08 December 2017

Sold signs raise questions
about the future of the
Railway Hotel in Limerick

The Railway Hotel in Limerick … a landmark building that closed last year (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

The Railway Hotel in Limerick is closed and stands forlorn opposite the Colbert Station, the rail and bus station in Limerick city centre. The hotel, which was once a popular venue for travelling GAA fans, was built almost a century and a half years ago. It closed last year with the loss of 15 jobs. But this week I noticed signs on the hotel and the sop next door saying they had been sold.

The Railway Hotel, once owned by the former Fianna Fáil TD Michael Collins and one of Ireland’s longest-running hotels, closed in June last year [2016] ‘with immediate effect’ and with loss of seven full-time jobs and eight part-time jobs.

The Railway Hotel dates from 1871, but it incorporates older buildings dating from 1800-1840 and began life as an old coach inn. In time, it developed into a 30-bed hotel, and for almost half a century it was a popular venue for hurling supporters travelling to and from Limerick for matches.

This is a landmark corner building, at the junction of Boherbuoy, Davis Street and Parnell Street, with obvious associations with the train station on the other side of the street.

It has a late 19th-century façade and is an amalgamation of two earlier buildings. The façade decoration has extended to a terrace of three buildings on Davis Street at ground floor level, and the hotel had become a highly visible and familiar building to everyone arriving in Limerick at Colbert Railway Station.

This terraced, seven-bay, three-storey hotel was first built around 1800. The north side facing Davis Street has a three-bay three-storey elevation and incorporates three two-bay three-storey terraced buildings, built around 1840.

The main block is distinguished by the stucco façade detailing, dating from 1890, which unifies all the buildings through an arcaded stucco shopfront.

The building has painted rendered walls with stucco façade embellishment that includes rusticated corner pilasters, over which the parapet entablature breaks forward and is further elaborated by a dentil and egg-and-dart motif. The parapet entablature has a frieze of blind oculi, and a lead flashed blocking course.

The ground floor front is rusticated, with four bays on the façade. Each floor level is delineated by a continuous sill course, which continues along the entire north side at the first-floor level.

For almost 50 years, the Railway Hotel was run by members of the Collins family for almost 50 years. The former Fianna Fáil TD Michael Collins comes from a well-known political dynasty from Abbeyfeale in West Limerick. A former publican and chairman of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland, he was a TD from 1997 to 2007. His brother Gerry Collins is a former MEP and Minister for Foreign Affairs, and his nephew is Niall Collins, a sitting Fianna Fáil TD.

The hotel was taken over by Michael Collins’s daughter, Michelle Collins, and her husband Patrick McEnery. But a downturn in the hospitality sector, increased competition and general trading difficulties forced Michelle Collins to take a tough decision last year. In a statement, she said that ‘after 46 years in business’ the hotel had to close ‘for economic reasons.’ She described the closure as ‘a very difficult and emotional time for the Collins family.

The hotel was placed on the market by GVM Auctioneers with a guide price of €525,000. McEnery’s shop next door had an asking price of €125,000.

The 31-bedroom hotel was described by GVM as ‘very prestigious [and] an ideal investment opportunity with much potential to develop.’ The facilities include a ‘well furnished’ modern bar with mahogany fittings, a meeting room with fireplace, an office, laundry room and 19 double bedrooms.

The ‘Sold’ signs I noticed this week hopefully mean that once again this building could be a part of the social and business life of Limerick city centre. But the site also offers interesting commercial and development potential. I suppose we shall just have to watch this space.

The Railway Hotel at the corner of Davis Street in Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Praying in Advent with USPG
and Lichfield Cathedral
(6): 8 December 2017

Tanzania is one of the countries most severely affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, with an estimated 1.4 million people living with the virus, of whom more than half are women

Patrick Comerford

This is the first week of Advent, and in many parts of the church today [8 December] is Feast of the Conception of the Virgin Mary, or the Immaculate Conception.

Later this evening [7 p.m.] I am taking part in the Service of Carols and Lessons in Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin (Tarbert), Co Kerry, followed by refreshments in Tarbert Community Centre.

Throughout this season of Advent, I am spending a short time of prayer and reflection each morning, using the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency, USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) and the Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar from Lichfield Cathedral.

USPG, founded in 1701, is an Anglican mission agency supporting churches around the world in their mission to bring fullness of life to the communities they serve.

Under the title Pray with the World Church, the current prayer diary (22 October 2017 to 10 February 2018), offers prayers and reflections from the Anglican Communion.

Introducing this week’s prayers, the Prayer Diary says: ‘Throughout Advent, as we remember the Nativity, we’re looking at how the world is reaching out to mothers and babies.’

This week, the diary follows the theme of the story told yesterday from the USPG-supported PMTCT (Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission) HIV programme run by the Church of Tanzania.

The USPG Prayer Diary:

Friday 8 December 2017:

Pray for an end to discrimination levelled at those with HIV and AIDS in Tanzania and around the world. Give thanks for the work of the church to combat HIV-related stigma.

Today is Feast of the Conception of the Virgin Mary ... the colourful triptych that forms the reredos in the Lady Chapel in Lichfield Cathedral tells the full Christmas story (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Lichfield Cathedral Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar:

The calendar suggests lighting your Advent candle each day as you read the Bible and pray.

Today’s suggested reading is Luke 1: 26-38.

The reflection for today suggests:

As you write Christmas cards and messages think about how Mary received good news from God. Give thanks for all who’ve brought good news into our lives.

Readings (Revised Common Lectionary, the Church of Ireland, Holy Communion):

Isaiah 29: 17-24; Psalm 27: 1-4, 16-17; and Matthew 9: 21, 27-31.

The Advent Collect:

Almighty God,
Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light
now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow.