30 July 2019
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.
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.
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).
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
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.