07 February 2010

Blessing a new home in Portrane

The view from the new house is breath-taking (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

Patrick Comerford

This was a busy working weekend with the distance learning programmes for the NSM (Non-Stipendiary Ministry) and M.Th. students – there were tutorial groups, Bible studies, lectures to deliver on pastoral care and Celtic spirituality, and the daily chapel services, coming to a climax with the mid-day Eucharist today.

But this afternoon, I was out in Portrane to bless my cousin’s new house, overlooking the beaches of Portrane and Lambay Island.

Antoinette has restored one of the four houses that were once part of the old Coastguard Station, designed in 1912 by John Howard Pentland (1855-1919), one of Ireland’s great architects. Pentland was a working pupil of Sir Thomas Newenham Deane (1828-1899), one of the most important Irish architects of the 19th century. Deane was influenced by John Ruskin, and whose works include the Museum in Trinity College Dublin, the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, and the former Kildare Street Club in Dublin.

Pentland is best remembered today as the architect who designed the Boer War Memorial at the entrance to Saint Stephen’s Green, Dublin, built in 1906-1907. He also enlarged and remodelling the GPO in Dublin shortly before the 1916 Rising, and built several Edwardian post offices in provincial Ireland.

So this terrace of old coastguard houses has a key place in Irish architectural history, and is a genuine gem in Irish architectural heritage. But the house is additionally blessed by its location: standing on the edge of the peninsula in Portrane, immediately above the Martello Tower, it looks out towards the east, the morning sun, the Irish Sea and Lambay Island.

Looking out towards Lambay Island from the new house (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

Portrane was the original port for Lambay Island, and generations of the Lynders family have lived in Portrane for hundreds of years, since at least 1722. My grandmother was married from a house inherited by the Lynders family through her mother, Margaret McMahon. The McMahon family were living here from the 1790s, and in 1803 the Martello Towers at Balcarrick (Tower No 6) and Portrane (Tower No 7) were built on land bought from the McMahon family.

This afternoon, in the newly-restored house, we gave thanks for those who had lived in this house in the past, prayed for those who had worked on restoring it, and prayed for those who live there and visit it today.

But I was blessed too today just by being there, by being asked to bless this house, and blessed by family. Night had fallen when I left. It had been a beautiful day.

At the blessing of Antoinette’s new house

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