26 June 2018

A present of the Victorian
heraldic bookplate used
by James Comerford

James Comerford’s bookplate … a thoughtful gift that arrived in the post recently (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

While I was away in Crete for two weeks this month, a generous gift with sentimental value had arrived in the post.

A Facebook friend, Edmund Moriarity, had been carrying out some research when he recently acquired a 19th century history of Walthamstow in north-east London.

I regularly pass through Tottenham Hales, which is near Walthamstow, when I am taking the Stansted Express from Stansted Airport into London, and it is on the same train line I shall be using next week when I am going to the USPG conference in the High Leigh Conference Centre in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire.

When my Facebook contact opened the book, a book plate fell out with the coat of arms and name of James Comerford. He was intrigued by the bookplate, googled the motto, So Ho Ho Dea Ne, and found my ‘interesting blog article’ on James Comerford.

Through messenger on Facebook, he asked whether I would you like the bookplate.

It was a kind and generous offer.

I have been familiar with this bookplate since childhood, when I was first shown copies of it by two aunts who lived in my grandmother’s house in Terenure, Dublin. But the only other copy I have of this bookplate is in James Comerford’s slim volume, Some Records of the Comerford family collected by a descendant, written at the beginning of the 20th century, privately printed and later bound on 26 November 1902.

The bookplate shows a Victorian version of the quartered Comberford arms used by the Victorian antiquarian and book collector, James Comerford, JP, FSA (1806-1881). His heraldic bookplates, with the motto So Ho Ho Dea Ne, remain collector’s items. The heraldic description is:

Quarterly 1 and 4, Gules, a talbot passant argent; 2 and 3, gules, a cross engrailed or, charged with five rose of the first, barbed and seeded of the second.

Crest: out of a ducal coronet or, a peacock’s head proper.

Motto: So Ho Ho Dea Ne.

The first quarter represents the Comberford family of Comberford, between Lichfield and Tamworth, and the Moat House in Tamworth, Staffordshire. This is an interesting reversal of the arms used by the Wolseley family of Wolseley, outside Rugeley in Staffordshire. The arms may have been adapted by the Comberford family to show a close relationship with both the Wolseley family and the Talbot family, Earls of Shrewsbury.

The second quarter was adopted by the Comberford family after inheriting the estates of the Parles family through marriage, probably with the intention of displaying their loyalty to cause of the House of Lancaster during the Wars of the Roses.

The peacock crest is a variation on a theme found in the arms of the Comberford and Comerford families in Staffordshire and in Co Kilkenny and Co Wexford. The Comberford version is: out of a ducal coronet or, a peacock’s head per pale of the first, charged with six roses counter-charged.

The motto defies translation; indeed, I cannot even ascertain which language it is supposed to be. But has been used by all branches of the family and is usually said to mean: ‘God will do it.’

The bookplate is a thoughtful treasured gift, and provide a link with many aspects of the history of this family.

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