15 March 2018

An early advocate of world
peace with family roots in
Castletown, Co Limerick

The walls of Castletown Church, Co Limerick, are lined with memorials to the Waller family (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

When I was visiting Bray last week, I was reminded of the story of the Revd Bolton Charles Waller (1890-1936), a member of the Waller family of Castletown, Co Limerick, who was one of the early forerunners of the modern international peace movement.

Bolton Waller is claimed by the people of Bray because after his father’s death he lived during his childhood and teenage years on Meath Road in Bray and then on Carlton Terrace. But he was born in Cork in 1890, and he was the fourth generation of priests in a family that was once one of the largest land-owning families in West Limerick.

The Waller family of Castletown Manor, near Palleskenry, Co Limerick, was descended from the regicide, Sir Hardress Waller (1604-1666), who was MP for Askeaton in 1634 and 1640 and one of the judges who passed the sentence of death on King Charles I in 1649. At the restoration of Charles II in 1660, all his friends deserted him, and he fled to France. When he returned to England, he pleaded guilty to regicide. His death sentence was reduced to exile, and he died in Jersey in 1666.

The monument to the Revd William Waller in Castletown Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Bolton Charles Waller’s great-grandfather, the Revd William Waller (1794-1863), Rector of Kilcornan from 1842. He married Maria O’Grady, and inherited Castletown manor from his father, Bolton Waller, in 1854, so that he was both lord of the manor and rector of the parish, and he increased the extent of the Waller estates by buying up the neighbouring Bury estate.

Bolton Charles Waller’s grandfather was the Revd John Thomas Waller (1827-1911), was appointed Rector of Kilcornan by his father and predecessor, the Revd William Waller. He was the secretary of the Irish Church Missions, and in this role he was an ardent and zealous evangelical who did much damage to community relations in this part of West Limerick. He used vile language in his tirades, thrived on creating sectarian tensions and stirred up a riot in Pallaskenry in 1861. His land ownings extended to over 6,600 acres.

Bolton Charles Waller’s father and two uncles were also clergymen. One uncle, the Very Revd Edward Hardress Waller (1859-1938), who was born in Castletown, was the Rector of Athy, Co Kildare (1891-1913), and a canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (1908-1913), before becoming Dean of Kildare (1913-1928). During the Irish Civil War, when Erskine Childers was about to face the firing squad in Beggar’s Bush Barracks on 24 November 1922, he asked for Dean Waller to be present and to pray with him. He died in Delgany, Co Wicklow, in 1938.

A second uncle, the Revd John Thomas Waller, was Rector of Saint Lawrence and Trinity Church, Limerick.

Bolton Charles Waller’s father was the Revd Bolton Waller, who was also born at Castletown Manor. He was the Rector of Saint Munchin’s Parish in Limerick (1892-1895), and died in Switzerland in 1897.

Bolton Charles Waller was born in Cork in 1890. While he was a student at Trinity College Dublin, Bolton Waller wrote a prize-winning essay, ‘Paths to Peace.’ These were the years in the immediate aftermath of World War I, and an American had created a prize fund for essays on better ways than war to deal with international conflict. The prize fund totalled £3,000, offering a first prize of £1,000 and other £2,000 shared among the writers of rest of the ten best essays.

Bolton Waller’s essay, ‘Paths to Peace’ not only won first prize in the competition, but was also adopted by the League of Nations and subsequently by the United Nations.

Waller was an early advocate in 1923 of the Irish Free State being admitted to membership of the League of Nations. He became secretary of the League of Nations Society Ireland and went on to publish four titles on world peace: Towards the Brotherhood of Nations (London: Student Christian Movement, 1921), Ireland and the League of Nations (Dublin: Talbot Press, 1925), Paths to World Peace (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1926), and Hibernia, or the Future of Ireland (London: Taylor and Francis, 1928), as well as a 20-page pamphlet on Saint Patrick to mark the Patrician anniversary, Patrick – the Man (Dublin: APCK, 1932).

Bolton Waller was ordained deacon in 1931 and priest in 1932. After a time as curate of Rathmines (1931-1936), Dublin, he became Rector of Saint John’s Parish, Clondalkin, Co Dublin in February 1936. But he died with six months of that appointment at the age of 46 in Kilpeacon, Co Limerick, in July 1936. He is buried in Saint John’s Churchyard, Clondalkin.

A year earlier, his first cousin, John Thomas (‘Jack’) Waller (1889-1965), had demolished Castletown Manor, and in 1936 he sold the Castletown estate on behalf of his dying father, William Waller (1857-1937).

There are still traces of Castletown Manor and the Castletown estates in Kilcornan Parish, and there are memorials to members of the Waller family line the walls of Castletown Church. Unlike his grandfather, the Revd John Thomas Waller, there is still a need for priests like Bolton Charles Waller who have a vision for finding alternatives to international conflict and a vision of working for world peace.

The monument to the Revd John Thomas Waller in Castletown Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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