20 February 2019

The Deanery in Killaloe
and a remote link with
the ‘pickled’ Earl of Mayo

The Deanery in Killaloe, Co Clare … not to be confused with the deanery said to have been designed by Gandon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

When I was preaching in Saint Flannan’s Cathedral, Killaloe, Co Clare, on Sunday morning and presiding at the Cathedral Eucharist, I also paid a brief visit to the late Georgian Deanery that stands on a hill in Killaloe.

This is a detached, L-plan, three-bay, two-storey house, built ca 1825, with a three-bay, two-storey return. There is a hipped slate roof with cut-stone chimney-stacks, and rubble sandstone walls with cut-stone quoins. The round-headed door opening has a timber pilaster doorcase, a radial fanlight and a timber panelled door. There are dressed stone voussoirs and brick dressings with the timber sliding sash windows.

The deanery retains many of its original features inside, and the wrought-iron gate is set in rebuilt stone piers.

We parked the car in the driveway beside this elegant house. But this is not the original deanery in Killaloe.

Past Deans of Killaloe have included John Parker DD (1643-1649), a chaplain to the Earl of Ormond, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, during the wars in the 1640s. He was jailed the Cromwellians and then expelled from Ireland. He returned to Ireland after the Restoration of Charles II, and became Bishop of Elphin (1661-1667), then Archbishop of Tuam (1667-1679) and finally Archbishop of Dublin (1679-1681).

Jerome Ryves, who was Dean of Killaloe in 1692-1699, later became Dean of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin (1699-1705), the predecessor but one of Jonathan Swift.

The Hon Charles Talbot Blayney (1714-1761) had succeeded as 8th Baron Blayney in 1732 before becoming Dean of Killaloe in 1750, and he remained in office until he died in 1761.

An early deanery was built in Killaloe ca 1770 for the Very Revd Joseph Deane Bourke (1740-1794), the second son of John Burke, 1st Earl of Mayo.

Burke came to Killaloe as dean in 1768 when he was still only 28. But he already had his eyes on a path towards a successful ecclesiastical career. He left Killaloe in 1772 to become Dean of Dromore, but within weeks he had moved on again with his appointment as Bishop of Ferns and Leighlin in September that year. He was consecrated bishop on 11 October 1772 in Saint Thomas’s Church, Dublin, by Archbishop John Cradock of Dublin, Bishop Charles Jackson of Kildare and Bishop William Newcome of Dromore.

Ten years later, Burke was appointed Archbishop of Tuam in 1782. In 1792, he succeeded his brother as 3rd Earl of Mayo. When he died on 20 August 1794 at the age of 54, he was buried in the Burke family plot in Johnstown, Co Kildare.

Dean Burke was the great-grandfather of Richard Burke (1822-1872), 6th Earl of Mayo and Viceroy of India (1869-1872). The circumstances of his funeral from India to Johnstown gave him the sobriquet of the ‘Pickled Earl,’ and he is the focus of one of my chapters in Death and the Irish: a miscellany (2016), edited by Professor Salvador Ryan of Maynooth.

For many years, it was believed that the Georgian deanery in Killaloe built for Lord Mayo had been designed by James Gandon (1743-1823), the Dublin neo-classical architect who designed the Four Courts, the Bank of Ireland, and other famous buildings in Dublin.

Burke’s successors in Killaloe included William Cecil Pery (1721-1794), 1st Baron Glentworth, was Dean of Killaloe (1772-1780) and later Dean of Derry (1780-1781) , Bishop of Killala and Achonry (1781-1784), and Bishop of Limerick and Ardfert (1784-1794); the Hon Thomas Stopford (1781-1787), later Dean of Ferns (1787-1794) and Bishop of Cork (1794-1805); and John Bayly (1808-1828), later Dean of Lismore (1828-1831).

The deanery said to have been designed by Gandon was leased from 1820 to 1860 by the Bishop of Killaloe to Captain Michael Martin, JP. Captain Martin and his nephew, Dr James Martin, County Coroner who died from cholera, did much to alleviate suffering during the Great Famine in the 1840s.

At this time, the Martin family owned the house built ca 1825 that would become the present deanery. The two houses were exchanged, and the newer house became the Deanery.

More recent Deans of Killaloe who have lived in this deanery include Robert McNeil Boyd (1936-1943), afterwards Bishop of Killaloe and Kilfenora, Francis Robert Bourke (1972-1986), Ernon Cope Todd Perdue (1987-1995), who died two months ago [10 December 2018], Nicholas Marshall Cummins (1996-2001), and the writer and theologian Dr Stephen Ross White (2002-2012), who is now Priest-in-Charge at Dunsfold with Hascombe in Surrey.

The Very Revd Gary Paulsen has been the Dean of Killaloe since 2013.

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