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