24 January 2018

A short overnight
visit to Lichfield

The Hedgehog Vintage Inn on the northern fringes of Lichfield … here for a shrt overnight visit (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I am back in Lichfield for a very short and quick visit.

I arrived early this afternoon after a late morning flight from Dublin and Birmingham, and I am staying at the Hedgehog Vintage Inn on Stafford Road for just one night, before returning late tomorrow.

I am being taken to a special celebratory dinner tonight, and during this short visit I hope there are opportunities too to meet friends, to visit Lichfield Cathedral, the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, which I have seen as my spiritual home since I was a teenager, and to visit some bookshops – perhaps there may even be time for a walk in the countryside along Cross in Hand Lane.

Earlier this week, I prepared a posting for clergy and readers in the Diocese of Limerick, Killaloe and Ardfert that includes liturgical and preaching resources for Holocaust Memorial Day, which is being commemorated on Saturday [27 January 2018]. So, I am interested to see that at the weekend Lichfield Cathedral is joining the national remembrance for people who suffered in the Holocaust and subsequent genocides, including those in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

There will be a service to mark Holocaust Memorial Day in the cathedral on Sunday [28 January] at 5 p.m. Then, on Monday [29 January], the cathedral is hosting an event for Sixth Formers and Year 11 students on the Holocaust and other genocides, featuring a presentation from the author Ruth Barnett, who arrived in Britain from Germany in 1939 on the Kindertransport.

Lichfield Cathedral is also hosting a lecture on the history and context of the Holocaust and there is a showing of the film Schindler’s List in College Hall in the Close. Both events are free, but booking is essential.

This is my first return visit to Lichfield this year. I was last here for another brief visit at the end of November, but I hope to be back again in April a short visit when I have been invited to speak at Lichfield Civic Society as part of its programme of public lectures this year [2018].

I have been invited to speak on 24 April on the Wyatt family of Weeford, a family from the Lichfield area that for successive generations had immeasurable influences on architecture and building design in these islands.

Paying on the Nail for
centuries in Limerick

The Nail, once used for payments in Limerick Exchange, is now in the museum (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

One of the curious exhibits in Limerick Civic Museum is the Nail, which was once located in the Exchange in Nicholas Street, beside Saint Mary’s Cathedral.

This Nail, made of limestone and covered with copper, was set up by Robert Smith, the Mayor of Limerick, in 1685, to facilitate the exchange of money between trading parties.

Robert Smith is said to have engraved his name on the Nail with his own hand. The phrase ‘Paying on the Nail,’ meaning immediate payment, is said to be based on Nails such as this. But the Nail is not unique to Limerick.

The nails were common throughout Ireland and England, and these bronze pillars, can also be seen outside the Corn Exchange in Bristol and the Stock Exchange in Liverpool. The nails In Bristol were erected in Bristol from in a period from 1550 to 1631.

But the phrase is almost 100 years older than the Nail in Limerick, if not older. The expression is first recorded in English in 1596 in Thomas Nashe’s play Have with you to Saffron Walden ‘Tell me, have you a mind to anything in the doctor’s book! Speak the word, and I will help you to it upon the nail.’

In Philip Massinger’s comic play The City-Madame (1632), staged more than half a century before the Nail was set up in Limerick, one character welcomes the arrival of a ship that has given his master considerable profit, and makes the association with timeliness clear: ‘And it comes timely; For, besides a payment on the nail for a manor late purchased by my master, his young daughters are ripe for marriage.’

The Nail in Limerick was described by the blind Irish playwright John O’Keeffe in his Recollections (1826): ‘In the centre of Limerick Exchange is a pillar with a circular plate of copper about three feet in diameter, called The Nail, on which the earnest of all stock-exchange bargains has to be paid.’

Limerick merchants issued their own tokens in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, and the private banks in Limerick issued their own banknotes into the 19th century.

But the Nail in Limerick fell into disuse when the Exchange was closed after a new town hall opened in Rutland Street in 1846, and the nail was then moved to the Town Hall.