15 April 2019

‘And Jesus crouched against a wall,
and cried for Calvary’

The Crucifix above the High Altar in Saint Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Monday 15 April 2019

8 p.m.: Evening Prayer, Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton.

Readings: Psalm 36: 5-11; Hebrews 9: 11-15; John 12: 1-11.

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

I said yesterday (Palm Sunday, 7 April 2019) that during Holy Week this year, instead of preaching each day in Holy Week I hoped to read a poem to help our reflections during this Holy Week.

In our Gospel reading this evening (John 12: 1-11), it is the day before Palm Sunday, and the crowds come to Bethany to see Jesus. But do they come to see him for the right reasons? And how would we respond if, instead of going to Bethany or Jerusalem, Jesus came to where we live this week?

These are the sort of questions that may have inspired my choice of Lenten poem this evening. ‘Indifference’, or ‘When Jesus came to Birmingham,’ was written by Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy while he was a chaplain during World War I. Woodbine Willie felt God’s heartbeat for people and ministered faithfully, through practical love and through his poetry, to the ordinary soldiers living through ‘hell on earth’ in the trenches.

In this poem, Kennedy compares the behaviour of Christ’s contemporaries with our behaviour today towards the stranger and the outcast, and challenges us in Lent to consider whether we are following Christ to Golgotha.

Kennedy once wrote: ‘We have taught our people to use prayer too much as a means of comfort – not in the original and heroic sense of uplifting, inspiring, strengthening, but in the more modern and baser sense of soothing sorrow, dulling pain, and drying tears – the comfort of the cushion, not the comfort of the Cross.’

Woodbine Willie, Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy (1883-1929), was an Anglican priest-poet with an Irish background. He was given his nickname ‘Woodbine Willie’ during World War I because of his reputation for giving Woodbine cigarettes along with pastoral and spiritual support to injured and dying soldiers.

He was born in Leeds in 1883, the seventh of nine children born to Jeanette Anketell and William Studdert Kennedy, a vicar in Leeds. His family came from this diocese, from Co Limerick, Co Clare and Clonfert in east Co Galway. He was educated at Leeds Grammar School and then went to Trinity College Dublin, where he received his degree in classics and divinity in 1904.

After a year’s training for ordination, he was appointed a curate in Rugby. In 1914, he was appointed Vicar of Saint Paul’s in Worcester.

On the outbreak of World War I, Kennedy volunteered as a chaplain in the British Army on the Western Front, and it was there he was given the nickname ‘Woodbine Willie.’

During the war, he was attached to a bayonet-training service, and toured with boxers and wrestlers to give morale-boosting speeches about the usefulness of the bayonet. In 1917, he ran into ‘No Man’s Land’ at the Messines Ridge, to help the wounded during an attack on the German frontline. For his bravery, he was decorated with the Military Cross.

His poems about his war-time experiences were published in Rough Rhymes of a Padre (1918), and More Rough Rhymes (1919).

But during the war, he was also converted to Christian Socialism and pacifism, which influenced his books Lies (1919), Democracy and the Dog-Collar (1921) – which included chapters such as ‘The Church Is Not a Movement but a Mob,’ ‘Capitalism is Nothing But Greed, Grab, and Profit-Mongering,’ and ‘So-Called Religious Education Worse than Useless’ – Food for the Fed Up (1921), The Wicket Gate (1923), and The Word and the Work (1925).

After the war, Kennedy was appointed to the Church of Saint Edmund, King and Martyr, in Lombard Street, London. But he soon moved to work for the Industrial Christian Fellowship, travelling throughout Britain on speaking tours.

He addressed the Anglo-Catholic Congress in London in July 1923, when he said:

‘It is not enough to make the devotional life our main concern, and allow an occasional lecture or preachment on social matters to be added as a make-weight. The social life must be brought right into the heart of our devotion, and our devotion right into the heart of our social life. There is only one spiritual life, and that is the sacramental life – sacramental in its fullest, its widest, and its deepest sense, which means the consecration of the whole man and all his human relationships to God.

‘There must be free and open passage between the sanctuary and the street. We must destroy within ourselves our present feeling that we descend to a lower level when we leave the song of the angels and the archangels and begin to study economic conditions, questions of wages, hours and housing. It is hard, very hard, but it must be done. It must be done not only for the sake of the street, but for the sake of the sanctuary, too. If the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament obscures the Omnipresence of God in the world, then the Sacrament is idolatrous, and our worship is actual sin, for all sin at its roots is the denial of the Omnipresence of God.

‘I have been to Mass in churches where I felt it was sinful – sinful because there was no passion for social righteousness behind it. When ye spread forth your hands I will hide mine eyes from you; yea, when ye make long prayers I will not hear you; your hands are full of blood ... Cease to do evil, learn to do well. Seek judgement. Relieve the oppressed. Judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

‘Remember that medieval ritual was a natural expression of medieval life, which, at any rate, tried to consecrate all things to God – tried to build the Kingdom of God on earth, and dedicated all arts and crafts, all human activities to him. In that setting it meant much; apart from that setting it means nothing, and worse than nothing – it is a hollow mockery. The way out is not to destroy ritual, but to restore righteousness, and make our flaming colours the banners of a Church militant here on earth ...’

Woodbine Willie was taken ill on one of his speaking tours and he died in Liverpool 90 years ago on 8 March 1929.

Woodbine Willie is mentioned by James Joyce in Finnegans Wake:

... tsingirillies’ zyngarettes, while Woodbine Willie, so popiular with the poppyrossies ...

He is also mentioned by the Divine Comedy in their song, ‘Absent Friends’:

Woodbine Willie couldn’t rest until he’d
given every bloke a final smoke
before the killing

Indifference, by GA Studdert Kennedy

When Jesus came to Golgotha, they hanged Him on a tree,
They drove great nails through hands and feet, and made a Calvary;
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns, red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days, and human flesh was cheap.

When Jesus came to Birmingham, they simply passed Him by.
They would not hurt a hair of Him, they only let Him die;
For men had grown more tender, and they would not give Him pain,
They only just passed down the street, and left Him in the rain.

Still Jesus cried, ‘Forgive them, for they know not what they do,’
And still it rained the winter rain that drenched Him through and through;
The crowds went home and left the streets without a soul to see,
And Jesus crouched against a wall, and cried for Calvary.

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

The Crucified Christ and candlesticks by Peter Eugene Ball in the north aisle of Saint Philip’s Cathedral, Birmingham … the cross is made from a simple wooden sleeper, the Crucified Christ from copper and bronze foil (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

John 12: 1-11 (NRSVA):

1 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2 There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3 Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5 ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’ 6 (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) 7 Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’

9 When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

Liturgical Colour: Red or Violet

Penitential Kyries:

Lord God,
you sent your Son to reconcile us to yourself and to one another.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus,
you heal the wounds of sin and division.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
through you we put to death the sins of the body – and live.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day:

O God,
who by the passion of your blessed Son made
an instrument of shameful death
to be for us the means of life:
Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ,
that we may gladly suffer pain and loss
for the sake of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Lenten Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Introduction to the Peace:

Now in union with Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near through the shedding of Christ’s blood; for he is our peace. (Ephesians 2: 17)


Christ draw you to himself
and grant that you find in his cross a sure ground for faith,
a firm support for hope,
and the assurance of sins forgiven:


217, All glory, laud and honour (CD 14).

‘When Jesus came to Birmingham, they simply passed Him by./ They would not hurt a hair of Him, they only let Him die’ ... Selfridges in the Bullring has become a modern architectural symbol of Birmingham (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

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.

It may be a long way to
Tipperary, but it’s even
further to find the truth

The Tipperary on Fleet Street, London … has it any links to the well-known song? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

When I was posting on the buildings and monuments of Tipperary last week, and uploading photographs from the town on social media, it was inevitable that reactions would include comments such as ‘It’s a long way …’

Of course, it’s not all that long from here to Tipperary Town … it’s the next stop on the Waterford train after Limerick Junction. Indeed, Limerick Junction itself is not in Co Limerick, but in Co Tipperary.

Tipperary is a small town; it’s not even the country town of Tipperary – that role is shared between Nenagh, once the country town of Tipperary North Riding, and Clonmel, once the country town of Tipperary South Riding.

I had always thought, however – and repeated in at least one response – that the World War I song, ‘It’s long way to Tipperary,’ took its name not from Tipperary Town but from The Tipperary, an Irish pub on Fleet Street in London.

At a time when liquid lunches were popular among journalists and a time when many journalists still worked on Fleet Street, Private Eye developed the character of Lunchtime O’Booze as the archetypal drunken journalist.

During my visits to Fleet Street in the days when I was a working journalist, many London-based colleagues insisted on repeating the story that The Tipperary had given its name to the war song of soldiers pining to return not to provincial Ireland but to London, including Piccadilly, Leicester Square and the pubs frequented by the printers who worked on Fleet Street.

The Tipperary on Fleet Street … tall tales on the noticeboard beside the front door (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A colourful noticeboard at the entrance to this Irish-style pub continues to perpetuate many of the myths associated with this well-known and much-photographed pub. But, having repeated this myth in social media posts over the past few weeks, I felt a responsibility to check its veracity and to distinguish between myth and truth.

The Tipperary is slender and respectable and is often regarded as ‘the Grand Old Dame’ of Irish pubs in London. It is a late Victorian London pub with a strong Irish theme and many quaint features, including glass panels advertising Irish whiskeys and stout, dark panelling with carved insets and a stone mosaic floor embedded with shamrocks.

The noticeboard is littered with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes that should have been corrected by every Fleet Street sub-editor who passed through its doors on the way to a liquid lunch. Perhaps all this was in jest, as a challenge to the sobriety of journalists.

The Tipperary claims to be the first Irish pub outside Ireland and the first to sell Guinness in England. The sign claims it was built in 1605 with stones from the Whitefriars Monastery, and that these stones helped the pub to survive ‘unharmed in the raging inferno of the Great Fire of London.’

The pub sign also claims that at the end of World War I, Fleet Street printers returning from the war had the pub’s name changed to The Tipperary and that it has kept this name for 100 years since.

However, Martyn Cornell, whose ‘Zythophile’ blog looks at ‘bars, beer myths, beer nonsense, pub names, pubs [and] rants,’ has challenged ‘the reliability of the information on the sign at The Tipperary. He identifies at least a dozen errors in just 10 sentences, from the names of proprietors to details about the pub’s history, as well as stories about that war-time song.

He says it is nonsense to say that this was ‘the first Irish pub outside Ireland’ – it was not even the first Mooney’s Irish House outside Ireland. Nor, of course, was it the first pub outside Ireland to sell bottled or draught Guinness – Guinness was exporting to Bristol from at least 1825, in both cask and bottle.

Martyn Cornell notes that the owner’s name was JG Mooney & Co Ltd, not ‘SG Mooney & Son,’ that Mooneys were never brewers but pub and bar owners in Dublin, that the Boar’s Head was actually destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666, that it dates back to at least 1443, not 1605, and that the site first belonged not to a monastery but to the Carmelite friars.

The house of the Whitefriars or Carmelites in Fleet Street was founded by Sir Richard Gray in 1241.

The Boar’s Head can be traced back ‘Le boreshede in Parish of St Dunstan in Fletestrete,’ mentioned in the same grant to the Carmelite friars in 1443 as the Bolt and Tun Inn that stood next door.

Behind the Boar’s Head, a rectangle of land bounded by the Thames, the walls of the Temple, Fleet Street and Water Lane or Whitefriars Street was known in the 17th century as Alsatia. It had retained some of the privileges of sanctuary dating from the privileges of the Carmelite friary, confirmed and enlarged by a royal charter issued by James I in 1608. Alsatia became a refuge for debtors, forgers, highwaymen and others who evaded the law until the privileges of the liberty of Whitefriars were abolished by William III in 1697.

The Boar’s Head was actually destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666, along with 13,000 other buildings. But it was rebuilt and back in business by 1668.

The windows of the Boar’s Head were smashed by a Jacobite mob in the ‘Mug House’ riots in 1716. The mob’s real target was Mrs Read’s Coffee House in Salisbury Court, a next street away, but the leader of the rioters, Daniel Vaughan, was shot dead by the landlady’s husband, Robert Read. Later, five rioters were hanged in Fleet Street opposite Salisbury Court, and Read was cleared of Vaughan’s murder.

Sarah Fortescue, proprietor of the Boar’s Head in 1775, was accused of keeping her house open at unseasonable hours and of harbouring and entertaining ‘lewd women.’

The Boar’s Head was a ‘well-known and long-established’ public house in 1812. It originally faced onto Whitefriars Street, which was known until at least the 1830s as Water Lane. To the south was an inn called the Bolt-in-Tun, and both premises had back entrances onto Fleet Street at what later became No 64 and No 66.

The Bolt-in-Tun at 64 Fleet Street had become a booking office for the new railway companies by 1859. Most of the Bolt-in-Tun was demolished in 1882-1883, ending a story that stretched back almost 4½ centuries. In some histories, the story of the Bolt-in-Tun has been confused it with the Tipperary. But the Boar’s Head next door survived when the Bolt-in-Tun, was demolished.

The Tipperary on Fleet Street, London … acquired by JG Mooney of Dublin in 1895 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

JG Mooney acquired the lease of the Boar’s Head, its fourth London pub, in 1895. The company developed out of the bar business run by James G Mooney in Dublin from at least 1863. The company acquired its first pub in London, on the Strand, in 1889, its second on High Holborn in 1892 and then a third in Duke Street, on the south side of London Bridge.

The Boar’s Head became the fourth of the Mooney’s Irish House chain in London in 1895, four years after the death of JG Mooney, and was called ‘Mooney’s Irish House (late Boar’s Head)’ in 1895. The Mooneys commissioned the architect RL Cox to refurbish the pub, and the changes included the shamrock-embedded mosaic floor and a front step that still says ‘Mooney’s.’

The company continued to be run by his sons Gerald and John Joseph Mooney. Sir John Joseph Mooney (1874-1934) was the Home Rule MP for South Co Dublin (1900-1906) and Newry (1906-1918), John Redmond’s Parliamentary Private Secretary and Treasurer of the Irish Parliamentary Party.

Mooney’s had at least 11 pubs in London by 1940, most of them known as ‘Mooney’s Irish House.’

The pub was called Mooney’s Irish House in Fleet Street into the 1950s, and the Irish House up to 1967.

The former Boar’s Head was sold ca 1966-1967, and in 1968 its name was changed from Mooney’s Irish House to The Tipperary. At the same time the name of the old Boar’s Head was revived and used for the upstairs dining room.

The pub closed for a few years for refurbishment in the early 1980s. It was a Greene King pub by 1986, but is now owned independently.

TP O’Connor’s bust at No 72-78 Fleet Street, a few paces east of The Tipperary (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

So, as The Tipperary only acquired its name half a century after World War I, I had to ask again whether the war-time song has any links with either Fleet Street or with Tipperary itself.

Of course, there are other, real, historical links between Ireland and Fleet Street. Among the many well-known Irish journalists who worked there was TP O’Connor (1848-1929) from Athlone, editor of the The Star (1888-1890) and MP for Galway (1880-1885) and Liverpool Scotland (1885-1929). His bust at Chronicle House, No 72-78 Fleet Street, a few paces east of The Tipperary, has an inscription: ‘His pen could lay bare the bones of a book or the soul of a statesman in a few vivid lines.’

George Curnock, a Daily Mail reporter, first reported on the popularity of the song ‘It’s a Long, Long Way to Tipperary’ with soldiers in France in August 1914. He cabled his news editor, Walter Fish, telling him the soldiers of the Connaught Rangers were singing the song as they marched from Boulogne to the front.

According to Fleet Street mythology, Fish imagined ‘Tipperary’ as a song to stimulate patriotist and a possible British equivalent to the Marseillaise. Lord Northcliffe, the proprietor of the Mail, was equally enthusiastic. The words and the music of the music hall song were secured and prominently displayed in the Mail.

The song was picked up by other regiments, and its popularity among the troops was secured after it was recorded that November by the Irish tenor John McCormack and became a best-selling hit before the end of the year.

‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’ was written in 1912 by Jack Judge (1872-1938) and Henry James (Harry) Williams, allegedly for a 5 shilling bet. The original title was ‘It’s a Long Way to Connemara,’ but Connemara became Tipperary by the time it was performed the next night at a music hall in Stalybridge, Cheshire.

Harry Williams’s parents were publicans at the Plough Inn – now The Tipperary Inn – in Balsall Common, half-way between Solihull and Coventry. Jack Judge’s parents father, Jack Judge senior, was born in Carrowbeg, near Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo; his mother, Mary Maguire, was born in Oldham to Irish parents, Thomas and Jane Maguire, who may – or may not – have been from Tipperary.

Which all goes to show that you should never believe anything told to you by a man in a pub – especially if he has been drinking at lunchtime. To paraphrase TP O’Connor, writers need constantly to use pens that ‘lay bare the bones of a book or the soul of a statesman in a few vivid lines.’

The stories about ‘Tipperary’ are lessons in why not to believe anything said by a man in a pub – especially if he has been drinking at lunchtime

Praying through Lent with
USPG (41): 15 April 2019

‘Jesus falls the Third Time’ … Station IX in the Stations of the Cross in the Chapel in Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Today is Monday in Holy Week [15 April 2019]. Later this evening, I am presiding and preaching at Evening Prayer in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick (8 p.m.).

During Lent this year, I am using the USPG Prayer Diary, Pray with the World Church, for my morning prayers and reflections.

USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is the Anglican mission agency that partners churches and communities worldwide in God’s mission to enliven faith, strengthen relationships, unlock potential, and champion justice. It was founded in 1701.

This week, Holy Week, the USPG Prayer Diary is focussing on the work of the Delhi Brotherhood Society (DBS) and its Women’s Helpline, which provides pastoral support and counselling to help families to resolve issues of gender violence or marital discord.

This theme was introduced yesterday with a short article telling Meera’s story.

Monday 15 April 2019, Monday in Holy Week:

Pray for those in abusive marriages, who live in fear of violence and manipulation, that they may find strength in friendships and a renewed sense of their own worth.


Isaiah 42: 1-9; Psalm 36: 5-11; Hebrews 9: 11-15; John 12: 1-11.

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty God,
whose most dear Son went not up to joy,
but first he suffered pain,
and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of his cross,
may find it none other than the way of life and peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Lenten Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Post Communion Prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ,
you humbled yourself in taking the form of a servant
and in obedience died on the cross for our salvation.
Give us the mind to follow you
and to proclaim you as Lord and King,
to the glory of God the Father.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow