20 May 2024

Some memories from
Harold’s Cross ten years
after my mother’s death

No 201 Harold’s Cross Road, the birthplace of the Quaker abolitionist and philanthropist Richard Allen (1803–1886), has been restored (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Like many journalists, I was always aware of ‘campaign journalism’. It was a complimentary label when it was applied to journalists with the Sunday Times ‘Insight’ Team, journalists like Paul Foot, John Pilger or Bob Fisk, or many campaign journalists with newspapers such as the Guardian, the Observer and The Irish Times.

There are differences between reporting, analysis, comment, opinion-writing, consciousness raising and campaigning journalism. But when does it spill over into or descend into propaganda and political manipulation?

I suppose I have engaged in a form of campaign journalism and blogging in my support for the return of the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum to their proper home in Athens.

In another way, I have been campaigning, I suppose, in writing about the deterioration of the former home of the Quaker abolitionist and philanthropist Richard Allen (1803-1886) in Harold’s Cross, Dublin.

I had been familiar with this house in my childhood – my mother even sent me ‘for messages’ as a child in the 1960s to Healy’s, the grocery shop that was once attached to the house that later became Westbank Orphanage or the Protestant Girls’ Orphanage.

I had written since 2013 about the sad neglect and decay of this constituent part of the architectural heritage of Harold’s Cross and Dublin 6. So, ten years later, when I visited Harold’s Cross briefly before Christmas, it was a personal pleasure to see the house had been restored carefully.

To my surprise, the heritage contractors PMac, the Harold’s Cross-based masonry, cleaning and maintenance business involved in the restoration work on behalf of Aspect Design, asked my permission to use some of my photographs on their website, illustrating the ‘before’ and ‘after’ state of this Georgian house.

I rarely agree to commercial or business pages using my photographs online. I figure than a business should pay a photographer to do their work, and I should not deprive professional photographers of potential commissions. However, in this case I was so impressed of the work that I immediately said yes. Ten years of ‘campaign blogging’ had borne its fruit.

I suggested that, in return, PMac should make a donation to an appropriate local charity. They willingly agreed, and quickly told me they are organising a coffee morning in the coming months in aid of the Hospice in Harold’s Cross.

There was an added emotional poignancy to this, because it is ten years ago today since my mother, died in the Hospice in Harold’s Cross, on 20 May 2014.

Ellen Comerford (née Murphy) was born in Millstreet, Co Cork, on 10 February 1919 and went to boarding school in Mountrath, Co Laois

Ellen Comerford (née Murphy) was 95 when she died in the Hospice in Harold’s Cross on 20 May 2014. She was born in Millstreet, Co Cork, on 10 February 1919 and went to boarding school in Mountrath, Co Laois, 20 minutes from Roscrea, Co Tipperary, where her Crowley uncles, Cornelius D Crowley (1879-1972) of Roscrea Castle and Jeremiah D Crowley (1883-1968) of Wallstown Castle, Castltownroche, had extensive business interests.

After a short time in Paris immediately before World War II, she became a civil servant in the Department of Education in Dublin. She married my father, Stephen Edward Comerford (1918-2004) in Blackrock, Co Dublin, on 8 September 1945, in the weeks immediately after World II. By then she was living in Booterstown, and her father was living in Australia.

At first, my parents lived in Bray, Co Wicklow, but they later lived in Dublin in Harold’s Cross and then, in later years, in Rathfarnham. I was the fourth of six children, born on Rathfarnham Road.

I understand how life was difficult for her. My eldest brother died on 18 December 1970 when he was only 24, and she was only 51. No mother recovers from the death of a child, no matter what age either of them is at the time.

My father died in Rathfarnham almost 20 years ago, on 27 December 2004, less than two weeks after his 86th birthday. My widowed mother survived him for almost ten years. I had not known her very well in my childhood or for much of my adult life. But I tried to get to know her better in those last 10 years, as she moved into sheltered housing first on Leeson Park and then in Rathgar.

We visited her first marriage home in Bray, her uncle’s former home at Finnstown House, Lucan, which she knew intimately when the Crowley family lived there, we occasionally had lunch together in Rathgar, Bray or Lucan, and at some stage I returned with her to Paris with a brother and a sister.

I don’t think we every properly resolved the difficulties remaining since my childhood, and I had left her home again in my teens. But, I think, today she might be pleased to know about this piece of restoration work in a part of Harold’s Cross she knew well from the 1950s to the 1970s, and to know how this has boosted the work of the Hospice in Harold’s Cross.

Ellen Comerford (née Murphy) died in the Hospice in Harold’s Cross on 20 May 2014

Daily prayer in Ordinary Time 2024:
12, 20 May 2024

“I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9: 24) … Christ the Pantocrator depicted in the dome in a church in Panormos, near Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Patrick Comerford

The 50-day season of Easter came to an end yesterday with the Day of Pentecost (19 May 2024), sometimes known as Whit Sunday. The Church Calendar returns to Ordinary Time, which continues until Advent, and the liturgical colour returns to green.

This week, between the Day of Pentecost and Trinity Sunday next Sunday (26 May 2024), my morning reflections include the daily Gospel reading, the prayer in the USPG prayer diary, and the prayers in the Collects and Post-Communion Prayer of the day.

Today, the Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship recalls Alcuin of York (804), Deacon and Abbot of Tours. Alcuin was descended from a noble Northumbrian family. Although the date and place of his birth are not known, he was probably born in 735 in or near York. He entered the cathedral school there as a child, continued as a Scholar and became Master.

In 781, he went to Aachen as adviser to Charlemagne on religious and educational matters and as Master of the Palace School, where he established an important library. Although not a monk and only in deacon’s orders, in 796 he became Abbot of Tours, and he died there in 804.

Alcuin wrote poetry, revised the lectionary, compiled a sacramentary and was involved in other significant liturgical work.

Before this day begins, I am taking some quiet time this morning to give thanks, for reflection, prayer and reading in these ways:

1, today’s Gospel reading;

2, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary;

3, the Collects and Post-Communion prayer of the day.

‘We pray that the spiritual gifts born of diverse languages and cultures may be released to inspire us all …’ (USPG Prayer Diary) … celebrating Greek rhymes and songs, poets and poems, in a doorway in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Mark 9: 14-29 (NRSVUE):

14 When they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them and some scribes arguing with them. 15 When the whole crowd saw him, they were immediately overcome with awe, and they ran forward to greet him. 16 He asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” 17 Someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought you my son; he has a spirit that makes him unable to speak, 18 and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid, and I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they could not do so.” 19 He answered them, “You faithless generation, how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him. When the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 Jesus asked the father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 It has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you are able to do anything, help us! Have compassion on us!” 23 Jesus said to him, “If you are able! All things can be done for the one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 When Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You spirit that keeps this boy from speaking and hearing, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again!” 26 After crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he was able to stand. 28 When he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 He said to them, “This kind can come out only through prayer.”

A woodcut image of Alcuin of York by Kreg Yingst

Today’s Prayers (Monday 20 May 2024):

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘Pentecost Reflection.’ This theme was introduced yesterday with a Reflection by the Revd Duncan Dormor, USPG General Secretary.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (20 May 2024) invites us to pray:

We pray that the spiritual gifts born of diverse languages and cultures may be released to inspire us all within a truly global Church.

The Collect:

God of wisdom, eternal light,
who shone in the heart of your servant Alcuin,
revealing to him your power and pity:
scatter the darkness of our ignorance
that, with all our heart and mind and strength,
we may seek your face
and be brought with all your saints
to your holy presence;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion Prayer:

Merciful God,
who gave such grace to your servant Alcuin
that he served you with singleness of heart
and loved you above all things:
help us, whose communion with you
has been renewed in this sacrament,
to forsake all that holds us back from following Christ
and to grow into his likeness from glory to glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Alcuin’s library in York was destroyed by the Vikings in 866 … York Minster Library has been housed in the 13th-century Archbishops’ Chapel since 1810 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition copyright © 2021, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.