Bloemfontein and Kimberley; SPG Deputy Secretary, 1888-1890 and 1902-1905.

1867-1883: William Henry Darell Lodge (1841-1883), died while he was curate of Askeaton

1919-1921: (Canon) John Robert Campion (1893-1951), Curate of Shanagolden and Limerick, 1919-1921. His son, Revd Brian Hadden Campion, emigrated to Canada and is the father of Canon Peter Campion, chaplain of the King’s Hospital, Dublin, and Precentor of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin.

In the 20th century, Askeaton has been united with Shanagolden and Loughgill, 1920-1961; Rathronan 1953; Kilcornan 1966; Rathkeale 1982; and Foynes.

Appendix 1: List of Rectors, Vicars and Priests in Charge, Askeaton:

1237: (Canon) Thomas de Cardiff

1396: Richard Burchs

1418: Dermit MacGillapadrug

– 1426: Edmund Micadam

– 1426: Gillabertus Ykatyl

1427: James Oleayn

1552: Nicholas Brenan; Peter Downdown; Moroghe McCredan; Donagh O’Madagan; John O’Madagan

1586-1617: Maurice ‘Oge’ MacPerson

1617-ca 1633: (Canon) Edward Holcombe (Halcomb)

1633: Thomas Burtt (Birt)

1640-ca 1663: Richard Jermyn

1663-ca 1668: Richard (Robert) Harlowyn

1668-1689: (Canon) Henry Royse

1689-1731: (Canon) Solomon Delane (Delany)

1731-1734: Thomas Collis

1734-1747: (Canon) Henry Collis

1747-1790: William Sprigg (Sprigge)

1790-1824: Gustavus Wybrants

1824-1829: (Very Revd Dr) Richard Murray

1830-1833: James Drummond Money

1833-1837: Willoughby William Townley Balfour

1838-1870: George Maxwell:

1871-1874: (Canon) Edmund Lombard Swan Eves

1875-1884: James Ashe Sullivan

1885-1896: (Canon, later Archdeacon) William Malcolm Foley

1896-1915: (Canon) Samuel John Hackett

1915-1929: (Canon) Thomas Francis (Frank) Abbott

1929-1963: (Canon) Frederick Alexander Howard White

1964-1966: (Canon) Christopher Bruce Warren

1966-1973: (Canon) George McCann

1974-1977: (Canon) Daniel Miner Stearns Hevenor

1978-1980: John Luttrell Haworth

1982-1985: John Andrew McKay

1986-1989: (Canon) Patrick Leo Towers:

1990-1992: Kevin Samuel Dunn

1992-1996: Ronald Gaven Graham

1996-2000: Sidney Eric Mourant

2001-2003: Iain John Edward Knox

2003-2008: William Miller Romer

2009-2016: Keith Brouneton de Salve Scott

2017- : (Canon) Patrick Comerford


1714: (Canon) Simon Warner
1785: Alexander Hunter
1795: Joseph Jones
ca 1828: John C Miller
1833: George Maxwell, later Rector of Askeaton
1834: Nicholas Wilkinson
1836-1837: (Archdeacon) Edward Henry Brien
1838: Nicholas Columbine Martin
1842: Frederick James Clark
venice 1852-1854: Andrew Peard Nash (1825-1872)
– 1858: Bennet Dugdale Hastings McAdam
1860: J. Watson
1860-1864: Richard Edward Fletcher (1836-1900)
1864-1866: Edmond Lombard Swan Eves, later Rector of Askeaton (1871-1874)
1866-1867: John Omsby Stenson.
1867-1883: William Henry Darell Lodge (1841-1883)
1919-1921: (Canon) John Robert Campion (1893-1951)

The Famine Grave in Saint Mary’s churchyard, Askeaton (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)