07 July 2024

Farage embodies all
the reasons Betjeman
dismissed Clacton as
‘a cheaper Worthing’

The Fish and Eels by Dobbs Weir, close to the Greenwich Meridian Line … a quiet corner of Essex and Hertfordshire (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Essex is the county that has elected the most MPs from the Reform UK party – Nigel Farage in Clacton and James McMurdock in South Basildon and East Thurrock. Perhaps I am being too unkind to Essex when I allow these results to bring to mind the observation by the poet John Betjeman that Essex is ‘a stronger contrast of beauty and ugliness than any other southern English county.’

Betjeman says, ‘Most of what was built east of London in the 19th and 20th centuries has been a little bit cheaper and a little bit shoddier than that built in other directions. Southend is a cheaper Brighton, Clacton a cheaper Worthing, and Dovercourt a cheaper Bournemouth.’

I’m sure we all had our ‘Portillo Moments’ late on Thursday night and into the early hours of Friday morning. I certainly had mine – but these two results in Essex are the most disappointing and among the most worrying and disconcerting.

On the plus side, Betjeman says Essex ‘also has the deepest and least disturbed country within reach of London … flat agricultural scenery with its own old red-brick towns with weather-boarded side-streets.’

For Betjeman, ‘The flat part of Essex … is part of that great plain which stretched across to Holland and Central Europe.’

Later this week, I am attending in Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire, close to the borders of Hertfordshire and Essex, attending the annual conference of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

Previous conferences in High Leigh have provided me with opportunities over the years to visit spart of Essex that are less desolate than Clacton, including Newport and Saffron Walden and Bishop’s Stortford, which is on the borders of Hertfordshire and Essex. Betjeman describes this part of England as ‘undulating and extremely pretty in the pale, gentle way suited to English watercolours. Narrow lanes wind like streams through willowy meadows, past weather-boarded mills and unfenced bean and corn fields.

‘From oaks on hill-tops peep the flinty church towers, and some of the churches up here are as magnificent as those in neighbouring Suffolk – Coggeshall, Thaxted, Saffron Walden and Dedham are grand examples of the Perpendicular style. Thaxted, for the magnificence of its church and the varied textures of the old houses of its little town, is one of the most charming places in Britain.’

Essex is often – and wrongly – regarded as a poorer sister of neighbouring Suffolk. But I agree with Betjeman that Essex looks its best in sunlight, ‘when the many materials of its rustic villages, the brick manor houses, the timbered ‘halls’ and the cob and thatched churches, the weather-boarded late-Georgian cottages, the oaks and flints, recall Constable.’

‘Near Essex of the River Lea’ (John Betjeman) … boats on the River Lea dividing Essex and Hertfordshire (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Essex, by Sir John Betjeman

“The vagrant visitor erstwhile,”
My colour-plate book says to me,
“Could wend by hedgerow-side and stile,
From Benfleet down to Leigh-on-Sea.”

And as I turn the colour-plates
Edwardian Essex opens wide,
Mirrored in ponds and seen through gates,
Sweet uneventful countryside.

Like streams the little by-roads run
Through oats and barley round a hill
To where blue willows catch the sun
By some white weather-boarded mill.

“A Summer Idyll Matching Tye”
“At Havering-atte-Bower, the Stocks”
And cobbled pathways lead the eye
To cottage doors and hollyhocks.

Far Essex, – fifty miles away
The level wastes of sucking mud
Where distant barges high with hay
Come sailing in upon the flood.

Near Essex of the River Lea
And anglers out with hook and worm
And Epping Forest glades where we
Had beanfeasts with my father’s firm.

At huge and convoluted pubs
They used to set us down from brakes
In that half-land of football clubs
Which London near the Forest makes.

The deepest Essex few explore
Where steepest thatch is sunk in flowers
And out of elm and sycamore
Rise flinty fifteenth-century towers.

I see the little branch line go
By white farms roofed in red and brown,
The old Great Eastern winding slow
To some forgotten country town.

Now yarrow chokes the railway track,
Brambles obliterate the stile,
No motor coach can take me back
To that Edwardian “erstwhile”.

‘At huge and convoluted pubs’ (John Betjeman) … the Coach and Horses, a large 17th century inn in Newport , Essex (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Πρόλογος, Ελληνικα Δημοτικα Τραγοyδια
Prologue, Greek Folk Songs

Traditional Greek folk music celebrated at Raki Ba Raki restaurant on Radamanthuos street in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Patrick Comerford

I recently collaborated with Professor Panos Karagiorgos in the publication of a history of the Philhellenes, and now I have been honoured to contribute the foreword to his latest book.

Last year, we co-wrote a history of the Philhellenes and the Greek War of Independence, Ο Φιλελληνισμος και η Ελληνικη Επανασταση του 1821, which was published in Thessaloniki in 2023 by Εκδοτικος Οικος Κ κ Σταμουλη.

My contribution to that book was a biographical outline of Sir Richard Church, the Cork-born commander-in-chief of the Greek army, and a sketch of the Irish Philhellenes who took part in the Greek struggle for independence in the 19th century: << Ο Sir Richard Church και οι Ιρλανδοι Φιλελληνες στον Πολεμο των Ελληνων για την Ανεξαρτησια >> (pp 53-75).

Panos Karagiorgos is a former professor of English language and literature in the Department of Translating and Interpreting at the Ionian University, and earned his PhD at Birmingham University with a dissertation on translating Shakespeare’s plays into Greek.

Now he has published a collection of 112 Greek folk songs, with translations into English. This new 203 pp book, Ελληνικα Δημοτικα Τραγουδια, Greek Folk Songs, has been published in Thessaloniki in recent weeks by Εκδοτικος Οικος Κ κ Σταμουλη, and he invited me to write the foreword (προλογοσ) in Greek and English.


Τα Δημοτικά Τραγούδια σε κάθε χώρα ενσωματώνουν τους φόβους και τις ελπίδες του λαού, τις επιθυμίες και τη νοσταλγία, την αγάπη για την οικογένεια, τους φίλους και το σπίτι. Είναι συχνά πένθιμα, μερικές φορές ευτράπελα, αλλά πάντα ενσωματώνουν το πνεύμα ενός έθνους, ιδίως σε περιόδους προβλημάτων και απωλειών, και συμβάλλουν στη διαμόρφωση και επιβεβαίωση της εθνικής ταυτότητας.

Το να τραγουδιούνται γίνεται ένας τρόπος που εξασφαλίζει ότι αυτά τα συναισθήματα, που κληρονομήθηκαν από το παρελθόν, ξαναζωντανεύουν στο παρόν και μεταδίδονται στις μελλοντικές γενιές. Οι ρυθμοί και οι συνθέσεις τους, οι μουσικές τους και τα βαθιά συναισθήματά τους βοηθούν στην εδραίωση της πολιτιστικής ταυτότητας και κληρονομιάς.

Κατά τη διάρκεια του ελληνικού αγώνα για ανεξαρτησία, πριν από δύο αιώνες, τα Δημοτικά Τραγούδια εξυπηρέτησαν όλες αυτές τις λειτουργίες για τους Έλληνες. Επηρέασαν τον εθνικό ποιητή Διονύσιο Σολωμό, αλλά έγιναν γνωστά και σε άλλους Ευρωπαίους που συμπαθούσαν την υπόθεση της Ελλάδας, χάρη στις μεταφράσεις τού Γκαίτε στη Γερμανία, του Φωριέλ στη Γαλλία, του Τσαρλς Μπρίνσλεη Σέρινταν, γιου του ιρλανδικής καταγωγής θεατρικού συγγραφέα Ρίτσαρντ Μπρίνσλεη Σέρινταν, στη Βρετανία, και πάλι στη Γερμανία με τον ποιητή Mύλλερ. Μεγάλη επίδραση είχαν επίσης, φαντάζομαι, και στον Ιρλανδό ποιητή Τόμας Μουρ, πολιτικό και οικονομικό υποστηρικτή των Φιλελλήνων.

Ο καθηγητής Πάνος Καραγιώργος και εγώ έχουμε ξανασυνεργαστεί σε εργασίες και εκδόσεις που αφορούν τους Φιλέλληνες. Με τη γνώση και την εμπειρία του στον «βάρδο» Ουίλλιαμ Σαίξπηρ, κανείς δεν είναι σε καλύτερη θέση να επιλέξει, να επεξεργαστεί και να μεταφράσει τη συλλογή αυτή των 112 ελληνικών Δημοτικών Τραγουδιών. Τα χωρίζει σε κατηγορίες που συμπεριλαμβάνουν τις ακριτικές εξιστορήσεις των συνόρων, τις αφηγηματικές μπαλάντες (παραλογές), τα ιστορικά, τα κλεφτικα, τα τραγούδια της αγάπης και του γάμου, τα νανουρίσματα, τα τραγούδια της ξενιτιάς, τα μοιρολόγια για τον θάνατο.

Η Ελλάδα είναι πλούσια σε δημοτικά τραγούδια, με μια παράδοση που χρονολογείται τουλάχιστον από την εποχή του Ομήρου. Τα δημοτικά αυτά τραγούδια τραγουδιούνται μέχρι και σήμερα στα πανηγύρια των χωριών, στα γαμήλια γλέντια και στις ταβέρνες, μερικά συνοδεύουν χορό και άλλα απαγγέλλονται.

Χάρη στις μεταφράσεις αυτές, ο καθηγητής Καραγιώργος δίνει στους αγγλόφωνους μια νέα ευκαιρία να εξερευνήσουν το τμήμα αυτό του ελληνικού λαϊκού πολιτισμού. Φέρνοντας τα τραγούδια αυτά του λαού στην προσοχή μας, προσφέρει μεγάλη υπηρεσία τόσο στην Ελλάδα όσο και στην ευρύτερη πολιτιστική κοινότητα. Aιδεσιμότατος, Καθηγητής Πάτρικ Κόμερφορντ Κολλέγιο Αγίας Τριάδος Δουβλίνου Δουβλίνο Ιρλανδίας.

Aιδεσιμότατος, Καθηγητής Πάτρικ Κόμερφορντ
Κολλέγιο Αγίας Τριάδος Δουβλίνου
Δουβλίνο Ιρλανδίας.


Folk Songs in every country embody the fears and hopes of a people, the desires and wistful longings, the love of family, friends and home. They are often plaintive, sometimes humorous, but always embody the spirit of a nation, particularly in times of trouble and loss, and help to shape and affirm national identity.

Singing them becomes a way of ensuring those feelings, inherited from the past, come to life again in the present, and are passed on to future generations. Their rhythms and cadences, their musical settings, and their deep emotions help to consolidate cultural identity and heritage.

During the Greek struggle for independence two centuries ago, folk songs served all these functions for Greek people. They influenced the national poet Dionysios Solomos, but they became known to other Europeans sympathetic to the cause of Greece thanks to the translations by Goethe in Germany, Fauriel in France, Charles Brinsley Sheridan, son of the Irish-born playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan in Britain, and again in Germany with the poet Müller. They had a strong influence too, I imagine, on the Irish poet Thomas Moore, a political and financial supporter of the Philhellenes.

Professor Panos Karagiorgos and I have worked before on projects and publications involving the Philhellenes. With his knowledge and expertise in the ‘Bard’, William Shakespeare, no-one is better placed to select, edit and translate this collection of 103 Greek Folk Songs. He divides them into categories that embrace the frontier tales, narrative ballads, the historical, love songs and wedding songs, songs about living in foreign lands, dirges for death.

Greece is rich in folk songs, with a tradition that dates back at least the days of Homer. These folk songs are sung to this day at village feasts, at wedding parties and in tavernas, some accompanied by dancing and others recited. Many of the composers are unknown poets and Professor Karagiorgos has done a service to Greece and Greeks everywhere by bringing them to the attention of a wider, appreciative audience.

Revd Professor Patrick Comerford,
(Retired) Trinity College, Dublin,
Dublin, Ireland.

• Patrick Comerford, << Ο Sir Richard Church και οι Ιρλανδοι Φιλελληνες στον Πολεμο των Ελληνων για την Ανεξαρτησια >>, pp 53-75, in Πανος Καραγιώργος και Patrick Comerford, Ο Φιλελληνισμος και η Ελληνικη Επανασταση του 1821 (Θεσσαλονικη: Εκδοτικος Οικος Κ κ Σταμουλη, 2023, 78 pp), ISBN: 978-960-656-115-9.

• Patrick Comerford, Πρόλογος / Foreword, pp 5-8 in Panos Karagiorgos, Ελληνικα Δημοτικα Τραγουδια, Greek Folk Songs (Thessaloniki, Εκδοτικός Οίκος Κ & Μ Σταμουλη, 2024, 203 pp ISBN: 978-960-656-200-6).

Ελληνικα Δημοτικα Τραγουδια, Greek Folk Songs, has been published in Thessaloniki by Εκδοτικός Οίκος Κ & Μ Σταμουλη (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Daily prayer in Ordinary Time 2024:
59, Sunday 7 July 2024

The new iconostasis or icon stand installed in the Greek Orthodox Church in Stony Stratford in recent weeks (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Patrick Comerford

We are continuing in Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar and today is the Sixth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity VI, 7 July 2024). Later this morning, I hope to take part in the Parish Eucharist in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford, which is a ‘Teaching Mass’ this Sunday.

Before today 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 reflection on the icons in the new iconostasis or icon stand in the Greek Orthodox Church in Stony Stratford;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary in connection with this week’s USPG conference;

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

Saint Ambrosios (left) and Saint Stylianos in a new icon commissioned for the new iconostasis in Stony Stratford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Mark 6: 1-13 (NRSVUE):

1 He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2 On the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offence at him. 4 Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honour, except in their hometown and among their own kin and in their own house.” 5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching. 7 He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff: no bread, no bag, no money in their belts, 9 but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 10 He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11 If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13 They cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

The new icon of Saint Ambrosios and Saint Stylianos for the iconostasis in the Greek Orthodox Church in Stony Stratford (Photographs: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

The Stony Stratford iconostasis 22: a closing reflection

The annual conference of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) take place later this week at the High Leigh Conference Centre near Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire.

The conference them this year is ‘United Beyond Borders’, and I hope to reflect on the conference in this prayer diary on mornings later this week.

For the past three weeks, I have been reflecting the new iconostasis or icon screen in the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Ambrosios and Saint Stylianos in Stony Stratford. In my prayer diary over these three weeks, I have been looking at this new iconostasis, and the theological meaning and liturgical significance of its icons and decorations.

Before preparing to attend the USPG conference later this week, I am taking a little time to summarise my reflections on the new icon screen in Stony Stratford in recent weeks:

Introduction: Introducing the new iconostasis in the Greek Orthodox Church in Stony Stratford (15 June 2024)

1, The Royal Doors (16 June 2024)

2, Christ Pantocrator (17 June 2024)

3, The Theotokos or Virgin Mary (18 June 2024)

4, The Dormition of the Theotokos (19 June 2024)

5, Saint Stylianos (20 June 2024)

6, Saint John the Forerunner, or Saint John the Baptist (21 June 2024)

7, Saint Ambrose of Milan (22 June 2024)

8, ‘The Icon not made by Hands’ or ‘Mandylion’ (23 June 2024)

9, The Mystical Supper, Ο Δείπνος ο Μυστικός (24 June 2024)

10, The Ascension, Ἡ Ανάληψη του Ιησού (25 June 2024)

11, The Nativity (26 June 2024)

12, The Baptism of Christ, Ἡ Βαπτισις (27 June 2024)

13, Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem or Palm Sunday, Ἡ Βαϊοφόρος (28 June 2024)

14, The Raising of Lazarus, Ἡ Εγερση του Λαζάρου (29 June 2024)

15, The Crucifixion, Ἡ Σταύρωση (30 June 2024)

16, The Harrowing of Hell or the Resurrection, Ἡ Αναστασις (1 July 2024)

17, The Assurance of Thomas, Ἡ ψηλάφηση του Θωμά (2 July 2024)

18, Pentecost, Πεντηκοστή (3 July 2024)

19, The Transfiguration, Ἡ Μεταμόρφωσις (4 July 2024)

20, The Presentation, Ἡ Ὑπαπαντή (5 July 2024)

21, The Annunciation, Ἡ Ευαγγελισμός (6 July 2024)

Most of the icons in the screen are prints and reproductions. But in time, the hope is, they are going to be replaced by new and original icons commissioned for the church.

Some of these fresh new icons have arrived in the church in recent days, including icons of the Archangel Michael and the Archangel Gabriel, for fitting in the side doors or deacons’ doors of the screen, an icon of the Theotokos or Virgin Mary as the Panagia Pantanassa, and an icon of the patrons of the church, Saint Ambrosios and Saint Stylianos – an icon that may be unique in its style and composition, showing in one icon two saints who are not contemporaries yet who are the joint patrons of one church.

It is hoped that the new iconostasis in Stony Stratford will be blessed and dedicated later this years by Archbishop Nikitas (Lulias) of Thyateira and Great Britain, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Great Britain under the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

An icon of the Theotokos or Virgin Mary as the Panagia Pantanassa (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Today’s Prayers (Sunday 7 July 2024, Trinity VI):

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 ‘United Beyond Borders.’ This theme is introduced today with reflections on this week’s USPG conference by Rachael Anderson, Senior Communications and Engagement Manager, USPG:

bor·der (noun.) borders (plural noun)

1. a line separating two countries, administrative divisions, or other areas

2. the edge or boundary of something, or the part near it

This week, USPG staff, trustees, partners, and supporters will join for our annual conference entitled ‘United Beyond Borders’. As we prepare for the event I have found myself thinking in depth about the word border and what it means.

In this election year, and increasingly in the current political landscape, we hear so much about border controls – ‘there’s no more space’, “Our borders are closed’ or so the narrative goes. Failing to recognise the call of our Lord to welcome the stranger and provide nourishment to those in need (Matthew 25: 35).

It has also made me think about the people who are pushed to the edge of the borders, borders of society, a lonely and difficult place. How the exclusion of people who we feel ‘don’t belong’ is the opposite of the love that Jesus showed on so many occasions to the marginalised.

For the Church, the Anglican Communion and organisations such as USPG to continue to hold relevance in such an ever-changing and turbulent world we must seek the unity that reaches all, across all borders and shares the freedom we have in the love of Christ.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (Sunday 7 July 2024, Trinity VI) invites us to pray reflecting on these words:

Creator God,
you made us all in your image:
may we discern you in all that we see,
and serve you in all that we do;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Collect:

Merciful God,
you have prepared for those who love you
such good things as pass our understanding:
pour into our hearts such love toward you
that we, loving you in all things and above all things,
may obtain your promises,
which exceed all that we can desire;
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:

God of our pilgrimage,
you have led us to the living water:
refresh and sustain us
as we go forward on our journey,
in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Additional Collect:

Creator God,
you made us all in your image:
may we discern you in all that we see,
and serve you in all that we do;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The new icon of the Archangel Michael for the new iconostasis in Stony Stratford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The new icon of the Archangel Gabriel for the new iconostasis in Stony Stratford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

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.