19 January 2021

The Precentor of Limerick
whose son was an SPG
missionary in India

The Precentor’s stall in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

When a project looking at my predecessors as Precentors of Limerick was postponed some months ago due to the pandemic limits on public events, I thought it might still be interesting to continue looking at past precentors in a number of blog postings.

In earlier postings, I recalled some previous precentors who had been accused of ‘dissolute living’ or being a ‘notorious fornicator’ (Awly O Lonysigh), or who were killed in battle (Thomas Purcell). There were those who became bishops or archbishops: Denis O’Dea (Ossory), Richard Purcell (Ferns) and John Long (Armagh).

There was the tragic story too of Robert Grave, who became Bishop of Ferns while remaining Precentor of Limerick, but – only weeks after his consecration – drowned with all his family in Dublin Bay as they made their way by sea to their new home in Wexford (read more HERE).

In the 17th century, two members of the Gough family were also appointed Precentors of Limerick. In all, three brothers in this family were priests in the Church of Ireland and two were priests in the Church of England, and the Rathkeale branch of the family was the ancestral line of one of Ireland’s most famous generals (read more HERE).

In the mid to late 18th century, two members of the Maunsell family were Precentors of Limerick: Richard Maunsell (1745-1747) and William Thomas Maunsell (1786-1781) (read more HERE).

They were related to Canon John Warburton who was, perhaps, the longest-ever holder of the office, being Precentor of Limerick for 60 years from 1818 until he died to 1878 (red more HERE).

Warburton’ successor, Canon Frederic Charles Hamilton, provides an interesting link with both this group of parishes, with the Mariner’s Church in Dún Laoghaire, which I was writing about earlier this month (see HERE), and with the Anglican mission agency SPG, now USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), of which I am a trustee.

Frederic Charles Hamilton (1824-1904) was probably a member of a family with earlier links with clerical life in the Diocese of Limerick: John Hamilton (1720-1767), originally from Co Monaghan, was in parish ministry in the diocese from 1753 to 1767, when he was the Vicar or Rector of a number of parishes in West Limerick, including Abbeyfeale, Kilbroderan and KIlcolman, and was also Vicar of Shanagolden shortly before he died.

Frederic Charles Hamilton was born in Gloucestershire in 1828, but his family later returned to Ireland, and he was educated at Trinity College Dublin before ordination.

His first appointment after ordination as a deacon was as Assistant Chaplain of the Mariners’ Church, Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire) in 1851-1852, when the first chaplain was the Revd Richard Sinclair Brooke (1802-1882).

Canon Frederic Hamilton was the Rector of Saint John’s, Limerick, in 1869-1883 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Hamilton moved to Limerick later in 1855 when he was appointed a Vicar Choral of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, a position who would retain for the rest of his life, and was ordained priest in 1856.

He remained in the Diocese of Limerick for the next half century, and was curate of Saint Michael’s, Limerick (1859-1861), Vicar of Crecoragh (1861-1868), Vicar of Bruree (1868-1869), Rector of Saint John’s, Limerick (1869-1883), and finally Rector of Saint Michael’s, Limerick (1883-1904).

He was also Diocesan Registrar, and in the cathedral chapter he was Prebendary of Donaghmore (1861-1871), Prebendary of Saint Munchin’s (1871-1878), Precentor of Limerick (1878-1883), and then Archdeacon of Limerick (1883-1904) and Prebendary of Effin (1891-1901).

When he died on 4 June 1904, he was buried in the churchyard at Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick.

Archdeacon Hamilton’s wife Emma (Cartmel) was the daughter of a priest in the Diocese of David’s in Wales. Their eldest son, the Revd George Frederick Hamilton (1868-1944), was born at Wellesley Lodge in Limerick on 28 July 1868, while they were living at the Vicarage in Bruree.

George Frederick Hamilton was ordained deacon by the Archbishop of Dublin in 1891 went to India immediately as a missionary with SPG and the Dublin University Mission in Hazaribagh, until 1904. While he was in India, he translated Saint Mark’s Gospel and a number of hymns into Hindi. On a return visit to Ireland, he was ordained priest by the Bishop of Ossory on behalf of the Bishop of Limerick in 1898.

George Frederick Hamilton returned to Ireland on his father’s death in 1904, and after parish ministry in the Diocese of Tuam from 1904 to 1923, he returned to the Diocese of Limerick in 1923 as priest-in-charge and then, from 1928 as Rector of Ballingarry in west Limerick, a parish that became part of the Rathkeale Group of Parishes in 1958.

He retired in 1931, and was living at 59 Palmerston Road, Rathmines, when he died on 11 July 1944.

Canon George Hamilton was in Ballingarry, Co Limerick in 1923-1931 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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