Saturday, 27 February 2021

An unexpected introduction
to the descendants and
family of Bishop Bedell

Bishop William Bedell of Kilmore (right) with Archbishop William Sancroft of Canterbury (left) in a window in the chapel of Emmanuel College, Cambridge … has Bishop Bedell descendants who continued to live in Ireland? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

William Bedell (1571-1642) was the Church of Ireland Bishop of Kilmore, one of the great ‘Caroline Divines,’ and the fifth Provost of Trinity College Dublin. He is remembered for undertaking the translation of the Bible into Irish, and for his martyr-like death during the violence and wars that eventually led to the Cromwellian era.

He was under house arrest when he died of typhus on 7 February 1642. His last words were: ‘Be of good cheer, be of good cheer; whether we live or die we are the Lord’s.’ During his funeral at Kilmore Cathedral, a large Irish military force fired a volley over his grave, crying, according to some accounts: ‘Requiescat in pace, ultimus Anglorum.’

Father Edmund Farrely, a Roman Catholic priest who was present, was heard to exclaim: ‘O sit anima mea cum Bedello!, May my soul be with Beddell’s.’ His grave is shaded by a sycamore tree, said to have been planted by his own hands.

Saint Feithlimidh’s Cathedral, Kilmore, built as a memorial to Bishop William Bedell (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Bishop Bedell had two surviving sons, William and Ambrose, who received legacies of £80 and £60 a year each.

The eldest son, the Revd William Bedell, who was the bishop’s biographer, was born in Bury in 1613. He was ordained by his father in 1634 and became Vicar of Kinawley (Derrylin, Co Fermanagh) in the Diocese of Kilmore. He married Mary Barber from Essex, and after his father’s death, they left Ireland and returned to England. They first lived Black Notley in Essex, and then in Bury. William became was the Rector of Rattlesden in 1645, and remained there until he died in March 1671.

William and Mary Bedell had eight children, of whom the eldest, Leah, was baptised at Whepstead in 1643, and the other seven at Rattlesden: William, John, James, Ambrose, Penelope, Agnes and Isabella. The Revd John Bedell succeeded his father as Rector of Rattlesden, but died the following year, 1672.

The second surviving son, Ambrose Bedell, married in Ireland before the 1641 rebellion broke out. His wife Mary was a daughter of Peter Hill, Sheriff of Co Down. After the Restoration, he had a grant of lands in Co Cavan and Co Antrim. He died there in 1683, and had no surviving children.

Willaim Bedell’s grave in the churchyard of Kilmore Cathedral, Co Cavan (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

When I wrote a biographical sketch of Bishop Bedell for the site ‘Dead Anglican Theologians Society’ back in 2012, I said at the time, ‘It appears there are no longer any living descendants of the bishop.’

But I was wrong.

William Bedell was born at Black Notley, a mile outside Braintree in Essex, and some days ago I was contacted by David Grice, who lives near Braintree, and who is interested in Bedell’s earlier career as an Anglican priest in Venice, and who is also interested in finding Bedell’s descendants.

David Grice went to school in Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, where his history master was the late DP Adams, author of a history of the Comberford family and the Moat House on Lichfield Street, Tamworth (DP Adams, The Moat House and the Comberford Family, Tamworth, 1967). His schoolfriends included Archbishop Alan Harper and the Revd Stan Evans, so we found we shared many common interests.

David was sure Bishop Bedell had many Irish descendants through his eldest son, the Revd William Bedell, although William had returned to live in Essex. He pointed out that the name Bedell had continued to descend among members of the Stanford family, and he wondered whether the descendants of Bishop Bedell included the Irish-born composer Charles Villers Stanford (1852-1924) and Professor William Bedell Stanford (1910-1984), Chancellor of Dublin University and Regius Professor of Greek at Trinity College Dublin.

Genealogists must always be prepared to correct the information we present. We work on the data available at any one time, but if we come across new information, we must modify or correct how we have presented information in the past.

And so, I pursued two questions:

Did Bishop William Bedell have descendants in Ireland?

And, if so, were Charles Villiers Stanford and William Bedell Stanford among those descendants?

A plaque at Kilmore Cathedral recalls the former bishop (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The youngest son of Bishop Bedell, Ambrose Bedell, married Mary, only daughter of Peter Hill, Sheriff of Down, and his wife, the sister of Randall, first Earl of Antrim. When Ambrose married, his father bought part of the lands of Carne from the Revd Martin Baxter, Vicar of Kildallan.

Ambrose Bedell made a deposition on 26 October 1642 about the Cavan rebels of 1641. He was a captain in the royalist army in Colonel Arthur Hill’s regiment until 1649, and was one of the ‘’49 Officers.’ Ambrose Bedell bought adjoining lands in Carne in 1661 from Thomas Richardson. He was the High Sheriff of Cavan in 1668. In 1682, he went to London to be touched for the King’s Evil or scrofula, and later wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury saying his health had been fully restored. Bedell died the following year, 1683, at Cavan, aged 65, and was buried beside his father in the churchyard in Kilmore.

Ambrose Bedell left his lands and two mills in Co Cavan first to his nephew James Bedell and his heirs male; and failing such to his nephew Ambrose Bedell (James Bedell’s next brother) and his heirs male; and, failing such, to his heirs next in blood to his father, Bishop William Bedell.

Annagh Church, Belturbet, Co Cavan … many members of the Stanford family are buried there (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

So, Ambrose Bedell’s line of descent had died out, and I began searching for descendants of his brother, the Revd William Bedell, Vicar of Kinawley, Diocese of Kilmore (1634-1637) and Rector of Rattlesden, Suffolk (1644-1670). This William’s children included a daughter:

Isabella Bedell, who was born ca 1662. She married Major Daniel French of Belturbet, Co Cavan, ca 1685. He was Provost (Mayor) of Belturbet (1682, 1700), High Sheriff of Co Cavan (1690), and a JP. They were the parents of three daughters, all born after 1685:

1, Elinor.
2, Mary, who married … Fletcher.
3, Susanna, who was twice married: 1, John Britton, and had three daughters: Mary, Winifred, and Isabella; and 2, Francis Le Hunte. Susanna and Francis Le Hunte were the parents of Richard Le Hunte, of Artramont, Co Wexford, Barrister, MP for Wexford (1771-1776, and 1776-1783), died 1783.

Richard Le Hunt left Isabella Stanford his diamond ring, his little mare called Polly, and £200, while he left Artramont to his cousin, Major George Le Hunte, great-grandfather of Sir George Ruthven Le Hunte of Artramont, Governor of South Australia.

Isabella French died in 1718; her will is dated 21 June 1718, and was proved on 18 August 1718. Her eldest daughter was:

Elinor (French) married Captain John Stanford (1686-1745) on 22 November 1707. John was the eldest son of Luke Stanford (d. 1733), of Belturbet, Co Cavan, ‘a merchant of large dealing,’ and his wife Anne Hecclefield (d. 1755). John Stanford was born in Killeshandra, Co Cavan, in 1686, and was educated by a Mr Walker of Drogheda and at Trinity College Dublin (BA 1706). He was High Sheriff of Co Cavan (1734) and Co Monaghan (1741) and a JP for Co Cavan. He died in 1745.

John Stanford and Elinor (French) were the parents of three children, two sons and a daughter:

1, John Stanford (1719-1735), educated at Cavan and TCD (entered 1734). He died aged 15 in 1735.
2, Bedell Howard Stanford (1720-1776), married Elizabeth Jones, and died in Belturbet, Co Cavan. in 1776.
3, Daniel Stanford married Mary Richardson, and of whom next.
4, Anne, born 1727, married Dr Henry Richardson of Belturbet, Co Cavan. 5, Charity, married John Bradshaw.
6, Isabel.
The third son:

Daniel Stanford, of Dominick Street, Dublin, married Mary Richardson, daughter of the Revd James Richardson, in 1759. Their children included three sons and three daughters:

1, John Stanford (1760-1806), of whom next.
2, James Stanford.
3, Bedell Stanford.
1, Elinor, married the Revd Francis Eastwood.
2, Mary, baptised in Saint Mary’s Church, Dublin, 22 December 1770; she died young.
3, Isabella, married in Wexford John Brownrigg.

Daniel Stanford died in 1787. His eldest son:

John Stanford (1761-1806), of Carn, Co Cavan, and of Gloucester Street, Dublin. He was born in Co Derry. Educated at TCD (entered 1776, tutor the Revd William Richardson, FTCD, but did not graduate). He was a Barrister-at-Law and High Sheriff, Co Cavan (1789). He married at Wexford, 22 October 1784, Barbara, second daughter of Major Loftus Cliffe, and his wife Anne, daughter of William Hore, of Harperstown, Co Wexford, MP for Taghmon (1727-1731, 1741-1746). He grandmother, the Hon Dorothy Ponsonby, was a daughter of William Ponsonby, 1st Viscount Duncannon, and a sister of the 1st Earl of Bessborough.

John Stanford died in 1806. He was the father of two sons and a daughter:

1, John Stanford, dsp.
2, Bedell Stanford (1786-1857), of whom next.
3, Anne, who married Augustus Heron in 1809.

The second son:

Bedell Stanford (1786-1857), was born ca 1786. He was a captain in the Cavan militia (1807), a JP (1809), and High Sheriff of Co Cavan (1835). He married ca 1820 Elizabeth Christiana Gale, daughter of (the Revd) John Gale (1768-1842). They were the parents of:

1, Charlotte Barbara, born 1823.
2, John Woodward Stanford (1825-1904), of whom next.
3, Elizabeth Anne (1826-1907), unmarried.
4, Harriet Mary (1828-1828).
5, Frances Harriet, born 1829, married her cousin, the Revd Walter Charles Edward Kynaston.
6, Bedell Henry Stanford (1832-1842).
7, Walter Frederick Stanford (1834-1850).
8, (Revd Canon) William Bedell Stanford (1836-1929), Rector of Wishaw, Diocese of Worcester, and a canon of Christchurch, New Zealand. Educated at Baliol College Oxford. He married his cousin Harriet, daughter of (Very Revd) Frederick Owen, Dean of Leighlin, and granddaughter of (Revd) Roger Carmichael Owen, Rector of Camolin, Co Wexford, by Anne, daughter of Major Loftus Cliffe. They have living descendants.
9, Robert Loftus Stanford (1839- ). Educated Cheltenham College and Exeter College, Oxford (BA, LLB). Born Buckinghamshire 1839; he married in 1864, his cousin Louisa Owen, daughter of Dean Frederick Owen. Moved to New Zealand 1864; Stipendiary Magistrate, Wanganui.
10, Henry Bedell Stanford, married Florence Carter.

The eldest son:

John Woodward Stanford (1825-1904), of Carn, Co Cavan, and Chetwode Priory, Buckinghamshire. He married Louise Reade, and they were the parents of five sons and two daughters:

1, (Major) Henry Bedell Stanford.
2, (Revd) Charles Woodward Stanford.
3, Walter John Stanford, civil engineer.
4, (Revd) Alfred Bracebridge Stanford (1867-1895), educated Emmanuel College Cambridge, died at Mafeking in 1895.
5, Archibald Alfred Stanford.
1, Elizabeth Mary.
2, Charlotte Barbara.

The eldest son:

(Major) Henry Bedell Stanford (1861-1904), major, Royal Garrison Artillery. He was born on 9 October 1861, and married on 10 October 1887, Florence, daughter of Colonel William Frederick Carter CB and his wife Hannah Emily (Anderson); Florence was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1859. Henry died on 14 July 1904.

They were the parents of one son and two daughters:

1, Jack Stanford, of whom next.
2, Norah (1889-1960), married James Stuart and had three children.
3, Aileen.

Major Henry Bedell Stanford’s son:

Jack Stanford, born 27 July 1888. Through his descent from the French family, he became the senior representative of the descendants of William Bedell, Bishop of Kilmore.

A memorial plaque in the chapel of Trinity College Cambridge to the composer Charles Villiers Stanford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

So, yes, Bishop Bedell had descendants, who eventually moved to England, New Zealand and Canada. But they did not seem to include either Charles Villiers Stanford or William Bedell Stanford.

I had to search another branch of the Stanford family to find their lines of descent.

Luke Stanford (d. 1733) and his wife Ann (Hecclefield or Hucklefield), whose son John Stanford (1686-1745), who married Elinor French, Bishop Bedell’s eventual heir, was also the ancestor of the composer Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924), and of a well-known clerical family.

Luke Stanford came to Ireland during the reign of Charles II. He and his wife Ann were the parents of:

1, John Stanford (1686-1745), who married Elinor French (see above).
2, Luke Stanford, of whom next.
3, Thomas Stanford.
4, Anne, who married William Berkeley.
5, Hecklefield Stanford (born 1723).

The second son:

Luke Stanford (died 1774), married Anne Heart in 1751. They were the parents of:

William Luttrell Stanford (born 1752). He married Mary Poe. They were the parents of three sons and one daughter:

1, William Stanford (born 1775), of whom next.

The eldest son of William Luttrell Stanford and his wife Mary (Poe) was:

William Stanford (1775- ). He was a woollen merchant at 33 Lower Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street), Dublin, and also had a family home in Co Cavan. He married Sarah Margaret McCullan (died 1846), daughter of James McCullan KC. They were the parents of three sons and a daughter:

1, (Revd) William Henry Stanford (1801-1856), of whom next.
2, (Revd Dr) Charles Stuart Stanford (1805-1873), of whom after William Henry Stanford.
3, John James Stanford (1810-1880), of whom after Charles Stuart Stanford.
4, Mary.

The eldest son:

(The Revd) William Henry Stanford (1801-1856), born in Dublin, educated TCD (BA 1827, MA 1829), ordained deacon and priest in 1827. He was a curate in Slane, Maynooth, Birmingham, Blackburn, Bray, Stottesden and Taney (1827-1837) before becoming Perpetual Curate (vicar) of Taney (1837-1851) and Rector of Rincurran (1851-1856). He married in 1833, Esther Katharyne Peter of 1 Saint Stephen’s Green, Dublin. They were the parents of:

1, William Henry Nassau Stanford (1834-1871).
2, Adelaide Esther Katharine (born 1835), married John Hatchell Cooper.
3, (Revd) Bedell Stanford (1837-1896), of whom next.
4, Charles Edward Stuart Stanford.
5, Virginia Pauline.

Their third son:

(Revd) Bedell Stanford (1837-1895). He was born in Dublin in 1837 and educated at TCD (BA 1863, Div Test 1868). He was ordained deacon and priest in 1867 and 1868, and was curate in Castlerahan in the Diocese of Kilmore (1867-1869), curate, Saint Luke’s, Dublin (1869-1882), Assistant Chaplain, Old Molyneux Chapel (1882-1886), and curate, Saint Paul’s (1886-1894). He died in 1895.

Bedell Stanford married in 1868 Phoebe Thompson (d. 1901) of Burlington Road, Dublin, and they were the parents of an only son:

(Revd) Bedell Stanford (1873-1945). He was born in Dublin and educated at Rathmines School and TCD (BA 1896, Div Test 1897, MA 1899). He was a curate in a number of parishes before becoming Rector of Holy Trinity, Belfast (1909-1915), Diocesan Curate in Waterford (1915-1922) and curate-in-charge, Ballintemple, Diocese of Cashel (1922-1931). He died on 6 March 1945.

He married Susan Jackson of Albany Road, Ranelagh, in 1902, and they were the parents of four daughters and two sons:

1, Adela Constance Dorothy (born 1903), married William Henry Joseph Sherlock Bosanquet.
2, Helen Maud (born 1906), married Francis Thomas Hewson.
3, Charles Bedell Stanford (1908-1909).
4, William Bedell Stanford (1910-1985), Regius Professor of Greek, TCD (1940-1980), Chancellor of Dublin University (1982-1984), and a Senator (1948-1969). He was born in Belfast and was educated at Bishop Foy’s School, Waterford, and TCD He married Dorothy Isabel Wright, and they were the parents of two sons and two daughters.
5, Marjorie Kathleen (born 1912).
6, Eileen May (born 1914), married Maurice Henry Le Clerc.

The second son of William Stanford Stanford and his wife Sarah Margaret (McMullan) was:

(CanonCharles Stuart Stanford (1805-1873). He was born in 1805, educated at TCD (BA 1828, MA 1832, BD and DD 1855), and ordained deacon and priest in 1835. He was the Perpetual Curate (Vicar) of Glasnevin (1837-1843), Rector of Saint Thomas’s (1855-1872) and a canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (1843-1854).

He was the editor of the Christian Examiner and the Dublin University Magazine (1833-1834), and published a number of anti-Catholic pamphlets.

He married (1), Pamela Louisa Campbell (died 1859), and (2), Agnes Fayle. He died in Surbiton in 1873.

There were seven children in this family:

1, Guy Howard Stanford (born 1842).
2, Charles Edward FitzGerald Stanford (1854- ).
3, Helen Emily, married Edward Fitzgerald Frederick Campbell.
4, Lucy Frances Felicite.
5, Pamela Charlotte Augusta.
6-7, two other daughters.

The third son of William Stanford and his wife Sarah Margaret (McMullan) was:

John James Stanford (1810-1880). In 1851, he married Mary Henn (1817-1892) and they were the parents of:

(Professor) Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924), the composer. He married Jennie Wetton (1856-1921) in 1878, and they were the parents of:

1, Geraldine Mary (1883-1956).
2, Guy Desmond Stanford (1885-1953), who married Gwendolyn Dalrymple.

Charles Villiers Stamford was Professor of Music at Cambridge and composed a substantial number of concert works, including seven symphonies. His best-remembered pieces are his choral works for church performance, chiefly composed in the Anglican tradition. His students included the composers Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924) … Irish-born composer, his students included Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams

Additional sources:

Ross Hinds (ed.), William Bedell Stanford: Regius Professor of Greek 1940-80: Trinity College, Dublin: Memoirs (Hinds, Dublin 2002).
JB Leslie and WJR Wallace (eds), Clergy of Dublin and Glendalough Biographical Succession Lists (Dublin, 2001).
LG Pine (ed), Burke’s Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Ireland (London, 1957).
Paul Rodmell, Charles Villiers Stamford (2017).

Praying in Lent and Easter 2021:
11, CITI chapel, Dublin

Inside the chapel in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, Dublin

Patrick Comerford

During Lent and Easter this year, I am taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, a photograph of a church or place of worship that has been significant in my spiritual life;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society, Partners in the Gospel).

This week I am offering photographs from seven churches in which I have served during my ministry. My photographs this morning (27 February 2021) are from the chapel of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute.

I started lecturing part-time in what was then the Church of Ireland Theological College in 2002, and joined the full-time staff in 2006 as Director of Spiritual Formation. From 2011 to 2017, I was the Lecturer in Anglicanism and Church History and an Adjunct Assistant Professor in Trinity College Dublin.

Matthew 5: 43-48 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 43 ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The USPG Prayer Diary today (27 February 2021) invites us to pray:

Let us give thanks for all those who work toward caring for creation, that their example may be a model to many.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The chapel is on the ground floor of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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. http://nrsvbibles.org

Friday, 26 February 2021

The rain falls down on
‘Last Year’s Man’: new
thoughts after Purim

‘Last Year’s Man’ is the second track on Leonard Cohen’s album, ‘Songs of Love and Hate,’ released 50 years ago in 1971

Patrick Comerford

Leonard Cohen released his third studio album, Songs of Love and Hate, 50 years ago on 19 March 1971. The album was recorded the previous September, and all eight songs are written by Cohen: Avalanche, Last Year’s Man, Dress Rehearsal Rag, Diamonds in the Mine, Love Calls You by Your Name, Famous Blue Raincoat, Sing Another Song, Boys, and Joan of Arc. There is a bonus track on the 2007 remastered edition: Dress Rehearsal Rag.

I had already become an avid reader of Leonard Cohen’s poems, and I listened to this album throughout the summer of 1971. I was in my late teens, and it was a summer that became nothing less than life-changing in terms of my spiritual growth and maturity.

Today has been the feast of Purim, a day recalling and celebrating how Esther and her uncle Mordecai overturned the genocidal scheming of the evil Haman and his plot to annihilate the Jews of Persia. It is a true story of Love and Hate.

In my Friday evening reflections this evening, I find myself listening once again to the album Songs of Love and Hate, especially the second track, ‘Last Year’s Man,’ with its images of ‘a lady’ with a secret identity who ‘was playing with her soldiers in the dark’ – perhaps an image of Esther; of Bethlehem being ensnared in the evil plots of Babylon – perhaps an image of the dreadful fate Haman had plotted; and of the murderous schemes of Cain – who represents not only Haman but all who would want to plot the extermination of the people.

This song has remained on the periphery of Cohen’s classic songs, and is often interpreted as a song about an obsessive love that Cohen has experienced, still seeking this unrequited love.

But the song is filled with Biblical images, and like many of Cohen’s songs it can has its parallels with the songs of many of the Biblical prophets, who see God as faithful to people, keeps on loving them, and years for their return, and the people as wayward, unfaithful spouse or lover.

‘Last Year’s Man’ is no-one less than God, who is the great architect, the Creator, who is dismissed too easily in today’s, modern culture as no longer relevant or credible.

In our wars, violence and lifestyles today, we frustrate God’s plans, we spoil and sully his plans for humanity, and we dismiss him as ‘last year’s man.’

We make new gods of power, wealth and war, we invent our own new superstitions. But God still has plans and hopes for his wayward people, and waits like a faithful husband for the lover who has turned away to return.

There is an echo of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Micah and other prophets in the promise:

And we read from pleasant Bibles that are bound in blood and skin
that the wilderness is gathering
all its children back again.


The relevant passages include Isaiah 64 and 65, Jeremiah 31, Hosea 1 and 2, and Micah 7.

At first hearing, there may be a Jewish reference in the description of ‘a Jew’s harp on the table.’ But a Jew’s harp is not Jewish at all, and we have to search deeper in this song to draw water from the well of Jewish mysticism in which Cohen so often found refreshment.

In Jewish mysticism, it is God the Creator who breaks through the cracks – whether they are in skylights or in unmended drums – to pour his light into the world. ‘There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in,’ as Leonard Cohen sings his song ‘Anthem’ (The Future, 1992).

In their writings, both Leonard Cohen and the late Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks have introduced me to the writings of the 16th century Jewish mystic, Rabbi Isaac Luria (1534-1572), whose teachings are known as Lurianic Kabbalah.

According to Isaac Luria, God created vessels into which he poured his holy light. These vessels were not strong enough to contain such a powerful force and they shattered. The sparks of divine light were carried down to earth along with the broken shards.

The Kabbalah of Rav Yitzhak Luria had a notably strong effect on Cohen, and his key ideas are reflected in that line, ‘There is a crack in everything, it’s how the light gets in.’

This divine brokenness is a key to many of Cohen’s poems and songs, according to his rabbi, Mordecai Finley, who says Lurianic Kabbalah gives voice to the impossible brokenness of the human condition. ‘The pain of the Divine breakage permeates reality. We inherit it; it inhabits us. We can deny it. Or we can study and teach it, write it and sing its mournful songs.’

Cohen hints in his songs that redemption – the tikkun olam that will repair the broken world – remains possible.

He returns to the Judaism of his childhood and youth, wraps the tefillin around his upper arm, and finds new insights in the Torah: ‘And we read from pleasant Bibles that are bound in blood and skin.’

Cohen regularly ended his concerts with the Priestly Blessing (ברכת כהנים; birkat Cohanim). It is also known in rabbinic literature as raising the hands or rising to the platform because the blessing is given from a raised rostrum.

The Jewish Sages stressed that although the Cohanim or priests pronounce the blessing, it is not them or the ceremonial practice of raising their hands that results in the blessing, but rather it is God’s desire that his blessing should be symbolised by the hands of the Cohanim.

Lord Sacks says the Torah explicitly says that though the Cohanim say the words, it is God who sends the blessing: ‘When the Cohanim bless the people, they are not doing anything in and of themselves. Instead, they are acting as channels through which God’s blessing flows into the world and into our lives.’

In many communities, it is customary for men in the congregation to spread their tallitot or prayer shawls over their own heads during the blessing and not look at the Cohanim. If a man has children, they come under his tallit to be blessed.

A tradition among Ashkenazim says that during this blessing, the Shekhinah becomes present where the Cohanim have their hands in the shin gesture, so that gazing there would be harmful.

An understanding of how the God’s light is thought to be present through the outstretched fingers of the Cohanim may lie behind Leonard Cohen’s lines in ‘Anthem’:

There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.


The light of God breaks through in the crack in the skylight, and the rains fall like a blessing on all God’s creation.

Shabbas Shalom

Last Year’s Man by Leonard Cohen:

The rain falls down on last year’s man,
That’s a Jew’s harp on the table,
That’s a crayon in his hand.
And the corners of the blueprint are ruined since they rolled
Far past the stems of thumbtacks
That still throw shadows on the wood.
And the skylight is like skin for a drum I’ll never mend
And all the rain falls down Amen
On the works of last year’s man.

I met a lady, she was playing with her soldiers in the dark
Oh one by one she had to tell them
That her name was Joan of Arc.
I was in that army, yes I stayed a little while;
I want to thank you, Joan of Arc,
For treating me so well.

And though I wear a uniform I was not born to fight;
All these wounded boys you lie beside,
Goodnight, my friends, goodnight.

I came upon a wedding that old families had contrived;
Bethlehem the bridegroom,
Babylon the bride.
Great Babylon was naked, oh she stood there trembling for me,
And Bethlehem inflamed us both
Like the shy one at some orgy.
And when we fell together all our flesh was like a veil
That I had to draw aside to see
The serpent eat its tail.

Some women wait for Jesus, and some women wait for Cain,
So I hang upon my altar
And I hoist my axe again.
And I take the one who finds me back to where it all began,
When Jesus was the honeymoon
And Cain was just the man.
And we read from pleasant Bibles that are bound in blood and skin
That the wilderness is gathering
All its children back again.

The rain falls down on last year’s man,
An hour has gone by
And he has not moved his hand.
But everything will happen if he only gives the word;
The lovers will rise up
And the mountains touch the ground.
But the skylight is like skin for a drum I’ll never mend
And all the rain falls down Amen
On the works of last year’s man.



‘Last Year's Man’ by Leonard Cohen, Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Praying in Lent and Easter 2021:
10, Whitechurch Church, Rathfarnham

With Canon Horace McKinley at Whitechurch parish church, Rathfarnham, Co Dublin … I was a curate in Whitechurch from my ordination in 2000

Patrick Comerford

During Lent and Easter this year, I am taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, a photograph of a church or place of worship that has been significant in my spiritual life;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society, Partners in the Gospel).

This week I am offering photographs from seven churches in which I have served during my ministry. My photographs this morning (26 February 2021) are of Whitechurch Parish Church, Rathfarnham, Co Dublin. I was a curate there from 2000, when I was ordained, until 2006, when I was appointed to the staff of the Church of Ireland Theological College (later the Church of Ireland Theological Institute). During that time, I was also invited to preach in the Chapel of Saint Columba’s College, which was within the bounds of the parish.

Matthew 5: 20-26 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 20 ‘For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

21 ‘You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgement.” 22 But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool”, you will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.’

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The USPG Prayer Diary today (26 February 2021) invites us to pray:

Let us pray that we might care for our natural resources and safeguard them from destruction that causes long-term damage.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The chapel of Saint Columba’s College, Rathfarnham, Co Dublin … I preached in the chapel regularly when I was a curate in Whitechurch Parish (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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. http://nrsvbibles.org

Thursday, 25 February 2021

The miracles of Purim
continue in the face of
racism and anti-Semitism

The holiday of Purim begins at sunset this evening

Patrick Comerford

The holiday of Purim begins at sunset this evening (25 February 2021) and ends at sunset tomorrow evening (26 February 2021). Purim literally means ‘lots’ and is sometimes known as the Feast of Lots. This Jewish holiday commemorates the Jews being saved from persecution in the ancient Persian Empire.

According to the Book of Esther, the Jewish people in Shushan were threatened by the chief minister Haman, who convinces the King Ahasuerus to kill all Jews, because Mordecai, a Jew, had refused to bow down to Haman.

Haman casts lots to decide the date for his plan – the 13th of Adar. But the Jews are saved by Mordecai’s niece and adopted daughter, the heroic Queen Esther. She married Ahasuerus after he banished Vashti, his first, rebellious wife. When Ahasuerus discovers that Esther is Jewish, he reverses Haman’s decree, and instead of the Jews being killed, Haman, his sons, and other enemies are killed.

Purim is the most raucous holiday in the Jewish calendar and occurs today (14 Adar). It begins with people, especially children, dressing up in fancy dress, such as characters from the Purim story, and other costumes. It is Hallowe’en, Carnival, Mardi Gras and Guy Fawkes Night ... all rolled into one, and usually focussed on children.

The Book of Esther is the only book in the Bible that does not mention God. But this book is a story that tells of the triumph of good over evil, and how the clever thinking of one woman saves a whole nation from genocide.

Before reading the Megillah, the person who is to read says the following three blessings:

‘Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has made us holy through his commandments, and has commanded us about reading the Megillah.

‘Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who performed miracles for our ancestors in those days at this time.

‘Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has given us life, sustained us, and brought us to this time.’

As the story of Purim is read from Megillat Esther (מגילת אסתר, ‘The Scroll of Esther’), it is a custom to make loud noise with a rattle, known as a ra’ashan (Hebrew) or grager (Yiddish), every time Haman’s name is repeated. The custom is related to the obligation to blot out Haman’s name.

It is a mitzvah that Jewish people should eat, drink and be merry at Purim. According to the Talmud, a person is required to drink until they cannot tell the difference between ‘Cursed be Haman’ and ‘Blessed be Mordecai’ ... although opinions differ as to exactly how drunk that is.

An integral part of Purim is giving gifts to the poor, matanot l’evyonim, with door-to-door charity collections and on the streets.

Purim is a carnival-like festival that includes large amounts of alcohol, family meals, and exchanging food gifts mishloah manot. A special food associated with Purim is hamantaschen, the triangular cookies named after the villainous Haman.

Purim was celebrated last year two weeks before the first Covid-19 lockdown. The ultra-Orthodox or Haredi community in Stamford Hill in north London was particularly hard hit by the virus. This year, rabbis in the community have said the number of people on the streets should be minimised, people should not visit other homes for the festive meal or seudah, and there should be no street collections.

A Megillath Ester or Scroll of Esther in the Monastir Synagogue in Thessaloniki (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

At first, the story of Purim might appear sombre with its recollection of the near-annihilation. But it is also a story of bravery, courage and salvation, and it is a reminder that anti-Semitism has deep roots that long predate contemporary experiences.

Esther is a secret Jew, and her story encouraged secret Jews during the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal, when Saint Esther emerged as a popular figure among the conversos. Later, the story of Purim was an abiding comfort encouragement to European Jews in the mid-20th century.

Pinchas Menachem Feivlovitz, who died in 2007, was a Holocaust survivor who devoted much of his life to chronicling and telling the atrocities of the Holocaust. He told of his experiences in the concentration camp of Gross-Rosen in his autobiographical Odeni Zocher (I Still Recall). In this book, he recalls how Purim was marked one year in Gross-Rosen:

‘It was Purim eve, but what was there for us to celebrate …?

‘Suddenly, one of us leaped down from his small space on the bunk and began an impassioned speech that will forever remain in my memory:

‘“My fellow Jews,” he called out, “dear brothers in suffering! Today is our Purim, when we remember the miracles G d did for our ancestors. He who dwells in Heaven saved our nation from being decimated. The enemy fell into the pit that he himself had dug. Today we once again have a double-edged sword pressed against our necks. Our enemies are trying to destroy us, but do not allow terror into your hearts! The Haman of our day, Hitler and his lackeys, will not be able to overcome G d’s chosen nation. The eternity of Israel will not lie. The bells of freedom are already ringing in the distance. We will yet live to see justice meted out against our enemies, just like our ancestors in Shushan of old. Be strong, brothers, the Jewish nation lives on!”

‘Beads of sweat appeared on his face. His lips trembled, his eyes glinted, but he said no more.

‘Then another prisoner jumped down from his bunk and took his place next to the orator. Sweetly, with a voice laden with nostalgia and hope, he sang the words of the blessing said after the Megillah reading, in which we thank G d “Who fights our battles and pays comeuppance to our mortal enemies.”

‘As the rest of us absorbed the last echoes of the tune, the two men lithely climbed back into their spots on the tiered bunking and silence reigned once again.

‘In our minds, we were blissfully transported back to the happy Purims of years past, but we knew the joy would not last.

‘The following morning, the block commander stormed into the barrack: “Cursed Jews!” he shouted. “Last night someone here spoke disparagingly of our Führer. Tell me who it was! If I do not know who it was, you will all be punished before the day is done!”

‘His words were met with defiant silence … Ten minutes passed, and no one uttered a word. “Run, swine, run!” the commander barked, and we Jews began to run as fast as we could, while the guards rained down a shower of rifle butts and whips upon our heads and backs. “Quick, quick,” they shouted as rivers of blood spurted from our heads and our arms.

Our backs sagged and our feet ached. ‘But we had only one fear: that last night’s brave performers, who had gifted us with hope and courage, would give themselves up in order to save us from further suffering. One even tried to run out of line to identify himself, but his neighbours didn’t allow it. “No, no,” they hissed with clenched teeth, “Stay strong. We are all responsible for one another.”

‘I have no way of recalling how long this went on, because every moment felt like eternity. We ran with our last strength, panting, with no air to breathe. Our tongues hung out, and tears mingled with sweat on our cheeks. But no one even considered ratting on the heroes of the previous night.

‘Yes, even the prisoners of Gross-Rosen merited their own Purim miracle – two miracles, actually: That no one dropped dead from the diabolic run we were forced to endure, and that we all had the courage to keep the identity of those two men secret.’

This prayer on Purim, written by Rabbi John Rayner and Rabbi Chaim Stern, is provided in Service of the Heart (1969), the prayer book they edited:

Today, we remember how often our people has had to face prejudice and slander, hatred and oppression. In many lands and ages, Hamans have arisen up against us, and untold suffering has been our lot. We have paid a high price for our loyalty to God and to our ancestral heritage.

But the same heritage has given us courage to bear our suffering with dignity and fortitude, and to remain unshaken in the conviction that in the end good must triumph over evil, truth over falsehood, and love over hate.

We have survived all our oppressors, and can look back upon our history not only with sorrow for its tragedies, but with joy at its deliverances, and pride in its achievements. At this season of rejoicing, O God, inspire us anew with such loyalty to You, to our faith, and to our people, that it may be proof against adversity, and that the heritage it has entrusted to us may be sure in our keeping. Amen.

A Megillath Ester or Scroll of Esther in the Jewish Museum in Venice (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Praying in Lent and Easter 2021:
9, Saint Maelruain’s Church, Tallaght

Saint Maelruain’s Church, Tallaght, Co Dublin … I was a diocesan reader from 1994 to 2000 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During Lent and Easter this year, I am taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, a photograph of a church or place of worship that has been significant in my spiritual life;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society, Partners in the Gospel).

This week I am offering photographs from seven churches in which I have served during my ministry. My photographs this morning (25 February 2021) are of Saint Maelruain’s Church, Tallaght, Co Dublin. My sons were baptised there in 1992, I was a member of the Select Vestry for many years, and I was a Diocesan Reader there from 1994 until I was ordained in 2000.

Matthew 7: 7-12 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 7 ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? 10 Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

12 ‘In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.’

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The USPG Prayer Diary today (25 February 2021) invites us to pray:

Let us give thanks for all those who work toward caring for creation, that their example may be a model to many.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Inside Saint Maelruain’s Church, Tallaght, Co Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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. http://nrsvbibles.org

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Four Comerford brothers
from New South Wales
who fought in World War I

Simon Phillip Comerford (left) and Laurence William Comerford (centre right), pictured with comrades George (centre left) and Patrick (right), were on the battlefield in Gallipoli

Patrick Comerford

Four Comerford brothers from New South Wales who fought in the Australian forces during World War I became posthumous celebrities in Australia some years ago when they featured in a ‘Who Do You Think Are’ programme about the actor Joel Edgerton.

Two of Edgerton’s great-uncles fought alongside each other on the battlefield in Gallipoli in 1915. The Comerford name survives in Comerford Street and Comerford Avenue in Cowra, New South Wales. Some accounts say the names were given to these streets because the Comerford family owned the land originally; other accounts say they are named in honour of the four Comerford brothers who fought in World War I.

The family is descended from Edmond Comerford, from Clonmel, Co Tipperary, who was the father of:

James Comerford (1817-1898) of Clonmel, Co Tipperary. He was born in Clonmel on 15 June 1817. He married Mary Ann Kelly (1820-1881) in Ballyneale, near Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary, in 1839, and emigrated to Australia, landing in Port Jackson, New South Wales, in 1840. They lived in Camden, NSW, before moving to Shankmore County, Cumberland, NSW, in 1849.

They were the parents of eleven children, five sons and six daughters:

1, Edward Comerford (1842-1913). He married Elizabeth Webster.
2, Mary Ann (1844-1920), married Patrick Donlan (1842-1926).
3, Thomas Comerford (1844-1929), of whom next.
4, James Lawrence Comerford (1846-1926), married Susannah Jane Heffernan (1850-1937).
5, Margaret (1849-1920), married John William Costello (1844-1915).
6, Rebecca (1854-1877), died unmarried.
7, Ellen (1855-1945), died unmarried.
8, Catherine (Kate) (1856-1924), married Edward Dean Riley (1833-1913).
9, Eliza (1858-1938), married Thomas Kearins, who died in 1902.
10, William Comerford (1859-1860), died in infancy.
11, John Comerford (1861-1918). He married Laura (Leane) Sarah Jordan (1862-1945) in 1885, and they were the parents of six children: John E Comerford (1887-1920), James Michael Comerford (1890-1974), Ellen Laura (1892-1983), Mabel J (1896- ), Catherine N (1899- ), Rose E (1902 ), and Thomas William Comerford (1906-1976).

Mary (Kelly) Comerford died on 25 March 1881 in Young, NSW. James Comerford died on 29 September 1898 in Wambanumba, NSW, after a fall from a horse; he was then 81.

Their second son was:

Thomas Comerford (1844-1929). He was born on 17 June 1844 in Camden, NSW. He married Mary Agnes Hogan (1854-1925) in Boorowa, NSW, on 8 August 1877.

Thomas Comerford revived the Phoenix Brewery in Cowra, in central west New South Wales, in 1901. But he closed it less within a year, complaining that it was difficult to compete with the price of Sydney beer. There were only three hotels in the district who could purchase the beer manufactured locally, but all the other hotels were ‘tied’ houses owned by the big city breweries.

Thomas and Mary Comerford were the parents of ten children, six sons and four daughters:

1, Patrick Joseph (Paddy) Comerford (1878-1962).
2, Rebecca (Beccy) (1879-1962), married James Burns (1868-1921) in 1899.
3, Mary Jane (1880- ).
4, James (Jim) Comerford (1882-1919).
5, Simon Phillip Comerford (1884-1954).
6, Thomas Edward (Mick) Comerford (1886-1915).
7, Johanna Agnes (1887-1921), married William Copson in Cowra, 1908, and they were the parents of two daughters and three sons: Edna M Copson (1908-1910); Thomas Edward Copson (1910-1966); Sidney Archibald Patrick Copson (1912-1982); Mary M Copson (1915); and Ovid Emmit Copson (1905-1980).
8, Catherine Ellen (Kate) (1890-1980). In 1919, she married Donald Kempsey Cameron (1890-1963). She was the mother of one daughter, Thelma May Comerford (1913-2007), who married William George Munday (1913-1962).
9, George John Comerford (1892-1964).
10, Lawrence William (Larry) Comerford (1896-1954).

Thomas Comerford and Mary Comerford lived at Newtown, Cowra. Mary (Hogan) Comerford died in Cowra on 4 April 1925; Thomas Comerford died on 24 September 1929.

Simon Philip Comerford (1884-1954) was at Gallipoli in 1915, and later fractured a leg when he was kicked by a horse

Four of these brothers, Patrick, Simon, George and Lawrence Comerford, enlisted in the Australian forces in World War I. Two brothers, James and Thomas Edward Comerford, known as Mick, were unable to enlist due to weak chests and sickly disposition. Indeed, Mick died on 14 September 1915 while his brothers were fighting.

The brothers found themselves in various theatres of war, including the Middle East and Europe, and it is a rarity in Australian war history that all four Comerford brothers returned home to Cowra and the surrounding district.

The eldest son, Patrick Joseph Comerford (1878-1962), was born in Young NSW, and enlisted in the Australian forces in Liverpool NSW. He fought in both Egypt and France during World War I.

Both the third son, Simon Phillip Comerford (1884-1954), and the youngrest child, Laurence William Comerford (1896-1954), were in the same unit as transport drivers of the 18th Battalion in the 5th Brigade in Gallipoli in 1915.

Simon Philip Comerford was born in Young, NSW, in 1884, and was living in Lyndhurst, New South Wales in 1913. He enlisted in Liverpool, NSW. He fought in Gallipoli in August 1915. Documents show he fractured his left leg after he was kicked by a horse while on transport duty in January 1918.

After World War I, he was living in Calalare, New South Wales, by 1930 and he was still there when he died on 7 December 1954.

His brother, Laurence William Comerford, was wounded in action in France in November 1917. Laurence enlisted on 2 February 1915 as private in the 20th Battalion, 3rd Reinforcement, and his unit embarked from Sydney on board HMAT A54 Runic. He was a driver with the 18th Battalion during the war, and returned to Australia on 13 April 1919.

Laurence married Dorothy Clemantine Williamson in 1926. He was a painter, and lived in Earlwood NSW. He died on 22 November 1954.

Trooper George John Comerford … was at Alexandria, Gallipoli, Sinai and Palestine during World War I

The fifth son, George John Comerford, who was born in Boorowa, NSW. He enlisted in Liverpool, NSW, and trained at Holsworthy near Liverpool. He took part on horseback in the farewell to the 12th Light Horse Regiment in Sydney on 28 April 1915, and he embarked on HMAT A29 Suevic on 13 June 1915.

On their arrival in Egypt, George and his comrades in the 12th learned they were to reinforce troops already at Gallipoli. On their way to Alexandria, the troopers were told the 12th would be split on arrival at Gallipoli.

The Machine-Gun Section and George’s ‘A' Squadron of the 12th Light Horse were ‘taken on strength’ to the 1st Light Horse Regiment around ‘Walker’s Ridge,’ becoming that regiment’s ‘B' Squadron. Between late August and December, George saw action in mainly defensive battles. He described to his family the ferocity of the hand-to-hand trench combat he was involved in.

He also spoke of the ingenuity of an idea to have rifles keep firing through a dripping water mechanism as plans for the evacuation of the ANZACs were put into actioned and of his role as one of the troopers assigned with setting up the famous ‘drip’ rifles.

George recalled to family members his prominent role in the charge of the Light Horse at Beersheba, one of, if not the last great cavalry charge in any war and a turning point in the Turkish control of the Sinai and Palestine during World War I.

George was a trooper in the 4th Light Horse Brigade. He said his horse was called ‘Aeroplane’ because ‘it flew’ when prompted or startled by artillery fire. He said one of the reasons the horses needed no encouragement to charge that late afternoon in October was because the horses had been lacking water and ‘could smell it’ at the wells of Beersheba, only a few miles away.

George was in ‘A' Squadron, 2nd troop, and was in the leading row of the charge with only the scouts ahead of them. While another A Squadron troop dismounted to fight in the trenches as they approached Beersheba at full gallop, George was in the remaining troops that jumped trenches and entered Beersheba on the Asluj-Beersheba road at full pace, capturing Turkish guns, munitions and prisoners, as the Turks surrendered.

His medals, honours and awards included the 1914-1915 Star, the Victory Medal, and the British War Medal. George married in 1921, and he died in Cowra on 24 January 1964.

Comerford Street and Comerford Avenue in Cowra are named after the four brothers in recognition of their service and the rarity of all four returning home to Cowra and surrounding districts.

The eldest of these brothers, Patrick Joseph Comerford (1878-1962), was born on 12 May 1878 in Young, NSW. He married Ivy Philomena Anthony (1904-1995), daughter of William Melchaides Anthony and Margaret Josephine (née Lee), on 16 October 1921.

They later lived at Wilkins Street, Bathurst. Patrick died in Bathurst in 1962, and Ivy died in 1995. They were the parent of seven children:

1, Ronald Noel Comerford.
2, Beryl Mary Bullock.
3-7, five other children.

The stories of these brothers were told in a television programme on the genealogical background of the Australian actor and filmmaker, Joel Edgerton.

The award-winning Edgerton has appeared in the films Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002), Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005) as a young Owen Lars, King Arthur (2004) as Gawain, Zero Dark Thirty (2012), The Great Gatsby (2013), Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014) as Ramesses II, Black Mass (2015), Loving (2016), Bright (2017), Red Sparrow (2018), and The King (2019).

Comerford Street and Comerford Avenue in Cowra are named after the four Comerford brothers

Praying in Lent and Easter 2021:
8, Saint Brendan’s Church, Tarbert

Saint Brendan’s Church, Tarbert, Co Kerry, one of the four churches in the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During Lent and Easter this year, I am taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, a photograph of a church or place of worship that has been significant in my spiritual life;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society, Partners in the Gospel).

This week I am offering photographs from seven churches in which I have served during my ministry. My photograph this morning (24 February 2021) is of Saint Brendan’s Church, Tarbert, Co Kerry, one of the four churches in the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes, where I have been the priest-in-charge since 2017.

Luke 11: 29-32 (NRSVA):

29 When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, ‘This generation is an evil generation; it asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be to this generation. 31 The queen of the South will rise at the judgement with the people of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here! 32 The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgement with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here!’

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The USPG Prayer Diary today (24 February 2021) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for the courage to spread the good news of the self-giving love of Christ.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Inside Saint Brendan’s Church, Tarbert, Co Kerry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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. http://nrsvbibles.org

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Two portraits and questions
about a Comerford family
link with a king’s mistress

A Comerford family wedding in Ashdale Park, Terenure, in 1939 … why are portraits of ‘Mrs Fitzherbert’ and ‘Mrs Jordan on the wall? (Photograph: Comerford family collection)

Patrick Comerford

I have an old family photograph album that was once in my grandmother’s home at Ashdale Park, Terenure. It is an interesting and intriguing collection of photographs that appear to be mainly from the 1940s and 1950s.

There are photographs of small children, visiting cousins, graduations, family holidays in France and Italy, weddings, and an array of events one might expect in the any middle class family in south Dublin in the mid-20th century.

But the intrigue created by this album is that so few of the photographs have names, locations and captions. With a little research, it is possible to identify the events that have been photographed. It is much more difficult to identify the names of people in the photographs.

Additional interest is created by the framed images people had on the walls in their homes at this time. I understand that at one time there may have been a number of family portraits by the miniaturist John Comerford (1770-1832) in the house, but the one image that keeps turning up in these photographs is one I used to think was of ‘Mrs Fitzherbert’ – the secret wife of King George IV.

I thought little of the image, apart from the amusing – but very distant – link between Maria Fitzherbert and the Comberford family. But then, last year, a miniature portrait of Mrs Fitzherbert was among the 1,100 lots for auction at Matthews Auction Rooms in Kells, Co Meath, on the weekend of 21 and 22 March 2020.

That miniature portrait and the larger image in my grandmother’s house did not compare, and, apart from a blog posting, I thought little of it afterwards.

A miniature portrait of Maria Fitzherbert … sold at auction at Matthews Auction Rooms in Kells last year

However, a comment a few days ago on another blog posting has left me asking this week: why would my grandmother have a framed print of a portrait of another royal mistress or courtesan in her house.

Portraits of ‘Mrs Fitzherbert’ and ‘Mrs Jordan’ seem to have been popular decorative items in many family homes. It is interesting how they show up, albeit dimly, in photographs taken in the house in Ashdale Park of my uncle Robert Comerford and of the wedding of my aunt Mary (May) Josephine Comerford (1902-1973) and John Leonard (Seán Ó Lionnáin) (1876-1959) of Orwell Road, Rathgar, on 11 October 1939.

My grandmother, Bridget (Lynders) Comerford (1875-1948) lived in the house in Terenure until she died in 1948. After Aunt May was widowed in 1959, she returned from Co Cork to live in that house until she died in 1973. As children, we regularly visited the house, but now I am wondering how my grandmother ever came to display portraits of both Mrs Fitzherbert and ‘Mrs Jordan.’ Were they merely fashionable decorations at the time? Or was there a family reason?

There is another branch of the Comerford family in England that once believed that one of their ancestors, Anne (or Sarah) Suffolk, who married James Comerford (1787-1833) of Holborn in 1805 and died in 1812, was the daughter of an illegitimate child of George III –George III had no illegitimate children, although his sons, including George IV and William IV, provided him with at least 56 illegitimate grandchildren.

My contact in Australia earlier this week drew my attention to one tenuous but entertaining link between ‘Mrs Jordan’ and another branch of the Comerford family.

The actress Dorothea Jordan (1761-1816) was one of nine children of Francis Bland (1736-1778) and his mistress Grace Philips (1740-1789). She was born near Waterford on 22 November 1761, and she was baptised in Saint Martin in the Fields in London on 5 December 1761.

Her father, Francis Bland (1736-1778), a stagehand and actor, was a member of a well-known clerical family in the Diocese of Limerick and Ardfert and Aghadoe: his father, Nicholas Bland (1695-1760), was a judge and Vicar-General of the Diocese of Ardfert and Aghadoe; his grandfather, James Bland, was Archdeacon of Limerick (1693-1705), Archdeacon of Aghadoe (1705-1728), Dean of Ardfert (1727-1728), Vicar of Killarney (1693-1728) and Vicar of Drishane, or Millstreet, Co Cork (1705-1728).

Francis Bland’s uncle, the Revd Francis Bland, and his first cousin, the Revd James Bland, were successive Vicars of Killarney in 1728-1752 and 1752-1785, so that for almost a century, from 1693 to 1785, the three successive Vicars of Killarney were members of this one family.

Saint Botolph’s without Aldgate … Francis Bland and Catherine Mahony were married in 1774 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Although Francis Bland never married Grace Phillips, but they were the parents of six children, born between 1758 and 1767, and Dorothea was the third of these children. When Dorothea was 13, her father Francis abandoned this family and married Catherine Mahony (1755-1822), a 19-year-old Irish actress, at Saint Botolph’s without Aldgate, London, on 17 May 1774. Francis continued to support the family he had with Grace, sending meagre sums of money, but insisting his children would not use the Bland family name.

Dorothea then adopted her mother’s family name, Phillips, and first went on stage in Dublin in 1777 as Phoebe in As You Like It, probably with the Smock Alley Theatre. She fled to England in 1782, and started to call herself ‘Mrs Jordan’ – a reference to her escape across the Irish Sea, likened to the River Jordan.

Her reputation as one of the great actresses of her day came with Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s company at Drury Lane in 1785, and she was known for roles such as Rosalind in As You Like It and Viola in Twelfth Night.

Her life off-stage was even more colourful. After a number of unhappy affairs in England, she then had an affair with William, Duke of Clarence, later King William IV. That affair lasted more than 20 years, from 1790 until 1811, and they were the parents of 10 children. When the affair ended, she moved to France, and she died alone and in poverty at Saint-Cloud, near Paris, on 5 July 1816.

Dorothea’s children with William IV took the family name of FitzClarence, and their descendants held the title of Earl of Munster until the seventh earl, Anthony FitzClarence, a former journalist with the Daily Mirror and the Sun, died in 2000.

A portrait of ‘Mrs Jordan’ … George and James Comerford were first cousins of her half-brother and half-sister, James and Frances Bland

As for Dorothea’s first lover, Francis Bland, and his wife Catherine O’Mahony, the actress from Killarney, they were the parents of two children, a son, Colonel James Francis Bland and a daughter Frances Jane. When Francis Bland died at Dover in 1778, his family in Co Kerry made guardianship arrangements for his children; Catherine later returned to Ireland, and she died in Killarney in 1822.

When Colonel James Bland died in Killarney in 1831, he left his estate to his sister, Frances, wife of the Revd Robert Hewson (1780-1840), and their four children. The Revd Robert Hewson was Vicar of Kilcolman and Kildrum, and curate of Killarney; his father, the Revd Francis Hewson, was the Rector of Kilgobbin and had once been the Sovereign or mayor of Dingle. Robert Hewson died in 1840, and his widow Frances (née Bland) died in Ennismore House in January 1854.

The Mahonys of Dunloe Castle, near Killarney, were a well-known landed family in Co Kerry, and were related to the Comerford family too. Daniel Mahony of Dunloe Castle was a widower when he married his second wife, Maria MacCarthy of Springhouse, Co Tipperary, ca 1714 and they were the parents of four children, including John Mahony (ca 1715-1780), who succeeded to Dunloe Castle, and James Mahony (ca 1716-1794) of The Point, Killarney.

James Mahony married Jane Hennessy of Ballymacmoy, Co Cork. The Hennessy family was famous for giving its name to a celebrated Cognac, and was intermarried with the Cork branch of the Comerford family that had originally come from Co Wexford. James and Jane Mahony were the parents of six children, including two daughters, Catherine (1755-1822), who married Francis Bland, and Anna (born ca 1758), who married Lieutenant John Comerford.

John and Anna Comerford were the parents of two sons, George Comerford of the Kerry Militia and later the 57th Regiment, who died unmarried, and Lieutenant James Comerford.

John Mahony, the ancestor of my correspondent in Australia, and his younger brother Lieutenant James Mahony were both in the Kerry Militia with their brother-in-law John Comerford. All three are said to have fought in the British army during the 1798 Rising, and James Mahony was captured by General Humbert’s forces in Co Mayo. Later, John Comerford fought in the British army during the American War of 1812, as did his brother-in-law, Lieutenant James Mahony of the 77th Regiment.

James Mahony leased ‘The Point’ in Lackabane from the Browne family, Earls of Kenmare, he acquired further leases in the area, and bought out the tenants. The Point and other properties were sold on to the Revd James Bland in 1784 to provide for the children of James Mahony’s daughter, Catherine Bland, James and Frances Bland. James Mahony died in 1794.

The Point in Lackabane is now part of Killarney Golf Course, while Dunloe Castle is part of a well-known hotel.

So, James and Frances Bland, who grew up in Killarney, were first cousins of George and James Comerford. I wonder whether George and James Comerford were aware at the time that their first cousins in Killarney were a half-brother and a half-sister of the king’s mistress, Dorothea Jordan.

Whether they did or not, it hardly explains why portraits of Mrs Jordan and Mrs Fitzherbert were hanging in a Comerford family home in Dublin in the 1930s or 1940s, over a century after they died in 1816 and 1837.

Robert Anthony (‘Bob’) Comerford (1909-1953) … with a portrait of ‘Mrs Jordan’ on the wall in Ashdale Park (Photograph: Comerford family collection)

Praying in Lent and Easter 2021:
7, Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale

Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick, one of the four churches in the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During Lent and Easter this year, I am taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, a photograph of a church or place of worship that has been significant in my spiritual life;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society, Partners in the Gospel).

This week I am offering photographs from seven churches in which I have served during my ministry. This morning’s photograph (23 February 2021) is of Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick, one of the four churches in the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes, where I have been the priest-in-charge since 2017.

Matthew 6: 7-15 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 7 ‘When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

9 ‘Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; 15 but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.’

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (23 February 2021) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for those who suffer because of the prosperity of others and economic structures that oppress many.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Inside Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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. http://nrsvbibles.org

Monday, 22 February 2021

Selangor Pewter, how
a Malaysian tradition is
part of a Communion set

Selangor Pewter … three pieces that have now become a Home Communion set (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

As the pandemic lockdown continues, I am celebrating the Eucharist on Sundays in a very limited setting, and using small Home Communion sets I have come to own over the past 20 years.

My first Home Communion set was a present at my ordination from Canon Norman Ruddock, Rector of Wexford, one of the people who nurtured and encouraged my sense of call to priestly ministry.

That Home Communion set came with a lengthy list of previous owners, almost like a list of ‘apostolic succession,’ and it seemed appropriate as I was leaving the staff of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute to pass it own to a student whose research and dissertation I had supervised, now a priest who I believe continues that priestly tradition.

But I have a number of other Home Communion sets that have come into my hands over the years, including pottery sets from Kinsale and Dingle, and a ceramic, Palestinian set, inscribed ‘Shalom’ in Hebrew that was a present in Rome and that is a symbol of peace and dialogue.

Some years ago, I came across another, pewter set in the window of an antique shop in Kilkenny. The shop owner was unsure of its provenance, and was unaware of its possible use as a Home Communion. This may not have been its original purpose, but whoever bought the three pieces obviously understood they could be used as a chalice, paten and pyx.

I found these three pieces again a few days ago and cleaned them up at the weekend.

What I thought was a chalice is described on various sites a Selangor 4 inch pewter cordial crafted for Malaysia Airlines (MAS) – now MAB – with 97% Malaysian Tin. The ‘paten’ is also Selangor pewter made with 97% Malaysian tin.

What I believed to be a pyx is a hand-crafted pill box. On the underside, the inscriptions read: ‘A hundred years of excellence. Selangor Pewter. Celebrating a proud tradition of fine craftsmanship – Selangor Pewter – Malaysia’s gift to the world 1885-1985.’

Royal Selangor is a Malaysian pewter manufacturer and retailer based in Kuala Lumpur. From humble beginnings, Royal Selangor has become the world’s foremost name in quality pewter.

Yong Koon, a young pewter smith, arrived in Malaya in 1885 from the Chinese port of Shantou, with little more than a set of tools and a determination to succeed. That year, he began the Selangor pewter trade in his little shop called Ngeok Foh (‘Jade Peace’).

The main raw ingredient for pewter was tin which was abundant. Yong Koon handcrafted pewter objects mainly for ceremonial use, such as joss stick holders, incense burners and candle holders for altars of Chinese homes and temples. His pewter objects were polished with ‘stone leaf’ (tetracera scandens), a wild tropical leaf of a fine, abrasive nature.

With the arrival of British colonialism, the line expanded to include tankards, ashtrays and tea services. The brand was then known as Selangor Pewter.

Yong Koon’s sons carried on the business, but World War ll interrupted the supply of tin and only one son was able to keep his company in business.

After World War ll, Selangor Pewter made teapots, tankards and trinkets for expatriates and tourists that were sold in a small shop in Kuala Lumpur.

Poh Kon, a grandson of the founder, joined the firm in 1968, modernising production and expanding overseas, with exports first to Singapore and Hong Kong and then to Australia. The firm expanded into Europe and Japan in the 1980s.

The company was aware of the need to appeal to a wider clientele. The leading Danish designer Erik Magnussen was commissioned to design a range that would make an impact on the Western market, and the company has since commissioned Jamy Yang and other designers.

The world’s largest pewter tankard, according to the Guinness Book of Records, was made by Royal Selangor in 1985 to celebrate its centenary. It is displayed at Royal Selangor headquarters in Setapak, is 1.987 metres tall, weighs 1,557 kg and has a capacity of 2,796 litres. The tankard has travelled around the world, including Canada, Australia, Singapore and China.

The company changed its name to Royal Selangor in 1992 following its endorsement from Sultan Salahuddin, the Sultan of Selangor, and ‘pewter’ was dropped from the company name.

The story is told that in the late 1970s, the Sultan was travelling in Perth, Australia, when he visited a large department store with his entourage and was asked by the sales assistants where he was from.

‘Selangor,’ he answered.

‘Ah, Selangor Pewter,’ the sales staff replied. The Sultan was amused that Australians had heard of Selangor Pewter but not of the state of Selangor, nor of the Sultan of Selangor. On his return, he decided that the pewter company should have royal status, and he conferred a royal warrant on Selangor Pewter in 1979. After that, he insisted that every piece he bought be engraved with the words: ‘By royal appointment to his Royal Highness, The Sultan of Selangor.’

Today, Royal Selangor offers over 1,000 tableware and gift items, from tankards and tea sets, to photo frames, desk accessories and wine accessories. The company has more than 40 shops worldwide, and exports to more than 20 countries, with retail outlets in London, Toronto, Melbourne, Sydney, Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Sydney and Singapore. Royal Selangor is found in outlets such as Harrods and John Lewis and is represented in five continents.

Bespoke trophies from Royal Selangor commemorate victorious moments at sporting events such as the Formula 1 in Malaysia, Singapore and China, Shanghai ATP 1000 Masters and the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Golf Tournament.

Royal Selangor is still managed by the fourth generation of the original family. And these curious pieces of Selangor pewter, a little battered and worn for age, have found a new purpose, transformed from serving secular airlines to serving a more sacred purpose that Yong Koon would have understood almost a century and a half ago.

Selangor Pewter … three pieces that have now become a Home Communion set (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)