Monday, 13 July 2020

A lone protest 50 years ago
that would lead to the fall
of the colonels in Greece

The monument to Kostas Georgakis in the centre of Corfu … his death 50 years ago inspired protests throughout Greece against the colonels (Photograph: Patrick Comerford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Later this summer, the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Kostas Georgakis (1948-1970) should not be forgotten. This Greek student set himself ablaze early on 19 September 1970 in a square in Genoa as a protest against the colonels’ junta in Greece, and he eventually inspired protests across Greece that led to the fall of the regime.

Kostas Georgakis (Κώστας Γεωργάκης) was born on 23 August 1948 and grew up in Corfu in a family of five. His father was a self-employed tailor and both his father and grandfather had fought for Greece in World War I and II.

He was a bright schoolboy at the Second Lyceum in Corfu, and in August 1967, a few months after the colonels’ coup on 21 April, he went to Italy to study engineering and geology in Genoa. He year later, he joined the Center Union Party of Georgios Papandreou.

In an anonymous interview with a magazine in Genoa on 26 July 1970, Georgakis revealed how the junta’s intelligence had infiltrated the Greek student movement in Italy. He traced how the junta intelligence had set up the National League of Greek students in Italy, infiltrating Greek student groups in major universities.

But the Greek secret service got a recording of the interview and were able to identify Georgakis. Soon after, he was attacked by members of the junta student movement.

He was still a third year student when the junta revoked his student exemption from conscription and bullied his family into stopping his monthly allowance. It was retaliation by the junta for his growing profile in resistance to the colonels and in the Italian branch of PAK, the Panhellenic Liberation Movement set up in exile by Andreas Papandreou in 1968.

Fearing for his family in Greece, Georgakis decided to make an act to raise awareness in the West about the political crisis in Greece. He filled a canister with petrol, wrote a letter to his father and said farewell to his fiancée Rosanna.

Around 1 a.m., early in the morning of 19 September 1970, Georgakis drove his Fiat 500 to Matteotti Square. According to street cleaners working that night near the Palazzo Ducale, there was a sudden bright flash of light in the area at around 3 a.m. At first, they did not realise that this was a burning man. As they got closer saw Georgakis burning and hear him shouting: ‘Long Live Greece,’ ‘Down with the tyrants,’ ‘Down with the fascist colonels,’ ‘I did it for my Greece.’

The street cleaners said Georgakis refused their help and ran away when they tried to put out the flames. They could smell his burning flesh and said it was something they would never forget, but that Georgakis was one in a million.

Georgakis died nine hours later, at around noon. His last words were: ‘Long Live Free Greece.’

In his final letter to his father, he wrote:

‘Forgive me for this act, without crying. Your son is not a hero. He is a human, like all the others, maybe a little more fearful. Kiss our land for me. After three years of violence I cannot suffer any longer. I don’t want you to put yourselves in any danger because of my own actions. But I cannot do otherwise but think and act as a free individual. I write to you in Italian so that I can raise the interest of everyone for our problem. Long Live Democracy. Down with the tyrants. Our land which gave birth to Freedom will annihilate tyranny! If you are able to, forgive me.’

In a letter to a friend, he wrote: ‘I am sure that sooner or later the people of Europe will understand that a fascist regime like the one based on Greek tanks is not only an insult to their dignity as free men but also a constant threat to Europe ... I do not want my action to be considered heroic as it is nothing more than a situation of no choice. On the other hand, maybe some people will awaken to see what times we live in.’

His father arrived to find his body was completely carbonised from the waist down, up to a depth of at least 3 cm in his flesh.

His death caused a sensation in Greece as the first clear expression of the depth of resistance to the junta. The junta and its Foreign Ministry feared his death would be compared to the death of Jan Palach in Prague the previous year, and they were worried about the impact on Greek tourism.

At Georgakis’s funeral on 22 September 1970, Melina Merkouri held a bouquet of flowers as she led an estimated 1,500 or more people with flags and banners accompanying his body from the hospital to the grave.

Stathis Panagoulis – a brother of the poet Alexandros Panagoulis who attempted to assassinate the dictator Georgios Papadopoulos – did not turn up to give an expected funeral address.

The speakers at a press conference after his funeral included Ioannis Leloudas, living in exile in Paris, and Professor Christos Stremmenos, a future Greek ambassador to Rome, who read a message from Andreas Papandreou.

The junta delayed the return of his body to Corfu for four months, citing security reasons, fearing demonstrations and inventing bureaucratic obstacles. Eventually, the junta secretly sent a ship to Italy to take his body back to Corfu. On 13 January 1971, his body was transferred to the Astypalaia, owned by the Greek shipping magnate Nikolaos Vernikos-Eugenides. The ship left for Piraeus on 17 January.

His body was buried secretly in the Municipal Cemetery in Corfu the following day. A single police cruiser accompanied the Georgakis family, who were taken by taxi to the cemetery.

In 1972, Greece tried to block the worldwide distribution rights of Gianni Serra’s planned Italian film about his life, worried it would be show by the BBC and on German, Scandinavian and US television. The junta feared the film would inspire anti-junta protests, like those inspired by the 1969 film Z by Costa-Gavras.

A plaque in Matteotti Square, where he died in Genoa, bears an inscription in Italian: La Grecia Libera lo ricorderà per sempre, ‘Free Greece will remember him forever.’ It quotes his words: ‘I cannot but think and act as a free individual.’

The City of Corfu has dedicated a memorial in his honour near his home. The monument was created gratis by the sculptor Dimitris Korres.

The inscription in Greek on the plaque reads: ‘Kostas Georgakis, Student, Kerkyra 1948-1970 Genova. He self-immolated in Genoa, Italy on 19 September 1970 for Freedom and Democracy in Greece.’

The lower part bears his words: ‘I cannot but think and act as a free individual.’

The story of Georgakis remains unique in Greece, and his death is seen by many as an act of self-sacrifice in a spirit of dynamic protest. He is the only opponent of the junta to have decided to die by suicide in protest against the regime, and is one of the most important acts of resistance acts of the time.

He inspired many student protests that followed, including the Athens Polytechnic uprising in November 1973 that eventually paved the way for toppling the regime.

‘I cannot but think and act as a free individual’ … the inscription on the monument to Kostas Georgakis in the centre of Corfu (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Sunday, 12 July 2020

Sunday intercessions on
12 July 2020 (Trinity V)

‘My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me’ (John 10: 27) … street art in Carlingford, Co Louth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Let us pray:

We pray for the universal Church of God;

We pray for the bishops of the Church of Ireland
and the staff of the diocese and the Representative Church Body,
who have continued to work throughout this crisis,
monitoring guidelines and regulations,
and working towards the day when our churches reopen.

We pray for the bishops of the Anglican Communion,
faced with the disappointment
of postponing the Lambeth Conference.

We pray for our own bishop, Kenneth,
for our two cathedrals, in Limerick and Killaloe,
and their deans, Niall and Rod,
who have continued to broadcast services Sunday after Sunday.

We pray for our neighbouring churches and parishes.

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

We pray for the nations of the world:

We pray for our own government and all governments
that have tried to find ways of dealing with this crisis,
thanking God for the blessings of wise decision makers and advisers …

We pray for the local community:

We give thanks for frontline workers,
essential services that have kept working …
for our schools, children, parents and teachers …
for community volunteers who keep in touch with the housebound …
for those who return to work and those who wait to return to work …
for business owners who try to keep going …
for those who still live with fear …

In this time, known in the Church as Ordinary Time,
we give thanks for all the ordinary things
we have taken for granted …
the sounds of people …
the sounds of nature …
a visit to the hairdressers …
going out for a meal or a drink …
the prospect and promise of travel …

Christ have mercy,
Christ have mercy.

We pray those in need:

In our hearts, we name individuals, families, neighbours,
care homes, hospitals, voluntary groups …

We remember, and give thanks for, the faithful departed ...
May their memories be a blessing to us …
We pray in particular for all who grieve and mourn at this time …
the Doherty and Moloney families …

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

O God, who brought us to birth,
and in whose arms we die,
in our grief and shock
contain and comfort us;
embrace us with your love,
give us hope in our confusion
and grace to let go into new life;
through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Merciful Father …

These intercessions were prepared for Castletown, Kilcornan, Co Limerick, and Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick, on Sunday 12 July 2020 (Trinity V)

‘How long will you keep us in
suspense?’ … ‘I give them eternal
life, and they will never perish’

‘My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me’ (John 10: 27) … street art in Carlingford, Co Louth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 12 July 2020

The Fifth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity V)

9.30 a.m. The Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion 2): Castletown Church, Kilcornan, Co Limerick

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

Readings: I Peter 2: 1-10; Psalm 121; John 10: 22-29

‘Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon’ (John 10: 23) … the Temple-like portico at Plassey House in the University of Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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

Last week, we reopened the churches in Askeaton and Tarbert, and this morning we are back in Castletown and Rathkeale. This is our second Sunday as we reopen our churches this morning, and, perhaps, we are beginning to cope with this new stage in the Covid-19 pandemic.

I know, many of us have mixed feelings. As the statistics rise again, the weekend behaviour of many people must leave us wondering whether, in fact, things are getting better.

Is this just a temporary relaxation of the lockdown?

Is everything going to be all right?

We are conscious of those who are not here this morning, because they are feeling vulnerable, even fearful.

If you were not in church last week, then you are going to find the restrictions this morning strange and off-putting: wearing masks, leaving contact details for tracing, sitting in pews that are not of your choice, wondering about the markings.

Like last week, there are things that are different this morning: fewer readings and hymns, so we spend less time in a closed space; listening to but not singing hymns; not sharing the peace; the strange way of administering the Holy Communion … We are trying to make ourselves safe, but many of us are still feeling awkward, uncomfortable and vulnerable.

Is this the ‘new normal’?

Hopefully, we can return to living out the ideal of the Church as community, the church as the living body of the Christ … ‘we being many are one body, for we all share in the one bread.’

How do we balance the joy of reopening our churches with the obvious restraints we must respect?

How do we balance our celebrations with the real mourning and grieving that our families, our parish, our community, our diocese, our nation, all need to acknowledge?

It is difficult to balance the joy of reopening this church with the obvious restraints surrounding everything we do.

No wonder many people are going to ask where God has been in the midst of this crisis. Has God been present in the church? Has God heard our prayers? Is God going to answer our prayers?

Our psalm this morning, Psalm 121, promises us that God will guard us and look after our well-being, our health, and our lives, both day and night.

The Lord will keep us from all evil. ‘The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and for evermore.’

In the New Testament reading (I Peter 2: 1-10), we are told we have come out of darkness into God’s light, and have received God’s mercy. We are asked to put behind us all the problems that marked previous ways of living and to enjoy being in the presence of God.

We are reminded that the Church is not just bricks and mortar. The Church is – or should be – a living presence in the world today, and we are like living stones, being built into a spiritual house.

The cornerstone of this house is Christ himself. Although he has been rejected by others (the builders), he has become the very cornerstone of this new edifice that is the Church.

As for us, we are the Church because we are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people.’

If we have been waiting in suspense for many months for this church to open once again, then Christ in the Gospel reading (John 10: 22-29) reminds us what all our waiting has been for.

He promises us not immediate satisfaction but eternal life: ‘I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.’

No matter what fears we may continue to have in the weeks and months to come, Christ in his love for us ensures that we cannot be separated from God’s love for us and God’s care for us.

The Dean of Lichfield Cathedral, the Very Revd Adrian Dorber, concluded his weekly letter on Friday with this thought:

‘Tough times are ahead but we live by hope. Bishop David Jenkins of Durham used to say, “you can’t keep a good God down”. I agree. It’s time for renewed confidence in his love and purpose.’

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

‘Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house’ (I Peter 2: 5) … a cross carved into a corner stone at the church in Vlatadon monastery in Thessaloniki (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

I Peter 2: 1-10 (NRSVA):

1 Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation – 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

4 Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and 5 like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in scripture:

‘See, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’

7 To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe,
‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the very head of the corner’,

8 and

‘A stone that makes them stumble,
and a rock that makes them fall.’
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.

10 Once you were not a people,
but now you are God’s people;
once you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy.

John 10: 22-29 (NRSVA):

22 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’ 25 Jesus answered, ‘I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26 but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand.’

‘Jesus was walking in the Temple, in the portico of Solomon’ (John 10: 23) … the portico of the Duomo di Sant’Andrea in Amalfi (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Introductory prayer:

Lord, be with us as we open the door.
Come in with us, go out with us.
Do not sleep when we sleep,
but watch over us, protect us and keep us safe,
our only help and maker. (cf Psalm 121)

The Collect:

Almighty God,
we praise you for the many blessings
you have given to those who worship you here:
and we pray that all who seek you in this place may find you,
and, being filled with the Holy Spirit,
may become a living temple acceptable to you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty and everlasting God,
by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church
is governed and sanctified:
Hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people,
that in their vocation and ministry
they may serve you in holiness and truth
to the glory of your name;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Introduction to the Peace:

Peace to you from God our heavenly Father.
Peace from his Son Jesus Christ who is our peace.
Peace from the Holy Spirit the Life-giver.
The peace of the Triune God be always with you.
And also with you.


You have revealed your glory
as the glory of your Son and of the Holy Spirit:
three persons equal in majesty, undivided in splendour,
yet one Lord, one God,
ever to be worshipped and adored:

The Post-Communion Prayer:

Father in heaven,
whose Church on earth is a sign of your heavenly peace,
an image of the new and eternal Jerusalem:
grant us in the days of our pilgrimage
that, fed with the living bread of heaven,
and united in the body of your Son,
we may be the temple of your presence,
the place of your glory on earth,
and a sign of your peace in the world;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Concluding Prayer and Blessing:

Heavenly Father,
you have not made us for darkness and death,
but for life with you for ever.
Without you we have nothing to hope for;
with you we have nothing to fear.
Lift us from anxiety and guilt
to the light and peace of your presence,
and set the glory of your love before us;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Liturgical colour: Red. Green is the colour for Ordinary time, Red symbolises both the Holy Spirit and the witness of the Church in the lives of the great saints and martyrs.


330: God is here! As we his people (CD 20)
374: When all thy mercies, O my God (CD 22)

‘Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon’ (John 10: 23) … the Temple-like portico built by the Williamson brothers at Emo Court in Co Laois (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

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.

The hymn numbers refer to the Church of Ireland’s Church Hymnal (5th edition, Oxford: OUP, 2000)

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

Material from Common Worship is © The Archbishop’s Council, the Church of England.

Saturday, 11 July 2020

A song embodies the place of
Aghia Sophia in Greek emotions

The great church of Aghia Sophia became a mosque when Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453 and became Istanbul (Photograph: Conference of European Churches)

Patrick Comerford

There has been a strong reaction throughout Greece and throughout the Orthodox world to a decree by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey yesterday (11 July 2020), ordering the conversion of Aghia Sophia in Istanbul into a mosque after a court annulled a 1934 presidential decree that made it a museum.

Shortly after a Turkish court issued a long-anticipated decision, Erdogan issued a presidential decree transferring the management of the cathedral from the Ministry of Culture to the Presidency of Religious Affairs, paving the way for its conversion. Erdogan has been a major proponent of the move.

In a televised speech yesterday (10 July 2020), Erdogan said Aghia Sophia will open for Friday prayers later this month (24 July).

The Director-General of Unesco last night expressed deep regrets at the decision, saying it was made without prior discussion.

Aghia Sophia is part of the Historic Areas of Istanbul, a property inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Audrey Azoulay of Unesco said ‘Aghia Sophia is an architectural masterpiece and a unique testimony to interactions between Europe and Asia over the centuries. Its status as a museum reflects the universal nature of its heritage, and makes it a powerful symbol for dialogue.’

She said this decision raises the issue of the impact of this change of status on the property’s universal value. States have an obligation to ensure that modifications do not affect the Outstanding Universal Value of inscribed sites on their territories. UNESCO must be given prior notice of any such modifications, which, if necessary, are then examined by the World Heritage Committee.

The last Divine Liturgy was served in Aghia Sophía (Άγια Σοφία) in Constantinople on Tuesday 29 May 1453. But it was disrupted by the Ottoman slaughter of all who were present in the Great Church that day.

Aghia Sophia was the cathedral of Constantinople until it was captured and desecrated by the Ottomans in 1453 and turned into a mosque. But it became a museum in 1935, and since then, all worship – Christian or Muslim – has been prohibited there.

There are many Greek legends about the Fall of Constantinople. It was said there was a total lunar eclipse on 22 May 1453, and that it was seen as a harbinger of the fall of the city. Four days later, the whole city was covered in a thick fog, which is unusual at this time of the year in the Eastern Mediterranean. When the fog lifted that evening, a strange light was seen above the dome of Aghia Sophia, and from the city walls lights were seen far out to the West, behind the camp of the besieging Turks.

Some people who saw it interpreted the light around the dome as a sign of the Holy Spirit departing from Aghia Sophia.

According to tradition, the Divine Liturgy in Aghia Sophia on Tuesday 29 May 1453 was being served by two priests, one Orthodox and one Roman Catholic, as Constantinople fell to the besieging Muslim forces. When the Ottoman invaders approached the altar, the south wall of the church is said to have opened at the touch of an angel and at his direction the priests miraculously passed through the wall, with the Holy Gifts in their hands. The door that had appeared in the solid wall closed behind the priests and reportedly will not appear again, nor will it opened again, until the interrupted Divine Liturgy can be resumed. It is said that when that day comes, the priests will re-enter through the same doorway through which they disappeared.

A similar legend says that when the Ottomans entered the city, an angel rescued the last emperor, Constantine XI Palaeologus, turned him into marble and placed him in a cave under the earth near the Golden Gate. There he awaits being brought to life again.

Inside Aghia Sophia … the Liturgy of Saint John John Chrysostom became the liturgical norm in the Church of Aghia Sophia in Constantinople

The fall of Constantinople and the legends that have grown up about it provide many of the images in the anonymous Greek poem translated by Constantine A Trypakis in The Penguin Book of Greek Verse as ‘The Last Mass in Santa Sophia’:

Σημαίνει ὁ Θιόϛ, σημαίνει ἡ γῆ, σημαίνουν τὰ ἐπουράνια,
σημαίνει κ’ ἡ Ἁγιὰ Σοφιά, τὸ μέγα μοναστήρι,
μὲ τετρακόσια σήμαντρα κ’ ἑξηνταδυὸ καμπάνεϛ,
κάθε καμπάνα καὶ παπάϛ, κάθε παπὰϛ καὶ διάκοϛ.

Ψάλλει ζερβὰ ὁ βασιλιάϛ, δεξιὰ ὁ πατριάρχηϛ,
κι’ ἀπ’ τὴν πολλὴ τὴν ψαλμουδιὰ ἐσειόντανε οἱ κολόνεϛ.
Νὰ μποῦνε στὸ χερουβικὸ καὶ νά ’βγη ὁ βασιλέαϛ,
φωνή τούς ήρθε έξ ουρανου κι απ ̓ αρχαγγέλου στόμα:

<<Παψετε το Χερουβικο κι’ ας χαμηλωσουν τ ̓ αγια,
παπάδεϛ πάρτε τὰ γιερά, καὶ σεῖϛ κεριὰ σβηστῆτε,
γιατὶ εἶναι θέλημα Θεοῦ ἡ Πόλη νὰ τουρκέψῃ.

Μὸν στεῖλτε λόγο στὴ Φραγγιά, νά ’ρθουνε τρία καράβια,
τό ’να νὰ πάρῃ τὸ σταυρὸ καὶ τἄλλο τὸ βαγγέλιο,
τὸ τρίτο τὸ καλλίτερο, τὴν ἅγια τράπεζά μαϛ,
μὴ μᾶϛ τὴν πάρουν τὰ σκυλιὰ καὶ μᾶϛ τὴ μαγαρίσουν.>>

Ἡ Δέσποινα ταράχτηκε καὶ δάκρυσαν οἱ εἰκόνεϛ.
<<Σώπασε κυρὰ Δέσποινα καὶ μὴ πολυδακρύζειϛ,
πάλι μὲ χρόνια μὲ καιρούϛ, πάλι δικά σαϛ εἶναι.>>

God rings the bells, the earth rings the bells, the sky rings the bells,
and Santa Sophia, the great church, rings the bells:
four hundred sounding-boards and sixty-two bells,
a priest for each bell and a deacon for each priest.

To the left the Emperor was chanting, to the right the Patriarch,
and from the volume of the chant, the pillars were shaking.
As they were about to sing the hymn of the Cherubim,
and the Emperor was about to appear,
A voice came to them from heaven, from the mouth of the Archangel:

‘Stop the Cherubic hymn, and let the holy elements bow in mourning.
The priests must take the sacred vessels away,
and you candles must be extinguished,
for it is the will of God that the City fall to the Turks.

‘But send a message to the West, asking for three ships to come,
one to take the Cross away, another the Holy Bible,
the third, the best of the three, our Holy Altar,
lest the dogs seize it from us and defile it.’

The Virgin was distressed, and the holy icons wept.
‘Hush, Lady, do not weep so profusely;
‘After years and after centuries they will be yours again.’

The beautiful interior of the Church of Aghia Sophia in Thessaloniki ... its design is a replica of the great Aghia Sopha in Byzantium (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The poem achieved great popularity during the Greek War of Independence and may have been the most popular demotic song among Greek-speakers in the 19th and early 20th century.

The song became the anthem of the so-called Megali Idea (Μεγάλη Ιδέα), and its emotional themes were echoed in influential literary circles. Nikos Kazantzakis made it the climax of his play Constantine Palaeologus, which he wrote in 1944 while Greece was under Nazi occupation.

The play concludes with the two last lines from another version of the poem:

Σώπασε, κυρα Δέσποινα, μὴν κλαῖς καὶ μὴ δακρύζεις· πάλι μὲ χρόνους, μὲ καιρούς, πάλι δικιὰ μας θά ’ναι!

The references in the poem to the numbers of tocsins, bells, high priests, priests, and deacons do not reflect historic reality. On the other hand, the Greek in this poem, interestingly, has just one word to express the phrase ‘fall to the Turks’ – τουρκέψῃ (turkepsi!). It says a lot about daily life in the last days of the Byzantine Empire: ‘Yet another turkepsimoment!’

And there are echoes here of how the protesters in Istanbul in 2013 embraced a jibe from the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. When the demonstrators first took to the streets, he branded them çapulcu, or looters – the insult also means marauders or bums.

But Erdoğan’s jibe backfired. Protesters in Istanbul and other Turkish cities embraced the word as their own. They labelled themselves proud çapulcu and even coined an English verb, capuling (pronounced chapulling, with the emphasis on the second syllable). Students sleeping under the plane trees in Gezi Park named their makeshift camp Capulistan, with signs proclaiming: ‘Capul residence.’

Erdoğan’s jibe gave a new word to the Turkish and English languages

It is commonly believed that the last Divine Liturgy in Aghia Sophia in Constantinople was served on 28 May 1453. However, a report in a newspaper in Iraklion in Crete on 3 June 1998 claimed the last Divine Liturgy in Aghia Sophia actually took place on 19 January 1919, and was celebrated by Father Lefteris Noufrakis (1872-1941), a priest from Alones in Rethymnon, Crete.

He was a military chaplain in the second Greek army division that later took part in the Asia Minor campaign and in allied expeditionary force in Ukraine in 1919. On its way to Ukraine, his division briefly stopped in Constantinople, which was occupied by the allies after the end of World War I.

The ship carrying the division anchored in the open sea, Father Lefteris and a small group of officers boarded a small boat and a Greek-speaker took them to the City and led them along the shortest path to Aghia Sophia. The door was open and all entered with reverence and made the sign of the cross.

Father Lefteris quickly identified the location of the Sanctuary and the Holy Altar. Finding a small table, he put it in place, he opened his bag, and took out everything needed for the Divine Liturgy. Then he put on his stole and began: ‘Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and forever, and unto the ages of ages.’

‘Amen,’ responded Major Liaromatis, and the Divine Liturgy at Aghia Sophia began.

The Divine Liturgy proceeded as normal, and after 466 years was celebrated in Aghia Sophia once again according to the rubrics of the Orthodox Church.

As Aghia Sophia began to fill with Turks, Father. Father Lefteris was not daunted and continued. The Gospel was followed by the Cherubic Hymn by Major Liaromatis, while Father Lefteris placed the antimension on the table for the Proskomidi.

As he Liturgy reached its most sacred point, with an emotional voice Father Lefteris said: ‘Your own of Your own, we offer to You, for all and through all.’

At the end, the Greeks knew they were in danger, left, and headed for the waterfront, where a boat was waiting to take them safely to the Greek warship.

Later, the allies protested strongly to the Greek Prime Minister, Eleftherios Venizelos, who was forced to reprimand Father Lefteris Noufrakis. But secretly he contacted him and ‘praised and congratulated the patriot priest, who even for a short time brought Aghia Sophia to life, the most sacred dream of our Nation.’

The rule of Saint Benedict
has shaped Anglican prayers
and created popular myths

An icon of Saint Benedict (right) and Saint Francis (left) in Saint Bene’t’s Church, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today is the Feast of Saint Benedict. Although not included in the Calendar of the Church of Ireland, Saint Benedict is named today [11 July] by the Church of England in Common Worship as the ‘Father of Western Monasticism,’ and in the calendar of the Episcopal Church and other member churches of the Anglican Communion.

Anglican spirituality is rooted in Benedictine spirituality, an approach to life and prayer that arose from the monastic community of Saint Benedict in the sixth century.

At the beginning of his academic career, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer was a reader or lecturer at Buckingham College, a hostel for Benedictine monks studying in Cambridge. Later, the Anglican Reformation took the essentials of Benedictine spirituality and prayer life and made them immediately accessible through the Book of Common Prayer, giving the Anglican Reformation a clearly Benedictine spirit and flavour.

The basic principles that shape the Book of Common Prayer are Benedictine in spirit. For example, the spirituality of the Rule of Saint Benedict is built on three key elements that form the substance of the Book of Common Prayer: the community Eucharist; the divine office; and personal prayer with biblical, patristic and liturgical strands woven together.

The Anglican Benedictine monk and theologian, Dom Bede Thomas Mudge, believed the Benedictine spirit is at the root of the Anglican way of prayer in a very pronounced way. The example and influence of the Benedictine monastery, with its rhythm of the daily office and the Eucharist; the tradition of learning and lectio divina; and the family relationship among an Abbot and his community, have influenced the pattern of Anglican spirituality.

In a unique way, the Book of Common Prayer continues the basic monastic pattern of the Eucharist and the divine office as the principal public forms of worship.

On a regular basis, through the day, in the office and in their spiritual life, Benedictines pray the psalms. The church historian Peter Anson believed that Cranmer’s great work of genius was in condensing the traditional Benedictine scheme of hours into the two offices of Matins and Evensong. In this way, Anglicanism is a kind of generalised monastic community, with the Book of Common Prayer preserving the foundations of monastic prayer.

As a monastic form of prayer, the Book of Common Prayer retains the framework of choral worship but simplified so that ordinary people in the village and the town, in the parish, can share in the daily office and the daily psalms.

In recent years, three of the most interesting commentaries of the rule of Saint Benedict have been written by leading Anglican writers: Esther de Waal, a well-known writer and lecturer on theology, spirituality and Church History and the wife of a former Dean of Canterbury; Elizabeth Canham, one of the first women ordained priest in the Episcopal Church (TEC), and who lived for almost six years in a Benedictine monastery; and Canon Andrew Clitherow.

Working in the Scriptorum in Ealing Abbey … study is a major theme in the Rule of Saint Benedict (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Rule of Saint Benedict has also given rise to a popular legend about ‘two stout monks.’ According to this church myth, the Rule of Saint Benedict includes this advice:

If any pilgrim monk come from distant parts, with a wish to dwell as a guest in the monastery, and will be content with the customs which he finds in the place, and do not perchance by his lavishness disturb the monastery, but is simply content with what he finds: he shall be received, for as long a time as he desires.

If, indeed, he finds fault with anything, or exposes it, reasonably, and with the humility of charity, the Abbot shall discuss it prudently, lest perchance God had sent him for this very thing.

But if he has been found lavish or vicious in the time of his sojourn as guest, not only ought he not to be joined to the body of the monastery, but also it shall be said to him, honestly, that he must depart. If he does not go, let two stout monks, in the name of God, explain the matter to him

In my stays in Ealing Abbey and Glenstal Abbey, or on my visits to Rostrevor Abbey, Mount Melleray or Roscrea Abbey, I have never heard this legend. But it is still repeated wherever priests are gathered together.

A version of this passage was included, with some errors in a translation of Chapter 61 of Saint Benedict’s Rule, in the book Select historical documents of the Middle Ages (1892), translated and edited by Ernest Flagg Henderson, and reprinted in 1907 in The Library of Original Sources, vol IV, edited by Oliver J Thatcher.

Another version was published in Hubbard’s Little Journeys (1908), but that translation omits the recommendation that the guest might become a potential permanent resident, and replaces the words ‘lavish or vicious’ with ‘gossipy and contumacious’ and the words following ‘he must depart’ were originally ‘lest, by sympathy with him, others also become contaminated.’

However, no phrase corresponding to the last sentence about ‘two stout monks’ appears in the Rule of Saint Benedict. Yet it is a popular myth, with several reputable publications repeating the error. Indeed, although one source attributes the passage to a Chapter 74 in the Rule of Saint Benedict, the rule contains only 73 chapters.

An early source for the quotation is the University of California, Berkeley faculty club, which for years posted a version of the passage on its bulletin board in Gothic script, but without attributing the quotation to Saint Benedict.

As people in Ireland wait to see whether social distancing guidelines are observed in the streets around popular pubs in many cities this weekend, perhaps we need not just more policing but a few stout monks too.

‘Prayer … is at the same time root and fruit, foundation and fulfilment’ … grapes on the vine in the cloister garden in Ealing Abbey (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A prayer of Saint Benedict:

Gracious and Holy Father,
Give us wisdom to perceive you,
Intelligence to understand you,
Diligence to seek you,
Patience to wait for you,
Vision to behold you,
A heart to meditate on you,
A life to proclaim you,
Through the power of the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

The Front Door at Ealing Abbey … prayer is not about making God some kind of private getaway from life (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Friday, 10 July 2020

‘By creating peace in
the home, we are helping
to create peace in the world’

Heather Welkes, a teacher, tells the story of her great-grandmother, four candlesticks, and freedom for children

Patrick Comerford

In my Friday evening reflections a few weeks ago, I wrote of how the former Chief Rabbi, Lord (Jonathan) Sacks, says lighting candles to welcome Shabbat ‘is a positive commandment, symbolising shalom bayit, domestic peace.’ He says that ‘by creating peace in the home, we are helping to create peace in the world.’

This connection between domestic peace and world peace was made beautifully in one posting I came across earlier this week [7 July 2020].

Heather Welkes, a teacher who blogs at My friend has 12 pets and posts on Facebook as ‘Heather Feather,’ re-posted a photograph from 6 January, which – amid rising antisemitism in the US and around the world – had been designated as #JewishandProud Day. She wrote this week, in a posting headed ‘Great Grandma's Candlesticks’:

‘Friday night is family night in my house. We try to observe Shabbos every week, although I never actually light the candles at the right time. One thing is constant – every Friday night I light the candles that I received for my Bat Mitzvah, and now those candlesticks are even more meaningful, as the synagogue I grew up in is just this week closing its doors.

‘Tonight, I used a different set, a pair that sits in my breakfront with all my other Judaic items. It’s the pair that belonged to my Great Grandma Ida, who I never met. I never knew her, but she lives on in these candlesticks.

‘In the early 1900s, she came alone to America, just a teenager, fleeing Russia. She carried with her two sets of heavy brass candlesticks. The story is told that at one point, she was stopped by a border guard and she bribed her passage through by giving him one of the four candlesticks, and now there are three, given to my mother who gave them to me.

‘I don’t know if she had a visa. I don’t know if anyone sponsored her. I just know that she was fleeing violence and because of that candlestick, I can light my Shabbat candles, honour her memory and tell her story.

‘This week, I’ve felt very helpless over the fact that children are being held in cages and separated from their parents. I can enjoy my freedom because I just happened to be lucky enough to be born in this country.

‘So, as I celebrate this Shabbat, I’ll say a prayer that families can be made whole again.

‘I’m thankful for my Great-Grandmother’s safety, and that because of one bribed candlestick that allowed her to make it to America, she was able to go on and have 121 descendants.

‘Shabbat Shalom.’

Shabbat Shalom.

Martin Commerford: from
the Siege of Sevastopol to
postmaster in Australia

The nativity scene in the Martin Commerford Memorial Window in Saint Francis Xavier Cathedral, Geraldton, erected by his widow Ellen and daughter Susan Commerford

Patrick Comerford

The siege of Sevastopol, from October 1854 until September 1855, was one of the decisive battles in the Crimean War, lasting almost a full year. Martin Comerford or Commerford from Callan, Co Kilkenny, was injured at Sevastopol and was decorated for his part in the siege and at other battles in the Crimean War, including Inkerman and Alma.

Martin Comerford (1830-1889), also known as Martin Commerford or Cummerford, was born on 7 April 1830 in Killmanaugh, Callan, Co Kilkenny.

At the age of 17, Martin joined the 33rd (Duke of Wellington’s) Regiment as a private (Regiment No 2412) in Callan, Co Kilkenny, on 7 April 1847 Callan, Kilkenny. He was tall for his day and was described at 5’ 9½”, with a fresh complexion, grey eyes and dark brown hair.

The 1851 census places him at the Regimental Barracks in Sunderland. He was promoted private to corporal on 1 April 1852.

He was tried by a regimental court martial for neglect of duty when on escort. He was held in confinement from 31 December 1852 to 5 January 1853, and he was reduced from corporal to private on 6 January 1853. But the Crimean War broke out the following October, and Martin became a decorated hero.

He was rendered unfit for service losing his left thumb from a gunshot wound received in the trenches at Sebastopol on 4 December 1854. His medals, clasps and badges included the Crimea War Medal, with the Alma, Inkermann and Sebastopol clasps, and the Turkish Crimea Medal.

The Crimean War Medal with Sebastopol, Inkerman and Alma Clasps

After 7 years 83 days in the army, he was discharged at Chatham on 3 July 1855 Chatham, with a pension of 8 pence a day, and he moved back to Co Kilkenny. There he joined the Kilkenny Fusiliers Militia in 1856, and was based in Kilkenny (1856), Birr (1856-1857) and Dublin (1858).

He married Elllen Jones (1856-1922) in Nenagh, Co Tipperary, on 5 May 1856; She was born in Nenagh, the daughter of Bryan Jones and Bridget (née Hingerty) and was baptised on 30 September 1836.

The couple soon emigrated to Western Australia. They left Plymouth on the Lord Raglan on 5 March 1858 and arrived in Freemantle on 1 June 1858. There he enrolled in the Pensioner Force in 1858, and remained with them until 1865.

He was a ‘tide waiter’ or customs officer at Champion Bay (Geraldton) from 1858 to 1889, was a Magistrate’s Clerk briefly in 1860, and Postmaster in Geraldton from 1864 to 1889, and was also in charge of the telegraph office.

The Commerfords bought a plot of town land in Geraldton in 1867, and there they family bult their own house. From 1876 to 1885, he was an enthusiastic member of the Geraldton Rifle Volunteer Corps, in which he held the rank of Quartermaster and Sergeant. Later, he was elected a Geraldton Municipal Councillor.

His charitable subscriptions and donations include funds for Lancashire Relief Fund, the Perth New Convent and Female Orphanage, the Pensioners Benevolent Fund, Geraldton Working Men’s Society, and the new Catholic Church in Geraldton.

Martin Commerford and Ellen Jones and they were the parents of eight children, five daughters and three sons:

1, Susan Maria (1857-1942), baptised in Nenagh on 27 February 1857, died in Perth 3 August 1942. She followed her father into the Post Office and worked there all her adult life.
2, Brigid (1859-1927), born 1859, Geraldton, Western Australia, died in Adelaide, 10 November 1927.
3, Helen, or Ellen (1862-1892), born 1862, Geraldton; she joined the Sisters of Mercy in Australia and was known as Sister Mary Augustine. She was described as an ‘accomplished musician’ when she died in York, Western Australia, at the age of 30 on 31 October 1892.
4, Elizabeth Cecilia (1864-1927), born 1864, married Joseph James Griffin of Geraldton in 1886; she died in Perth on 17 March 1927.
5, Martin Commerford (1866-1867), born 1866, died in infancy in 1867, in Geraldton.
6, Mary Frances (1869-1942), born 19 May 1869, Geraldton. She married 19 February 1895 the journalist and politician John Michael Drew (1865-1947), son of Cornelius and Mary (Gavin) Drew. He was a contributor to the Catholic Record (later Western Australian Record); sub-editor, Western Australian Record, Fremantle (1887-1889), secretary and manager, Victoria Express (later Geraldton Express), 1890, editor (1892-1905), and owner (1912). He also started a vineyard and orchard in Northampton. He was elected to the Western Australia parliament in 1910 as an independent and joined the Australian Labor Party in 1912. He was a member of the state parliament in 1900-1918, and 1924- 1947. He was the Labor leader in the legislative Council (1910-1936) and his government posts included Minister for Lands (1904-1905), Colonial Secretary and Minister for Agriculture (1905), Colonial Secretary (1911-1916), Chief Secretary Ministry of Health, Education and the North West (1924-1930), and Chief Secretary (1933-1936). Mary (Commerford) Drew died 31 July 1942; John Drew died in Perth 17 July 1947.
7, Morris William Commerford (1871-1883), born 1871, Geraldton, died 27 April 1883.
8, Edward John Commerford (1874-1976), born 1874, Geraldton, died 1876.

John Michael Drew (1865-1947), Chief Secretary of Western Australia … he married Mary Frances Commerford

Martin Commerford died on 15 December 1889, Marine Terrace, Geraldton, Western Australia, and he was buried on 18 December 1889, in the Roman Catholic Cemetery in Geraldton.

Newspaper reports at the time described him as one of the earliest settlers and oldest Government officials in Champion Bay.

His wife and eldest daughter erected a stained-glass window to his memory in Saint Francis Xavier Cathedral, Geraldton. His widow Ellen died on 26 June 1922.

The Martin Commerford Memorial Window in Saint Francis Xavier Cathedral , Geraldton, erected by his widow Ellen and daughter Susan Commerford

Thursday, 9 July 2020

When the Isle of Man
once had ‘the fullest
Jewish life in the world’

The New Synagogue, Berlin … Rabbi Werner van der Zyl, former rabbi at the New Synagogue, was detained in the Isle of Man (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I have been writing in recent days about a teenage holiday on the Isle of Man in 1965, about the connections between the Diocese of Sodor and Man and Irish-born saints or Irish-born and Irish-educated bishops, and about Bishops of Sodor and Man who had connections with Lichfield and Tamworth.

But thinking back on that holiday over the past two days, I recalled hearing stories of internment camps on the island where large numbers of Jews were held during World War I and World War II, and stories even of synagogues inside those camps.

Indeed, the Isle of Man has a small Jewish community, once known as the Isle of Man Hebrew Congregation and now known as Manx Hebrew Congregation. Although there is no synagogue or rabbi, there is a Jewish cemetery at Douglas, the island’s capital and largest town. The history of the Jews on the Isle of Man goes back to at least the early 19th century.

From about 1908, the Jewish Chronicle published regular advertising for Berlin House, an ‘Orthodox Jewish Boarding House,’ at 16 Demesne Road, off Bucks Road, Douglas, It was run by ‘Mrs Rabow & Daughters,’ and offered a ‘liberal table, late dinners, excellent cuisine,’ and ‘terms moderate.’

By 1911, Berlin House was at Palace View Terrace and was run by the Misses Rabow. It was described as a ‘fully-licensed Orthodox Hotel,’ with ‘29 light airy bedrooms,’ a spacious dining-room and comfortable drawing-room, offering ‘table d’hôte.’

By 1914, a Mrs Goldberg was running Vienna House at Fairfield Terrace, Bucks Road, with 20 large bedrooms, and a kosher restaurant with’ excellent cuisine. By then the Rabow sisters’ Berlin House at 3 Palace View Terrace, Central Promenade, was a ‘fully licensed Orthodox hotel,’ with 36 rooms.’ But World War I broke out that summer, and Berlin House became simply ‘Rabows,’ while Mrs Goldberg’s Vienna House became the Continental Hotel.

During World War I, many German and Austro-Hungarian Jews were interned on the Isle of Man under the Aliens Restriction Act as possible ‘Enemy Aliens.’ Across Britain, over 32,000 civilian men were interned for some or all of the war.

After World War, the Jewish Chronicle reported in 1920, that ‘services for the High Festivals were held on the Isle of Man for the first time. They were held at the Continental by the courtesy of Mr and Mrs Goldberg.’

Two years later, the Continental House was being run by Mrs Goldberg at Palace View Terrace, probably having incorporated the Rabow family establishment. It was described as the ‘Oldest established Kasher House in the Island. Charmingly situated, facing sea and Palace, and on Central Promenade.’

The Isle of Man Hebrew Congregation, advertised in 1927 for a single man as shochet, teacher, and to act as reader or chazan (cantor). The post was filled by Mr L Kelman, of Manchester, and services were to be held at the Goldbergs’ Continental Hotel every Friday evening and Saturday morning during the holiday season. ‘All visitors are welcome.’

When the 1928 holiday season began, a Mrs Lyons had opened a third ‘strictly kosher’ guesthouse, the Astoria, at 4 Fort William, Douglas, ‘facing sea and adjoining golf links. Two minutes from boat,’ it boasted, and it even had ‘electric light.’

The Continental and the Astoria continued to advertise in the Jewish Chronicle until a notice on 3 July 1931 said, ‘Mrs Goldberg having disposed of her business in the Isle of Man has opened a private hotel at 108 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin.’ I wondered whether she was related to the Goldberg families in Limerick and Cork, and whether this explained her move to Ireland.

Two years later, the Astoria was also advertised for sale in 1933 by R Lyons who was retiring, and was described as the only Jewish boarding house on the island.

During World War II, between 1,500 and 3,000 German-Jewish civilians were held as internees in camps on the island as ‘enemy aliens.’ Initially, Nazis and Jews from Germany shared internment facilities.

The Jewish Chronicle reported in November 1940: ‘Today the island has what must be the fullest Jewish life in the world. In ordinary camps on a weekday there are more worshippers than in the Great Synagogue, London, on a Sabbath.’

Lectures were delivered on a variety of Jewish topics, and the Jewish community on the island had two kosher boarding houses. By 1941, there were 200 Jewish physicians from London in the Central Camp in Douglas alone. The camps included the Hutchinson Internment Camp in Douglas, known as the ‘artists’ camp’ with its own ‘university’ and newspaper, the Mooragh Internment Camp in Ramsey, whose detainees included Rabbi Werner van der Zyl (1902-1984), former rabbi at the New Synagogue, Berlin (1935-1939) and later founder of Leo Baeck College.

Many detainees in Douglas attended the Central Promenade Camp Synagogue, whose services in English took place in the ballroom of the Lido Dance Hall. Another synagogue was set up in a hut at the Onchan Camp. Women and children internees were mostly housed in the Port Erin and Port St Mary areas, and there was a mixed camp for married couples in Rushen.

One of the most remarkable war-time services took place in the cinema in Port Erin on Rosh Hashanah. Over were 200 people attended, but there was no minyan – almost all the worshippers were women internees who had been separated from their husbands, fathers, brothers and sons.

Eventually, the Jewish prisoners were released and some men given the option of joining the British armed forces, but thousands more were sent to camps in Canada and Australia. There was an unusually high proportion of Jewish and anti-Nazi internees in Hutchinson Camp, which closed in March 1944.

Post-war Jewish residents included Judge Neville Laski (1890-1961), a Judge of Appeal of the Isle of Man (1953-1956) and Recorder of Liverpool (1956-1963), and Samuel James, a London financier, who lived on the island for 20 years until he died in 1956. The Jewish Chronicle reported in 1957 that eight or 10 Jewish families were living on the Isle of Man.

A leading member of the community today, Leonard Singer (77), Deputy Speaker of the House of Keys in the Tynwald since 2012. A retired pharmacist, he was born in Manchester and lived in Portugal and Tenerife before moving to the Isle of Man in 1989.

The Jewish Chronicle reported in 2016 there are about 200 Jews on the island, but most are not religious and are intermarried. This small community has no synagogue or a rabbi, nor is there a place to buy kosher food. The community has organised a Holocaust Memorial Day service since 2001, conducted in English, Hebrew and Manx.

The houses around Hutchinson Square in Douglas were crowded with Jewish internees during World War II (Photograph: Wikipedia, Jamesfranklingresham CC BY-SA)

Four bishops who link
the Isle of Man with
Lichfield and Tamworth

The stall of the Prebendary of Longdon in Lichfield Cathedral … Samuel Rutter was Prebendary of Longdon when he was nominated Bishop of Sodor and Man (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I was musing yesterday morning about a holiday on the Isle of Man in 1965, and later in the day about the connections between the Diocese of Sodor and Man and Irish-born saints or Irish-born and Irish-educated bishops.

The Isle of Man, with 15 parishes and 40 churches, is the only component of the Diocese of Sodor and Man, and while the Isle of Man is not part of the United Kingdom, the diocese is part of the Church of England. But the diocese has a number of links too with both Lichfield and Tamworth through bishops of the past.

Samuel Rutter, the restoration Bishop of Sodor and Man, was Prebendary of Longdon in Lichfield Cathedral when he was nominated Bishop of Sodor and Man in 1660.

Rutter was educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford (MA). He was nominated as Archdeacon of Man in 1640. At the time, the Stanley family were feudal lords of the Isle of Man, and during the English Civil War, he was a chaplain to the Royalist James Stanley, 7th Earl of Derby, and was at the first siege of Lathom House.

By the end of the Civil War, Rutter was the Prebendary of Longdon in Lichfield Cathedral in 1660. But, through the influence of the widowed Countess of Derby, he was nominated as Bishop of Sodor and Man on 5 October 1661, and he was consecrated on 24 March 1661, the last day of the Restoration year.

It was said he was ‘grave and devout, temperate and dignified, and unfortunately was worn out, though not an old man, when he became a bishop.’ He was so ‘worn out’ that he died in the Isle of Man on 30 May 1662.

Rutter was buried in the chancel of Saint German’s Cathedral in Peel Castle, where his grave was marked with a Latin inscription he wrote himself:

In this house which I have borrowed from my brothers the worms
in the hope of the resurrection to life
lie I SAM by divine grace Bishop of this Island.
Stay reader, behold and laugh at the Bishop’s palace.

The chapel in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge … James Bowstead was a fellow when he became Bishop of Sodor and Man in 1838 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

James Bowstead (1801-1843), who was a 19th century Bishop of Sodor and Man (1838-1840), later became Bishop of Lichfield (1840-1843). Bowstead was educated at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (BA 1824, BD and DD 1834), and became a Fellow of Corpus Christi (1824-1838) and a tutor at the college (1832-1838).

The story goes that while he was on a break reading in the north of Scotland he fell in love with a minister’s daughter. But he delayed proposing to her until his return the following year. It was too late, for when he returned, she had married. He was so disappointed he never married.

Bowstead was still in academic life when he was nominated Bishop of Sodor and Man by Queen Victoria on 13 July 1838. He was consecrated by Archbishop William Howley of Canterbury on 22 July 1838. Just 18 months later, he became Bishop of Lichfield on 23 January 1840.

He was a Liberal in his politics, signing a petition for abolition of religious tests for admission to universities, but very Protestant in his religious views and strongly opposed the Tractarians. When Bowstead was leaving the Isle of Man, a deputation of three Methodist ministers and three circuit stewards presented him with an address thanking him for his kindly attitude towards the Methodists.

He was a keen horseman and intended to ride from Liverpool to Lichfield. On the way, his horse – possibly suffering from the sea crossing – stumbled and he was thrown, though at the time with no apparent ill effects. Shortly afterwards, it became clear his spine had been injured, and for virtually all his time at Lichfield he was unable to carry out his duties.

Bowstead suffered a long, painful illness, and he was only 42 and still Bishop of Lichfield when he died in Clifton, Bristol, on 11 October 1843.

Walter Augustus Shirley (1797-1847) … an archdeacon in the Diocese of Lichfield before becoming Bishop of Sodor and Man

Walter Augustus Shirley (1797-1847), who was the Bishop of Sodor and Man in 1846-1847, was born in Westport, Co Mayo. His paternal grandfather was the controversial Walter Shirley (1726-1786), Rector of Loughrea, Co Galway. But Shirley was often absent from his parish in Co Galway, mainly due to his activities as a revivalist preacher, and he was censured by the Bishop of Clonfert and reprimanded by the Archbishop of Dublin.

He, in turn, was the grandson of Robert Shirley (1650-1717), 1st Earl Ferrers, who had also inherited a portion of a large Irish estate of over 26,000 acres in Co Monaghan.

Lord Ferrers was suggested as a parliamentary candidate for Lichfield in 1677. But he preferred a seat in the House of Lords instead, and by sleight of hand and an obscure exercise in genealogy the barony of Ferrers of Chartley was called out of abeyance in his favour.

His family tree is complicated, the inheritance of Tamworth Castle from the Ferrers family and the use of the Ferrers name in the titles is obscure, and the inheritance of family estates and titles is difficult to follow at times. The family tree is complicated, compounded by the claim that this Lord Ferrers was the father of 27 legitimate children and 51 illegitimate children.

The Revd Walter Shirley was a first cousin of Robert Shirley (1692-1714), Lord Tamworth, who had inherited Tamworth Castle from his mother in 1697. But with Lord Tamworth’s death, Tamworth Castle and the family titles were separated and were inherited by different lines of decent.

Because of these complications in the family tree, the Revd Walter Shirley was a nephew of both the 2nd Earl Ferrers, who was known briefly as Lord Tamworth, and the insane 3rd Earl Ferrers, and a younger brother of the fourth, fifth and sixth earls.

Walter Ferrers was educated at University College, Oxford (BA 1746). In early adult life, he was converted to evangelical principles, perhaps by Henry Venn (1725-1797) of the Clapham Sect. He was ordained deacon by Frederick Cornwallis, Bishop of Lichfield, in 1757, and briefly served as a curate in Ashbourne, Derbyshire. He was strongly linked with the Calvinists within Methodism, although he remained an Anglican.

The Shirley family was rocked by one of the great society scandals of the day in 1760, when his eldest brother, Laurence Shirley (1720-1760), the fourth Earl Ferrers, was hanged at Tyburn for murdering his steward. Ferrers was tried by his peers in Westminster Hall, and despite his plea of insanity he was convicted of murder. He was the last peer of the realm to be hanged as a common criminal. As a concession to his rank, the rope used for his hanging was made of silk. His body was then taken to Surgeon’s Hall for public exhibition and dissection.

Bishop Shirley’s father, also the Revd Walter Shirley, fled Ireland in 1798, but found security when he re-established a link with his first cousin, Robert Shirley (1756-1827), 7th Earl Ferrers and formerly known as Lord Tamworth from 1778 to 1787.

In 1815, through this patronage, Walter Shirley was appointed Rector of Shirley (1815-1827), a Derbyshire parish in the Diocese of Lichfield that was in the gift of the family. Later, Walter was the Rector of Woodford, Northamptonshire, and he succeeded his own son as Rector of Brailsford, Derbyshire (1847-1859).

His only son, Walter Augustus Shirley (1797-1847), was born in Westport, Co Mayo, on 30 May 1797. His father’s cousin, Lord Ferrers, supported younger Walter going to school in Winchester. He went on New College Oxford and was ordained in 1820. He acted as Anglican chaplain in Rome in the winter of 1826-1827, was appointed assistant lecturer (curate) at Ashbourne in 1827. That autumn, when he married Maria Waddington in Paris, his father resigned the living of Shirley in his favour, and he moved there in January 1828.

Shirley alienated many of his evangelical friends with his outspoken support for Catholic Emancipation in 1829. In later years, he lost more friends by refusing to support violent measures against the Tractarians.

After nine years, he moved to the parish of Whiston, near Rotherham, but he continued to hold it with Shirley for another two years later, when he was appointed to the incumbency of Brailsford, a parish beside Shirley.

He was appointed Archdeacon of Derby by the Bishop of Lichfield on 21 December 1840 and also became a prebendary of Lichfield Cathedral. He was a Vice-President of the Lichfield Architectural Society, which promoted the insights of the Gothic Revival in church architecture along the lines introduced by AWN Pugin and the Cambridge Camden Society, with close Tractarian affiliations.

In November 1846, he was appointed Bishop of Sodor and Man, an a few weeks later, on 17 December 1846, he received the degree of Doctor of Divinity (DD) from Oxford. However, because of a serious illness he was not consecrated bishop until 10 January 1847.

He had been elected the Bampton Lecturer for that year, but lived only long enough to deliver two of the lectures in Oxford before he died at Bishop’s Court on the Isle of Man on 21 April 1847, just three months after his consecration.

His grandson, Walter Shirley (1864-1937), eventually succeeded as the 11th Earl Ferrers in 1912 on the death of his fourth cousin, Sewallis Edward Shirley (1847-1912), 10th Earl Ferrers. The tenth earl, like many of his predecessors, was also known as Viscount Tamworth before inheriting the family titles and estates.

Tamworth Castle once belonged to the Ferrers family … but its inheritance was separate from the Ferrers and Tamworth titles (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A fourth Bishop of Sodor and Man with connections with the Diocese of Lichfield was Vernon Sampson Nicholls (1917-1996), who was bishop in 1974-1983.

He was born in Truro, educated at Durham University, and trained for ordination at Clifton Theological College. He was a curate in Bedminster Down, Bristol, and at Liskeard, Cornwall, an army chaplain and Vicar of Meopham in Kent before coming to the Diocese of Lichfield.

He was the Vicar and Rural Dean of Walsall (1956-1967), chaplain of Walsall General Hospital, and Prebendary of Curborough (1964-1967) in Lichfield Cathedral, before becoming Archdeacon of Birmingham (1967-1974).

He became Bishop of Sodor and Man in 1974. He may be remembered by many people on the island as the bishop who sold Bishopscourt, the episcopal palace, but in 1974 the cost of repairing the roof alone was £60,000. But his crowning glory as bishop was the creation of a cathedral from the parish church of Kirk German, close to the ruins of the former cathedral on Saint Patrick’s Isle. It was consecrated on All Saints’ Day, 1 November 1980. He retired as bishop in 1983.

The stall of the Prebendary of Curborough in Lichfield Cathedral … Bishop Vernon Nicholls was the Prebendary of Curborough in 1964-1967 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Updated: 09.07.2020, to take account of Bishop Vernon Nicholls, and to change the number in the headline.

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

The saints and bishops
who link the Isle of Man
with the Church in Ireland

Inside Peel Cathedral … the cathedral of the Isle of Man and of the smallest diocese in the Church of England (Photograph: Peel Cathedral /

Patrick Comerford

I was musing this morning about a holiday on the Isle of Man in 1965, when I was in my early teens, how it offered me first experiences of staying in an hotel and of ‘island hopping.’

I still remember reading about the history of the island and visiting many of its sites, including Saint German’s Cathedral in Peel.

The Isle of Man, with 15 parishes and 40 churches, is the only component of the Diocese of Sodor and Man, and while the Isle of Man is not part of the United Kingdom, the diocese is part of the Church of England. The Bishop of Sodor and Man sits in the Tynwald, the Manx legislative assembly, but cannot sit as a bishop of the Church of England in the House of Lords.

The island is equidistant from England, Ireland and Scotland, so, at times, after the Isle of Man was separated from the Diocese of Trondheim in Norway, it was not clear in church history whether the island was part of the Church in Scotland, in England or in Ireland.

The name ‘Sodor’ in the title of the diocese refers not to an imaginary island in the Thomas the Tank Engine tales, but to the southern part of the Hebrides of Scotland, which have not been part of the diocese since the 13th or 14th century.

Tradition says the diocese was founded by Saint German – not to be confused with Saint Germanus of Auxerre – a Celtic missionary who lived from ca 410 to 474, and a contemporary of Saint Patrick. Saint German’s Day is celebrated on 13 July. Later Irish saints on the island’s list of bishops include Saint Maughold (feast day 31 July), the fourth bishop, a disciple of Saint Patrick, and the seventh century missionary Saint Conan. Some traditions on the island say the parish of Braddan was named after Saint Brendan the Navigator.

In the confused histories of the diocese, there is evidence that at one point during Viking rule in the late 11th century, the Isle of Man and Viking Dublin were part of the same diocese.

John Dongan or Donegan was the last bishop of the united diocese of Sodor, which split into the Scottish and Irish or Manx parts during the Western Schism. Pope Urban V appointed him Archdeacon of Down in 1368, and he worked as the papal tax collector and nuncio in Ireland. As a reward, he was appointed Bishop of Mann and the Isles (Sodor) in 1374, and was consecrated by Cardinal Simon Langham, former Archbishop of Canterbury. However, Dongan was kidnapped on his way back from Avignon, imprisoned in Boulogne-sur-Mer, and was ransomed for 500 marks.

He did not get back to the Isle of Man until 25 January 1377, when he celebrated his first Mass in Saint German’s Cathedral, Peel.

Allegations surfaced in 1380 that Dongan was illegally holding on to the revenues he had been collecting officially in Ireland for Pope Urban. However, the allegations may have been made because Dongan supported the English-backed Pope Urban against the Scottish-backed anti-pope Clement VII.

Clement VII deposed Dongan as bishop in 1387, replacing him with Archbishop Michael of Cashel, a Franciscan friar. Although Dongan remained the de facto bishop in the Isle of Man, this marked the final rift between the Hebrides and the Isle of Man within the diocese. The Scottish-controlled islands were lost to the new bishop, and Dongan was left with a tiny diocese that was too small and too poor for a full-time bishop.

By the early 1390s, was in England, acting as an assistant bishop to the Bishop of Salisbury and performing ordinations on behalf of the Bishop of London, until 1391, when he was appointed Bishop of Derry. He became Bishop of Down in 1394, and in that role negotiated on behalf of the English crown with the Gaelic leaders of Ireland and Scotland. In 1405, he was appointed ‘Keeper of the Liberty of Ulster.’ He resigned as Bishop of Down in 1413 and died soon after.

Later in the 15th century, Richard Payl, a Dominican friar who had been appointed Bishop of Dromore by Pope Gregory XII in 1407, was appointed Bishop of Mann and the Isles by Antipope John XXIII in 1410, and remained bishop in the Isle of Man until ca 1433.

Although the Isle of Man was never legally part of England, the diocese became part of the Province of Canterbury until it was transferred to the Province of York in 1542.

Even then, the appointment of bishops produced some anomalies before and after the Reformation. At least two bishops were also Abbots of Chester, then in the Diocese of Lichfield. After the Caroline Restoration, Isaac Barrow was allowed to hold the overlapping appointments of Bishop of Sodor and Man (1663-1671), Governor of the Isle of Man (1664-1671) and Bishop of St Asaph (1669-1680) in Wales.

However, the diocese continued to receiver a number of bishops with strong Irish connections.

Thomas Wilson (1663-1755), who was Bishop of Sodor and Man for almost 60 years (1697-1755), first studied medicine at Trinity College Dublin from 1682, where his friends and contemporaries included Jonathan Swift, future Dean of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, and his tutor was John Barton, afterwards Dean of Ardagh. He graduated BA in 1686, and was ordained deacon that year, before attaining the canonical age, by William Moreton, Bishop of Kildare, in Saint Brigid’s Cathedral, Kildare.

When he arrived as bishop, he found most of the churches on the Isle of Man were in ruins. He rebuilt many churches, built new churches and libraries, advocated agrarian reforms to the benefit of tenants, promoted the Manx language, and was an early supporter of the Anglican mission agency, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG, now USPG).

He corresponded with Cardinal Fleury, Archbishop of Aix in France, and they joked that ‘they were the two oldest bishops’ and ‘the poorest in Europe.’ When he died in at the age of 91, he was still an active bishop.

Claudius Crigan, who bishop in 1784-1813, was born in Omagh, Co Tyrone, around 1739, the son of a tailor, and studied classics and theology at TCD.

William Ward, who was born in Saintfield, near Belfast, in 1762, was Bishop of Sodor and Man in 1828 to 1838. As bishop, he vigorously opposed a proposal in 1836 to amalgamate the diocese with the Diocese of Carlisle. The proposal failed, and Ward remained bishop until he died in 1838.

Walter Augustus Shirley (1797-1847),who was the Bishop of Sodor and Man in 1846-1847, was born in Westport, Co Mayo. His paternal grandfather was the controversial Walter Shirley, who was censured by the Bishop of Clonfert, reprimanded by the Archbishop of Dublin, and who is buried in Saint Mary’s Church, Dublin. His maternal grandfather, Sir Edward Newenham, was MP for Enniscorthy, Co Wexford (1769-1776), and for Co Dublin (1776-1797).

Shirley was a cousin of Edward Newenham Hoare (1802-1877), who was Dean of Achonry and then of Christ Church Cathedral, Waterford. Shirley was an advocate of Catholic Emancipation, a friend of the Tractarians, and Archdeacon of Derby in the Diocese of Lichfield before he was appointed Bishop of Sodor and Man. His episcopal consecration was delayed because of his ill-health, and he died within three months of his consecration.

A second proposal to amalgamate Sodor and Man with an English diocese was made in 1875, this time with a new Diocese of Liverpool, which was still at the planning stage. The proposal failed, and Rowley Hill (1836-1887) became Bishop of Sodor and Man (1877-1887).

Hill was born in Derry, a son of Sir George Hill. When he was appointed to the Isle of Man, he was the youngest bishop in Anglican Communion. He too was in favour of amalgamating his island diocese with the new Diocese of Liverpool, as this would allow better stipends. Most of his clergy agreed with him but lay opposition was against him and the new diocese was formed in 1880 without the Isle of Man.

Two further bishops – John Wareing Bardsley (1887-1891) and Charles Leonard Thornton-Duesbury (1925-1928) – were also educated at TCD. More recently, Bishop Robert Paterson (2008-2016) was involved in a review of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute in 2015-2016, while I was a member of the academic staff.

There is an amusing Irish connection with the Diocese of Sodor and Man. In their operetta Patience (1881), Gilbert and Sullivan mention the Bishop of Sodor and Man in the song ‘If you Want a Receipt for that Popular Mystery’ sung by Colonel Calverley.

In a reference is Bishop Rowley Hill, the song lists the elements of a Heavy Dragoon, including ‘Style of the Bishop of Sodor and Man’:

If you want a receipt for that popular mystery,
Known to the world as a Heavy Dragoon,
Take all the remarkable people in history,
Rattle them off to a popular tune.

The pluck of Lord Nelson on board of the Victory –
Genius of Bismarck devising a plan –
The humour of Fielding (which sounds contradictory) –
Coolness of Paget about to trepan –
The science of Jullien, the eminent musico –
Wit of Macaulay, who wrote of Queen Anne –
The pathos of Paddy, as rendered by Boucicault –
Style of the Bishop of Sodor and Man –
The dash of a D’Orsay, divested of quackery –
Narrative powers of Dickens and Thackeray –
Victor Emmanuel – peak-haunting Peveril –
Thomas Aquinas, and Doctor Sacheverell –
Tupper and Tennyson –Daniel Defoe –
Anthony Trollope and Mister Guizot!

The poet John Betjeman later described the Bishop of Sodor and Man as ‘that luckless Bishop whose cathedral is a beautiful ruin of green slate and red sandstone on an islet overlooking Peel.’

Today, the chapter of Saint German’s Cathedral, Peel, includes the Dean, the Archdeacon, and four canons with the designations of Saint Patrick, Saint Maughold, Saint Columba and Saint German – an acknowledgement of the centuries-old link between the Diocese of Sodor and Man and the saints and churches of Ireland and Scotland.

Inside Peel Cathedral (Photograph: Peel Cathedral / Claire Fox Schreuder)

A teenage introduction in
the Isle of Man to hotel
holidays and ‘island hopping’

Onchan Head in the 1960s … my first experience of staying in an hotel and ‘island hopping’ (Photograph: Wikipedia / Dr Neil Clifton)

Patrick Comerford

I am still wondering whether I am going to get to Greece later this year. Any possible government announcement about an ‘air bridge’ has been postponed once again.

Ryanair keeps advertising that it is flying to Thessaloniki. Although I booked this journey late last year, all does not seem secure. Even if an ‘air bridge’ is agreed between Ireland and Greece, am I going to feel reassured enough to go ahead with a planned holiday in Halkidiki in late August and early September?

I mused, until a few days ago, that the ‘R’ factor in Greece is lower than it is in Ireland, and that perhaps I would feel as safe there – if not safer – than in Ireland.

But the arrival of people like Stanley Johnson, and his casual, Trump-like – well, Johnson-like – response to questions, makes me wonder what if … what if, later this summer, the beaches of Greece become like the beaches at Bournemouth and Southend?

Of course, the expectation of the journey has its own pleasure that does not actually depend on arriving at the destination. As the Greek poet CP Cavafy says in his poem Ithaka:

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich

But, as I thought about these prospects in recent days, I realised that it was 55 years ago – probably this month, although I am unsure – that I first ever went ‘island hopping’ or stayed in an hotel.

It was 1965, July or August, and I was a 13-year-old who had just realised the fun and joy of being a teenager by the sea.

My father normally took a house in the summer months on the east coast, within commuting distance of Dublin and close to a golf course, so that he could commute to work in the day, and spend the evening playing golf, leaving us to our own devices and creative imaginations throughout those long, balmy days. I still remember episodes in Bettystown, Kilcoole and Termonfeckin that I am sure my parents were never aware of.

But, for some reason, there was a change of locations 55 years ago, and we all caught the ferry to the Isle of Man and spent that family holiday in an hotel in Onchan, overlooking Douglas Bay.

I cannot remember the name of the hotel, but I can remember it was at the end of a terrace of Victorian buildings, above the rocks of Onchan, and I can remember some of the hotel’s guests or residents. There was a veteran from the Battle of El-Alamein, fought in 1942 who entertained me with stories of Monty’s Eighth Army and how they defeated Rommel’s Desert Rats. It was only 23 years earlier, so he may have been only in his early 40s, perhaps even in his late 30s. But, as my father played golf and my mother played bridge, he brought many of my comic-book stories to life.

There was a couple who were convinced that two jobs were safe in life: the binman’s and the milkman’s. Who could invent a machine that would walk up the garden path, take the empties and replace them, or bring the bin down to the waiting cart. I can’t imagine they were recommending a career path for a young teenager; nor could they predict the future … although I only know that with the benefit of hindsight.

Keith was a boy of my age from Haywards Heath. I think his father was a vicar or a lay reader, and he took me to Saint Catherine’s, the Anglican parish church, with its beautiful rood screen and Celtic crosses – this is where Captain William Bligh married Elizabeth Betham.

Keith and I kept in touch with each other for a long time … well, at least until the following Christmas.

I took a delight that only teenage boys appreciate in the local names, such as Windy Corner, Molly Quirk’s Glen, and The Butt, I visited the TT course and saw some of the practice runs, I almost frightened myself when, after pretending I was older, I tried mini-kart at the Onchan Pleasure Park, where I also went boating, I searched for tail-less Manx cats and tried to send others in search of three-legged Manx residents.

I made my own way by bus to other towns on the island, including Castletown, Peel, Port Erin, Laxey and Ramsey, and Tynwald, and spent hours on the promenade and the beach at Douglas. On a more serious note, I was introduced to the horrors of the Holocaust at Madame Tussaud’s in Douglas.

Mutiny on the Bounty had been a hit film three years earlier (1962) and Lord of the Flies (1963) was still showing that summer.

It was the year of the Selma and Montgomery marches, the year TS Eliot died, the year Liverpool beat Leeds 1-0 in the FA cup final. The Rolling Stones could get no Satisfaction, Bob Dylan went electric and had a hit with ‘Like a Rolling Stone,’ Elvis Presley was crying in the chapel, the Beatles played at Shea Stadium, Petula Clarke was downtown, the Beach Boys wanted help from Rhonda, Kathy Kirby and Butch Moore sang in Eurovision in Naples, and the Seekers knew they would never find another you.

Ted Heath became the Tory leader, George Papandreou was sacked in move that would later turn into the colonels’ coup, Sean Lemass had led on, draft cards were being burnt across America, Vatican 2 was coming to an end, WB Yeats was reburied, and Kenneth Tynan, briefly director of Garrick Theatre in Lichfield, used the ‘F’ word on British television.

Lady Penelope and Thunderbirds were about to go, and I was still reading the Eagle, Look and Learn and Lion. But I was maturing in a way I did not yet understand. If my accent was a little too English for a teenager in Ireland, I was sent to Ballinskelligs in the Kerry Gaeltacht the following year. That was the ‘Summer of Love’ and there I would read Anne Frank’s Diaries and Catcher in the Rye, have my first smoke, and face the challenge to go ‘skinny dipping.’ From there I was sent on to boarding school in Gormanston.

My world was changing, and the Isle of Man – with its hotel whose name I have forgotten, and the temptations of ‘island hopping’ – was playing a part in those changes.

A horse-drawn tram on the seafront in Douglas (Photograph: Tripadvisor)