19 January 2021

The first Anglican woman
bishop in Africa had links
with USPG and Limerick

With Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya of Swaziland and the Revd Duncan Dormor of USPG at the USPG conference in 2019 … first woman Anglican bishop in Africa died this morning

Patrick Comerford

I was saddened to hear today that the Bishop of Swaziland, Ellinah Wamukoya, died this morning after contracting Covid-19. Her death was announced by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town, Primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.

I last met Bishop Ellinah in 2019 when she was the preacher at the closing service at the USPG annual conference in High Leigh in Hoddesdon.

Bishop Ellinah, who was known around the world for her advocacy on environmental issues, who had close links with both the Diocese of Limerick and Killaloe and with the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel). She was admitted to hospital late last week and put on Oxygen therapy after contracting Covid-19. She was 69.

‘It is with profound sorrow that I have to announce the devastating news that the Bishop of Swaziland in eSwatini, the Right Revd Ellinah Wamukoya, died today,’ Archbishop Thabo said. ‘We express our deepest condolences to her husband, Okwaro Henry Wamukoya, their children and grandchildren. May her soul rest in peace.’

The Anglican Communion’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Jack Palmer-White, paid tribute, saying: ‘She was wonderfully dedicated to so many causes – particularly demonstrated through her leadership of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network for a number of years.’

Bishop Ellinah Ntfombi Wamukoya was elected Bishop of Swaziland in 2012, becoming the first woman Anglican bishop in Africa. She was consecrated in November 2012, and her first visit to Ireland was her first official trip overseas.

She was ordained priest in 2005. At the time she was elected bishop, she was Anglican chaplain to the University of eSwatini.

She was previously the Town Clerk of Manzini, eSwatini’s commercial hub, having earlier served as the City Planner. She held a master’s degree in Town and Regional Planning.

BBC News named her in 2016 as one of the 100 most inspirational and influential women in the world.

Bishop Ellinah took part in a panel discussion at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London in 2018, to discuss the role faith communities can play in tackling gender-based violence.

Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya of Swaziland with Bishop Kenneth Kearon at his consecration (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Bishop Ellinah was one of the consecrating bishops at the consecration of the Right Revd Kenneth Kearon as the Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, on 24 January 2015.

During that visit to Ireland, Bishop Ellinah took part in the Community Eucharist in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, preached in Rathfarnham Parish in Dublin, and in Saint Macartin’s Cathedral, Enniskillen, visited Kilkenny College, met the bishops of the Church of Ireland, and met the directors of USPG Ireland.

She gave first-hand accounts of the problems and opportunities facing Anglicans in the Diocese of Swaziland before leaving for Canterbury and an intensive course designed for new bishops in the Anglican Communion.

She first visited Ireland in May 2013 to meet USPG directors and supporters, preached at a special Eucharist in Saint Michan’s Church, Dublin, at which Archbishop Richard Clarke of Armagh presided.

We last met when she the preacher at the closing service at the USPG conference in High Leigh in Hoddesdon in 2019.

The Anglican Church in Swaziland works to respond to the huge difficulties faced by the country. However, the Church there has few resources and currently relies on overseas donations to run its programmes that include local care points and feeding stations for the many child-headed households. Training in life skills is also provided for young people.

In a statement earlier today, USPG said: ‘It is with profound sadness that USPG has heard of the untimely death of the Bishop of Swaziland, the Right Reverend Ellinah Wamukoya. We hold her husband, children and grandchildren and Swaziland in our prayers and invite USPG supporters to pray for the family and the region that she loved and ministered to with such profound care.’

With Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya, during her visit to Ireland in 2015

The Precentor of Limerick
whose son was an SPG
missionary in India

The Precentor’s stall in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

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

In earlier 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 (red more HERE).

Warburton’ successor, Canon Frederic Charles Hamilton, provides an interesting link with both this group of parishes, with the Mariner’s Church in Dún Laoghaire, which I was writing about earlier this month (see HERE), and with the Anglican mission agency SPG, now USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), of which I am a trustee.

Frederic Charles Hamilton (1824-1904) was probably a member of a family with earlier links with clerical life in the Diocese of Limerick: John Hamilton (1720-1767), originally from Co Monaghan, was in parish ministry in the diocese from 1753 to 1767, when he was the Vicar or Rector of a number of parishes in West Limerick, including Abbeyfeale, Kilbroderan and KIlcolman, and was also Vicar of Shanagolden shortly before he died.

Frederic Charles Hamilton was born in Gloucestershire in 1828, but his family later returned to Ireland, and he was educated at Trinity College Dublin before ordination.

His first appointment after ordination as a deacon was as Assistant Chaplain of the Mariners’ Church, Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire) in 1851-1852, when the first chaplain was the Revd Richard Sinclair Brooke (1802-1882).

Canon Frederic Hamilton was the Rector of Saint John’s, Limerick, in 1869-1883 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Hamilton moved to Limerick later in 1855 when he was appointed a Vicar Choral of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, a position who would retain for the rest of his life, and was ordained priest in 1856.

He remained in the Diocese of Limerick for the next half century, and was curate of Saint Michael’s, Limerick (1859-1861), Vicar of Crecoragh (1861-1868), Vicar of Bruree (1868-1869), Rector of Saint John’s, Limerick (1869-1883), and finally Rector of Saint Michael’s, Limerick (1883-1904).

He was also Diocesan Registrar, and in the cathedral chapter he was Prebendary of Donaghmore (1861-1871), Prebendary of Saint Munchin’s (1871-1878), Precentor of Limerick (1878-1883), and then Archdeacon of Limerick (1883-1904) and Prebendary of Effin (1891-1901).

When he died on 4 June 1904, he was buried in the churchyard at Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick.

Archdeacon Hamilton’s wife Emma (Cartmel) was the daughter of a priest in the Diocese of David’s in Wales. Their eldest son, the Revd George Frederick Hamilton (1868-1944), was born at Wellesley Lodge in Limerick on 28 July 1868, while they were living at the Vicarage in Bruree.

George Frederick Hamilton was ordained deacon by the Archbishop of Dublin in 1891 went to India immediately as a missionary with SPG and the Dublin University Mission in Hazaribagh, until 1904. While he was in India, he translated Saint Mark’s Gospel and a number of hymns into Hindi. On a return visit to Ireland, he was ordained priest by the Bishop of Ossory on behalf of the Bishop of Limerick in 1898.

George Frederick Hamilton returned to Ireland on his father’s death in 1904, and after parish ministry in the Diocese of Tuam from 1904 to 1923, he returned to the Diocese of Limerick in 1923 as priest-in-charge and then, from 1928 as Rector of Ballingarry in west Limerick, a parish that became part of the Rathkeale Group of Parishes in 1958.

He retired in 1931, and was living at 59 Palmerston Road, Rathmines, when he died on 11 July 1944.

Canon George Hamilton was in Ballingarry, Co Limerick in 1923-1931 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)