18 August 2021

A reminder this week of
links between Cappoquin
and events in Kabul

Mementoes of Lord Keane and his exploits in Afghanistan (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Afghanistan is known to many military and diplomatic figures as the ‘Graveyard of Empires.’ Modern Afghanistan dates from 1747, when Ahmad Shah Durrani captured territory from Nader Shah’s descendants in Persia, the Mughals, and the Uzbeks to his north.

This week’s tragic events in Afghanistan, following the fall of Kabul, remind me of an unusual link between previous conflicts in Afghanistan and Cappoquin, in Co Waterford.

I paid a short visit to Cappoquin earlier this week after my summer ‘road trip’ visit to Youghal, Co Cork. But during a visit to Cappoquin House last August, Sir Charles Keane, recalled many of the stories of General Sir John Keane (1781-1844), who eventually become Baron Keane of Ghuznee and Cappoquin because of his role in the capture of Ghuznee (Ghazni) during the First Anglo-Afghan War in 1839.

Sir Charles showed me many family mementoes of Lord Keane, including a portrait, a painting of Ghunzee Fort and a ceremonial sword.

John Keane was born in Belmont, Cappoquin, on 6 February 1781, the second son of Sir John Keane, 1st Baronet. He joined the army as an ensign at age 11 in 1792. He rose to the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the 60th Foot and commanded a brigade in the Peninsular War.

He was promoted major-general, and commanded the British 3rd Brigade at the Battle of New Orleans, where he was wounded twice. Later, he was commander-in-chief in the West Indies and administered the colonial government of Jamaica.

General Keane was Commander-in-Chief of the Bombay Army in 1834-1840, and commanded the combined British and Indian army (‘The Army of the Indus’) during the opening campaign of the First Anglo-Afghan War.

‘Storming of Ghunzee by the army under Lieutenant-General Sir John Keane, July 23rd 1839’ … a painting in Cappoquin House (Photograph: Patrick Comerford; click on image for full-screen view)

Keane and his forces seized Karachi in February 1839. He then commanded an expeditionary force that entered Afghanistan from India to forestall an expected, imminent Russian invasion, and commanded the victorious British and Indian army at the Battle of Ghazni on 23 July 1839.

Because of severe shortages of supplies and the lack of draft horses, Keane’s forces had to leave heavy siege equipment behind them in Kandahar. The army arrived at Ghazni on 21 July. Initial reconnaissance showed the city to be heavily fortified with a 70-ft wall and a flooded moat. The defence of the city was led by Hyder Khan, the son of Dost Muhammad.

Without siege equipment, the only way for the British and Indian force to capture Ghazni was through a frontal attack that would result in heavy casualties.

However, captured Afghan soldiers were interrogated by the British chief engineer, Colonel Thompson, and they revealed that all of the gates into Ghazni had been sealed with rocks and debris except the Kabul Gate, in the north.

Thompson spied on the gate and observed an Afghan courier entering the city, confirming what the prisoners had reported. Further inspection showed the gate was lightly guarded and inadequately defended.

The decision was made to attack the city through the Kabul gate, and the British went around the city and camped on the north side facing the Kabul gate. While the British forces encircled the city, Shuja Shah Durrani and the Indian forces set up camp a few miles from the city to prevent any Afghan forces trying to relieve it.

On 22 July, thousands of Ghilji tribesmen attacked Shuja Shah Durrani’s contingent but were repelled. Once the Afghan relief forces were driven away, Keane’s forces were ready to mount an attack to capture the city.

British artillery was positioned to give covering fire to the advancing troops, and four regiments were formed into a storming party commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Dennie. The rest of the three British regiments formed the main attacking column commanded by Brigadier Sale. High winds prevented the garrison from realising that they were about to be attacked.

At 3 a.m. on 23 July, Indian engineers moved towards the gate. As they approached, they were fired on by the Afghans inside the city. The British artillery bombarded the city and gave cover to the engineers as they reached the gate. Gunpowder was piled beside the door, the explosion destroyed the gate, and the four regiments under Colonel Dennie rushed through the shattered gate.

Bitter hand-to-hand fighting ensued in the darkness. The Afghan defenders launched a counterattack that cut off the storming party from the supporting columns. Sale’s forces fought their way through the gate to link up with Dennie’s encircled men, but Sale was severely wounded. The British then fought their way into the centre of the city and by dawn the city was captured.

The British forces suffered 200 men killed and wounded while the Afghans lost almost 500 men and 1,600 were taken prisoner.

Keane left a small garrison in Ghazni and began to march his forces towards Kabul on 30 July. When the Afghan ruler, Dost Muhammad, heard about the fall of Ghazni, he asked for terms of surrender. The British offer was exile in India, but he refused to accept this. He fled Kabul towards Western Afghanistan and the Afghan army surrendered. The British then installed Shuja Shah Durrani as the new ruler of Afghanistan.

Keane retired without being engaged in further fighting. He was honoured with the peerage title of Baron Keane, of Ghuznee and of Cappoquin, Co Waterford, on 23 December 1839, and received a pension of £2,000 a year for his and two successive lives.

Lord Keane was married twice. He married his first wife, Grace Smith, daughter of Lieutenant General Sir John Smith, in 1806, and they were the parents of six children, including Edward Arthur Wellington Keane (1815-1882), 2nd Baron Keane, and John Manly Arbuthnot Keane (1816-1901), 3rd Baron Keane. His married his second wife, Charlotte Maria Boland, in 1840.

Lord Keane died at Burton Lodge, Hampshire, on 24 August 1844. His title died out with the death of the third baron in 1901. His mementoes have returned to Cappoquin House.

Sir Charles Keane tells the stories of Cappoquin House in the courtyard

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
81, Saint Colmcille’s Church, Knocklyon

Saint Colmcille’s Church, Knocklyon, Co Dublin … the Carmelites are leaving Knocklyon after a presence of almost half a century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

Before the day gets busy, I am taking a little time this morning for prayer, reflection and reading. Each morning in the time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am reflecting 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 (18 August 2021) are from Saint Colmcille’s Church, Knocklyon, Co Dublin.

Inside Saint Colmcille’s Church, Knocklyon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The Carmelites have been in Knocklyon since 1974. Archbishop Dermot Ryan of Dublin invited the Carmelite Provincial, Father Joseph Ryan, to send the Carmelites to the young parish.

Father Paddy Staunton, later Assistant Provincial, and Father Seán Dunne were two of the first Carmelites in the parish, and Father Paddy was the first Parish Priest. They planned a new church, celebrated Mass, and offered pastoral care and pastoral outreach.

When Saint Colmcille’s Church was proposed in 1974, Knocklyon had many new housing estates, but amenities were inadequate or non-existent. There was no street lighting, no shops, emergency phones only and limited public bus service. The nearest Sunday Mass was in the small chapel in the Carmelite Convent on Firhouse Road.

The parish was formed on 1 October 1974 and the first parish council was formed at a meeting in Terenure College in November 1974. A committee meeting later that month discussed a Mass centre, a school, a residence and fundraising.

The first Mass was celebrated on Sunday 15 December 1974 in the canteen at the McInerney’s building site office, a rough wooden building. A church site was bought in 1975, and the first Mass was celebrated in a temporary church. Saint Colmcille’s Primary School opened in September 1976.

Pope John Paul II blessed the foundation stone for the new church during his visit to Maynooth in 1979. The new Church of Saint Colmcille opened in April 1980. Ten years later, the Youth and Community Centre opened in 1989, thanks to a fundraising effort spearheaded by Liam Mongey.

Bishop Eamonn Walsh opened the Iona Centre on 9 June 2000, the Feast of Saint Colmcille, and it has become the focal point of parish activity. Saint Colmcille’s Community School opened on 4 September 2000.

The relics of Saint Thérèse de Lisieux were brought to the parish on 5/6 May 2001 during their visit to Ireland.

The Carmelite community in the parish in recent years has included Father Fintan Burke, Father Martin Parokaaran, Father Joe Mothersill and Father Michael Morrissey. However, the Council of the Carmelites in Ireland has informed the parish of the intention to return the care of the parish to the Archdiocese of Dublin from 30 January 2022.

The Parish Pastoral Council petitioned the Council of the Carmelites, requesting them to reverse their decision and continue their presence in the parish. However, the Prior Provincial, Father Michael Troy, replied on 3 August that the decision remains unchanged.

Inside Saint Colmcille’s Church, Knocklyon … the foundation stone was blessed by Pope John Paul II (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Matthew 20: 1-16 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 20 ‘For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the labourers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the market-place; 4 and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. 5 When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. 6 And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, “Why are you standing here idle all day?” 7 They said to him, “Because no one has hired us.” He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard.” 8 When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, “Call the labourers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.” 9 When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11 And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 saying, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” 13 But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14 Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” 16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last.’

Saint Colmcille’s Church, Knocklyon, has a batik-style set of Stations of the Cross (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (18 August 2021) invites us to pray:

We pray for St Andrew’s Church [Tangier] and the Diocese in Europe. May Your blessing be upon the church as it serves the people of Tangier.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Looking out on the world from Saint Colmcille’s Church, Knocklyon (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 Iona Centre opened on 9 June 2000, the Feast of Saint Colmcille (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)