09 June 2024

A short visit to Dublin
and Bray brings back
good memories from
40 and 50 years ago

Time moves on at McCloskey’s in Donnybrook … memories of poetry readings, drama groups and rugby matches (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Patrick Comerford

I was back in Dublin at the end of last week for a very short family visit, and we stayed for two nights in Bray, Co Wicklow, in the Martello Hotel on the Promenade, facing out onto the sea front.

Seeing the Bray People on a news stand in a nearby supermarket on Friday evening was a reminder that this was one of the titles in the Wexford People Group of Newspapers, where I had worked 50 years ago.

Until I left the Wexford People for The Irish Times in late 1974, one of my pleasant assignments each week was the design and layout of the front page of the Bray People.

Evening lights in Bray and a table at Butler and Barry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Bray has many family links and memories. Until, perhaps, the 1960s, an aunt had lived only three days away from the Martello, at Seanchara House, once known as Tullira, in Wavecrest Terrace on Strand Road. My parents first lived on Putland Road in Bray after they were married almost 80 years ago, at end of World War II in 1945.

I also remember many childhood trips to Bray, when I was able to sneak away and enjoy the thrills of the ‘Bumpers’ and the Ghost Trains or – when some of us were more adventurous – climbing Bray Head and pretending we could see across to the coast of Wales on the other side of the Irish Sea.

In more recent decades, I often enjoyed walks along the seafront in Bray or around the harbour, followed by coffee or lunch in cafés such as Carpe Diem.

Living near Milton Keynes for the last two or three years, it is difficult (though not impossible) to find the same opportunities for a walk on any beach. So, as we had dinner in Butler and Barry on one of those evenings, it was good to share the joys of looking out onto the sea below and beyond.

Friday was a packed day, with family visits in Rathmines and Knocklyon, and the Dart connections between Bray and Lansdowne Road were ideal for setting out on a walk through some of south Dublin suburbs that retain many sweet memories for me, and that allowed me to recall some key anniversaries that take place this year.

The former Bea House on Pembroke Park … memories of student days at the Irish School of Ecumenics 40 years ago (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

A short walk from the Lansdowne Road stop on the Dart line in from Bray brought me to Pembroke Park, off Herbert Park, and the house that was once known as Bea House when it was the administrative centre of the Irish School of Ecumenics.

I was burning the candle at both ends 40 years ago, when I studied post-graduate theology there in the 1980s while working at The Irish Times spending a lot of time campaigning with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).

There were happy memories of Robin Boyd, who had been the director of ISE, Alan Falconer, who was my tutor and, at the time, also a neighbour, and Bill McSweeney, who supervised my dissertation, leading to my graduation through ISE from Trinity College Dublin in 1984.

Other part-time lecturers 40 years ago included Des Dinan, who was then working on his PhD and who is now a professor at Georg Mason University, while the visiting lecturers included Jürgen Moltmann, who died last week, and Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware), who died two years ago.

There were happy memories too of many walks with other students from Pembroke Park through Donnybrook and along Marlborough Road to Ranelagh and lectures in Milltown Park.

I had to stop too to see McCloskey’s pub in Donnybrook, although it is now closed and has been sold. This had been a favourite ‘haunt’ in the early 1970s, when I was involved in poetry groups and poetry groups based around the corner in Muckross Park on Marlborough Road. And there was the house at 52 Marlborough Road, where I stayed those weekends I travelled up to Dublin from Wexford until 50 years ago, when I left Wexford and the Wexford People and joined The Irish Times at the end of 1974.

Street art in Rathmines last week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

I walked on through Ranelagh, once again sought out the house in Old Mountpleasant where my grandfather had once lived, and then found myself on Belgrave Road, where I worked 20 years ago, from 2002 until 2006, when I joined the Church of Ireland Theological College, later the Church of Ireland Theological Institute.

I stopped for lunch in Rathmines, visited my brother in Rathmines and once again visited the house in Rathmines where my father was born in 1918, and the house in Terenure where he spent his childhood.

By late afternoon, I was at the house where I lived in Knocklyon from 1996 until 2017, when I moved to the Rectory in Askeaton, Co Limerick. At the polling booth in Firhouse, I bumped into an old friend and neighbour, Dr Vincent Kenny. We caught up on many shared memories in Delaney’s, also known as the Knocklyon, before I caught a bus to Blackrock Station, and the Dart to Bray.

Evening lights at Blackrock Station last week waiting for the Dart to Bray (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024; click on image for full-screen view)

I am working on a paper for Salvador Ryan’s next collection, looking at ‘Childhood and the Irish.’ Throughout the day, I found myself thinking of the various places James Joyce had lived as a child, including Brighton Square, Rathgar, and the house where he was bor, Saint Joseph’s Church in Terenure where he was baptised, the houses in Castlewood Avenue, Rathmines, and back at Martello Terrace, Bray, where he had spent parts of his childhood years, and the place in Terenure where his mother was born.

But next Sunday is Bloomsday (16 June 2024), and perhaps I should tell some of those stories then and more of them in that planned book that Salvador Ryan is commissioning and editing.

Meanwhile, as I was on my own Bloom-like odyssey around Dublin 4 and Dublin 6, Charlotte was back in Bray, and decided to climb Bray Head. Sorry to say, she did not catch a glimpse of the coast of Wales either.

We had dinner in the Martello on Friday evening, and caught the plane back from Dublin to Birmingham yesterday (Saturday) afternoon, and were back in Stony Stratford by early evening.

The ‘Bray People’ … still going 50 years after I left in 1974 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Daily prayer in Ordinary Time 2024:
31, 9 June 2024, Trinity II

Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick, was built in 1831, but there has been a church on the site since the 13th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

This is the Second Sunday after Trinity (Trinity II, 9 June 2024).

In the two weeks after Trinity Sunday, I illustrated my prayers and reflections with images and memories of cathedrals, churches, chapels and monasteries in Greece and England dedicated to the Holy Trinity. I am continuing this theme this week, with images and memories of churches I know in Ireland that are dedicated to the Holy Trinity.

Meanwhile, StonyLive!, a celebration of the cultural talent in and around Stony Stratford, which began last weekend, comes to an end today.

We were in Dublin and Bray over the last few days, and caught a flight back to Birmingham yesterday. I am back in Stony Stratford this morning, and later this morning I hope to be at the Parish Eucharist in Saint Mary and Giles Church. But, before today begins, I am taking some quiet time this morning to give thanks, for reflection, prayer and reading in these ways:

1, today’s Gospel reading;

2, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary;

3, the Collects and Post-Communion prayer of the day.

The east end of Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Mark 3: 20-35 (NRSVUE):

20 Then he went home, and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 21 When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” 23 And he called them to him and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

28 “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness but is guilty of an eternal sin” – 30 for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

31 Then his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside asking for you.” 33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

The East Window in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, by Catherine O’Brien, depicting the Parable of the Sower (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick:

For five years, I was priest-in-charge of the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes in the Diocese of Limerick, including Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick (2017-2022).

Holy Trinity Church was built at the west end of Rathkeale in 1831, but there has been a church on the site since the 13th century. Along with the hilltop pinnacle of Saint Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, the tower of Holy Trinity forms a notable skyline in Rathkeale that is visible for many miles.

A comprehensive list of Rectors of Rathkeale survives from the mid-15th century, when Dennis O’Farrelly (Offeralye) was Rector from 1459 to 1471.

It is believed the present church was designed by the Limerick-based Pain brothers, James Pain (1779-1877), whose other works in the Rathkeale group of parishes include Castletown Church and the former Rectory in Askeaton, and George Pain (1792-1838). The church is the third to be built on the site and may incorporate parts of a church that was standing there in 1825.

The simple and regular form of the nave and the single-cell with tower design are characteristic of Board of First Fruits churches of the era. Samuel Lewis wrote in 1837: ‘The church is a very handsome edifice, in the early English style, with a lofty square tower, embattled and crowned with crocketed pinnacles: it was erected in 1831, near the site of the former church, and is built of black marble raised from a quarry on the river’s bank near the town …’

Funds were raised in 1877 for a new chancel, so the church is a composite of work carried out throughout the 19th century.

The carved stone features add artistic interest to the façade, as do the stained glass windows by Catherine O’Brien: the east window depicting the Parable of the Sower (1931) and the double lancet window in the south nave depicting Saint Paul and Saint Luke (1937). The variety of window openings includes Tudor and Gothic Revival styles.

The churchyard is the burial place for many Palatine families who moved to this area in the early 18th century. They were brought to the Rathkeale area by in 1709 by Thomas Southwell, whose family inherited some of the old Billingsley and Dowdall estate in the Rathkeale area. The names of the Palatine families buried here include Bovenizer, Teskey, Shier and Sparling.

The most imposing memorial is the Massy vault, built in 1800 by James FitzGerald Massy of Stoneville in 1800 and restored by Lucy Massy in 1907.

Beside Holy Trinity Church stands Church Street National School, formerly Rathkeale Number 2 School, built almost 200 years ago, at about the same time as Holy Trinity Church.

The window in the west tower in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayers (Sunday 9 June 2024, Trinity II):

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘Estate Community Development Mission, Diocese of Colombo, Church of Ceylon.’ This theme is introduced today with a programme update:

High up in the hills and nestled between the fields of tea lies a village. Many mothers and fathers here are born into generations of tea plantation workers where work from a young age is very common. They aren’t paid a living wage even though the hours are long and exhausting. Sometimes parents don’t know if they will be able to put food on the table. Often their children drop out of school to work on the tea plantation too. “I have seen young boys and girls out plucking tea leaves for hours in the hot sun where they risk being bitten by snakes. It’s so dangerous, but they have to continue working.” explains Kavitha, a local teacher.

The Diocese of Colombo, Church of Ceylon seeks to bring hope for children and improve livelihoods in plantation estate communities especially through schools and education. Being at school keeps children safe from the dangers of working in the fields.

The Church of Ceylon is one of USPG’s Partners in Mission (PIM).

The USPG Prayer Diary today (9 June 2024, Trinity II) invites us to pray with these words from the Catholic Social Justice Network:

God of freedom, we pray for all your children around the world who are bound by unjust child labour. Free them from their work so they can learn and grow. Heal their physical, emotional, and spiritual wounds, and protect them from further harm and exploitation.

The Collect:

Lord, you have taught us
that all our doings without love are nothing worth:
send your Holy Spirit
and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love,
the true bond of peace and of all virtues,
without which whoever lives is counted dead before you.
Grant this for your only Son Jesus Christ’s sake,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion Prayer:

Loving Father,
we thank you for feeding us at the supper of your Son:
sustain us with your Spirit,
that we may serve you here on earth
until our joy is complete in heaven,
and we share in the eternal banquet
with Jesus Christ our Lord.

Additional Collect:

Faithful Creator,
whose mercy never fails:
deepen our faithfulness to you
and to your living Word,
Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Inside Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, looking east (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition copyright © 2021, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.