26 March 2022

Wexford, Dublin and
Kerry vie for celebrating
Thomas Moore’s ancestry

The Thomas Moore Tavern on Cornmarket, Wexford … the home of Thomas Moore’s mother, Anastasia Codd, until weeks before the poet was born (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

Who has the greatest claim to Tom Moore: Wexford or Dublin? Or even Co Kerry?

Sometimes, the ‘Meeting of the Waters’ in Avoca seems to claim Tom Moore all to himself, although he has no family connections with Co Wicklow.

After recent visits to Moore’s ancestral home in Wexford, his birthplace on Aungier Street in Dublin, and the Moore family graves in the ruins of Saint Kevin’s Church on Camden Row, Dublin, I am still wondering whether Wexford or Dublin – or even some unknown place in Co Kerry – has the first and foremost claim on the great poet and songwriter.

Two pubs compete for recognition as his ancestral home: the Thomas Moore Tavern on Cornmarket, Wexford; and the Thomas Moore Inn at 12 Aungier Street, Dublin.

Of course, Thomas Moore was born in Dublin on 28 May 1779, but he had no Dublin ancestry. His father, John Moore (1741-1825), was from Co Kerry, but there is no record of where in Co Kerry; his mother Anastasia Codd was from Cornmarket in Wexford Town, and she only moved to Dublin weeks before her son’s birth.

The bard’s father was born in Co Kerry, but where was he from?

A report in the Kerry People in 1904 recalled how Moore visited Ardfert in 1823, travelling in a party that included the Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne. Young and old flocked to see them when they arrived in Ardfert.

Michael Pierce, a local classical teacher in Ardfert, was the guide for the party. They visited Ardfert Cathedral and the graveyard, and also visited the ruined Franciscan Abbey.

The group travelled to Lixnaw and Listowel on the following day, when it was said Moore’s father was from the neighbourhood of Listowel, ‘where a few descendants of the family still reside.’ In Listowel, Moore was met his first cousin, Garrett Moore, a well-to-do farmer who introduced his three sons.

When the Listowel writer Bryan MacMahon (1909-1998) delivered a lecture delivered in 1952 to mark the centenary of Moore’s death, he claimed that Moore’s father came from Newtown Sandes, or Moyvane, and this detail has been narrowed down in more recent times to the townland of Cloonbrane – although it is open to debate whether Cloonbrane might be described as ‘the neighbourhood of Listowel.’

The Thomas Moore Tavern and still claims to be one of Wexford’s oldest bar (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

But, while the poet knew little about his paternal ancestors, we can be more certain of his maternal links with Wexford and his family connections with the town.

His father John Moore married the considerably younger Wexford-born Anastasia Codd in 1778. She was the daughter of Thomas Codd, known as ‘Honest Tom Codd,’ of Cornmarket, Wexford. Thomas Codd lived in a three-storey house in Cornmarket in the centre of Wexford. From there he ran a grocery and spirits business. His future grandson Thomas Moore would refer to his grandfather as ‘my gouty old grandfather Tom Codd,’ and Anastasia Jane Codd was born in this house in 1764.

However, we know little about how John Moore met Anastasia, who was 23 years his junior. They married and lived above the shop in Cornmarket for some time before moving in 1779 to then fashionable Aungier Street in Dublin.

In Dublin, John Moore opened a grocery shop of his own on the ground floor in Aungier Street and he was also a barrack master in Islandbridge.

Thomas Moore, who was named after his Wexford grandfather, was born above the shop in Aungier Street in 1779, just weeks after his parents moved from Wexford to Dublin. This means Anastasia was only 15 when Thomas was born and John was 38.

Thomas>Moore’s birthplace at 12 Aungier Street, Dublin, is now the Thomas Moore Inn (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Thomas Moore studied at Trinity College Dublin, where he was a friend of Robert Emmet. He graduated in 1799 and moved to London to study law.

A prolific writer, poet, singer and balladeer, Moore set his poems to ancient Irish melodies. They later became known collectively as ‘Moore’s Melodies’. His works were hugely popular in Britain and Ireland and across Europe and America. They included ‘The Minstrel Boy,’ ‘The Last Rose of Summer,’ ‘The Harp That Once Through Tara’s Halls,’ ‘The Meeting of the Waters’ and ‘Oft in the Stilly Night.’ He became a close friend of the poets Byron and Shelley and .had many friends in inner circles of political life in England.

When he was on the stage in Kilkenny regularly in 1808-1810, Moore met the English actress Bessy Dyke, and they were married in Saint Martin in the Fields in London in 1811. They moved to Wiltshire in 1818 and went on to have five children.

Moore’s visit to his ancestral home in Wexford in 1835 seems to have been more successful than his visit to Co Kerry over a decade earlier, in 1823.

The grave of the Moore Family, the family of the poet songwriter Thomas Moore, in Saint Kevin’s churchyard, near Wexford Street, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

When Moore came to Wexford on 17 September 1835, he visited his mother's former home in Cornmarket. He also visited his friend Thomas Boyse at his recently completed Bannow House in Grange. On his visit he planted a myrtle tree in the grounds of the Presentation Convent where he played the organ and sang some of his lyrics.

Nicky Rossiter, in his book Wexford – Ireland in Old Photographs, notes how Moore avoided the bustle of the inn by staying at a private house of a Mr N Sparrow in the Bullring that his friend Boyse had sometimes used as lodgings. There he received visitors including the Mayor, a lawyer named Cooper who was an old friend of the family, a musician named PF White, and the editors of the ‘two liberal Wexford newspapers,’ Mr Greene and Mr Devereux.

John Moore was described as a former barrack master of Islandbridge, Co Dublin, when he died on 17 December 1825 aged 84; Anastasia (Codd) Moore died on 8 May 1832 aged 58 or 68; they were buried in nearby Saint Kevin’s Churchyard on Camden Row, off Wexford Street, Dublin.

The family gravestone in Saint Kevin’s churchyard records Moore’s parents and refers to six other children who died young and his sister Helen, who died 18 February 1846, ‘deeply mourned by her brother Thomas Moore, the bard of his much beloved country – Ireland.’

The e plaqueon the the house in Cornmarket, Wexford, where Anastasia Codd was born (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

A cut-limestone plaque was erected in 1864 on the first floor of the house in Cornmarket where Anastasia Codd was born to mark the 100th anniversary of her birth.

The inscription reads:

‘In this house was born and lived to within a few weeks of the birth of her illustrious son Anastasia Codd, the wife of John Moore, and mother of the poet Thomas Moore, and to this house, on the 26 August 1836, came the poet in the zenith of his imperishable fame, to render homage to the memory of the mother he venerated and loved. These are his words, ‘one of the noblest-minded as well as most warm-hearted of all God’s creatures was born under that lowly roof.’

‘Erected Dec 27th 1864, John Greene, JP, Mayor of Wexford.

‘Erected by the Uí Ceinnsealaigh Historical Society May 16th 1926, to replace original tablet damaged by weathering.’

Thomas Moore and his wife Bessy (Dyke) were predeceased by all five of their children. This took its toll on Moore’s health and he eventually fell into senile dementia when he was 69 and died on 25 February 1852 aged 72. He is buried in the churchyard of Saint Nicholas’ Church, close to Sloperton Cottage, his country retreat at Bromham in Wiltshire for 35 years. Bessy died at Sloperton Cottage on 4 September 1865.

Because Moore’s children all died in his own lifetime, he had no direct descendants to clarify any recollections of his family origins in Co Kerry. On the other hand, the house where his mother was born and where his parents once lived has survived, and when I lived in Wexford it was known as Molly Mythen’s.

Thomas Moore’s birthplace in Aungier Street is now known as the Thomas Moore Inn. However, this hardly qualifies as an ancestral home. Nor has an ancestral home been identified in Co Kerry either. So, this honour must fall to the house in Wexford where his mother lived even in the months she was pregnant.

The bar on Cornmarket, in the heart of Wexford Town, has been restored in recent years as the Thomas Moore Tavern and still claims to be one of Wexford’s oldest bars.

The middle house is the birthplace of Anastasia Codd in Cornmarket and was known as Molly Mythen’s from the late 19th century (Photograph: Famous Wexford People in History)

Praying with the Psalms in Lent:
26 March 2022 (Psalms 46)

The Fortezza in Rethymnon in Crete … Psalm 46 inspired Luther’s hymn ‘A Mighty Fortress Is Our God’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

i am stil in hospital in Milton Keynes this weekend after suffering a stroke a week ago. These days have provided additional time for thinking, and before this day begins I am taking some time early this morning (26 March 2022) 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 46:

Psalm 46 is known for its opening words in the English of the King James Version, ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,’ and known by its opening words in Latin, Deus noster refugium et virtus. It is also known as ‘Luther’s Psalm’ and has settings by Bach, Mozart and Pachabel.

Psalm 46 praises God for being a source of power and salvation in times of trouble. In the slightly different numbering in the Greek Septuagint and Latin Vulgate, this is Psalm 45.

This psalm is attributed to the sons of Korah, and the superscript reads: ‘To the leader. Of the Korahites. According to Alamoth. A Song.

The description in the superscript or verse 1 in the Hebrew version, calling for the psalm to be played on alamot (Hebrew, עלמות), could denote either a high-pitched musical instrument or the soprano voices of young girls who went out to dance in celebration of David’s victory over the Philistines. The Jerusalem Bible renders the word alamotas an oboe. The Midrash Tehillim, however, says the word alamot refers to the ‘hidden things’ that God does for his people.

Some commentators suggest this psalm may have been composed after David defeated the enemies of ancient Israel from surrounding lands. The text is divided into three sections, each ending with a Selah, after verses 3, 7 and 11 in the NRSVA (verses 4, 8 and 12 in the Hebrew verse numbering).

Scholars differ as to which river the psalm refers to in verse 4, the ‘river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.’ The Jordan is 32 km north-east of Jerusalem, assuming that the ‘city of God’ is a reference to Jerusalem. But Ezekiel describes a river the will run from beneath the Temple in Jerusalem eastward to the Dead Sea (see Ezekiel 47).

The reference in verse 5 to ‘when the morning dawns’ has been read by one commentator as an allusion to to Abraham, who would rise at daybreak to pray to God.

Verse 10 reads: ‘Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.’ This verse is further developed in Psalm 47, which opens an address to all the nations with the words ‘Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs of joy’ (Psalm 47: 1).

Portions of Psalm 46 are used or referenced in several Jewish prayers, and verse 12 in the Hebrew numbering is part of the Havdalah ceremony, marking the end of Shabbat and ushering in the new week. This psalm is recited as a prayer for the end of all wars.

Psalm 46 is also known as ‘Luther’s Psalm’, as Martin Luther wrote his popular hymn ‘Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott’ (‘A Mighty Fortress Is Our God’), based on Psalm 46. Luther's hymn was called ‘the Marseillaise of the Reformation.’ has been quoted in many musical works, both religious and secular.

Johann Sebastian Bach based his chorale cantata, Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (BWV 80), on Luther’s hymn.

In the 17th century, Johann Pachelbel composed a motet setting of Psalm 46, Gott ist unser Zuversicht und Stärke, and Michel-Richard Delalande based a grand motet on the psalm. Marc-Antoine Charpentier used Psalm 46 for Deus noster refugium (H. 218), written for soloists, chorus, two treble instruments and continuo. As a child Mozart wrote a short motet to the text of the first verse as a gift to the British Museum and as an homage to 16th century English composers such as Thomas Tallis.

For several decades, some theorists have suggested that William Shakespeare placed his mark on the version of Psalm 46 that appears in the Authorised ot King James Version, although most scholars view this as unlikely.

According to this theory, Shakespeare was 46 years old in 1611 when the Authorised Version was completed. Shakespeare’s signature has a few variants, and on at least one occasion he signed himself ‘Shakspeare’, which divides into four and six letters, ‘46’. The 46th word from the beginning of Psalm 46 is ‘shake’ and the 46th word from the end (omitting the liturgical mark ‘Selah’) is ‘spear’ (‘speare’ in the original spelling).

Decorative spice-boxes in the Jewish Museum in Bratislava … portions of Psalm 46 are part of the Havdalah ceremony (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Psalm 46 (NRSVA):

To the leader. Of the Korahites. According to Alamoth. A Song.

1 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
6 The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.

8 Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 ‘Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.’
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Today’s Prayer:

The USPG Prayer Diary this week has a particular focus on ‘Lingering Legacies’ and remembering the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary this morning (26 March 2022) concludes this theme, inviting us to pray:

Let us pray with Michol Thompson, a 14-year-old from Jamaica, as he remembers all Black people who were taken from their homes and forced to work for strangers.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Shakespeare’s memorial in Southwark Cathedral … did Shakespeare leave his mark on Psalm 46 in the Authorised Version? (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