Thursday, 13 May 2021

Kilteery Pier failed as
a Victorian enterprise
but is a visitors’ delight

Blue skies and clear waters on the Shannon Estuary at Kilteery Pier, near Foynes, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

Earlier this week, I visited Kilteery Pier, one of the many small, 19th century piers on the shores of the Shannon Estuary. This pier is between Foynes and Glin, a little outside the village of Loghill. Although it is only 20 km west of Askeaton, and I have seen the signposts for it on many occasions, my visit on Sunday afternoon was my first since I moved to Askeaton over four years ago.

The pier at Kilteery is an L-plan limestone pier, built in 1841-1842. It has coursed rusticated limestone battered walls, and a supporting ramp at the east side. The tarmacked roadway has cut limestone flagstones forming a footpath and fluted cast-iron bollards around the edge. There are tapered limestone capstans, and concrete steps down to the sea at the west of the pier, with cut limestone steps at the east side.

The Shannon Commissioners, who took office in 1839, built a number of piers on the Shannon Estuary in places where local landowners were willing to contribute about half of the total cost.

A local landlord, John FitzGibbon (1792-1851), 2nd Earl of Clare, a former Governor of Bombay and later Lord Lieutenant of Limerick, paid £918 2s 6d to build a pier at Kilteery, said to be ‘favourably situated’ for shipping out agricultural produce.

Lord Clare was the closest friend of Lord Byron while they were at school at Harrow, and Byron had claimed to love him ‘ad infinitum’ and said that he could never hear the word ‘Clare’ without ‘a murmur of the heart.’

Lord Clare had recently been compensated by the Shannon Commissioners to the sum of 5 shillings for the compulsory purchase of the land and beach at Kilteery for building a new pier. Some years earlier, Lord Clare had donated £50 towards the building costs of a new church in Kilcolman, and also leased land in the townland of Knockboheen for building a schoolhouse.

The Shannon Commissioners reported in 1842 that building work on the pier at Kilteery began in May 1841. The stone came Foynes Quarry, providing the foundations and walls of the north and south faces. However, it was difficult to find suitable foundations with the budget, and the mole was shorter than planned.

The project was hampered by severe weather, frequent gales, and an unprecedented rainy season, the work would by this time have been nearly completed. The works have been carried on with energy. The foundations of the remaining portion, which was exposed to the sea, could only be laid at low water in extraordinary spring tides.

The pier at Kilteery was partly financed by the Earl of Clare (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

At times, over 60 people were employed in the building work each day. The Shannon Commissioners reported in 1842 that the costs were £1490 12s 1½d in 1841. The pier was completed in mid-July 1842 at a further cost of £317 17s 0½d.

When the new pier was completed, it was inspected by Lord Clare, James Harvey and Charles Bingham, commander of the Garryowen steamer. It was reported at the time would open trade for ‘a vast tract of country’, including Athea, Abbeyfeale and Newcastle. Lord Clare also contributed to opening a road in this area to Abbeyfeale.

By December 1842, a person was employed to take charge of the pier and to collect fees for boats using the wharf and the quay. The Shannon Commissioners also built a parapet wall to protect people working on the pier and to preserve the roadway against strong westerly gales.

A stone near the pier looks like a benchmark stone, but is engraved with a vertical arrow and the initials ‘SC.’ There are similar stones with these marks at other piers at the Shannon Estuary developed by the Shannon Commissioners.

A stone near the pier is engraved with a vertical arrow and the initials ‘SC’ for the Shannon Commissioners (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Like many of these piers along the banks of the Shannon Estuary, the pier at Kilteery was designed so that boats could tie off the end and load or unload cargoes. But it was never designed as a harbour where boats would stay overnight or for even longer periods. The produce loaded there was carried directly to Kilrush or Limerick, both customs ports, and then transferred to seagoing vessels.

Within a few years, it was clear that Kilteery pier had not become an important point for exporting produce from the areas around Athea, Abbeyfeale and Newcastle, as Lord Clare had hoped. Perhaps the Famine added to these problems. But it was also noted in the 1840s that the pier was in the wrong place, ‘a little below Foynes,’ when Foynes and Glin were more appropriate sites for piers.

Lord Clare not only helped financially in building Kilteery pier, but also spent money on a new road when, it is said, the landlords in Glin and Askeaton had rejected the opportunity to have improvements on their land. On the other hand, the landlord of Foynes, Thomas Spring Rice (1790-1866), Lord Monteagle, who had first initiated the Shannon Commissioners, later spent money on providing facilities at Foynes, and this, in time, became the most important port on the Shannon estuary.

By the end of the 1840s, most of the cargo landed at Kilteery was manure, probably sea manure, sand and seaweed, while most of the cargo loaded at Kilteery was from the small coal pits near to the pier, and lime that was shipped to parts of south Co Clare as fertiliser.

The Board of Works took over most of the Shannon piers from the Shannon Commissioners in 1885, and responsibility for most of the estuary piers in Co Limerick later passed to Limerick County Council.

A signboard at the end of the pier commemorates the associations of Kilteery with Sean Finn, a West Limerick IRA activist, Mary Spring Rice of nearby Mount Trenchard House, and Mary Childers.

Finn was born Michael John Finn in 1897 in Rathkeale, where he joined the IRA in 1915. Mary Spring-Rice offered Finn the use of her yacht and a hiding place at Mount Trenchard. Finn kidnapped and smuggled the British General Cuthbert Lucas from Fermoy, Co Cork to the Shannon at Kilteery. While the British were searching for Lucas, Finn handed him over to the East Limerick IRA, and in process the general either escaped or was released in Pallaskenry on 30 July 1920.

Finn was shot dead nearby in Ballyhahill 100 years ago on 31 March 2021. Earlier this year, his grandson, Minister Niall Collins, laid a wreath on behalf of the family at Finn’s grave in Rathkeale.

The pier at Kilteery was built with high levels of technical skill and craft work, and it retains many of its original features, including limestone capstans, flagstones and kerbs. The pier has been repaired in recent years, and is a popular bathing spot. While some stones seem to have shifted significantly, the pier remains an interesting focal point on the coastline of the Shannon Estuary.

The pier at Kilteery has been repaired in recent years (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Is God revealed in space as
we reach out to the universe?

Christ Pantocrator in the dome of Saint George’s Church in Panormos, east of Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Thursday 13 May 2021,
The Ascension Day


11 am: The Festal Eucharist,

Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton

Readings: Acts 1: 1-11; Psalm 47; Luke 24: 44-53

There is a link to the readings HERE

Salvador Dali: The Ascension (1958)

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

The astronaut Michael Collins died last month (28 April 2021) at the age of 90.

By then, many people had forgotten the name of Michael Collins. While Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were walking on the moon on 20 July 1969, Michael Collins became the most solitary person in the universe, orbiting the moon alone, inside Apollo 11 and out of touch with ground control 240,000 miles away.

Michael Collins was born in Rome in 1930 while his father, General James Collins, was based in the Italian capital.

Because he was not born in an American town or city, when Michael Collins returned to the earth, without ever walking on the moon, there was no hometown parade in any American town to honour him.

But by then Collins was used to being on his own – in space or on earth. Collins later recalled his first space mission on Gemini 10 in 1966, and how he spent almost an hour and a half on spacewalks, once ‘gliding across the world in total silence, with absolute smoothness; a motion of stately grace which makes me feel God-like as I stand erect in my sideways chariot, cruising the night sky.’

Today, on Ascension Day, one of the 12 great feasts of the Church, celebrated on the 40th day of Easter, we remember Christ being taken up, ascending into his glory, and completing the work of our redemption.

On this day, we celebrate the completion of the work of our salvation, the pledge of our glorification with Christ, and his entry into heaven with our human nature glorified.

On this day we see the completion of Christ’s physical presence among his apostles and the consummation of the union of God and humanity. On this day, Christ ascends in his glorified human body to sit at the right hand of the Father.

The Ascension is the final visible sign of Christ’s two natures, divine and human, and it shows us that redeemed humanity now has a higher state than humanity had before the fall.

That is the theological explanation, in a nutshell. But how do you image, imagine, the Ascension?

When we believed in a flat earth, it was easy to understand how Christ ascended into heaven, and how he then sat in the heavens, on a throne, on the right hand of the Father. But once we lost the notion of a flat earth as a way of explaining the world and the universe, we failed to adjust our images or approaches to the Ascension narrative; ever since, intelligent people have been left asking silly questions:

When Christ went up through the clouds, how long did he keep going?

When did he stop?

And where?

Standing there gaping at the sky could make us some kind of navel-gazers, looking for explanations within the universe and for life, but not as we know it. In our day and age, the idea of Christ flying up into the sky and vanishing through the great blue yonder strikes us as fanciful.

Or is there, instead, a holier vision, glimpsed by Michael Collins, of God caring for the universe?

I think again of Michael Collins ‘gliding across the world in total silence, with absolute smoothness; a motion of stately grace which makes me feel God-like as I stand erect in my sideways chariot, cruising the night sky.’

During a radio blackout during that space mission, Buzz Aldrin would recall, ‘I read the words which I had chosen to indicate our trust that as man probes into space we are in fact acting in Christ. I sensed especially strongly my unity with our church back home, and with the church everywhere. I read: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me”.’ (John 15: 5).

Our view of the universe, our understanding of the cosmos, shapes how we image and think of God’s place in it, within it, above it, or alongside it. And sometimes, the way past any outdated understandings of the universe were used to describe or explain the Ascension now make it difficult to talk about its significance and meaning to today’s scientific mind.

And yet, as the astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and William Anders entered into a lunar orbit on Apollo 8 on Christmas Eve 1968, they took part in a live television broadcast, showing pictures of the Earth and the moon as seen from their spacecraft.

They ended the broadcast with William Anders saying, ‘For all the people on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send you.’

They then took turns in reading from the Book of Genesis, beginning with ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ and concluding with ‘and God saw that it was good.’

Frank Borman concluded, ‘God bless all of you – all of you on the good Earth.’

Less than a year later. returning from that first landing on the moon, Buzz Aldrin took part in a television broadcast the night before splashing down. During the broadcast, the second man to set foot on the moon read Psalm 8: 3-4: ‘When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou has ordained; What is man that thou art mindful of him? And the Son of Man, that thou visitest him?’

As Buzz Aldrin pointed out, God reveals himself in space as humanity reaches out to the universe. ‘There are many of us in the NASA programme who do trust that what we are doing is part of God’s eternal plan for man.’

Michael Collins was from an Irish family and was raised an Episcopalian. In his prayers in Washington National Cathedral at the memorial service for his colleague Neil Armstrong in 2012, Michael Collins thanked God for his friend and colleague ‘who with courage and humility first set foot upon the moon.’

And he prayed: ‘Following his example, save us from arrogance, lest we forget that our achievements are grounded in you.’

Having witnessed the earth from afar, he became a serious and active advocate of ecology, spending time and energy on trying to save the world. He described himself as a perpetual optimist.

The Ascension is a divine promise that those of us who are perpetual optimists have not misplaced that optimism. When we consider God’s works in the heavens, the work of his hands in the moon and the stars, as Buzz Aldrin said, ‘we are in fact acting in Christ.’

And, when we contemplate the majesty of God’s work in the universe, we may think to join in that prayer of Michael Collins, ‘save us from arrogance, lest we forget that our achievements are grounded in you.’

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!


The Ascension depicted in a window in Holy Trinity Abbey Church, Adare, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Acts 1: 1-1:

1 In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2 until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over the course of forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. ‘This’, he said, ‘is what you have heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’

6 So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ 7 He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ 9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’

The Ascension Window in the North Transept (Jebb Chapel), Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 24: 44-53 (NRSVA):

44 Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you – that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’

50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 53 and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

The Ascension (1885) by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, a Pre-Raphaelite window in Saint Philip’s Cathedral, Birmingham (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Colour: White, or Gold.

The Greeting (from Easter Day until Pentecost):

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Penitential Kyries:

God our Father,
you exalted your Son to sit at your right hand.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus,
you are the way, the truth and the life.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit, Counsellor,
you are sent to be with us for ever.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day:

Grant, we pray, Almighty God,
that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ
to have ascended into the heavens;
so we in heart and mind may also ascend
and with him continually dwell;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Introduction to the Peace:

Jesus said, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
I do not give to you as the world gives (John 14: 27, 28)

Preface:

Through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who after he had risen from the dead ascended into heaven,
where he is seated at your right hand to intercede for us
and to prepare a place for us in glory:

Post Communion Prayer:

God our Father,
you have raised our humanity in Christ
and have fed us with the bread of heaven.
Mercifully grant that, nourished with such spiritual blessings,
we may set our hearts in the heavenly places;
where he now lives and reigns for ever.

Blessing:

Christ our exalted King
pour on you his abundant gifts
make you faithful and strong to do his will
that you may reign with him in glory:

Dismissal: (from Easter Day to Pentecost):

Go in the peace of the Risen Christ. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!

The Ascension depicted in the East Window by Marion Grant (1951) in the Church of Saint George the Martyr in Southwark (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Hymns:

259, Christ triumphant, ever reigning (CD 16);
634, Love divine, all loves excelling (CD 36).



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

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

Praying in Lent and Easter 2021:
86, Saint Philip’s Cathedral, Birmingham

The Ascension (1885) … one of three windows by Sir Edward Burne-Jones in the chancel of Saint Philip’s Cathedral, Birmingham (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During the Season of Easter this year, I am continuing my theme from Lent, taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs 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).

Sunday (9 May 2021) was the Sixth Sunday of Easter and today is Ascension Day (13 May 2021). My photographs this week are selected from seven cathedrals throughout England. Earlier in these reflections, during Lent, I used images from Lichfield Cathedral (15 March 2021) and Coventry Cathedral (19 March). But these cathedrals, which I have visited in recent years, have been selected randomly.

This morning, my photographs are from Saint Philip’s Cathedral, Birmingham, including the Ascension window, one of three Pre-Raphaelite chancel windows by Sir Edward Burne-Jones.

I have been in Saint Philip’s Cathedral, Birmingham, for meetings of USPG volunteers from the Midlands dioceses. This has only been a diocesan cathedral since 1905, with the formation of a new Diocese of Birmingham, but it dates back to 1715, when it was built and consecrated as a parish church.

Saint Philip’s, built in the Baroque style by the architect Thomas Archer (1668-1743), is a Grade I listed building. It is the third smallest cathedral in England after Derby and Chelmsford.

Saint Philip’s Church was planned when the nearby mediaeval parish church of Saint Martin in the Bull Ring became too small for the growing population of Birmingham. The site was donated by Robert Philips in 1710. The site at Colmore Row is one of the highest points in Birmingham, and is said to be at the same level as the cross on Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London (see 9 May 2021).

Work on building a new parish church began in 1709, and the church was consecrated on 4 October 1715, when it was dedicated Saint Philip the Apostle in a tribute to the benefactor Robert Philips. This was probably Archer’s first church. and his Baroque design was influenced by the churches of Bernini and Borromini in Italy.

The hall-style, rectangular interior has aisles separated from the nave by fluted pillars in classical form, with Tuscan capitals supporting an arcade surmounted by a heavily projecting cornice, and there are wooden galleries are stretched between the pillars. The tower was complete by 1725, and the urns on the parapet were added in 1756.

The original shallow east apse was extended in 1884-1888 into a much larger chancel, by JA Chatwin, who also refaced the exterior of the building.

The Pre-Raphaelite artist Sir Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898), who was born nearby in Bennett’s Hill and was baptised in the church in 1834, donated several windows, made by the William Morris studios in Birmingham. His three windows in the chancel depict the Ascension (1885), the Nativity (1887) and the Crucifixion (1887); his window at the west end depicts the Last Judgment (1897).

Saint Philip’s continued to serve as a parish church from 1715 until 1905. Birmingham was given city status in 1889, and the Birmingham-born statesman Joseph Chamberlain and Bishop Charles Gore of Worcester worked hard for a separate Diocese of Birmingham.

Saint Philip’s became the cathedral of the new Diocese of Birmingham in 1905, with Charles Gore (1853-1932) as the first Bishop of Birmingham (1905-1911). He was the editor of Lux Mundi, the founder of the Community of the Resurrection, and a leading Christian Socialist. He became Bishop of Oxford (1911-1919), and died in 1932.

During World War II, the cathedral was bombed and gutted on 7 November 1940. However, its most significant treasures, including the Burne-Jones windows, had been removed by Birmingham Civic Society. They were replaced, undamaged, when the cathedral was restored in 1948.

Thomas Stirling Lee’s statue of Bishop Charles Gore, vested in convocation robes with his right hand raised in blessing, stands in front of the West entrance. Other monument in the cathedral grounds include a memorial to the 21 victims of the Birmingham pub bombings in 1974, unveiled in 1995.

The Very Revd Matt Thompson has been the Dean of Birmingham since 2017.

Tomorrow, in this prayer diary, I am visiting Saint Chad’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Birmingham.

Saint Philip’s Cathedral, Birmingham … built in 1715 and a cathedral since 1905 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 24: 44-53 (NRSVA):

44 Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you – that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’

50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 53 and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

Inside Saint Philip’s Cathedral, Birmingham (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (13 May 2021, Ascension Day) invites us to pray:

Holy Father, as you raised your Son to heaven, may we embrace the knowledge that He will remain with us evermore.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Thomas Stirling Lee’s statue of Bishop Charles Gore (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

The south side of Saint Philip’s Cathedral, Birmingham (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)