31 January 2017

Limerick’s People’s Park is a reminder
of a grander vision and visionary MP

The Thomas Spring Rice Memorial in the People’s Park, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

On my way to catch the bus from Limerick to Dublin earlier today [31 January 2017], I stopped to explore the People’s Park in Pery Square, close to the railway station and the bus station.

This quiet leafy square is the principal park in Limerick city centre, and it was formally opened in 1877 in memory of Richard Russell, a prominent local businessman.

Four decades before, the park was first developed as part of the Pery Square development in the Newtown Pery area of central Limerick. The development began in 1835 and at first this was a key-holders-only park. The original vision was to surround the park with elegant housing for the rising affluent and professional classes in the city.

A Georgian-style terrace of houses in Pery Square, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Pery Square was intended to be a complete Georgian-style square with the terraces enclosing a central park, similar to Merrion Square or Mountjoy Square in Dublin, albeit on a more modest scale.

The square and park were developed by the Pery Square Tontine Company, an idea conceived by Matthew Barrington, and the company included other notable names such as William Sexton Pery, Thomas P Vokes, and the architect James Pain (1779-1877), who designed Castletown Church and many buildings in Limerick.

However, Limerick’s economy suffered severely with the Great Famine, funds for the project soon ran out, and only one terrace of the square was ever completed.

The Victorian fountain in the People’s Park, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

In the 1870s, the then Earl of Limerick granted the city corporation a 500-year lease of Pery Square and the surrounding grounds. The conditions included agreements that no political or religious meetings would be held in the park and that bands would not to play here on Sundays.

The park was dedicated to the memory of Richard Russell, a prominent local businessman and was opened by Major Spaight. The main entrance gate includes the memorial inscription:

Pery Square. This public park was formed by subscription. In memory of Richard Russell the land being given by the Right Honourable. The Earl of Limerick.

Richard Russell is commemorated in the inscription over the main gate into the People’s Park, Limerick. To the right are the Carnegie Building and in the distance Saint Michael’s Church, Pery Square (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The Barrington family erected a free-standing limestone column in the middle of Pery Square in 1829, topped with a statue of Thomas Spring Rice (1791-1866). He was still alive when the statue was erected, an MP for the city, with a cabinet post, and a prominent landowner in Co Limerick. He was very popular in the city, and later became Lord Monteagle.

The statue was carved by the sculptor Thomas Kirk (1781-1845) who also sculpted Admiral Nelson for the top of Nelson’s Pillar in Dublin. The column designed by Henry Aaron Baker (1753-1846). A plaque on the octagonal base of the column reads:

Thomas Spring Rice MP for the City of Limerick 1820-1832

The monument stands on a raised mound at the centre of the park and is an eloquent statement of the aspirations to grandeur of this newly fashionable part of Limerick. It is a free-standing limestone Greek Doric column surmounted by Kirk’s sculpture in Portland stone of Thomas Spring Rice, who is robed and facing north-west towards the Tontine Building on Pery Square.

The statue stands on a plain limestone ashlar cylindrical base above a fluted limestone ashlar Greek Doric column that sits on an octagonal limestone ashlar base with a projecting cornice and mutules. On the base there are three limestone steps in a circular format.

Meanwhile, the plots of land once ear-marked for the development of the Georgian-style square were eventually incorporated into the park and extended it further north to what is now Mallow Street, eastwards towards Boherbuoy Road and southwards towards Saint Joseph Street.

Other interesting features in the park include a Victorian bandstand, an ornate drinking fountain – one of only two in Ireland – and two gazebos. More recent additions include a children’s playground, opened in 2001, and a children’s memorial garden, opened in 2002.

The park has a large selection of mature, deciduous and evergreen trees, including ash, beech, birch, elm, false acacia, flowering cherry, flowering crab, hawthorn, holly, hornbeam, horse chestnut, lime, maple, mountain ash, oak, ornamental pear, plane, poplar, walnut, whitebeam and willow, and a wonderful display of flowers that are already beginning to burst into colour due to the mild winter.

The Carnegie building now housing the Limerick City Art Gallery was built in 1903. The foundation stone contains four bottles with the currency of the day, as well as copies of the Limerick Leader, the Limerick Echo, the Limerick Chronicle, the Munster News and a parchment recording the occasion.

Thomas Spring Rice (1791-1866) was still alive when the monument was erected in 1829, the year of Catholic Emancipation. He was then in his late 30s, a with a seat in the cabinet, and a landowner who was regarded in Co Limerick as a kind and benevolent landlord. He would later become 1st Baron Monteagle of Brandon, Co Kerry.

His initial election as MP for Limerick in 1820 was a triumph for the Independent party, which represented the merchant interests and it broke a well-established, conservative oligarchy that had dominated Limerick politics for many years.

His supporters were involved in developing Newtown Pery and it was fitting that his monument had such a prominent place in the new town. The statue was erected in 1826-1829 by the Barrington family, who invested heavily in this part Limerick, although their visions for further expansion were never realised.

Thomas Spring Rice, who later became Chancellor of the Exchequer (1835-1839), was born into a notable land-owning family. He was one of the three children of Stephen Edward Rice (d.1831), of Mount Trenchard House, which lies within my new parishes, and Catherine Spring, the daughter and heiress of Thomas Spring of Ballycrispin and Castlemaine, Co Kerry. His great-grandfather, Sir Stephen Rice (1637–1715), was Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer and a leading Jacobite.

Thomas Spring Rice was educated at Trinity College Cambridge, and later studied law at Lincoln’s Inn, although he was never called to the Bar. He was encouraged to stand for Parliament by his father-in-law, Lord Limerick. He first stood for election in Limerick City in 1818 but was defeated by the sitting Tory MP, John Vereker, by 300 votes.

When he stood again in 1820 he was elected to the House of Commons, where he was a moderate unionist reformer who opposed the radical nationalist politics of Daniel O’Connell. He became known for his expertise on Irish and economic affairs. In 1824 he headed the committee that established the Ordnance Survey in Ireland.

Spring Rice’s fluent debating style brought him to the attention of leading Whigs and he came under the patronage of the Marquess of Lansdowne. As a result, he was appointed Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department under George Canning and Lord Goderich in 1827, with responsibility for Irish affairs. This required Spring Rice to accept deferral of Catholic Emancipation, although he strongly supported the cause.

Under Lord Grey, Spring Rice was a Treasury Secretary (1830-1834). Following the Reform Act 1832, he was elected MP for Cambridge (1832-1839). In 1834, he became Secretary of State for War and the Colonies.

Spring Rice led the Parliamentary opposition to Daniel O’Connell’s 1834 attempt to repeal the Act of Union. In a six-hour speech in the Commons on 23 April 1834, he suggested that Ireland should be renamed West Britain. Spring Rice also championed the worldwide abolition of slavery and the introduction of state-supported education.

When the Whigs returned to power in 1835, Spring Rice became Chancellor of the Exchequer. When he left office in 1839, he was given a peerage with the title of Baron Monteagle of Brandon, in Co Kerry.

He largely retired from public life, although he occasionally spoke in the House of Lords. He vehemently opposed Lord Russell’s policy on the Famine, and in a speech in the Lords he said the government had ‘degraded our people, and you, English, now shrink from your responsibilities.’

Spring Rice was a pious Anglican, and his support for Catholic Emancipation increased his popularity. During the Great Famine in the 1840s, his response to the plight of his tenants almost bankrupted his family.

He was married twice. His first wife, Lady Theodosia Pery, was a daughter of Edmund Pery, 1st Earl of Limerick. His second wife Marianne was a daughter of the Leeds industrialist John Marshall, in 1841.

His grandson, Sir Cecil Spring Rice, was the British Ambassador to the United States (1912-1918) and is also remembered as a hymn writer. His great-granddaughter was the Irish nationalist, Mary Spring Rice. Many members of the family are buried in Mount Trenchard Churchyard, which remains part of the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes, between Glin and Askeaton.

His only married sister, Mary, was the mother of the poet Aubrey Thomas de Vere, who is buried in Saint Mary’s Churchyard, Askeaton, and of the Liberal MP Sir Stephen de Vere.

A Victorian pavilion or gazebo in the People’s Park, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The Rector of Askeaton who worked
tirelessly with the victims of Famine

The mass grave of the victims of the Great Famine in Saint Mary’s Churchyard, Askeaton, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

During the weekend, in my strolls through Askeaton, I dropped in occasionally to the churchyard at Saint Mary’s Church. Many of the graves were once marked, but their inscriptions have faded away. But it seems so appropriate that the grave of one of my predecessors in this parish lies beside the large Famine Grave, where countless victims of the Famine are buried and unnamed.

The Revd George Maxwell (1809-1870), who was the eldest son of Arthur M Maxwell of Brookend, Co Tyrone, was born in Dublin on 27 August 1809. He was educated at Trinity College Dublin (BA, 1830) and he was ordained deacon on 30 November 1832 and priest on 25 March 1834.

His spent his lifetime in ministry in Askeaton, coming here as a curate in 1833, and then becoming Vicar of Askeaton in 1838, when he was only 29. He remained in Askeaton as the Rector until he died in 1870.

While George Maxwell was the Rector of Askeaton, the present parish church was completed, and Saint Mary’s Church was consecrated on 23 August 1840. That year, he also married Margaret Anne Hewson of Ennismore, Listowel, Co Kerry, who was related to the Hewson family who lived at Castle Hewson near Askeaton since the 17th century, and who once owned Rathkeale Abbey.

Four years later, the Church of Ireland schoolhouse nearby at Beigh Cross, Ballysteen, was licensed for public worship in 1844.

While he was the Vicar of Askeaton, George Maxwell came face-to-face with the horrors of the Great Famine. By 1847, he was the secretary of the local Famine Relief Committee, and he worked tirelessly on behalf of the famine victims in the Askeaton area.

That February, he wrote to the government in Dublin with a list of the people who had subscribed to his Relief Fund. But all he had managed to collect was £253.14s.7d, and this was unlikely to go far with more than 7,000 people in the locality seriously threatened by the potato blight.

His task was not made any easier by the fact that the population of Askeaton had almost doubled to 10,000 in the 15 years since he first became curate in this parish.

Most of these newcomers were labourers who were living off potatoes. The workhouse in Rathkeale was already overcrowded by the time George Maxwell wrote his letter to Dublin. Auxiliary workhouses and a fever hospital were rapidly built. But, despite these efforts, several thousand people in and around Askeaton died during the Famine.

George’s father-in-law, John Francis Hewson, also died in 1847.

George and Margaret Anne Maxwell were the parents of two sons, Arthur Maxwell and John Francis Maxwell, and two daughters, Elizabeth Caroline and Margaret Anne.

George Maxwell died in Askeaton on 8 January 1870. He had ministered in Askeaton for a total of 37 years. His widow died on 5 March 1881, and they are buried side-by-side in Saint Mary’s Churchyard, Askeaton, beside the Famine Grave.

The grave of the Revd George Maxwell and his wife Margaret Anne (Hewson) in Saint Mary’s Churchyard, Askeaton (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Eight months after her father’s death, Elizabeth Caroline Maxwell married her father’s former curate and successor, Canon Edmund Lombard Swan Eves (1840-1930) in August 1870.

Edmund Eves was appointed George Maxwell’s curate in Askeaton when he was ordained deacon in 1864. He was ordained priest in 1865, and when George Maxwell died he became of Vicar of Askeaton (1870-1874).

Eves stayed on in Askeaton for another four years, until he became Rector of Maryborough (now Portlaoise) in 1874. He was also the Church of Ireland Prison Chaplain there. Tragedy struck the Eves family in January 1880, when three of their children – Anne Maxwell, George Maxwell and Catherine Margaret – died of diphtheria; their son Arthur survived, and later moved to India, where he died in Cawnpore. Edmund Eves died on 14 July 1930.

The Revd George Maxwell’s elder son, Arthur Maxwell (1842-1909), later lived at Corduff House, near Lusk, Co Dublin. His elder son, George Maxwell (1874-1937), is reputed to have arrested Countess Markievicz, while his younger son, Arthur Henry Maxwell, married his neighbour Vereana Estelle Beresford Cobbe of Newbridge House, Donabate.

The inscriptions on the Maxwell grace in Saint Mary’s Churchyard, Askeaton (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

30 January 2017

Visiting my neighbours in the other
Saint Mary’s Church in Askeaton

Saint Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Askeaton … the two churches hold the town in one ecumenical embrace (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

The Parish Priest of Askeaton and Ballysteen, Father Seán Ó Longaigh, was one of the ecumenical guests at my introduction to the Rahkeale Group of Parishes earlier this month, and I look forward to a close working relationship between the two parish churches in Askeaton, which are both named Saint Mary’s.

Naturally, one of the first places that I visited in my first few days in Askeaton was Saint Mary’s Roman Catholic Church. It was still the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and with the two Saint Mary’s churches at each end of the town, I felt as if we were book-ending Askeaton, or holding it one great ecumenical embrace.

The list of parish priests of Askeaton dates back to 1704, and this list is complete from the end of the 18th century.

The present church dates from 1851-1853, and was built after an earlier church near the Franciscan friary, to the right of the main abbey gate, was destroyed by fire in 1847. The fire, which started in a nearby mill, killed one worker and severely other workers were burned. During the fire, the parish priest, Father Edward Cussen, put his life at risk as he worked rescuing several men from the blaze.

The fire happened at the height of the Great Famine, and there were no funds locally to build a new church. And so, Father James Enright was sent to US to raise funds for a new church.

Inside Saint Mary’s … the church was restored, renovated and reordered in the 1970s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The new church was built on a site on the western road while Father Cussen was still the parish priest. While the church was being built, Mass was celebrated in what was later Fitzgibbon’s Store in Brewery Lane. Building work began in 1851 and was completed in 1853. Father Cussen died in 1860, and is buried under the main aisle of the church.

The church is built of local limestone, with beautiful stained glass windows. In more recent decades, it was restored, renovated and reordered in the 1970s while Canon Thomas Kirby was the parish priest (1969-1985). Bishop Jeremiah Newman of Limerick rededicated the church on 23 May 1977.

Saint Patrick receiving Eithne and Fidelma, the two daughters of King Laoghaire (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Inside the church, there are four interesting stained glass windows.

In the centre of the nave, the window on the left depicts Saint Patrick receiving Eithne and Fidelma, the two daughters of Laoghaire, King of Ireland, into the Church. This window commemorates Mary and Brigid Casey, who died from TB at age 19. The window opposite it, a window shows Christ with the little children. This window is in memory of Annie Mulraire.

Two further stained-glass windows depict the Resurrection in the right transept and the Ascension in the left transept.

These four large stained-glass windows by the Mayer studios were installed in the church in 1920s.

The Mayer studios of stained glass makers has worked from Munich, London, Dublin and New York. The company had its origins in the Institute for Christian Art Works, founded in Munich in 1847 by Josef Gabriel Mayer (1808-1883) to revive and promote the church building trades of the Middle Ages.

These studios originally produced altars and shrines, and began to manufacture stained glass in 1856. They met with such success that a branch opened in London in 1865, and a New York branch opened in 1888. Windows by Mayer & Co. abound in Ireland, in both Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland churches.
Harry Clarke’s father, Joshua Clarke, was the Irish agent for Mayers. Mayers windows are noted for the detail in the faces of the figures depicted and contain a rich array of ecclesiastical vocabulary. Frequently, saints are shown with their personal symbols.

Today, Mayer still produces stained glass windows, with headquartersd in Munich, and the firm is still by descendants of the founder.

Over the main door of the church, a fifth stained-glass window depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary is in memory of the McDonnell family of Milltown. This window is in the style of Harry Clarke and dates from the early 1950s.

Christ with the little children … a window by the Mayer studios (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

In addition, there are two interesting statues in the church: over the main door, the large statue of the Pieta is a replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta in Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, while under the gallery there is a statue of the Virgin Mary as the Immaculate Conception.

In front of the church, a cross marks the grave of Father Edmund Treacy, who was Parish Priest from 1892 until he died on 23 November 1908. In all, eight priests of the parish, including parish priests and curates, are buried in the church grounds.

A large limestone monument in the church grounds commemorates the 150th anniversary of the church, which was celebrated in 2001. As part of the celebrations, the National Museum gave the parish on loan for the day the ‘Askeaton Madonna,’ a priceless 15th century Nursing Madonna and Child carved in oak, probably originating in the Franciscan Abbey in Askeaton.

This figure was described in a paper by Caitríona MacLeod in a collection of essays published in 1987 in honour of Helen Roe. She describes this as native Irish in origin, and dates it to the mid-15th century. She says: ‘The fact that this statue survived at all, given the upheavals that racked Ireland for centuries, is remarkable.’

There is no way to determine the original provenance of the statue, which was found hidden in a small farmhouse just a mile from Askeaton Friary in the 19th century.

A large limestone monument in the church grounds commemorates the 150th anniversary of the church in 2001 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Following in the footsteps of an
‘eccentric’ and ‘prodigious’ curate

Inside Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin, in Tarbert, Co Kerry … for two decades, the Revd Sir William Augustus Wolseley was curate (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I was involved in my first service in Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin, in Tarbert, Co Kerry, on Sunday morning [Sunday 29 January 2017], presiding and preaching at the Eucharist. Because this was the fifth Sunday in the month, this was also my first united service for the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes.

I am beginning to learn who my predecessors were in the four churches in this group of parishes, spread across west Limerick and north Kerry. I was delighted to learn that a former curate in Kilnaughtin was the Revd Sir William Augustus Wolseley (1865-1950).

He was the curate in Kilnaughtin with Aughavallin for 18 years, from 1888 until he moved to Australia in 1906. While Wolseley was the curate here, the Rector of Kilnaughtin was Canon Robert Beatty (1878-1911).

Neither the standard reference books not the popular accounts of the unusual circumstances of Wolseley’s life give much attention to the almost two decades he spent in these Church of Ireland parishes in Tarbert and Ballylongford. But Wolseley has direct connections with two extraordinary people as the immediate successor and predecessor, successively, of the ‘elevator baronet’ and the ‘cobbler baronet,’ all three inheriting a family title through a bewildering set of circumstances in an entangled family tree.

During a family wedding at the end of last year, I spent a weekend at Mount Wolseley, the ancestral home of these three fascinating Wolseley baronets. But I have had a long interest in the history of the Wolseley family.

The Wolseley Arms … near the former seat of the Wolseley family near Rugeley, Staffordshire (Photograph: fatbadgers)

Wolseley is in mid-Staffordshire, between Stafford and Rugeley, north of Lichfield. The coats-of-arms of the Comberford and Wolseley families are inverted reflections of each other, and the families were related by marriage in the 16th century. Wolseley and Comberford are about 20 miles apart, and one of my earliest contracts as a freelance journalist was to interview Sir Charles Wolseley of Wolseley for the Lichfield Mercury and the Rugeley Mercury over 45 years ago.

The first of the Wolseley family to come to Ireland was William Wolseley from Wolseley in Staffordshire. He fought alongside King William III at the Battle of the Boyne and later bought the 2,500-acre estate of Mount Arran from Charles Butler, Earl of Arran, renaming it Mount Wolseley. When William Wolseley died unmarried, the estate passed his nephew Richard Wolseley, who was MP for Carlow from 1703 to 1713 and a younger brother of Sir William Wolseley, 5th Baronet, of Wolseley, Staffordshire.

Probably the most famous of all the Wolseleys was Frederick York Wolseley, who in 1895 started producing one of Britain’s most famous car marques – the Wolseley. The name dominated the British motor industry for eight decades until 1975, when the last car with the Wolseley name was produced.

Mount Wolseley House near Tullow, Co Carlow … home to generations of the Wolseley family (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

When Sir John Richard Wolseley (1834-1874), 6th Baronet, died aged 40, he was succeeded in the title by his brother Sir Clement James Wolseley (1837-1889), probably the last of the family to live at Mount Wolseley. The estate was sold for £4,500 in 1925 by Sir John’s daughters to the Patrician Brothers, who were founded in Tullow in 1808 by Bishop Daniel Delaney.

Meanwhile, the title of baronet in the Irish branch of the Wolseley family began to pass out in an ever-widening circle of distant cousins, and even the printed and online versions of the family tree are confusing and show many inconsistencies.

The eighth baronet, the Very Revd Dr Sir John Wolseley (1803-1890), was the Dean of Kildare (1859-1890) when he inherited the title on 16 October 1889. He only held the title for three months, and died on 26 January 1890. In all, five successive holders of the title died without heirs.

The tenth baronet, Sir Reginald Beatty Wolseley (1872-1933) was the son of a Dublin doctor. He inherited the family title when his cousin died in 1923, but he never used his title. Instead, he sought anonymity in self-imposed exile, working as an ‘elevator boy’ at the Black Hawk Bank Buildings in Waterloo, Iowa, for 18 years and living as plain Dick Wolseley.

That is, until his secret came out in May 1930. His mother’s dying wish was to visit Sir Reginald and persuade him to return to England. A day after her arrival in Iowa, Sir Reginald married his mother’s nurse, Marian Elizabeth Baker, a woman who was 18 years his junior. The day after their marriage, Marian returned to England on the understanding that he would follow her.

But the new Lady Wolseley realised that Sir Reginald was too set in his ways and that he was unwilling to move. He claimed he had taken the title and married her out of gratitude for the way she had cared for his mother. ‘I took the title for my wife,’ he said, ‘on marrying her out of gratitude for what she did for my mother. The title will be of advantage to her in English society. A lady is a lady over there.’

He obtained a divorce on the grounds that his wife ‘harassed him’ with telegrams trying to persuade him to return to England. However, she was not going to give way too easily. She returned to Iowa and in January 1932, she persuaded him to move, their divorce was annulled and Sir Reginald and Lady Wolseley moved to England.

Sir Reginald died 18 months later near Ilfracombe in Devon on 10 July 1933. Only a few villagers attended his funeral in Berry Harbour; 12 farmers carried his coffin, and his wife was dressed entirely in white. Lady Wolseley, who became a Justice of the Peace, died on 20 June 1934. Meanwhile the title passed to yet another distant cousin, the Revd Sir William Augustus Wolseley (1865-1950), who had succeeded as 11th baronet.

He was born on 19 April 1865, the only son of Charles Wolseley (1809-1889) and a grandson of the Revd William Wolseley, Rector of Dunaghy (1831-1846), Co Antrim, in the Diocese of Connor. They were descended through an obscure branch of the family from the first baronet, Sir Richard Wolseley, and Charles Wolseley could never have expected his only son was going to become heir to this title.

This was a strongly clerical branch of the Wolseley family, and the young William had two uncles who were priests, including the Ven Cadwallader Wolseley, who was Archdeacon of Glendalough, a canon of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, and Rector of Saint Andrew’s, Dublin.

So the young William was probably thinking of ordination from an early age, without any thoughts of a title or celebrity.

William Augustus Wolseley was educated in Rathmines at the school run by the Revd Dr Charles William Benson and at Trinity College Dublin, where he graduated BA in 1887.

Within a year, he was ordained deacon in 1888 by the Archbishop of Dublin, Lord Plunket, on behalf of the Bishop of Limerick, and he was appointed curate of the parish of Kilnaughtin with Aughavallin in the Diocese of Ardfert and Aghadoe. In 1889, he was ordained priest by Charles Graves, the Bishop of Limerick, Ardfert and Aghadoe.

William Wolseley remained a curate in this parish for 18 years before moving to Australia in 1906. There he was the Rector of Ravensthorpe, West Australia (1906-1910), and Denmark West Australia (1910-1920), before returning to England in 1920 to work in parishes in the Diocese of Durham and the Diocese of Newcastle. He was the Senior Curate of Christ Church, Felling (1921-1923), and Curate of Saint James, Burnopfield (1923-1927), and later had permission to officiate in the Diocese of Durham.

He was the Vicar of Alnham in rural Northumberland from 1932. That year, at the age of 67, he married Sarah Helen Grummitt, daughter of William Cotton Grummitt of Grantham, Lincolnshire, on 16 June 1932.

A year later, in 1933, he inherited the Wolseley title most unexpectedly from his very distant cousin. The story is told in the parish that the news came one day by post so that nobody but the Wolseleys knew about it. That morning, the butcher from Rothbury arrived in the village in his van and knocked on the vicarage door, calling: ‘Butcher Mrs Wolseley.’ There was no reply, so he tried again: ‘Butcher Mrs Wolseley.’ This time the response was: ‘Lady Wolseley if you please.’

Australian newspapers that reported his inheritance described him as ‘a rather eccentric clergyman, notorious wherever he went for the prodigious rate at which he preached.’ I am not sure yet whether this means that he preached too quickly, far too often, or that he preached for far too long … perhaps I shall find out in the parish records.

The 11th baronet retired from parish ministry in 1942, and he died at the age of 84 on 19 February 1950. He had no children and the title passed to another distant cousin, a cobbler living in a four-room flat in Bromborough, Cheshire. Garnet Wolseley was then earning £5.10s a week as a shoe-maker and he rode on a bicycle to work in a backstreet shop each day when he became the 12th baronet.

The new Sir Garnet’s wife, Lillian Mary Ellison, had been a telephone operator in Liverpool, and they lived ordinary working-class lives in post-war England until a genealogical quirk transformed them into international curiosities as Sir Garnet and Lady Wolseley.

By then, the Wolseley lineage had become so distant and dispersed that Debrett’s Peerage began an international search for an heir to the title. It seemed at the time the heir would be a very distant cousin and two Americans vied for the title, Noel Wolseley, of Manchester, New Hampshire, and Charles William Wolseley, of Brooklyn, New York. The search seemed to be reaching a conclusion when a widow living in Wallasey, near Liverpool, Mary Alexandra Wolseley (née Read) claimed the title on behalf of her son, Garnet Wolseley, a 35-year-old shoemaker.

It was soon discovered that her late husband was descended from a line in the family that many had thought had died out in the 19th century. Experts from Debrett’s examined the competing claims. The American contenders were ruled out, and the quiet, pipe-smoking bachelor cobbler became the 12th baronet of Mount Wolseley, Co Carlow.

On 12 August 1950, the new baronet had married Lillian Ellison in Wallasey Town Hall in Cheshire. They had known each other for 12 years, since they worked together in a grocery shop in Wallasey.

A Wolseley memorial in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A genealogical quirk of fate had transformed them into international curiosities as Sir Garnet and Lady Wolseley. A quiet, pipe-smoking cobbler had suddenly become the 12th baronet of Mount Wolseley, Co Carlow, but this new-found accidental status brought no wealth, property or privilege. Overwhelmed by the media attention, they emigrated in June 1951 to Canada, where Lady Wolseley’s uncle, Andrew Ellison, lived in Brantford.

‘In Canada, I hope to live the life of a lady,’ she said. But they soon found there are few class distinctions in Canada and they became merely objects of curiosity. They moved from one address to another, and Sir Garnet, who liked to be known as George, worked as a press operator at Cockshutt Farm Equipment and later as a gardener at the city parks department, until he retired in 1979. Lady Wolseley worked for a while at Bell Telephone and at a sweet shop.

Sir Garnet died in Canada on 3 October 1991. Lady Wolseley died at Brantford General Hospital at the age of 94.

Since Sir Garnet’s death, the title has not passed officially to a 13th baronet. The presumed baronet, Sir James Douglas Wolseley from Texas, has not been able to prove his claims to the title successfully, his name is not on the Official Roll of the Baronetage, and so the baronetcy has been considered dormant since 1991.

Soon after Wolseley left Kilnaughtin, his rector, Robert Beatty became Dean of Ardfert (1911-1917). In Saint Brendan’s Church on Sunday morning, I searched in vain for any mention of the Revd Sir William Augustus Wolseley who had served this parish faithfully for almost two decades. And so I headed off in search of Tarbert Island and the Tarbert to Killimer ferry.

29 January 2017

A Sunday morning at Kilnaughtin
and a landmark church in Tarbert

Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin, in Tarbert, Co Kerry, has a story going back centuries (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

There are four churches in the Rathkeale Group of Parishes, which spreads across much of west Co Limerick and parts of north Co Kerry.

I am living in the Rectory in Askeaton, close to Saint Mary’s Church, and last Sunday I presided at the Eucharist in Kilcronan Church, at Castltown near Pallaskenry, and Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale. This morning, for the first time, I presided and preached at the Eucharist in Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin, on the edges of Tarbert, Co Kerry.

Tarbert is best known, probably, for the ferry that plies across the Shannon Estuary, between Tarbert and Killimer, near Kilrush in Co Clare. For the past two centuries, the elegant steeple of Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin, has been a prominent feature of the landscape of Tarbert and its expansive bay. Like the Tarbert Lighthouse, which dates from 1834, the tower of Saint Brendan’s, with its pinnacles and rookery, represents home for many people from this part of North Kerry.

The parish of Kilnaughtin has ancient monastic origins that are associated with either Saint Neachtain and other Celtic saints or Saint Leachtain, who is said to have lived in the seventh century and to have been a disciple of Saint Finnen.

The list of rectors of the parish dates back to at least 1347, when a priest named Maurice FitzPeter was presented by the Crown on 4 September to the Church of Kylnathyn in Mynnour in the Diocese of Ardfert.

After that, however, there is a long gap in the records until 1418, when we come across Donald O’Kynnelyoe, when he is appointed Rector of Killreachtayn. The parish seems to have been vacant for a long time, and it is noted that Killreachtayn is commonly called the Church of Dunchacha and Dryseach and Tearmundscanayn. There were objections to his appointment too, and he needed a dispensation in those pre-Reformation days because he was the son of a priest.

As the FitzGeralds, Earls of Desmond, extended their power in this area, Dermot O’Connor, Lord of Tarbert and kinsman of John O’Connor Kerry of Carrigafoyle Castle, forfeited his lands in Tarbert to James FitzGerald, 6th Earl of Desmond, the ‘Usurper’ Earl, in 1450. Within a decade, the Earl of Desmond built a castle or tower house in Tarbert, probably located on the north side of the present-day Square.

The O’Connors kept their interests in the area, Lislaughtin Abbey is said to have been founded by John O’Connor Kerry in 1464, or perhaps even as late as 1478, between Tarbert and Ballylongford, for the Franciscan Friars of the Strict Observance, who became involved at the same time with the Franciscan Abbey in Askeaton.

It was, perhaps, the most elegant Hiberno-Gothic foundation in the Shannon region and it was such an important Franciscan centre that the Irish Province of the Franciscan Observatine Order held their chapter meeting there in 1507.

In 1574, Gerald FitzGerald (ca 1533–1583), 15th Earl of Desmond, granted possession of Tarbert Castle to James FitzMaurice FitzGerald, and later Eleanor, Countess of Desmond, lived there.

When Elizabethan forces attacked Lislaughtin Friary in 1580, three elderly friars failed to make their escape, and Danial Hanrahan, Philip O’Shea and Maurice Scanlon, were killed as they knelt in front of the high altar.

Following the Desmond Rebellion, the Franciscans were ejected from Lislaughtin in 1585. Meanwhile, and for almost 200 years the 15th century church at Kilnaughtin served as the Church of Ireland parish church, with some occasional interruptions. In 1587, following the defeat of the Earl of Desmond, the Manor and Castle of Tarbert and adjoining lands were granted to Sir William Herbert (1554-1593), a Welsh colonist, religious writer and politician.

Herbert became an ‘undertaker’ for the plantation of Munster in 1586, and he applied for three ‘seignories’ in Kerry. In 1587, he was allotted many of the lands confiscated confiscated the Earl of Desmond. This included Castleisland and its neighbourhood, and covered 13,276 acres. He wished to see Kerry colonised by English settlers, he had the articles of the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments translated into Irish, and directed the clergy on his estate to read the services in Irish.

After nearly two years at Castleisland, he acted as vice-president of Munster. But his work was severely attacked by Sir Edward Denny, High Sheriff of Kerry, and owner of Tralee and the neighbourhood, who complained of Herbert's self-conceit, and who said his constables were rogues. Herbert finally returned to England in 1589, and died in 1593. His only daughter and heir, Mary, married her cousin, Edward Herbert (1583–1648), 1st Baron Herbert of Cherbury, when he was 15 and she was 21; his brother was the priest-poet George Herbert (1593-1633).

The Herbert family lost its estate in Tarbert soon after, and in 1607, the Lord Deputy, Sir Arthur Chichester, asked the Privy Council to grant Tarbert to Patrick Crosbie of Leix. The grant was made subject to families from the Seven Septs of Leix being settled there.

Meanwhile, the Franciscans had returned to Lislaughtin Abbey by 1629, but in the Cromwellian assaults, the monks who fled the abbey in 1652 were shorn of their ears by Cromwellian soldiers, giving the bloody location the name of Gleann Cluaiseach, or the Glen of the Ears.

A year later, the Crosbie family sold Tarbert to the Roche family of Limerick in 1653. The lands were eventually sold to Daniel O’Brien, Lord Clare, who held them until the Battle of the Boyne and the subsequent the Treaty of Limerick in 1690. As a Jacobite, he was obliged to flee to France, and in 1697 John Leslie, a supporter of King William III, was granted the confiscated Tarbert estate of Lord Clare.

The Leslie family began building Tarbert House in 1700, and John Leslie was the Church Bishop of Limerick, Ardfert and Aghadoe from 1755 to 1770. In 1775, Sir Edward Leslie laid out the village of Tarbert. Around this time, the first Palatine settler, Peter Fitzell moves from Rathkeale to Tarbert as a tenant farmer on the Sandes estate at Sallowglen.

By 1778, Kilnaughtin Church was ‘in ruins’ and the Vestry Minutes record a discussion in Kilnaughtin that year on the need to move the church from Kilnaughtin to Tieraclea or Steeple Road. The Church was moved to a new and more central location on Steeple Road, closer to the town and port of Tarbert. From 1779 on, the Vestry Minutes for Kilnaughtin are written from the ‘church of Tieraclea’,’ so looks the new church probably dates dates from 1778.

But the new church was destroyed in a ‘violent hurricane’ in 1789, and an enlarged church was built on Steeple Road. The Vestry Minutes from Kilnaughtin for 1812 and later show that the present church, which has the date 1814 inscribed above the porch, is a rebuilding and extension of the existing church at Tieraclea.

Around the same time, Sir Edward Leslie established an Erasmus Smith School on the Glin Road in 1790. The school has 75 Roman Catholic pupils (56%) and 44 Protestant pupils (44%) on the roll book. When Sir Edward Leslie died at the age of 73 in Weymouth in 1818, the title of baronet he had received in 1787 died out and a considerable fortune of between £3,000 and £4,000 a year devolved on his first cousin, Robert Leslie of Leslie Lodge, Tieraclea.

Samuel Lewis in his Topographical Directory of Ireland in 1837 notes that the Rectory of Kilnaughtin was impropriate in Anthony Raymond, who was receiving two-thirds of the tithes, while the vicar received only one-third.

The church was remodelled again in the 1850s and 1860s under the influence of the Anglo-Catholic Oxford Movement, giving it the present unusual shape and structure. In 1867, the architects William John Welland (1832-1895) and William Gillespie (1818-1899) designed and laid out new pews for the T-plan church of 1814.

In 1876, the Kerry-born architect James Franklin Fuller (1835-1924) prepared plans for additions to the church. The work was in progress in November 1877, and the chancel was completed by September 1878. The contractor was a Mr Crosbie of Tralee.

Fuller’s alterations and additions realigned the church, so that the original east-west church became the transepts, while the chancel area or top of the church is now at the south end of the building. The Irish Ecclesiastical Gazette, the forerunner of the Church of Ireland Gazette, reported during this renovation: ‘A correspondent tells us that a very handsome stone cross, which was to have been placed on the new porch, has been thrown aside, the incumbent objecting to its erection.’

The inscriptions on the church plate include ‘Tarbert Church 1857’ and ‘Kilnaughtin Church 1866.’ The plaques in the church commemorate many prominent local families, including the Fitzell, Leslie and Sandes families, and one plaque was moved from the former Methodist Church in Tarbert into the church.

The sound system in Saint Brendan’s Church was presented in memory of Archdeacon Wallace (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

An interesting preacher in the mid-20th century was Archbishop Alfred Edwin Morris (1894-1971), Archbishop of Wales and Bishop of Monmouth, who preached here in 1959. At the time, Archdeacon John Murdock Wallace (1907-1982), was the Rector of Kilnaughtin (1959-1982), and he later became Archdeacon of Ardfert (1962-1979).

Archbishop Morris studied theology at Saint John’s College, Oxford, and was ordained in 1924. He was the Professor of Hebrew and Theology at Saint David’s College, Lampeter, before becoming Bishop of Monmouth in 1945. His predecessor in the diocese was the Irish-born Alfred Edwin Monahan (1877–1945), who was Bishop of Monmouth from 1940 until his death in 1945.

Archbishop Morris was a staunch, if not stubborn, defender of the Anglican Church in Wales. He stirred controversy when he described the Church in Wales as ‘the Catholic Church in this land’ and referred to Roman Catholic and Nonconformist clergy as being ‘strictly speaking, intruders’ whose rights to function in Wales could not be acknowledged.

He also campaigned against the retention of the word ‘Protestant’ in the Coronation Oath. Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher of Canterbury questioned whether such matters were really the business of a prelate who was ‘not a bishop of the Church of England.’ Later Fisher and Morris were later among the senior clergy who objected to the proposed Anglican-Methodist reunion in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

For all his claims to be a Tractarian, Morris did not always endear himself to his more Anglo-Catholic clergy in Wales. He prohibited extra-Eucharistic devotions such as Benediction in his diocese, and he insisted that permission be sought before the Sacrament was reserved in a tabernacle or aumbry for use in giving Holy Communion to the sick.

On the other hand, as Archbishop of Wales, he oversaw the preparation of a new Order for the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist for use in the Church in Wales. When this replaced the 1662 rite in 1966, he commended it unreservedly. He retired in 1967, and died four years later.

In 1959, the year Archbishop Morris was a visiting preacher in Saint Brendan’s, Kilnaughtin, was united with the Listowel Group, and the parish was united with the Tralee Group from 1982 to 1994. In 1994, it was transferred to the Rathkeale Group of Parishes, although it remains in the Diocese of Ardfert.

Further restoration works were carried out in 1988, when the church was given a new roof.

The parish took the date 1814 over the north porch as a good way to celebrate its bicentennial three years ago, and an ecumenical service of thanksgiving was held in Saint Brendan’s Church on 17 August 2014. The service was led by my immediate predecessor in the parish, the Revd Dr Keith Scott, and the music was led by the choir of Saint Mary’s Church and a local choir, Lyric Voices, led by Priscilla O’Donovan, a parishioner in Saint Brendan’s.

As part of these celebrations, the parish also published a well-researched and finely illustrated history, St Brendan’s Church of Ireland, Tarbert, 1814-2014. Two Hundred Years of Change.

I plan to be back in Saint Brendan’s Church next Sunday [5 February 2017], when the two services in this group of parishes are at 9.45 a.m. in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, and at 11.15 a.m. in Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin.

Inside Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin, this morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

If I was accused of being a Christian, would
there be enough evidence to convict me?

‘If I was accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict me?

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 29 January 2017,

The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany,

The Parish Eucharist,

Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin, Steeple Road, Tarbert, Co Kerry.

Micah 6: 1-8; Psalm 15; I Corinthians 1: 18-31; Matthew 5: 1-12.

In the name of + the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Our Gospel reading (Matthew 5: 1-12) this morning is the most familiar account of the Beatitudes, more familiar than the accounts in either Saint Mark’s or Saint Luke’s Gospels.

The Beatitudes are familiar to us all, culturally embedded in our society, in our literature, in our arts. But how do we apply the Beatitudes to our own lives? How do we read them with fresh insights?

The Beatitudes are the New Covenant between God and God’s people, comparable to Moses coming down Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments.

But instead of a list of things that seems to begin every command with ‘Thou shalt not,’ ‘Thou shalt not,’ this is a declaration of the happy or fortunate state of the children of God who possess particular qualities, and who, because of them, will inherit divine blessings.

We could compare the delivery of the Beatitudes to the delivery of the Ten Commandments. Here we have the renewal of the covenant, and a restatement, a re-presentation, of who the Children of God are.

Just as we sometimes find the Ten Commandments grouped into two sets, so we might see the Beatitudes set out in two groups of four. The first four Beatitudes address attitudes, the second four deal with actions.

Are they requirements for the present?

Or they blessings for the future?

Or are they are statements of present fact?

How do we apply the Beatitudes in our day-to-day lives?

Which is your favourite Beatitude? And which one makes me most uncomfortable?

The Sermon on the Mount, by Cosimo Rosselli, from the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican

The scene opens with Christ leaving the crowds and climbing up the mountain, like Moses leaving the crowd behind him and climbing Mount Sinai.

He goes up the mountain and sits sat down. In those days, a teacher sat down to teach. But we could also imagine Christ as the king, sitting on his throne, so that his teachings are about kingdom values, with not just the disciples, but the crowd gathered around him.

What does he mean when says ‘blessed are …’? Who are the blessed?

The word he uses is μακάριος (makários). Does anyone remember His Beatitude, Archbishop Makarios (1913-1977), the former President of Cyprus? ‘His Beatitude’ is a term of respect for archbishops in the Orthodox Church.

But we might also translate ‘blessed’ as ‘fortunate,’ ‘well off,’ or ‘happy.’

Christ is telling people they are fortunate to be this or that why way. They are fortunate to possess these qualities of life. Why?

Blessed are ‘the poor’: those in total poverty, possessing nothing and with no means to earn a living other than begging. Not because this is a good state to be in, but those who are dependent on God possess the riches of his kingdom.

Blessed are ‘those who mourn,’ those who know their needs before God, those who are broken before God. They will be comforted, like the Holy Spirit is promised as a comforter, they will be consoled.

Blessed are ‘the meek,’ the humble, the gentle, the self-effacing, those of mild disposition or gentle spirit, those who do not make great demands on God, but submit to the will of God, for they will possess the earth.

‘Blessed are the Meek’ is misheard in Monty Python’s The Life of Brian as: ‘Blessed is the Greek.’ When the crowd finally gets what Jesus says, a woman says: ‘Oh it’s the Meek … blessed are the Meek! That’s nice, I’m glad they’re getting something …’

Blessed are ‘those who hunger,’ those who are hungering, ‘for righteousness,’ for justice, for God’s justice. They will be satisfied, to the full.’

Blessed are ‘the merciful.’ The quality of mercy is not strained, as Shakespeare reminds us, and Jesus illustrates the quality of mercy later, in the Lord’s Prayer, when we are reminded to pray that we are forgiven as we forgive others. Happy are those who experience God’s mercy, and then find they know God’s mercy.

Blessed are ‘the pure in heart,’ those who desire to touch the divine, to ‘be like God,’ to ‘see God,’ and who find themselves in God’s presence.

Blessed are the peace-makers, not the peace-seekers, nor the peace-lovers, but the peace-makers. This is the one and only use of this phrase in the New Testament. How unique and unusual a beatitude. Yet, while it leaps off the pages, we try so often to scale it down, to refuse to take it literally.

This beatitude is also parodied in The Life of Brian, where people in the crowd hear Christ saying: ‘Blessed are the cheese makers.’ And the response is: ‘Well, obviously it’s not meant to be taken literally. It refers to any manufacturers of dairy products.’

We parody this beatitude when we think Christ is talking about those who seek or wish for peace, and not those who make peace, who take risks for peace … and we oh so need them at this time in Ireland, in Northern Ireland, in Britain, in the United States, in Syria, in the Middle East.

The peacemakers shall be called the children of God. If we are children of God, then we act like God. And if we act like God, others may see what God is like, and may answer the invitation to become members of God’s family.

Blessed are ‘those who are persecuted,’ the ones being persecuted. The perfect tense indicates persecution that began in time past and that continues into time present. In the Greek original, Christ is talking about those who are put to flight, who are driven away. They are being persecuted ‘because of,’ for the sake of, the kingdom values set out in the Beatitudes.

‘Blessed are you …’ – there is a change in this next beatitude from the third person in the previous verses to the second person in this final beatitude – blessed are you whenever, people insult, reproach or upbraid you, ‘falsely,’ under false pretensions, for the sake of Christ.

I wonder what it would be like to be insulted falsely for being a Christian, to be accused of being a Christian. At one time, we had a poster in our kitchen that asked: ‘If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?’

‘Rejoice and be glad’ – in fact, ‘rejoice and be exceedingly glad’ – not merely because you are blessed, but because we have two good reasons for such a joyous response.

The first because is that the reward, the payment, the wage for us is great in the heavens. Present suffering is going to give way to something in the future that is exceptionally rewarding.

The second because is that ‘in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’ So, we can look forward to being in good company.

Father Brian D’Arcy once recalled how people going to confession regularly confess to ‘breaking’ one of the Ten Commandments. But he wondered how often they confess to ‘breaking’ one of the Eight Beatitudes.

In Boris Pasternak’s great Russian novel Doctor Zhivago, Larissa Feodorovna Guishar, who is ‘not religious’ and does ‘not believe in ritual,’ is startled by the Beatitudes, for she thinks they were about herself.

Do I think the Beatitudes are about myself? Do they make me comfortable or uncomfortable?

And, applying the Beatitudes to my own life, lifestyle and priorities, if I was accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict me? That would be a blessed surprise, I imagine.

And so, may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin, in Tarbert, Co Kerry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 5: 1-12

1 Ἰδὼν δὲ τοὺς ὄχλους ἀνέβη εἰς τὸ ὄρος: καὶ καθίσαντος αὐτοῦ προσῆλθαν αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ: 2 καὶ ἀνοίξας τὸ στόμα αὐτοῦ ἐδίδασκεν αὐτοὺς λέγων,

3 Μακάριοι οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι, ὅτι αὐτῶν ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν.

4 Μακάριοι οἱ πενθοῦντες, ὅτι αὐτοὶ παρακληθήσονται.

5 Μακάριοι οἱ πραεῖς, ὅτι αὐτοὶ κληρονομήσουσιν τὴν γῆν.

6 Μακάριοι οἱ πεινῶντες καὶ διψῶντες τὴν δικαιοσύνην, ὅτι αὐτοὶ χορτασθήσονται.

7 Μακάριοι οἱ ἐλεήμονες, ὅτι αὐτοὶ ἐλεηθήσονται.

8 Μακάριοι οἱ καθαροὶ τῇ καρδίᾳ, ὅτι αὐτοὶ τὸν θεὸν ὄψονται.

9 Μακάριοι οἱ εἰρηνοποιοί, ὅτι αὐτοὶ υἱοὶ θεοῦ κληθήσονται.

10 Μακάριοι οἱ δεδιωγμένοι ἕνεκεν δικαιοσύνης, ὅτι αὐτῶν ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν.

11 Μακάριοί ἐστε ὅταν ὀνειδίσωσιν ὑμᾶς καὶ διώξωσιν καὶ εἴπωσιν πᾶν πονηρὸν καθ' ὑμῶν [ψευδόμενοι] ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ: 12 χαίρετε καὶ ἀγαλλιᾶσθε, ὅτι ὁ μισθὸς ὑμῶν πολὺς ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς: οὕτως γὰρ ἐδίωξαν τοὺς προφήτας τοὺς πρὸ ὑμῶν.

1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

3 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

5 ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

6 ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

7 ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

8 ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

9 ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

10 ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 ‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’


Creator God,
who in the beginning
commanded the light to shine out of darkness:
We pray that the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ
may dispel the darkness of ignorance and unbelief,
shine into the hearts of all your people,
and reveal the knowledge of your glory
in the face of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Post-Communion Prayer:

Generous Lord,
in word and Eucharist we have proclaimed
the mystery of your love.
Help us so to live out our days
that we may be signs of your wonders in the world;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

(Revd Professor) Patrick Comerford is Priest-in-Charge of the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes, and Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This sermon was preached at the Parish Eucharist in Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin, Tarbert, Co Kerry, on 29 January 2017.

28 January 2017

New chapter for journalist
turned ‘priest-in-charge’

Attending the Church of Ireland Service of Welcome for The Reverend Patrick Comerford as the new priest in charge of the Rathkeale Group of Parishes in the Holy Trinity Church last Friday night in Rathkeale. In photo Deputy Niall Collins; Cllr Adam Teskey; Archbishop of Dublin Most Revd John Neill; Rev Patrick Comerford; Bishop of Limerick, Right Rev Kenneth Kearon; Cllr Stephen Keary and Minister Patrick O’Donovan (Photograph: Marie Keating / Limerick Leader)

Patrick Comerford

Today’s West Limerick edition of the Limerick Leader [28 January 2017] publishes a full-page ‘Picture Special’ feature on page 19 on the Service of Introduction in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, last week [22 January 2017], with a news report by reporter Maria Flannery, and 14 colour photographs by photographer Marie Keating.

Today’s full-page report by Maria Flannery and photographs by Marie Keating in the Limerick Leader)

The report reads:

Rathkeale: Rev Comerford Installation

■ Rev Patrick Comerford is appointed to Rathkeale Group of Parishes

New chapter for journalist
turned ‘priest-in-charge’

Maria Flannery

A former Irish Times journalist has been appointed the Church of Ireland priest-in-charge of the Rathkeale Group of Parishes.

Reverend Patrick Comerford has embarked on a new chapter with the move to west Limerick, after having worked as a journalist and a professor over the past 20 years.

“I’m enjoying it, it’s a pleasure, a delight for me,” said Rev Comerford, who worked as Foreign Desk Editor at the national newspaper.

“I only moved into the rectory in Askeaton last Thursday, and already I have been throughout Askeaton and Rahkeale and to the church at Castletown in Pallaskenry.

“There’s a delightful sense of community, and they’ve welcomed me into the heart of their community, which is beautiful,” said the Dublin-born cleric.

For the past 11 years, Rev Comerford has been a theology lecturer at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and has worked as an assistant professor in Trinity College Dublin.

“So this is a completely different form of ministry for me,” he said.

He said that he “burned a candle at both ends by going back to college”, completing a degree in theology while holding down his journalism job.

“I worked for the Irish Times for 26 or 27 years, the last eight years of which I was the Foreign Desk Editor,” said the Reverend.

“Before that I had worked in provincial journalism with the Wexford People.

“I was ordained while I was Foreign Desk Editor in the Irish Times,” he recalled.

A husband and father to two sons, Rev Comerford is also a daily blogger on his site www.patrickcomerford.com.

On this site he shares everything from travel, to sermons, lecture notes and eating out.

“As a former journalist, I find it easy to put together a couple of hundred words first thing in the morning, it just comes naturally to me.”

Rev Comerford’s area of ministry spans across four churches across two dioceses: Holy Trinity Church in Rathkeale, St Mary’s Church in Askeaton, Castletown just outside Pallaskenry and St Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin, Tarbert.

Rev Patrick Comerford, pictured after his installation as priest-in-charge, Rathkeale Group of Parishes (Photograph: Marie Keating / Limerick Leader)

The new Reverend of Ratheale and Kilnaughtin Patrick Comerford is pictured with his wife Barbara (Photograph: Marie Keating / Limerick Leader)

‘Hollywood’s one-man UN’ and
his family roots in Askeaton

J Carrol Naish as General Philip Sheridan in Rio Grande ... it was his only Irish part, although his family was from Askeaton, Co Limerick

Patrick Comerford

An Irish actor once played so many different nationalities in Holywood that he became known ‘Hollywood’s one-man UN.’ He also took a brave stand against Hitler and Mussolini in a movie in 1943, speaking out against racism and concentration camps.

J Carrol Naish is fading from memories today. But for my generation was known for his parts in 1960s television series such as I Dream of Jeanie, The Man from Uncle, Greenaces, Bonanza and Get Smart. And I was delighted to learn that he was a member of family from Askeaton that once played an interesting role in Liberal politics in Victorian Ireland.

I first came across the story of J Carrol Naish and his Holywood career after noting the interesting family tomb of the Naish family of Ballycullen Castle, Askeaton. The tomb is generally hidden from public view, behind the padlocked gate of the Chapter House off the cloisters in the Franciscan Abbey in Askeaton. And memories of the Naish family from Askeaton are fading, for while they claimed to have been granted their land by King John in 1210, the Ballycullen estate later passed to the O’Donnell family.

Ballycullen House was built in 1740, but for several hundred years Ballycullen was the home of the Naish family. David Fitz James Ruadh Naish, then owner of Ballycullen Castle, was killed in 1581 during the Desmond Rebellion. A descendant of his was one of the few Roman Catholics who fought for Lord Broghill during the Cromwellian campaign in Munster.

Carrol Patrick Naish (1801-1861) was twice married and the father of two interesting political sons. He and his first wife, Mary Sampson, of Ballycullen House, Askeaton, were the parents of Carrol John Naish (1825-1890). Carrol Patrick Naish and his second wife, Anna Margaret Carroll, were the parents of the Right Hon John Naish (1842-1890).

Carrol John Naish was born in Ballycullen House, Askeaton, on 15 June 1825. He was educated at Trinity College Dublin, and became a magistrate for Co Limerick. He inherited the Ballycullen estate when his father died in 1861. One of his sisters, Mary Caroline, became a Sister of Mercy and died at the age of 32. He married Eleanor Mary Naish (born Staunton), and some of their children died in infancy too.

His younger half-brother, the Right Hon John Naish PC, QC (1841–1890) was an Irish lawyer and judge, and was the Lord Chancellor of Ireland in 1885 and 1886. The office of Lord Chancellor was the highest judicial office in Ireland until the Irish Free State was established in 1922. Until the Act of Union, the Lord Chancellor had also been the Speaker of the Irish House of Lords.

Naish was born in Askeaton on 15 August 1841, and was educated by the Jesuits at Clongowes Wood School, Co Kildare, before going on to Trinity College Dublin. He was an outstanding student, gaining many distinctions in mathematics, physics and natural science, as well as law.

He was called to the Irish Bar in 1865, and practiced on the Munster Circuit, becoming a QC in 1880. His career as a barrister was mixed. He was too nervous and retiring to be a good advocate, but hard work and academic brilliance partly compensated for this. He appeared in the celebrated libel action brought by Canon O'Keeffe against Cardinal Paul Cullen, and with Edmund Bewley he co-wrote an influential textbook, A Treatise on the Common Law Procedure Acts.

Naish became Law Adviser to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1880 and is credited with suggesting that magistrates in their ongoing struggle with the Irish National Land League, should rely on an obscure mediaeval statute, 34 Edward III c.1, to jail activists who could not find sureties for their good behaviour.

He was the Solicitor-General for Ireland from January 1883 and Attorney-General for Ireland from December 1883. He stood as the Liberal candidate in Mallow in 1882, but in the fraught political atmosphere following the Phoenix Park murders, he was crushingly defeated by the Nationalist candidate, William O’Brien.

He was appointed to the Privy Council of Ireland in 1885 and in May 1885, at the early age of 42, Gladstone made him Lord Chancellor of Ireland, in succession to Sir Edward Sullivan. He was only the second Roman Catholic Chancellor since the Reformation, but held office only until July, when the Liberal government resigned office.

He was appointed a permanent Lord Justice of Appeal in August 1885, and became Lord Chancellor again when Gladstone returned to office in February 1886. In June 1886, the government resigned once again, and Naish resigned with them. He then resumed the duties of Lord Justice of Appeal, continuing in office until 1890.

But Naish’s health failed when he was still in his late 40s. He travelled to the Continent in the hope of a cure, but died at the German spa town of Bad Ems on 17 August 1890 and was buried there.

Naish married Maud Dease, daughter of James Arthur Dease of Turbotston, Co Westmeath, and they had three children. Her sister, Mary Dease became the Countess of Gainsborough when her husband, Charles Francis Noel, succeeded as 3rd Earl of Gainsborough; they lived at Exton Hall in Rutland, where Exton Park was the largest estate in England’s smallest county. Maud Naish is commemorated in a stained glass window in Coole Church, Co Westmeath.

The Saint Matilda window in Coole Church, Co Westmeath, commemorates Matilda (Maud) Naish (née Dease) and her family (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

The older of the two Naish half-brothers, Carrol John Naish, who also died in 1890, was the father of Patrick Sarsfield Naish (1871-1954), who was born in Askeaton in March 1871.

Following the death of his father, Patrick Sarsfield Naish emigrated to New York at the age of 19 in 1890. In New York, he met Catherine Moran, who was from Foynes, Co Limerick. They married and had eight children, including the Hollywood character actor, James Patrick Carroll Nash (1896-1973).

Naish, who was known professionally as J Carrol Naish, was nominated twice for an Academy Award for film roles, and he later found fame in the title role of CBS Radio’s Life with Luigi (1948-1953).

Naish was born in New York 121 years ago on 21 January 21 1896. He appeared on stage for several years before he began his film career. He began as a member of Gus Edwards’s vaudeville troupe of child performers.

After World War I, he worked as a singer and dancer in Paris, later taking his act to far-flung corners of the world, from Europe to Egypt to Asia. Once on these travels, after the ship he planned to sail on to China had engine troubles, he was left stranded in California in 1926. There his life-long film career began.

Naish found a bit part that year in What Price Glory?. Although he was not named in the credits, the role launched his career in more than 200 films, and he was twice nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

‘Are my eyes blind that I must fall to my knees to worship a maniac who has made of my country a concentration camp, who has made of my people slaves? Must I kiss the hand that beats me, lick the boot that kicks me?’ ... J Carrol Naish as Giuseppe in Sahara (1943)

The first nomination was for his role as Giuseppe in the movie Sahara (1943) in which he delivers a moving speech that is memorable for a war-time film:

Mussolini is not so clever like Hitler, he can dress up his Italians only to look like thieves, cheats, murderers, he cannot like Hitler make them feel like that. He cannot like Hitler scrape from their conscience the knowledge right is right and wrong is wrong, or dig holes in their heads to plant his own Ten Commandments – Steal from thy neighbour, Cheat thy neighbour, Kill thy neighbour! But are my eyes blind that I must fall to my knees to worship a maniac who has made of my country a concentration camp, who has made of my people slaves? Must I kiss the hand that beats me, lick the boot that kicks me? NO!

The second nomination was for his performance as the title character’s Hispanic father in A Medal for Benny (1945). For his part in this film, he won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture.

Naish often played villains – from gangsters in Paramount pictures to mad scientists such as Dr Daka in the Batman film serial. In the 1940s, he was a supporting character in a number of horror films, and played Boris Karloff’s assistant in House of Frankenstein (1944).

On radio, he starred as Luigi Basco, an Italian immigrant named, in the popular CBS programme Life with Luigi (1948-1953). The audience ratings outstripped those for Bob Hope in 1950 ratings. Luigi’s popularity resulted in a CBS television series of the same name, with Naish reprising his role.

In 1956, he portrayed Charlie Chan in a 39-episode television series, The New Adventures of Charlie Chan. In the 1960s, he had parts in television series such as I Dream of Jeanie, The Man from Uncle, Greenaces, Bonanza and Get Smart. His final film role was in 1971 as a mad scientist in Dracula vs. Frankenstein.

Naish married the actress Gladys Heaney (1907-1987) in 1929, and they were the parents of a daughter, Elaine.

The couple visited Limerick for the first time in 1957, when they stayed in Cruise’s Hotel. They visited Ballycullen House where he retrieved a slate from the house that he took back to America with him. While in Limerick, they also visited Foynes, where her mother was born.

Naish died of emphysema 44 years ago, on 24 January 1973, at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California, three days after his 77th birthday. For his contributions to television, he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6145 Hollywood Boulevard.

Throughout a career that lasted for more than 40 years, he worked on over 225 films and television shows. He was famed in his time and worked with noted directors like Fritz Lang, John Ford, and Anthony Mann. He co-starred with Bogart, Edward G Robinson, John Wayne and Ingrid Bergman.

He played characters from many other ethnic backgrounds, including Southern European, Eastern European, Latin American, Native American, Middle Eastern, South Asian, East Asian, South-East Asian, Pacific Islander – even African American. These parts earned him a reputation as ‘Hollywood’s one-man UN.’

Despite this interesting variety of roles, and despite his family roots in Askeaton, Naish played the role of an Irishman only once as General Philip Sheridan (1831-1888) in the 1950 film Rio Grande, alongside John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. He once said: ‘When the part of an Irishman comes along, nobody ever thinks of me.’
In Rio Grande, Colonel Kirby Yorke (John Wayne) is visited by his former Civil War commander, General Sheridan (J Carrol Naish), who orders Yorke to cross the Rio Grande into Mexico in pursuit of the Apaches, an action with serious political implications as it violates the sovereignty of another nation.

It is a fictional event, despite the involvement of real-life characters. Perhaps its the sort of event that inspires Donald Trump to treat Mexico with contempt and to cinfuse fact with fiction. But perhaps he could pay more attention to J Carrol Naish as an actor who enjoyed ethnic diversity, variety and pluralism in the United States and who spoke out against a megalomaniac leader who would have his people ‘scrape from their conscience the knowledge right is right and wrong is wrong, or dig holes in their heads to plant his own Ten Commandments – Steal from thy neighbour, Cheat thy neighbour, Kill thy neighbour.’

J Carrol Naish (left) as General Sheridan in Rio Grande ... he returned to Askeaton in 1957

27 January 2017

In search of the last two
sitting MPs for Askeaton

The Square, Askeaton … the town sent two MPs to the Irish House of Commons until the Act of Union (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I am now living in the Rectory in Askeaton in west Co Limerick. Today, Askeaton has a population of about 1,200, but it was such an important town in the early 17th century that it was incorporated by charter as a borough in 1613, with the formal of ‘the Sovereign, Free Burgesses, and Community of the Borough of Askeaton.’ This corporation consisted of a sovereign or mayor and 12 free burgesses or town councillors, who, along with other privileges, could hold a court of record every Monday for the trial of all actions personal to the extent of five marks.

The borough became a constituency, and Askeaton continued to return two MPs to the Irish House of Commons from 1614 until the constituency was abolished in 1801.

So for my predecessors in Askeaton, this would have been both their parish and their constituency.

The records for the constituency are not complete for most of the 17th century, and the list of MPs for Askeaton is only full from the late 17th century and the Williamite wars. So I have gone in search of the last two sitting MPs for Askeaton, Sir Joseph Hoare, who was MP from 1761 to 1800, and Sir Vere Hunt, who sat with him from 1798 to 1800.

Sir Joseph Hoare (1707-1801) was descended from a family that had been living in Ireland in the early 17th century. His father, Edward Hoare, had been MP for Cork.

Hoare was born on Christmas Day, 25 December 1707. He was practising as a barrister when he was elected to the Irish House of Commons in 1761 as one of the two MPs for Askeaton. While was sitting as MP for Askeaton, he was given the title of baronet in 1784.

His son, Sir Edward Hoare (1745-1814), also sat in the Irish House of Commons as MP for Carlow (1768-1776) and for Banagher (1790-1800).

He continued to hold the seat until 1800, when Askeaton was abolished as a ‘rotten borough’ under the terms of the Act of Union and the Irish Parliament was dissolved.

Hoare passionately opposed the Act of Union and he spoke at length against it in the House of Commons despite his age – he was over 90 at the time. He died shortly after the act came into force, on 24 December 1801.

The other sitting MP for Askeaton at the Act of Union was Sir Vere Hunt (1761-1818), also known as Sir Aubrey de Vere Hunt, who sat with Sir Joseph Hoare in the Irish Commons from 1798 to 1800. Hunt was a diarist and a landowner and businessman who founded the village of New Birmingham in Co Tipperary, and who bought Lundy Island in an ill-advised venture.

Hunt was the son of Vere Hunt of Curragh Chase, Co Limerick, and a grandson of the Revd Vere Hunt (died 1759). He claimed descent from the Earls of Oxford through Jane de Vere, a granddaughter of the 15th Earl, who married Henry Hunt in 1572. Vere Hunt, an officer in Oliver Cromwell’s army, and settled in Ireland in 1657. The Hunt or de Vere family owned estate in this part of Co Limerick for 300 years until 1957, and this is now the Curraghchase Forest Park.

In 1784, he married Elinor (Ellen), daughter of William Cecil Pery (1721–1794), 1st Baron Glentworth and Church of Ireland Bishop of Limerick (1784-1794), and a sister of Edward Pery, 1st Earl of Limerick. Sir Aubrey Hunt was given the title of baronet that year when he was appointed High Sheriff of Co Limerick. He raised and commanded three infantry regiments during the French Revolutionary Wars, including the 135th (Limerick) Regiment of Foot.

In 1798, he was elected as the second MP for the constituency of Askeaton, and in 1799 he bought the ‘rotten borough’ of Askeaton for £5,000. But he only held his seat in the Irish House of Commons for two years. Against his political inclinations, he voted for the Act of Union in 1800, apparently hoping to recouping the enormous expenses he had incurred as an MP and which were estimated at £5,000.

There was no universal suffrage at the time, and the electors for the constituency of Askeaton were the Sovereign and the 12 burgesses. But they were in the pocket of the patrons of the borough, the Earl of Carrick and the Hon Hugh Massy.

Henry Thomas Butler (1746-1813) inherited half of the seignory of Askeaton on his marriage to Sarah Taylor. The other half went to her sister, Catherine, who married Hugh Massy (1733-90). Through the marriage of Henry Butler and to Sarah Taylor, several townlands in Askeaton came to be listed as the property of the Earl of Carrick.

When Askeaton lost its status as a separate constituency with the Act of Union, £15,000 was awarded in compensation for the loss of that privilege. But, despite Hunt’s hopes of monetary gain, £6,850 was paid to Henry Thomas Butler, 2nd Earl of Carrick, another £6,850 went to the trustees of the will of Hugh Massy (1733–1790), 2nd Lord Massy, and a former MP for Co Limerick, and only £1,100 went to Sir Vere Hunt and £200 to Sir Joseph Hoare. In addition, Hunt was appointed to the ‘weightmastership’ of Cork, a sinecure that provided him with an income of £600 a year.

Hunt was disappointed, and took an action in court for what he thought was his rightful share of the money. However, his case was thrown out of court, and the judge told him he ought to ashamed for coming to court with such a claim.

Hunt went on to make one disastrous business decision after another. At an auction in March 1802, he bought Lundy Island off the coast of Devon from John Cleveland for £5,270. He believed the owner of Lundy did not have to pay taxes, and he had a plan to establish an Irish colony on the island, with its own constitution, laws, coinage, divorce laws and stamps. But the colony was a failure, and the venture cost him so much money that he spent years pleading with the Crown to take Lundy off his hands.

His entertaining diary shows him as an eccentric who enjoyed life, food, drink, music and the theatre. He managed a touring theatre company, founded a newspaper and took part in duelling, fighting his first duel at the age of 18. He was also a heavy gambler, and his debts were so large that he spent much of 1803 in the Fleet Prison in London.

On the other hand, Hunt was a benevolent landlord who tried to improve the condition of his tenants. He opened a coalmine at Glengoole, Co Tipperary, and founded the village of New Birmingham, near Thurles, to house the miners. He obtained a charter to hold regular markets and fairs in the village.

Although Vere Hunt and his wife Eleanor had one son, Aubrey, their marriage was unhappy and they were living apart when he died on 11 August 1818.

The Hunt family graves in the south-east corner of Saint Mary’s Churchyard (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

It is said he was buried in Saint Mary’s Churchyard, Askeaton. Although I have been unable to find the precise location of his grave, there are a number of old Hunt family graves in the south-east corner of the churchyard.

Many years after his death, Lundy was eventually sold by his son, also Sir Aubrey Hunt (1788-1846), who succeeded to the title and who changed his name in 1832 to Sir Aubrey de Vere.

Walking by the banks of the River Deel in Askeaton (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)