04 July 2022

Irish CND represented at
funeral of Bruce Kent

The former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and the President of Irish CND, Canon Patrick Comerford, at the funeral of Bruce Kent in Saint Mellitus Church, Tollington Park, London (Photograph: Charlotte Hunter, 2022)

The following statement was issued on behalf of the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (Irish CND) earlier today:

Irish CND represented at
funeral of Bruce Kent

The Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (Irish CND) was represented at the funeral of Bruce Kent today (4 July 2022) by the President of Irish CND, Canon Patrick Comerford, a former member of the council of British CND.

Professor Comerford has been a lifelong personal friend of Bruce Kent. Speaking after the funeral, he said Bruce Kent had been a friend of Irish CND and of Ireland for almost half a century. ‘Bruce was closely involved with the re-founding of Irish CND in 1979,’ and formed a lasting friendship with many involved in Irish CND, including the founding president the late Seán MacBride.’

He recalled that Bruce Kent had been part of many Irish CND delegations meeting Irish Government ministers, including the late Charles J Haughey, Brian Lenihan and Oliver J Flanagan, and had a personal friendship with President Michael D Higgins. ‘He was particularly honoured that both he and President Higgins had received the Seán MacBride Peace Prize from the International Peace Bureau,’ Professor Comerford said.

Summer evening walks
through scenes from
‘Wind in the Willows’

Walking through Tombs Meadow in Stony Stratford on a summer evening (Photograph: Charlotte Hunter, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

During these balmy summer evenings, one of our favourite places to walk is Tombs Meadow, on the northern fringe of Stony Stratford and by the banks of the Great Ouse.

The ‘Tombs Meadow Route’ is a 2.2 km walking route by the meadow-fringed river as it winds lazily through the ‘Wind in the Willows’ scene of the Ouse Valley Country Park.

When I post photographs of these walks, I am sometimes asked about the unusual name of Tombs Meadow. I have been told the name comes from the name of the Tombs family, who once farmed this land between the town and the river.

William Arthur Tombs is one of the many names on the War Memorial in Horsefair Green in Stony Stratford.

He was born in 1898, a son of William Joseph and Ellen Tombs, of 20 Park Road, Stony Stratford. His father was a horseman on a farm, probably in Tombs Meadow.

The Roll of Honour for Buckinghamshire shows that William Arthur Tombs enlisted in Bletchley. He was Private 29008 in ‘B’ Company, 7th Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. He was 20 when he died in Thessaloniki on 15 October 1918, and is buried in Doiran Military Cemetery, north of Thessaloniki, close to the border of North Macedonia.

Doiran Cemetery, originally known as Colonial Hill Cemetery No 2, was formed at the end of 1916 as a cemetery for the Doiran front.

The graves are almost entirely those of officers and men of the 22nd and 26th Divisions and largely reflect the fighting of April and May 1917 and the attacks on the Petit-Couronne, and 18-19 September 1918 and the attacks on Pip Ridge and the Grand-Couronne.

In October and November 1918, after the final advance, a few burials took place from the 25th Casualty Clearing Station. After the Armistice, graves were brought into the cemetery from the battlefields and from by some small burial grounds, the most important of which was Strumnitza British Military Cemetery, north-west of Doiran, made by the 40th Casualty Clearing Station in October and November 1918.

Doiran Military Cemetery now contains 1,338 Commonwealth burials of World War I, 449 of them unidentified. There are also one French and 45 Greek war graves. The Doiran Memorial, which stands near the cemetery, was designed by Sir Robert Lorimer with sculpture by Walter Gilbert. It serves as both the Battle Memorial of the British Salonika Force and the place of commemoration for more than 2,000 Commonwealth servicemen who died in Macedonia and whose graves are not known.

My attention was drawn to William Arthur Tombs’s war record because my grandfather, Stephen Edward Comerford (1869-1921), also fought on the Macedonian Front, also known as the Salonika Front, during World War I.

My grandfather was with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, and was sent home from Thessaloniki on sick leave on 3 May 1916. He received all the appropriate war medals and decorations at the end of World War I, but instead of dying on the Macedonian Front, he had a slow, sad and lonely death, dying in hospital on 21 January 1921 with the after-effects of malaria.

The Salonika Front was formed as a result of an attempt by the Allied Powers to aid Serbia, in the autumn of 1915, against the combined attack of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria. The expedition came too late and in insufficient force to prevent the fall of Serbia, and was complicated by the internal political crisis in Greece known as the National Schism.

Eventually, a stable front was established, running from the Adriatic coast of Albania to the Struma River, pitting a multinational Allied force against the Bulgarian Army. The Macedonian front remained quite stable until the great Allied offensive in September 1918, which resulted in the capitulation of Bulgaria and the liberation of Serbia.

William Arthur Tombs from Stony Stratford died on in Thessaloniki on 15 October 1918, just 26 days before the end of World War I.

Walking through Tombs Meadow in Stony Stratford on a summer evening (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Praying with the Psalms in Ordinary Time:
4 July 2022 (Psalm 131)

‘I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother’ (Psalm 131: 2) … ‘Divine Teardrop’ by Peter Cassidy in a recent exhibition at the Wexford Festival Opera (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today in the Calendar of the Church (4 July 2022), the calendar of the Church of England has transferred the Feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle from yesterday’s Sunday celebration. Later this morning, I plan to attend the funeral of my friend Bruce Kent of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). But, efore today begins, I am taking some time this morning to continue my reflections drawing on the Psalms.

In my blog, I am reflecting each morning in this Prayer Diary 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 131:

Psalm 131 is the twelftth in a series of 15 short psalms (Psalm 120-134) known as the ‘Songs of Ascents.’ These psalms begin with the Hebrew words שיר המעלות‎ (Shir Hama’a lot). In the slightly different numbering system in the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate, this is counted as Psalm 130.

Many scholars say these psalms were sung by worshippers as they ascended the road to Jerusalem to attend the three pilgrim festivals. Others say they were sung by the Levite singers as they ascended the 15 steps to minister at the Temple in Jerusalem.

The Mishnah notes the correspondence between the 15 songs and the 15 steps between the men’s court and the women’s courtyards in the Temple. A Talmudic legend says King David composed or sang the 15 songs to calm the rising waters at the foundation of the Temple.

One view says the Levites first sang the Songs of Ascent at the dedication of Solomon’s Temple during the night of 15 Tishri 959 BCE. Another study suggests they were composed for a celebration after Nehemiah’s rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem in 445 BCE. Others suggest they may originally have been songs sung by the exiles returning from Babylon, ascending to Jerusalem or individual poems later collected together and given the title linking them to pilgrimage after the Babylonian captivity.

These psalms are cheerful and hopeful, and they place an emphasis on Zion. They were suited for being sung because of their poetic style and the sentiments they express. They are brief, almost like epigrams, and they are marked by the use of a keyword or repeated phrase that serves as a rung on which the poem ascends to its final theme.

Psalm 131 is sometimes known in English by its first verse in the King James Version, ‘Lord, my heart is not haughty,’ and in Latin it is known as Domine non est exaltatum cor meum. This is one of the shortest psalms, being one of three psalms with only three verses (the others are Psalm 133 and Psalm 134) – the shortest psalm is Psalm 117, with two verses.

In verse 1, the psalmist says he is neither vain nor arrogant to the point of denying God’s greatness and standing.

In verse 2, he recalls that he has successfully become at peace spiritually; he is at peace, as a child in a mother’s arms.

Verse 3 may be a liturgical response sung by pilgrims in Jerusalem.

This psalm in Hebrew is the text of the final movement of Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, an extended work for choir and orchestra, with verse 1 of Psalm 133 added.

When asked what it means to trust in God, the Jewish sage known as the Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Elijah ben Solomon Zalman (1720-1797) of Vilnius, quoted verse 2 of this psalm:

But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
my soul is like the weaned child that is with me

He explained that just as a nursing baby who is satiated does not worry whether there will be more milk when he or she is hungry again, one who trusts in God does not worry about the future.

‘Hope in the Lord from this time on and for evermore’ (Psalm 131: 3) … ‘Tempus Et Ignis Omnia Perdunt, ‘Time and Fire Consume All Things’ … the inscription on the sundial on Sundial House on Church Street, Stony Stratford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Psalm 131 (NRSVA):

A Song of Ascents. Of David.

1 O Lord, my heart is not lifted up,
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvellous for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.

3 O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time on and for evermore.

Today’s Prayer:

The theme in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) this week is ‘Tackling Poverty.’ It was introduced yesterday by Niall Cooper, Director at Church Action on Poverty.

Monday 4 July 2022 (Saint Thomas, Apostle, transferred):

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:

We pray for all who work to provide food for those living in poverty.

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