31 July 2019

Death of a young Limerick
mother recalled in mausoleum
at Saint Mary’s Cathedral

The Boyd Mausoleum at Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

I was in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, for some time today, taking part in a number of cathedral meetings.

Wandering around the cathedral churchyard is an interesting lesson in church, social and local history, with many interesting graves and tombs. The famous Physician Dr Samuel Crumpe is buried in the graveyard near the Great West Door, and members of the family of the great 20th century scientist John Desmond Bernal are buried in a grave lose to the south porch.

The mausoleums and tombs of the Sexton, Barrington, Boyd and Vanderkiste families can be seen along the pathway leading into the south porch.

The Boyd Mausoleum was first erected to commemorate a young mother of six, Mary Boyd (1813-1842), who died at the age of 29.

Mary Boyd’s father, Henry Collis, was born in Askeaton and was High Sheriff of Limerick in 1800 and again in 1812-1817. Henry married Elizabeth Going in 1799 at Belleisle, Co Clare, and their daughter, Mary Going Collis, was baptised on 7 April 1813 in Saint John’s Church, Limerick.

At the age of 19, she married James Butler Boyd, son of Thomas Boyd and Mary Ann Boyd, on 25 June 1832 in Limerick.

They were the parents of six children and Mary died in 1842 at the age of 29. James Butler Boyd built the mausoleum in Saint Mary’s churchyard in her memory.

The Boyd crest and motto on the Boyd Mausoleum (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The Boyd Mausoleum is an imposing, square-shaped limestone building, erected in 1842 on an elevated site in the cathedral grounds that gives it a prominent position in the churchyard. It faces the limestone steps leading up to the south port entrance of the cathedral.

The limestone flagged depressed pyramidal roof of the mausoleum is imposed on a limestone ashlar parapet. The mausoleum has limestone ashlar walls with a profiled frieze architrave, a blank frieze and cornice above, and a canted ledge for the water run-off.

The plaque on the Boyd Mausoleum commemorating Thomas Boyd (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The limestone plaque on the frieze above the door reads: ‘Thomas Boyd Esqr. of Kilmarnock, 44 years resident in this city. Died the 15th day of June 1839, aged 82 years.’ Beside it is the raised, carved crest from the Boyd coat-of-arms, with the motto below: ‘Confido.’

An additional commemorative plaque on the west side reads:

‘This mausoleum was erected by James Butler Boyd, Esqr. of Claremont Villa in the City of Limerick. As a tribute of regard, to perpetuate the memory of the departed worth of Mary, his beloved and affectionate wife, who, in the prime of her life, after a few hours illness, fell asleep in Jesus! On the 24th day of April, 1842, in the 27th year of her age, leaving her afflicted husband inconsolable, at the demise of one of the most virtuous, and amiable of wives. And six young children, to deplore the loss of the best of parents. Having lived the life, she died the death of the righteous, and her end was peace. Daughter of Henry Collis Esqr. nine years High Sheriff of this city.’

The Tudor-style arch door at the Boyd Mausoleum (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

A Tudor-style arch door opening on the north side of the mausoleum has chamfered reveals and a label hood moulding extending below the arch. The heavy iron door has a central fillet and two slender Tudor-style arch panels. The east wall is built against a rubble stone retaining wall of the raised burial area.

The ‘afflicted’ and ‘inconsolable’ James Butler Boyd married again eight years later. His second wife, Ann Charlotte Arthur, also known as Anna Camilla Arthur, was a daughter of Joseph Arthur, whose family gave their name to Arthur’s Quay in Limerick.

James Boyd and Ann Arthur were married in Kilnasoolagh, Co Clare, on 30 April 1850, and were the parents of three daughters: Anna Camilla, Charlotte Arthur and Georgina Jemima. James Boyd died in Limerick in 1858, and his widow Ann died in London on 16 August 1907.

The lengthy tribute to Mary (Collis) Boyd on the Boyd Mausoleum at Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Comerford baptism records
lead to a hymn describing
Dublin’s Victorian slums

The record of the baptism of Mary Anne Comerford of Ranelagh in Saint Peter’s Church, Aungier Street, Dublin, in 1853

Patrick Comerford

When James Comerford (1851-1894) was baptised on 29 August 1851 in Saint Peter’s Church (Church of Ireland), Dublin, by the curate, the Revd John James McSorley, and his sister Mary Anne was baptised there on 28 September 1853. Their uncle, Thomas George Comerford (1820-1908), and Mary Whiston were married in the same church in Aungier Street the previous decade, on 9 November 1846.

James and Mary were baptised by the Revd John James MacSorley in Saint Peter’s Church on 28 October 1853. Almost a quarter of a century later, MacSorley also baptised Charles William Comerford in Saint Peter’s on 28 February 1878.

Charles Comerford was later a telegraphist at the GPO at the time of the Easter Rising in 1916, His baptismal entry was difficult to find because MacSorley’s entry in the baptismal register only gives his mother’s maiden name, misspelled as Jordon, and omits his father’s surname.

His future wife, Adelaide Field, was also baptised in Saint Peter’s on 23 April 1878, as was his younger brother, Joseph Henry Comerford, on 7 August 1879; both were baptised by the curate, the Revd Robert William Buckley. Buckley was also the organising secretary (1868-1884) of SPG Ireland (Society for the Propagation of the Gospel), now the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

As I prepared a blog posting for Tuesday evening [30 July 2019] on the some of these branches of the Comerford family, and trying to understand and disentangle their various connections, I realised that it was almost as if Saint Peter’s had become an integral part of their story in Victorian Dublin.

The baptismal entry for Charles William Comerford

But I too became involved in the story of Saint Peter’s some years ago when I became involved in telling the story of the marriage of two ancestors of Dervla Kirwin, one Jewish the other Roman Catholic, in Saint Peter’s Church, Aungier Street, explaining the circumstances on a much repeated edition of Who Do You Think You Are?.

Her Jewish great-grandfather, Henry Kahn, and her Roman Catholic great-grandmother, Teresa O’Shea, were married in Saint Peter’s Church, Aungier Street, in 1880. They both gave their address as 70 Aungier Street. The parish registers show the wedding service was conducted by the curate of Saint Peter’s, Canon Morgan Woodward Jellett, who became the Rector of Saint Peter’s three years later.

Canon Morgan Jellett (1832-1896), the Revd John James MacSorley (1809-1884) and the Revd Robert William Buckley were part of that High Church tradition in Anglicanism that gave us the slum priests, with an enlightened social awareness and engagement.

The church closed in the 1970s, and was later demolished. But that ‘slum priest’ and High Church legacy lives on in the much-loved hymn, ‘We thank Thee, O our Father,’ written by MacSorley’s daughter, Catherine Mary MacSorley (1848-1929), a hymnwriter and the author of religious books for children.

The Revd John James MacSorley (1809-1884) was born in Derry and educated at Foyle College and Trinity College Dublin (BA 1844, MA 1847). He was ordained deacon in 1845 and priest in 1847, and he spent all his time in ministry in the same parishes, as curate of Saint Peter’s and Saint Kevin’s (1845-1881) and curate-in-charge of Saint Kevin’s (1876-1881).

He married Catherine Abbot, and they lived for many years at 94 Ranelagh Road, Dublin, where their two daughters were born: Catherine Mary on 5 October 1848, and Mary Gertrude, born on 25 September 1851.

Both sisters were baptised in Saint Peter’s by their father: Catherine Mary on 14 December 1848, and Mary Gertrude MacSorley on Christmas Eve, 24 December 1851.

The family later moved to Harcourt Terrace. Their father died in 1884 and after the death of their mother in 1910, Catherine Mary and Mary Gertrude continued to live in Harcourt Terrace.

Catherine MacSorley’s books for children include The Island of Saints: a a short sketch of the history of the Church of Ireland (1907), which ran to many editions and was used in religious education classes for Church of Ireland children until the mid-20th century.

Her other books include a history of Saint Peter’s Parish, published in 1917. Many of her books were published by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK).

Her sister Mary Gertrude died 1 May 1924; Catherine Mary MacSorley died at the age of 80 at 6 Harcourt Terrace, Dublin, on 26 January in 1929; they are buried together in Mount Jerome Cemetery, Harold’s Cross.

Catherine’s father had died by the time she wrote the hymn, ‘We thank you, God our Father’ in 1890 for the children of Saint Peter’s School in nearby Camden Row. It was published for the first time in 1891, when it was included by the Church of Ireland in an appendix to the 1873 edition of the Church Hymnal. However, the editors of many hymnals say the author of this hymn is anonymous or unknown.

The third verse is said to have been inspired by the tall, dark tenement buildings in the Aungier Street and Camden Street area of Dublin:

And in the dusty city,
where busy crowds pass by;
and where the tall dark houses
stand up and hide the sky,
and where through lanes and alleys
no pleasant breezes blow,
dear God our Father, even there,
you make the flowers grow.

These ‘tall dark houses’ that ‘hide the sky’ and the ‘lanes and alleys’ where ‘no pleasant breezes blow’ were, undoubtedly familiar to the generations of the Comerford family who were baptised in Saint Peter’s Church, and to Dervla Kirwin’s great-grandparents, Harry Kahn and Teresa O’Shea, when they gave their address as 70 Aungier Street.

With Dervla Kirwan opposite the site of Saint Peter’s Church, Aungier Street, Dublin, filming for ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’

The hymn continues to be sung in the Church of Ireland, and is No 36 in the current edition of the Church Hymnal:

We thank you, God our Father,
for all your loving care;
we thank you that you made the world
so very bright and fair.
We thank you for the sunshine,
and for the pleasant showers;
and we thank you, God our Father,
we thank you for the flowers.

Out in the sunny meadows,
and in the woodlands cool,
and under every hedgerow,
and by each reedy pool,
and on the lonely moorland,
and by the broad highway—
with colours bright, so pure and fresh,
they spring up every day.

And in the dusty city,
where busy crowds pass by;
and where the tall dark houses
stand up and hide the sky,
and where through lanes and alleys
no pleasant breezes blow,
dear God our Father, even there,
you make the flowers grow.

And whether in the city
or in the fields they dwell,
always the same sweet message
the sweet young flowers tell.
For they are all so wonderful,
they show your power abroad;
and they are all so beautiful,
they tell your love, O God.

Saint Peter’s Church, Aungier Street, Dublin ... it was demolished in 1983

30 July 2019

Trying to sort out some
Chinese puzzles on
a tangled family tree

The sexton’s lodge at Saint Michan’s Church, Dublin … Thomas George Comerford (1820-1908) died there, and the church was associated with many family events (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

When I moved to Askeaton, Co Limerick, in early 2017, I was curious to find a number of branches of the Comerford family with connections in Co Limerick.

They included two Comerford nuns who lived about a century ago in a convent where one of the ‘residents’ in the attached ‘Magdalene Laundry’ was also a Comerford; a family of Comerford carpenters who lived in Limerick for at least four generations – some soldiers and RIC constables; and an interesting and unexpected connection between the Comerfords of Rathdrum, Co Wicklow, and Castleconnell, Co Limerick.

As I delved further into Comerford links with Limerick, I came across at least one Comerford family with roots in Co Carlow and Dublin, who had connections in the second half of the 19th century with Castletown Church, near Pallaskenry, one of the four churches in my group of parishes.

James Comerford and his wife Elizabeth were living in Pallaskenry, Co Limerick, in 1875. They were newly married and their son William Henry Comerford, was born on 5 February 1875.

But they soon moved from Pallaskenry, the trail grew cold, and I wondered what had happened to them. Where did they move to? Did they have any more children? Had they any descendants.

Meanwhile, I had also been interested in the story of Captain William Edward Comerford from Liverpool and his wife Ella, who had been Baptist missionaries in China in the early decades of the last century. Were they related to any of the Comerford families in Ireland I have been researching over the decades?

Little did I realise that some genealogical sites were claiming a direct link between the Comerfords of Pallasakenry and the Comerford missionary couple in China. Research in recent months has helped to fill out more details of the family tree of these branches of the Comerford family.

I found a family who had moved between Co Carlow, Gillingham in Kent, Cork and Dublin, and that was closely associated with the life of Saint Michan’s Church, Church Street, Dublin, at the end of the 19th century.

Castletown Church, Pallaskenry, where William Henry Comerford may have been baptised in 1875 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Comerford of Graigue, Co Carlow, Cork, Dublin and Pallaskenry, Co Limerick

PATRICK COMERFORD (ca 1799-ca 1869) married Sarah Anne …. They lived in Gillignham, Kent, ca 1820, and later lived in Graigue, Co Carlow, in the 1830s, and were living in Dublin by the 1840s. They were living at 3 Sackville Gardens (1840), 6 Bachelor’s Walk, Dublin (1842), 26 Anna Villa, Cullenswood, Ranelagh, Dublin (1853). Their children probably included:

1, Thomas George Comerford (1820-1908), of whom next.
2, Sarah Anne, dressmaker, living in Dublin in 1849 when she was a witness at the wedding of her brother William Comerford. On 29 July 1850, she married Timothy McMahon, tailor, of 128 Upper Dorset Street, Dublin, son of John McMahon, in Saint Mary’s Church (Church of Ireland), Dublin.
3, James Comerford (1830- ), baptised Killeshin Church (Church of Ireland), Co Carlow, 21 March 1830.
4, William Comerford (1832- ), baptised Killeshin Church, 13 May 1832, of whom after his eldest brother Thomas.
5, Helen Mary (1834- ), baptised Killeshin Church, 19 October 1834.
6, Charles Comerford (1840- ), born 24 February 1840, baptised in Saint George’s Church (Church of Ireland), Dublin, 4 March 1840. He was living at 5 Lombard Street, Dublin, on 2 August 1863 when he married in Saint Nicholas Church (RC), Francis Street Elizabeth Letson, daughter of John and Esther (Supple) Letson of 31 Francis Street, Dublin (witnesses Michael Tagan, Catherine Carroll).
7, Samuel Horatio Comerford (1842- ), born 13 December 1842, at 6 Bachelor’s Walk, Dublin. He was baptised in Saint Mary’s Church (Church of Ireland), Dublin, on 28 December 1842.
8, Mary Anne (1853- ), she was born on 23 September 1853 and was baptised on 28 October 1853 in Saint Peter’s Church (Church of Ireland), Dublin.

The first-named son of Patrick and Sarah Anne Comerford was:

THOMAS GEORGE COMERFORD (1820-1908), born in Gillingham, Kent, 16 July 1820 (birth records; 1901 census). He was a sailor and living at 36 Harcourt Street, Dublin, when he married on 9 November 1846 Mary Whiston, daughter of Isaac Whiston, in Saint Peter’s Church (Church of Ireland), Dublin (witnesses: Thomas and Grace Dary; the Revd Richard Stack, curate). They later lived in Cork (1853-1864), at 5 Tivoli Terrace, Harold’s Cross, Dublin (1867), and 157½ Church Street, Dublin, when he was the sexton at Saint Michan’s Church, Dublin (ca 1871-1892). He was widowed when he died there on 12 April 1908.

Thomas and Mary Comerford were the parents of at least four sons and two daughters:

1, Thomas George Comerford ( -1886), sanitary officer; living in 1885, and present at the death of his brother Isaac. He died on 4 June 1886, and administration was granted to his father.
2, Isaac Whiston Comerford (1851/1852-1885), clerk, living with his father at Saint Michan’s, 157½ Church Street, Dublin, on 24 April 1883, when he married Mary Tobin, daughter of John Tobin, carpenter, of 8 Curzon Street, Dublin, in Saint Michan’s Church (witnesses Michael Tobin and Margaret Tobin). The wedding was conducted by the curate, the Revd Michael Burchell Buick (later Bewick), previously curate of Saint Michael’s, Limerick. Isaac Whiston Comerford died at Saint Michan’s, 157½ Church Street, Dublin, at the age of 34 on 13 June 1885.
3, James Richard Comerford (1853-post 1904), of whom next.
4, Emily, (1864/1865-1949) born Cork ca 1864/1865 (aged 36 at 1901 census), living with her father from 1883, when she is a witness at weddings in Saint Michan’s Church; she was there at the 1901 census, and present at her father’s death at Saint Michan’s in 1908. Died 20 May 1949, unmarried, at Saint Joseph’s, Portland Row, when her age is given as 80.
5, Samuel Henry Comerford (1867-1890), born 11 April 1867, baptised in Holy Trinity Church (Church of Ireland), Rathmines, by the curate, the Revd Loftus T Shire (1819-1902). He was a photographer. He died on 28 February 1890, at the age of 20 (sic), at the Lodge, Saint Michan’s Church, Dublin.
6, Elizabeth, who married Frederick Crofton Dawson, compositor, son of William Dawson, compositor, of 11 Berkeley Road, Dublin, on 25 February 1892, in Saint George’s Church, Dublin (witnesses Thomas George Comerford and George Gerald Dunbar; priest, the Revd Thomas Long, Rector of Saint Michan’s). Frederick Dawson was born on 14 April 1860, and baptised on 3 June 1860 in Saint Mary’s Church (Church of Ireland).

The third son of Thomas and Mary Comerford was:

JAMES RICHARD COMERFORD (1853-post 1917). Clerk, bookkeeper. He was born in Cork in 1853 (1901 census, 1911 census). Clerk. He was living at the Lodge, Saint Michan’s Church, Dublin, where his father was the sexton, on 15 February 1886, when he married Ellen Eva Dowling, daughter of John Dowling, army pensioner; she was born in Co Kildare (1901 census). The witnesses were his brother Samuel Henry Comerford and Maria Madden.

James and Ellen Comerford later lived at 27 Upper Dorset Street (1886), 33 Upper Gloucester Street (1887), 50 Upper Dorset Street (1888, 1889, 1901 census), 37 Nelson Street (1892, 1893), 6 Bolton Street (1895), 32 Upper Dorset Street (1900), 1 Blessington Place (1904), Henrietta Street (1911 census) and 16 Saint Michael’s Terrace, Blackpitts, Dublin (1917, Ellen’s death, Alice’s marriage).

Ellen died on 28 August 1917, aged 55, at 16 Saint Michael’s Terrace, aged 55, with her husband James present.

James and Ellen were the parents of 13 children, eight of whom were living in 1911. They included:

1, Mary Catherine (1886-post 1911), born 1 December 1886 at 27 Upper Dorset Street. School teacher (1901 census), Living with her parents in 1911, Church of Ireland, factory worker.
2, Thomas George Foy Comerford (1888-1888), born 31 August 1888, baptised Saint Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin (sponsor Catherine Madden). Died aged 3 months, 50 Upper Dorset Street, 10 December 1888.
3, Alice Josephine (1889-post 1917), born 16 September 1889, baptised Saint Mary’s Pro-Cathedral (sponsors, Christopher Kelly, Ida Madden). Living with her parents in 1911, Church of Ireland, factory worker. She was living at 16 Saint Michael’s Terrace when she married David William Alford (1886-1941), painter, in Saint Nicholas Church, Francis Street, on 7 February 1917 (witnesses Michael Foy and Emily Eileen Comerford). They lived at 10 Saint Michael’s Terrace, where he died on 4 August 1941.
4, Emily Eileen (1892-1963), born 8 February 1892 at 37 Nelson Street, Dublin. Living with her parents in 1911, Church of Ireland, factory worker; living at 16 St Michael’s Terrace, when she married Joseph Monks of 26 South King Street, Dublin, in Saint Nicholas Church, Francis Street, on 28 September 1921 (witnesses: Edward Monks, Ellen Eva Comerford). They lived at 24 Crampton Buildings, Dublin. She died on 11 December 1963, aged 71.
5, Ellen Eva (1893-1954), born 7 July 1893, 37 Nelson Street. Living with her parents in 1911, Church of Ireland, factory worker, died 1954.
6, James William Comerford (1895-post 1901), born 31 March 1895, 6 Bolton Street, Dublin. Living with his parents in 1911, Church of Ireland, factory worker.
7, Samuel Christopher Comerford (1897- ), born 13 February 1897, baptised Saint Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin. Living with his parents in 1911, Church of Ireland, factory worker.
8, Frederick Robert Coleman Comerford (1900-1962), born 8 March 1900. Living with his parents in 1911, Church of Ireland. Lived at 16 Saint Michael’s Terrace, Blackpitts, Dublin. Brush maker. Unmarried. Died 18 March 1962.
9, Charles Stewart Parnell Comerford (1904-post 1962), born 10 October 1904 in the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin. Living with his parents in 1911, Church of Ireland. Cabinet maker. He lived at 16 Saint Michael’s Terrace, South Circular Road, Dublin (1943), 3 Mount Street Crescent, Dublin (1962). On 28 July 1943, he married Sarah Coogan of 51 Percy Place, Dublin, in Saint Mary’s Church, Haddington Road.

The fourth child and third-named son of Patrick and Sarah Anne Comerford appears to be the same person as:

WILLIAM COMERFORD (1832-post 1853), baptised Killeshin Church, 13 May 1832; porter, of 128 Upper Dorset Street, Dublin (1849), 5 Granby Place (1850) and 133 Stephen’s Green (1851). He married on 9 April 1849, in Saint Mary’s Church (Church of Ireland), Dublin, Bridget, daughter of Timothy Baker (or Barker), clerk. They were both minors at the time of their marriage. The witnesses at their wedding were Anthony Farington and William’s sister, Sarah Anne Comerford.

They were the parents of a son and two daughters:

1, Bridget (1850- ), born 5 Granby Place, Dublin, 29 May 1850, baptised the same day in Saint Mary’s Church, Dublin.
2, James Comerford (1851-1894), of Pallaskenry, Co Limerick, and Gardiner Street, Dublin, of whom next.
3, Mary Anne, born 23 September 1853 at 26 Anna Villa, Cullenswood, Ranelagh, and baptised by the Revd John James MacSorley in Saint Peter’s Church (Church of Ireland), Dublin, on 28 October 1853.

Their son:

JAMES COMERFORD (1851-1894), butler, of Pallaskenry, Co Limerick, and Gardiner Street, Dublin. He was born at 133 Stephen’s Peer (?) on 20 August 1851, and was baptised on 29 August 1851 in Saint Peter’s Church (Church of Ireland), Dublin, by the curate, the Revd John James McSorley. He gave his address as 96 Lower Gardiner Street, Dublin, when he married in Saint Thomas’s Church (Church of Ireland), Dublin, on 17 May 1873 Elizabeth Lightly, daughter of Henry Lightly, hotel operator, of 96 Lower Gardiner Street.

They were living in Pallaskenry, Co Limerick (1875), and at 96 Lower Gardiner Street (1880). He was a witness on 20 January 1883 at the marriage in Saint Thomas’s Church (Church of Ireland), Dublin, of Elizabeth’s sister, Maria Lightly, of 3 Upper Gloucester Street, and John Drew, house painter.

He died on 6 February 1894 at 3 Upper Gloucester Street, Dublin, with his son WH Comerford present.

They were the parents of two sons:

1, William Henry Comerford (1875-post 1894), born 5 February 1875 in Pallaskenry, Co Limerick. He was present at his father’s death in Dublin in 1894.
2, Charles Samuel Comerford (1880-post 1901), born 3 October 1880, hall porter, Mercer Street (1901 census).

Captain William Edward Comerford (1881-1938) from Liverpool, a Baptist missionary in China … married Ella Jeter during World War I

Some Chinese puzzles

In many family trees on public internet sites, James Comerford (1851-1894), who lived in Pallaskenry, Co Limerick, and Gardiner Street, Dublin, has been confused with James Comerford (1852-1898) of Liverpool, the father of William Edward Comerford (1881-1938), a Baptist missionary in China.

However, the names of the children of this James Comerford, their dates of birth and his life span make it impossible that these are the same people.

This other James Comerford is said to have been born in Dublin (not Cork) and was living in Liverpool in 1861, 1871, at 110 Upper Bean Street, Everton (1878), Everton (1891), and Wren Street, Liverpool (1894). In Liverpool, this James Comerford worked as a printer and a compositor.

On 14 October 1878, in Liverpool, this James Comerford married Ann R Cammack (1854-1897), daughter of Edward Cammack (1811-1861). They were the parents of nine children, but when they died these brothers and sisters were sent to homes and orphanages in the Liverpool area. Ann died in in 1897, and James died in January 1898. Their children included:

1, Mary, born 1880.
2, William Edward Comerford (1881-1938), of whom next.
3, Ada (1882- ), married Frederick H Johnson.
4, Margaret (1885- ), baptised in Saint Timothy’s Church, Everton, on 2 December 1885.
5, James Comerford (1887- ), married Letitia Dunning. They were the parents of two children:
● 1a, …, a daughter.
● 2a, William Comerford.
6, Lily (1889- ), married James Haltead.
7, Richard Comerford (1890-1973), born in West Derby, Liverpool, on 29 October 1891, died 1973.
8, Ernest Comerford (1893- ).
9, Percy Comerford (1894-1957), born 28 July 1894, Everton, and died in Hove, Sussex, 1957. He married Margaret Ellen Sweeney.

Captain William Edward Comerford from Liverpool, a Baptist missionary in China … married Ella Jeter during World War I

The eldest son of James Comerford:

(The Revd) WILLIAM EDWARD COMERFORD (1881-1938), a missionary in China and an army captain in World War I. He was born ca on 5 July 1881, at 59 Kirby Street, Everton, and was baptised on 17 July 1881 in Saint Timothy’s Church, Everton.

He was a jeweller’s assistant, born in Liverpool in 1901 and living in Moss Side with his uncle Richard Cammack and family. In the years that followed, he became a missionary in China. He arrived in Beijing (Peking) in 1906, and he was supported from 1909 by the English Baptist Missionary Society in his work in Xi'an (Sianfu), one of the oldest cities in China.

On 27 April 1914, William married Eleanor (‘Ella’) Jeter Comerford, a Baptist missionary from Texas who worked in China. They were married in Chefoo (Yantai), in Shandong Province in northern China.

Ella was born on 19 April 1877 in the Hayden Community, Van Zandt County, Texas. She was the daughter of Allen William Jeter (1832-1907) and Susan Seale Jeter (1840-1920), and as a child attended Hayden Baptist Church. Later, she attended Baylor University.

Ella was commissioned by the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention on 22 June 1905 for mission work in China. She worked as a missionary in China with the famous Charlotte Digges ‘Lottie’ Moon (1840-1912), a Southern Baptist missionary from Texas.

By 1915, William was Captain William Edward (‘Will’) Comerford of the Royal Army Service Corps in World War I. Will and Ella had returned to England from China, and they lived at 45 Field Way, Wavertree, Liverpool. By 1919, he was living in West Derby, when he was a Baptist minister. He went to Shanghai in 1919, and then on to Montreal.

But Will Comerford had been shell-shocked in World War I. Will and Ella were divorced in 1928. He spent his last years in hospital in England. He died on 25 October 1938 at 27 Duke Street, London.

Ella Comerford and her daughter Ruth sailed from Liverpool to New York City on the RMS Aquitania in 1930. Ella was later a teacher in Hayden, Texas. She died in Terrell, Kaufman County, Texas, on 9 October 1959 and is buried at White Rose Cemetery in Van Zandt County, Texas.

William and Ella were the parents of two children, a son and a daughter:

1, Howard Comerford (1916-1935), who was killed in a car crash at the age in England.
2, Ruth Marion Comerford (1918-1986), born on 28 June 1918 at 27 Radstock Road, West Derby, Liverpool. She married James Robert Thornhill. She died in Texas in 1986.

Perhaps in time I may find out what happened to William Henry Comerford, who was born in Pallaskenry, Co Limerick, and clarify the identity of James Comerford from Dublin who was the father of the Liverpool-born Baptist missionary, William Edward Comerford.

Meanwhile, I hope in time to migrate the stories of some of these branches of the Comerford family in Limerick city and county to my site on Comerford family history. But I thought it was worth sharing these stories as I continue to try to disentangle the roots and branches of these family trees.

Ella Jeter Comerford … worked as a missionary in China for many years

Last updated: 8 August 2019

Lunch and an afternoon
visit to Springfield Castle
and its turrets and towers

Springfield Castle, the ancestral home of the Deane family, dates from 1280 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

At the weekend, I visited the churches and villages at Broadford and Dromcollogher in West Limerick. But these were added bonuses on way to and from Springfield Castle, where two of us had lunch in the Green Room Café on Saturday afternoon.

Springfield Castle is an impressive country house in a picturesque location, with extensive panoramic views of the surrounding countryside of West Limerick and north Cork.

The house and courtyard complex are the ancestral home of Lord and Lady Muskerry and occupies the site of an old bawn associated with the 16th-century tower house.

The East Tower at Springfield Castle, between Dromcollogher and Broadford, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The fine Gothic Revival style gate tower provides a glorious entrance to the substantial courtyard. A large variety of outbuildings display great skill and craftsmanship with well executed rubble stone walls and numerous carriage arches helping to maintain the historic character of the site.

A curious mechanised clock controlling a mechanical calendar, lunar calendar and a bell constructed by the current owner’s great-grand uncle is a mechanical masterpiece of great technical interest.

Springfield Castle is an elegant historic Irish castle. Steeped in history, it is the ancestral home of Lord and Lady Muskerry. Their motto, Forti et fideli nihil dificile, ‘Nothing is Difficult to the Brave and Faithful,’ underlies over 700 years of family history.

The earliest castle at Gort na Tiobrad, the Irish name for Springfield Castle, is reputed to date from 1280, when one of the FitzGeralds, a junior member of the Desmond family, married a woman from the O Coilleain family, who were the Lords of Claonghlais. He later built a castle at Springfield.

Little is known of this castle, but it is said some of the ruins on the north of the present courtyards may incorporate remnants of this castle.

The FitzGerald family lost Springfield after the Jacobite and Williamite wars (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

In their day, the FitzGeralds were patrons to Irish poets and musicians. At the gateway to Springfield Castle, a plaque on the wall commemorates Daithi O Bruadair, a 17th century Irish poet who lived at the castle with his patrons, the FitzGerald family, recording their lives and family events. He described Springfield Castle as ‘a mansion abounding in poetry, prizes and people.’

The FitzGerald family had their lands confiscated for the third and last time in 1691 after the Treaty of Limerick. Sir John FitzGerald went into exile in France with Patrick Sarsfield; he never returned to Ireland and was killed in battle in Oudenarde in 1708.

William FitzMaurice, a younger son of the 20th Lord of Kerry, then bought Springfield castle. His son, John FitzMaurice, was a nephew Thomas Fitzmaurice, 1st Earl of Kerry and ancestor of the Marquis of Lansdowne. He built a large, three-storey early Georgian mansion attached to the existing buildings, and a visible mark to the tower house represents part of the roof line of that 18th century mansion built by John FitzMaurice.

The FitzMaurices continued to live at Springfield Castle until Ann FitzMaurice, the sole heiress, married Sir Robert Tilson Deane in 1775.

The Walled Garden at Springfield Castle (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The Deane family was descended from Sir Matthew Deane, who moved from Somerset to Ireland in the mid-17th century, bought lands in Co Cork, and was made a baronet in 1709. His descendant, Sir Robert Tilson Deane, was MP for Carysfort (1771-1776) and Co Cork (1776-1781). He married Anne FitzMaurice of Springfield Castle, and received the title of Baron Muskerry in 1781.

This 1st Lord Muskerry built ‘a splendid mansion’ on which he is said to have spent at least £30,000. But before it was inhabited, this mansion had ben dismantled by 1788 and ‘the materials sold.’

Griffith’s Valuation records Lord Muskerry holding extensive lands in Co Limerick and Co Cork.

Robert Tilson FitzMaurice Deane (1826-1857), grandson of Robert and Anne, married Elizabeth Geraldine Grogan Morgan of Johnstown Castle, Co Wexford, in 1847 and assumed the additional name of Morgan. She was an aunt of Lady Maurice FitzGerald who, as Adelaide Forbes, married Lord Maurice FitzGerald, second son of the fourth Duke of Leinster.

Springfield Castle has survived bring burned during the War of Independence (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Robert and Elizabeth were the parents of Hamilton Matthew Tilson Fitzmaurice Deane-Morgan (1854-1929), who succeeded his grandfather as 4th Baron Muskerry in 1868. In the 1870s, Lord Muskerry owned 3,161 acres in Co Limerick, 742 acres in Co Tipperary, 912 acres in Co Wexford and 28 acres in Co Clare.

His wife, Elizabeth Grogan Deane Morgan, owned over 350 acres in Co Waterford in the 1870s as well as extensive estates in Co Kilkenny and Co Wexford.

Springfield Castle was burnt in 1921 during the War of Independence. At the time, the IRA claimed the Black and Tans were going to convert the buildings into a garrison.

Springfield Castle was rebuilt by the 5th Lord Muskerry in 1929 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The castle was rebuilt in 1929 by Bob Muskerry, Robert Matthew Fitzmaurice Deane-Morgan (1874-1952), when he succeeded as the 5th Lord Muskerry. He built the current house in the Gothic Revival style of the 19th century, with pinnacles and turrets at the house and the main entrance. The castellated entrance towers with tooled stone forming the main fabric of the turrets and a grand entrance door greatly enliven the façade.

When his brother, Mathew Chichester Cecil FitzMaurice Deane-Morgan (1875-1964), 6th Baron Muskerry, died in 1964, the title, Springfield Castle and the estate passed to a cousin, Matthew FitzMaurice Tilson Deane (1874-1966), 7th Baron Muskerry. Hastings FitzMaurice Tilson Deane (1907-1988), 8th Baron Muskerry, was a consultant radiologist in South Africa and in Limerick.

Robert Fitzmaurice Deane, the present and ninth Baron, lives and works in South Africa, and is funding a restoration project that started in 2006 with the renovation of the East Tower. The Tower house is being restored as venue for events and functions. Lord Muskerry’s sister Betty and her husband Jonathan Sykes run Springfield Castle today with their family.

The courtyard complex has an array of interesting buildings (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Springfield Castle is an attached Gothic Revival style country house with a courtyard complex, commenced ca 1740, comprising attached an eight-bay, two-storey country house, rebuilt in 1929, having single-bay three-stage entrance tower.

An earlier, two-bay, three-storey wing on the east side has a single-bay, three-stage gate tower with an integral camber-headed carriage arch. To the rear, a two-bay, two-storey, double-pile over basement block to the rear, on the north, incorporating a possibly earlier three-stage tower at the north-west.

The enclosed farmyard complex behind the house follows the plan of a bawn wall, incorporating earlier 16th and 18th-century tower houses. The wall-mounted clock on the side of the central gate tower was designed as a mechanical calendar, with a lunar calendar controlling the bell to the roof.

A glimpse of the past at Springfield Castle (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

There is a two-bay, four-stage, 18th-century tower house at the north end of the east range, with a parapet wall and a bellcote.

The ruinous remains of an 11-bay single-storey outbuilding form the north range of the courtyard with a ruinous central tower.

A two-bay, single-stage 18th-century corner tower stands at the west end of the north range.

The three-stage rectangular 16th-century tower house has the ruins of a circular turret associated with original bawn wall.

The central lawn area in the enclosed yard has a tooled limestone column mounted on pedestal surmounted by later render figurine of a monkey and a timber gazebo.

The drive leading up to Springfield Castle (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Springfield Castle and the drive leading up to it are entered through a free-standing Egyptian style gateway built ca 1900. However, another local tradition says the gateway was inspired by a Maori tradition that Lord Muskerry came across while working in Australia and New Zealand.

The Deane family motto engraved above the gate, Forti et Fideli Nihil Difficile, means ‘Nothing is Difficult to the Brave and Faithful.’

A plaque at the gateway commemorates Daithi O Bruadair, a 17th-century Irish poet of the Bardic tradition who lived at the castle with his patrons, the Fitzgerald family.

An underground tunnel was said to link Springfield Castle and Springfield Church, a chapel of the FitzGerald family that later became a Church of Ireland parish church. The church is now in ruins and is surrounded by Springfield Graveyard, which includes a tomb of the FitzMaurice family, who acquired Springfield Castle after the Jacobite and Williamite wars.

The gateway at Springfield Castle … is its inspiration Egyptian or Maori (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

29 July 2019

Saint Bartholomew’s Church,
Dromcollogher, and its 1990s
glass-panelled nave walls

Saint Bartholomew’s Church in Dromcollogher, Co Limerick … built in 1824 and renovated in 1861, 1906-1909, the 1950s and the 1990s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

On my way to lunch in Springfield Castle at the weekend, I stopped to visit the churches in Broadford and Dromcollogher in west Limerick for the first time.

In the Church of Ireland Diocese of Limerick, these villages are within the Rathkeale Group of Parishes, although they have no parish churches; in the Roman Catholic Church, they form one parish of Dromcollogher-Broadford.

Dromcollogher is a picturesque small town or village in Co Limerick, not far from the border of North County Cork and about 12 km west of Charleville. It has a population of about 600 people.

The name Dromcollogher (Drom Collachair) in Irish means ‘the ridge of the hazel wood.’ Local people spell its name Dromcollogher, but there are other variations, including Drumcolloher, Dromcolloher and Drumcullogher, and Dromcolliher is used by the Ordnance Survey and An Post.

Graves in the ruins of the mediaeval church in Dromcollogher (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Dromcollogher is listed as a mediaeval town by Limerick County Council, with many protected buildings. It is first mentioned in The Book of Leinster in 1160, and it is mentioned twice in the Black Book of Limerick ca 1200.

An early mediaeval church was destroyed by war in 1302. It was rebuilt and was known as the capella Dromcolkylle in Corcomohid in 1418, when it was part of the larger parish of Corcomohide.

Dromcollogher was one of the starting points for the Irish Co-Op Movement. The first co-operative creamery was set up here in 1889 on the initiative of Count Horace Plunkett. The songwriter Percy French composed a song ‘There’s Only One Street In Dromcollogher.’

Inside Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Dromcollogher (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The protected or listed buildings in Dromcollogher include Saint Bartholomew’s, the Roman Catholic parish church built in 1824.

Father Maurice England was registered as parish priest of the larger surrounding area in 1704, and a new parish was formed after his death in 1719. Father Patrick Quin, parish priest, who died in 1778, was buried within the walls of the ruined mediaeval parish church.

Saint Bartholomew’s Church was built in 1824 by Father Michael Fitzgerald, who bought the site from Robert Jones Staveley of Glenduff Castle, Co Limerick, a judge of the High Court.

Renovations were carried out in 1861 by Father Patrick Quaid, who also built a new church in neighbouring Broadford. Father Michael Byrne (PP 1902-1917) refurbished and decorated the church in the early 20th century, with improvements designed in 1906-1909 by the Limerick-based architect Brian Edward Fitzgerald Sheehy (1870-1930). The apse and many of the stained-glass windows were added at this time.

The High Altar and apse in Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Dromcollogher (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The stained-glass windows behind the altar depict (from left to right) Saint David, the Virgin Mary, the Sacred Heart, and Saint Catherine. They were donated by David and Mary O’Leary Hannigan of Kilbolane Castle, Milford, Co Cork, and other members of their family in 1906.

The stained-glass windows in the left transept depict the Sacred Heart, donated by Mrs Toomey in memory of her parents, and the Holy Child of Jerusalem, similar to the Child of Prague.

‘The Holy Child of Jerusalem’ in a stained-glass window in the west (liturgical north) transept (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

A stained-glass window of Saint Patrick in the right transept was donated in memory of Patrick Quaid Hannigan and his wife Mary. A stained-glass window of Saint Joseph was donated by Patrick O’Sullivan.

James Pearse (1839-1900), father of the 1916 leaders Patrick and William Pearse, donated the statue of the Virgin Mary to the left of the High Altar. The statue to the right is of the Sacred Heart.

A Pieta statue is in memory of John Gleeson. Other statues in the church include Saint Theresa of Lisieux, Saint Joseph, and Saint Anthony. The Stations of the Cross are in memory of Dorcas Mary Aherne.

The walls of the nave were removed and replaced with glass panels, forming light-filled, cloister like side aisles (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Further renovations were carried out in the 1950s and again in the 1990s. There was considerable debate in the 1990s about whether to build a new church or to radically upgrade the existing church.

The walls of the nave were removed and replaced with glass panels, forming light-filled, cloister like side aisles. The glass panels are the work of Kevin Kelly and the Abbey Stained Glass Studios.

The glass is engraved with both religious and secular scenes, including scenes from the life of Saint Bartholomew, the calling of Saint Nathaniel, who is identified with Saint Bartholomew, in Saint John’s Gospel (see John 1: 43-51), scenes from local history and excerpts from poetry by the local bardic poet, Daibhi O Bruadair (1625-1698), who lived in Springfield Castle, outside Dromcollogher.

The glass panels depict scenes from the life of Saint Bartholomew, including the calling of Saint Nathaniel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

This is a cruciform-plan double-height gable-fronted parish church, aligned on a north-south axis rather than the traditional liturgical east-west axis.

The church had a three-bay nave, with a recent porch at the front, glazed side aisles at each side, three-bay transepts at the sides, and a canted, three-bay chancel at the liturgical east end (north). There are timber-frame balconies in each transept.

The once free-standing three-stage bell tower to north (liturgical east) is linked to the church and sacristy by a recent corridor.

The once free-standing three-stage bell tower (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Much of the church’s historic character remains intact, mostly through the retention of key historic features, including the stained-glass windows, decorative stone details and the bell tower.

These alterations to the nave make for a light and airy interior that retains many artistic features, including the finely-crafted balconies and statues.

The episcopal coat-of-arms of Bishop Jeremiah Newman (1926-1995) (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Two displays of episcopal coats-of-arms commemorate Jeremiah Newman (1926-1995), former Bishop of Limerick, who was born in Church Street, Dromcollogher.

Father William O’Donnell, who was parish priest for 33 years and died in 1876, is the only parish priest buried inside the church. Four parish priests are buried in the church grounds: Michael Byrne; Canon James Foley; Canon John Reeves; and Archdeacon Hugh O’Connor.

The Celtic cross in the churchyard is a memorial to the 48 victims of a fire in 1926 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

A large Celtic cross in the churchyard is a memorial to the victims of a fire at a film showing on Sunday evening, 5 September 1926. William ‘Baby’ Forde had hired a room from Patrick Brennan in the centre of Dromcollogher and planned to show Cecil B DeMille’s Ten Commandments in a make-shift, timber-built cinema. But, during the showing, a reel of nitrate film caught fire from the flame of a candle. The fire spread, and 46 people died that night, with two more dying later in hospital.

The 48 people represented one-tenth of the population of Dromcollogher at the time. Many who died were children. One entire family died – a father, mother and their two children.

The victims were buried in the churchyard in a communal grave marked by the Celtic cross. The town library was later built on the site of the fire.

The tragedy, known locally as the ‘Dromcollogher Burning,’ was the worst-known fire disaster in Irish history until the Betelgeuse fire in 1979 and the Stardust disaster in 1981, in which 50 and 48 people died.

Saint Catherine depicted in one of the chancel windows (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Broadford’s pre-Famine
church recalls legends
about snow in August

The parish church in Broadford, Co Limerick, has an unusual dedication to Our Lady of the Snows (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Two of us drove through west Limerick at the weekend. We were going to lunch in Springfield Castle, and on the way there and back visited the villages of Castlemahon, Broadford and Dromcollogher for the first time.

In the Church of Ireland Diocese of Limerick, these villages lie within the Rathkeale Group of Parishes, although they have no parish churches; in the Roman Catholic Church, Broadford is part of the Roman Catholic parish of Dromcollogher-Broadford.

Broadford (Áth Leathan, ‘Wide Ford’) has a population of 276, according to the 2016 census. The records show it is a relatively new village: it was first recorded by cartographers in 1837, and the Roman Catholic Church was built in 1844 to accommodate a growing population in the area.

The church in Broadford has an unusual dedication – Our Lady of the Snows, whose feast is celebrated on 5 August.

Snow in August is a rare occurrence in Europe – if ever. But popular lore in Rome tells of a snowfall during the night of 5 August 352.

A Roman nobleman John and his wife were without children, but were rich in many other ways. They decided to bequeath their fortune to the Virgin Mary, and at the suggestion of Pope Liberius, prayed that she might give a sign so that they might know how to do this.

During the night of 5 August, it is said, the Virgin Mary appeared to John and his wife and to Pope Liberius, telling them to build a church in her honour at the top of the Esquiline Hill, one of the Seven Hills of Rome. As a sign, snow would cover the crest of the hill.

During that night, snow fell on the historic hill, but when the crowds gathered in the morning to see this unusual sight in white, they saw the snow had fallen in a pattern, leaving uncovered the outline of church uncovered.

The church was built over two years, and when it was completed in 354 it was dedicated as the Basilica Liberiana. The church was rebuilt on a grander scale by Pope Sixtus III 70 years later. From then on, the church was known as the Basilica Sixti and the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore or Saint Mary Major.

This church today is one of the largest basilicas in the world and its Patronal Festival on 5 August recalls the story of the miracle of the snow.

Inside the church in Broadford, looking towards the liturgical east (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

A similar story is told about the first church built in the Broadford area, when the area was known as Killaliathan or Killagholehane. The name is derived from the Irish Cill Acha Liatháin, meaning ‘the Church of the Field of the O’Leehane family.’

According to a local legend, a woman in the Uí Liathain (O’Leehane) family wanted to build a church in the area but did not know the best site for her church. She prayed for a sign to help her decide on the location. After a snowstorm in the summer, only one field remained free from the white blanket of snow. This field was part of the Uí Liatháin family’s land.

The earliest record a church in Killagholehane church is from 1201. At the time of the destruction of the church in Dromcollogher in 1302, Killagholehane church was also partially destroyed. It was rebuilt almost immediately on the same site.

There was also accommodation for priests in a building attached to the church. A tomb in the wall of the church dates from the 15th century, although it is not known to whom it belongs. It may be the tomb of the O’Daly family, a renowned Bardic family employed by the Earls of Desmond for around 300 years.

An inscription on the belfry recalls Father Patrick Quaid, who built the church in 1844-1846 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The first Roman Catholic Church in Broadford was built in 1819-1820 on the Newcastle West road, where Ó Suilleabháin’s corner house now stands. A house nearby was the childhood home from 1884 to 1885 of James Duhig (1871-1965), Archbishop of Brisbane.

The site for a new church was donated in 1839 by Lord Muskerry, who lived in Springfield Castle, who donated the site and a gift of £50 to the parish priest, Father Reeves (1833-1840).

However, the resignation of Father Reeves in 1840 delayed the project, and it was another four years before work began on the present Church Our Lady of the Snows in 1844 under the next parish priest, Father Patrick Quaid.

The church was completed in 1846. It was built with limestone that was quarried locally measured 90 ft by 30 ft. The church is built on a north/south axis rather than the liturgically normal east/west axis Father Quaid added the cut-stone belfry to the church in 1856. An inscription on the belfry reads ‘Revd P Quaid 1856.’

The stained-glass window above the altar depicts the Crucifixion, with Saint Anthony and Saint David (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The stained-glass window above the altar depicts the Crucifixion, flanked by Saint Anthony (left) and Saint David (right). These windows were donated by David MacMahon in 1903 in memory of David and Johanna MacMahon, in 1903.

There is a statue of the Virgin Mary to the left of the altar and a statue to the right of Saint Theresa in memory of John Connors.

The porch, front wall and gates were added by Archdeacon Hugh O’Connor in the 1950s when he was parish priest (1946-1972). Further renovations work was carried out on in 1983-1986.

A statue of the Sacred Heart stands on the left in the churchyard, with a Crucifixion scene on the right of the church.

This is a pre-Famine church, and a small memorial in the churchyard commemorates the 2,500 people from the parish who died or emigrated during the Great Famine (1845-1852).

The baptismal font in the porch in the church in Broadford, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

28 July 2019

‘Ask, and it will be given to you;
search, and you will find; knock,
and the door will be opened’

‘Give us each day our daily bread’ … bread in a shop window in Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 28 July 2019

The Sixth Sunday after Trinity

11.30 a.m.: The Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick

Readings: Hosea 1: 2-10; Psalm 85; Colossians 2: 6-15, (16-19); Luke 11: 1-13.

‘Lord, teach us to pray’ (Luke 11: 1) … prayer books and prayer shawls in the synagogue in Porto (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Language can be very amusing, but very difficult, at times.

There are times when the language of the Bible can almost hit us in the face.

For example, the language in our Old Testament reading (Hosea 1: 2-10) this morning is very direct, almost frightening, with its comparisons of a people being unfaithful to God with adultery, whoring and whoredom.

I imagine this is one of those Sundays when many rectors are glad that summer holidays mean they did not ask the Sunday School to act out the Old Testament reading.

When it comes to the Gospel reading, we are all so familiar with the Lord’s Prayer, that we often recite it by rote without noticing the significance and intention of each petition. Have you noticed this in your own prayer life?

Did you notice, as the Gospel was being read this morning, that this version of the Lord’s Prayer in Saint Luke’s Gospel is not the same as the familiar text we use, based on the version in Saint Matthew’s text?

Without looking, are you aware of the differences?

Apart from the fact that it is a little shorter, what else did you notice?

What is missing?

Is there a difference in emphases between these two versions of the one prayer?

In Saint Matthew’s Gospel, Christ teaches the Lord’s Prayer within the context of the Sermon on the Mount. But in Saint Luke’s Gospel, immediately after visiting the home of Mary and Martha in Bethany, Christ finds a private place to pray. It is then that the disciples ask him to teach them ‘to pray, as John taught his disciples.’

The disciples are already familiar not only with the prayers of Saint John the Baptist, but also with traditional Jewish prayers in the home, in the synagogue and in the Temple in Jerusalem.

So why did they ask Jesus to teach them how to pray?

As a rabbi and a religious leader, Jesus wais responsible for teaching his followers how to fulfil Jewish religious commandments, including the obligation to pray at certain times and in certain forms.

Then and now, a religious community has a distinctive way of praying; ours is exemplified by the Lord’s Prayer, which is a communal rather than individual prayer, expressed in the plural and not the singular:

Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.

We approach God in a personal way, as Father. We then bring before him five petitions that are not on behalf of me personally, but on behalf of us, on behalf of all.

Sometimes we miss out on the impact of the Lord’s Prayer because we are so familiar with it. But in the public worship of the Church we often facilitate people missing out on the impact of the Lord’s Prayer when we privatise it.

Many of us were taught to pray the Lord’s Prayer as a private personal prayer as children, perhaps even saying it kneeling by our bedside, hands joined together, fingers pointing up.

So often, in our churches, we encourage people to kneel for the Lord’s Prayer, as if this was now both the most sacred and the most personal part of the Liturgy, rather than asking them to remain standing and to continue in collective prayer.

Or, at great public events, such as synods and mission conferences, we invite everyone present to say the Lord’s Prayer in their own first language. In this way, a collective, public prayer becomes a private, personal prayer, detached from and ignoring where everyone else is at each stage in the petitions.

As someone with English as my first language, I often notice how others finish a lot later than we do – the Finns in particular, but even the Germans too. Each language has its own rhythms and cadences. And the cacophony and conflicting rhythms mean it sounds as if we are in Babel rather than praying together, collectively and in the plural.

The first two petitions place us in God’s presence (‘hallowed be your name’ and ‘your kingdom come’), the next two bring our needs before God, both physical (‘daily bread,’ verse 3) and spiritual (forgiveness, verse 4), and the final petition has an eschatological dimension, looks forward to the fulfilment of all God’s promises, in God’s own time (‘the time of trial,’ verse 4).

The ‘time of trial’ is the final onslaught of evil forces, before Christ comes again, but also refers to the temptations we experience day-by-day.

So there is a temporal and an eternal dimension to these petitions, even when we pray for ourselves in the here and now.

The privatisation of the Lord’s Prayer, even on Sundays, takes away from its impact and from the collective thrust of each of the petitions.

Jesus, when he is teaching us to pray, is responding not to one individual but to the disciples as the core, formative group of the Church. God is addressed not as my Father, but our Father, and each petition that follows is in the plural: our daily bread, our forgiveness, our sins, our debts, how we forgive, and do not ‘bring us.’

When we say ‘Amen’ at the end, are we really saying ‘Amen’ to the holiness of God’s name, to the coming of Kingdom, to the needs of each being met, on a daily basis, to forgiveness, both given and received, to being put on the path of righteousness and justice, to others falling into no evil or into no harm.

If we privatise the Lord’s Prayer, we leave little room for its collective impact to grab a hold of those who are praying, and we leave little room for our own conversion, which is a continuing and daily need.

And so, let the kingdom, the power and the glory be God’s as we pray together:

Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.

And so, may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

‘Give us each day our daily bread’ … bread in a bakery window in Kournas, near Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 11: 1-13: (NRSVA):

1 He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ 2 He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread.
4 And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.’

5 And he said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.” 7 And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.” 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

9 ‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’

‘Knock, and the door will be opened for you’ (Luke 11: 9) … a front door in Bore Street, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Colour: Green

The Collect:

Merciful God,
you have prepared for those who love you
such good things as pass our understanding:
Pour into our hearts such love toward you
that we, loving you above all things,
may obtain your promises,
which exceed all that we can desire;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Post-Communion Prayer:

God of our pilgrimage,
you have led us to the living water.
Refresh and sustain us
as we go forward on our journey,
in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.


429, Lord Jesus Christ, you have come to us (CD 25)
619, Lord, teach us how to pray aright (CD 35)
509, Your kingdom come, O God (CD 29)

‘Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? ’ (Luke 11: 11) … fish at a taverna in the harbour in Rethymnon, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.

‘Padre Nuestro, que estas en el Cielo … Our Father, who art in Heaven’ … the words of the Lord’s Prayer in Spanish in the shape of a Cross (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)