21 September 2017

USPG seeks help for work in
Caribbean and Bangladesh

USPG is seeking support for its work with over 32 million people in the Caribbean (Photograph; USPG)

Patrick Comerford

Over 32 million people in the Caribbean have been exposed to high wind zones. Some islands, such as Anguilla, have reported critical damage with up to 90 per cent of infrastructure being damaged.

Hurricane Irma made landfall on the northeast Caribbean islands in the early hours of 6 September.

Irma has been classified as a Category 5 storm – the strongest and most destructive category of hurricane – and it is considered the most powerful hurricane to be ever recorded over the Atlantic Ocean.

The intensity of hurricanes is linked to the surface temperature of the sea. As such, there is concern the warming of the oceans due to climate change is contributing to these high intensity storms.

Over 32 million people in the Caribbean have been exposed to high wind zones. Some islands, such as Anguilla, have reported critical damage with up to 90 per cent of infrastructure being damaged.

The Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is in close contact with the Archbishop and Bishops of the Church of the Province of the West Indies (CPWI).

USPG is standing with them in solidarity at this time, offering financial support and holding them closely in our prayers during this season of hurricanes.

You can donate to USPG’s Caribbean relief fund here.

Bishop Charles of Guyana has written: ‘Many thanks for your concern, prayers and financial support’ (7 September 2017).

Archbishop John of Barbados says: ‘Thanks for this note of concern and support. Some of the islands in the Diocese of the North-East Caribbean and Aruba suffered significant damage. Do continue to pray for us. Will keep in touch’ (7 September 2017).

A USPG emergency grant is also helping the Church of Bangladesh reach out to communities after monsoon rains caused flooding in Bangladesh and neighbouring countries that has claimed more than 250 lives.

The grant, from USPG’s Rapid Response Fund, will provide some of the worst-affected communities with food, clothes, medicine and safe drinking water.

Bishop Paul Sarker, Moderator of the Church of Bangladesh, told USPG: ‘The flood has taken hundreds of lives and washed away many houses, crops and cattle.

‘The government is speaking very loudly – there is a national election next year so the political parties want to use this situation to their advantage – but they are not doing much for the victims.

‘NGOs are observing the situation and waiting for a green light from the Bangladesh government. The church is also on alert and hope to do some work in those areas that we can access most easily. Please pray for us.’

You can donate today through USPG’s Rapid Response Fund here.

An edited official report from the Church of Bangladesh reads:

‘This deluge has created a devastating situation for the people of Bangladesh. This flood may prove to be the most devastating since flooding in 1988 inundated more than 70 per cent of land, including Dhaka city.

‘Heavy rain in China, India and Nepal has resulted in rivers that pass through Bangladesh crossing the danger level. Lands that are already saturated can soak in no more water.

‘As well as claiming lives, more than five million people have lost homes and properties and, of those, only a minimal 30,000 have found a place in a flood shelter. The situation for women and children is particularly harsh.

‘As I write, the flood is located upstream in the country, but soon the flood will find its way into the middle and south of the country before draining into ocean, which means areas will remain severely flooded for around two weeks, which will create further enormous loss and damage to life, properties, water and sanitation, crops and livelihoods, with both immediate and longer-lasting effects.

‘The Church of Bangladesh is worried about the upcoming situation and is preparing to support victims with shelter and emergency support, including food, clothes, medicines and clean water.

‘It is estimated in the vicinity of our 14 churches in the middle and southern parts of Bangladesh around 200,000 people are in need of immediate help.

‘The church will work with other agencies, but will focus on the poorest of the poor, primarily women and children, and later we will try to rehabilitate families as much as we can.

‘Please join with the Church of Bangladesh to support those who are distressed.’

A return visit to
Bunratty Castle
and its attractions

Bunratty Castle stands out on the landscape in south Co Clare, close to the estuary of the River Shannon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

For many years, Bunratty, Co Clare, was a favourite venue for a New Year break for an extended, wider family circle.

Earlier this week, while two of us were meeting members of the wider family at Shannon Airport, we stopped on our way back to Askeaton at Bunratty for coffee and to visit Bunratty Castle.

Bunratty Castle is a large 15th-century tower house in Bunratty village, off the road between Limerick and Ennis, near both airport and Shannon Town.

The name Bunratty (Bun Ráite, or Bun na Ráite) refers to either the ‘river basin,’ or the River Ratty, the river that runs alongside the castle and flows into the Shannon Estuary at this point.

The first recorded settlement at the site may have been a Norse settlement or trading camp that is recorded in the Annals of the Four Masters and said to have been destroyed by Brian Boru in the year 977. Local tradition says this camp stood on a rise south-west of the present castle, although there is no evidence to support this claim.

Around 1250, Henry III granted the area to Robert de Muscegros, who cut down around 200 trees in the King’s wood at Cratloe about a year later. He may have used these trees to build a motte and bailey castle that was the first castle at Bunratty, although its exact location is unknown. Later, in 1253, Robert de Muscegros was granted the right to hold markets and an annual fair at Bunratty.

The lands later returned to Henry III, and they were granted to Thomas de Clare, a descendant of Strongbow, in 1276. Thomas de Clare built a second castle that was the first stone castle in Bunratty. This large stone tower stood from about 1278 on or near the site of the present Bunratty Castle.

In the late 13th century, Bunrattty had about 1,000 inhabitants. The castle was attacked several times by the O’Briens and their allies. While Thomas de Clare was away in England, the site was captured and destroyed in 1284.

When Thomas de Clare returned to Ireland in 1287, he rebuilt the castle with a 130-metre fosse around it. The castle was again attacked but it did not fall until 1318, when Thomas de Clare and his son Richard were killed at Dysert O’Dea during the Bruce Wars in Ireland. Bunratty Castle and the village were burned down and Lady de Clare fled to Limerick. The de Clare family never returned to Bunratty and the remains of the castle collapsed, leaving no traces or remains of this second castle.

In 1353, Sir Thomas de Rokeby led an army against the MacNamaras and the MacCarthys, and a third castle was then built at Bunratty, perhaps on the site of the later Bunratty Castle Hotel. However, around 1355, the new castle fell into the hands of Murtough O’Brien while Thomas Fitzjohn Fitzmaurice was the Governor or captain of Bunratty.

The present Bunratty Castle is the fourth castle on the site and was built by the MacNamara family around 1425.(Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The present castle was the fourth castle on the site and was built by the MacNamara family around 1425.

Bunratty Castle came into the hands of the O’Briens family, the most powerful clan in Munster and later Earls of Thomond, around 1500.

In 1558, Bunratty Castle as taken by the Lord Deputy of Ireland, Thomas Radclyffe (1525-1583), 3rd Earl of Sussex, from Donal O’Brien of Duagh, the last King of Thomond, who died in 1579. Radclyffe’s second wife, Frances Sidney (1531-1589), Countess of Sussex, was a daughter of Sir William Sidney of Penshurst, and was the founder of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, which she endowed in her will.

Meanwhile, Bunratty Castle was given to Donal O’Brien’s nephew, Connor O’Brien. His son, Donogh O’Brien, may have moved his family seat from Clonroad in Ennis to Bunratty, and his improvements to the castle included a new lead roof on it.

During the Confederate Wars in Ireland in the 1640s, the Cromwellian commander Lord Forbes took Bunratty Castle in 1646. Barnabas O’Brien, who tried to play off the royalists against both the Irish rebels and the Roundheads, left for England, where he joined King Charles I.

The defence of the River Shannon and Bunratty Castle gave the forces holding the castle a position to blockade access from the sea to Limerick. The castle was held then by Admiral Sir William Penn (1621-1670), father of William Penn (1644-1718), the Quaker founder of Pennsylvania. After a long siege, Penn surrendered the castle to the Irish Confederates and sailed away safely to Kinsale, Co Cork.

After the Civil War in the 1640s and 1650s, Bunratty Castle returned to the O’Brien family, and in the 1680s the castle was the principal seat of the Earls of Thomond. In 1712, Henry O’Brien (1688-1741), the 8th and last Earl of Thomond, sold Bunratty Castle and 191 ha of land to Thomas Amory for £225 and an annual rent of £120. Amory in turn sold the castle to Thomas Studdert who moved in around 1720.

When the Studdert family left the castle, it to fall into disrepair and they moved into Bunratty House, which they built in 1804.

For some time in the mid-19th century, the castle was a police barracks used by the Royal Irish Constabulary. The Studdert family returned to Bunratty Castle at the end of the 19th century, and Captain Richard Studdert was living there in 1894. But the roof of the Great Hall collapsed in the late 19th century.

In 1956, Bunratty Castle was bought and restored by the 7th Viscount Gort, with the support of the Office of Public Works. He reroofed the castle and saved it from ruin. The castle was opened to the public in 1960, decorated and filled with furniture, tapestries and works of art dating from the 17th century.

Today, Bunratty Castle is a major tourist attraction, along with Bunratty Folk Park, and both the castle and Bunratty House are open to the public. The castle and the adjoining folk park are run by Shannon Heritage as tourist attractions.

Bunratty Castle is known for its mediaeval banquets, and Bunratty Folk Park is an open-air museum with an array of about 30 buildings, including traditional farmhouses, churches, schoolhouses and a pub.

A September afternoon close the Shannon Estuary by the river at Bunratty (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)