31 January 2021

Sunday intercessions on
31 January 2021,
Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

‘At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region’ (Mark 1: 28) … spreading fame and news at a kiosk in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Let us pray:

‘The earth is the Lord’s and all that fills it, the compass of the world and all who dwell therein (Psalm 24: 1):

Heavenly Father,
we pray for the world,
that your blessings may guide the rulers of the nations and all people.

In these days after Holocaust Memorial Day,
We Remember.
We pray for all who defend democracy and human rights,
for all who stand against racism, prejudice and oppression,
for all nations torn and divided by war and strife,
and we pray for all peacemakers.

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

‘They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority’ (Mark 1: 22):

Lord Jesus Christ,
we pray for the Church,
that we listen to your word and follow your teaching.

We pray for our neighbouring churches and parishes
in Co Limerick and Co Kerry,
that we may be blessed in their variety and diversity.

In the Anglican Cycle of Prayer this week,
we pray for Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil,
and the Most Revd Naudal Alves Gomes,
Primate of Brazil and Bishop of Curitiba.

In the Church of Ireland this month,
we pray for the Diocese of Armagh
and Archbishop John McDowell.

In the Diocesan Cycle of Prayer this week, we pray
for growth, unity, and service in
the future united dioceses of Tuam, Limerick and Killaloe.

We pray for our own parishes and people,
and we for ourselves …

Christ have mercy,
Christ have mercy.

‘Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord, or who can rise up in his holy place?’ (Psalm 24: 3):

Holy Spirit,
we pray for ourselves, for one another as children of God,
for those we love and those who love us,
and we remember those who have brought love into our lives:

We pray for the mothers, survivors, adult children and staff …
of the former ‘Mother and Baby Homes’ and their families …
who are grieving and mourning, and reliving their losses …

We pray for those in need and those who seek healing …
for those working for healing …
for those waiting for healing …
for those seeking an end to this Covid crisis …

We pray for those who are sick or isolated,
at home or in hospital …

Linda … Ann … Daphne … Declan … Sylvia …
Ajay … Ena … Eileen … George … Louise …
Ralph …

We pray for those we have offered to pray for …
and we pray for those who pray for us …

We pray for all who grieve and mourn at this time …
for Margaret, Nigel, Brian and their families …
Anne, Pete and their families …
we remember and give thanks for those who have died …
especially for Alan Fitzell … George Hill … Pete Culley …
and for those whose anniversaries are at this time …
including Kathy … Stephen … Dorothy … Kathleen …
May their memories be a blessing to us …

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

A prayer from the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) on the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany:

Dear Lord, help us in all that we do
to ensure that children everywhere
are properly taken care of
so that they can have hope and a future.

Merciful Father …

‘At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region’ (Mark 1: 28) … the good and the famous in a line of sculptures in the Municipal Gardens in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

These intercessions were prepared for use on Sunday 31 January 2021 in the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes

‘Preach the Gospel at all times,
and when necessary use words’

‘Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words,’ Saint Francis of Assisi … ‘The Vision of Saint Francis’ (ca 1590-1595) by El Greco in the National Gallery of Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 31 January 2021,

The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

10 a.m., The Parish Eucharist

The Readings: Deuteronomy 18: 15-20; Psalm 111; Mark 1: 21-28.

‘When the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught’ (Mark 1: 21) … the Old Synagogue in Krakow, built in 1407, is the oldest Jewish house of prayer in Poland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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

This morning’s Gospel reading (Mark 1: 21-28) is the story of Christ’s visit to Capernaum, where he preaches and teaches in the synagogue. When he speaks, all are astounded at his teaching. But when he actually puts what he says it into practice, they are all amazed.

Christ not only teaches, but he puts it into practice, he teaches not just with knowledge, but with authority; not only can he say, but he can do.

In our Sunday readings over the past few weeks, we have heard how Christ has called his first disciples, Andrew and Simon Peter, Philip and Nathanael, and the sons of Zebedee, James and John. Now, this morning’s Gospel reading tells us how Christ’s authority, in both word and deed, are first recognised.

Christ and his new disciples go to Capernaum, a prosperous town on the Sea of Galilee. It was the practice in the synagogue on Saturdays for the scribes, who specialised in the interpretation and application of Mosaic law to daily life, to quote scripture and tradition.

On this Saturday, however, Christ does not follow this practice. Instead, he speaks directly, confident of his authority and of his very essence. The Greek word here, ἐξουσία (exousía), has the same roots as the word in the Nicene Creed that is translated as ‘being’ or ‘substance’: ‘of one substance with the Father’ (ὁμοούσιον τῷ Πατρί).

The ‘man with an unclean spirit’ (verse 23) was, we might say, possessed, or under the influence of evil forces. In the understanding of the time, he was under Satan’s direction, separated from God.

The devil is heard speaking through this man (verse 24), asking what Christ is doing meddling in the domain of evil. He recognises who Christ is and that his coming spells the end of the power of the devil. He understands the significance of the coming Kingdom. Wonder-workers of the day healed using ritual or magic, but Christ exorcises simply through verbal command (verse 25), so clearly he is divine.

The crowd now acknowledges Christ’s ‘authority’ in word and deed (verse 27).

The parallel reading of this story in Saint Luke’s Gospel (Luke 4: 31-37) follows the story of Christ preaching in the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4: 16-30), when he proclaims the foundational text for his ministry, almost like a manifesto:

18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

These are high ideals and, if put into practice, threaten social stability and the ordering of society. This threat is realised by those who hear him, and they drive him out of the synagogue in Capernaum.

Driven out of that synagogue, Christ has three options:

1, To allow himself to be silenced.

2, To keep on preaching in other synagogues, but to never put into practice what he says, so that those who are worried have their fears allayed and realise he is no threat;

3, To preach and to put his teachings into practice, to show that he means what he says, that his faith is reflected in his priorities, to point to what the Kingdom of God is truly like.

Christ takes the third option. He brings good news to the poor, he releases this poor captive, he can now see things as they are and as they ought to be, the oppressed may go free, and all are amazed.

There is a saying attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi: ‘Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.’

Christ preaches with authority. But in this Gospel reading we are not told what he said. We are only told what he did.

In his actions he demonstrates the love of God and the love of others that are at the heart of the Gospel, that should be at the heart of every sermon I preach. For the love of God and the love of others are the two commandments on which hang all the law and the prophets.

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

‘When the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught’ (Mark 1: 21) … Hillview on Wolfe Tone Street, a former synagogue in Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Mark 1: 21-28 (NRSVA):

21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.’ 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ 26 And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching – with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’ 28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

‘At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region’ (Mark 1: 28) … spreading fame and news on a newsstand in Athens (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical colour: White.

The Penitential Kyries:

God be merciful to us and bless us,
and make his face to shine on us.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

May your ways be known on earth,
your saving power to all nations.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

You, Lord, have made known your salvation,
and reveal your justice in the sight of the nations.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day:

Creator God,
who in the beginning
commanded the light to shine out of darkness:
We pray that the light of the glorious gospel of Christ
may dispel the darkness of ignorance and unbelief,
shine into the hearts of all your people,
and reveal the knowledge of your glory
in the face of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Introduction to the Peace:

Our Saviour Christ is the Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there shall be no end. (Isaiah 9: 6, 7)


For Jesus Christ our Lord
who in human likeness revealed your glory,
to bring us out of darkness
into the splendour of his light:

Post Communion Prayer:

Generous Lord,
in word and Eucharist we have proclaimed
the mystery of your love.
Help us so to live out our days
that we may be signs of your wonders in the world;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour.


Christ the Son be manifest to you,
that your lives may be a light to the world:

‘At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region’ (Mark 1: 28) … the good and the famous in a line of sculptures on the campus of the University of Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)


119, Come, thou long-expected Jesus (CD 8)
691, Faithful vigil ended (CD 39)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.

30 January 2021

So, who gave her name to
Henrietta Street in Wexford?

Henrietta Street, Wexford … was it named after an English princess or duchess (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I was writing this morning about Charlotte Street in Wexford, wondering whether it had been named after Charlotte Street, and discussing how she is portrayed in the Netflix historical drama series Bridgerton as part of Europe’s forgotten Black history.

But if Charlotte Street off North Main Street in Wexford is named after Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III, who gave her name to Henrietta Street off South Main Street, at the other end of the town?

Henrietta Street links South Main Street to Crescent Quay, and it is also connected with nearby Cinema Lane through a small archway. Henrietta Street and is an attractive street that has been upgraded recently, with a good mix of retail, office and service accommodation on both sides of the street.

The facing premises on the corner of Henrietta Street and South Main Street are Simon’s Place, a popular pub, and Hore’s Department Store. At the end of the street is the statue of Commodore John Barry statue, overlooking Crescent Quay. The old Ballast Office was built on this corner of Henrietta Street and Crescent Quay in 1835.

Henrietta Street in Wexford runs from Crescent Quay to South Main Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In the past, Henrietta Street was known as Henrietta Lane. Some local historians have asked whether it was named after Princess Henrietta of England. But Princess Henrietta (1644-1670) lived long before Henrietta Street was built, and in her days the land around Wexford Quay and the shoreline of Wexford Harbour was barely in the process of being reclaimed.

Princess Henrietta married her French cousin Philippe I, Duke of Orléans, and she seems too obscure a figure in 17th century English history to give her name to Georgian streets in Wexford and Dublin.

It is more likely that Henrietta Street in Wexford took its name in imitation of Henrietta Street, which was a fashionable street in Georgian Dublin, although that street later became a notorious slum area in Dublin in the 20th century, with its once-elegant houses divided into tenements that rapidly deteriorated.

Hore’s Stores on the corner of Henrietta Street and South Main Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Henrietta Street in Dublin is generally believed to have been named after the Duchess of Grafton, Henrietta Somerset (1690-1726), wife of Charles FitzRoy, 2nd Duke of Grafton. He was a grandson of King Charles II, his father Henry being an illegitimate son of the king and his mistress, Barbara Villiers.

The Duke of Grafton lived in Dublin while he Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1720-1724, at the beginning of the Georgian era, and also gave his name to Grafton Street.

An attempt to change the name of Henrietta Street in Wexford to O’Hanrahan Street failed in 1932, when the proposed name-change was rejected by the residents of the street.

Henrietta Street leads up to South Main Street from the statue of Commodore John Barry on Crescent Quay (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Queen Charlotte’s portrayal
asks us why Black people
are written out of history

Charlotte Street in Wexford … but was Queen Charlotte black as she is portrayed in ‘Bridgerton’? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I am half-way through the Netflix series Bridgerton and enjoying the drama, the sets, the music and the casting.

I am not a monarchist, by any measure or meaning of the term. But I have also enjoyed The Crown. Criticism of the historical details in both series is ridiculous, and shows how many critics fail to understand historical drama as a genre, mistaking it for the historical documentary.

But all history, however it is presented, challenges us to consider how our present priorities and values have been shaped and developed. When some viewers react negatively to the casting of Bridgerton, they display how, in so many different ways, subliminal racism remains in society, and how it has been conditioned by our interpretations of the past and what we decide is history.

There was a popular story – although it may be apocryphal – among journalists that markings in the newsroom in the Sun listed the British royal family as ‘The Germans.’

The European mixture in that family must certainly challenge many ‘Brexit’ ultra-nationalists today, in a way that they are never challenged by the fact that Boris Johnson was born in New York and is of mixed Turkish and Russian background, or that Nigel Farage is of mixed German and French descent and that his wives have been born in Ireland and Germany.

The cast of Bridgerton has revived the memory that many members of the British royal family were German, including Queen Charlotte and King George III. But it has also reignited the debate about whether Queen Charlotte was actually Black.

Queen Charlotte (1744-1818) was born Princess Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in Germany, and many historians and genealogists say she was indeed descended from African ancestors.

The television historian Mario de Valdes y Cocom has traced Charlotte’s ancestry through six separate lines back to Margarita de Castro e Souza, a 15th-century noblewoman whose own lineage leads back to Ouruana or Madragana, a mistress of King Afonso III of Portugal who he says was a Moor of north African descent.

Some art historians have suggested in recent years that the models for the black magi in Flemish paintings were members of the Portuguese de Sousa family, and that family members travelled to the Netherlands when their cousin, the Princess Isabella, went there to marry the Grand Duke, Philip the Good of Burgundy in 1429.

Chris Van Dusen is said to have been largely influenced by this version of Queen Charlotte’s history while seeking out actors in the series Bridgerton, including casting Golda Rosheuve as Queen Charlotte and Regé-Jean Page as the ficticious Duke of Hastings.

But, almost 12 years ago, Stuart Jeffries also asked in the Guardian in 2009 whether Queen Charlotte was black.

Although Queen Charlotte was married to the British monarch at the time of the American War of Independence, she is still celebrated over 200 years after her death in Charlotte, the city in North Carolina that she gave her name to.

There is a large, monumental bronze sculpture of her in the city, and street after street is named after her, giving Charlotte the nickname of the ‘Queen City.’ The city’s Mint Museum displays a 1762 portrait of Queen Charlotte by the Scottish portrait painter Allan Ramsay.

In Britain, she is remembered in Charlotte Square in Edinburgh’s New Town and in London at Charlotte Street in Fitzrovia and Queen’s Square in Bloomsbury. In Ireland, Charlotte Street in Dublin was levelled in the 1970s, but her name is still recalled in Charlotte Quay, Dublin, and there is a Charlotte Street in Wexford, Carlow and Sligo, and Charlotte’s Quay in Limerick.

Charlotte Street, running from the Quays to the Ulster Bank on North Main Street in Wexford, was previously known as Custom House Lane may may have also been called Courthouse Lane, according to local historian Nicky Rossiter. There was an attempt to rename Colbert Street, but this name-change was rejected in a plebiscite in 1932, and so the name of Queen Charlotte remains on a Wexford street.

At Charlotte Quay in Limerick … Queen Charlotte is remembered in many street names in Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Queen Charlotte founded Kew Gardens, was the mother of 15 children, a patron of the arts and is said to have commissioned Mozart. But Sir Walter Scott described her and her siblings as ‘ill-coloured, orang-outang looking figures, with black eyes and hook-noses.‘ In A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens dismissed her in the second paragraph: ‘There was a king with a large jaw, and a queen with a plain face, on the throne of England.’ Her personal doctor, Baron Christian Friedrich Stockmar, is said to have described her as ‘small and crooked, with a true mulatto face.’

Queen Charlotte was played by Helen Mirren in the film The Madness of King George. But Desmond Shawe-Taylor, surveyor of the Queen’s pictures, told Stuart Jeffries in the Guardian, ‘She was famously ugly.’

Mario de Valdes y Cocom argues that her features, as seen in royal portraits, were conspicuously African. He claims that although she was German by birth, she was directly descended from a black branch of the Portuguese royal family, related to Margarita de Castro e Souza, a 15th-century Portuguese noblewoman nine generations removed, whose ancestry is traced back to the 13th-century ruler Alfonso III and his lover Madragana, whom Valdes takes to have been a Moor and so a black African.

Of course, many historians are sceptical about Valdes’s theory. Apart from the generational distance, they say the evidence that Madragana was black is thin.

Indeed, some would say, Charlotte may not have been the first black queen in England. There is a theory that suggests that Philippa of Hainault (1314-1369), consort of Edward III, had African ancestry. There are perennial debates on social media about whether King Charles II was black. In his time, he was sometimes referred to as ‘the black boy,’ although this may simply have described his dark hair and a complexion that was darker than most northern Europeans. When Prince Harry married Meghan Markle, whose mother is black, some people hailed her as Britain’s first black royal.

Whatever Queen Charlotte’s background may have been, history and drama both challenge us to think why we continue to be reluctant to question inherited presumptions and prejudices. Why are some people regarded as beautiful or ugly because of their looks and not because of their character? And, if she was not black, why were black people excluded from European society for so long?

The very fact that she was German, like so many members of the British royal family, and that Charles II’s mother was French, his grandmothers Danish and Italian and his wife a Portuguese princess who brought Tangier as her dowry, make me wonder about the crazy mindset of monarchists who continue to argue in this post-Brexit time that Britain should continue to distance itself from Europe.

Golda Rosheuve as Queen Charlotte in ‘Bridgerton’

29 January 2021

‘Forever enfold them in
the embrace of Your wings;
secure their souls in eternity’

Smashed gravestones in the New Jewish Cemetery in Kraków have been collected to form a Holocaust Memorial (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Earlier this week, on Holocaust Memorial Day (27 January 2021), I recalled the many survivors and victims of the Holocaust who had once lived in Ireland, who moved to Ireland, or who died in Ireland.

El Malei Rachamim (אֵל מָלֵא רַחֲמִים, ‘God full of compassion’) is a prayer for the departed that asks for comfort and everlasting care of the deceased. It is usually said at the graveside during the burial service and at memorial services during the year:

God, full of mercy, Who dwells above, provide a sure rest on the wings of the Divine Presence, amongst the holy, pure and glorious who shine like the sky, to the soul of (Hebrew name), son/daughter of (Hebrew name) for the sake of charity which was given to the memory of his/her soul. Therefore, the Merciful One will protect him/her forever in the hiding of his wings, and will tie his/her soul with the rope of life. The Everlasting is his/her heritage, and he/she shall rest peacefully at his/her lying place, and let us say: Amen.

But different versions of this prayer are provided for different moments. The version for the Remembrance of Victims of the Holocaust says:

God, full of mercy, who dwells in the heights, provide a sure rest upon the Divine Presence’s wings, within the range of the holy and the pure, whose shining resemble the sky’s, all the souls of the six million Jews, victims of the European Holocaust, who were murdered, slaughtered, burnt and exterminated for the Sanctification of the Name, by the German Nazi assassins and their helpers from the rest of the peoples. Therefore, the Master of Mercy will protect them forever, from behind the hiding of his wings, and will tie their souls with the rope of life. The Everlasting is their heritage, the Garden of Eden shall be their resting room, and they shall rest peacefully upon their lying place, they will stand for their fate in the end of days, and let us say: Amen.

For my Friday evening reflections and readings this evening, I am reading the version for the Shoah (Holocaust) is found in the Reform prayer book, Mishkan T’filah. I have prayed with this prayer before, and on Holocaust Memorial Day a version of this prayer was circulated among priests in the Diocese of Limerick and Killaloe by the Revd Kevin O’Brien of Ennis, Co Clare:

Fully compassionate God on high:
To our six million brothers and sisters
murdered because they were Jews,
grant clear and certain rest with You
in the lofty heights of the sacred and pure
whose brightness shines like the very glow of heaven.

Source of mercy:
Forever enfold them in the embrace of Your wings;
secure their souls in eternity.
Adonai: they are Yours.
They will rest in peace. Amen.

May their memories be a blessing, זצ״ל

Five marks of mission and
Saint Mark’s Chapel with
an altar from Tarbert

The chapter and choir stalls in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During the present stage of the pandemic lockdown, while I am confined to a 5 km radius from the Rectory in Askeaton, Co Limerick, I am missing not only the regular round of Sunday services in the four churches in this group of parishes, but I am also missing my regular visits to Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick.

It is almost four years since I was installed as Precentor in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, on 17 February 2017. This is a chapter position that also involves Saint Flannan’s Cathedral, Killaloe, Co Clare, and Saint Brendan’s Cathedral, Clonfert, Co Galway. In recent months, I have been blogging occasionally about my predecessors as Precentor. In Anglican cathedral traditions, the Precentor is the canon who takes a particular interest in the liturgical and musical life of a cathedral.

Although in my case the role of Precentor is linked to the continuing ministerial education of priests in these dioceses, I have a natural instinct for and interest in cathedral liturgy and music, and miss those cathedral visits. Indeed, the pandemic lockdown and present circumstances do not mean that the joint cathedral chapter is frozen in Corona-land, far from it.

After a recent virtual meeting of the clergy of this diocese, the chapter members agreed to host a joint Lenten study this year, focussing on the five points of mission that have been agreed in the Anglican Communion:

1, To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
2, To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
3, To respond to human need by loving service
4, To transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation
5, To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth

Each chapter member has agreed to focus on one of these points of mission on successive weekday evenings throughout Lent, and I have undertaken to introduce the fourth point on injustice and violence, peace and reconciliation.

But more about this Lenten project as the details are finalised.

Inside Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Meanwhile, during my most recent visit to Saint Mary’s Cathedral last month, it was encouraging to see how new lighting has been installed in the chapter and choir stalls.

It was encouraging too to see how an altar on loan from Saint Brendan’s Church, Tarbert, Co Kerry, has found an appropriate place in Saint Mark’s Chapel and is being used for its original purpose instead of being hidden away in storage.

This side chapel in the cathedral is also known as the O’Brien Chapel, and was the traditional funerary chapel of the O’Brien family. Donal Mór O Brien, the last O’Brien King of Munster, made a gift of the site of his royal palace to the Church, and the cathedral was built on this site.

On Sundays, outside pandemic time, Saint Mark’s Chapel is used as worship space by the children in the cathedral congregation, and it is also been the venue for celebrations of the Euchaist before chapter meetings.

Collect on Saint Mark’s Day:

Almighty God,
who enlightened your holy Church
through the inspired witness of your evangelist Saint Mark:
Grant that we, being firmly grounded
in the truth of the gospel,
may be faithful to its teaching both in word and deed;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The altar in Saint Mark’s Chapel in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick … on loan from Saint Brendan’s Church, Tarbert (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

28 January 2021

‘The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity’

The house at 10 Ashfield Terrace (now 418 Harold’s Cross Road), Dublin, where WB Yeats lived during some of his schooldays (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I was writing a week ago about my grandfather, Stephen Edward Comerford (1867-1921), and how he died a lonely death in hospital 100 years ago, on 21 January 1921, after his harrowing experiences during World War I in the Dardanelles and Thessaloniki.

Some years after my grandfather’s death, my widowed grandmother, Bridget (Lynders) Comerford, moved to 5 Ashdale Park, Terenure, close to the junction of Terenure Road North, Brighton Square (which, to be honest, is a triangle) and Harold’s Cross Road.

Although my grandmother’s family, like their neighbours, always considered Ashdale Park a part of Terenure, it was still listed as part of Rathmines District for many years. It was an area with interesting literary associations: James Joyce was born at No 41 Brighton Square in 1882, and William Butler Yeats lived part of his childhood, from 1883, at 10 Ashfield Terrace, now 418 Harold’s Cross Road.

But Yeats seems to have been ashamed of his family’s home between Terenure and Harold’s Cross, describing it in 1914 as ‘a villa where the red bricks were made pretentious and vulgar with streaks of grey slate.’ Perhaps this explains why he fostered the myth that he was from Sligo and not from Dublin – or from London.

Today marks the anniversary of the death of the poet William Butler Yeats, who was born in Sandymount Avenue, Co Dublin, on 13 June 1865 and died near Cannes on 28 January 1939.

He was a driving force behind the Irish Literary Revival, one of the founders of the Abbey Theatre, and in 1923 he was the first Irish writer to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature: he was followed by George Bernard Shaw in 1925; Samuel Beckett in 1969; and Seamus Heaney in 1995.

Once again, much is being written, said and performed to mark the Yeats anniversary this year. It is interesting that a Dublin-born poet is so often presented as a son of Sligo. His mother was from Sligo, but the myth that he was from Sligo was boosted in recent years by the visit of Prince Charles to the grave of Yeats in Drumcliffe churchyard.

The myth was also recycled by Leonard Cohen at a concert in Lissadell House in 2010. It was a night of poetry and music beneath the slops of Ben Bulben and Cohen was visiting the house where Yeats stayed when he visited the Gore-Booth sisters, the young Eva and the future Countess Constance Markievicz.

To applause, he quoted those lines from Yeats about the sisters:

The light of evening, Lissadell
Great windows open to the south
Two girls in silk kimonos, both
Beautiful, one a gazelle …

Perhaps Yeats would have enjoyed this too as someone who worked and reworked Irish myths and legends in his poetry.

In the grounds of Lissadell House at the Leonard Cohen concert ten years ago (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

When the future poet was only a child of two, the Yeats family moved to England in 1867, and in 1877 he was sent to the Godolphin School in Hammersmith, where he spent almost four years.

Although family holidays were spent at his mother’s family home in Sligo, he was born in Dublin and spent most of his childhood years in London.

When the family returned to Dublin in 1880, they lived in Howth, first at Balscadden Cottage and then at Island View, before moving in 1883 to 10 Ashfield Terrace, now 418 Harold’s Cross Road.

Later, my father grew up around the corner in Ashdale Park. But Yeats was ashamed of his family’s home between Terenure and Harold’s Cross, describing it in 1914 as ‘a villa where the red bricks were made pretentious and vulgar with streaks of grey slate.’ Perhaps this explains why he fostered the myth that he was from Sligo and not from Dublin – or from London.

In Dublin, Yeats was sent to the High School, then on Harcourt Street. Despite some misconceptions, he was never a student at Trinity College Dublin – from 1884 to 1886, he was a student at the Metropolitan School of Art, now the National College of Art and Design (NCAD).

After seven years, the family returned to London in 1887. Two years later, in 1889, he met Maud Gonne, who was English-born without any Irish ancestry. He visited Maud Gonne in Ireland in 1891, when she rejected his first proposal of marriage. He would propose to her three more times – in 1899, 1900 and 1901, but she rejected him each time in 1903 married Major John MacBride.

The rise of violent nationalism caused Yeats to reassess his own nationalism, and in Easter, 1916 he wrote:

All changed, changed utterly
A terrible beauty is born

John MacBride had been executed for his role in the Easter Rising, and Yeats made one last proposal to Maud Gonne in mid-1916. Then in 1917, he proposed to her 21-year-old daughter, Iseult Gonne. Later that year, he proposed to 25-year-old Georgie Hyde-Lees, and they were married on 20 October 1917.

The world was so changed and transformed WB Yeats could open his poem The Second Coming with these lines about Europe in the aftermath of World War I:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

The same could have been said about American politics in recent years, or about British politics throughout the Brexit and post-Brexit debates.

At first, TS Eliot expressed distaste for Yeats, and even mocked Yeats’s membership of the Theosophical Society. Later, following his attendance at the first performance of Yeats’s one-act play, At the Hawk’s Well, and after the publication of ‘The Wild Swans at Coole’ in 1919, Eliot softened his opinion of Yeats’s poetry.

No 5 Woburn Walk … the Bloomsbury home of WB Yeats in London from 1895 to 1919 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Yeats returned to live in Ireland in 1919, but distanced himself from the passionate intensity of Irish politics until 1922, when he was appointed a Senator in the new parliament of the Irish Free State, and was re-appointed for a second term in 1925.

Meanwhile, in December 1923, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

In one speech in the Senate, referring to the Church of Ireland, he said: ‘It is one of the glories of the Church in which I was born that we have put our Bishops in their place in discussions requiring legislation.’

When the Irish Free State was poised to outlaw divorce in 1925, Yeats delivered his famous speech in the new Senate:

I think it is tragic that within three years of this country gaining its independence we should be discussing a measure which a minority of this nation considers to be grossly oppressive. I am proud to consider myself a typical man of that minority. We against whom you have done this thing, are no petty people. We are one of the great stocks of Europe. We are the people of Burke; we are the people of Grattan; we are the people of Swift, the people of Emmet, the people of Parnell. We have created the most of the modern literature of this country. We have created the best of its political intelligence. Yet I do not altogether regret what has happened. I shall be able to find out, if not I, my children will be able to find out whether we have lost our stamina or not. You have defined our position and have given us a popular following. If we have not lost our stamina then your victory will be brief, and your defeat final, and when it comes this nation may be transformed.

It was not until 1935, in the Criterion, that TS Eliot publicly praised Yeats, when he called him ‘the greatest poet of his time.’ Eliot continued to praise Yeats, although in a lecture in Dublin in 1936 he regretted that Yeats ‘came to poetry from a Protestant background.’

But there was a nasty streak in Yeats too, and it should not be forgotten. His friendship with Ezra Pound introduced him to Benito Mussolini, whom he admired, and at one time he wrote three marching songs for Eoin O’Duffy’s fascist Blueshirts.

Yeats died in France at the Hôtel Idéal Séjour, in Menton, on this day 82 years ago, 28 January 1939, and was buried in the hilltop cemetery at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. After the death of Yeats, Eliot was invited to give the first annual Yeats lecture to the Friends of the Irish Academy in 1940.

Yeats had frequently spoken about his death with his wife George, who said he told her: ‘If I die bury me up there and then in a year’s time when the newspapers have forgotten me, dig me up and plant me in Sligo.’

In 1948, what was said to be the body of Yeats was moved in a coffin to Ireland on the naval corvette LÉ Macha. The operation was overseen by Maud Gonne’s son, Sean MacBride, who was then the Minister of External Affairs.

The coffin laid in state in Sligo Town Hall before it was given a full state funeral in Saint Columba’s Churchyard in Drumcliffe on 17 September 1948. The scene at Drumcliffe was set by Yeats himself. In his last poem, published in The Irish Times, he wrote:

Under bare Ben Bulben’s head
In Drumcliffe Churchyard Yeats is laid …

The committal service was taken by the Bishop of Kilmore, the Right Revd Albert Edward Hughes, who had been the chaplain to the last Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. As the words ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust’ were said, a handful of soil was thrown on the coffin. The epitaph on the grave quotes the last lines of Under Ben Bulben:

Cast a cold Eye On Life, on Death. Horseman, pass by!

But the bones moved from Roquebrune were never identified with certainty – his body had been exhumed and transferred to a communal ossuary sometime between 1939 and 1948, before the 10-year-lease on the grave had expired, and bones from other graves were mixed together.

Some writers have identified the actual remains with those of a man Alfred George Hollis who died on the same day and was buried in the same graveyard at the same time.

But then, as Yeats himself once wrote:

Though grave-diggers’ toil is long,
Sharp their spades, their muscles strong,
They but thrust their buried men
Back in the human mind again.

Perhaps my favourite poem by Yeats is ‘Sailing to Byzantium’:

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre, And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

WB Yeats was born at No 5 Sandymount Avenue, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Healy 2010/South Dublin County Libraries)

Haunton Church has links
with Pugin, Oxford Movement
and Staffordshire missions

The Church of Saint Michael and Saint James in Haunton … part of Staffordshire’s Catholic history (Photograph: Parish Facebook page)

Patrick Comerford

When I was researching the story of Haselour Hall at Harlaston, I came across the story of the small and unique Catholic community in nearby Haunton, where the church has close links with the de Trafford family of Haselour Hall and the Mostyn family who were descended from the Comberfords of Comberford Hall, and with AWN Pugin, the architect of the Gothic revival in 19th century England.

The Church of Saint Michael and Saint James in Haunton reflects not just Haunton’s but also Staffordshire’s Catholic history. The church has its roots in the three great strands of the Catholic revival in the 19th century: the Oxford Movement, the Gothic revival associated with Pugin, and the new freedoms that enabled old Recusant or Catholic families to fund building churches and schools.

Haunton, a village in southeast Staffordshire, lies on the River Mease, about 11 km north of Tamworth, 15 km east of Lichfield, 10 km north-east of Comberford, and half-way between the neighbouring villages of Harlaston and Clifton Campville. The local authority is Lichfield District Council

The name of Haunton is believed to be Old English, meaning Hagena’s or Hagona’s farm. The chapel of Saint James the Greater at Haunton is mentioned in Domesday, and the chapel at Haunton was part of the parish of Saint Andrew, Clifton Campville, until the Reformation, when the chapel fell into disrepair.

Haunton has a number of listed buildings, including the Grange, the Church of Saint Michael and Saint James and the nursing home, formerly Haunton Hall. The more recent history of Haunton Hall is closely linked with the Church of Saint Michael and Saint James and a community of French nuns.

A Catholic mission was started in Haunton in 1845 by Colonel Charles Edward Mousley (1819-1887), who had inherited Haunton Hall, built in the 1820s. Colonel Mousley also inherited his Catholicism from his Spanish mother and through his father’s links to Staffordshire’s Catholic past.

The Mousley family commissioned AWN Pugin in 1845 to design a chapel at the Hall dedicated to Saint Mary. Soon it too small for a growing Catholic population and there was talk of building a new church on land opposite the hall. The chapel was blessed by Bishop Nicholas Wiseman (1802-1865), later Cardinal Wiseman and Archbishop of Westminster; like Colonel Mousley, Cardinal Wiseman was also born in Spain.

At first, the chapel at Haunton Hall was used mainly by the Mousley family, and Mass was celebrated there seven times a year by the parish priest of Tamworth, who reported in 1852 that there was a congregation of about 10.

In the decade that followed, the influence of the Oxford Movement came to Haunton through the Revd Henry John Pye, Rector of St Andrew’s, Clifton Campville, and the son of the Lord of the Manor of Clifton Campville. Pye was educated at Cambridge and in 1851 he married Emily, daughter of Samuel Wilberforce (1805-1873), Bishop of Winchester and previously Bishop of Oxford and Dean of Westminster. Emily was a granddaughter of William Wilberforce, the anti-slavery campaigner.

After a long and complex spiritual journey, Henry and Emily Pye decided to become Roman Catholics in 1868. It was a difficult decision, Pye had to resign as rector, and for a time he was cut off from his family at Clifton Hall and from his inheritance.

Henry became a barrister and a magistrate and in time was reconciled with his family. By 1880, Henry and Emily had returned to Haunton and they decided to build a new Catholic church to replace Pugin’s chapel. They donated a site but needed more money to realise their dream.

Meanwhile, Augustus de Trafford had moved into to Haselour Hall, about 5 km from Haunton, in 1885. He was a son of a baronet and a member of an old Lancashire Catholic family. Around the same time, the recently widowed Lady (Frances) Mostyn (1826-1899) moved into Haunton Hall as a tenant. The Mostyns are descendants of the Comberford family of Comberford Hall; her husband was Sir Pyers Mostyn (1811-1882), and her son, Francis Mostyn (1860-1939), later became Archbishop of Cardiff (1921-1939).

Together, the Mousley, Pye, de Trafford and Mostyn families found the finances to build a new church on Pye’s land opposite Haunton Hall in 1885. The new church, dedicated to Saint Michael, was extended, using masonry from the ruins of the Chapel of Saint James, and was rededicated to Saint Michael and Saint James. Pye also built a presbytery and gave the whole site to the diocese.

The first burial at the new church was of Colonel Mousley, the effective founder of the mission, who died in 1887.

The church was replaced in 1902 by a new church designed by Edmund Kirby of Liverpool, a pupil of Pugin’s oldest son, Edward Pugin, and was built by Isaac Ward & Son, contractors of Uttoxeter.

Archbishop Edward Ilsley of Birmingham laid the foundation stone of the new nave on 23 May 1901. The church was built of red and white Hollington sandstone with Broseley tile roofs. At the opening on 22 May 1902, Lady Mostyn’s son, Archbishop Mostyn, presided at a Pontifical High Mass and Archbishop Isley preached.

The church was financed with little debt and was consecrated on 20 June 1907, when a new high altar and organ were introduced. The altar was presumably designed by Kirby. The Tablet said ‘the columns are of pavanazzo marble and the super-altars are also of rich marble. The tabernacle is of pure white alabaster, beautifully carved with angels and the emblems of wheat and the vine.’

The original altar in Pugin’s chapel was taken to the Church of Saint John the Baptist in Tamworth ca 1907, but has since been lost but for one panel.

Kirby’s church is a handsome and substantial stone building in the Early English style, with a small timber bell tower. The architectural historian, Sir Niklaus Pevsner, in his guide to Staffordsbire, notes that it looks ‘entirely like’ a Church of England church.

The church is built in red and white Hollington sandstone with a timber bellcote at the west end. It has a distinctive heavy scissor-trussed roof, and the interior fittings are of high quality. It retains the late 19th century chancel and incorporates mediaeval masonry and contains.

The font is in a late 12th century Romanesque style, but its provenance is uncertain. It may have been found next to the River Mease, but another source says it was imported from Treviso. Whatever its origin, it was probably not designed as a font as it displays no obvious Christian symbols.

The 20th century oak pulpit and communion rails are said to have been carved by a nun, although The Tablet reported in 1906 that a pulpit then newly installed was made by Burns & Oates. The proposed west end gallery was never built.

The collection of early 20th century glass in the nave and chancel is mainly by Hardman and Co of Handsworth. They are influenced by Pugin and have strong gothic characteristics. Hardman’s east window is a memorial to Lady Mostyn. Hardman’s nave windows are mostly memorials to members of the Trafford, Pye and Mousley families. The most recent Hardman window in the chancel commemorates Oswald de Trafford who died in 1942.

The Lady Chapel is a later addition. The chapel’s side windows by Alexander Gascoygne were commissioned in 1925 by the Donisthorpe family of Enderby Hall, Leicestershire. Their appearance is almost pre-Raphaelite in style when compared with the Hardman windows.

‘Considerable repairs’ were carried out in 1958 and the church was redecorated in 2002, when a new floor was laid, and new heating and lighting were installed.

The church stands in a large burial ground with mature planting, a presbytery (1905) and the former school. Together with the other buildings and burial ground, the church makes a notable contribution to the local conservation area.

After the church was completed, a community of French nuns, the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Bordeaux, set up a convent in Haunton Hall in 1904. This later became Saint Joseph Convent School for Girls. The school closed in 1987 and is now a community hall. The nuns moved to a new convent, and Haunton Hall became a nursing home. The nuns moved to a house near Clifton Campville in 2010.

Today, Saint Michael and Saint James is a small parish and the Parish Priest, Father Eamonn Corduff, is based at Barton under Needwood. The parish is active and has strong ecumenical links with its Anglican neighbours at Saint Andrew’s Church in Clifton Campville.

Inside Haunton Church (Photograph: Haunton Parish website

27 January 2021

Haselour Hall, the ‘most
charming half-timbered
house,’ for sale at £3m

Haselour Hall has was once described as ‘the most charming half-timbered house’ in Britain

Patrick Comerford

Sometimes, when I allow myself flights of fantasy, I dream of being able to buy back Comberford Hall or the Moat House on Lichfield Street in Tamworth. But these two former family homes in south-east Staffordshire have always been outside my reach, even in my wildest dreams, and I plant my feet firmly on the ground again within minutes.

Of course, the costs of maintenance and heating alone should be prohibitive for anyone who even begins to think of houses such as these. But I like to dream, and continue to be interested in the architecture, history and families of houses such as these.

In recent day, I have been writing about some houses like these, including Wall House, in Wall, south of Lichfield, and Pipe Hill House, just west of Lichfield.

Haselour Hall, a Tudor manor house just outside Harlaston in south-east Staffordshire, is on the market with an asking price of £2,995,000. It has been described on one site as the most expensive property in ‘B79,’ and is within the boundaries of Lichfield District Council, 4.6 km from Comberford, 5.5 km from Comberford Hall, 8.3 km north of Tamworth, and 12 km east of Lichfield.

Haselour Hall has was once described as ‘the most charming half-timbered house’ in Britain. The architectural historian, Sir Nikolaus Pevsner in his guide to Staffordshire was delighted with its ‘gorgeous black and white front of five gables.’

This is the house where the future Henry VII is said to have spent the night before his decisive victory at the Battle of Bosworth Field, and there are links too with the Comberford family of Comberford Hall, distant though they may be.

However, the history of this house goes back centuries before the War of the Roses. The name Haselour is of Saxon origin, derived from ‘hazelnut’ because of the large number of hazelnut trees on and around the land.

The house was once surrounded by a double moat, dating back to Norman times, and traces of it can still be identified. A house probably stood on the site of Haselour Hall when the Selvein family held the manor in the 12th century.

Gradually, the Ardernes of Elford became the dominant family at Haselour, ousting the Timmon family who had held the manor. Under them, the two manors of Haselour and Elford were united and remained so for many generations. Sir Thomas Arderne, who died in 1391, won glory in the French wars. It was he or his father who led men from Haselour and Elford men at the Battles of Crecy and Poitiers.

The Arderne heiress married Sir Thomas Stanley in the early 15th century, bringing Haselour into the Stanley family.

Haselour Hall played a role in the War of the Roses on the night before the Battle of Bosworth Field

While the Stanley family were living at Haselour, the house played a role in the War of the Roses. Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond and later Henry VII, is said to have spent a night at Haselour Hall, after slipping away from his march from Lichfield to the Battle of Bosworth Field with a small band of his guards in 1485 before his decisive victory in 1485.

The hall was then home to Henry VII’s mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, who had married the powerful Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby, in 1472 after the death of her third husband, Sir Henry Stafford. She founded both Christ’s College and Saint John’s College in Cambridge, and has given her name to Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.

While he was visiting his mother, Henry entreated Stanley, his step-father, to join him in battle against Richard III. Stanley, however, refused to choose sides, opting instead to remain neutral for a while longer before making clear their allegiance. This neutrality was so important to the Stanleys, that when Richard kidnapped one of Stanley’s sons to force him to join his ranks, Stanley replied laconically: ‘I have other sons.’

The Battle of Bosworth Field was the last significant battle in the War of the Roses. On the day of the battle, it is said that Stanley watched it unfold from afar, and when Henry defeated Richard III, Stanley rode down the hill from which he was watching, took the defeated king’s crown from his head and used it to crown Henry VII, only then pledgng his allegiance to the new king.

Much of the building is unmistakably Tudor, and the present house may have been built by the Stanleys. The black and white half-timber work of the South front gives Haselour Hall its characteristic Tudor appearance. Many original tiles are still on the roof and are said to date from 1550.

A tunnel reputedly lead across the fields from Haselour Hall to the Manor House in the centre of the village of Harlaston.

John Stanley died in 1508, leaving no male heir, and for many generations the manor of Haselour passed through female lines of inheritance. Eventually, it descended from the Huddlestones to the Brookes, when Lucy Huddlestone, the co-heiress, married John Brooke in 1557. Her sister, the other heiress, married Sir John Bowes, taking as her share of the inheritance the manor of Elford. So, the two manors were separated once again.

Haselour Hall was heavily restored by Augustus Henry de Trafford who came to live there in 1885

The Brookes, who held Haselour for over 200 years, were there at the time of the Civil War. It may have been due to impoverishment that they sold Haselour to Samuel Dilke in 1672, so bringing to an end the lineal descent from the Arderne family that had lasted for more than three centuries.

William Brooke of Haselour died in 1672, and Mary, his only daughter and heiress, married Christopher Heveningham of Pipe Hall and Lichfield in 1692. Christopher Heveningham was, in turn, a descendant of the Comberford family of Comberford Hall.

Christopher Heveningham was a direct descendant of Sir Walter Heveningham, who married his cousin, Ann, daughter of William Fitzherbert of Norbury. His father, Christopher Heveningham, married Dorothy, daughter and only child of William Stanley of Aston near Stone, and his wife Margaret, daughter of Thomas Comberford of Comberford and his wife Dorothy, daughter of Ralph Fitzherbert of Norbury.

Haselour Hall was heavily restored by Augustus Henry de Trafford (1823-1895) when he came to live there in 1885. He was a member of an old Lancastrian Catholic family and the son of a Baronet. His family gives its name to an area in Manchester and well-known cricket and football grounds.

His sister, Jane Seymour de Trafford, married George Archer Shee. Their great-grandson, George Archer-Shee, was the subject of a notorious 1910 prosecution for allegedly stealing a 5 shilling postal order. The case formed the basis for Terence Rattigan’s play The Winslow Boy (1946).

Augustus de Trafford’s five sons took part in World War I, including Captain Thomas Cecil de Trafford, Royal Fusiliers who died on 10 November 1914, and Captain Henry Joseph de Trafford, South Staffordshire Regiment, who died on 25 September 1915. Their sister Mary married George Mostyn (1857-1913) of Haunton Hall, a descendant of the Comberfords of Comberford Hall.

For local government purposes, Haselour was extra-parochial until 1858, when it became a civil parish within Lichfield Poor Law Union. In 1894, it became part of Lichfield Rural District; in 1934 the civil parish was incorporated into Harlaston.

Haselour Hall is Grade II* listed building, built in the 16th century and heavily restored by Augustus de Trafford in 1885. It is a half-timbered, five-gabled, Tudor residence that retains many of its original features, including an oak panelled reception hall and dining room, a Norman oak front door, and stained-glass leaded windows.

The front provides a sumptuous display of decorative timber framing including close-studding, quadrant braces, quatrefoils and diagonal braces in herringbone patterns. Pevsner suggests the middle or third gable, which is smaller, may have been a porch originally.

The reception hall has a large open hearth with a pillared oak staircase and leads to a drawing room and a grand panelled dining room. The dining room has an oak fire surround with intricate, hand-carved depictions of the Battle of Hastings.

The main house has 12 bedrooms, including a grand master bedroom with east-facing bay windows and a carved four-poster bed. The annexe has a further three bedrooms. There is a detached annexe, a chapel dating from the 12th century, a barn, four stables, 11 garages, a summer house and an outdoor pool, all on 10 acres of land.

The grounds are approached through a gated entrance and a tree lined driveway, which opens out into an open lawn area. They contain secluded patio areas, mature woodland and a paddock.

The 19th century additions link the house to the chapel. The chapel is even older than Haselour Hall, and Pevsner describes it as ‘a real medieval building.’ He says the turret with spire looks 13th century, but assumes the chapel was bult ca 1370.

The chapel, with its early Gothic interior, includes memorial windows commissioned by the de Trafford family. It is still in use and open to the public annually for Remembrance Day services. Near the chapel are the remains of the ancient family burying place, and the skeletons of five 14th century Black Death victims have been unearthed by the chapel.

The chapel is older than Haselour Hall and Pevsner describes it as ‘a real medieval building’

Haselour Hall was once described on one site as the most expensive property in B79, the post code in south-east Staffordshire, east of Lichfield, covers most of Tamworth, including the Moat House on Lichfield Street, and also includes Comberford, Wigginton, Elford, Harlaston, Edingale, Thorpe Constantine, Seckington and Shuttington.

The house is being sold by the Taroni family, described in one tabloid newspaper as ‘Birmingham’s undisputed scrap-metal kings.’ He fought a long battle with HS2 bosses over the purchase of his scrapyard.

The house has been home to Russell Taroni and his family for over 20 year. Russell Taroni has told the Tamworth Herald: ‘The men love it, the women don’t. They take a look around and think it’ll be hard work. It’s a fabulous building. I’m quite happy where I am, but my wife would move tomorrow.’

The couple’s two sons no longer live at Haselour Hall, but it is also home to his sister-in-law and mother-in-law.

He originally put it on the market in January 2017 for £4 million to raise funds for new business premises following the enforced HS2 move. ‘There was a house at the back of mine that I was looking to move to,’ he added, ‘but it’s gone now.’

Haselour Hall is on the market again since June 2019, through Aston Knowles, estate agents in Sutton Coldfield, who are inviting offers above £2,995,000.

Sophie Bullock, director of Aston Knowles, says: ‘The original features are so unique, and the history is incredibly rich and interesting. Those who have an entrepreneurial mind, and subject to the relevant permissions, could see the stunning hall as an opportunity to create a fabulous ‘live-in’ wedding venue. There’s certainly enough space for it.’ Ms Bullock adds that ‘the hall is exquisitely grand and has been extremely well-maintained by the current owners.’

The chapel has an early Gothic interior and includes memorial windows commissioned by the de Trafford family

Remembering victims and
survivors of the Holocaust
who have lived in Ireland

The Nazis planned to exterminate 11 million Jews in Europe, including 4,000 people in Ireland … an exhibition in Auschwitz (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day (27 January 2021), marking the 76th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau on 27 January 1945, before the Holocaust and of World War II.

In Birkenau, a series of memorials in over 20 languages commemorates the victims of the Holocaust who were murdered by the Nazis in Auschwitz and Birkenau, representing the variety of languages spoken by and nationalities among the victims.

There is no plaque in Irish, but we should not think that the Holocaust was something that was a far distance from Ireland, for the Nazis were planning to extend their genocide to Ireland too. One exhibition in Auschwitz shows that the Nazis planned to exterminate 11 million Jews in Europe, including 4,000 in Ireland.

Like many people, I watched the streaming of the Holocaust Memorial Service in Dublin on Sunday night (24 January 2021), which was addressed by the two Holocaust survivors still living in Ireland, Tomi Reichental who was born in Bratislava, Slovakia, and Suzi Diamond, who was born near Debrecen in Hungary.

Inside the Spanish Synagogue in Prague … Helen and Harry Lewis were married in Prague in 1947 before leaving for Belfast (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

There were many other Holocaust survivors who lived in Ireland and who have died in recent years.

Helen Lewis (1916-2009) was born Helena Katz into a German-speaking Jewish family in Trutnov in Bohemia, 160 km north-east of Prague, now in the Czech Republic, close to the border with Poland.

In Prague, she studied dance in Prague, where she also studied philosophy and took lessons in French, and there she married Paul Hermann, from a Czech Jewish family, in June 1938.

Helen and Paul were sent to Terezín (Theresianstadt), 70 km north of Prague, in August 1942. There she worked in the children’s homes and spent months in the camp hospital.

Helena and Paul were separated in May 1944 when they were moved to Auschwitz and they never met again. He died on a forced march in April 1945.

She was among the remaining people forced to leave Auschwitz on 27 January 1945 and marched forcibly for weeks through the Polish winter. When she fell in the snow, she was abandoned, and when she reached her uncle’s house in Prague, she weighed only 30 kg.

She married Harry Lewis in in Prague in June 1947, and they left to begin new lives in Belfast, where he set up a handkerchief-making business and she returned to teaching dance and choreography, bring ‘a whole European dimension to dance in the theatre.’

Her memoir, A Time to Speak, became a bestseller, was translated into many languages, and was serialised by RTÉ and the BBC. Helen died at her home in Belfast on 31 December 2009, aged 93.

Geoffrey Phillips from Germany escaped on the Kindertransports to England in 1938. He came to Ireland in 1951 and died in 2011.

Rosel Siev escaped from Germany to England, but nearly all her family died in the Holocaust. When she was a widow, Rosel married a widowed Irish solicitor, Stanley Siev, and they lived in Rathgar, Dublin, until 2012 when they moved to Manchester. Stanley died in 2014. One of Rosel’s sisters, Laura, was saved by Oskar Schindler and is included on the scroll of names at the end of the movie Schindler’s List.

Inge Radford (1936-2016), who was born in Vienna, escaped to England on the Kindertransports in 1939. Her widowed mother and five of her brothers were murdered in the Holocaust.

Inge was a social worker, a probation officer, and worked in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast. Her husband, Professor Colin Buchanan Radford, was a French academic and dean of the Faculty of Arts at Queen’s University Belfast. Inge lived in Northern Ireland with her husband Colin, until she died in 2016.

Edith Sekules (née Mendel) was born in Vienna in 1916. She spoke of her experiences at Women’s Institutes and in schools, and spoke at the first two years of Holocaust Memorial Day in Northern Ireland. She later lived in Kilkeel, Co Down, and died in 2008. According to her obituary in the Jewish Chronicle, she attributed her survival to her determination to save her family.

Edith Zinn-Collis was brought to Ireland in 1946 with her brother Zoltan by Dr Bob Collis. She lived in Wicklow and died in 2012.

Her brother, Zoltan Zinn-Collis was born around 1940 in Czechoslovakia and was sent to Ravensbruck and Bergen Belsen with his sister and brothers. He was brought to Ireland in 1946 by Dr Bob Collis with his sister Edith. He died in 2012.

Doris Segal from Czechoslovakia came to Ireland with her parents in the 1930s, and later lived in Dublin. She died in 2018, shortly before Holocaust Memorial Day.

Jan Kaminski was born in Poland in 1932. At the age of 10, he escaped a round-up of the Jews, fled into the forests and spent the war on the run. He survived but his entire family perished. He later lived in Dublin, and died in 2019.

Ludwig Hopf moved to Dublin on 17 July 1939 (Photograph: Deutsches Museum, München / Sommerfeld Sammlung)

Professor Ludwig Hopf (1884-1939), a German Jewish refugee who escaped the Holocaust when he fled to Dublin in the weeks immediately before the outbreak of World War II, lived and died at No 65 Kenilworth Square, Rathgar.

He was a theoretical physicist who had been the first assistant to Albert Einstein, and he introduced Einstein to the psychoanalyst Carl Jung. As a theoretical physicist, Hopf made contributions to mathematics, special relativity, hydrodynamics and aerodynamics.

He was dismissed from position as professor of applied mathematics in Aachen on racist, anti-Semitic grounds soon after the Nazis seized power. After Krtistallnacht on the night of 9/10 November 1938, he escaped arrest at the hands of the SS and in early February 1939, he received a research grant in Cambridge. The Hopf family moved to Dublin on 17 July 1939 when Ludwig was offered a specially created professorship of mathematics at Trinity College Dublin, and they moved to No 65 Kenilworth Square.

However, became seriously ill and died at 65 Kenilworth Square on the evening of 21 December 1939. The speakers at his funeral in Mount Jerome were two fellow refugee, Hans Sachs and Erwin Schrödinger.

Dr Ernst Scheyer (1890-1958), who lived at No 67 Kenilworth Square, was a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany in the late 1930s. He was born in Oppeln in Upper Silesia in 1890, was decorated for his bravery in the Germany army in World War I, and later earned a PhD in Breslau (Wroclaw). Later, he was a practising lawyer and a respected member of the Jewish community in Liegnitz, Silesia. He married Marie Margareta (Mieze) Epstein, who was five years younger than him and was born in Breslau.

He was rounded up after Krtistallnacht and spent almost a month in Sachsenhausen, a concentration camp near Berlin. He arrived in Dublin on 14 January 1939, and the Scheyer family made their home at 67 Kenilworth Square. He later taught German at Saint Columba’s College, Rathfarnham, and in Trinity College Dublin. When he died in 1958, he was buried in the Progressive Jewish community’s cemetery in Woodtown, Rathfarnham.

His daughter Renate married another refugee, Robert Weil (1924-1989), in 1948. It was the first wedding in the newly-established Progressive Jewish Synagogue. Robert Weil had arrived in Ireland in 1939 as a young Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany. He went to school at Newtown in Waterford, studied at TCD, and became a teacher of modern languages, especially German, in Belfast.

In her biography, Renate Weil recalls that both sides of her family had been non-Orthodox Jews for generations but remained Jewish. ‘Our family proved that assimilation did not mean the loss of Judaism. We were German Jews and proud of it.’

Dr Marianne Neuman (1913-2008) was born Marianne Heilfron in Berlin in 1913, the daughter of Curt Solomon Heilfron. During her medical studies in Berlin in the 1930s, it became dangerous to continue living in Germany as a Jew. She left in August 1936 and later arrived in London, where she married another German Jewish refugee doctor, Dr Rudi Neuman.

Rudi travelled to Edinburgh to pass his British medical exams, with the hope of settling in Ireland. They found a large house on Upper Rathmines Road, in which they lived and practised. Both were active and committed founder members of the Dublin Jewish Progressive Congregation.

Dr Rudi Neuman died suddenly in the synagogue at the end of the Yom Kippur service in October 1965. Dr Marianne Neuman chaired the board of management of the Dublin Jewish Burial Society for many years, and was elected honorary life president on her 80th birthday in 1993.

She died at the age of 94 on 17 March 2008 and was buried in Woodtown. Four members of the Heilfron family who were murdered in Minsk in 1941 during the Holocaust are remembered by Stolpersteine or stumbling stones in Berlin.

Hans Borchardt was the son of a Jewish dentist in Berlin Charlottenburg. He was working with a business specialising in surgical and dental instruments when it was ‘Aryanised’ in 1934. He fled to England in September 1934, became a British citizen, and was an agent for a firm importing gloves from Ireland when he chose to make his home in Ireland in 1939. He died in Dublin in 1986, and was also buried in Woodtown.

Sophie Raffalovich O’Brien (1860-1960), was a writer and Irish nationalist, and although she converted to Christianity shortly before her wedding in 1890, she continued to insist on her Jewish identity, and later survived the Holocaust in France.

Sophie Raffalovich was born in the Black Sea port in Odessa. She was a daughter of Herman Raffalovich (1828-1893) and his wife Marie Raffalovich (1832-1891).

The Raffalovich family was Jewish with rabbinical ancestry. When Sophie was four, the family moved in 1864 to France in 1864 to escape to pressure to convert to Christianity.

She first met the Irish Home Rule politician and journalist, William O’Brien, from Mallow, Co Cork, in Paris in 1889. To her father’s dismay, Sophie converted to Catholicism before her marriage in 1890. But, while, she gave up the Judaism of her childhood, she never abandoned her Jewish identity, and suffered attacks from French and Irish anti-Semites.

William died in 1928, and Sophie moved back to France in 1938 to live near Amiens with Fernande and Lucie Guilmart, sisters who had been pupils in the orphanage and school she had supported all her life.

When World War II began and Germany invaded France, the sisters helped her to escape with them to a region near the Pyrenees. While Sophie was living in semi-hiding under the Vichy regime and in Nazi-occupied France, she refused to change her name or to disavow her Jewish identity. Two members of the Raffalovich family – a nephew and a cousin – died in Nazi concentration camps.

By the end of the war, Sophie was extremely impoverished. She died at Neuilly on 8 January 1960, a week before her 100th birthday.

No 65 Kenilworth Square … home of Ludwig Hopf, a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, in 1939 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

At least five Irish citizens were murdered in the Holocaust: Ettie Steinberg and her son Leon died in Auschwitz; Ephrem and Lena Saks from Dublin were murdered in Auschwitz; and Isaac Shishi from Dublin and his family were murdered by the Nazis in Lithuania

The Steinberg family moved to Ireland in the 1920s and lived at 28 Raymond Terrace, in ‘Little Jerusalem’ off the South Circular Road in Dublin. The seven Steinberg children went to school at Saint Catherine’s School, the Church of Ireland parish school on Donore Avenue.

Ettie married Vogtjeck Gluck, originally from Belgium, in the Greenville Hall Synagogue on the South Circular Road on 22 July 1937. They later moved to Antwerp. As World War II was looming, they moved to Paris, where their son Leon was born on 28 March 1939. By 1942 they were living in an hotel in Toulouse.

When the Vichy puppet regime began rounding up Jews in southern France at the behest of Nazi Germany, Ettie, Vogtjeck and Leon were arrested. Back in Ireland, her family in Dublin secured visas that would allow the Gluck family to travel to Northern Ireland. But when the visas arrived in Toulouse, it was too late. Ettie, Vogtjeck and Leon had been arrested the day before.

Ettie, her husband and their son were taken first to Drancy, a transit camp outside Paris. The Glucks were then deported from Drancy on 2 September 1942 and arrived in Auschwitz two days later, on 4 September 1942. It is assumed that they were put to death immediately.

Isaac Shishi, whose family came to Ireland from Lithuania, was born in Dublin on 29 January 1891, when his family was living at 36 St Alban’s Road, off the South Circular Road. He was murdered along with his wife Chana and their daughter Sheine were murdered by the Nazis in Vieksniai in Lithuania in 1941.

Ephrem and Lena Saks were born in Dublin on 19 April 1915 and 2 February 1918. Ephraim Sacks was murdered in Auschwitz on 24 August 1942. Lena was murdered there in 1942 or 1943.

Some years ago, I was chilled when I realised that a direct descendant of the Comerford family of Cork, and through that line a descendant of the Comerfords of Co Wexford, suffered horribly with her husband after the German invasion of France and that both died in the Holocaust – one in Ravensbrück and the other in Dachau.

Hedwige Marie Renée Lannes de Montebello (1881-1944) and her husband, Louis d’Ax de Vaudricourt (1879-1945) of Château Vaudricourt, were French aristocrats and did not bear the Comerford family name. Nevertheless, they are part of my own family tree, no matter how distant a branch. Their fate brought home to me how even today we are all close to the evils of racism and its destructive force across Europe and in North America, and we must never forget that.

May their memories be a blessing, זצ״ל