31 October 2016

Trim Castle is a strong symbol in stone
of Anglo-Norman strength and power

Trim Castle is the largest, best-preserved and most impressive Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

Trim Castle on the banks of the River Boyne in Co Meath looks for all the world like the ideal castle for a mediaeval block-buster, peopled with valiant warriors and cloistered monks. And it has been. Mel Gibson and the makers of Braveheart chose Trim Castle as their location.

But history is always more impressive than fiction – or movies – and I walked around Trim Castle, towering above the banks of the River Boyne, early one afternoon this weekend when I stopped there on my way to visit friends who live near the neighbouring Navan.

Trim Castle is the largest, the best-preserved and the most impressive Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland. In the Middle Ages, this was a strong symbol in stone of Anglo-Norman strength and power at the edges of the Pale.

The surviving moat at Trim Castle, built at an important crossing point on the River Boyne(Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

In Irish, Trim was known as áth Truim or ‘The Ford of the Elder Trees,’ indicating how this was once an important crossing point on the River Boyne, with a local chieftain’s fort and an early monastery on the site.

Shortly after the arrival of the Anglo-Normans in Ireland, King Henry II granted the Kingdom of Meath to Hugh de Lacy, along with custody of Dublin in 1172 as he tried to curb the expansionist policies of Richard de Clare, best remembered in Irish history as Strongbow.

For strategic reasons, Hugh de Lacy decided to make Trim, rather than Drogheda, the centre of his newly acquired lordship. He converted a ringfort into a wooden castle with a spiked stockade, but this structure was seen as a threat to the Gaelic Irish and in 1174 Rory O Connor, King of Connacht and last High King of Ireland, attacked and destroyed the castle.

The following year, work began on a more permanent stone replacement and over the following decades Hugh de Lacy and his son Walter built the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Europe.

The three-storey, 20-sided tower is the central stronghold of Trim Castle (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Initially a stone keep, or tower, replaced the wooden fortification. Work on building the massive three-storeyed keep, the central stronghold of the castle, began ca 1176 on the site of an earlier wooden fortress. This massive 20-sided tower, which is cruciform in shape, was protected by a ditch, curtain wall and moat.

The keep was remodelled and then surrounded by curtain walls and a moat. The wall, punctuated by several towers and a gatehouse, fortified an area of about three acres. Walter de Lacy’s castle was completed by about 1224.

The unique 20-sided cruciform design of the keep, with walls that are three metres thick, typifies the experimental military architecture of the day. This keep was both the domestic and administrative centre of the castle.

When Walter de Lacy died in 1241, Trim Castle was inherited by his grand-daughter Mathilda (‘Maud’). When Mathidla died in 1304, her second husband, Geoffrey de Geneville, Lord of Vaucouleurs in France, entered the Priory at Saint Mary’s in Trim. Trim then passed to their oldest daughter, Joan. In 1301, she married Roger Mortimer and the castle passed to the Mortimer family.

A new great hall was built at the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

The next phase of building and expansion of Trim Castle came at the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries, when a new great hall was built, with an under-croft and attached solar in a radically altered curtain tower. A new forebuilding and stables were also added to the keep.

During the late Middle Ages, Trim Castle was the centre of administration for Meath and marked the outer northern boundary of The Pale. King Richard II stayed there before being deposed in 1399. Richard II left behind two boys as wards: Prince Hal later became Henry V, while Humphrey of Gloucester later became known as the ‘Good Duke’; the guests were housed in the gate-tower at the drawbridge.

The Mortimer family continued to hold Trim Castle until 1425, when the descendants of Roger Mortimer died out.

The estate passed to the next heir in the female line, Richard of York, 3rd Duke of York and great-grandson of Edward III. He was killed at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460, and in 1461, Richard’s son, King Edward IV, appointed Germyn Lynch of London to be his representative at Trim.

The Irish Parliament met in Trim Castle seven times (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

During the 15th century, the Irish Parliament met in Trim Castle seven times, notably in 1465 when it passed a law authorising the beheading of all robbers or those under suspicion of robbery.

By 1500, Trim Castle was in decline, but it remained an important outpost on the north-west edges of the Pale. Much of its fabric has remained unchanged since then. But in the 16th and 17th centuries, Trim Castle had declined in importance, except as a potentially important military site, and the castle soon began to deteriorate.

The castle was refortified during the Confederate and Cromwellian wars in the 1640s. After the Drogheda was sacked in 1649, the garrison of Trim fled to join other Irish forces and Trim was occupied by Cromwell’s army.

After the wars of the 1680s, the castle was granted to the Wellesley family who held it until Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, who received his early schooling in Trim, sold it to the Leslie family.

From the Leslie family, Trim Castle passed through the Encumbered Estates Court into the hands of the Plunkett family of Dunsany Castle. They left the lands open and from time to time allowed various uses, with part of the Castle Field rented for some years by the Town Council as a town dump.

The Plunketts of Dunsany held Trim Castle and the surrounding until 1993. After years of discussion, Lord Dunsany sold the land and buildings to the State, retaining only river access and fishing rights.

The Office of Public Works began a major programme of exploratory works and conservation, costing over €6 million, including partial restoration of the moat and the installation of a protective roof. The castle re-opened to the public in 2000.

There was some local controversy in 2003 when the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Martin Cullen, decided not to oppose a five-storey hotel being built across the road from the castle despite the opposition of local councillors and heritage bodies.

Trim Castle was built in three phases and has two main gates (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

The surviving curtain walls of Trim Castle were built in three phases. The west and north sides of the enceinte are defended by rectangular towers, including the Trim Gate, dating from the 1170s. The Dublin gate was erected in the 1190s or in the early 13th century. The remaining wall to the south with its round towers dates to the first two decades of the 13th century.

The castle has two main gates. The gate in the west side dates to the 1170s and sits on top of a demolished wooden gateway. The upper stories of the stone tower were altered to a semi-octagonal shape, ca 1200. The Dublin Gate in the south wall is a single round towered gate with an external barbican tower. It dates from the 1190s or the early 13th century and is the first example of its type to be built in Ireland.

Apart from the keep, the main structures that survive to this day consist of:

1, An early 14th century three-towered fore work defending the keep entrance and including stables within it. This is accessed by a stone causeway crossing the partly filled-in ditch of the earlier ringwork.

2, A huge late 13th-century three aisled great hall, with an under croft beneath its east end opening via a water gate to the river.

3, A stout defensive tower, turned into a solar in the late 13th century at the north angle of the castle.

4, A smaller aisled hall, added to the east end of the great hall in the 14th or 15th century.

5, A building that may have been the mint and that was added to the east end of the smaller aisled hall.

6, Two 15th or 16th-century stone buildings added inside the town gatehouse.

7, Some 17th-century buildings, added to the end of the hall range and to the north side of the keep.

8, A series of lime kilns, one dating from the late 12th century, the remainder from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Trim Castle is open in November and December on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a small entrance charge.

In November and December, Trim Castle is open on Saturdays and Sundays (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Why Wexford had no Gondolas
but there is a Cock on John Street

‘The Cock’ in John Street determines your place in Wexford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

When I first met the late Father Sean Fortune I was deeply disturbed.

I was asked to be an external examiner on a PLC (Post-Leaving Certificate) course in journalism he was teaching in Dublin.

Initially, I was disturbed by the exam papers and assignments which indicated an inconsistent approach to designing and delivering the course and a less than professional approach to marking and assessing the examinations and assignments.

He protested when I decided to be more rigorous and more thorough than most external examiners. In a completely unprofessional way, he entered the room where I was working on my own, and engaged me in personal conversation.

I had never met him before and I had no reason to question his integrity and professionalism. But I was already uncomfortable.

By then I was a senior journalist with The Irish Times and I was not going to be challenged about my professional and academic judgment. But I caught the whiff of a Wexford accent, and with polite curiosity I casually asked which part of Wexford he was from.

He lied to me.

He had no reason to lie to me.

But that morning he told me was from Wexford Town.

At the time, I did not know he was from Gorey in north Co Wexford. I had lived in Wexford Town, on both School Street and High Street.

I asked him which part of Wexford Town he was from.

With a straight face, and looking me in the eyes, he answered immediately: ‘John Street.’

Generations of Comerfords lived on John Street. It is on the other side of the mediaeval walls of Wexford from High Street. They had moved there from Bunclody in the 19th century, and a large chunk of the old town wall separated the back garden of the house I had lived in on High Street from a short stretch of John Street between the Friary and Rowe Street Church. I had lived only a stone’s throw from houses in John Street where members of my own family had lived.

Without realising what I was doing, I quickly retorted, in an immediate and unguarded response: ‘John Street? Above or below the Cock?’

He stared at me blankly.

He had no idea what I was talking about. In retrospect and with the benefit of hindsight, he probably thought I was not only being rude but had some innate insights into his criminal behaviour.

But I knew from his stare he had lied to me. He was not from John Street.

Within a short space of time, the whole tragic tale of Father Sean Fortune would unfold, and he would bring about his own sad demise.

One of the true tests of whether you are from Wexford town is to know whether you from above or below the Cock. The others include whether you can properly pronounce the name of the Faythe, and whether you know about the Gondolas in the Crescent.

Because I had lived on School Street and on High Street, I was told that I was very definitely from below the Cock.

The Cock on John Street determines your identity and your place in Wexford. I had been involved in Wexford Wanderers, the town’s rugby and cricket club. But I knew the Cock decides who you supported in football and hurling – the John Street Volunteers or the Faythe Harriers.

It is a division that goes back more than two centuries to 1798, and the organisation of the John Street Volunteers during the Rising.

On Friday afternoon, I could not resist photographing the Cock in Upper John Street in Wexford. It is a disused wall-¬mounted cast¬-iron fountain, dated 1854, and designed on a half¬-octagonal plan.

The fountain was erected by John Greene, who was Mayor of Wexford in 1854. Long before town planning, streetscaping and public water systems, he had a vision for supplying clean water to the people of the town, raising the quality of life and the standards of living of Wexford’s growing population

He died in 1890, and today the Cock is easy to pass by without noticing.

An old, rusting Victorian post box embedded in the façade of house in John Street, Wexford, close to ‘The Cock’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Earlier in the day, as I walked along the Quay in Wexford under a bright blue autumnal sky, the tide was out at the Crescent, and there was more silt than water in this landmark part of the town.

It was the Wexford Festival Opera, and I recalled the apocryphal story of the Wexford town councillor who proposed during an early opera in the 1960s that because an Italian opera was being staged in the Theatre Royal in High Street it would be appropriate to put a gondola in the waters of the Crescent.

Not to be outdone, one of his political rivals got to his feet and asked why two gondolas could not be placed in the Crescent. Then, when the festival was over, they could breed, and we would have generations of gondolas for festivals for generations to come.

A third councillor was quick to ask why go to such expense? Everyone knows if we had two gondolas in the Crescent, he quipped, they would get very friendly and soon fly off to breed in Venice, never to return again.

Wexford still has no gondolas/. But true Wexford people know where to find the cock in John Street.

The Crescent in Wexford on Friday afternoon … and not a gondola in sight (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

30 October 2016

Walking on the beaches in Portrane and
Donabate as the evening closes in

Evening lights on the Burrow Beach in Portrane (Photograph; Patrick Comerford, 2016; click on image for full-screen view)

Patrick Comerford

These last few days have been beautiful, with clear blue skies and warm sunshine. The clocks went back last night, so the mornings are brighter but it was noticeable this evening how the darkness is going to close in so early from now on.

Tomorrow’s unusual bank holiday has added to the opportunities provided this weekend, and so there have been visits to Wexford on Friday [28 October 2016] to enjoy some of the programmes of the Wexford Festival Opera, and to Co Meath yesterday [29 October 2016], which included a walk along the banks of the River Boyne at Trim and through the vast ruins of Trim Castle.

I was in my stall in Christ Church Cathedral this morning for the Sung Eucharist, and later six of us went for lunch in Mykonos, the Greek taverna on Dame Street.

But the afternoon was still warm and bright, and rather than staying on in the city centre, two of us went out to Portrane and Donabate to walk on the beaches and to catch the sunset.

I had ideas too of photographing Stella’s Tower in Portrane. Next year marks the 350th anniversary of the birth of Jonathan Swift, and as I began to plan an essay on the best-known Dean of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, I thought the story of Stella’s Tower or Portrane Castle and its associations with Swift would be worth taking another look at.

After a walk on the beach at Portrane, and a visit to cousins at the Quay, the early dusk caught me unawares, and I never found my way into the field where the ruins of the castle stand.

Instead, we went on to Donabate, where the tide was out and two of us enjoyed a long walk on the sandy beach, catching glimpses of the setting sun behind the sand dunes.

I was back in south Dublin in time to hear the History Show presented by Myles Dungan on RTÉ Radio 1, and my interviews with Louise Dervin about how the bodies of JJ Murphy and the ‘Pickled’ Earl of Mayo were brought back from Italy and India in unusual circumstances for burial in Ireland.

Sunset behind the sand dunes on the beach in Donabate this evening (Photograph; Patrick Comerford, 2016; click on image for full-screen view)

An architect and an artist brings his
work to the Wexford Festival Opera

‘Divine Teardrop’ by Peter Cassidy … part of his exhibition coinciding with the Wexford Festival Opera (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

One of the joys of the Wexford Festival Opera is the way it attracts so many other cultural events to the town and to Co Wexford, including readings, plays, exhibitions, recitals, lectures, poetry, drama, walking tours and music.

There are exhibitions in the most surprising locations, and artists and designers set up their stalls and display their work in sometimes the most unlikely places.

Peter Cassidy hardly needed the festival to attract him to exhibit his works in Wexford this year. Although his architectural practice is based in Dun Laoghaire, he has been living in Co Wexford for the best part of two decades.

Between the lecture by John Julius Norwich on Friday morning, and the staging of Vaughan Williams’s short opera, Riders to the Sea, on Friday afternoon, I visited some of the exhibitions that had been attracted to Wexford by the festival, and particularly enjoyed Peter Cassidy’s exhibition of his paintings in a corner of the foyer in the Clayton White Hotel.

Peter studied in Bolton Street College and qualified as an architect in the mid-1980s, and Peter Cassidy Architects was established in 1993 as a small niche practice in Dun Laoghaire, specialising in providing a high quality of professional architectural service delivered in a personal and focused way.

His projects completed to date include new residential and commercial developments, new medical centres and care homes, restoration work at residential and institutional buildings for public and religious organisations, alterations to clerical, health and other buildings and private houses.

Having lived most of his life in Dublin, he now lives in Co Wexford with his family at Rathmoon, which is both his home and his studio. His design of Rathmoon was inspired by Irish ring forts and crannogs, and was completed in 2002, although he says the garden has taken longer to complete.

Over the last 30 years, most of his time has been spent working as an architect. But painting has always been a big part of his life.

He studied Fine Art in Dun Laoghaire College of Art and Design, and has a number of commissions over the years, including large scale works for Saint Michael’s Church in Dun Laoghaire. He has work hanging in both public and private buildings.

It was on the strength of his crucifixion painting, completed in Saint Michael’s in 1991, that he was awarded a scholarship for a year in the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, Italy.

His exhibition in the Clayton White Hotel is his third exhibition and continues until Tuesday [2 November 2016].

At Peter Cassidy’s exhibition in the Clayton White Hotel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Talking about the ‘Pickled Earl’ and bringing
the bodies home on ‘The History Show’

Palmerstown House, near Johnstown, the family home of the Earls of Mayo outside Naas, Co Kildare (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

I have contributed two essays to a new book on death and the Irish, which has been edited by my friend and colleague, Salvador Ryan, Professor of Church History in Maynooth. Death and the Irish: a miscellany is published by Wordwell, and is being launched next week [10 November 2016] in the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin. I was interviewed by Louise Dervin in Christ Church Cathedral and Saint Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, yesterday about these chapters for The History Show, presented by Myles Dungan and which goes out on RTÉ Radio 1 at 6.05 p.m. this evening [30 October 2016].

In one chapter, ‘Bringing the bodies home,’ I tell the story of the difficulties faced by the families of Jeremiah James Murphy and the 6th Earl of Mayo when it came to bringing their bodies home after their tragic deaths abroad in the 1850s and the 1870s.

Air travel has reduced the stress when grieving Irish families have to arrange to bring home the bodies of loved ones, but it was not so easy in Victorian days. Families either had to accept someone was going to be buried overseas and or had to find innovative, sometimes even irreverent, ways to bring home the bodies for burial.

Jeremiah James Murphy (1795-1851), of Lota Park, outside Cork, was in his 50s when he went on the grand tour of Italy. He died in Pisa on 29 November 1851, but getting his body home to Ireland proved difficult for his family. The sailors at Naples feared taking the coffin on board would bring them bad luck at sea. The Murphy family, however, out-witted the sailors by putting his body in an upright piano which they then shipped back to Ireland. He was buried almost two months later on 18 January 1852 in Carrigrohane, Co Cork ... still in the upright piano.

Richard Southwell Bourke (1822-1872), of Palmerstown House, Co Kildare, was the 6th Earl of Mayo. He was murdered in India in 1872 and is buried in Johnstown Churchyard, near Naas, Co Kildare. He is known as the ‘Pickled Earl’ since his body was preserved in a vat of rum on the long journey back to Ireland following his assassination.

When he became the Viceroy and Governor-General of India in 1869, .he gave instructions that should anything happen to him his body was to be brought back for burial in Johnstown. He was visiting a convict settlement in the Andaman Islands when he was attacked by an Afghan convict, Sher Ali Afridi, who murdered him on 8 February 1872. His partially-embalmed body was shipped home to Ireland, but in order to delay decomposition, his body was placed in a rum-filled cask ... and so he became known as the ‘Pickled Earl.’

To add spice to the story, when the cask was opened the body was there but there was no rum. Had it leaked out? Had it evaporated? Had it been drained off by the crew?

The memorial window in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, commemorating Richard Burke, 6th Earl of Mayo, and his murder in India (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

In my second contribution to the book, I tell the story of ‘Abide with Me,’ one of the most popular funeral hymns in the English-speaking world. It is said to have been a favourite of a wide range of people, from George V to Gandhi, it was played by the band on the deck as the Titanic was sinking, and Nurse Edith Cavell repeated its words as she faced her firing squad. Since 1927, this hymn has been sung at every FA Cup Final in Wembley.

This perennially popular funeral hymn was written as he was dying by a priest of the Church of Ireland, the Revd Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847). Although born in Scotland, Lyte was brought to Ireland, and was educated in Portora and Trinity College Dublin.

After his ordination, Lyte’s first appointment was as curate of Saint Munn’s Church, Taghmon, Co Wexford. He described his 18 months in Taghmon as a ‘dreary curacy.’ Taghmon was too remote from town life, and he bemoaned the loss of ‘the comfort, the society and the carelessness’ of constant intrusions, the long dinner parties, and the time he had to give to neighbours and parishioners.

But the spiritual outlook and religious values of the unhappy curate were changed as he watched the death of a neighbouring rector, the Revd Abraham Swanne, and took over his duties in the parish of Killurin, on the banks of the Slaney, between Wexford and Enniscorthy.

Lyte’s health never recovered fully after his experiences in Taghmon and Killurin. In September 1847, he preached his farewell sermon, on the subject of the Eucharist, returned to his vicarage and that evening wrote ‘Abide with Me.’ The hymn is marked in part by Lyte’s experience of comforting the dying Abraham Swanne, who kept repeating the words ‘Lord, abide with me.’

Lyte died in Nice on 20 November 1847 and was buried in the English Cemetery there. He is commemorated by plaques in Saint Munn’s Church in Taghmon, Co Wexford, but ‘Abide with Me’ is his greatest memorial.

The History Show seeks to bring the past to life and to explain ourselves to ourselves, searching out fresh angles on familiar topics, with informative, reflective, stimulating and entertaining radio. It is broadcast on Sundays from 6.05 p.m. on RTÉ Radio 1.

Henry Francis Lyte’s first appointment was as curate of Saint Munn’s Church, Taghmon, Co Wexford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

29 October 2016

Visiting Wexford’s new library for
the first time since it opened

Wexford County Library in Mallin Street in the afternoon autumn sunshine (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

It is almost four years since Brendan Howlin opened the new County Library in Wexford. I once lived just a few steps from this magnificent building when it was a humble car park. But my friend Celestine Murphy, editor of the Journal of the Wexford Historical Society, offered me my first guided tour of the Library while I was in Wexford yesterday [28 October 2016], and showed me the stunning views across the town and out into the Wexford countryside.

It is a striking steel and glass structure on a landmark site. But before it opened, the new library was the subject of some controversy, with critics pointing out that it stands immediately inside Wexford’s old town wall and one of its mediaeval square towers.

But looking down on the walls and its towers, the site of the former Saint John’s Gate and across the town to Selskar Abbey, I was convinced that this bright, light-filled complements the historic features of the townscape. To have left the vacant lot in Mallin Street (Back Street) behind Rowe Street Church would have been poor taste when it comes to urban planning and design.

Planners and local authority figures in Wexford hope the new library will stand at the epicentre of a linear ‘cultural spine’ parallel to Main Street, with the Opera House in High Street, where I lived in the mid-1970s, at one end and Selskar Abbey at the other end, and the new library and the neighbouring Art Centre in Cornmarket forming the core.

Looking across the roofs of Wexford Town from the Library to Selskar Abbey (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

The library replaces temporary premises in McCauley’s car park off Redmond Square. Before that, the library spent some time in what is now the foyer and the Library Bar area in Clayton White’s Hotel, while the Archives and Local Studies section was based across Wexford Bridge in Ardcavan, on the other side of the River Slaney.

Indeed, since it was first established in 1926, the library has moved six times. Wexford Library was originally established as the Book Repository on North Main Street in 1923. In 1928, it moved to Custom House Quay; then in 1934 to the second floor of the then renovated County Hall.

In the 1960s, the facilities relocated to a prefab on the grounds of the County Hall at Hill Street, before moving again to Abbey Street in what is Clayton Whites Hotel and then to premises off Redmond Square.

The library is organised into three zones. The ground floor offers a meeting area, daily newspapers, a print point, express PCs and popular adult non-fiction materials. Family and leisure use is centred on the middle floor which carries the children’s library, teens stock, DVDs, CDs, graphic novels and adult fiction.

The more serious top floor has the e-learning suite, another print point, research services and borrowing stock in economics, enterprise, education, languages, literature, history, Wexford studies and geography. Throughout the building, there is Wi-Fi access.

Mythen Construction was appointed by the National Housing Agency to build this landmark 1,680 sq m public building project. The project was extremely challenging from a technical and logistical perspective as the building took up the entire curtilage of the town centre site. A patio area by the old town wall can be used for book launches and similar events.

This beautiful new library fits in with the narrow street and sits comfortably with the church spire of Rowe Street Church, while the site retains a portion of the old town wall. In 2013, it was shortlisted for the Irish Building and Design Awards.

The library is closed today for this bank holiday weekend [29 to 31 October 2016], but reopens on Tuesday [1 November 2016] as usual at 10.30 am.

Wexford Arts Centre in Cornmarket … first built as the town’s Market House (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Close to the new library, a little further along Wexford’s ‘cultural spine,’ the Arts Centre has its home in the Market House in Cornmarket, built by Wexford Corporation in 1772-1776.

The lower windows that can be seen originally today arched recesses for the traders, a reminder of its original use as the town’s market house days. Inside, there was a magnificent ballroom and supper room upstairs.

The founder of the Methodists, John Wesley, preached here when he visited and he recorded in his journal that it was one of the best public rooms he had ever spoken in. Later, the Brunswick Club was formed here in 1882.

Following renovation, the Assembly Rooms as they were also known were a popular venue for lectures and musical evenings well into the 20th century and people such as Percy French, composer of The Mountains of Mourne and other popular songs appeared on a number of occasions.

It became the headquarters of Wexford Corporation in the early 20th century and was known as the Town Hall. It opened its doors as the Wexford Arts Centre in 1974 and has been providing art and has been a cultural centre in the town ever since.

As we looked down on the Market House from the top floor of the library in the sunshine yesterday afternoon, Celestine pointed out that High Street, Mallin Street and Abbey Street provided the Main Street and artery of the old walled town, and offered the opinion that Cornmarket, and nor the neighbouring Bull Ring was the scene for Cromwell’s massacre in Wexford in the mid-17th century.

Ominously, the sign over Con Macken’s Bar, also known as the Cape Bar, includes the words ’Bar,’ ‘Undertaker’ and ‘Spirits’ – harkening back to the day when this pub, linking the Bull Ring and Cornmarket, was a place where many could truly sing, ‘Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we shall die.’

The sign over Con Macken’s Bar in the Bull Ring in Wexford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

A hidden church on Powerscourt Estate
has a story that goes back for centuries

The ruins of the old church of Stagonil, hidden behind a high wall in Powerscourt Estate (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

Behind a large wall on the Powercourt Estate, covered in ivy and hidden behind large trees, the ruins of Stagonil Church go unnoticed by the daily throng of visitors and tourists.

As I peered behind these walls last Saturday [22 October 2016], I could see the ruined church of Stagonil, a reminder of a church with a story that goes back long before the arrival of the Anglo-Normans for almost 1,000 years, and of a lost village that survived until the Wingfield family built Enniskerry as an estate village for their tenants and workers in the mid-19th century.

From the eighth century on, on the southerly edges of an area ruled by the family of Macgiolla Mocolmog, a Danish or Viking settlement developed where three rivers meet, the Dargle, Glencree and Annacrevy. Some say this settlement was named Stagonil or Tigh Chonaill, the House of Conall; others say its name is derived from Gunhild, a prominent Viking woman in the area.

The competing claims of a Viking and a Gaelic settlement are legacies that harken back to a time when the early priests in Stagonil were appointed by the Danish Bishops of Dublin, but the Irish Bishops of Glendalough continued to claim the church lands.

The Abbey of Saint Thomas à Becket was founded in Dublin after the arrival of the Anglo-Normans. In 1216, about 10 years after their marriage, Basilia and Richard de Cogan granted all their lands in the Bray area to the Abbey of Saint Thomas. Their lands adjoining the king’s manor of Obrun included the village of Stagonil. All traces of the village have disappeared, although the ruins of the early church dedicated to Saint Beccan are at Churchtown, above the north bank of the Dargle, near the Annacrevy gate.

As early as 1192, the first Anglo-Norman Archbishop of Dublin linked this church with Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, and from 1303 until 1874 one of the prebendaries or canons of Saint Patrick’s also served as the Rector of Stagonil, and later of Powerscourt.

There was a weekly fair in Stagonil on Saturdays, and Henry III granted the profits of the fair to the Archbishop of Dublin, as well as the village, which was surrounded by the archbishop’s farmlands. The Archbishop leased a farm to the Le Poer family of Balytenyth Castle, which became their demesne lands, which eventually became known as Powerscourt, although Stagonil retained in its name.

From 1303, the parish was served by the Prebendaries of Stagonil in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, when Archbishop Richard de Feringes made Stagonil a distinct prebend, although few of the name of the prebendaries (nine in all) survive for the period leading up to the suppression of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in 1547.

The connection with Saint Patrick’s Cathedral resumed in 1555 when the cathedral received a new charter. When Sir Richard Wingfield acquired the Powerscourt estate, he rebuilt the castle as his manor house at Powerscourt, and in 1603 he built a new church for the parish of Stagonil alongside the castle.

When Lancelot Bulkeley, Archbishop of Dublin (1619-1650), held a visitation of his diocese, his returns showed that the parish of Stagonil was flourishing.

Sir Richard Wingfield, to whom Viscount Powerscourt left his property in 1634, died only four years after his succession, and was followed by his son, another Richard, then aged 17. When Elizabeth Folliot, widow of Sir Richard Wingfield, was an elderly widow, she left a graceful flagon of Irish silver to the church in 1704 for use at the Holy Communion.

The minutes of the parish vestry for the period 1695-1807 almost coincide with the time between the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 and the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. They include churchwarden’s accounts, details of parish spending, the cost of recasting the bell in 1723, and of the arrangements for policing the two Constablewicks of Powerscourt and Kilmacanogue.

An early Prebendary and Rector of Stagonil at this time was Canon Theophilus Bolton, who was incumbent in 1707-1714. But he probably spent little time in Powerscourt, paying a curate in fill his responsibilities in the parish while he benefitted from the prebendal tithes. Like many of the rectors at the time, Stagonil was a stepping stone to higher ambitions, and he later became Bishop of Clonfert and then Bishop of Elphin before becoming Archbishop of Cashel (1730-1744). He gave his name to the Bolton Library in Cashel.

Edward Synge, who was Rector in 1715-1719, was later successively Bishop of Clonfert (1730-1732), Cloyne (1732-1734), Ferns (1734-1740), and Elphin (1740-1762). Francis Corbet (1723-1727) became Dean of of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral (1747-1775)

Richard Wingfield, 1st Viscount Powerscourt of the third creation, commissioned the German-born architect Richard Cassel to build Powerscourt House in 1729-1743. At the same time, Francis Corbet’s successor, Canon John Towers was the Prebendary of Stagonil (1727-1746), and he leased property at Cookstown until his death in 1751. Jonathan Swift, the Dean of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, had a summer holiday with the Towers family at Cookstown.

The vestry minutes show that the old church was rebuilt considerably after Canon Michael Sandys was appointed Rector and Prebendary of Stagonil in 1775. He remained in the parish for almost 40 years until 1814.

Henry Grattan (1746-1820), the patriot constitutional politician who lived in Tinnehinch House, Enniskerry, was a churchwarden in the parish in 1793. The vestry records for 1796-1807 also show how the residents were obliged to raise money to fund the Wicklow Militia in the aftermath of the French Revolution in 1789 and the 1798 Rising in Ireland.

Sandys was succeeded by Robert Daly (1814-1842) a noted Irish scholar and later Bishop of Cashel (1843-1872). In Daly’s time, over £1,000 was spent on repairs to the old church, and the old glebe house, Annacrevy Schoolhouse and the parochial hall were also built.

The village of Enniskerry, built in the 1820s and 1830s, and the Town Clock erected in 1843 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

During Daly’s time too, Richard Wingfield, the fifth Viscount Powerscourt, welcomed King George IV to Powerscourt in 1821, and the present village of Enniskerry was built just before his death in 1823. His son erected the Town Clock in 1843 to commemorate the centenary of the third version of the Powerscourt titles given to the Wingfield family in 1743.

Until the mid-19th century, the church at Stagonil had congregations of up to 200. This probably included the Powerscourt tenants, but also tenants of the Earl of Meath, for Great and Little Kilruddery were part of the parish until Disestablishment. After the railway line between Dublin and Bray opened in 1851, new churches were needed in the neighbourhood, so Kilbride Church was consecrated in 1859 and Christ Church, Bray, was consecrated in 1863.

Meanwhile, with the building of the village of Enniskerry, many of the residents could only go to church in Stagonil in the grounds of the Powerscourt Demesne in the evening and with difficulty. In 1857 Elizabeth, Marchioness of Londonderry and widow of Richard Wingfield, the 6th Viscount Powerscourt, offered the parish the present of a new church as a parting gift as she handed the estate over to her son on his 21st birthday.

Mervyn Edward Wingfield, the 7th Viscount Powerscourt (1844-1904), laid the foundation stone of this new church with a mallet and trowel of Wicklow silver on the day he came of age in October 1857. The project for a new church coincided with an extensive renovation programme that also established the Italian gardens at Powerscourt.

The church cost £3,441 9s 2d to build, and was built to seat 350, although it was criticised for being too small. The consecration was delayed because the Ecclesiastical Commissioners were not satisfied with the slated spire. They refused to accept delivery from the architect, John Norton (1823-1904) of London, until a copper spire had been erected. This spire, in its turn, had to be renewed in 1929 at a cost of £1,300, because its wooden frame had perished.

The English architect John Norton (1823-1904) designed country houses, churches and commercial buildings. He was born in Bristol and became a pupil of Benjamin Ferrey (1810-1880), a close friend of Augustus Pugin (1812-1852), who was inspired by the Gothic mediaeval styles of the pre-Reformation era.

Ferrey’s friendship with Pugin had a profound effect on Norton, who adopted Pugin’s principles in his own church designs. Pugin died in 1852 when Norton was not yet 30. He embarked on a succession of Gothic revivalist designs for parish churches.

It was said that of Norton’s work that he ‘combined the Gothic beauty of holiness with a reverence for nature. He created domestic architecture based on the recent collegiate buildings in Oxford. Suddenly, too, the tenets of Ruskin and Pugin have become transfixed in stone.’

Despite the delay in consecration, the church was opened for evening worship in 1860 at a service at which the preacher was Francis Thomas McDougall (1817-1886), Bishop of Labuan and Sarawak, an SPG (USPG) missionary. When the day came for the consecration of the church three years later, Archbishop Whately was dying, and so the church was consecrated by his friend, William Fitzgerald (1814-1883), Bishop of Killaloe, on 15 September 1863.

The Pepperpot Tower was built in the Powerscourt Estate in 1911 with stones from the old church of Stagonil (Photogtpgraph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

The old church of Stagonil fell out of use after 1863, but two large vaults, one in the church and one in churchyard, were provided for Lady Verner in 1867. When the Church of Ireland was disestablished two years later in 1869, Lord Powerscourt claimed the old church and the surrounding churchyard. Since then, only families with a traditional right to be buried next to the old church within the demesne could claim burial rights there. Some of the stones from the old church were purloined by the Powerscourt family and used in 1911 to build the Pepperpot Tower nearby to commemorate a visit by the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII, who abdicated and became the Duke of Windsor.

The Powerscourt family memorials were moved from the old church to Saint Patrick’s Church in 1918. Saint Patrick’s Church has since remained substantially unaltered, although the organ was moved to the north transept and the chancel was altered in 1919. Mervyn Richard Wingfield, the 8th Viscount Powerscourt, gave the lectern later donated the pulpit in 1932 in memory of his parents.

The copper spire, that had delayed the consecration of the church, was in turn replaced in 1929 at a cost of £1,300, after its wooden frame had perished. In 1946 Lord Powerscourt and Colonel Riall presented the choir stalls. The prayer desks were given in 1932 by Lord Monck in memory of his grandparents. In 1957, the parish of Kilbride, Bray, was united with Powercourt.

The rectors or curates-in-charge since 1874 have been Archdeacon Henry Galbraith (1874), the Revd John Newcombe (1905), who died in office, the Revd Henry Mecredy (1907), who also died in office, Canon James Alcock (1924), the Revd Mervyn Byrn (1934), Canon John Murray (1949), Canon Ivan Kirkpatrick (1953), Canon Albert Stokes (1956), Canon Raymond Smith (1987) and Archdeacon Ricky Rountree (1997), the present rector who is also Archdeacon of Glendalough.

As for the prebendal stall with the name of Stagonil in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, this is now assigned to the Diocese of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory, and since 2013 has been held by Canon Patrick Harvey, Rector of Abbeyleix.

Saint Patrick's Church, Powerscourt, was built in 1857-1863 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

28 October 2016

A morning with John Julius Norwich in Wexford
and an afternoon with Vaughan Williams

With John Julius Norwich at the Wexford Festival Opera

Patrick Comerford

For my leisure reading in recent weeks, one of the books I have enjoyed is In The Great Cities in Europe by John Julius Norwich, which I bought in Cambridge last month. This book paints a portrait of world civilisation by telling the stories of the world’s greatest cities from ancient times to the present.

John Julius Norwich (John Julius Cooper, 2nd Viscount Norwich) is one of the most distinguished and charismatic writers and broadcasters of our time and he is best-known for his works on the Byzantine empire, mediaeval Sicily and Venice. He has produced 30 historical documentaries for BBC television, and his portraits of cities in this book are vignettes about Constantinople, Palermo and Venice.

I was back in Wexford today [28 October 2016] to hear John Julius Norwich deliver the 2016 Dr Tom Walsh Lecture as part of the Wexford Festival Opera.

It was a self-deprecating hour on stage, as he tried to deny he is an original historian, saying instead he only tries to make what is already known to the general reader.

He became fascinated with Byzantium as an 18-year-old undergraduate at Oxford, and his first major work was a two-volume history of Sicily. After a career in the diplomatic service, he became a writer, particularly on history, art and travel subjects. His many books include acclaimed works on Venice, Byzantium, Mount Athos, Glyndebourne, the Normans, the Popes, Shakespeare and architecture, and his Christmas Crackers collections of trivia and witticisms.

He has edited the diaries of his father, Duff Cooper, 1st Viscount Norwich, and letters from his famously glamorous mother, Lady Diana Cooper (Darling Monster: The Letters of Lady Diana Cooper to Her Son John Julius Norwich).

A distinguished and popular broadcaster on television and radio he has written and presented some 30 television documentaries on art, architecture and history, and he is fondly remembered for his wit and erudition by listeners to the BBC radio programmes My Word! and Round Britain Quiz.

He has chaired or served on the committees of numerous charitable projects, including projects concerned with Venice, world monuments, fine arts, the disabled, the National Trust and English National Opera. He is a regular speaker at lunches and dinners and in 2006 and 2007 he gave one-man shows in two London theatres.

This morning, in an interview-style presentation on the stage at the Clayton White Hotel, he spoke fondly of Wexford, saying he has been here at least 50 times, coming to the opera festival for the first time in 1961. There were humorous recollections of staying with the Beits at Russborough House in Co Wicklow, late night festival parties in the Talbot Hotel.

John Julius Norwich on the stage in Wexford this morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

At lunch in the Yard Restaurant in Lower George’s Street, it was good to meet some old friends, including Brendan Howlin and George Lawlor.

Later in the afternoon, two of us also attended Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Riders to the Sea, which is an interesting choice for the festival programme.

Although Vaughan Williams is not often remembered for his contributions to opera, the composer had a life-long interest in bringing music and theatre together. His magnum opus was The Pilgrim’s Progress, a project that occupied him for about 40 years. But many devotees of the composer feel strongly that Riders to the Sea is one of his greatest masterpieces.

It has often struggled to find a home in most opera house planning because of its brevity, but Wexford Festival Opera’s ShortWorks provided an ideal place to listen to this opera, not least because of its Irish roots.

The early 20th century play Riders to the Sea by John Millington Synge is one of Ireland’s few female-focused dramas. Vaughan Williams first composed his one-act opera in 1927, based almost verbatim on Synge’s text. But it was not heard until a decade later, receiving its first performance at the Royal College of Music in London on 1 December 1937.

Music with an eerie, elegiac beauty illuminates the theme of elemental and watery death as experienced by the Aran Islanders, off the Galway and Clare coats. The central role is that of Maurya, who by the end loses her husband and six sons to the sea, experiencing a kind of cathartic release when her last son’s death leaves her with nothing more to fear.

In her director’s notes in the programme, Catriona McLaughlin writes: ‘There is a powerlessness in the face of the sea’s omnivorous ferocity that is curiously embodied in the puny few drops of holy water administered over Bartley’s lifeless body, and yet there is grace and resilience in the faith that this action underwrites. I am repeatedly struck by the ravaged humanity in that gesture; the tiny drops that represent the might of Christ which will bring His hand to their rescue, set against the uncompromising force of nature, the wild sea in all its unknowable danger.’

Realising that the sea can hurt her no longer, Maurya (Lara Harvey) concludes, ‘No man at all can be living for ever, and we must be satisfied.’

All this was evoked by Vaughan Williams in music that captures the flinty harshness of the islands and fierce marine brutality. But the theme of humanity against nature – taken to extremes in his Sinfonia Antarctica – succeeded in bringing out the best in the composer.

The set for ‘Riders to the Sea’ in Wexford this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Saint Andrew’s Church, a former inner
city parish church, is on the market

Saint Andrew’s Church, Suffolk Street … the church had a history dating back to 1217, but closed as a church in 1993 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

As I was walking through inner city Dublin earlier this week, I noticed that Saint Andrew’s Church, the former Church of Ireland parish church at the point where Saint Andrew Street and Suffolk Street meet, has been placed on the rental market, inviting new tenants.

Saint Andrew’s was an old parish in inner city Dublin, formed almost 800 years ago in 1218 from the corps of the Precentors of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. The original Saint Andrew’s Church stood on present-day Dame Street.

Until the Reformation, the Precentors of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral were the Rectors of Saint Andrew’s Church. At the Reformation, Saint Andrew’s was united to Saint Werburgh’s, together with Saint Mary le Dam.

It is said the church was destroyed in the mid-17th century during the Cromwellian era. However, under an Act of Parliament passed after the Caroline Restoration, Saint Andrew’s became a separate parish once again in 1665, and a new church was built by William Dodson in 1680.

This church was built a little further from the city walls, on an old bowling-green close to the Thingmote, the old assembly-place in the Norse city. It had an eliptical or oval shape with a cone-shaped roof and crenallations. Because of this shape, it was commonly known as the Round Church.

The patronage of the parish was vested in the Archbishop of Dublin, the Lord Chancellor, and other senior government officials. The church was the special chapel of the Irish Parliament, which met nearby in College Green, and had close links with the Dublin Stock Exchange.

Jonathan Swift’s friend, Esther Vanhomrigh (‘Vanessa’), was buried in here in June 1723. Alderman Thomas Pleasants, father of Thomas Pleasants, the developer and philanthropist, was buried in the churchyard in 1729. Thomas Dalton, Lord Chancellor of Ireland, was buried here in 1730, and Marmaduke Coghill, MP for Dublin University, judge of the Prerogative Court and Chancellor of the Exchequer, was buried in the family vault in Saint Andrew’s in 1738.

The church was rebuilt in 1793-1800 with a new round church designed by Francis Johnson. This was Johnson's first major commission in Dublin. Inside, the church was fitted out in what was described as an ‘Egyptian style,’ its windows were covered with oil-silk transparencies instead of being fitted with stained glass, and the gallery had beautiful Egyptian-inspired ornamentation that was much admired in Victorian Dublin.

This church was destroyed by fire on 8 January 1860.

The cloister-like walkway on the north side of Saint Andrew’s Church, Suffolk Street … the 1860s church was designed by William Henry Lynn (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

The Belfast-based architectural practice of Lanyon & Lynn won first and second prizes in the competition for designs for a new church. The new church was designed was designed in the Gothic style by William Henry Lynn (1829-1915), and could seat 1,000 people. The builder was John Butler & Son, and the total coast was £12,735.

The foundation stone was laid on 11 August 1862 by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the Marquess of Abercorn, and the church was consecrated by Archbishop Richard Chenevix Trench of Dublin on Saint Andrew’s Day, 30 November 1866.

Throughout this building or rebuilding project, the Vicar of Saint Andrew’s from 1862 to 1872 was the Ven Cadwallader Wolseley (1806-1872), who was also a canon of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral (1852-1862) and Archdeacon of Glendalough (1862-1872). He was a descendant of the Wolseley family of Mount Wolseley, Co Carlow, and Wolseley near Rugeley in Staffordshire.

The Belfast-based architect William Henry Lynn (1829-1915) was born on 27 December 1829, at St John’s Point, Co Down. His father, Henry Lynn, whose family came from Fethard, Co Wexford, was an officer in the coast guard service, while his mother, Margaretta Ferres, was a doctor’s daughter from Larne, Co Antrim.

Lynn went to school at Dr Newland’s private grammar school in Bannow, Co Wexford. He trained as an architect in the Belfast office of Sir Charles Lanyon (1813-1899). By the time he was 18 he was Lanyon’s clerk of works for the building of Queen’s College, Belfast, and he became Lanyon’s partner in 1854 in the partnership known as Lanyon & Lynn, later Lanyon Lynn and Lanyon.

After a contentious breakup of the partnership, Lynn practised on his own from 1872 until he died on 12 September 1915 at home, Ardavon, 250 Antrim Road, Belfast. He had also kept a house at Innyard, near Fethard, Co Wexford.

Lynn’s original vision was ambitious for a cramped site and included rebuilding the surrounding neighbourhood in the same Gothic style. But this vision never saw the light of the day, and the full beauty of his design, including tower and spire, is difficult to discern through the narrow surrounding streets. There is a cloister-like walkway beside Saint Andrew Street, but many of Lynn’s planned features were never completed because of cost-cutting measures. For example, the central buttress of the cloister has a large lump of unfinished stone, and the empty niche above has protrusions that were clearly meant to be carved.

Perhaps Lynn’s single failure was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, or a cruciform church into a site marked by its curved street boundary. Inside, the church had short and tall four-bay nave, transept and chancel. His other buildings in Dublin included the Unitarian Church on Saint Stephen’s Green and banks on Grafton Street Street and College Green.

On 1 October 1957, a Chapel of Divine Healing was dedicated in Saint Andrew’s Church, as a centre for the work of the Ministry of Healing in Ireland.

In January 1977, the union of Saint Andrew’s with Saint Werburgh’s, Saint Mary’s, Saint Michan’s and Saint Paul’s took effect, and the new union was grouped with Christ Church Cathedral.

Saint Andrew’s Church was closed after Divine Service on Saint Andrew’s Day, 30 November 1993, and the church was sold.

The head of Saint Andrew over the west door was one of the interesting features of the church, but has been removed since the church closed. Inside, the former church still retains the height and airiness of the original nave. Outside, there is a fine vaulted arcade with ornate stonework and pinnacles. A memorial to soldiers of the Fourth Dublin Imperial Yeomanry killed during the Boer War still stands in the former churchyard in the form of a polished pink granite column topped by a crown.

The church was remodelled by Ashlin & Coleman, the architectural heirs to Pugin and Coleman, in 1996, and until recently the building housed the Dublin Tourism office. However, Fáilte Ireland moved about two years ago to a remodelled building next door on Suffolk Street and the church is on the market for letting through the estate agents Cushman & Wakefield. They told The Irish Times last month that they expect it to a wide range of businesses because of its key location, heavy footfall and spacious facilities.

The former church is being offered on a long lease at an expected rent of over €600,000 a year. The property includes almost 20,000 sq ft of space, spread over three levels, and a former parish hall dating from 1884 at the rear of the church.

27 October 2016

‘Space to Think’ celebrates ten years
of the ‘Dublin Review of Books’

Maurice Earls speaking at the launch of ‘Space to Think, marking the tenth anniversary of the ‘Dublin Review of Books’ (Photograph: Patrikck Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

Recently I was at a reception in the Irish Architectural Archives in Merrion Square, Dublin, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Dublin Review of Books and the launch of new book to mark this milestone, Space to Think, Ten Years of the Dublin Review of Books.

I was an early contributor to the Dublin Review of Books when I wrote a review in Issue Number 8 (Winter 2008-2009) a book by the Cork-born biblical scholar, the late Jerome Murphy-O’Connor: St Paul’s Ephesus: Texts and Archaeology (Liturgical Press/Michael Glazier).

That review opened:

Strolling down the paved Priests’ Way, or Curetes Street, in Ephesus at the height of the summer, our guide happily pointed out the vista ahead of us, including – in his own words – the ‘Library of Celsius’. Well it was a scorching hot day – and given the decadent reputation of Ephesus at the height of its prosperity I have no doubt the library shelves once held some hot topics.

Like many of the early reviewers, I was one of Enda O’Doherty’s former colleagues at The Irish Times, and it was inevitable that the attendance at this launch [13 October 2016] should include so many old friends who have also contributed to this collection of reviews. Since then, I have enhjoyed dipping in and out of this collection.

Maurice Earls and Enda O’Doherty, have edited Space to Think, which brings together some 50 essays on Irish and international literature, history and culture. The contributors include Roy Foster, Terry Eagleton, Denis Donoghue, Lara Marlowe, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Catriona Crowe, Pádraig Yeates, Denis Donoghue, and Siobhán Parkinson, and the late Adrian Hardiman.

The shared focus on Irish and European culture is richly reflected in the selection of essays in Space to Think, which range from pieces on the life of Seamus Heaney, the foibles of Jonathan Swift to the letters of Samuel Beckett; a study of the Ulysses obscenity trials in the US; the contradictions in George Orwell’s politics; Lara Marlowe on Sartre and de Beauvoir’s existentialist theories and their tawdry lifestyles; Clive James’s marvellous feats of translation; the American crime novel; and the greatest famine the world has ever known, which occurred after Mao’s so-called ‘Great Leap Forward’ in the 1950s.

Other subjects include: Kevin Barry’s Beatlebone, courtship in Jane Austen’s England, Irish prisoners of war in World War II, and the Ryanair experience.

Almost all of the pieces in the anthology were originally published as book reviews or ‘review-essays.’

The Dublin Review of Books was started in order to publish informed and imaginative essays and commentary on Irish and international subjects. Maurice Earls recalled that the Dublin Review of Books was launched online in 2007 because of the digital possibilities offered by virtually free worldwide distribution. The digital edition liberated the publishers from print bills ‘which would surely have sunk us, since we don't have advertising and we don’t charge.’ He pointed out that in the digital age there is little point in publishing a book unless one goes to the trouble of making it a beautiful object.

Enda O’Doherty said that the review essay format can run from 2,500 to 4,500 words. He quoted the British literary critic Frank Kermode, who said that it is ‘a very satisfactory genre,’ occupying a comfortable middle ground between the brief notice of a newspaper review and the lengthy detail of an academic paper or lecture.

To date, the DRB has published over 1,000 essays, from 360 contributors. Many people are willing to write on a pro bono basis, and only those who make a living from writing are paid for their contributions. The DBR is still going after 10 years, and continues to be entirely free to the reader.Space to Think is a lavish production, and is available in bookshops for €25.

Enda O’Doherty speaking at the launch of Space to Think, marking the tenth anniversary of the ‘Dublin Review of Books’ (Photograph: Patrikck Comerford, 2016)

Liturgy 2016-2017 (Full Time) 5.2:
Traditions of prayer (2) seminar,
readings on Reformation prayer

Key figures in the story of the Anglican Reformation in a window in the Chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge, from left (top row): Hugh Latimer, Edward VI, Nicholas Ridley, Elizabeth I; (second row): John Wycliffe, Erasmus, William Tyndale and Thomas Cranmer (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality

Year II, 10 a.m. to 12.30 p.m., Thursdays, Hartin Room:

Liturgy 5: 27 October 2016

Liturgy 5.1:
The development of the Liturgical Year and the Daily Office.

Liturgy 5.2: Traditions of prayer (2) seminar, readings on Reformation prayer.

11.30 a.m.: Liturgy 5.2: Traditions of prayer (2) seminar, readings on Reformation prayer.

Readings on Reformation prayer, including Martin Luther, John Calvin, Thomas Cranmer, John Jewel, Richard Hooker and Lancelot Andrewes.

1, Martin Luther (1483-1546):

Martin Luther … weaves together four basic elements to provide his ‘garland of prayer’

Reading: David Tripp, ‘Martin Luther, Lutheran Spirituality,’ in Gordon Wakefield (ed), A Dictionary of Christian Spirituality (London: SCM, 1999) pp 253-256.

Martin Luther was a German Augustinian friar, priest and professor of theology who played a key role in initiating the European Reformations. Luther strongly disputed the claim that freedom from the punishment of sin could be bought with money. He challenged the sale of indulgence with his 95 Theses in 1517. His refusal to retract his writings at the demand of Pope Leo X in 1520 and the of the Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms in 1521 led to his excommunication by the Pope and condemnation as an outlaw by the Emperor.

Luther taught that salvation is not earned by good deeds but is received only as a free gift of God’s grace through faith in Christ. His theology challenged the authority of the Pope by teaching that the Bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge.

His translation of the Bible into German, instead of Latin, made it more accessible, and had a major impact on the church and on German culture. His hymns influenced the development of singing in churches.

Luther’s 1524 creedal hymn Wir glauben all an einen Gott (We All Believe in One True God) is a three-stanza confession of faith prefiguring his 1529 three-part explanation of the Apostles’ Creed in the Small Catechism. Luther’s hymn, adapted and expanded from an earlier German creedal hymn, gained widespread use in vernacular Lutheran liturgies as early as 1525.

Luther’s 1538 hymn version of the Lord’s Prayer, Vater unser im Himmelreich, corresponds exactly to Luther’s explanation of the prayer in the Small Catechism. The hymn served both as a liturgical setting of the Lord’s Prayer and as a means of examining candidates on specific catechism questions.

Luther wrote Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir (From depths of woe I cry to you) in 1523 as a hymn version of Psalm 130 and sent it as a sample to encourage his colleagues to write psalm-hymns for use in worship. In collaboration with Paul Speratus, this and seven more hymns were published in the first Lutheran hymnal, the Achtliederbuch.

In 1524, Luther developed his original four-stanza psalm paraphrase into a five-stanza Reformation hymn that developed the theme of ‘grace alone’ more fully. Because it expressed essential Reformation doctrine, this expanded version of Aus tiefer Not was designated as a regular component of several regional Lutheran liturgies and was widely used at funerals, including Luther’s own.

In his short and simple work, A Simple Way to Pray (1535), Luther sets out an approach to prayer based on reading Biblical passages such as the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6: 9-13) and the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20: 1-17). He sets out aid to prayer based on a four-fold interaction with the Biblical text.

The four basic elements which he weaves together to provide his ‘garland of prayer’ are:

1, Instruction.
2, Thanksgiving.
3, Confession.
4, Prayer.

On the evening of 17 February 1546, Luther experienced chest pains. When he went to his bed, he prayed: ‘Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God’ (Psalm 31: 5), the common prayer of the dying. At 1 a.m., he awoke with more chest pain, and thanked God for revealing his Son. His companions, Justus Jonas and Michael Coelius, shouted loudly: ‘Reverend father, are you ready to die trusting in your Lord Jesus Christ and to confess the doctrine which you have taught in his name?’ Luther’s reply was a distinct ‘Yes.’

A stroke then deprived him of his speech, and he died at 2.45 a.m. on 18 February 1546, aged 62, in Eisleben, the city of his birth.

2, John Calvin (1509-1564)

John Calvin ... pointed out that to know God is to be changed by God

Reading: Gordon Wakefield, ‘John Calvin,’ and ‘Calvinist Spirituality’ in Gordon Wakefield (ed), A Dictionary of Christian Spirituality (London: SCM, 1999) pp 63-68.

John Calvin was a French theologian and a principal figure in the development of the Reformed or Calvinist tradition. Calvin originally trained as a humanist lawyer, and his breach with the Church came around 1530. When religious tensions provoked a violent uprising against Protestants in France, Calvin fled to Basel in Switzerland, where he published the first edition of the Institutes of the Christian Religion (1539).

He went on to engage with Church reforms in Geneva and Strasbourg, where he became the minister of a church of French refugees. He continued to support the reform movement in Geneva, and was eventually invited back to lead the church there. In Geneva, he struggled unsuccessfully to have weekly celebrations of the Eucharist, and taught the notion of a ‘virtual presence’ by which the power of Christ was united to the communicant by the work of the Spirit.

Calvin pointed out that to know God is to be changed by God; true knowledge of God leads to worship, as the believer is caught up in a transforming and renewing encounter with the living God.

His spirituality has three principle characteristics. It is:

● mystical;
● corporate;
● social.

3, Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556)

Thomas Cranmer … his legacy includes the Book of Common Prayer, the Collects and the 39 Articles

Reading: Richard H Schmidt, Glorious Companions: Five Centuries of Anglican Spirituality (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), pp 1-11.

Thomas Cranmer, the ‘Father of the Prayer Book,’ was a leader of the English Reformation and Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and (briefly) Mary I. He built a favourable case for Henry VIII’s divorce and supported the principle of royal supremacy.

As Archbishop of Canterbury, he was responsible for establishing the first doctrinal and liturgical structures of the Church of England. He did not make many radical changes in the Church, but succeeded in publishing the first officially authorised vernacular service, the Exhortation and Litany.

During the reign of Edward VI, Cranmer wrote and compiled the first two editions of The Book of Common Prayer, a complete liturgy for the Church of England. With the help of Continental reformers, he developed new doctrinal standards in areas such as the Eucharist.

With the accession of Mary I to the throne, Cranmer was tried for treason and heresy, and was executed in Oxford in 1556. On the day of his execution, he dramatically withdrew his recantations. As the flames drew around him, he placed his right hand into the heart of the fire and his dying words were, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit... I see the heavens open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.’

His legacy lives on through The Book of Common Prayer, although It is difficult to ascertain how much of the Prayer Book is actually Cranmer’s personal composition, and through the 39 Articles, which are part of his legacy although not his composition. But we can agree that his chief concern was to design corporate worship to encourage a lively faith.

4, John Jewel (1522-1571)

John Jewel ... literary apologist of the Elizabethan settlement and the author of Apologia ecclesiae Anglicanae

Reading: Richard H Schmidt, Glorious Companions: Five Centuries of Anglican Spirituality (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), pp 12-20.

John Jewel, Bishop of Salisbury, is seen as the First Anglican Apologist, and as the literary apologist of the Elizabethan Settlement. His Apologia ecclesiae Anglicanae (1562) is the first methodical statement of the position of the Church of England. It forms the groundwork for all subsequent controversy, and is his attempt to provide a statement of faith for the Church of England during the reign of Elizabeth I and to answer challenges and accusations of the day.

When Jewel discusses the sacraments, he emphasises that it is not the sacraments themselves but the faith of the individual that effects salvation. On this point, Jewel appeals to several Church Fathers:

‘The faith of the sacraments,’ saith St. Augustine, ‘justifies, and not the sacrament.’ And Origen saith, ‘He [Christ] is the priest and the propitiation, and the sacrifice; and that propitiation comes to every one by way of faith.’ And, therefore, agreeably hereunto, we say that the sacraments of Christ do not profit the living without faith (Apology, II.17).

But he also says:

In the Lord’s Supper, there is truly given unto the believing the body and blood of the Lord, the flesh of the Son of God, which quickeneth our souls, the meat that cometh from above, the food of immortality, grace, truth, and life; and the Supper to be the communion of the body and blood of Christ, by partaking whereof we be revived, we be strengthened, and be fed unto immortality, and whereby we are joined, united and incorporate unto Christ, that we may abide in him, and he in us. (Apology).

Similarly, Jewel says: ‘For, although we do not touch Christ with our teeth and mouth, yet we hold him fast, and eat him by faith, by understanding, and by the spirit’ (Apology, II.15).

5, Richard Hooker (1554-1600):

Richard Hooker’s statue at Exeter Cathedral ... ‘the most influential theologian in the Anglican reformation

Reading: Richard H Schmidt, Glorious Companions: Five Centuries of Anglican Spirituality (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), pp 21-33.

Richard Hooker was such an influential Anglican theologian at the end of the Elizabethan era that he is often regarded as the Definitive Anglican. His emphases on reason, tolerance and the value of tradition have had a lasting influence on the development of Anglican theology, and alongside Thomas Cranmer and Matthew Parker he is regarded as a founder of Anglican theological method.

Throughout Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity (1593), Hooker makes it clear that theology involves prayer and is concerned with ultimate issues, and that theology is relevant to the social mission of the Church.

Writing on Prayer, he says: ‘When we are not able to do any other thing for men’s behoof, when though maliciousness or unkindness they vouchsafe not to accept any other good at our hands, prayer is that which we always have in our power to bestow, and they never in theirs to refuse.’ – Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, V.23.1

When it comes to ritual disputes in liturgical matters, he writes: ‘Customs once established and confirmed by long use, being presently without harm, are not in regard of their corrupt original to be held scandalous’ – Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, IV.12.4

6, Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626)

The tomb of Lancelot Andrewes in Southwark Cathedral ... his prayers and sermons were critical in TS Eliot’s conversion to Anglicanism and had an abiding influence on his writings (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Reading: Richard H Schmidt, Glorious Companions: Five Centuries of Anglican Spirituality (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), pp 34-46.

Lancelot Andrewes held senior positions in the Church of England in the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I, and after two decades at Cambridge he was successively Bishop of Chichester, Ely and Winchester, and chaired the committee that had oversight of the translation of the King James Version or Authorised Version of the Bible.

TS Eliot, in his essay, For Lancelot Andrewes: an Essay on Style and Order (1928), argues that Andrewes’s sermons ‘rank with the finest English prose of their time, of any time.’ Eliot spoke of his indebtedness to the bishop’s writings: he is ‘the first great preacher of the English Catholic Church,’ and he had ‘the voice of a man who had a formed visible church behind him, who spoke with the old authority and the new culture.’

For Eliot, ‘The intellectual achievement and the prose style of Hooker and Andrewes came to complete the structure of the English Church as the philosophy of the thirteenth century crowns the Catholic Church … the achievement of Hooker and Andrewes was to make the English Church more worthy of intellectual assent. No religion can survive the judgment of history unless the best minds of its time have collaborated in its construction; if the Church of Elizabeth is worthy of the age of Shakespeare and Jonson, that is because of the work of Hooker and Andrewes.

‘The writings of both Hooker and Andrewes illustrate that determination to stick to essentials, that awareness of the needs of the time, the desire for clarity and precision on matters of importance, and the indifference to matters indifferent, which was the general policy of Elizabeth … Andrewes is the first great preacher of the English Catholic Church.’


TS Eliot, For Lancelot Andrewes: an Essay on Style and Order (1928).
Alister McGrath, Christian Spirituality (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999).
Richard H Schmidt, Glorious Companions: Five Centuries of Anglican Spirituality (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002).
Philip Sheldrake, A Brief History of Spirituality (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007).
Gordon Wakefield (ed), A Dictionary of Christian Spirituality (London: SCM, 1999).

Next week (3 November 2016):

6.1: The nature and theology of sacraments;
6.2: Traditions of prayer (3): seminar, patterns of prayer today (including all-age worship, participation of children in worship, worship and youth).

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. These notes were prepared for a seminar on 27 October 2016 that was part of the Module TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality on the MTh course.