03 March 2022

The mediaeval ruins of
Saint Kevin’s Church still
stand near Camden Street

Saint Kevin’s Church on Camden Row, Dublin, dates from at least the 13th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

Camden Row is a small street off Camden Street in inner city Dublin. Saint Kevin’s Park is a small park off Camden Row, and here, hidden from the view of many Dubliners, are the ruins of Saint Kevin’s Church, dating from at least the 13th century.

Saint Kevin’s was dedicated to Saint Kevin of Glendalough and was one of the four churches of the Irish settlement on the River Poddle. It was situated some distance from the walls of Dublin, in the Irish part of the city, but close to a monastic settlement in the region of present-day Aungier Street.

The church was granted by Archbishop Comyn of Dublin to the ‘economy’ of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, but the vicarage remained in the gift of the Archbishop of Dublin. From the 13th century, the church and the surrounding area were part of the Manor of Saint Sepulchre, directly under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Dublin.

The church is first mentioned in historical annals in 1226, and in 1277 Thomas de Chaddesnorth was given permission to present a chaplain to Saint Kevin’s Church.

The post-Reformation Church of Ireland parish of Saint Kevin’s stretched as far south as present-day Rathmines and Harold’s Cross.

The grave of Archbishop Dermot O’Hurley at Saint Kevin’s Church on Camden Row (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The church is the burial place of Archbishop Dermot O’Hurley, who was buried there after his execution on 20 June 1584 at Hoggen Green. O’Hurley, who became Archbishop of Cashel in 1581, was imprisoned and tortured by government authorities after he returned from Rome in 1583. His grave became a place of veneration for Roman Catholics for several hundred years.

Because of the throngs of pilgrims visiting his grave, the church was rebuilt in 1609 and a new entrance was made.

The Revd Stephen Jerome, who was vicar of the parish in 1639-1640, was a noted preacher and writer. After 1649, he was appointed a special preacher at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral but was criticised for his controversial Puritan views.

In the early years of the Irish Confederate Wars (1641-1649), bands of Confederate soldiers from Co Wicklow made incursions into church lands surrounding Saint Kevin’s. Trenches were dug near the church to help protect the city, but the marauders were able to make off with cattle, horses and the occasional merchant who was unlucky enough to find himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, all of which they transported into the ‘wilds of Wicklow.’

Despite ceasefires, this situation continued until the Battle of Rathmines sealed the fate of the Irish and Royalist forces.

Saint Kevin’s Parish was incorporated into Saint Peter’s Parish when it was formed in 1680. Saint Kevin’s Church became a chapel of ease to Saint Peter’s Church in Aungier Street, and a parish school was set up on Camden Row.

The church was offered to the Huguenot community as a place of worship and cemetery in 1698.

A new Saint Kevin’s Church was built around 1750 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The Dean and Chapter of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral retained the right to appoint the parish clergy until 1727. The original church was replaced around 1750 by a new one, which remained a chapel of ease in Saint Peter’s Parish.

The Duke of Wellington, the future victor of the Battle of Waterloo and Prime Minister, was baptised in the new church in 1769.

Until the 18th century, Saint Kevin’s Church gave its name to the neighbouring thoroughfare, recorded in maps as Keavans Port (1673), Cavan’s Port (1709), Saint Kevan’s Port (1714), Keavan’s Port (1728) and Saint Keavan’s Port (1756). It became Camden Street in 1778.

Many notable local residents were buried in the churchyard in the 17th and 18th centuries, and it continued to be used by local Roman Catholic families until the end of the 19th century. People buried in the churchyard include:

• Rev John Austin (1717-1784), a Jesuit pioneer of Catholic education in Ireland.

• Jean Jasper Joly (1740-1823), a captain in the Irish Volunteers in 1798.

• John Keogh (1740-1817), friend of Theobald Wolfe Tone, who once owned the land that became Mount Jerome Cemetery.

• Hugh Leeson, whose family gave its name to Leeson Street and became Earls of Milltown and owners of Russborough House, Co Wicklow.

• The Moore Family, the family of the poet songwriter Thomas Moore, who was born nearby in Augier Street.

The grave of the Moore Family, the family of the poet songwriter Thomas Moore (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

John D’Arcy, owner of Anchor Breweries, the second largest porter company in Dublin at the time, died suddenly in 1825 after falling from his horse. He was to be buried in Saint Kevin’s churchyard, but when his funeral from Francis Street reached Saint Kevin’s, the sexton, under the authority of the Archbishop William Magee of Dublin, met it at the gate and forbade Catholic prayers at the graveside.

The mourners withdrew peacefully, but a political outcry ensued. The Lord Lieutenant, Lord Wellesley, brother of the Duke of Wellington, expressed disapproval of Dr Magee’s order, and despite much opposition tried to alleviate Catholic grievances. Daniel O’Connell used the scandal provoked to push through legislation in establishing Golden Bridge (1829) and Glasnevin Cemetery (1831).

At the start of the 19th century the cemetery, like many others in Dublin, became a target of body-snatchers, although it was surrounded by high walls. In February 1830 a Frenchman named Nagles and his friend were attacked by a group of ‘sack-em-ups’ lying in wait near the cemetery. The criminals’ attention was diverted by the arrival of a cart-load of dead bodies, giving Nagles the opportunity to escape and notify the police at Arran Quay, who apprehended the culprits. On one occasion a body-snatcher was chased as far as Thomas Street, where he finally dropped the body of a young girl.

Saint Kevin’s Parish was separated from Saint Peter’s Parish in 1876, and the Trustees of the Shannon Bequest built a new Saint Kevin’s Church on the South Circular Road in the Portobello area in 1888-1889. The new church was designed by the architect Sir Thomas Drew and was consecrated on 8 April 1889. The old Saint Kevin’s Church finally closed in 1912, when the last service was held on 28 April 1912.

At the time, the Rector of Saint Kevin’s (1910-1919) was Canon Thomas Chatterton Hammond (1877-1961). A controversial evangelical, he later became Superintendent of the Irish Church Missions (1919-1936), and then Principal of Moore Theological College in Sydney and Archdeacon of Sydney, where he was instrumental in the strong evangelical direction taken by the Diocese of Sydney.

When Saint Kevin’s closed in 1912, the font where the Duke of Wellington was baptised was given to Taney parish in Dundrum, and it is now in Saint Nahi’s Church.

An archaeological excavation in 1967 uncovered some mediaeval graves and coins on the site.

The last Rector of Saint Kevin’s was the Revd William Joseph Smallhorne (1914-1980) in 1948-1980. He died on 31 December 1981, and Saint Kevin’s Parish became part of the Saint Patrick’s Cathedral Group in 1981. The Victorian church on the South Circular Road was closed after a final Service on 28 January 1983. After lying empty for many years, the church was converted into apartments in the 1990s, and the adjacent church buildings became a community centre.

The last service in the old Saint Kevin’s Church was held on 28 April 1912 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Praying with the Psalms in Lent:
3 March 2022 (Psalms 4, 5, 6)

‘Commune with your own heart upon your bed … in peace I will lie down and sleep’ (Psalm 4: 4, 8) … ‘every night I flood my bed with tears’ (Psalm 6: 6) … a traditional Cretan bedroom near Vryses (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Lent began yesterday, Ash Wednesday (2 March 2022). Before today begins, I am taking some time early this morning for prayer, reflection and reading.

During Lent this year, in this Prayer Diary on my blog each morning, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, Short reflections on a psalm or psalms;

2, reading the psalm or psalms;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Psalm 4:

Psalm 4 is a prayer for delivery from personal enemies, and is a psalm of lament.

The psalm opens with a cry for help to God from the psalmist, who knows that God is on his side (‘of my right,’ verse 1). God has helped him in the past, and he hopes that God is now going to hear his plea.

The psalmist rebukes his foes who have falsely shamed and slandered him and lied about him (verse 2). They need to realise that God sees him as faithful, and hears his prayer (verse 3).

He then reminds himself to that he has no need to be disturbed, for God hears his prayers in silence (verse 4). In his prayer and worship, he can put his trust in God (verse 5). Despite what others may say, he can be confident in the presence of God (verse 6), who blesses him and meets his spiritual and physical needs (verse 7). God’s blessings offer such inner joy that he is now assured that he can sleep in peace, confident of God’s protection (verse 8).

Psalm 5:

Psalm 5 is known in Latin Verba mea auribus percipe Domine. The correct translation of the Hebrew word in the superscription (הַנְּחִילֹ֗ות) in the superscription is unclear; the NRSVA gives it as ‘for the flutes.’

This psalm, attributed to King David, is a reflection of how the righteous person prays for deliverance not only for freedom from suffering, but to allow himself to be able to serve God without distraction.

Psalm 5 is often associate with morning prayer. Hence verse 3: ‘O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.’

This is the first of five psalms (Psalms 5-9) all speaking of ‘the name of God.’ This psalm includes the theme of lament, which becomes a common genre in the Psalms.

This Psalm opens as a lament, continues with praise, and requests that God punish evildoers. The psalmist describes the throat of the wicked as an open sepulchre. The Psalmist ends with a blessing extended to all those who trust in God.

Psalm 6:

Psalm 6 is known in Latin as Domine ne in furore tuo arguas me (‘Answer me when I call, O God of my right’). It is attributed to King David and is said to have been written to serve as a prayer for anyone suffering from sickness or distress or for the state of the Kingdom of Israel while suffering through oppression.

This is the first of the seven Penitential Psalms, but is also understood as one of the Individual Lamentations.

Psalm 6 is in three parts. first, the psalmist addresses God, then he speaks for himself, and finally he speaks to his enemies.

Although it is not clear if he is innocent, he says he will be reinstated and that his opponents will be confounded. His trouble seems primarily psychological, but is also expressed through the body. It is as much the body as the soul of the psalmist cries out to God. In fact, it is also touched in his spiritual being, faced with the abandonment of God.

In the absence of God emerges the final hope of the Psalmist, expressed confidence cry in the concluding verses.

Psalm 4 (NRSVA):

To the leader: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.

1 Answer me when I call, O God of my right!
You gave me room when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.

2 How long, you people, shall my honour suffer shame?
How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies?
3 But know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.

4 When you are disturbed, do not sin;
ponder it on your beds, and be silent.
5 Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the Lord.

6 There are many who say, ‘O that we might see some good!
Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!’
7 You have put gladness in my heart
more than when their grain and wine abound.

8 I will both lie down and sleep in peace;
for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.

Psalm 5 (NRSVA):

To the leader: for the flutes. A Psalm of David.

1 Give ear to my words, O Lord;
give heed to my sighing.
2 Listen to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
3 O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.

4 For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
evil will not sojourn with you.
5 The boastful will not stand before your eyes;
you hate all evildoers.
6 You destroy those who speak lies;
the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful.

7 But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
will enter your house,
I will bow down towards your holy temple
in awe of you.
8 Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness
because of my enemies;
make your way straight before me.

9 For there is no truth in their mouths;
their hearts are destruction;
their throats are open graves;
they flatter with their tongues.
10 Make them bear their guilt, O God;
let them fall by their own counsels;
because of their many transgressions cast them out,
for they have rebelled against you.

11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
so that those who love your name may exult in you.
12 For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
you cover them with favour as with a shield.

Psalm 6 (NRSVA):

To the leader: with stringed instruments; according to The Sheminith. A Psalm of David.

1 O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger,
or discipline me in your wrath.
2 Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
O Lord, heal me, for my bones are shaking with terror.
3 My soul also is struck with terror,
while you, O Lord—how long?

4 Turn, O Lord, save my life;
deliver me for the sake of your steadfast love.
5 For in death there is no remembrance of you;
in Sheol who can give you praise?

6 I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
7 My eyes waste away because of grief;
they grow weak because of all my foes.

8 Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
9 The Lord has heard my supplication;
the Lord accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies shall be ashamed and struck with terror;
they shall turn back, and in a moment be put to shame.

Today’s Prayer:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (3 March 2022, World Wildlife Day) invites us to pray:

We pray for conservationists and animal rights activists working to protect wildlife in the UK and across the world.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

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