Tuesday 30 June 2009

Comerford Profiles 18: James Comerford (1817-1902), Victorian stucco artist and architect

James Comerford … Victorian stucco artist and architect, he designed The Irish House on the corner of Winetavern Street and Wood Quay, Dublin (Comerford Family Collection)

Patrick Comerford

… Now let me not omit the Plastering Art
Which of the Building Trades a Branch and part
So near akin they brothers each may call
Who smoothly finish the unpolished wall
– Henry Nelson, 1727


One of the most endearing aspects of Irish stuccowork is its remarkable diversity, from the grand Palladian mansions to the modest thatched cottages, according to Joseph McDonnell of the Faculty of Art History and Complementary Studies in the National College of Art and Design, Dublin. He says Dublin’s heritage of decorative stuccowork is unparalleled in any other European city, and it far surpasses anything to be found in such centres of Georgian architecture as Edinburgh or Bath.[1]

One of the great exponents of Victorian stuccowork in Dublin during the arts and crafts movement was James Comerford (1817-1902), who was born in Bunclody, Co Wexford, was a stucco artist and architect of note in late Victorian Dublin. His artistic genius was recognised by art critics and historians only long after the destruction of his most important work, The Irish House on the corner of Wood Quay and Winetavern Street, Dublin. Yet, as an artist and an architect, he reflected in his works the changing values in Irish politics and the Irish search for identity in the final decades of the 19th century.

At the same time, James Comerford took control of one of the surviving city guilds in Dublin, was involved in transforming it into an early trade union, and used the opportunities this gave him to ensure the employment and the career prospects of his close family members, bringing his brothers and cousins from Co Wexford to work in the rapidly-expanding building industry in Dublin.

In his closing days, James may have been involved in the private publication of a history of the Comerford and Comberford families. When he died in 1902, he was in his mid 80s. But it was only at the end of that century that the value of his legacy came to be appreciated.

Irish rococo and stucco work

James Comerford’s training as a stuccodore came a generation or two after stucco art had been introduced in south-east Ireland by figures such as Robert West, Michael Stapleton and Patrick Osborne.

The modern techniques of today seldom manage to distinguish between the use of rococo and stucco in plasterwork. Rococo is a style of 18th century French art and interior design, but the word rococo – a combination of the French rocaille, or shell, and the Italian barocco, or Baroque style – was not used in English until about 1836, when it appears as a colloquialism meaning “old-fashioned.” Since the mid-19th century, however the term has been accepted by art historians, and rococo is now widely recognised as a major period in the development of European art. Rococo plasterwork first appears in Irish architecture in work as such as that of the immigrant Italian-Swiss artists Bagutti and Artari, and is a feature in houses by James Gibbs. The work of the Lafranchini brothers in Ireland equals anything that was attempted in England.[2]

On the other hand, stucco is traditionally a soft, workable plaster, sometimes used in sculpting. Primarily it is worked into a decorative background. In Ireland, stucco first appears in the work of artists like the Lafranchini brothers, Paul (1695-1776) and Philip (1702-1779), originally from Locarno in Switzerland. They worked on some of great Palladian mansions built in Ireland in the mid-18th century, and their masterpieces include Carton House and Castletown House, Celbridge, Co Kildare, Russborough, near Blessington, Co Wicklow, and Tyrone House in Dublin.[3]

When the great streets and squares of Georgian Dublin were being built in the 18th century, the art of plastering reached a peak of intricate and decorative statuary, with panels and mouldings in the town houses of Dublin’s greatest citizens displaying their owners’ riches and status. Most of the Irish stucco work appreciated by art historians and reviewers today is the work on internal stucco ceilings and walls in the 18th century, and some of the early Irish-born artists who worked in stucco included Robert West (died 1770), Michael Stapleton (1747-1801), and Patrick Osborne.

Robert West, who was born in Waterford, was a stucco worker and builder and the progenitor of the Dublin school of plasterwork of the 1760s. The academy for teaching drawing in George’s Lane, Dublin, which he opened in 1747, was later taken over by the Royal Dublin Society. The RDS then employed him at the school, where the students included the Kilkenny-born painter of miniature portraits, John Comerford [see Comerford Profiles 13: John Comerford (1770-1832), artist]. His great works include the elaborate stucco work in Newbridge House, Donabate, Co Dublin, which was designed by James Gibb (1682-1754) for Archbishop Cobbe. It is thought that West also built Newman House on Saint Stephen’s Green. A house built by West in 20 Lower Dominic Street, Dublin, has a magnificent staircase. His other works include the rococo plasterwork at Florence Court, Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh. He died in 1770.[4]

Michael Stapleton’s work includes Lucan House, Co Dublin, the principal reception rooms of Powerscourt House, South William Street (late 1770s), the interior of the Examination Hall in Trinity College Dublin (1780s), Marlay House, Rathfarnham, 16 and 17 Saint Stephen’s Green, 5 and 6 Ely Place, 19, 20, 35 and 43 North Great George’s Street, and houses on Merrion Square, as well as many of the original buildings at Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth. Recently, Stapleton was the subject of a major exhibition organised by Conor Lucey, with an accompanying lavish catalogue, at the Irish Architectural Archives in 45 Merrion Square, where the interiors are attributed to Stapleton.[5]

Patrick Osborne’s best known work is probably Castletown Cox, Co Kilkenny (ca 1774).[6]

Some of these stuccodores, including Stapleton, were also speculative builders, as were many of the leading carpenters of the day, such as Richard Worthington, who opened the Builders’ Evening Academy in Clarendon Street in 1785, “Where drawing in architecture is taught in all its branches, theoretical and practical, on the most easy and familiar plan.” Stapleton built No 9 Harcourt Street, which was followed by two more houses in Harcourt Street, and a row of three houses on the south side of Mountjoy Square.[7] However, as a Roman Catholic, Stapleton was excluded from membership of the Guild of Saint Bartholomew for Bricklayers and Plasterers, the very guild that James Comerford later managed to take control of and turn into a trade union.[8]

An old Dublin guild and union

The coat-of-arms used by the Guild of Plasterers and successive unions representing plasterers

The Dublin plasterers’ union, now the Operative Plasterers and Allied Trades Society of Ireland (OPATSI), is the oldest autonomous trade union in Ireland, tracing its history back to the 17th century when the bricklayers and plasterers of Dublin were granted a Royal Charter in 1670 to organise themselves into a guild under the patronage of Saint Bartholomew.[9]

The charter from Charles II gave the bricklayers and plasterers the right to establish the working rules between handicraft masters (employers) journeymen (day workers) and apprentices within the city of Dublin. Although the guild was not a trade union, it could fix prices, wages and hours, regulate apprenticeships, provide charity and maintain the standards of the arts and mysteries of the trades. Not all plasterers in Dublin were members of this guild, and some of the foremost plasterers in the city, such as Stapleton, were excluded from the guild. The carpenters, slaters, masons and other building crafts had a separate, older guild, dating from 1508. These guilds were dominated by the masters, and as freemen of the city their members exercised political and commercial power, with direct representation on the city council and the right to vote in parliamentary elections. Anyone not a member of the Church of Ireland was excluded from membership.[10]

The city guilds were a colourful part of Dublin’s city pageantry, and in the guild processions around the city bounds or franchises, and on Saint Bartholomew’s Days (24 August), the plasterers paraded in their colours of blue and orange, carrying their tools – the hawk and trowel.[11]

By 1800, guild membership was seen as merely a route to acquiring political power through the freeman’s vote, so that many guild members had no links with the guild’s original trade. Meanwhile, Dublin’s plasterers formed their own organisation independent of the bricklayers, and the Society of Stucco Plasterers of Dublin emerged in the 1820s. In 1825, the Society of Stucco Plasterers of Dublin printed its own rule book, and the Dublin plasterers joined a city-wide lockout of building workers protesting at their loss of earnings due to a currency devaluation.

Hostility to the trade union movement continued, and Daniel O’Connell forced a government inquiry into their conduct in 1838. The Dublin plasterers’ society gave evidence to the inquiry. William Darcy, secretary of the plasterers’ society, said it had 220 members and was 175 or 167 years old, which would trace the society back to the foundation of the Guild of Saint Bartholomew of Plasterers and Bricklayers. By 1833, only 39 of the 104 members of the bricklayers’ and plasterers’ guild were working in the trade; of these, only seven of them were journeymen plasterers.[12]

The Municipal Corporation Reform Act (1840) took away the political power of the guilds, their existence was rendered meaningless, and most of the guilds responded by winding up their activities and disposing of their properties and assets. However, the attempt to wind up the Guild of Bricklayers and Plasterers in 1841, when the bricklayers and plasterers of the city claimed the craft rights of the guild for their own members. The unions won their case in the Court of Queen’s Bench in June 1845, with the court affirming their right to assert the continued validity of the charter of 1670. However, this was this was short-lived; the proposed revival of a once-powerful guild alarmed the employers of Dublin, and another act in 1846 abolished all guild rights.[13]

The two trades’ societies – the bricklayers and the plasterers – inherited the original guild charter of 1670, and when their campaign to assert their rights as successors to the guild came to an end in 1846, a copy of the charter was retained by the plasterers’ union.[14]

Domestic demand

The use of decorative plaster applied to the exterior of buildings was commonplace in 19th century Ireland, as Graham Hickey points out. It typically took the form of simple mouldings around windows and doors, often with brackets and more elaborate details such as a cornice or a frieze.[15]

By the mid and late 19th century, there had been an explosion in the provision of domestic, suburban housing in Dublin. Stuccowork was in demand for the interiors of the middle class houses built in areas such as Rathmines and Ranelagh by developers such as Patrick Plunkett, while on the exterior of houses, stucco on the doors and windows helped to enhance their image. The popularity of stucco grew as a result of the relative cheapness of stucco compared with dressed stone, and in particular the explosion of post-Famine commercial development in the 1860s and 1870s, when fashionable shop and pub owners wished to embellish their premises with eye-catching decorative forms.[16]

Stuccowork also provided an easy and relatively inexpensive means by which appearance of older buildings could be modernised, as well as creating elaborate shopfronts at ground-floor level. [17] The creation of these large-scale decorative compositions required casting many pieces off-site in a workshop using a lime-based plaster that was poured into moulds. Once set, these pieces were brought to the site and erected on the façade, with large decorative elements secured in position using a hard-bonding cement and metal brackets. [18]

The decline of an art form

The Irish House on the corner of Wood Quay and Winetavern Street

Yet, surprisingly, as an artist, the reputation of the stucco plasterer was in decline by the mid-19th century. The stuccodores or stucco plasterers remained master craft workers, but they had lost their equality with architects, and few of these craftsmen worked both as stucco plasterers and as architects.

This decline in reputation was conveyed in a front-page editorial comment in The Irish Builder on 1 June 1870, under the heading ‘Street Architecture in Dublin’:[19]

Professor C.A. Cameron’s lecture at the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland reminds us of many absurdities in our lines of street architecture. Dublin has decidedly improved in this particular within a few years, but unfortunately it is, to some extent, confined, as a new contemporary jocosely remarks, to “insurance offices and gin palaces.” We have now but few opportunities for designing palatial mansions or magnificent public buildings like our ancestors in bygone days; we are almost exclusively confined in the exercise of the mysteries of the twin sister of the arts to mercantile establishments, the proprietors of which are never satisfied unless we give them enormous opens filled with plate glass, with no visible means of support except sham pilasters for a heavy superstructure, upon which, from this cause, it is impossible to develop taste; possibly, keeping this in view, the genius who has designed the unsightly structure now in process of erection at the corner of Winetavern-street, on the quays (which we understand is intended for a gin palace), having no scope in the substructure, directed his entire attention to its super. We were for a considerable time puzzled to discover what its sky outline was intended to represent, but plasterers have been busily engaged upon it for the past few weeks, and they have brought into view, by a plentiful application of Portland cement, six ludicrous imitations of round towers perched upon its parapet. We trust for the honour of the profession, the design will be ignored by the architects of Dublin, and that it will prove to be the production of some juvenile anxious to try his “prentice hand,” who has derived all his architectural knowledge from enlarging details upon a panel in a carpenter’s workshop; or possibly its merits may be due to the poetic imagery of the proprietor, which would lead him to a realization of Moore’s celebrated lines, “On Lough Neagh’s banks,” – everybody knows the remainder, we need not quote them; but unfortunately for his misapplied taste, there are few attractions for the fishermen in the fetid waters of the Liffey, and still fewer chances of his round towers being reflected “shining beneath its waves” – at least in their present contaminated state.

The snobbery of the anonymous reviewer is unashamed and without disguise: his sneering at the use of Portland cement; his crass dismissal both of the working class public houses as “gin palaces” and of the new employers of the lower middle classes, the burgeoning insurance companies; his hankering after the palatial mansions of our ancestors; his elevation of architecture, with its mysteries, to the status of “the twin sister of the arts”; his pretentious literary allusions with his references to the works of Thomas Moore; and his dismissal of the artist involved, a “genius” who ought to be ignored by architects, as a juvenile anxious to try his “prentice hand,” and who has derived all his architectural knowledge from enlarging details upon a panel in a carpenter’s workshop.

No doubt the anonymous author – who would have preferred to dine in the palatial mansions of his imaginary ancestors than to drink in the gin palaces of the working class – may also have been anxious to dismiss the new building because of the very direct political statements in its imagery, for the “unsightly structure” that was being demolished verbally as it was being erected on the corner of Winetavern Street and Wood Quay was, of course, The Irish House.

This eye-catching, distinctive building – which has since come to be appreciated as one of the finest pubs in Dublin and a lost masterpiece of the late Victorian arts and crafts movement – was designed and erected by the Dublin partnership of Burnett and Comerford.

William Burnett, who was one of the partners in this business, had regularly exhibited with his older brother Francis Burnett, who in turn had worked for the Cork sculptor, Thomas Kirk RHA (1781-1845), who sculpted Admiral Nelson for the top of Nelson’s Pillar in Dublin. In 1852, the Burnett brothers exhibited together at the Cork Arts Exhibition, and William Burnett that year also showed a bust of Archbishop Murray of Dublin in an exhibition organised by the Royal Hibernian Academy in Lower Abbey Street, Dublin. By 1862, he had a studio at 10 North Earl Street, Dublin, from which he operated as a “sculptor and executor of monuments.”[20]

The Comerford partner in the enterprise was no juvenile either, nor was he anxious to try his “prentice hand.” He was my great-grandfather, James Comerford, a stuccodore and architect from Newtownbarry (present-day Bunclody), Co Wexford, who was then in his early 50s.

Family background

James Comerford (1775-1825) of Netownbarry ... father of James Comerford (1817-1902)

James Comerford, who was born near Newtownbarry (now Bunclody), Co Wexford, in 1816 or 1817,[21] was the youngest son of James Comerford of Ballyminane, Newtownbarry, Co Wexford (ca 1775-1825) [see Comerford Profiles 12: James Comerford (1775-1825) and witnesses to the 1798 Rising]. The younger James Comerford was named after his father, and later claimed that his father had been present at the Battles of Newtownbarry and at Wexford Bridge in 1798. I have no documentary evidence for this strong strand in family tradition, although in the 1990s, when my aunt presented me with an old sword that had been a family heirloom for generations, she claimed it had been in James Comerford’s possession in 1798.

The elder James Comerford was a contemporary of James Comerford, who was murdered alongside the Revd Robert Burrows in Kyle Glebe in one of the opening shots of the Rising in May 1798. James Comerford, my great-great-grandfather, was named, in turn, after his uncle James Comerford, who lived in the Langton House in the Butterslip, Kilkenny, his wife’s family home [see Comerford Profiles, ].

The first Comerfords had moved from Kilkenny to the Bunclody area in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, facilitated perhaps by their ties of kinship with the Kavanaghs of Clonmullen. Members of the family are buried both in Old Kilmyshall, close to the grave of Eibhlínn a Ruain, and in Saint Colman’s (Church of Ireland) churchyard in Templeshanbo, including Edmund Comerford (ca 1722-1788), and James Comerford (1775-1825), the grandfather and father of the stucco artist, James Comerford.

James Comerford (1775-1825) would have been aware not only of the family’s political values, but also of its artistic connections, and he grew up with a sense of history that has been shared through the generations in his family. His uncle and aunt, James Comerford and Anne (née Langton) of the Butterslip, Kilkenny, were hosts to and were painted by the Kilkenny-born miniaturist, John Comerford[22] [see Comerford Profiles 13: John Comerford (1770-1832), artist]. His niece, Eleanor Comerford, was married to John Whitty, a first cousin of Father John Murphy of 1798.

Bishop Michael Comerford ... prominent 19th century historian

His nephew, James Comerford of Carlow, was the father of the Carlow historian, Bishop Michael Comerford [see Comerford Profiles 16: Bishop Michael Comerford (1831-1895), bishop and historian], who was a co-founder of the Ossory Archaeological Society and the author of the definitive history of the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin.

The Battle of the Pound and shaping political values

Newtownbarry (Bunclody), Co Wexford, in the 19th century

This background explains many of the later interests and the political and social values of the younger James Comerford.

The Comerfords of Bunclody were prosperous shopkeepers, and later generations included doctors and lawyers. However, James was the youngest son of a younger son, and he was only seven or eight when his father died at the now relatively young age of 50 in 1825.

Six years later, one of the most violent and traumatic scenes in Bunclody since the end of the 1798 Rising erupted on a Saturday in June 1831. The yeomanry had been called out to deal with a protest against the sale of cattle that had been seized in response to the non-payment of tithes. Local people alleged the tithes were being demanded before they were due and payment was refused. Two head of cattle, worth less than £3, belonging to Patrick Doyle, Tombrick, and another belonging to a man named Nowlan were seized and were sold in Newtownbarry on 18 June. The sale faced strong local opposition, and up to 200 yeomen were put on alert in Newtownbarry, alongside 37 policemen.[23]

When a magistrate on the scene, Captain William Graham, told the people to disperse, an altercation broke out, with stone-throwing and some jostling before a single shot was fired and a volley rang out. Three people were killed as they ran for cover. Those who ran towards the River Slaney had no cover so that most of the casualties were among them. A yeoman, William Rogan, died from a musket ball to the head, which local lore claims came from one of his colleagues. Three or four lay dead on the road, while more were mortally wounded. It was a “Black Saturday” in the town. At the end of the day, the dead included Andrew McDonald, James O’Neill, Stephen Whitty, Michael Doyle, Thomas Butler, Myles Dillon, James Doyle, Philip Redmond, Patrick Leary of Rossard and another man named Leary, Mary Mulrooney, pregnant mother of six or seven children, and a boy named Thomas Waters from Barnahask. A boy called John Byrne, who was hit in the chest, died the following Tuesday, and John Doyle was blinded in both eyes. In all, 14 people were killed and 25 were wounded in what became known as the Battle of the Pound.[24]

Bunclody in the 21st century ... William Comerford’s house, on the left-hand side of the street, is now the post office

The inquest opened at the Courthouse in Church Street on Monday 20 June 1831 and continued until Wednesday 29 June. But the jury of six Catholics and six Protestants – including William Comerford – failed to reach an agreement. The foreman became ill and was discharged. The other jurors were discharged, but refused to be sworn to secrecy. But in the aftermath and in the face of strong public outrage, the yeomanry were replaced by the constabulary as the first line of defence against civil commotion, and by 1834, there were 34 constabulary barracks, with a total of 218 men, in Co Wexford.[25]

Early career

Peter Walsh points out that while plastering was in the Comerford family, neither James Comerford’s “father nor grandfather has been stuccodores.”[26] However, James Comerford’s elder brothers, Richard Comerford and Robert Comerford, both worked as stucco plasterers, and they appear to have taken care of the early education and training of James Comerford.

The Friary, Wexford ... the children of the Comerford brothers were baptised here while they were working in Wexford Town (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Comerford brothers’ exercises in stucco art and decoration blossomed and matured during their work with the Wexford architect Richard Pierce (1801-1854), whose work in Co Wexford has since been over-shadowed by Augustus Welby Pugin (1812-1852), with whom he later worked with closely, taking charge of the work on Saint Aidan’s Cathedral, Enniscorthy, and the “Twin Churches” in Wexford Town.[27]

In 1825-1826, Pierce built a new parish church in Newtownbarry (Bunclody), the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene. Because the Maxwell-Barry family refused to allow a Roman Catholic parish church in the village, the church was built outside the boundaries of the parish, in the townland of Ballinaprk, then part of Kilrush Parish.[28]

In 1831, the year of the Battle of the Pound, Pierce also built a new church for neighbouring Kilmyshall, which was also part of Bunclody parish. Many members of the Comerford family are buried nearby, in “Old Kilmeashal” graveyard, the burial place of the Kavanagh family of Clonmullen, including Eibhlín a Rúin. Pierce’s church in Kilmyshall is a large-barn-type building with Gothic, Georgian-style plain glass windows.[29]

The Comerford brothers went on to work as stuccodores on the churches built by Pierce and Pugin throughout Co Wexford between 1839 and 1842. Pugin was introduced to Co Wexford in June 1838 through the Irish family connections of his patron in England, John Talbot (1791-1852), 16th Earl of Shrewsbury, Waterford and Wexford. Shrewsbury’s wife, Maria Theresa Talbot, was one of the two daughters of William Talbot of Castle Talbot, Blackwater, Co Wexford. Her uncle, John Hyacinth Talbot (1794-1868), was the first Roman Catholic MP for Co Wexford after Catholic Emancipation in 1829. A rich man through his marriage into the Redmond family, John H Talbot met Pugin at Shrewsbury’s Staffordshire home, Alton Towers, brought Pugin to Castle Talbot and introduced him to Co Wexford, where the patronage of the Talbot and Redmond families secured him most of his Irish commissions.[30]

In Richard Pierce, Pugin found a builder who was both “an invaluable man for Irish business” and who “perfectly understands all the material manners & prices of the country & my drawings as well.”[31]

The first of Pugin’s churches in Co Wexford was the Church of the Assumption in Bree, which was commissioned in 1838, thanks to the patronage of the Redmond family. Work began at the end of 1837 or early in 1838, and the church was completed in 1839 or 1840.[32]

In 1839, Pugin was commissioned by the Bishop of Ferns, James Keating, to carry out temporary repairs in the pro-cathedral in Enniscorthy and to design a new cathedral for the town. Saint Aidan’s Cathedral was modelled by Pugin in his trademark Gothic-revival cathedral style, and was inspired by the ruins of Tintern Abbey in Wales. The foundation stone was laid in 1843 and the cathedral, the largest Pugin building in Ireland, was built between 1843 and 1849, with the first Mass being celebrated in the completed chancel and transepts in 1846.[33]

In the sanctuary, behind where the high altar first stood, the reredos, still in its original position, has nine niches each with sacrificial and eucharistic themes:[34]

1, The Sacrifice of Abel;
2, The sacrifice of Noah;
3, The offering of Melchizedek;
4, The sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham;
5, An angel with the veil of the Tabernacle;
6, The eating of the Paschal Lamb;
7, The Israelites gathering manna in the wilderness;
8, Elijah convincing the false prophets by bringing fire from Heaven for his sacrifice (I Kings 18).
9, Elijah being fed by a raven.

To the left of the high altar, a side altar is dedicated to Saint Aidan, the patron of the Diocese of Ferns, and has three niches:

1, Saint Aidan with his parents who are handing on the faith to him;
2, Saint Aidan as the first Bishop of Ferns;
3, Saint Aidan on his death bed, with members of the local Church in Ferns.

These figures may be the work of James Comerford, and prefigure his later work on John’s Lane Church and Saint Kevin’s Church in Dublin, and his secular work on The Irish House, Wood Quay, and the Oarsman in Ringsend.

The interior decorations of the new cathedral in Enniscorthy were completed in subsequent decades according to Pugin’s plan, but the cathedral was reordered and renovated according to the guidelines of the Second Vatican Council in 1994.[35]

Meanwhile, as Pugin was building Saint Aidan’s Cathedral in Enniscortthy, Pierce was also building a new church for Castledockrell, a large, rectangular barn-type building that shows Pugin’s influence in its Gothic windows. Later, when Pierce’s 1826 Church of Saint Mary Magdalene in Bunclody was demolished in 1970s, the marble high altar and tabernacle, probably the work of the older Comerford brothers, was transferred to Pierce’s church in Castledockrell.[36]

Saint Michael’s Church, Gorey (1839-1843) was built by Pugin for the Esmonde family, whose coat-of-arms, with the date 1839, can be seen over the main door. This was Pugin’s first cruciform church and was built in the Norman or Romanesque style rather than his usual, favoured Gothic style. Around the same time, he also designed the Loreto Convent in Gorey, and his chapel for Loreto Abbey in Rathfarnham, Co Dublin. John H. Talbot was a friend of the president of Saint Peter’s College, Wexford, the Revd John Sinnott, and so Pugin was commissioned to design a new college chapel. The foundation stone was laid on 18 June 1838, and Pugin attended the blessing and opening on 15 June 1840. Saint Alphonsus’s Church, Barntown (1844-1848), in the parish of Glynn, was planned by Pugin as a complete Catholic parish church. It includes a nave and aisles with belfry, south porch, wide alleys for processions, a distinct and deep chancel, a sacristy and Lady Chapel. Saint Mary’s Church, Tagoat, the most important of Pugin’s Irish churches, was built as the parish church of John H Talbot and was dedicated in 1846.[37]

Saint James, the Gothic revival church in Ramsgrange (1838-1843), Co Wexford, was built according to a modified version of Pugin’s plan for Saint Peter’s College Chapel, although JJ McCarthy later claimed that Pugin was very angry when he heard how his plans had been used.[38]

John Street, Wexford, with Rowe Street Church ahead, and the rails of the Friary to the left (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

James Comerford lived in Wexford with his brothers Richard and Robert Comerford in the 1840s and later he would take care of their children after his brothers died. James was probably living in John Street, Wexford Town, until about 1851.[39]

The foundation stones for Wexford’s “Twin Churches,” the Church of the Assumption in Bride Street and the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Rowe Street, were laid on 27 June 1851. The twin churches, built between 1851 and 1858 by the far-sighted Parish Priest of Wexford, Father James Roche, and were designed by Pugin’s pupil and partner, Robert Pierce. Their twin spires, 69m (226 ft) in height, dominate Wexford’s skyline.[40]

James Comerford worked on both churches as a stucco plasterer at an early stage in the work, perhaps contributing to the mosaics on the main doors of both churches that portray much of local history. The Church of the Assumption opened in April 1858, but by then James Comerford had long moved from Wexford to Dublin. Meanwhile, Pugin-style churches continued to be built in Co Wexford, including the Cliffe family chapel at Bellevue, Ballyhogue (JJ McCarthy, 1859-1860), the Power family oratory at Edermine House (EW Pugin or McCarthy, 1858-1860), and Riverchapel (McCarthy, 1882).[41]

Move to Dublin

After working throughout Co Wexford as a stuccodore on the Pugin churches being built in the county, James Comerford moved to Dublin at about the age of 34 around 1851, and he was living in Stephen Street, close to Dublin Castle, by August 1852, a full month before Pugin’s death.[42]

Although family tradition says James Comerford worked on the stucco decoration of the Chapel Royal in Dublin Castle. But the Chapel Royal, which was designed by Francis Johnson, opened on Christmas Day 1814 … three years before James was born in Co Wexford.

However, 1852 is a crucial year in ecclesiastical art and architecture in Ireland, and the date helps us to identify the reason for his move from Wexford town to Dublin. Work began that year on the Church of Saint Catherine of Alexandria in Meath Street, Dublin. McCarthy’s plans for this church were very elaborate, with a finely-done interior, complete with paintings, and elaborate east and west windows. The Gothic revival had spread to Dublin, and there was now a greater demand there for James Comerford than in his native Co Wexford. That year 1852 also saw McCarthy start work on Saint Saviour’s Church, Dominick Street, and the Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea in Sandymount. Pugin died, perhaps through overwork, at the age of 40 on 14 September 1852, and his patron, the Earl of Shrewsbury, died less than two months later, on 9 November 1852. Richard Pierce, the Wexford architect for whom the Comerford brothers first worked, died on 31 July 1854, aged 53, and is buried in the churchyard at Tomhaggard, Co Wexford.[43]

Pugin left a unique architectural heritage in Co Wexford and in the Diocese of Ferns with his churches. But by the time Pugin had died, James Comerford was already living in Dublin, and he would continue working on the churches being built in the city by Pugin’s son. With his sons and his nephews, he worked with Edward Welby Pugin (1834-1875), and his partner George Coppinger Ashlin (1837-1921) on the city’s new Gothic Revival churches, including the Augustinian Church in John’s Lane, and Saint Kevin’s, Harrington Street.[44]

Edward Welby Pugin continued his father’s successful architectural practice, completing his works in Waterford, Birr and Killarney. Between 1859 and 1868, Edward Pugin was working in partnership with his Irish-born brother-in-law, Ashlin, and the Pugin and Ashlin partnership built over 100 churches throughout Ireland in the Gothic Revival style, including Our Lady’s Island (1864) and Kilinerin (1865) in Co Wexford, as well as remodelling Enniscorthy Castle in 1869 for the Earl of Portsmouth.[45]

One of the best-known of the churches by Pugin and Ashlin is Saint Augustine and Saint John, on the corner of John’s Lane and Thomas Street, Dublin. This church, which is regarded as Dublin’s finest Victorian church, was designed by E.W. Pugin and executed by George Ashlin for the Augustinian Friars. Work began in 1862 and was completed in 1895.[46]

The church has the tallest spire in Dublin (231 ft), and occupies a prominent position on high ground above the Liffey. For its day, it was one of the most elaborate churches in the city. It has a striking polychromatic appearance, being built in granite with red sandstone dressings. It is said that John Ruskin (1819-1900) praised Pugin’s design for the church, describing it as a “poem in stone.”[47] The 12 statues of the Apostles in the niches of the spire are the work of James Pearse, who had designed the High Altar for Saint Aidan’s Cathedral, Enniscorthy, and whose sons, Padraig and Willie Pearse, were executed after the 1916 Easter Rising.[48]

Work on Saint Kevin’s, the gothic-style church in Harrington Street, began in 1867. This church (1867-1872) was designed by George Ashlin, who also designed churches in Inchicore, Rathfarnham, Tallaght and Phibsborough.[49]

The design of The Irish House

The Irish House shortly before its demolition ... it represented the pinnacle of James Comerford’s career as a stucco artist

James Comerford’s career reached its pinnacle with the building of The Irish House on the corner of Wood Quay and Winetavern Street, Dublin in 1870. The partnership of Ashlin and Pugin broke up that year. By then, Walsh points out, “Comerford was living in Redmond’s Hill and was seemingly an obvious choice for any challenging stucco project work in the south city.”[50] When Patrick O’Kelly of 13 Merchant’s Quay bought the site of The Irish House and planned to build a new public house, he would have been familiar with James Comerford’s stucco work for Pugin and Ashlin at John’s Lane Augustinian Church, and brought together Comerford and Burnett to carry out the project.[51]

The Irish House with its painted stucco work by the stuccodores William Burnet and James Comerford was commissioned by Patrick O’Kelly as a new public house on the corner of Wood Quay and Winetavern Street.[52]

The Irish House has been described by Sean Lynch as “a renowned piece of Celtic revival architecture,” and as an “urban folly.” In 1967, C.P. Curran praised “the remarkable work of two old-timers, Burnett and Comerford,” and glowingly described The Irish House, then facing demolition, with “its whole frontal all-glowing in colour like a Byzantine casket.” Curran went on to detail how a corona of round towers rose from inlaid plasters and panels, both small and large, that adorned the faced.[53]

The Irish House was their masterpiece, and a tribute to both the eccentricity of O’Kelly, who commissioned Burnett and Comerford, and to the genius of those two stucco artists, who brilliantly evoked the historic sentiments of their client. Yet it must also be one of Dublin’s most prominent architectural victims, and was demolished in 1968.[54]

This landmark public house was both a renowned piece of Celtic revival architecture and a distinctly unique exposition of the public house building type. One of the most flamboyant buildings ever erected in Dublin, The Irish House stood at the corner of Winetavern Street and Wood Quay, beneath Christ Church Cathedral, close to John’s Lane Church and on the banks of the River Liffey, diagonally opposite James Gandon’s stately Four Courts across the river.[55]

Although this diminutive two-storey building was underwhelming in size relative to the scale of Dublin’s quays, Burnett and Comerford made good use of its prominent corner site.[56]

The Irish House vividly reflected the Romantic Movement that was sweeping across Europe in the latter part of the 19th century. Its allegorical tale of constitutional politics was depicted in flamboyant style through the use of external stuccowork by Burnett and Comerford. The two main figures featured on the façade were Henry Grattan and Daniel O’Connell, both staunch defenders of the need for a national parliament in Dublin – one a member of the Church of Ireland, the other a prominent Roman Catholic.[57]

The use of external stuccowork to depict the mood, objectives, and to some degree the sentimentality of the nationalist ideal was not commonly found as a decorative motif on Dublin buildings. As Geraldine Walsh and Graham Hickey point out, the idiom was more popular in areas such as north Kerry and west Limerick.[58]

On its upper storey, iconic scenes from Irish history and myth were represented in painted stucco. Facing the quays, the figure of a maiden stood by a seated harpist, recalling Tom Moore’s verse, “Rich and rare were the gems she wore, and a bright gold ring on her wand she bore.” This was Éireann, about to make her celebrated tour of the country decked out in costly gems. However, Peter Walsh has recently challenged the long-held interpretation that the figure beside the maiden is a seated harpist. He now argues that this figure is an old man who looks less bardic and more like one of the dispossessed, a beggar with a stout stick perhaps, while a younger man turns away – there is a chapel in the distance. He points out that the relief was a direct copy of a steel-plate engraving from a 19th century popular illustrated history of Ireland, with a nod to Mote’s engraving after Fisher’s painting of the same subject.[59]

Henry Grattan ... once a key figure on the frieze of The Irish House (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2009)

Also facing the quays, a 17-figure frieze depicted Henry Grattan’s last appeal in the Irish House of Commons before the passing of the Act of Union in 1800, surrounded by his friends in the Patriot Party.[60]

Above the entrance was the heraldic insignia of Patrick O’Kelly, the publican and proprietor who had commissioned this work of art.[61] Walsh identifies the swirling work on the O’Kelly coat-of-arms, the heavy eaves cornice, the niches and the columns over The Irish House among Comerford’s contributions to the project.[62]

Daniel O’Connell ... a surviving figure from the facade of The Irish House (Photograph: Patrick Comerford (2009)

On the Winetavern Street side of the pub, Éireann wept forlorn upon her string-less harp, evoking the plight of her country and its people, while Daniel O’Connell stood proudly clutching the 1829 Act of Catholic Emancipation Act, and on the scroll is written the single word: “Repeal.”[63] Daniel O’Connell may appear to be an unusual figure to receive such prominence in 1870, given his earlier antipathy towards the rise of the craft unions. But O’Connell had only been reburied in Glasnevin Cemetery in the previous year, and five years after The Irish House had been built, Comerford’s union, the Regular Operative Stucco Plasterers, marched in the O’Connell centenary parade in Dublin in 1875.[64]

Erin weeping on her string-less harp ... an image drawing on Psalm 137 and the poetry of Thomas Davis and Tom Moore (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2009)

The figure of Erin weeping on her string-less Harp was alone in her grief, dumbstruck and silently weeping, an exile in her own land. Walsh argues that this tableau was the most emotionally powerful of the group. He finds resonances in Psalm 137 where the Babylonian captivity is evoked, with their harps being unstrung by the captives and hung up on willow tress by the river banks. The condition of Erin’s bondage is emphasised by the monstrous chain around the delicate soundbox of the harp. Here Walsh finds reflections of the words of Thomas Davis in A Nation once again: “I yet might see our fetters rent in twain.”[65]

There is also an allusion to the lines Thomas Moore’s The Minstrel Boy, in which “warrior bard” tore asunder the chords of his wild harp:

And said “No chains shall sully thee
Thou soul of love and brav’ry.
The songs were made for the pure and free
They shall never sound in slavery!

The broad pilasters were embellished with wolfhounds, methers – the ancient drinking cup of the Irish – and the Lia Fail or Stone of Destiny, all set into niches. Above an elaborate cornice with cast ironwork, six round towers projected into the city’s skyline. The cast-ironwork was embellished with the words “1870,” Cead Mille (sic) Failte,” ”Erin Go Bragh,” and, once again, “1870.”[67]

But The Irish House had no functional upper storey, and there were no windows overhead. There was no upper floor, and natural light was admitted through panes over the street entrances, the snug windows on Winetavern Street, and the double plate-glass windows overlooking the quays, which were divided by a fluted wooden column with decorated capital and base. The impression was created of a huge, cavernous interior reflecting many facets of Irish nationalism.[68]

A baffle-panel at the main door concealed the interior of the pub from passers-by, and two internal doors led left to the bar and right to the snug, which, for female customers, was also accessible through the door on Winetavern Street. [69]

Originally, the interior of The Irish House was gas-lit. Old photographs show three gaslights in each window and one over the main entrance. The interior was decorated with beautiful oil paintings of the Vale of Avoca and the Lakes of Killarney. Over the counter stood another figure of Éireann, grasping a sword in one hand and with the other unfolding to the breeze the banner of her native land. The clock in the bar was encased in a harp of Irish oak-work surmounted by a cross and the battle-axes and spears supposedly in use in Ireland from the days of King Daithí, the last king of the Milesians. The pub’s mirrors were of outstanding quality and were made locally in Dame Street of cut-glass with hand-applied colouring and gold-leaf.[70]

Peter Walsh suggests that the inclusion of a warrior Maid of Erin, brandishing a sword and flag, and a golden harp on a field of green, was probably based on the French female icon, Marianne, and that she represents not Hibernia, who went hand in glove with Britannia since the Act of Union, but republican ideals of casting off a monarchy that was to be obeyed for a spouse that was to be adored. He wonders whether the figure implied a call to arms for Irish freedom, a concept that was not implied in the exterior decoration of The Irish House.[71]

The political impact of The Irish House

The building’s prominent location meant that it functioned as a kind of urban folly. In his 1967, C.P. Curran described “its whole frontal all-glowing in colour like a Byzantine casket.” Sean Lynch points out that an exaggerated ornamental impulse was a prominent feature of the Celtic Revival, in which popular Irish symbolism was used in a most exuberant fashion, and craftsmen frequently transforming everyday buildings into objects of sculptural splendour. Stucco was used to dress up shops, pubs and town-houses throughout Ireland – one of the notable examples from this time is the eccentric body of work by Pat McAuliffe (1846-1921) in North Kerry and West Limerick.[72] And a later example would be provided by Burnett and Comerford on the pediment of the Oarsman, a public house in Ringsend.[73]

In its combination of art and nationalist iconography in a communal meeting place and public house, The Irish House was, as Sean Lynch says, a gesamtkunstwerk. Artistic, political and social threads were successfully integrated into a single structure, a prominent presence within the fabric of Dublin.[74]

As The Irish House had no functional upper storey and no windows overhead, creating the impression of a huge cavernous interior that reflected many facets of romantic nationalism, it was justifiably described by Curran as “a Byzantine casket” and by Lynch as “a folly.”[75]

Three figures from the Irish House of Commons sculpted for the Grattan frieze on the facade of The Irish House ... a powerful claim for the restoration of the Irish Parliament(Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2009)

The façade of The Irish House was more than a brilliant example of the work of stuccordores Burnett and Comerford – it was also a powerful statement of belief in the claims of Ireland to legislative independence and for the restoration of the Irish Parliament in College Green. It was a popular tribute to the memory of Henry Grattan and the Patriot Party in the pre-1800s Irish Parliament before the Act of Union. Nowlan points out that the façade also reminded those who viewed it that Daniel O’Connell and his Repeal Movement sought the establishment of Parliament of the Kingdom of Ireland, a kingdom with its own national institutions. Lynch suggests The Irish House must have caused a stir amongst the Lord Lieutenant and his entourage as they passed along the quays from the Viceregal Lodge to Dublin Castle.[76]

Nowlan notes that by the time The Irish House was built in 1870, O’Connell was dead for over two decades. However, the erection of the O’Connell Monument in Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street) in central Dublin, and the removal of his remains to a permanent tomb in Glasnevin Cemetery in May 1869 point out the considerable public interest and appreciation of O’Connell at that time.[77]

John Foster in the Speaker’s Chair ... a surviving figure from the Grattan frieze on The Irish House (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2009)

Nowlan says that The Irish House was a public statement in support of political change that is achieved by non-revolutionary means. He points out that it is politically significant that the scenes of the façade of The Irish House do not suggest any Republican influences, although there had been a Fenian Rising in 1867. No figure from the ranks of the United Irishmen appears on the façade, there is no image of Wolfe Tone or even of Robert Emmet. Instead, the political scenes on The Irish House were tributes to Henry Grattan and his friends, and Daniel O’Connell as a constitutional legislator.[78]

The façade of The Irish House is given particular character in its representation of the full flowering of romantic nationalism, with its renewed interest in folk culture, language, history, and political and social rights, with poets, artists and philosophers responding to new ideas. In Ireland, Nowlan says, a growing interest in the antiquities of the countryside, the Irish language, folk tales and music, and the demand for political and social change were all indicators of current influences at work. This movement was well illustrated on the façade of The Irish House, with its round towers, wolf hounds and old Irish drinking cups. Combined with the maiden, her head on her hands beside her stringless harp, the images of The Irish House fit well into the style of the Romantic Movement and the sentiment of the day.[79]

Peter Walsh summarises the exterior of The Irish House as being like an elaborate code for 19th century constitutional nationalism drawing inspiration from the Psalms, the Book of Lamentations, Shakespeare, the 1608 Irish language translation of the Bible, Early-Christian Irish Art, Byron’s Hebrew Songs, and the patriotic parliamentarians Grattan and O’Connell, all within the mirage of Tom Moore’s history.[80]

James Comerford’s later career

Around the time he was completing his swirling work on the O’Kelly coat-of-arms, the heavy eaves cornices the niches and the columns of The Irish House, James Comerford also appears to have worked for Ashlin and Pugin on the fine gothic details of pinnacled reredos of Saint Kevin’s Church in Harrington Street, at the end of the South Circular Road in Dublin.[81]

The pediment of the Oarsman in Ringsend ... another example of Celtic Romanticism expressed in the stucco artwork of James Comerford and William Burnett (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2009)

At the Oarsman, a public house in Bridge Street, Ringsend, Burnett and Comerford provided another example of the use of stucco to dress up a building with the exaggerated ornamental impulse that was a feature of the Celtic Revival. At roof level on the Oarsman, within a central roundel flanked by urns, there is a stuccoed escutcheon displaying a collection of nationalist symbols – a round tower and a Celtic high cross guarded by an Irish wolfhound. A harp once surmounted the arrangements atop the now empty plinth at the apex. This is Dublin’s last surviving example of stucco art being used to portray romantic nationalism in a form that was once popular on public houses.[82]

This example of stucco art by Burnett and Comerford probably dates from the 1880s, when the Ringsend pub was owned by William Tunney. Later, this pub was Michael McCluskey’s, and then McCarthy’s bar until recent years when it became the Oarsman.[83]

Later in life, James Comerford was employed by the Board of Works in Dublin Castle, and in the 1901 census he describes himself as “civil servant retired.”[84]

Union activism

James Comerford was a life-long member of the Society of Stucco Plasterers of Dublin, which claimed direct descent from the Guild of Bricklayers and Plasters, first chartered by Charles II in 1670 – the same guild that had excluded Michael Stapleton and other early stucco artists and architects from membership.

James also a founding member of the Regular Stucco Plasterers’ Trade Union of the City of Dublin, 1893, remained an active trade unionist all his life.[85] In 1893, the plasterers’ union was legally registered for the first time. On 13 December 1893, as the Regular Stucco Plasterers’ Trade Union of the City of Dublin, it was registered under the law with the Registry of Friendly Societies. At the time, trade unionism in Dublin had entered a new phase of militancy. The Dublin Council of Trades Unions, uniting all unions in the city, was founded in 1886, and the building labourers, who, unlike the craft unions, had no history of union organisation, registered their union in 1889.[86]

In the 1890s, the union met in the Trades’ Hall in Capel Street, the premises of the Dublin Trades Union Council. The rule book of 1893 states a member of the plasterers’ society could not apprentice anyone but his son. This carefully guarded access to the craft of the plasterers kept a strong control over the trade in the city, by deeming who could work as a plasterer and maintaining close family ties within the trade. In practice, it seems union business was conducted on less rigid lines, seeking simply to ensure non-union labour did not do the work of plasterers, that boys did not replace men, that pay rates were maintained, working agreements made with the employers, and members in benefit were helped with funeral expenses.[87]

Three years after their registration, the Dublin plasterers joined other building unions in a six-month strike in 1896. This dispute led to the first city-wide agreement between the Master Builders of Dublin and the building workers’ unions, establishing a procedure for negotiations that lasted in the building industry for many decades. Working rules agreed in the 1890s give a picture of plasterers’ working conditions at that time. They worked a 54-hour week, including five full days from 6.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. and a half day on Saturdays. In 1896, a plasterer was paid eight pence an hour; first-year apprentices of 14 were paid a penny an hour, and this rate rose to 5½ pence when they reached 21. Since then, the union has maintained a continuous and independent existence, with slight modifications to its name. In 1903, the union changed its name from the Regular Stucco Plasterers’ Trade Union to the Operative Plasterers’ Trade Society of Dublin, and in 1953, it became the Operative Plasterers’ and Allied Trades’ Society of Ireland (Opatsi).[88]

James could read and write both Irish and English, according to the 1901 census returns. But his fluency in Irish may have been less for political reasons that the fact that he hailed from Newtownbarry – for, as the Wexford historian Nicholas Furlong says, Bunclody “was the last area in Co Wexford where Irish was the tongue of the market place” in the first half of the 19th century.[89]

Dublin homes and residences and family

No 11 Upper Beechwood Avenue, Ranelagh ... James Comerford died there in 1902 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2004)

In Dublin, James Comerford lived at Stephen Street (1852),[90] 22 Long Lane (until 1865),[91] both close to Dublin Castle; 7 Redmond’s Hill (from 1866 until at least 1870),[92] near the junction of Aungier Street and Wexford Street; 2 Mountpleasant Villas, Ranelagh (until ca 1899 or 1900);[93] and, from ca 1899, until his death in 1902 at 11 Upper Beechwood Avenue.[94]

The present site of 22 Long Lane ... where James Comerford lived in the early 1860s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Living close to Beechwood Avenue, neighbours of James Comerford included the architect Thomas A. Coleman, a partner in Ashlin and Coleman, successors to the Pugin and Ashlin partnership, who lived at 9 Temple Villas, and Patrick Plunkett (1817-1918) of Belgrave Road, who built Belgrave Road, Kileen Road, parts of Palmerston Road, and other residential streets in that part of Ranelagh and Rathmines.[95]

8.29: Saint Andrew’s Church, Westland Row, Dublin ... James Comerford and Anne Doyle were married here on 14 September 1851 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

On 14 September 1851, in Saint Andrew’s Church, Westland Row, James Comerford married Anne Doyle (1834-1899)(priest ‘JPF’; witnesses Patrick O’Leary, Mary Doyle)[96]

Saint Nicholas of Myra Church, Francis Street ... Anne (Doyle) Comerford was baptised here on 25 August 1834 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Anne, who was born in 1834, was the daughter of Garret Doyle of 25 Cross Kevin Street, Dublin, and his wife Mary (Byrne). She was baptised in Saint Nicholas Church by Father James Roche on 25 August 1834 (Sponsors: William Coffey, Bridget Reilly). [Par Reg, St Nicholas] Anne Comerford had two older sisters: her oldest sister, Mary Doyle of Stephen Street, was born in 1828, was baptised in Saint Nicholas Church on 15 December 1828, died on 28 August 1852, aged 23, and is buried in the family grave in Glasnevin);[97] her next sister, Eliza Doyle, was born in 1831 and was baptised in Saint Nicholas Church on 23 September 1831 (sponsors: James Dougherty and Mary Rood).

On 12 July 1859, Anne Comerford was a witness with Edward Sherwood at the marriage of Edward Connor of 28 Cross Kevin Street and Ann Raymond in Saint Nicholas Church. [Saint Nicholas Par Reg]

Anne Comerford died at 2 Mountpleasant Villas, Ranelagh, on 28 April 1899, aged 63.[98] She is buried with other family members in Glasnevin.

James and Anne had at least four sons and at least three daughters:

1, James Comerford (1853-post 1911)., He was born in December 1853, and was baptised in Rathmines on Christmas Day, 25 December 1853 (sponsors William Rorke, Mary Jordan). He was a founding member of the Regular Stucco Plasterers’ Trade Union of the City of Dublin (1893). He lived at 62 and later 86 Lower Clanbrassil Street, Dublin, and was living after 1911. He married Helena (Lena) Donovan (daughter of Denis Donovan?), originally from Cork, and they had three sons and two daughters.

2, Richard Comerford (1858-1937), (1858-1937). A stucco plasterer, Dick was born in 1858, and was baptised in Saint Andrew’s Church (sponsors: James Comerford and Anne Comerford). He married on 27 July 1879 in Rathmines Anne (Annie) Lannery (ca 1856/1857-post 1902), of Grand Canal Bank, daughter of Peter Lannery and Mary (née Roche); witnesses Robert Cumerford (sic) and Mary Redmond. Richard spelled his name Cumerford and Cummerford in 1879. [Par Reg Rathmines, # 2941.] He lived at 3 Costelloes Cottages, off Upper Clanbrassil Street (1879), 57 Charlemont Street (1880, 1883), 25 Lower Clanbrassil Street (1884), 63 Lower Clanbrassil Street (1888), 7 Peter Street (1892), 32 Upper Mercer Street (1894), 71 Charlemont Street (1895), and 1 Camden Buildings, off Camden Street (1899, 1901 and 1911). He died ca 18 February 1937. Dick and Annie Comerford had at least seven sons and three daughters.

3, Robert Comerford (1860-1902), to whom we return after his youngest brother Stephen and his descendants.
4, Anne Elizabeth (1863-post 1902). She was born in 1863, and was baptised in Saint Andrew’s Church (sponsors: James Reilly and Catherine Maher). She was unmarried at the time of her father’s death in 1902. She married later (to ... Murphy?), and may have moved to England.[149]

Stephen Comerford and Bridget Lynders on their wedding day in Donabate, Co Dublin ... Stephen was indentured as an apprentice to his father for seven years (Comerford family collection)

5, Stephen Edward Comerford (1867-1921), my grandfather [see Comerford Profiles 19: Stephen Edward Comerford (1867-1921), stuccodore and trade unionist]. He was born at 7 Redmond’s Hill, Dublin, on 28 December 1867, and baptised in Saint Andrew’s Church, Westland Row (sponsors: Thomas Roche, Margaret Dowdall). On 23 June 1888, Stephen Comerford signed an indenture, placing himself in apprenticeship to his father, James Comerford. This seven-year indenture, signed by father and son, was witnessed by John Hartigan and Isaac Hill, and sets out clearly the strict conditions of apprenticeship and the apprentice’s obligations to his master, with prohibitions against committing fornication or marrying within those seven years, or playing at “Cards, Dice Tables or any other unlawful Games ... He shall not haunt or use Taverns, Ale-houses or Playhouses, nor absent himself from his Master’s Service, Day or Night, unlawfully …”[100] He lived at 2 Mountpleasant Villas, Ranelagh (1899), 11 Upper Beechwood Avenue (1900-1905), 2 Mountpleasant Villas (1905-post 1907), 102 South Lotts Road, Ringsend (ca 1909), 2 Old Mountpleasant (ca 1909-ca 1913, this house is now incorporated in ‘The Hill,’ Ranelagh), and 7 Swanville Place, Rathmines, Dublin, from 1913 until his death in 1921. He was twice married and has living descendants.

The signature of James Comerford on his son’s indenture, signed 23 June 1888 (Comerford Family Collection)

6, Bridget (v. 1881). On 6 June 1881, as Bridget Comerford of Charlemont Street, she married in Rathmines Henry Quaile of Cuffe Street, son of John and Mary Anne (Kileen) Quaile (Father Norris; witnesses, James Comerford, Catherine Murphy. They had at least two sons: John Joseph Quaile (born 1882), and James Quaile (born 1884). They lived at 47 Charlemont Street (1882), and then at 3 Wentworth Place (1884).
7, Mary (v. 1889). On 11 November 1889, she married Francis Coleman of 31 Cuffe Street, Dublin, in Saint Kevin’s Church, Harrington Street (Father James Baxter; witnesses, Christopher Hackman and Mary Halpin). He was the son of Francis Coleman and Mary Halpin [Par Reg, Saint Kevin’s, f 151]. They had at least a son and a daughter: Peter Coleman (born 1888), and Mary (born 1889).

The other James Comerford

Around August 1900 or 1901, a James Comerford, describing himself as “a descendant” of the Comberford family, set out to rediscover and to own the Comberford roots of the Comerford family, visiting Comberford Hall, the Moat House, the Comberford Chapel and Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth, and Wednesbury.[101]

In Saint Editha’s, he took detailed notes of the Comberford plaque erected by Joseph Comerford in 1725,[102] and of the alabaster effigy, which he ascribed to William de Comberford (1349).[103]

In Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Wednesbury, he saw the figures of John Comberford in armour and his wife, the name of William Comberford among a list of charitable bequests over the south door, and the name of William Comberford (1623) inscribed on the sixth bell.[104] He also noted many of the references to the Comberford family in other records.[105]

Comberford Hall ... visited by James Comerford ca 1900-1902 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2008)

At Comberford Hall, he visited the Peel family,[106] and he also visited the Moat House in Tamworth.[107]

The Moat House, Tamworth ... visited by James Comerford ca 1900-1902 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2008)

James Comerford collected his findings in a small, seven-page pamphlet, that was privately published in a small print run on 26 November 1902, and bound with it photographs of the Moat House and Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth – although, surprisingly, there are no photographs of the Comberford monuments he describes in Tamworth and Wednesbury, or of Comberford Hall. Shortly after the account of his visit was printed and bound, James Comerford added his bookplate and additional handwritten notes to the slim volume, and these notes add further clues to his identity and the date of his visit.

The surviving copy of this unique, invaluable, rare publication is in the local history collection at Tamworth Library, Corporation Street, Tamworth (open shelves, T/COM), with a pencilled page of notes recording the details of his visit one August day.

In this rare publication, James Comerford notes that a member of the family “recently was made Bishop (Roman Catholic)” – and in his own hand he inserts and initials the words “of Carlow” after the word bishop. Michael Comerford was consecrated coadjutor Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin in Carlow on 1 January 1889, and died on 19 August 1895. The Peel family was living at Comberford Hall from about 1900 until about 1904, [see Comberford 8: Comberford Hall] placing James Comerford’s visit some time in the early 1900s but before it was printed and bound in 1902, while the Peel family was living at Comberford Hall. Printing and binding followed soon after.

The coat-of-arms on the bookplate of James Comerford’s book in Tamworth Library (above) and below one of James Comerford’s Irish wolfhounds from The Irish House ... inspired perhaps by the talbot on the Comberford coat-of-arms (Photographs: Patrick Comerford, 2009)

Although the bookplate is similar to that of James Comerford, the London book collector and antiquarian, that James Comerford died in 1881 [see Comerford Profiles 17: James Comerford, JP, FSA (1807-1881): antiquarian and book collector], before the Peel family moved into Comberford Hall, and almost eight years before Michael Comerford’s episcopal elevation.

And so, the only two candidates for the authorship of this unique slim volume are his son, James W. Comerford, or a member of Bishop Michael Comerford’s extended family. If the author is a James Comerford from Ireland who visited Comberford Hall and Tamworth some time around 1900 to 1902, the only other obvious candidate is the bishop’s second cousin, James Comerford (1817-1902), the stucco artist of The Irish House.

How he would have admired the fine early 17th century plaster ceiling of the Moat House, with its heraldic family tree of the Comberford Family in the genre that inspired Pugin’s heraldic family tree of the Talbot Earls of Shrewsbury in the Talbot Gallery at Alton Towers in 1840.[108]

If this slim volume is not the work of James Comerford, son of the antiquarian, then the binding of the slim volume must be seen as a final tribute by his family to James Comerford, who died 18 days later at 11 Upper Beechwood Avenue in Ranelagh, Dublin, on 14 December 1902.

Death and continuity

James Comerford died at 11 Upper Beechwood Avenue on 14 December 1902. He was then aged 85, and was suffering from senile decay. His son, Stephen Edward Comerford, was present at this death.[109]

James is buried with his wife Anne (née Doyle), her sister Mary, and other members of the family in their family grave, HF69, in The Garden, Glasnevin, close to the monumental grave where Daniel O’Connell had been buried in 1867, three years before he was commemorated by James Comerford in one of his stucco statues on the façade of The Irish House.

James Comerford has left a large number of descendants.

Meanwhile, what about his patrons and those he worked with? Edward Pugin’s former partner, George Ashlin, continued to work on churches in Co Wexford, including Ballyoughter (1874-1876), and in 1879 he designed a new high altar in Caen stone for the Church of Saint John the Baptist in Galbally, which had been built fifty years earlier with funding from John H. Talbot of Castle Talbot.[110] Ashlin went into partnership in 1902 with Thomas A. Coleman (1865-1950), and the firm of Ashlin and Coleman was responsible for a number of churches in the Diocese of Ferns, including Poulpeasty (1939), Ballaghkene or The Ballagh (1951), Clologue (1956) and Carnew.[111]

The later history of The Irish House

The Irish House stood proudly on the Quays of Dublin for almost a century after its construction, becoming something of a curiosity and a familiar landmark. It is alluded to by James Joyce in both Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.

The faux Gaelic lettering on the fascia board of The Irish House was introduced by Charles Dowling in 1893 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2009)

Patrick O’Kelly continued to own The Irish House until about 1892 or 1893. It then passed to Charles Dowling, from Kildare, who lived at 27-28 Winetavern Street. Dowling died in 1910.[112] The Gaelic League was formed in 1893, the year Dowling acquired The Irish House, and he changed the lettering on the fascia board to a stylised faux Gaelic script that readily accommodated consonants unknown in Irish, such as the W in his name and the Y in the names of his successors, O’Dwyer and Timoney.[113]

The Irish House, when James O’Meara was proprietor in the 1940s, with Christ Church Cathedral on the hill above

The Irish House was owned from 1913 to 1912 by P.J. Dwyer, vintner, who also had a wholesale bottling house at 5 High Street, and who lived at Rockvue, Iona Road, Glasnevin. Between 1921 and 1935, The Irish House was leased from Dwyer by Cleary & Co. From 1936 to 1944, the bar was run by John Timoney from Leitrim and his brother. In 1944, The Irish House had passed to its last proprietor, James O’Meara.[114]

The Australian-born architect Raymond McGrath made a warm apologia for The Irish House in a lively article published in The Bell in the early 1940s:

“Perhaps it will seem perverse to mention The Irish House in the same breath as Semple’s churches but this public house of 1870 was a secular experiment in fancy. Few went unmoved by its pictorial facades, ‘Rich and rare were the gems she wore,’ ‘Henry Grattan’s last address …,’ ‘Erin weeping …,’ ‘Dan O’Connell.’ This was indeed a plastic fling in a city not so very rich in carving or modelling.”[115]

Sadly, Curran’s fears for the future of the building were proved correct when Dublin Corporation decided between 1964 and 1967 to clear the site to make space for the new Civic Offices at Wood Quay. The Irish House was the only work of its type standing in the capital. Lord Moyne, then the vice-chairman of the Guinness brewery, negotiated and financed a project to salvage the exterior of The Irish House. In July 1968, scaffolding went up and plaster casts of the stucco panels were made in situ, while many of the original pieces were carefully dismantled.[116]

Erin and her stringless harp being removed from the facde of The Irish House in 1968

O’Connell, Éireann, the wolfhounds and Comerford’s other works of arts were taken down under the supervision of Sam Irwin and removed in November 1968 to the basement of the Guinness Museum, a converted chemists’ laboratory on the corner of Watling Street and Cooke’s Lane. From there, this unique collection of statuary was moved to a warehouse at the Guinness Hopstore. But many of the interior fixtures and fittings were sold at this time, and it is said the actors Peter O’Toole and Richard Harris purchased some of these works.[117]

Mark Girouard, writing in Victorian Pubs (1975), implored his readers to “shed a passing tear for the crazy exterior of The Irish House” and to ponder the future of the Stag’s Head, Lynch’s of Aungier Street, Ryan’s of Parkgate Street and The Long Hall in South Great George’s Street.[118]

It is thanks to the generosity of Lord Moyne that any of The Irish House remains with us today. The initial plan at the Guinness Brewery Museum plan was to present the remnants in an Elgin Marbles-like display, but that vision was never realised.[119]

Some casts of the façade were exhibited during the 1982 Joyce Centenary, as part of an initiative organised by the then curator of the Hopstore, Peter Walsh. The exhibition won a European Museum Exhibition of the Year Award, and travelled to Paris, Canada and the US. However, the façade of the Irish House continued to sit in storage, while back at Wood Quay, the remains of Viking Dublin were being unearthed, examined and promptly concreted over.[120]

The exterior panelled doors of The Irish House, hand-carved with shamrock inlay, were donated to the Dublin Civic Trust by John Nugent in 2001

But no permanent home was found for the figures and with the transformation in 2001 of the Guinness Hopstore into the Digital Hub Centre, much of its collection was dispersed. It was feared that the façade and other objects from The Irish House would be purchased privately, but protracted negotiations in 2002 and 2003 led to the facade being donated to the Dublin Civic Trust.[121] The Dublin Civic Trust also acquired two sets of the pub’s exterior panelled doors, hand-carved with shamrock inlay, donated by John Nugent of Cabra in 2001.[122]

Éireann weeping on her stringless harp, while lying on the floor Dublin city warehouse waiting demolition ... an appropriate image for today’s Ireland

At the time, the hope was that The Irish House might be re-erected as the centrepiece of a new City of Dublin Museum. However, this scheme and the government’s promise of such a museum were never fulfilled. While the Dublin Civic Trust had no storage space, the dismembered façade sat for some years in a warehouse belonging to the Office of Public Works in Inchicore. This was a fine example of Irish modernism completed by Michael Scott in 1948, but when plans were announced to decommission and sell the depot, there were fears that 20 wooden pallets of stucco and cast-iron railings would be homeless once again. Éireann weeping on her stringless harp, while lying on the floor Dublin city warehouse waiting demolition was seen as an appropriate image for today’s Ireland, just as James Comerford’s decorations were an appropriate illustration of Irish identity 140 years ago.[123]

The story of The Irish House featured in an exhibition by Sean Lynch, the an artist and architectural historian, at the Stadelschule, Frankfurt, “Retrieval Unit,” and at the Limerick City Gallery of Art from 17 November 2006 to 15 January 2007. Photographs of this iconic building also featured in Elinor Wiltchire’s recent exhibition, If You Ever Go to Dublin Town, at the National Photographic Archive in Meeting House Square, Temple Bar.

The poster for the Dublin Civic Trust exhibition on The Irish House in 2009

Then, in 2009 the Dublin Civic Trust organised a seminar on The Irish House, with papers and lectures by those who both knew and studied the building. Towards the end of 2009, the Dublin Civic Trust found a new opportunity to display much of the creative works by Burnett and Comerford in its premises in Castle Street, Dublin, close to Christ Church Cathedral and to Dublin Castle, where the family believed James Comerford had once worked. Geraldine Walsh put together and edited the seminar lectures from earlier in the year, and an exciting new publication accompanied the exhibition, The Irish House, An Teach Gaelach, Public House 1870-1968.[124]

The invitation to the launch of the book to accompany the exhibition in the Dublin Civic Trust

It was more than a century after the death of James Comerford, and more than four decades after The Irish House had been torn down in an act of civic vandalism. But the memory of James Comerford was no longer fading, the story of The Irish House, bringing together publicans, politicians and plasterers at the height of the Victorian age, was not forgotten, and his work was on display publicly once again, within strolling distance of the original site of his greatest work.


Archival sources:

1901 and 1911 census returns; birth, marriage death records.

Archives of the Operative Plasterers and Allied Trades Society (Opatsi), National Archives of Ireland.

Dublin Civic Trust exhibition on The Irish House (2009).

Miscellaneous Comerford family papers and photographs

Printed sources:

Clark, Mary, and Refaussé, Raymond (eds), Directory of Historic Dublin Guilds (Dublin: Dublin Public Libraries, 1993).
Comerford, James, Some Records of the Comerford family collected by a descendant (privately published and dated 26 November 1902), Tamworth Library, Local History Collection, shelf T/COM.
Costello, Peter, Dublin Churches (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1989).
Craig, Maurice, Dublin 1660-1860 (Dublin: Allen Figgis, 1980).
Curran, C.P. ‘Michael Stapleton: Dublin Stuccodore,’ Studies (Dublin, September 1939).
Curran, C.P., Dublin Decorative Plasterwork of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (London, 1967).
de Val, Seamas, ‘The Battle of the Pound,’ The Past, No 9 (1972), pp 43-47.
de Vál, Séamas S (ed), Churches of the Diocese of Ferns: Symbols of a living faith (Dublin: Booklink, 2004).
Fisher, Michael, Pugin-Land, AWN Pugin, Lord Shrewsbury, and the Gothic Revival in Staffordshire (Stafford: MJ Fisher, 2002).
Furlong, Nicholas, A History of County Wexford (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 2003).
Furlong, Nicholas, The Wexford Guide (Dublin: Bord Failte, n.d., ?1984).
Galloway, Peter, The Cathedrals of Ireland (Belfast: The Institute of Irish Studies, The Queen’s University of Belfast, 1992).
Grattan Flood, W.H., History of the Diocese of Ferns (Waterford: Downey, 1916).
Hayburn, E. Langton, ‘Langton Portraits,’ Old Kilkenny Review 25 (1973), pp 76-78.
Hayburn, E. Langton, ‘The Sale of the Langton Mansion on High Street, Kilkenny,’ Old Kilkenny Review, 3/1 (Second Series) (1984), pp 75-77
Hill, Rosemary, God’s Architect, Pugin and the Building of Romantic Britain (London: Penguin, 2008).
Kelly, Deirdre, Four Roads to Dublin: the history of Ranelagh, Rathmines and Lesson Street (Dublin: O’Brien Press, 1995/1996).
Lucey, Conor, The Stapleton Collection: Designs for the Irish neoclassical interior (Tralee: Churchill Press, 2007).
Lynch, Sean, ‘Dublin News,’ Apollo, the international magazine of art and antiquities (London, September 2006), http://www.apollo-magazine.com/issue/september-2006/70382/dublin-news.thtml (3 November 2007).
McDonnell, Joseph, Irish eighteenth-century stuccowork and its European sources (Dublin: National Gallery of Ireland, 1991).
O’Reilly, Sean, ‘Patrick Osborne, an Irish Stuccodore,’ Irish Arts Review 1989-1990, pp 119-127.
Pearson, Peter, The Heart of Dublin, Resurgence of an historic city (Dublin: O’Brien Press, 2000).
Ward-Perkins, Sarah, Select Guide to Trade Union Records in Dublin (Dublin: Irish Manuscripts Commission, 1996).
Sitwell, Sacheverell, British Architects and Craftsmen: a survey of taste, design, and style during three centuries, 1600-1830 (London: Batsford, 1945).
‘Street Architecture in Dublin,’ The Irish Builder, vol xii, No 251 (1 June 1870). p. 123.
Walsh, Dan, 100 Wexford Country Houses (Enniscorthy: Mill Park Publications, 1996).
Walsh, Geraldine et al, The Irish House, An Teach Galeach, Public House 1870-1968 (Dublin: Dublin Civic Trust, 2009).

Footnotes and references:

[1] Joseph McDonnell, ‘Saving Dublin’s Stuccowork,’ The Irish Times, 5 April 1994; Farrell (1991), p. 1.
[2] Farrell (1991), pp 1-2.
[3] McDonnell (191), pp 1-4.
[4] Graig (1980), pp 168-169, 221; McDonnell (1991), pp 6-8, 11-13.
[5] Craig (1980), pp 134, 230-231, 265; Curran (1939); Curran (1967); Lucey (2007).
[6] O’Reilly, ‘Patrick Osborne, an Irish Stuccodore,’ pp 119-127.
[7] Curran (1939); Curran (1967); Lucey (2007).
[8] Curran (1939); Curran (1967); Lucey (2007).
[9] Clarke and Refaussé, pp 16-17.
[10] Clarke and Refaussé, 12-13, 16-18.
[11] Clarke and Refaussé, p. 16.
[12] Opatsi, NAI.
[13] Clarke and Refaussé, pp 13, 16.
[14] Ward-Perkins, pp 102-103; Clarke and Refaussé, pp 16.
[15] Graham Hickey, ‘Decorative Exterior Stuccowork,’ in Walsh et al (2009), p. 16.
[16] Hickey (2009), p. 19.
[17] Hickey (2009), p. 19.
[18] Hickey (2009), p. 19.
[19] ‘Street Architecture in Dublin,’ The Irish Builder, vol xii, No 251 (1 June 1870), p. 123. See Pearson (2000), pp 239-241.
[20] Peter Walsh, ‘Is there any future for these material remains of Dublin’s past? The Irish House remembered,’ pp 22-35 in Walsh et al (2009), pp 25-26.
[21] His death certificate gives his age at death as 85; see Peter Walsh, in Walsh et al (2009), p. 25.
[22] E. Langton Hayburn, ‘Langton Portraits,’ Old Kilkenny Review 25 (1973), pp 76-78; E. Langton Hayburn, ‘The Sale of the Langton Mansion on High Street, Kilkenny,’ Old Kilkenny Review, 3/1 (Second Series) (1984), pp 75-77; see also The Comerford Collection: Portrait Miniatures (Dublin, privately published in association with an exhibition at the Irish Architectural Archive, 2009).
[23] Furlong (2003), p. 110; de Vál (1972), pp 43-47.
[24] Furlong (2003), p. 110; de Vál (1972), pp 43-47.
[25] Furlong (2003), p. 110; de Vál (1972), pp 43-47.
[26] Peter Walsh, in Walsh et al (2009), p. 25.
[27] de Vál (2004), p. 19.
[28] de Vál (2004), pp 44-45.
[29] de Vál (2004), p. 45.
[30] Furlong (2003), p. 115; de Vál (2004), pp 18-19; Michael Fisher, pp 24-25, 35; Rosemary Hill, pp 171, 198-199.
[31] Rosemary Hill, pp 270-271.
[32] Grattan Flood, p. 000; Furlong (2003), p. 000; de Vál (2004), p. 41; Rosemary Hill, 522.
[33] Grattan Flood, pp 5-8; Galloway, p. 103; de Vál, (2004) pp 23-25; Rosemary Hill, p. 522.
[34] de Vál (2004), p. 25; Patrick Comerford, visits to Enniscorthy (1972-2012), last visits 2012.
[35] de Vál (2004), pp 23-25; Patrick Comerford, visits to Enniscorthy (1972-2012), last visits 2009.
[36] de Vál (2004), p. 100.
[37] Grattan Flood, pp 59, 135, 187; Furlong (2003), pp 115, 162-163; de Vál (2004), pp 18-19, 77-79, 131, 140; Rosemary Hill, pp 216-217, 522-524.
[38] de Vál (2004), p. 117; Rosemary Hill, p. 523.
[39] Oral tradition; for a number of Comerford families that were living in John Street, Wexford, at this time, see Chapter 000.
[40] Grattan-Flood, pp 129-130, de Vál (2004), pp 136-138.
[41] Dan Walsh (1996), pp 16-17, 49; de Vál (2004), pp 19, 42, 123.
[42] See death certificate for his sister-in-law, Mary Doyle, 28.8.1852; Peter Walsh, p. 25.
[43] Costello, pp 42-43, 96-97, 150-151; de Vál (2004), p. 91; Michael Fisher, pp 41-42; Rosemary Hill, pp 489-450, 494-495; Burke’s Peerage, various eds, s.v. Shrewsbury.
[44] Rosemary Hill, p. 495; Peter Walsh (2009), p. 25.
[45] de Vál (2004), pp 19, 113; Rosemary Hill, p. 495.
[46] Costello, p. 42.
[47] Costello, p. 48.
[48] Costello, p. 42; de Vál (2004), p. 25.
[49] Costello, p. 60.
[50] Peter Walsh (2009), p. 25.
[51] Peter Walsh (2009), p. 25.
[52] Peter Walsh (2009), p. 25.
[53] Curran (1967); Kevin B. Nowlan (2009), p. 11; Peter Walsh (2009), p. 25; Sean Lynch (2006).
[54] Geraldine Walsh (2009), p. 3.
[55] Lynch (2006); Geraldine Walsh et al (2009), p. 5; Lynch (2009), p. 7.
[56] Lynch (2009), p. 7.
[57] Geraldine Walsh in Geraldine Walsh et al (2009), p. 3; Kevin B. Nowlan (2009), p. 12.
[58] Geraldine Walsh in Geraldine Walsh et al (2009), p. 3; Graham Hickey, ‘Decorative Exterior Stuccowork,’ pp 16-21 in Walsh et (2009), p. 16.
[59] Lynch (2006); Lynch (2009), p. 7; Peter Walsh (2009), p. 27.
[60] Lynch (2006); Lynch (2009), p. 7; Nowlan (2009), p. 12.
[61] Lynch (2006); Lynch (2009), p. 7.
[62] Peter Walsh (2009), p. 25.
[63] Lynch (2006); Lynch (2009), pp 7-8; Nowlan (2009), p. 12.
[64] Ward-Perkins, p. 103.
[65] Peter Walsh (2009), p. 30.
[66] Peter Walsh (2009), p. 30.
[67] Lynch (2006); Lynch (2009), p. 8.
[68] Peter Walsh (2009), p. 32.
[69] Peter Walsh (2009), p. 32.
[70] Lynch (2006); Lynch (2009), p. 8; Peter Walsh (2009), pp 31-32.
[71] Peter Walsh (2009), p. 32.
[72] Lynch (2006); Lynch (2009), p. 8.
[73] Lynch (2009), p. 8.
[74] Lynch (2006); Lynch (2009), p. 8.
[75] Peter Walsh (2009), p. 32.
[76] Nowlan (2009), p. 11; Lynch (2009), p. 7.
[77] Nowlan (2009), p. 12.
[78] Lynch (2009), p. 12.
[79] Nowlan (2009), p. 13.
[80] Peter Walsh (2009), p. 32.
[81] Peter Walsh (2009), p. 25; Costello, p. 60.
[82] Lynch (2009), p. 8; Graham Hickey (2009), p. 20; Peter Walsh (2009), pp 26-27.
[83] Peter Walsh (2009), pp 26-27. However, Peter Walsh suggests that James Comerford was too old in the 1880s to have executed the stuccowork at the Oarsman, and speculates that the “arts and crafts style may indicate the hand of” his son “James Comerford the younger.”
[84] 1901 Census returns.
[85] Opatsi archives; Peter Walsh, (2009), p. 25.
[86] Opatsi archives; Ward-Perkins, p. 103.
[87] Opatsi archives.
[88] Ward-Perkins, pp 102-105.
[89] 1901 census returns for 11 Upper Beechwood Avenue; Nicholas Furlong (1984?), p. 19.
[90] See death certificate for his sister-in-law, Mary Doyle, 28.8.1852.
[91] See death certificate for his niece, Mary Comerford, 29.12.1865.
[92] For example, see birth certificate for his son, Stephen Edward Comerford, December 1867.
[93] See death certificate for his wife Anne Comerford, 28.4.1899; handwritten memorial card in the possession of her grandson, Stephen E. Comerford of Rathfarnham, now in the possession of Patrick Comerford; 1901 census returns.
[94] 1901 census returns; death certificate for James Comerford.
[95] Kelly (1995), pp 229-230.
[96] Birth and marriage entries for their son, Stephen Edward Comerford.
[97] Death certificate.
[98] Death certificate; handwritten memorial card; see Opatsi minutes, 1039/2/1 for April and May that year.
[99] See her father’s will, where she is named; additional information from her niece, Margaret Comerford (1912-1995).
[100] Indenture dated 23 June 1888, Comerford Family Papers (Patrick Comerford Collection).
[101] See James Comerford, Some Records of the Comerford family collected by a descendant, privately published and dated 26 November 1902, Tamworth Library, Local History Collection, shelf T/COM.
[102] James Comerford (1902), pp 1-2, 6.
[103] James Comerford (1902), p. 2.
[104] James Comerford (1902), p. 3.
[105] James Comerford (1902), pp 3-5.
[106] James Comerford (1902), p. 4.
[107] James Comerford (1902), p. 4, and photograph facing p. 4.
[108] Rosemary Hill, pp 230-231.
[109] 1901 census returns; death certificate for James Comerford.
[110] de Vál (2004), pp 43, 47.
[111] de Vál, (2004), pp 19, 49, 60, 74, 112.
[112] Peter Walsh (2009), pp 23, 31.
[113] Peter Walsh (2009), p. 32.
[114] Peter Walsh (2009), pp 23, 31.
[115] Quoted in Peter Walsh (2009), pp 32-33.
[116] Geraldine Walsh (2009), pp 3, 5-6, 14; Kevin B. Nowlan (2009), p. 11; Lynch, (2006).
[117] Geraldine Walsh (2009), pp 5-6, 14; Lynch, (2006); Peter Walsh (2009), p. 33; Pearson (2000), p. 241.
[118] Peter Walsh (2009), p. 33.
[119] Geraldine Walsh (2009), pp 3, 14; Lynch (2006).
[120] Geraldine Walsh (2009), pp 6, 14-15; Lynch, (2006); Peter Walsh (2009), p. 35.
[121] Geraldine Walsh (2009), p. 6; Lynch, (2006).
[122] Geraldine Walsh (2009), p. 15; Kevin B. Nowlan (2009), p. 15; Lynch, (2006); Peter Walsh (2009), p. 35.
[123] Geraldine Walsh (2009), pp 3, 15; Lynch (2006); Peter Walsh (2009), p. 35.
[124] Geraldine Walsh (2009), p. 3.

© Patrick Comerford, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013. Last updated 4, 12, 14 and 16 December 2009; 4 September 2010; 23 December 2012; 16 April 2013; 22 and 23 July 2014.

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