03 April 2018

Easter hope is renewed
in a walk on the beach in
Laytown and Bettystown

Walking on the beach in Bettystown this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018; click on image for full-screen view)

Patrick Comerford

I was in Dublin today for a biopsy procedure at Saint Vincent’s University Hospital. It was a quick and almost-painless experience, but I have to return in a few weeks after I receive the full results.

It was an early start to the day, and I have another early start tomorrow morning.

But late this afternoon, two of us decided to head north and go for a late lunch in Relish, overlooking the long sandy beach at Bettystown, Co Meath.

We first stopped at Laytown, but the full tide was in, and instead of walking along the strand as we had hoped, we had to walk along the footpath from Laytown to Bettystown.

Relish was busy for a late afternoon, despite the fact that the Easter holiday weekend is over.

Walking on the beach in Laytown this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018; click on image for full-screen view)

By the time we had finished lunch, the tide was going out, and a vast expanse of beach opening up before us, with a vista that stretched from Mountains of Mourne to the north to Lambay island to the south.

Although the late winter sometimes makes it feel these days that spring has yet to arrive, there were beautiful blues in the skies, the sea, and in the ripples on the sand left by the receding tide.

I imagine the growth on the side of my nose is just another symptom of my sarcoidosis. But I wait for the results with hope rather than trepidation. And walks on a beach, like this afternoon’s walk, are good for my lungs and the symptoms of sarcoidosis, and also good for my heart and my soul.

I may have sarcoidosis, but sarcoidosis does not have me.

The Cross outside the East Window of the parish church in Laytown had been broken for some time. But it has been repaired recently, and it now proclaims a wonderful Easter message on the sandbanks looking out to the Irish Sea.

Christ is Risen!

He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

The Cross outside the parish church overlooking the beach in Laytown (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Clonskeagh Castle, hidden
in a discreet corner of
suburban south Dublin

Clonskeagh Castle on Whitebeam Road … links to the 1798 Rising an a missing town charter (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

No 80 Whitebeam Road is an unusual building in the middle of suburban housing in south Dublin. It stands off a large roundabout and is difficult to notice behind the trees and shrub. I have often passed it by, and only noticed it in the corner of my eye. But this is Clonskeagh Castle.

I am in Dublin for a hospital appointment today, and on my way back from a visit to Saint Vincent’s Hospital I stopped to see Clonskeagh Castle, which stands on a roundabout, known locally as ‘The Circle,’ at the place where Whitebeam Road and Whitethorn Road meet.

Clonskeagh Castle is an interesting example of the Irish Georgian castle style. It is said the castle was built around 1798 for Henry Jackson (1750-1817), an industrialist and political activist, perhaps on the site of an earlier castle.

Jackson was probably born in Carnaveagh House in Ballybay, Co Monaghan, and in Dublin he became a leading member of the United Irishmen. His daughter Eleanor married one of the leading figures in the 1798 Rising, Oliver Bond (1762-1798) of Lower Bridge Street, Dublin. Oliver Bond died in prison of apoplexy on 6 September 1798, only days after his death sentence had been commuted.

In the aftermath of the 1798 Rising, Henry Jackson moved to America with his wife, Elizabeth McGrath, and many of their children and grandchildren, including the widowed Eleanor Bond, and settled in Baltimore, Maryland.

Elizabeth Jackson died in Baltimore in 1805; Henry Jackson, who had built Clonskeagh Castle, died in Baltimore on 30 June 1817; Eleanor Bond died there on 15 September 1843.

The family later claimed to be related to Andrew Jackson (1767-1845), the seventh President of the US (1829-1837), but there is no proof of this kinship.

After the Jackson family left Clonskeagh Castle, two large towers were later added to the castle in 1811.

In the mid-19th century, Clonskeagh Castle was the home of George Thompson, who also owned lands in Mayne, Co Meath. His son, George William Thompson, was a solicitor at 9 Hume Street, Dublin, and in the 1870s he owned 521 acres in Co Cork, 819 acres in Co Westmeath and 70 acres in Co Meath.

Clonskeagh Castle was used as a jail between 1916 and 1922, when the prisoners there included local people involved in an attack on the ‘Black and Tans’ on Clonskeagh Bridge.

G&T Crampton carried out restorations and renovations at the castle in 1953. A decade or two earlier, in 1939-1940, Cramptons had built the houses Whitebeam Road, where the architects were Fuller & Jermyn.

In September 1972, the town charter for Tralee, Co Kerry, which had been missing for more than 130 years, mysteriously turned up in Clonskeagh Castle.

Tralee was granted borough status by King James I in 1612. The charter also gave Tralee the right to elect two MPs to the Irish House of Commons, and allowed for an annual fair on the feast of Saint James on 25 July, as well as a Saturday market.

The charter, written in legal Latin and on vellum, was found in September 1972 by a Dublin-based solicitor who was acting for the then owners of Clonskeagh Castle. The charter was found in an envelope addressed to Alice Rowan from Camp, near Tralee, Co Kerry. She was a daughter of the Ven Arthur Blennerhassett Rowan (1800-1861), Archdeacon of Ardfert (1856-1861), an antiquarian and local historian, and a grand-daughter of William Rowan, Provost of Tralee (1807-1811).

William Rowan was the Provost of Tralee who signed the return of Arthur Wellesley as MP for Tralee in 1807. But the future Duke of Wellington never sat for Tralee, choosing instead to represent Newport on the Isle of Wight. Alice Rowan’s aunt, Arabella Rowan, married as his second wife Charles Fairfield and they were the grandparents of Rebecca West (1892-1983), suffragette, novelist, radical socialist and friend of HG Wells.

The charter had been missing from Tralee since the borough council was abolished in 1840, and it is still not clear how it ended up in this suburban castle in Dublin.

There are two vaulted stone cellars to the left of Clonskeagh Castle which were known locally as ‘The Dungeons.’ In the past, local children could get into these cellars, and many left their initials on the roofs using candles.

In recent years, Clonskeagh Castle was divided into four apartments and was sold in the late 1990s to a single family that still lives there. The large basement and cellars, which ceased to be used in the early 20th century, became redundant and are now used only for storage.

When they bought Clonskeagh Castle in the 1990s, the new owners blocked one of the driveways and planted a large open grassy area in front of the castle with trees and shrubs, so that many people pass by without ever noticing that there is a castle in the middle of these suburban housing streets in south Dublin.

Some years ago, Robert Bourke architects were approached by the current owners to advise on cost-effective and sensitive repairs to the structure of Clonskeagh Castle and to consider new uses for the disused basement. The planned works included remedial works to the basement, alterations and repairs to the upper floors and an improved landscaping design.

Clonskeagh Castle on Whitebeam Road … hidden discreetly behind the trees and shrubs (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Continuing Ministerial Education:
A day to think and talk about prayer

Revd Michael Cavanagh cuts his birthday cake at the training day in Askeaton Rectory (photo: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer was at the heart of the March training day for clergy and readers in the diocese, when two groups met at the Rectory in Askeaton to discuss personal prayer, prayers in the life of the church, praying for others, and teaching others to pray. The two groups met on 12 March. We looked at different styles of prayer and discussed how we need to develop a life of prayer that suits our own needs and personality, while also helping others to develop an approach to prayer that meets their own personality types.

These monthly training days are designed for clergy and diocesan and parish readers, but are open to others who are interested.

Each week, sermon ideas for the following Sunday are posted on the CME site at: https://cmelimerick.blogspot.ie/. Each week’s posting includes reflections on the Sunday readings, collects, prefaces, post-communion prayers and other liturgical resources, as well as suggested hymns and appropriate photographs that can be used in parish newsletters and service sheets.

The next two training days are in April and May, looking at the place of cathedrals in the life of the Church, and discussing different styles of public worship.

On Monday 30 April, Canon Patrick Comerford will lead a ‘field trip’ to the three working cathedrals in the diocese, beginning at Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, moving on to Saint Flannan’s Cathedral, Killaloe, Co Clare, and finishing in the afternoon at Saint Brendan’s Cathedral, Clonfert, Co Galway.

On Monday 28 May, participants are invited to consider different approaches to liturgy and worship. This programme, in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick, and is being led by the Revd Michael Cavanagh and Canon Patrick Comerford.

Further details are available from Patrick Comerford.

This half-page news report is published in the April 2018 edition of ‘Newslink,’ the magazine of the Church of Ireland United Dioceses of Limerick, Killaloe and Ardfert