16 August 2021

When Youghal became
the first Irish town to
elect a Jewish mayor

The Town Hall in Youghal, Co Cork … William Annyas or William Moses Annyas Eanes (Ben Yohanan) was elected Mayor of Youghal in 1555, the first Jewish Mayor in ay town in Ireland or Britain (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

This year’s ‘road trip’ or summer ‘staycation’ has had a brief return, and after a busy weekend, including a wedding, I stayed overnight in Youghal, Co Cork, on the estuary of the River Blackwater, 30 km south of Cappoquin, which holds so many of my childhood memories.

I was staying last night in the Old Imperial Hotel on Main Street, close to Youghal’s two main historic landmarks, Saint Mary’s Collegiate Church and the Clock Gate Tower. But I also went in search of the story of Ireland’s first Jewish Mayor.

Youghal, with a population of about 8,000, stands on the edge of a steep riverbank, and has long, narrow streets and narrow side lanes. The town dates back in time to a Viking settlement in the 11th century, and received its first charter of incorporation as a town in 1209.

The Clock Gate Tower, the symbol of the town, was built in 1777 on the site of Trinity Castle, part of the town’s mediaeval fortifications. The Clock Gate was the town gaol until 1837, and later became a family home, until the McGrath family left in 1959.

Youghal is the first town in either Ireland or Britain to have a Jewish mayor when William Annyas or William Moses Annyas Eanes (Ben Yohanan) was elected Mayor of Youghal in 1555.

His grandfather, Gil Anes, was a Marrano Jew or converso who had emigrated from Belmonte in Portugal. Belmonte was the birthplace of Pedro Álvares Cabral, the navigator who discovered the land of Vera Cruz, now known as Brazil.

Many of the first Jews to come to Ireland were Marrano merchants from Spain and Portugal, who arrived in the aftermath of the Inquisition.

His surname Annyas is sometimes written as Ãnes and anglicised to Ames, and in some casse the family may have used the surname Ennis. His daughter married Yacov Kassin, son of Yehuda Kassin (Juan Cassin), a Marrano merchant who had moved to Galway.

Later, Francis Annyas was a three-time Mayor of Youghal in 1569, 1576 and again in 1581. He commanded the English garrison in Youghal during the Desmond Rebellions and had a colourful life working as a spy for Sir Francis Drake in the Azores. However, his exact relation to William Annyas is not known.

The Town Hall in Youghal, Co Cork … Youghal elected Jewish mayors in 1555, 1569, 1576 and 1581 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

There never seems to have been been a synagogue in Youghal. The first Sephardic synagogue in Cork City may date from the later arrivals of merchants and families from Portugal and Spain in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

The site of the Sephardic cemetery in Cork was discovered in the last century in Kemp Street, on the south-east corner of White Street, to the rear of the Cork Hebrew Congregation’s synagogue in South Terrace, which closed in 2016. But no traces of a Sephardic synagogue have been found in the city.

As for Belmonte, it is, perhaps, the Portuguese town with the strongest Jewish presence. Hebrew culture and tradition have survived there continuously from the early 16th century until today.

The Jewish community in Belmonte dates from the Middle Ages and the town’s first synagogue may have been founded in 1297. King Manuel issued an edict in 1496 expelling all Jews from Portugal, but a group of Crypto-Jews remained in Belmonte and this community has survived until today.

They were a closed community, where the women preserved their Jewish traditions and kept them alive in their isolation, handing them down through the generations for 500 years. The post-Inquisition Jewish presence in Belmonte was first documented in 1917 by Samuel Schwarz, a Jewish engineer from Poland. He was working at a nearby tin mine when he noticed the secretive habits of many families in the town.

The Sephardic Jews in Belmonte returned to Judaism formally in 1989 and founded the Jewish Community of Belmonte.

The Clock Gate Tower, the symbol of Youghal, was built in 1777 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
79, Saint Teresa’s Church,
Clarendon Street, Dublin

Saint Teresa’s Church, Clarendon Street … one of two Carmelite churches in inner-city Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

I am in Youghal, Co Cork, on a short overnight visit, and I am planning to visit a number of places in East Cork and West Waterford later today.

But, before the day gets busy, I am taking a little time this morning for prayer, reflection and reading. During this time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

My theme this week is churches in the Carmelite tradition, and my photographs this morning (16 August 2021) are from Saint Teresa’s Church in Clarendon Street, Dublin.

Inside Saint Teresa’s Church in Clarendon Street, facing the liturgical east (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Clarendon Street Church, off Grafton Street, is one of two Carmelite churches in inner-city Dublin run by the Carmelites, and they represent two Carmelite traditions: Whitefriar Street Church, which I described yesterday, is run by the Order of Carmelites, while Clarendon Street is run by the Order of Discalced Carmelites. The Carmelites also run Terenure College, and there are many Carmelite houses and Carmelite-run parishes throughout Ireland.

Saint Teresa’s Church on Clarendon Street is just a few metres from designer stores, buskers and throngs of shoppers on Grafton Street, South William Street and George’s Street. ‘It’s probably Ireland’s busiest church,’ a former prior, Father Christopher Clarke, told The Irish Times.

The church was built, according to the legal restrictions of the time off the main street, and with little outward signs that it was a church. The Carmelite church was built above the church so that it looked like a private house.

This was the first Roman Catholic church built in Dublin after the Irish Parliament passed the Catholic Relief Act in 1793.

The foundation stone was laid in 1793 by the Dublin brewer, John Sweetman, who bought the site in his own name for the Carmelites from the builder William Semple. The poet Thomas Moore and the future rebel leader Robert Emmet were among the prominent people who subscribed to the building fund.

The church was designed by the architect Timothy Behan. The building work was disrupted by the 1798 Rising, but the church was completed, the interior stuccowork was completed by Christopher Moore (1790-1863), and the church opened to the public in 1810.

Daniel O’Connell held political meetings in the chapel between 1813 and 1829. He was a friend of the friars, particularly Father John Francis Lestrange, who was his chosen confessor. Father Lestrange was also secretary of O’Connell’s Catholic Association group, which campaigned for emancipation.

Since then, the church has been enlarged on many occasions, and it remains one of Dublin’s most distinguished churches, known for its choral tradition, its choir and organ, and for inner city piety and devotion.

The sanctuary, the east transept and the campanile were built in 1863, designed by the architect John Bourke and the work of John P Beardwood.

The west transept and the façade, facing onto Clarendon Street, with statues by Patrick O’Neill and James Pearse of the Virgin Mary, Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross, date from 1876. This work, along with a library, four sitting rooms, a hall and staircase, was designed by the architects John O’Neill and William Henry Byrne. Later additions were designed by William Hague (1889), William Henry Byrne (1898-1899) and Ashlin and Coleman (1914, 1916, 1923-1924, 1949).

The High Altar (1880) and marble Communion rails (1879) are by William Patrick O’Neill. The marble statue of the Dead Christ beneath the high altar is an earlier work (1829) by the sculptor John Hogan (1800-1858).

The stained glass in the Church is by Early and Powell (1869), Phyllis Burke (1990-1997) and George W Walsh (1970s).

The rose window by Earley and Powell depicts various Carmelite saints. Other Earley windows include the Betrothal of Mary and Joseph, Elijah, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Presenting the Brown Scapular to Saint Simon Stock, Saint John of the Cross and the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa.

The 1990s windows by Phyllis Burke form a rich collection that include Saint Joseph and the Holy Family, Saint Elias or Elijah, Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint John of the Cross, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, Saint Patrick, Saint Bridget, the Prodigal Son, Veronica’s Veil, the Woman at the Well, Psalms 41 and 42, and Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein).

The Prior of Saint Teresa’s Church is Father Jim Noonan OCD. He has served for 10 years with the Carmelite mission in Nigeria.

Saint Teresa of Avila … a stained-glass window by Phyllis Burke (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Matthew 19: 16-22 (NRSVA):

16 Then someone came to him and said, ‘Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?’ 17 And he said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ 18 He said to him, ‘Which ones?’ And Jesus said, ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; 19 Honour your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ 20 The young man said to him, ‘I have kept all these; what do I still lack?’ 21 Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ 22 When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Inside Saint Teresa’s Church, Clarendon Street, facing the liturgical west (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (16 August 2021) invites us to pray:

O Lord, we give thanks for the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Let us magnify and rejoice in You, as she did.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Carmelite saints in a rose window by Earley and Powell (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

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 entrance to Clarendon Street Church from Johnson’s Court, off Grafton Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)