Saturday, 31 October 2020

Four books in the post
on Wexford families and
the arts in Askeaton

Four books arrived in the post this week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

There are many things I miss during this pandemic lockdown: there are missed opportunities for travel to my favourite places, walks on the beach, eating out, time sipping a double espresso in cafés … And I sorely miss opportunities to browse in some of my favourite bookshops.

Over the last few months, I have bought a number of books online. But that is no substitute for losing count of time as I browse the shelves of a good bookshop, serendipitously coming across a book I never knew about but realise I always wanted to read.

Serendipity continued to manifest itself this week when three books arrived in the post unexpectedly, two from my old friend Michael Freeman in Rosslare, Co Wexford, and two from Michele Horrigan of Askeaton Contemporary Arts.

Helen Skrine is the author of The Boxwells of Butlerstown Castle, published recently under the imprint of Butlerstown Castle Press and co-edited with her daughter, Anna Skrine-Brunton.

But the Boxwells are one among the families that for hundreds of years have owned castles in Co Wexford and have influenced social, political, economic and cultural change across the world.

The Bowxwells have lived for centuries at Butlerstown House and Butlerstown Castle, just a mile or two away from two other castles linked with the Boxwell family, Bargy Castle and Lingstown Castle. This is a fascinating memoir of the Boxwell family, which came England in the 1600s and settled in Co Wexford. She tells the story that is sometimes tragic and often-times funny.

She charts the contribution of members of the Boxwell family to government, medicine, sport, community and even rebellion, through war and peace to the present day.

Butlerstown Castle, like Ballybur Castle in Co Kilkenny, had its origins as a tower house, ‘a modest affair aimed not at warmongering or at display of power and wealth, but merely at survival, for defence in a hostile and embittered environment.’

The so-called ‘English’ baronies of Forth and Bargy in Co Wexford became more thickly populated with castles than any other part of Ireland. They included Bargy Castle built by the Rossiters, Lingstown Castle built by the Lamberts, Ballycogley Castle, built by the Waddings, and Butlerstown Castle, near Tomhaggard, built for the Butlers of Mountgarret, and with views north to Forth Mountain, west to the Comeragh Mountains in Co Waterford, and south to the Saltee Islands.

Helen traces the Boxwell family back to John Boxall or Boxwell of New College, Oxford, a favourite of Queen Mary, and John Boxwell (1614-1677) of Wootton Bassett, and a third John Boxwell who moved from Wootton Bassett to Co Wexford in the late 17th century.

For many people in Co Wexford, the Boxwell family is best-known for the close family relationship that links John Boxwell, John’s brother-in-law John Colclough and John’s cousin, Beauchamp Bagenal Harvey, the three key figures in the 1798 Rising in Wexford.

But she also tells the stories of colourful family members, including Susan Boxwell the artist; John Boxwell, Governor of Dhaka, now the capital of Bangladesh; William Boxwell, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland; and Colonel Ambrose Boxwell of the Indian army.

There are honeymoons in Rome and Athens, tennis in Assam, Bengal and Chittagong, hunting with the Killinick Harriers, polo in Malaysia and a connection with Chris de Burgh. There are stories that take the reader to South Africa and Brazil, and of coffee in White’s Hotel, the Opera Festival in Wexford, and starting an arts centre in the Old Town Hall in Cornmarket.

There are intriguing connections with the Elgee family and Oscar Wilde; with Whitley Stokes and William Stokes, pioneers in medicine; with Percy French; and through her mother with the St Leger family of Doneraile. And there is the story a ‘visit’ to Bargy Castle by the IRA during a Christmas party at the height of the Irish Civil War.

In addition, 16 family trees help guide the reader labyrinthine details of the different branches Boxwell family tree, with the many intermarriages within the Boxwell family, the details of kinship with other kindred families, including the Harveys, the MacMurroughs Kavanaghs and the St Legers, and extensions of the family to Abbeyleix, Liverpool and Brazil.

The cover photographs are by Jim Campbell and Ger Lawlor, while many of the photographs inside this generously illustrated book are by Ger Lawlor, Helen’s son-in-law Simon de Courcy Wheeler and Pat O’Connor.

Helen Skrine is due to feature soon on RTÉ’s programme Nationwide.

Berna Borna, originally from Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny, was a teacher at the Muslim National School in Clonskeagh almost 25 years, and was the school principal for the last five of those years. Her novel Shades of Integrity is her debut fiction and is published under Michael Freeman’s imprint of Three Sisters Press in Rosslare.

Her novel about a Muslim family from Egypt living in Dublin is due to be launched early next year. She says, ‘Coming into contact with the Muslim community has been a great privilege and blessing. The experience was enriching beyond the ordinary. The community comprises people from many differing countries and cultures. We have much to learn from each other.’

It is an appropriate corrective to negative images of Muslims and Islam created by this week’s horrific killings in Nice.

The book is prefaced with a quotation from Khalil Gibran:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.


Michael Freeman is from Glynn, Co Wexford. He lived in Dublin for many years, working as a freelance journalist, a press officer for Macra na Feirme and in PR and publishing. He returned to Wexford with his wife Brigid in 2005 and now lives in Rosslare.

A suggestion by the Wexford historian and author Nicky Furlong led him to set up Three Sisters Press, and the first book he published was volume five of Nicky’s Wexford in the Rare Auld Times. Other books from Three Sisters Press include Sailor, Airman, Spy, Memoir of a Cold War Veteran by Ted Hayes (2018).
http://www.patrickcomerford.com/2018/11/sailor-airman-spy-memoir-of-cold-war.html
Michele Horrigan from Askeaton, Co Limerick, is Director and Curator at Askeaton Contemporary Arts, and a former curator at the Belltable in Limerick.

ACA Public is the publishing initiative of Askeaton Contemporary Arts, and recently published Countercultures, communities, and Indra’s Net by John Hutchinson, beautifully designed by Daly-Lyon.

ACA Publishing has also published Men Who Eat Ringforts by Sinéad Mercier and Michael Holly, and featuring Eddie Lenihan.

Environmentalist Sinéad Mercier explores the legal and moral complexities surrounding the nature of ringforts, while artist Michael Holly’s fieldwork with folklorist Eddie Lenihan reveals and analyses many sites of resonance in Co Clare. In addition, extensive large format aerial imagery and historical maps licensed from Ordnance Survey Ireland detail changes over recent decades to these landscapes.

Men Who Eat Ringforts is printed with fluorescent Pantone inks, substituting the standard cyan, magenta and yellow process colours, resulting in a luminous effect to images throughout.

This new book was co-published in August with Gaining Ground, a public art programme based in Co Clare.

Meanwhile, Askeaton Contemporary Arts are in the post-production stage, getting ready to launch its own YouTube channel. They promise something to watch during lockdown.

Genealogical trails and tales in
November’s ‘Church Review’

Patrick Comerford

My monthly column in the Church Review in November 2020 takes a light-hearted look at some genealogical quirks and fantasies.

The Church Review, edited by the Revd Nigel Waugh, Rector of Delgany, Co Wicklow, is the diocesan magazine in Dublin and Glendalough.

In a two-page feature in the November edition, I tell the story of finding two books in an Irish bar in Crete that brought me on a genealogical trail from Comberford in Staffordshire to Saint John’s College in Cambridge.

There are stories too of two rival claimants to the invented title of ‘The O’Hanlon’ or chief of the O’Hanlon Clan – both contemporaries and priests in the Church of Ireland diocese of Limerick and Killaloe, and of Lady FitzGerald of Lichfield, who stood apart from the poor Irish immigrant parishioners in Lichfield. However, her husband’s claim to a title was based on a tissue of genealogical fantasies and lies that link back to Springfield Castle in west Limerick.

But more about these genealogical tales and trails tomorrow afternoon (HERE).

Canon Charles Bunworth,
Rector of Buttevant, harpist
and patron of Irish harpists

A plaque in Buttevant, Co Cork, commemorates Canon Charles Bunworth and the Bunworth Harp (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

Going back over my recent ‘road trip’ photographs from Buttevant, Co Cork, I came across the former home and a memorial to Canon Charles Bunworth (1704-1772), a Rector of Buttevant who was celebrated for his skill as a harper, his knowledge of Irish music, and his patronage of harpers.

Charles Bunworth was born in 1704 in Freemount, Newmarket, Co Cork, the second son of Colonel Richard Bunworth of Newmarket and his wife Elizabeth (Philpot). His elder brother, Canon Peter Bunworth, also became a priest in the Diocese of Cloyne and was Prebendary of Lackeen.

Charles Bunworth was educated by a family tutor and at Trinity College Dublin (BA 1727, MA 1730), and was ordained deacon (1730) and priest (1731) by the Bishop of Cloyne.

He was appointed Rector of Knocktemple (1729-1740) and Prebendary of Cooline (1736-1740), and then became Rector of Buttevant (1740-1772), and Vicar of Bregoge (1740-1772), Tullylease (1748-1772), and Kilbrin (1764-1772), all in north Cork.

Throughout these years, Bunworth lived in the Coach House in Buttevant and was respected for his learning and loved for his kindness. He was described in his family as ‘a man of unaffected piety, and of sound learning, pure of heart and benevolent of nature.’

After a time at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, Bunworth developed a passion for the harp and Irish music. He was noted as an accomplished harpist, but most of all as a great patron of harpers and poets.

A patron of poets and bards, Charles Bunworth was chosen five times as president of the assembly of bards, held every three years at Bruree, Co Limerick from 1730 to 1750.

He was a skilled musician, and was known for his hospitality and entertainment of poor, travelling harpers. They, in turn, sang his praises and wrote songs about the charms of his daughters, Elizabeth and Mary.

He also provided instruction and financial aid to John Philpot Curran and Barry Yelverton (Lord Avonmore) before they entered TCD and went on to become prominent lawyers.

Charles Bunworth married Elizabeth Delacourt on 6 January 1743. They were the parents of two daughters: Mary; and Elizabeth (1746-1816), who married Croker Dillon in 1764.

The story of Bunworth’s death is almost as legendary as his collection of harps, and worthy of retelling on Hallowe’en. When he lay dying, a servant reported to the family that he heard the wailing of a banshee. He described how the woman had wailed and moaned and clapped her hands in despair, repeating Bunworth’s name. Local people said this meant that death was near.

Bunworth’s family dismissed the talk as mere superstition as his health appeared to be improving. However, without warning, his condition declined and on the night before his death events took a further turn.

Bunworth had been moved downstairs to sleep. Moaning and clapping was heard outside his room. When family members went out to investigate, it was found that a rose bush close to the window had been partially dislodged. Those who remained inside the house once again heard the sound of moaning and clapping.

As the night wore on, Bunworth’s condition worsened. By the time dawn broke he had died. It was 14 September 1772. He was buried in Saint John’s churchyard, Buttevant.

The story of the banshee was told by his great-grandson, the Cork writer and antiquarian, Thomas Crofton Croker (1798-1854), in Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland (1825).

When he died, Bunworth owned no less than 15 harps, bequeathed to him by grateful harpists. These harps were left in the loft of his granary, but were later burned as firewood by a careless servant. However, his favourite harp, now known as the Bunworth Harp, has survived.

The Bunworth Harp was made by the harp maker John Kelly in 1734. The sides and soundboard were carved from a single block of willow and incised with scrolling foliage and flowers, with black, red, and white painted decorations. It bears the inscription: ‘made by John Kelly for the Reverend Charles Bunworth, Ball-Daniel 1734.’

It is a large high-headed harp with carved, incised, and painted decoration, which has a one-piece soundbox, a narrow brass strip along the centre of the box with perforated string holes, 36 strings, and 36 pins.

This harp was inherited by his descendant, Thomas Crofton Croker, and was sold in London in 1854 after his death. It is now part of the Leslie Linsey Mason collection at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

In recent years, Bunworth and his work were commemorated when the local community in Buttevant organised a festival of music and art to commemorate the music and art of the area.

A local craftsman, Mick Culloty, was commissioned in 1995 to design and make a harp to commemorate Bunworth. It was unveiled by the Right Revd Roy Warke, Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross.

Charles Bunworth’s former home in Buttevant, Co Cork (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Friday, 30 October 2020

‘I will bless you … and in
you all the families of the
earth shall be blessed’

Patrick Comerford

In the Jewish calendar, Shabbat Lech L’cha begins this evening (30 October 2020) and ends tomorrow evening (31 October 2020).

The name comes from Lech-Lecha, Lekh-Lekha, or Lech-L’cha (לֶךְ-לְךָ‎) – the Hebrew for ‘go!’ or ‘leave!,’ literally ‘go for you’ – the fifth and sixth words in the third weekly Torah portion (פָּרָשָׁה‎, parashah) in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading. It includes Genesis 12: 1 to 17: 27, and it tells the stories of God’s calling of Abram, later Abraham.

Abram and Sarai set out after the encounter with God, when Abram is told, ‘I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you … and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed’ (Genesis 12: 2-3, NRSVA).

First steps can set the tone and direction of our future, even when we are not setting out on the same physical journey or pilgrimage as those who have gone before us in faith. Like Abraham, we, too, must take a journey from the accident of who and where we are to who we wish to become and who God wishes us to be.

In the Talmud, Rabbi Meir instructs his readers to say at least 100 blessings each day. On Shabbat evening, it is traditional for parents to offer blessings to their children.

When parents bless their own children, they recall the merits of their ancestors. But they also express the hope that their children will be allowed to grow into their own blessings. Rabbi Sharon Forman says ‘we realise that being a blessing involves raising the mundane fact of our biological existence into something more sacred and meaningful.’

We can become blessings through the work we do and our relationships with others. Our hope is to bless and bring blessings to the people around us by embodying compassion, and engaging with the world justly, lovingly, and humbly (see Micah 6: 8).

Rabbi Rami Shapiro says our hope ‘is to be a blessing and a vehicle for blessing so that all life benefits from your life; and to embody a specific level on consciousness that embraces the world with justice, love, and humility.’

Hillel said, ‘What is hateful to you do not do to another. This is the whole of the Torah: all the rest is commentary. Now go and study it.’ The entire Torah is a guide to compassion to live it so that we become more just, loving, and humble.

We can become blessings too through our connection with God: ‘you will be a blessing’ (Genesis 12: 2).

And may those children who are blessed this evening be blessings to those who follow us in this journey and pilgrimage in life, and truly, may we each go forth and be a blessing: כן יהי רצון, Ken yihi ratzon.

Shabbat Shalom.

The Precentor of Limerick who
was in office for 60 years and
was a typical Victorian pluralist

The former Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Ardagh, Co Longford … Bishop Charles Warburton was Dean of Ardagh before moving to Limerick; his son was Precentor of Limerick for 60 years (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

When a project looking at my predecessors as Precentors of Limerick was postponed last month due to the pandemic limits on public events, I thought it might still be interesting to look at past precentors in a number of blog postings.

In recent postings, I recalled some previous precentors who had been accused of ‘dissolute living’ or being a ‘notorious fornicator’ (Awly O Lonysigh), or who were killed in battle (Thomas Purcell). There were those who became bishops or archbishops: Denis O’Dea (Ossory), Richard Purcell (Ferns) and John Long (Armagh).

There was the tragic story too of Robert Grave, who became Bishop of Ferns while remaining Precentor of Limerick, but – only weeks after his consecration – drowned with all his family in Dublin Bay as they made their way by sea to their new home in Wexford (read more HERE).

In the 17th century, two members of the Gough family were also appointed Precentors of Limerick. In all, three brothers in this family were priests in the Church of Ireland and two were priests in the Church of England, and the Rathkeale branch of the family was the ancestral line of one of Ireland’s most famous generals (read more HERE).

In the mid to late 18th century, two members of the Maunsell family were Precentors of Limerick: Richard Maunsell (1745-1747) and William Thomas Maunsell (1786-1781) (read more HERE).

They were related to Canon John Warburton who was, perhaps, the longest-ever holder of the office, being Precentor of Limerick for 60 years from 1818 until he died to 1878. He was still in his 20s when he was appointed precentor, and had already been Precentor of Ardfert, a sinecure in a cathedral that had not functioned as such since the mid-17th century.

But Warburton was a typical Victorian pluralist found so often in the pre-disestablishment, and like his brother and son-in-law probably owed his preferment to the fact that his father was Bishop of Limerick, albeit a bishop with an unusual and colourful background.

John Warburton was a younger son of Charles Mongan-Warburton (1754-1826), Bishop of Limerick and later Bishop of Cloyne, who was born Terence Mongan ca 1754, the third son of Dominic Mongan or Mangon, a blind harpist from Co Tyrone.

Early in life, the future bishop trained to be a Roman Catholic priest in France, and later claimed to hold the degrees of MA and DD. There is no record of his ordination as deacon or priest in France or Ireland, but he later became an Anglican and was accepted then as an ordained priest. At the same time, he changed his given name to Charles, and became a chaplain with the 62nd Regiment of Foot. He left Monkstown in April 1776 as a deputy chaplain with his regiment, which was sent to fight in the American War of Independence.

I can find no record of the name of his first wife, or whether they had any children. In America, he was captured during the fall of Saratoga in October 1777. After his release, he married his second wife, Frances Marston, daughter of Nathaniel Marston and his wife Anna Van Cortland, in New York on 18 February 1779.

He became a chaplain with the 3rd Battalion, New Jersey Loyalists in 1781. He then lived in New York for a time, before returning to Ireland ca 1785, with his second wife and at least three young children.

Back in Ireland, Warburton became Rector of Tullagh (Baltimore) and Creagh (Skibereen), Co Cork, in the Diocese of Ross (1787-1791); Prebendary of Lockeen in Saint Flannan’s Cathedral, Killaloe (1789-1804); Dean of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Ardagh (1790-1800); and Rector of Loughgilly, Co Armagh (1791-1806).

He changed his name by royal warrant in 1792, from the ‘Rev Charles Morgan’ (sic; corrected later to Mongan), adopting the surname of Warburton, a name held by ‘his maternal cousin-german Miss Alicia Warburton, Spinster, sister of the late William Warburton, of the City of London, Esq, deceased.’

He went on to become Dean of Clonmacnoise (1800-1806), Precentor of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin (1800-1808), and Rector of Laracor, Meath (1804-1806), and was chaplain to the Lord Lieutenant, the Duke of Bedford (1806).

He became Bishop of Limerick and Ardfert in 1806, and was consecrated bishop in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, on 13 July 1806. He later became Bishop of Cloyne on 20 September 1820. Bishop Charles Warburton died in Cloyne, Co Cork, on 9 August 1826, aged 72, and was buried in the family vault in the cathedral.

Charles and Frances were the parents of at least six children, including two sons who followed their father into ordained ministry, and a daughter who married an archdeacon.

Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale … Canon Charles Warburton was Rector of Rathkeale for over 40 years in 1813-1855 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The eldest son of Charles and Frances Warburton, Canon Charles Warburton (1780-1855), was born in New York and came to Ireland with his parents in 1785. He was educated at TCD (BA 1803, MA 1807, LL.B. and LL.D. 1826), and was ordained deacon in 1803 and priest in 1804. At first, he was Rector and Vicar of Aglish (Castlebar), Co Mayo (1805-1813), Archdeacon of Tuam (1806-1855), and Rector of Mournabbey, Co Cork (1807).

He became one of my predecessors in Rathkeale when he became Rector of Rathkeale and Kilscannel, Co Limerick (1813-1855). He was also Chancellor of Limerick (1813-1855), Rector of Drishane (Millstreet), Co Cork (1815-1820), then in the Diocese of Ardfert, and Rector of Clonmel (Cobh), Co Cork (1822-1855).

The younger Charles Warburton married Alicia Bunbury-Isaac, and most their children were born in Rathkeale. He died at the Glebe House, Rathkeale, on 12 December 1855, aged 75, and was buried in his family vault at Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale.

The inscription on the Warburton vault in Rathkeale, reads: ‘Within this vault are interred the mortal remains of the Venerable Charles Warburton LLD Archdeacon of Tuam and Chancellor of Limerick. He died on the 12th day of December 1855 aged 75 having borne a long and suffering illness with exemplary patience and resignation to the Divine Will.’

Charles Warburton’s younger brothers included Canon John Warburton (1786-1878). He was born in Monaghan on 14 July 1786, and was Precentor of Limerick for most of the 19th century (1818-1878).

He was educated at TCD (BA 1807; MA 1817; LL.B. and LL.D. 1826). He was ordained deacon in 1809 and priest in 1810 by his father, Bishop Charles Warburton. Leslie says he was Precentor of Ardfert (1811-1814) and conflates him with John Warburton who was curate of Valentia in 1811 and Rector of Kilmore or Valentia Island (1812-1830).

John Warburton was Precentor of Limerick (1818-1878), Vicar of Loughhill, Co Limerick (1818-1878), Rector of Kill and Lyons, Kildare (1814-1878), a Vicar Choral of Cloyne (1825), a Vicar Choral of Cork (1826), and Rector of Drumcliffe (Ennis), Co Clare, in the Diocese of Killaloe (1829-1871).

He married in Midleton, Co Cork, on 20 March 1822, Henrietta Ann Sandford Palmer, daughter of Sandford Palmer, of Ballynockan Castle, King’s County (Co Offaly), and a descendant of Rowland Davies, Dean of Cork. His father, Bishop Charles Warburton, officiated at their wedding.

They were the parents of six sons and four daughters. Their two eldest sons were born in Dublin (1823) and Cambridge (1824), which shows how John Warburton was not too attentive to being resident in any of his numerous parishes.

Canon John Warburton died at Kill Glebe, near Naas, Co Kildare, on 6 July 1878, aged 95; his wife Henrietta died at Kill Glebe in July 1872.

The tower of Saint Anna’s Church, Millstreet … for almost 60 years the Rectors of Drishane were all members of Bishop Warburton’s family (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John and Charles Warburton had four sisters, including Charlotte Anne (1789-1841), who married Canon William Wray Maunsell (1782-1860), son of Canon William Maunsell, Chancellor of Limerick. He was Rector of Drishane (Millstreet), Co Cork (1803-1815), Archdeacon of Limerick and Vicar of Saint Michael’s, Limerick (1814-1860), and Precentor of Cloyne (1822-1860). Their children included Canon Robert Augustus Maunsell (1825-1878), Prebend of Donaghmore, Limerick (1857-1863), and chaplain at the British Embassy in Paris.

They were also first cousins of John Charles Mongan (1798-1860), who for 40 years was Rector of Drishane (Millstreet), Co Cork, in 1820-1860. He was ordained deacon by his uncle, Bishop Charles Warburton, in Tralee in 1819 when he was still below the canonical age. He married Elizabeth Wallis of Drishane Castle and their daughter Marianne Charlotte married the Revd Francis Young, curate of Drishane.

But John Charles Mongan too spent little time in his parish: for many years he was ‘a chaplain abroad’ and the Rector of Saint Mary’s, Belize, Honduras, where he died on 24 August 1860.

So, for almost 60 years, from 1803 to 1860, the Rectors of Drishane were all members of Bishop Warburton’s family: his son-in-law Archdeacon William Maunsell in 1803-1815, his son Canon Charles Warburton in 1815-1820, and his nephew John Charles Mongan in 1820-1860.

The ruins of Saint John’s Church, Kilmore, Valentia … who was the John Warburton who was Rector of Valentia (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Canon John Warburton was Precentor of Ardfert in 1811-1814, and Leslie those who followed him have identified him with the Revd John Warburton, who was the Rector of Kilmore, or Valentia Island (1812-1830).

However, this John Warburton, Rector of Valentia, was born in King’s County (Offaly) ca 1753-1757, the son of another Revd Charles Warburton, Rector of Banagher, who should not be confused with Bishop Charles Warburton.

This John Warburton was educated at TCD (BA 1781), and he was his father’s curate in Banagher before becoming Rector of Kilmore or Valentia Island, Co Kerry, in 1811. Four years later, Saint John’s Church at Kilmore, outside the present Knightstown in Valentia, was built in 1815.

The archives of the Chief Secretary’s Office, now in the National Archives in Dublin, include letters from the Revd John Warburton, Co Kerry, requesting government relief from his debts.

The first letter, dated 19 October 1823, was sent from Valentia Island to Henry Goulburn, Chief Secretary, Dublin Castle, concerning the difficulties in obtaining his tithes, and pointing out that ‘the parish in its present situation will not support me.’

Warburton emphasises his financial distress, refers to his former work as curate to his late father Banagher, and recalls the assistance he gave his father in the management of the free school at Banagher. He details the debt he incurred through the loss of his tithes during the 1798 rebellion, and his subsequent difficulties with creditors, and requests government relief.

The second letter was sent by Warburton from the jail in Tralee, Co Kerry, to Goulburn on 10 December 1823. He refers to his arrest for debt, and renews his application for government relief. He notes that his family ‘must beg & I starve.’

This John Warburton died at Valentia on 7 November 1829 at the age of 72 while he was the Rector of Valentia. A report at the time described him as the Rector of Valentia, Co Kerry, ‘and Precentor of Limerick... a relative of the late Bishop of Clogher... and was collated to his benefices by Dr Warburton when Bishop of Limerick.’ However, not all these details appear to be accurate, and there is much conflation with the other John Warburton, who was then Precentor of Limerick.

The Valentia parish register records his burial on 10 November. However, another source records says he was buried at Dromod, Co Kerry, also on 10 November 1829, and aged 72 years. Dromod is the name for the Church of Ireland parish in Waterville. A new parish church was built there in 1866, and has since been dedicated to Saint Michael and All Angels.

This John Warburton’s widow Anne later emigrated to New South Wales, probably in 1840, and she died at her son’s residence at Pyrmont, near Sydney, on 29 March 1842.

A new parish church was built in Dromod, Waterville in 1866 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Dromod: https://www.patrickcomerford.com/2020/08/parish-church-in-waterville-looks-out.html

Thursday, 29 October 2020

November 2020 in the Rathkeale and
Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes

All Saints depicted in the window in Saint Columb’s Cathedral, Derry, in memory of Canon Richard Babington (1837-1893) of All Saints’ Church, Clooney, Derry … Sunday 1 November is All Saints’ Day (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

While the present Pandemic restrictions remain, there are no Sunday services in any of the four churches in this group of parishes. However, the Parish Eucharist continues to be celebrated each Sunday in the Rectory.

The Sunday sermon is available online each Sunday, through the Parish Facebook page, through Patrick’s blog, and on YouTube.

The Sunday services continue to be planned. In the event of the pandemic restrictions being lifted at any time in November, these are the planned services, with the readings and hymns.

Should services resume in November, the psalm and two of these readings (including the Gospel) will be read, and hymns will be heard on CD recordings.

Sunday 1 November, All Saints’ Day, 2020 (White):

9.30 a.m.: The Parish Eucharist, Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton

11.30 a.m.: Morning Prayer, Saint Brendan’s Church, Tarbert

Readings:

Jeremiah 31: 31-34; Psalm 34: 1-10; Revelation 7: 9-17; Matthew 5: 1-12

Hymns:

466, Here from all nations, all tongues, and all peoples (CD 27)
459, For all the saints, who from their labours rest (CD 29)

Sunday 8 November 2020, Third Sunday before Advent (Remembrance Sunday) (Green):

9.30 a.m.: The Parish Eucharist, Castletown Church

11.30 a.m.: Morning Prayer (and Remembrance Day commemorations), Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale

Readings:

Joshua 24: 1-3a, 14-25; Psalm 78: 1-7; I Thessalonians 4: 13-18; Matthew 25: 1-13

Hymns:

62, Abide with me (CD 4)
537, O God, our help in ages past (CD 31) or
494, Beauty for brokenness (CD 29)

Sunday 15 November 2020, Second Sunday before Advent (Green):

9.30 a.m.: Morning Prayer, Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton

11.30 a.m.: The Parish Eucharist, Saint Brendan’s Church, Tarbert

Readings:

Judges 4: 1-7; Psalm 123; I Thessalonians 5: 1-11; Matthew 25: 14-30

Hymns:

466, Angel voices, ever singing (CD 27)
527, Son of God, eternal Saviour (CD 30)

Sunday 22 November 2020, the Kingship of Christ (White):

9.30 a.m.: Morning Prayer, Castletown Church

11.30 a.m.: The Parish Eucharist, Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale

Readings:

Ezekiel 34: 11-16, 20-24; Psalm 100; Ephesians 1: 15-23; Matthew 25: 31-46

Hymns:

281, Rejoice, the Lord is King! (CD 17)
427, Let all mortal flesh keep silence (CD 25)

Sunday 29 November 2020, Advent I, Advent Sunday (Violet):

The fifth Sunday of the month:

11 a.m.: United Group Service, Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton

The Parish Eucharist with recorded Advent carols.

Readings:

Isaiah 64: 1-9; Psalm 80: 1-8, 18-20; I Corinthians 1: 3-9; Mark 13: 24-37.

Hymns:

119, Come, thou long-expected Jesus (CD 8)
132, Lo! he comes with clouds descending (CD 8)

Saints Days in November:

30 November, Saint Andrew.

On-line sermons:

The Sunday sermon and the intercessions go online, with access through the Parish Facebook page, Patrick’s blog, and on YouTube.

The Parish Facebook page often gets 1,000 to 2,000 hits in a week, and the sermons and intercessions are viewed by more people than the numbers who ever come to church.

Christ the King … a stained-glass window in Mount Melleray Abbey, Cappoquin, Co Waterford … Sunday 22 November celebrates the Kingship of Christ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

In search of the site
of Saint Cornan’s church
in Castletown graveyard

The Hanley family grave in Castletown dates from 1818 and has images of the crucifixion (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

One evening this week, before darkness began to close in, two of us visited the graveyard at Castletown, it was known as Kilcornan west of Pallaskenry, Co Limerick. It is almost opposite the Church of Ireland parish church at Castletown, which is also known as Kilcornan Church, and the graveyard is easy to find locally because of the large crucifix at its gates.

Although the townland is now known as Moig East, the civil survey names it as Killcornane in the 1650s, and it was known as Kilcornan (Cill Churnain) until about 1700.

The graveyard is said by some local historians to have been the original site of the church built by Saint Curnan, which gives its name to Kilcornan. Other local historians say the original Church of Saint Cornan was built on the site of the present Castletown church in 1832.

In either case, it is said the ruins of the earlier church were used to build the Waller vault in Castletown graveyard when the old church was taken down and replaced by the present Church of Ireland parish church in Castletown.

The rubble and stones from the earlier church in Castletown were used to build the Waller family vault (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

According to the Martyrology of Tallaght, written ca 797-808, the feast day of Saint Curnán Beg was marked on 6 January. He may have been known as Curnán Beg or Becc, or Curnan the ‘Llittle,’ because he was small in stature. Saint Curnán Beg is said to have belonged to Cill Churnain, a place that took its name from a church or cell he founded there.

The later Martyrology of Donegal, written by Mícheál Ó Cléirigh (1590-1643) in the 17th century, notes the commemoration in the Diocese of Limerick of Saint Curnán Beg on 6 January. Ó Cléirigh gives his genealogy and the exact place where he was reverenced as patron. He says Saint Curnán was a son of Sinell, belonging to the people of Condri, son of Fearghus, son of Ross Ruadh, who was son of Rudhraige, ancestor of the Clann Rudhraighe.

John Waller (1762/5-1836) of Castletown Manor, MP for Limerick, built a new Roman Catholic parish church in 1828 in the townland of Boherbuoy, to replace an older church in Stonehall. He donated the site for the Church of Ireland parish church in Kilcornan, built in 1832.

The Church of Ireland parish church is one of the churches designed by the architect James Pain (1779-1877). It was built in 1831 at a total cost of £1,500. Of this, £700, as well as the site, came as an outright gift from Waller, who also paid off the balance of £800, which was a loan from the Board of First Fruits.

The church is oriented on a north/south axis, instead of the traditional east/west liturgical orientation. It has a three-bay gable-fronted nave, a square-profile three-stage tower at the south with square-profile, multiple-gabled, single-storey vestries to the east and west of the tower.

The Co Limerick historian and antiquarian TJ Westropp, in his Churches of Co Limerick, places the old church of Saint Curnan on the site of the Church of Ireland parish church built by Waller in 1832. Others suggest it was in Castletown graveyard, and Canon Wall believed it stood where the Waller vault was later built, and the use of the name Kilcornan has since shifted geogrpahically to the are near Stonehall.

The Caulfeild family vault is now unmarked (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The name Kilcornan continued to be used for the Church of Ireland parish church at Castletown, while Stonehall was used as the name for the church built at Boherbuoy in 1828 and dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. However, in the 1930s, under pressure from Canon Wall, the name of the parish was officially recognised as Kilcornan.

As for the old church dedicated to Saint Cúrnan – whether it stood on the site of Castletown Church or within the site of Castletown graveyard – it was pulled down 1831, the stones and rubble were used to build the Waller vault in Castletown graveyard, and John Waller was buried there when he died in 1836.

Another vault in the graveyard was built for the Caulfeild family. Major-General James Caulfeild (1786-1852) was a younger son of the Ven John Caulfeild, Archdeacon of Kilmore, grandnephew of the 2nd Viscount Charlemont.

However, both vaults were plundered and vandalised in the 1920s, and the plaques have been erased.

The Hanley family grave with a detailed crucifixion scene in Castletown graveyard (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

There is a number of family graves in the graveyard that pre-date the building of either church. The Hanley family grave, which dates from 1818, has a detailed, raised carving of the crucifixion.

The figure of Christ bears the crown of thorns on his head, with the initials INRI above and IHS below, and figures representing the Virgin Mary and Saint John are on each side, with figures of angels in the corners above.

On each side of the figure of Christ on the cross are 15 discs, adding up to the 30 pieces of silver. Below Christ’s feet is a symbol of the Lamb of God. The inner panel is filled on each side with foliage representing the tree of life.

In the space above the crucifixion scene, at the top of the gravestone, the scales of the Day of Judgment are surrounded by the sun and moon, stars, and two more angels in the corners.

In the side panels are two birds, two monstrances, and two figures, one with a hammer, the other with pliers, to fix and remove the nails of the crucifixion.

The emblems on the Kell family grave include the ladder used to take Christ’s body down from the cross (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

There also notable crucifixion scenes on the O’Neill grave dating from 1812 and the McDonogh grave from 1827. The Kell family grave, from the same period, also shows traditional emblems of the passion, including the ladder used to take Christ’s body down from the cross.

A parishioner told me this week of a local tradition that survivors of the Spanish Armada who were brought up the Shannon Estuary and came ashore near Kilcornan were killed by local people and are buried in the graveyard too.

But there are signs in the graveyard of a mass grave, and no monuments or plaques telling this story.

The large crucifix at the gates of Castletown graveyard (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Visiting the mediaeval
church ruins at Killeen
Cowpark near Askeaton

The ruined 15th century church at Killeen Cowpark, about 5 km east of Askeaton, off the N69 road (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

In recent days, I visited the ruined 15th century church of Killeen Cowpark, about 5 km east of Askeaton, Co Limerick, off the N69 road. The ruined church is halfway between Askeaton and Kildimo, and close to both Kilcornan and Curraghchase Forest Park.

This ruined church is a national monument, and it is said to be one of the finest examples in Ireland of a late mediaeval church.

Local tradition claims that the church at Killeen Cowpark was one of three churches built in this area by three sisters, although no saint or founder is remembered in the parish. The two other churches were Cappagh Church and Beagh Church near Ballysteen.

This date of the church at Killeen Cowpark is unclear. Some historians believe it dates from the 15th century, but other accounts date it from ca 1611.

Archdeacon John Begley, in his History of the Diocese of Limerick (1906), believed the church in Monehuryn might be the old name for the church in Killeen Cowpark.

The Limerick historian and antiquarian Thomas Johnson Westropp (1860-1922) believed this church marked the former site of Saint Curnan Beg's religious foundation, and said Aubrey de Vere of Curraghchase House assured him he had never heard any tradition regarding any other church site within the bounds of Kilcornan parish.

The church ruins are remarkably well preserved, with only the roof and the tops of the walls missing. It is an unadorned rectangular church, with narrow windows and a turret-like belfry.

This is a rectangular structure, with a strong batter effect on its walls to height of 5 ft and high gable ends. It is 13.7 metres long and 7.3 metres wide.

A course of stone corbels on the inside carried the heavy timber wall plates that supported the roof timbers.

A projecting well niche on the west gable has a pointed arch and a loop in the wall provided for a rope so that the bell could be rung from inside the church.

There are two doors in the church, one in the north wall and one in the south wall. The door opening in the south wall has a simple, pointed arch and beside it there is an unusual, double-sided font.

The church has just three narrow windows, one in the east wall above the place of the former altar, and one each in the south wall and the north wall. All three windows have ogee heads, a typical feature of churches in the 15th century.

The church at Killeen Cowpark was in use until 1811. Westropp measured the church at 45 ft by 24 ft and found in good condition.

He noted the height of the side walls was about 14 ft and the height of the gables was about 22 ft. The walls were about 2’ 9’’ in thickness, the two side windows 3 ft high, and six inches wide.

He pointed out that the church did not appear to lie exactly on the traditional east/west liturgical axis. The arch in the north wall was nearly filled up with masonry and 7’ 6” high and 3 ft wide. The arched opening on the south side was 6 ft by 3 ft. The walls slant externally from about 4 ft near the foundations.

He noted that the ruined church stands on a gentle, grassy slope, about 6 ft high, and in a rough green field, with a few bushes and brambles overgrowing, stands on an elevated slope of about 20 feet over the adjoining grounds.

Westropp was of the opinion that the setting ‘imparts a character of solidity and dignity to the antique structure.’

The church was repaired in the 1930s under the direction of Canon Thomas Wall, parish priest of Kilcornan. The stones that formed the window were discovered during this renovation and replaced. The belfry is also in good condition.

At one time, there was a killeen or burial ground near the church for children who had not been baptised. There was a similar killeen near Saint Brigid’s Well in Kilbreedy.

The church at Killeen Cowpark was repaired in the 1930s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

When Greece said No
80 years ago today to
Fascism and oppression

The Greek flag flies with the EU flag and the flag of the Ecumenical Patriarch at Arkadi Monastery in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today marks 80 Years since ‘Oxi Day’ – the day on 28 October 1940 when Greece and Greeks said ‘No’ to Fascism and oppression. Oxi Day (Επέτειος του «'Οχι»), celebrated throughout Greece and Cyprus and by Greek communities around the world on 28 October each year.

Oxi Day commemorates the day the Greek Prime Minister, Ioannis Metaxas, rejected the ultimatum from the Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini on 28 October 1940. This day also recalls the Greek counter-attack against invading Italian forces in the mountains of Pindus during World War II, and the Greek Resistance during the war to occupying Italians and Germans.

Mussolini’s ultimatum was presented to Metaxas by the Italian ambassador to Greece, Emanuele Grazzi, around 3 a.m. on the morning of 28 October 1940. Mussolini demanded Greece would allow Axis forces to enter Greek territory and occupy strategic locations – or face war. It is said Metaxas replied with a one-word laconic response: Όχι (No!).

Putting popular myth aside, the actual reply was in French: ‘Alors, c’est la guerre!’ (‘Then it is war!’). The moment provides the background for a dramatic but humorous scene in the movie Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, set on the Ionian island of Kephallonia, making Oxi Day well-known around the world.

In an immediate response to Metaxas’s ‘No’, Italian troops based in Albania attacked the Greek border two hours later at 5.30 a.m. That ‘No!’ brought Greece into World War II on the side of the Allies. Indeed, for a period, Greece was Britain’s only ally against Hitler.

Without that ‘No,’ some historians argue, World War II could have lasted much longer. One theory is that had Greece surrendered without any resistance, Hitler could have invaded Russia the following spring, rather than his disastrous attempt to capture it during winter.

On this morning 80 years ago, 28 October 1940, Greek people of all political persuasions took to the streets in masses, shouting «'Οχι», ‘No!’ From 1942, this day was celebrated as Oxi Day, first within the resistance and then after the war by all Greeks. The Battle of Crete and the extra resources required to subdue Greece drained and distracted Nazi Germany from its efforts on other war fronts.

The Greek flag flying at the Monastery of Great Meteron in central Greece (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Those events 80 years ago are commemorated with military and student parades, public buildings are decorated with Greek flags, there folk dances, and Greek Orthodox churches hold special services. Coastal towns may have naval parades or other celebrations on the seafront. In Thessaloniki, reverence is also paid to the city’s patron, Saint Dimitrios, and the city celebrates its freedom from Turkey.

There are traffic delays, especially near parade routes, some streets are blocked off, and most archaeological sites are closed for the day, along with most businesses and services.

In the West, politicians are always happy to credit ancient Greece with the development of democracy. But in the present crises in Europe, when Greece is often seen as a burden rather than a partner, it may be worth remembering that Europe owes modern Greece an unacknowledged debt for helping to preserve democracy against the Nazis and Fascists during World War II.

This year’s commemorations have an added significance as Greece and Greeks around the world prepare for next year’s commemorations of the 200th anniversary of the beginning of the Greek War of Independence on 25 March 1821.

The Greek flag outside the parish church in Tsesmes, near Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

To mark today’s 80th anniversary of Oxi Day, the Hellenic Community of Ireland is organising an online event to mark the resistance of Greece to the Italian forces on 28 October 1940.

During this evening’s programme, the Greek poet and academic Dr Natasha Remoundou will read pieces from Nikos-Gavriil Pentzikis, Primo Levi and Hannah Ardent about that period. The historian Fergus D’Arcy will answer questions about World War II in Ireland. The president of the anti-war movement in Ireland, Mike Youlton, will explain the influence of that movement at that time. The scholar and former diplomat Paddy Sammon will talk about Irish neutrality.

In addition, Pantelis Goularas, Irish representative of the International Society of Friends Nikos Kazantzakis, will talk about Nikos Kazantzakis at that time, and David Howley will read poetry by Odysseas Elytis.

This programme will be broadcast live at 7:30 pm this evening (28 October 2020) on Facebook: https://fb.me/e/2XEYTEweD and on YouTube: https://youtu.be/9tjT2geQoaA

The Greek flag at the war memorial in the mountain village of Sellia in southern Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Imelda May celebrates her
Comerford grandparents
and their role in 1916

Joseph Comerford and Mary Morrissey were married ten years after the 1916 Rising … grandparents of the singer Imelda May

Patrick Comerford

The Dublin singer Imelda May has shared photographs on social media of her maternal grandparents – James and Maisie Comerford – who took part in the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916.

The hit singer was part of the line-up in RTÉ’s 90-minute centenary show four years ago, which was broadcast live from the Bord Gais Energy Theatre. Later she said the weekend ‘was very special.’

‘It was such a pleasure to work on it,’ she said in 2016. ‘Congratulations to our President Michael D Higgins too. His heartfelt speeches were moving, honest, inspiring and uplifting.’

Later, she shared an historical photo of her grandparents, who were both involved in the 1916 rising, Maisie Morrissey and Joe Comerford, who later married in 1926, ten years after the Easter rising.

Joseph Comerford was a labourer and living at 12 Thomas Davis Street and Mary Morrissey was a machinist and living at 39 South Earl Street, when they were married in Saint Catherine’s Church, Dublin, on 2 June 1926. The witnesses were Daniel Morrissey and Margaret Comerford). Mary was the daughter of Patrick Morrissey; Joseph was the son of Joseph Comerford, a plumber.

Joseph Patrick Comerford was born at 12 Thomas Davis Street on 7 December 1901, the son of Joseph Comerford, a plumber, and Margaret (née Murray) Comerford. With a little research earlier this week, I found which branch of the Comerford family Imelda May’s grandfather was descended from.

Imelda May at Live at Chelsea at the Royal Hospital Chelsea (Photograph: Egghead06/CCO/Wikipedia)

The Irish singer, songwriter and musician Imelda Mary Higham was born Imelda Mary Clabby in Dublin on 10 July 1974, the youngest of five siblings. She is professionally known as Imelda May. She has been described as ‘a unique vocal talent,’ and is known for her musical style of rockabilly revival. She has been compared to female jazz musicians such as Billie Holiday.

She began her career in music at 16, performing with local bands and musicians. She formed her own band in 2002, and released her debut studio album, No Turning Back. After the release, she moved to London with her then-husband, guitarist Darrel Higham.

She released her second studio album, Love Tattoo in 2009, and collaborated and toured with a number of artists after its release. Her third studio album, Mayhem, was released in 2010, her fourth studio album, Tribal in 2014, and her fifth studio album Life Love Flesh Blood in 2017.

Her grandfather was a son of Joseph Comerford and Margaret Murray, who were married on 22 June 1896 in Saint Audeon’s Church, Dublin. This Joseph Comerford was born in October 1869 in Portarlington, Co Laois, the son the son of Edward Comerford, an iron moulder, and Margaret (née Byrne), and she was the daughter of John Murray, a labourer.

Saint Michael’s Church, Portarlington, built in 1839-1842 … nine Comerford children were baptised in Portarlington between 1857 and 1874 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

In recent months, I have been researching this branch of the Comerford family. They originated in Portarlington, Co Laois, and later lived in the Kilmainham, Inchicore and Harold’s Cross areas of Dublin. I plan eventually to migrate this research over to my Comerford family genealogical site after I have found out more about this branch of the family.

But, as I updated my research on this family yesterday, I traced the ancestry of Imelda May’s mother back to a Comerford family living in Portarlington in the mid-19th century:

Edward Comerford, metal caster and iron moulder, of Portarlington, married Mary Byrne. They were the parents of at least nine children:

1, Mary, baptised Portarlington, April 1857.
2, Edward Comerford (1858-1938), baptised Portarlington 1858, of whom next.
3, Thomas Comerford, baptised Portarlington, September 1860.
4, Christopher Comerford, baptised Portarlington December 1862.
5, Patrick Comerford, born March 1865, baptised Portarlington, April 1865.
6, Catherine, born 21 August 1867, baptised Portarlington, September 1867.
7, Joseph Comerford (1869- ), born 23 October 1869, baptised Portarlington, and the great grandfather of Imelda May.
8, Francis Comerford, baptised April 1872.
9, Anne, baptised Portarlington May 1874.

Mary Conway married Edward Comerford in Saint James’s Church, Dublin, in 1880

The first-named son:

Edward Comerford (1858-1938), iron moulder, Great Southern and Western Railways, Inchicore, Dublin. Born in Portarlington in November 1858, he lived at 35 Kilmainham (1880), Richmond Road, Kilmainham (1884), 2 Saint Mary’s Terrace, Inchicore (1886-1888), 4 Woodfield Cottages, Inchicore (1890), 31 Phoenix Street, Kilmainham (1892), 25 Phoenix Street (1894-1898), and 19 Abercorn Terrace, Dublin (1900-1911). He married Mary Conway, daughter of John Conway, smith, and his wife Mary of 34 Kilmainham, on 17 September 1880, in Saint James’s Church, Dublin (witnesses, James McDonald, Margaret Conway).

Edward Comerford died on 26 May 1938 at Our Lady’s Hospice, Dublin; his widow Mary died on 11 March 1942 at 3 Wharton Terrace, Harold’s Cross; they are buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.

They were the parents of at least 13 children:

1, Margaret (1883-1883), born at 3 Saint James’s Place, Inchicore, 3 January 1883, died 5 January 1883.
2, Ellen Christina (1884-1957), born Richmond Road, Kilmainham, 17 January 1884; ‘tailoress.’ She married on 12 January 1910 Richard Cullen (1875-1947), bookbinder, of 10 Turvey Avenue, Kilmainham, in Goldenbridge Church, Dublin (witnesses Daniel Joseph O’Neill, Catherine Comerford). They lived at 3 Tyrconnell Street. Richard died 10 November 1947; Ellen died 14 March 1957. They are buried in Old Lucan Cemetery.
3, Catherine (‘Kitty’), born at 2 Saint Mary’s Terrace, Inchicore, 11 April 1886; she married twice.
4, Elizabeth (‘Lily’), born at 2 Saint Mary’s Terrace, Inchicore, 1 June 1888, married on 23 November 1910 Henry Baldwin, fitter, of 19 Abercorn Terrace, son of John Baldwin, fish merchant, in Saint James’s Church (witnesses John Comerford, Kathleen Gallagher). The family lived in Santry. They were the parents of nine children, including two who died young: Ned, aged 3, and Margaret (‘Moggy’), as well as: Cissie (Mary), unmarried; Charlotte (‘Lottie’), married Jimmy Devlin; Kitty (lived in Oldham), married Joe Thornton; Lily (lived in Leyland), married Mick Kane; and Doreen, married Patrick O’Malley.
5, John (‘Johnny’) Joseph Comerford, born 4 Woodfield Cottages, Inchicore, 16 April 1890; he later lived in Drumcondra.
6, Edward (‘Eddie’) Comerford, born 31 Phoenix Street, Kilmainham, 5 April 1892. He married Maggie Clarke, and lived at 19 Abercorn Terrace. He died in the 1970s. They had no children.
7, Anne (1894-1895), born 25 Phoenix Street, 10 May 1894, died 26 August 1895, buried Kilmainham.
8, Patrick (‘Paddy’) James Comerford (1896-1966). He was born 14 March 1896, 25 Phoenix Street, Kilmainham; he married Josephine Reilly (born 1896) and they lived in Mount Brown, Kilmainham, Dublin. He died on Christmas Eve, 24 December 1966, and is buried in Bluebell Cemetery. Their children include two daughters: Rosaleen, who died in 1997; and Anne.
9, Jeanette Frances (1898-1900), born 27 February 1898, 25 Phoenix Street; died 27 June 1900, 19 Abercorn Terrace; buried in Glasnevin.
10, Margaret Anne (1900-1909), born 18 March 1900, died 25 April 1909, 19 Abercorn Terrace; buried in Glasnevin.
11, Michael (‘Mick’) Thomas Comerford, born 8 March 1902, 19 Abercorn Terrace.
12, William (‘Bill’) Laurence Comerford, born 2 February 1904, 19 Abercorn Terrace.
13, Alfred (‘Alfie’) Bernard Comerford (1906-1941), ‘machinist’, born 25 April 1906, 19 Abercorn Terrace, died 10 September 1941, buried Bluebell Cemetery.

One of Edward Comerford's younger brothers was:

Joseph Comerford (1869- ). He was born on 23 October 1869, and baptised in Portarlington. He moved to Dublin and married Margaret Murray, daughter of John Murray, a labourer, on 22 June 1896 in Saint Audeon’s Church, Dublin. They lived at 12 Thomas Davis Street, Dublin. Their children included:

Joseph Patrick Comerford (1901- ), who was born at 12 Thomas Davis Street on 7 December 1901. He took part in the Easter Rising in 1916, when he was a member of the Irish Citizen Army in 1916. He married Mary Morrissey, machinist, daughter of Patrick Morrissey of 39 South Earl Street, were married in Saint Catherine’s Church, Dublin, on 2 June 1926 (witnesses: Daniel Morrissey and Margaret Comerford). She too took part in the 1916 as a member of Cumann na mBan.

Their children included:

1, Joe Comerford (deceased), a taxi driver.
2, Madge, a seamstress who married Tony Clabby. She died at the age of 46 and was the mother of five children, including the singer Imelda Mary Higham (born Imelda Mary Clabby 10 July 1974), professionally known as Imelda May

Ellen Christina Comerford and Richard Cullen were married in 1910

Cappagh Castle and its
tales of mediaeval knights
and a Victorian burning

Cappagh Castle, Co Limerick … probably built by the Kinghts of Glin at the end of the 15th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

While I was visiting Saint James’s Church, Cappagh, at the weekend, I also visited the ruins of Cappagh Castle, at the end of a small road east of this village between near Rathkeale and Askeaton in west Limerick.

Cappagh Castle is said to have been built by Dermott McEinery ca 1199-1216 in the reign of King John. But the present castle which we see today is formed of the ruins of a 70 ft tower house, built ca 1460-1480 by the Knights of Glin.

Sir John FitzJohn FitzGerald, the first Knight of Glin, also owned Glin Castle and Beagh Castle in Co Limerick.

Cappagh Castle is a tower house and its remains are within an inner bawn, of which just the north and west walls survive. The north side is a strong tower, with an inner and outer enclosure. The outer enclosure has turrets at the eastern angles and the castle is fenced by low crags to the west.

The keep is about 70 ft high and measures 41 ft by 30 ft. It is five storeys high, with the third and fourth storeys resting on vaults. The east end contained the stairs, while the porch and small vaulted rooms were at the south-east.

Cappagh Castle was recorded in 1578, when it was standing on an artificial mound, with five floors and 20 metres in height.

The castle passed into the hands of Sir William Drury (1503-1577), President of Munster, later into the possession of Ulick Browne, and then in 1587 to Sir Gilbert Gerard (1523-1593).

Cappagh House was built in 1607, indicating the change in fashion among landed families away from castles to large houses as their preferred residence.

Cappagh Castle and Callow Castle fell to Irish forces during the Confederate Wars, after a blockade in 1642. The castle was described as ‘ruined’ a little more than a decade later, when the Civil Survey records in 1654-1656 that Cappagh had been held by Gerratt Curnoge, an ‘Irish Papist’, and had been given to Nicholas Dowdall, an English proprietor.

The Peppard family was living at Cappagh from the early 18th century. When the bridge across the River Deel River was built in the townland of Scart in 1747, Cappagh was on the main road from Limerick to Shanagolden.

According to legend, Fitzgerald of Ballyglehane Castle (Hollypark) gave the use of Cappagh Castle to his unmarried brother in 1827. When Fitzgerald’s wife expressed a wish to live at Cappagh Castle, the brother blew up and burned down the castle the day before she was due to move in.

Eyre Lloyd of Wales and William Hammond of Dublin were proprietors of the townland of Cappagh ca 1840. At that time, Robert Peppard lived at Cappagh House, then described as an irregular, two-storey house, part of it built 120 years previously with later additions.

The last family member to live at Cappagh House died in 1938. The house had a number of owners in the 20th century and the interior was badly burnt by fire in 1983 but has since been restored.

As for Cappagh Castle, the banqueting hall was used for many years as a handball court by the Cappagh handball club, the ball being played on the west wall. The club moved to a newly-built court in 1969.

In recent decades, Cappagh Castle was owned by Patrick Fitzgerald, an authority on local history. The castle is now owned by PJ Barry and his family, who live in a bungalow nearby.

Cappagh Castle seen from the road near Cappagh village (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Monday, 26 October 2020

A saint’s icon from Crete
brings my mind back to
a church in Thessaloniki

Saint Dimitrios of Thessaloniki … a new icon by Alexandra Kaouki of Rethymnon

Patrick Comerford

I was posting preaching and liturgical resources this morning on another forum for next Sunday, which is All Saints’ Day (1November 2020), and later in the day was working on my Sunday sermon. As I thought about the saints that have been influential in my own spiritual growth and life, I was reminded that today in Greece is the feast day of Saint Dimitrios of Thessaloniki (Άγιος Δημήτριος της Θεσσαλονίκης), one of the most popular saints and martyrs in the Greek Orthodox Church.

I was reminded of the popularity of Saint Dimitrios throughout Greece this morning by a new icon of the saint by my friend Alexandra Kaouki, the icon-writer with a studio in Rethymnon in Crete.

I have missed a number of planned visits to Greece this year because of the pandemic lockdown. But seeing her icon this morning brought me back not only to her studio below the Fortezza in Rethymnon but also to my many recent visits to Thessaloniki. The most famous church in the city is the Church of Aghios Dimitrios, named after the martyred Roman soldier who is the city’s patron saint and whose feast day is today (26 October).

The church was first built as a small oratory shortly after the year 313 on the ruins of a Roman bath and on the site of the saint’s martyrdom ten years earlier on the orders of the Emperor Galerius.

A new church was built on the same site in the fifth century. This was a large, three-aisled basilica, but was burnt down in 634. Soon after, the present five-aisled basilica was built on the site, and it remains the largest church in Greece.

The Church of Aghios Dimitrios often serves as the de facto cathedral of Thessaloniki (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Byzantine sources record that the city’s patron, Saint Demetrios, was also venerated in the Church of the Panagia Acheiropoietos (Παναγία Ἀχειροποίητος) is a fifth-century Byzantine church in the city centre, at Aghias Sofias Street, opposite Makedonomachon square, a short distance to the north of Egnatia Street.

The Church of Aghios Dimitrios became a mosque in 1493, but it was restored to Christian worship in 1912. It was destroyed by fire again in 1917, but restoration work began immediately after the catastrophe of 1917.

Very few fragments of sculptures, mosaics or frescoes survived the fire of 1917, but those that have survived are representative of the successive phases of the church’s history.

Items that survived the 1917 fire and others that came to light during recent excavations include:

● The fountain of the holy water and holy oil associated with the cult of Saint Dimitrios.
● Architectural sculptures, including columns and parapets, from the first architectural phase of the church in the fifth century.
● Corinthian-style capitals from the first architectural phase of the church.
● Two small fifth century pillars from the sanctuary.
● The restored ambo (pulpit) of the church; it dates from the sixth century, and in the seventh century was placed in the wall where it is now exhibited.
● Fragments of middle Byzantine sarcophagi.
● Fragments of icons of the Virgin Mary from the 11th and 12th century relief decoration of the church.
● Fragments of a 13th century ciborium.
● Decorative fragments from a 14th century burial monument.
● A mosaic votive inscription from the decoration of the church destroyed by the 1917 fire.

Today, the church often functions as the de facto cathedral of Thessaloniki.

The crypt under the sanctuary and the transept is said to be the place where the saint was martyred, and has been an archaeological site since it was discovered in 1918.

The remains of Saint Dimitrios were returned from Italy in 1980 and are part of the exhibition open to the public, with items that survived the 1917 fire and others that came to light during recent excavations:

Inside the Church of Saint Dimitrios … rebuilt after the catastrophic fire in 1917 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

‘House of God, Gate of
Heaven’: Saint James’s Church
in Cappagh, Co Limerick

Saint James’s Church, Cappagh, Co Limerick … built in 1839 and rebuilt in 1986-1987 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

Saint James’s Church is one of the few public facilities in the village of Cappagh in West Limerick, about 5 km south-east of Askeaton. Cappagh is the third smallest parish in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Limerick.

Cappagh has no public house, post office or shop, one of the few villages in Co Limerick without any of these amenities.

Cappagh was part of the old tuath of Nantenan, in the territory of Uí Fidgeinte, from the fourth century on. Cappagh takes its name from An Ceapach, meaning ‘the tillage plot.’

Saint James’s Church was built in Cappagh in 1839 to replace an older church damaged by a storm. The church was extensively renovated in 1986 and officially reopened on 15 February 1987.

A mass house was used in the parish during penal times. However, almost nothing remains of this now, and the one remaining wall is virtually indistinguishable from the boundary wall of a field, covered by ivy and briars.

Samuel Lewis described the church as a large plain thatched edifice in 1837, built on Cappagh Hill to replace the 18th-century mass house in Ballymorrisheen. He noted Cappagh was on the road from Adare to Shanagolden, with 694 inhabitants.

The earlier church was blown down on the ‘Night of the Big Wind’ on 6 January 1839. That year, Father Jeremiah Halpin acquired the site for a new church and designed and took charge of the building, which was completed within a year and dedicated to Saint James.

The Latin-inscribed foundation stone now lies in the churchyard (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The foundation stone that once stood over the front door is now placed at the side. The inscription in Latin reads:

Hanc Capellam Sto Jacobo
Apostolo dedicatum fieri
Fecit Rev J Halpin PP
Joanne Ryan DD Episcopo
Anno Domini 1839


For many years, this church had only a mud floor and no seating.

A parochial house was built in 1849 by Lord Southwell for the parish priest, Father Richard Mulcahy.

While the church was being rebuilt in 1986, Mass was celebrated in the community hall for six months during the work. The church was officially reopened on 15 February 1987 with Bishop Jeremiah Newman concelebrating Mass with 11 priests.

A plaque lists all of the donors to the church, including Father Robert Somers PP, who donated the church altar and chancel. He had been an invalid for some years and when he died in 1871 at the age of 48, he was buried in the church. P and J Hayes donated the Altar rails, and Kennedy James Hayes donated the baptistery.

‘House of God, Gate of Heaven’ … the porch window at Saint James’s Church, Cappagh (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The church has double buttresses on the corners of the nave and the chancel. The porch is a modern addition, with a window depicting Saint James and inscribed ‘House of God, Gate of Heaven.’

The three-light, round-headed window above the altar, framed by a tall pointed arch, depicts Saint William, the Sacred Heart, and Saint Michael. This window was donated by the White family of Nantenan in memory of William White who died in the Boer War on 12 March 1901. The White family coat of arms is depicted on this window, with the motto A Deo Fortuna et Honor.

The front window was donated by Mary A McDonnell, and Emily White donated the chancel window.

Senator Michael O’Dea donated the stained-glass windows on either side of the nave. The window on the right is in memory of his only son Bernard, who died on 8 December 1916. This window depicts Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, a Cistercian monastery and writer’s tools, common symbols of Saint Bernard.

The window on the left is in memory of Michael O’Dea’s mother, Lucy, who died on 25 June 1902. This window depicts Saint Lucy, who was martyred by the Emperor Diocletian in the fourth century. Images in the window include a dish with two eyes, s a symbol of Saint Lucy.

The side altar with a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes was donated by Mrs White of Nantenan in1877. The side altar of Saint Joseph was donated by Thomas and Margaret Hayes of Callow in 1883, who also donated the Stations of the Cross.

The Celtic cross marking the grave of the White family of Nantenan (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Two parish priests are buried within the church: Father Richard Mulcahy and Father Robert Somers. Four parish priests are buried in the church grounds: Father Patrick Woulfe, Father David Barry, Father William Boyce, and Father P Fitzgerald.

Patrick Woulfe, who was parish priest in 1926-1934, was the author of an influential study of Irish surnames, Sloinnte Gael is Gadhaill. David Barry was a regular contributor to the church history journal, Irish Ecclesiastical Record.

Other priests associated with the parish include Father ‘Patch’ Carroll, who was vice-president of Notre Dame University in Indiana and a prolific author whose writings include plays, poetry, memoirs and novels.

The other noticeable grave in the churchyard is that of the White family of Nantenan, with a large Celtic cross bearing the names of John P White (1840-1982), who is buried at Saint John’s Limerick, his wife Emily (MacMahon) White (1840-1906), Captain JJ White (1863-1940) and Lieut-Col MWH White (1908-1997) of the 9th Gurkha Rifle.

Saint James’s Church, Cappagh, has double buttresses on the corners of the nave and the chancel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)