04 May 2019

The mediaeval ruins at
Malahide Abbey are older
than Malahide Castle

The mediaeval ruins of Malahide ‘Abbey’ stand on the site of an earlier church dedicated to Saint Fenweis (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

The One Day International cricket match between Ireland and England at Malahide was slow in starting yesterday [3 May 2019]. Between the clouds and bright sunshine, it was a sunny late spring morning. As the grounds were being tested late in the morning to check its suitability for play, I strolled through the grounds of Malahide Castle.

The story of Malahide Castle dates back to 1185, when the lands were granted to Richard Talbot by Henry II. But the ruins of Malahide ‘Abbey’ within the grounds of the castle tell a much earlier story.

The ruins of the abbey church stand on the site of an earlier, more ancient church dedicated to Saint Fenweis. The ruins are often referred to as Malahide Abbey but it is more likely that in its time this was a large church, benefitting from the patronage of the affluent Talbot family.

The abbey flourished under the patronage of the Talbot family and served as the local parish church. The earliest recorded priest in Malahide was Walter Talbot, who died in 1193.

The mediaeval ruins of Malahide ‘Abbey’ date from the 15th and 16th centuries (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The present ruins date from the 15th and 16th centuries. The church continued to function as a parish church, and is said to have been one of the finest in the rural deanery of Fingal.

The abbey grounds are said to include the family tombs of the Talbots. Among those buried within the ruins is Maud Plunkett who married Richard Talbot and died in 1482. She is said to have been ‘maid, wife and widow’ in widow in one day when her first husband, Thomas Hussey of Galtrim, was killed on their wedding day.

The church may never have been an abbey, and it does not seem to have come within the scope of the dissolution of the monastic houses at the Reformation. But tradition says that the Parliamentarian Miles Corbett (1595-1662) of Great Yarmouth, one of the regicides who signed the death warrant of King Charles I in 1649, was responsible for taking the roof off the church, and using the lead for bullets. The church was recorded as ruinous a few years later.

The regicide Miles Corbett is said to have stripped the roof off Malahide ‘Abbey’ to use the lead for bullets (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Corbet was appointed Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer in 1655. At the restoration of Charles II in 1660, Malahide Castle was restored to the Talbot family. Corbet, like all 59 men who had signed the death warrant for Charles I, took flight. Corbett went to the Netherlands, but with two other regicides, John Okey and John Barkstead, he was arrested by the English ambassador to the Netherlands, Sir George Downing, and returned to England and put on trial.

Corbet was found guilty and executed on 19 April 1662. In his dying speech he said: ‘When I was first called to serve in parliament, I had an estate; I spent it in the service of the parliament. I never bought any king’s or bishop’s lands; I thought I had enough, at least I was content with it; that I might serve God and my country was that I aimed at.’

From then on, until 1822, the Parish of Malahide was united with Swords. In 1822, the Parish of Malahide became a separate curacy, with the patronage held by the Dean and Chapter of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, and a new church was consecrated on 21 November 1822.

The church was abandoned when a new parish church was built for Malahide in 1822 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The abbey walls are still standing and include a nave and chancel divided by a Gothic arch. There is a fine decorative East window and a second Gothic window beneath the belfry tower. The two-storey tower rises above the surrounding trees and may have served as a sacristy or the priest’s residence.

There are crenellated parapets at the roof level of the north and south walls. The south transept is well preserved, and there is a carved figure with a mitred head above the south doorway.

The west gable features an unusual triple bell-cote, which is well preserved, and towers above the tall trees. There is a three-light window in the west wall.

The east window still has its tracery in place. Next to the east window, there is an inserted carved image of a human head on a red sandstone slab. High on the north-east corner, over 3 metres above the ground and made with a similar red sandstone slab, is a much-weathered sheela-na-gig, with a big round head and a small body.

The churchyard was closed to burials in the 1870s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

In the 1870s, the then Lord Talbot of Malahide asked the Local Government Board to close the graveyard from further burials. In the midst of court battles and litigation, the churchyard closed, reopened, closed again, and opened once again in 1877, but with burials limited to eight a year.

Fingal County Council maintains the graveyard. Although a lone council worker was cutting the grass in the churchyard, the gates were locked and there were no signs telling visitors how and when the church ruins could be visited.

There is a three-light window at the west end of Malahide Abbey (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Photographs from Porto

Patrick Comerford

My column this month in two diocesan magazines – the Church Review (Dublin and Glendalough) and the Diocesan Magazine (Cashel, Ferns and Ossory) – discusses my recent visit to Porto in northern Portugal.

The magazines are available in churches throughout both united dioceses from tomorrow morning [5 May 2019].

The editor of the Diocesan Magazine, the Revd Patrick Burke of Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny, has selected four of my photographs from Porto for a centre-page spread in the magazine.

But more about Porto tomorrow afternoon …

The spirit and the humour
that comes with the joys
of an afternoon of Cricket

At yesterday’s One Day International between Ireland and England at Malahide (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Summer must be near when I find myself enjoying the best part of a day watching Cricket. I had a ticket for yesterday’s One Day International in Malahide between Ireland and England, and although play was delayed for two hours in the morning, the threatened rain only came in light showers.

Despite Ireland’s defeat by four wickets, it turned out to be a very pleasant way to look forward to the beginning of summer.

I was never one of the ‘jocks’ at school, and I was never very good at any sports I tried to take part in. But I was happy to try, and happy to stand on sidelines, whether it was Soccer, Hurling, Rugby or Cricket.

As a schoolboy, we enjoyed street cricket and beach cricket, and through English boys’ comics I studiously learned the meanings of terms from Googly to Silly Mid On and Silly Mid Off with all the effort a boy needed to become fluent in a new language. Indeed, I still played Cricket with The Irish Times – badly, very badly – when I was in my late 30s.

I’m still a happy supporter of Aston Villa – even happier than expected at the moment, of Leinster Rugby, of the Wexford hurlers, and of Irish Cricket. I also enjoy rowing on the River Deel occasionally, although I had no-one to share my joys with when Cambridge won the boat race last month.

Moving to Askeaton two years ago taught me to take an interest too in the Limerick hurlers, and last year I got to lift both the Liam McCarthy Cup (on two occasions) and the Sam Maguire Cup in West Limerick. But celebrations were not as enthusiastic when it came to Limerick Cricket Club’s run to the 2018 National Cup Final.

Since then, there is a new interest in Cricket in the south-west, and a second Limerick club, Limerick City CC, is taking part in competitions this year. I noticed in the programme yesterday that two Limerick schools – Villers School and CBS Sexton Street – are taking part in Munster schools competitions this year.

It is hard to explain to friends who have little or no interest in Cricket that the game has a much wider appeal than they can imagine. Malahide is at the heart of north Dublin cricket, which spreads from Balrothery and Balbriggan through Skerries, Rush and Donabate to Malahide and Clontarf.

England’s captain Eoin Morgan began playing for the Rush Under-9s at Kenure, was first capped for Ireland at the age of 16. England’s seam pace bowler Tom Curran was born in Cape Town but also qualifies to play for Ireland. Ireland’s Boyd Rankin played for England before returning to Ireland in in 2016.

It is hard too to explain to the fans of other games the good atmosphere at Cricket matches. The Barmy Army was in fine form at Malahide yesterday, although their repertoire was limited to ‘Karma Chameleon,’ a hit for Boy George and Culture Club in 1983, Tony Christie’s ‘Amarillo,’ and one single rendition on a trumpet of ‘In the Bleak Mid-Winter’ – perhaps a reference to the threat of rain throughout the day rather than an act of piety – and a moving and well-choreographed rendition of Jerusalem, the real English national anthem.

Although I often say in jest that I am so tired after busy Sunday mornings I am fit for nothing better on a Sunday afternoon than to sit peacefully through Choral Evensong or to sit watching Cricket, there are, of course, links between piety and Cricket.

When I was working on doctoral research on Irish Anglican missionaries in South Africa, one of the people I came to know as ‘my missionaries’, Canon (William) Patrick ‘Pat’ Glyn McCormick (1877-1940), worked in the Transvaal in 1903-1910. His father, Canon Joseph McCormick (1834-1914), played Cricket for Ireland under the alias of J Bingley, the name of one of the schools he had attended, to disguise his participation from his parishioners in Dunmore East, Co Waterford.

Away from Cricket, McCormick was distinguished in other sports. He rowed in the Cambridge Boat in March 1856, helping to defeat Oxford in 22 minutes 45 seconds.

His son Pat McCormick played for Devon and had one first class match for MCC in 1907, and also played Rugby for Transvaal. He later succeeded Dick Shepherd as Vicar of Saint Martin in the Fields in London, and continued his work among the ‘down and outs.’ Another son, Joseph Gough McCormick (1874-1924) became Dean of Manchester, and also played with distinction for Norfolk 1899 to 1909, scoring four hundreds.

But how do I explain the pleasures of Cricket to those who refuse to understand it?

An amusing and entertaining explanation from the 1970s put it this way:

Cricket: As explained to a foreigner ...

You have two sides, one out in the field and one in.

Each man that’s in the side that’s in goes out, and when he’s out he comes in and the next man goes in until he’s out.

When they are all out, the side that’s out comes in and the side that’s been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out.

Sometimes you get men still in and not out.

When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in.

There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out.

When both sides have been in and all the men have out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game!