Saturday, 29 February 2020

A grave in Saint Mary’s
recalls Charles Graves,
scholarly Bishop of Limerick

The head of the Celtic Cross on the grave of Bishop Charles Graves shows the Lamb of God surrounded by symbols of the Four Evangelists (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

Leaving the south porch of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, after a meeting earlier this week, the two most striking graves in the cathedral churchyard are those of the Bernal family and Bishop Charles Graves.

Charles Graves (1812-1899) was Bishop of Limerick from 1866 until he died in 1899. His memorial is the style of an Irish High Cross, a style made fashionable by the Celtic Revival.

The cross has an epitaph in three languages: Irish, Latin and English. The Irish-language version was written by Graves’s friend, Douglas Hyde, later the first President of Ireland; the Latin version was composed by RY Tyrrell, Registrar of Trinity College Dublin; and the English text was written by the bishop’s own son, the poet and musician Alfred Perceval Graves, father of the better-known poet Robert Graves.

As well as being a prominent bishop before and after the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland, Charles Graves was a mathematician and academic.

An image of Bishop Charles Graves on his grave at Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Charles Graves was born at 12 Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin, on 6 November 1812. His father, John Crosbie Graves (1776-1835), a barrister, Commissioner of Bankruptcy and the Chief Magistrate for Dublin, and a son of the Very Revd Thomas Ryder Graves, Dean of Ardfert (1785-1802), and Dean of Connor (1802-1811) and Rector of Rincurran, Cork (1811-1828).

The Graves family came from Yorkshire to Co Limerick in the mid-17th century, and Dean Thomas Graves was a younger brother of the Very Revd Richard Graves (1763-1829), Regius Professor of Greek at Trinity College Dublin and Dean of Ardagh.

His mother Helena Perceval (1786-1850) was a daughter and co-heiress of the Revd Charles Perceval (1751-1795) of Bruhenny, Co Cork, and a second cousin of Lady Frances Perceval (1748-1830) who married Lord Redesdale, Lord Chancellor of Ireland (1802-1806), so introducing a distant connection with the later prominent Mitford sisters.

His brothers included the jurist and mathematician John Graves, and the writer and priest the Revd Robert Perceval Graves.

Charles attended a private school near Bristol and entered Trinity College Dublin at the age of 16. At TCD, he was a Scholar in classics and graduated BA in mathematics in 1835. His later degrees were MA (1838), BD and DD (1851), as well as a DCL from Oxford University (1881).

He played cricket for Trinity and later in life spent much time boating and fly-fishing. The family hoped he would join the 18th (Royal Irish) Regiment of Foot under his uncle, Major-General James William Graves (1774-1845). Instead, he became a Fellow of Trinity College Dublin in 1836, and was ordained deacon in 1838 and priest the following year.

He went on to become Erasmus Smith’s Professor of Mathematics at TCD (1843-1862), and was President of the Royal Irish Academy (1861-1866). He was also secretary to the Brehon Law Commission and vice-chair of the Endowed Schools Commission.

He published Two Geometrical Memoirs on the General Properties of Cones of the Second Degree and on the Spherical Conics in 1841, a translation of Aperçu historique sur l'origine et le développement des méthodes en géométrie (1837) by Michel Chasles, but including many new results of his own.

Bishop Charles Graves is buried on the south side of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Graves published over 30 mathematical papers, and continued to publish after he had left TCD. Most of his research was published in either the Proceedings or the Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy. In 1841, Graves published an original mathematical work and he embodied further discoveries in his lectures and in papers read before and published by the Royal Irish Academy.

He was a colleague of Sir William Rowan Hamilton and when Hamilton died Graves gave a presidential address that included an account both of Hamilton’s scientific labours and of his literary attainments.

Graves was interested in Irish antiquarian subjects. He discovered the key to the ancient Ogham script on stone monuments. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1880.

While he was still professor of mathematics at TCD, he became Dean of the Chapel Royal, Dublin Castle (1860-1864). He was then Dean of Saint Brendan’s Cathedral, Clonfert, Co Galway (1864-1866).

He was appointed Bishop of Limerick, Ardfert and Aghadoe on 28 April 1866. He was consecrated in the Chapel of Trinity College Dublin on 20 June 1866 by Archbishop Richard Chenevix Trench of Dublin, assisted by Bishop Robert Knox of Down, Connor and Dromore, and Bishop William Fitzgerald of Killaloe and Clonfert. He was enthroned in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, on 4 July 1866.

As Bishop of Limerick, his official residence was at the Bishop’s Palace on Henry Street, Limerick. But since the 1850s he had leased Parknasilla House, 3 km from Sneem, Co Kerry, as a summer residence.

He was on the best of terms with his Roman Catholic counterpart in Limerick, Bishop Edward O’Dwyer. They shared Latin jokes with each other, discussed fine points of scholarship and it is said they did not take their religious differences too seriously.

Bishop O’Dwyer once joked at the size of Graves’s family of nine children. Graves retorted with the text about the blessedness of the man who has his quiver full of arrows; O’Dwyer replied, ‘The ancient Jewish quiver only held six.’

The inscription at the base of the cross is in English, Latin and Irish (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Charles Graves married Selina Cheyne, daughter of John Cheyne, on 15 September 1840. Their children included the poet Alfred Perceval Graves (1846-1931); Arnold Felix Graves (1847-1930), founder of Kevin Street Technical College, which went on to become Dublin Institute of Technology and now the Technological University Dublin; the writer and critic Charles Larcom Graves (1856-1944); the diplomat Sir Robert Wyndham Graves (1858-1934); and the writer Ida Margaret Graves Poore.

Their grandchildren included the poet and classicist Robert Graves (1895-1985), the journalist Philip Graves (1876-1953) who exposed the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as an antisemitic fraud; the journalist and travel writer Charles Patrick Graves (1899-1971); and Sir Cecil Graves (1892-1957), Director General of the BBC.

Bishop Graves bought out the lease of Parknasilla House in 1892, with a further 114 acres (0.46 sq km) of land that included some islands. He sold the house to Great Southern Hotels in 1894; the hotel opened in 1895, and is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.

He died at Portobello House, Dublin, on 17 July 1899, and was buried in the churchyard on the south side of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick.

The Irish inscription, composed by Douglas Hyde, is partially obscured by a neighbouring gravestone (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The inscriptions at the base of the Celtic cross on his grave include:

In Loving Memory of Charles Graves, DD, DCL, FRS,
Born Nov 6 1812. Died July 17 1899

Qui pietate gravis doctrina spledidus almus
Vixerit externis commodus atque suis
Huic ipse cineres spirant opobalsama Laetas
Submittit flores funebris ipse rogus

Erected by his 7 surviving children, his 3 sons-in-law, his nephew and niece 1901

To God, his steadfast soul, his starry mind
To Science, a gracious heart to kid and kind
His living gave. Then let each fair bloom
Of Faith and Hope breathe balm around his tomb


After his death, his estate was valued at £48,901 equivalent to about €6 million today. But he had lived to an age that far exceeded that on which the commutation capital had been calculated, so that the General Synod of the Church of Ireland had to draw from its other funds to provide a large grant to help the Diocese of Limerick to maintain the income of the future bishop.

Bishop Charles Graves died in Dublin but was buried in Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Searching questions in
the latest ‘Search’ about
conservative evangelicals

Patrick Comerford

The ‘Church of Ireland notes’ in The Irish Times today open with the following paragraphs:

The Spring edition of the Church of Ireland journal, Search, edited by Canon Ginnie Kennerley, has been published.

With the Lambeth Conference coming up this summer and anxieties about the coherence of the Anglican Communion on the rise, some respectful and good-humoured dialogue is called for, along with a modicum of self-criticism. An attempt to model this is offered by Canon Patrick Comerford and the Ven David Huss, sharing and comparing different views of what it means to be both conservative and evangelical. Readers are invited to ponder and respond – and the Revd Earl Storey’s reflection on the Hard Gospel project of 2005-2009, which follows, may help them to do so.

The other nagging issue is the growing threat to life on earth of the ‘civilisation’ we have developed. Apocalyptic is a word we use increasingly to describe this nightmare; but Jewish apocalyptic writing was intended to bring comfort – an assurance that beyond present and future tribulations God would bring joyous deliverance. Dr Margaret Daly-Denton considers how we should understand such writing today. Not unconnected with these concerns, is Prof Benjamin Wold’s exploration of the Jewish background to the petition Lead us not into temptation in the Lord’s Prayer. Is Pope Francis right that it gives a misleading view of God in our time?

In her Editorial in the Spring 2020 edition of Search (Vol 43 No 1), the Editor, the Revd Canon Dr Ginnie Kennerley, writes in similar terms:

‘With the Lambeth Conference coming up this summer and anxieties about the coherence of the Anglican Communion on the rise, some respectful and good-humoured dialogue is called for, along with a modicum of self-criticism. An attempt to model this is offered by the first two contributors of this issue, Patrick Comerford and David Huss, sharing and comparing different views of what it means to be both ‘conservative’ and ‘evangelical’. Readers are invited to ponder and respond – and Earl Storey’s reflection on the Hard Gospel project of 2005-2009, which follows, may help them to do so.

‘The other nagging issue is the growing threat to life on earth of the ‘civilisation’ we have developed. ‘Apocalyptic’ is a word we use increasingly to describe this nightmare; but Jewish ‘apocalyptic’ writing was intended to bring comfort – an assurance that beyond present and future tribulations God would bring joyous deliverance. Margaret Daly-Denton in this issue considers how we should understand such writing today. Not unconnected with these concerns, is Benjamin Wold’s exploration of the Jewish background to the petition ‘Lead us not into temptation’ in the Lord’s Prayer. Is Pope Francis right that it gives a misleading view of God in our time?

‘Returning to Search’s recent concern with the development of effective ministry today, we look in this issue at a recent initiative, that of ‘Messy Church’, which shows huge promise, and consider how best to renew a time-honoured but problematic institution, that of Confirmation. Alistair Doyle, regional co-ordinator of Messy Church for Leinster, considers the former, while Canon Cecil Hyland (a one-time C of I youth officer!) fields an experienced team to ponder the confirmation dilemma.

‘The issue continues with a reflection on prayer and contemplation by N.I. religious studies teacher Nigel Martin and the latest in our Liturgica series by liturgist Professor Bryan D Spinks. It concludes with Book Reviews by a distinguished team gathered by reviews editor Raymond Refaussé.

This being the first issue of 2020, may I beg readers to renew their subscriptions for this year if they have not yet done so. This will be much appreciated by our treasurer and subscriptions manager, Michael Denton. My thanks to all concerned for help with this issue.’



Praying through Lent with
USPG (4): 29 February 2020

Hope against adversity … a fading rose on the fence at Birkenau; behind is one of the watchtowers and a train wagon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today [29 February 2020] is fourth day of Lent.

During Lent this year, I am using the USPG Prayer Diary, Pray with the World Church, for my morning prayers and reflections, and – because this year marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and the end of the Holocaust – illustrating my reflections with images on this theme.

USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is the Anglican mission agency that partners churches and communities worldwide in God’s mission to enliven faith, strengthen relationships, unlock potential, and champion justice. It was founded in 1701.

This week (23-29 February), the USPG Prayer Diary is focussing on Saint John the Evangelist Church in Casablanca, which has become a spiritual home for displaced people. On Sunday [23 March 2020], the diary published a reflection by the Rev’d Canon Dr Medhat Sabry, Chaplain of Saint John the Evangelist Anglican Church, Casablanca.

However, the prayer today turns to an obvious theme on this extra day in February in this leap year:

Saturday 29 February 2020:

Let us rejoice with everyone who receives and accepts a marriage proposal today.

Readings: Isaiah 58: 9b-14; Psalm 86: 1-7; Luke 5: 27-32.

The Lenten Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

‘Love is the Answer’ … a message in a window in Skerries, Co Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Continued tomorrow

Yesterday’s reflection