Who, thinking of limericks, could approach Limerick without picturing a cheerful town”

“Who, thinking of limericks, could approach Limerick without picturing a cheerful town”

Heinrich Böll, who visited Limerick in 1972

Heinrich Theodor Böll ( 21 December 1917 – 16 July 1985) was one of Germany's foremost post–World War II writers. Böll was awarded the Georg Büchner Prize in 1967 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1972.

“Who, thinking of limericks, could approach Limerick without picturing a cheerful town”

Heinrich Böll, who visited Limerick in 1972

Heinrich Theodor Böll ( 21 December 1917 – 16 July 1985) was one of Germany’s foremost post–World War II writers. Böll was awarded the Georg Büchner Prize in 1967 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1972.

For many Limerick, Limericks and poetry are difficult to separate. For some, the Limerick may have been their introduction to poetry, for others they never moved beyond the fun of the Limerick to enjoy the breadth of opportunity offered by poetry.

It is widely thought that Edward Lear invented the Limerick, although this is probably incorrect.

The Limerick as a form was popularised by Edward Lear in his first Book of Nonsense (1846) and a later work, More Nonsense, Pictures, Rhymes, Botany, etc. (1872). Lear wrote 212 Limericks, mostly considered nonsense literature. The humour is not in the punch line ending but rather in the tension between meaning and the lack of meaning.

In one of his typical Limericks, Lear wrote:

There was a Young Person of Smyrna
Whose grandmother threatened to burn her.
But she seized on the cat,
and said ‘Granny, burn that!
You incongruous old woman of Smyrna!’

Whether he invented it or not, Lear certainly made the Limerick popular. The Oxford English Dictionary first defined the word Limerick in 1892, four years after Lear’s death. But as OE Parrott makes clear in the opening pages of The Penguin Book of Limericks:

The Limerick’s birth is unclear:
Its genesis owed much to Lear.
It started as clean,
But soon went obscene.
And this split haunts its later career.

But in Limerick, it is said the five-line verse probably originated from the Limerick-makers of Croom, known as the Maigue poets, who worked in the 18th century. They were school-teachers, priests and self-styled persons of letters, living within 30 km of Croom. Their gatherings and revels in pubs and inns were said to resemble the ancient Irish bardic schools, conducted in Greek, Latin and Irish.

One of the Maigue’s first-known Limerick-writers was a publican, John O’Toumy, who was born near Croom in 1706. Of his own business practices, he bemoaned:

I sell the best brandy and sherry,
To make my good customers merry.
But at times their finances
Run short as it chances,
And then I feel very sad, very.

To this another Maigue poet, Andrew McCrath, quickly retorted:

O’Toumy! You boast yourself handy
At selling good ale and fine brandy,
But the fact is your liquor
Makes everyone sicker,
I tell you that, I, your friend, Andy.

Ronald Knox caricatured the philosophy and theology of the I8th century Irish bishop George Berkeley in a pair of Limericks:

There was a young man who said, ‘God
Must think it exceedingly odd
If he finds that this tree
Continues to be
When there’s no-one about in the Quad.’

And the reply, according to Knox was:

Dear Sir:
Your astonishment’s odd:
I am always about in the Quad.
And that’s why the tree
Will continue to be,
Sincerely observed by, Yours faithfully, GOD.

The poet WH Auden, whose literary corpus is marked by thoughtfulness and solemnity, seemed to find release in the humour of the Limerick:

T.S. Eliot is quite at a loss
When clubwomen bustle across
At literary teas,
Crying: ‘What, if you please,
Did you mean by The Mill on the Floss?’

Che Guevara, Co. Limerick, Folklore, History, Limerick City

Did Che Guevara have a pint of Guinness in the White House?

Did you know that Che Guevara visited the White House and had a pint of Guinness?

Che Guevara visited Limerick in 1965 and wanted to experience Limerick’s night life, which he did in the White House Bar, one of Limerick’s oldest pubs.

Che Guevara visited Limerick in 1965 and had a pint of Guinness in 1965
Che Guevara wanted to experience the night life in Limerick.

Jim Fitzpatrick, one of Ireland’s most celebrated artists, also remembers meeting Che Guevara working in a bar in Kilkee in 1961. Which might not have happened according to others.
Jim recalls Che being locked into Hanratty’s pub in Limerick on that visit too. Its residents’ bar was nicknamed the ‘Glue Pot’. While it is unknown how much drink Guevara had at the Glue Pot, many of the group ‘were wearing sprigs of shamrock’.

A plaque on the corner commemorates the invention of the Limerick, which may, or may not, have been invented in Limerick.

The Limerick is furtive and mean;
you must keep her in close quarantine,
or she sneaks up to the slums
and promptly becomes
disorderly, drunk, and obscene.

This Limerick is found on the corner where Limerick's White House Bar is found. Some say the Limerick was invented in Limerick, though others say it wasn't.
Of course, I am biased and say it is
This Limerick is found on the corner where Limerick’s White House Bar is found. Some say the Limerick was invented in Limerick, though others say it wasn’t.
Of course, I am biased and say it is

This has been a favourite haunt of bankers, lawyers, artists and musicians. Jack Charlton, Jim Kemmy, Frank McCourt and Richard Harris are all said to have had a pint here.

The pub earned its name not because of its colour but because the company that first opened the White House was WH White & Co. It was bought by Eamonn Gleeson and his family in the 1920s. Eamon Gleeson, whose picture hangs proudly in the bar, was noted as ‘an eccentric, who used to wire all the bar stools together so they couldn’t be moved.’

For a long time the bar and its management prided themselves on the fact that this was one of the few pubs in Limerick not to have a TV, focusing instead on poetry and acoustic music nights, promoting local writers and singers.

The pub is known for its artistic and cultural heritage. The White House poetry nights have featured poets from all over the world, and the pub has always been supportive of actors, writers and musicians.

A plaque on the façade of the White House celebrated the Limerick-born poet Desmond O’Grady
A plaque on the façade of the White House celebrated the Limerick-born poet Desmond O’Grady

Socialist revolutionary and guerilla leader Che Guevara, aged 39, was killed on 9 October, 1967 by the Bolivian army. The U.S.-military-backed Bolivian forces captured Guevara on 8 October while battling his band of guerillas in Bolivia and assassinated him the following day. His hands were cut off as proof of death and his body was buried in an unmarked grave. In 1997, Guevara’s remains were found and sent back to Cuba, where they were reburied in a ceremony attended by President Fidel Castro and thousands of Cubans.

Ernesto Rafael Guevara de la Serna was born to a well-off family in Argentina in 1928. While studying medicine at the University of Buenos Aires, he took time off to travel around South America on a motorcycle; during this time, he witnessed the poverty and oppression of the lower classes. He received a medical degree in 1953 and continued his travels around Latin America, becoming involved with left-wing organisations. In the mid 1950s, Guevara met up with Fidel Castro and his group of exiled revolutionaries in Mexico. Guevara played a key role in Castro’s seizure of power from Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959 and later served as Castro’s right-hand man and minister of industry. Guevara strongly opposed U.S. domination in Latin America and advocated peasant-based revolutions to combat social injustice in Third World countries. He became president of the Cuban national bank and helped to shift the country’s trade relations from the United States to the Soviet Union. Castro later described him as “an artist of revolutionary warfare.”

Guevara resigned—some say he was dismissed—from his Cuban government post in April 1965, possibly over differences with Castro about the nation’s economic and foreign policies. Guevara then disappeared from Cuba, traveled to Africa and eventually resurfaced in Bolivia, where he was killed. Following his death, Guevara achieved hero status among people around the world as a symbol of anti-imperialism and revolution. A 1960 photo taken by Alberto Korda of Guevara in a beret became iconic and has since appeared on countless posters and T-shirts. However, not everyone considers Guevara a hero: He is accused, among other things, of ordering the deaths of hundreds of people in Cuban prisons during the revolution.

Jim Fitzpatrick is an Irish artist famous for Irish Celtic art. Perhaps his most famous piece is his iconic two-tone portrait of Che Guevara created in 1968 and based on the photo by Alberto Korda. As a lifelong communist and supporter of the Cuban Revolution until his death, Alberto Korda claimed no payment for his picture. The modified version of the portrait by Jim Fitzpatrick was also reproduced on a range of different media, though Korda never asked for royalties. Korda reasoned that Che’s image represented his revolutionary ideals, and thus the more his picture spread the greater the chance Che’s ideals would spread as well. Korda’s refusal to seek royalties for the vast circulation of his photograph helped it become the ultimate symbol of Marxist revolution and anti-imperialist struggle.

In 2011, Jim Fitzpatrick announced his intention to copyright the iconic red and black Che Guevara graphic, which he initially released copyright-free for intended use among revolutionary groups in Europe and elsewhere. He blamed “crass commercial” use of the image for his decision and handed over the copyright and all rights, in perpetuity, to the family of Guevara in Cuba.

Jim Fitzpatrick met Che Guevara in the Royal Marine Hotel bar in Kilkee, Co Clare, in the summer of 1961. Fitzpatrick was 16 years old at the time, and had travelled down to the seaside village to work in the hotel while on holidays from Gormanstown College, Co Meath.


Hillforts, Ringforts & Hoards: The Archaeology of Ardagh, Co. Limerick

Know Thy Place Blog

Know Thy Place Director Damian Shiels recently took the opportunity to explore some of the archaeology of the place where he grew up, near the village of Ardagh, Co. Limerick. The area is extremely rich in later prehistoric and early medieval heritage, and was the find spot of one of the most famous artefacts ever discovered on the island of Ireland.

I was very fortunate to have an ‘archaeological view’ when I was growing up in Co. Limerick. Directly across from our front door it is possible to take in c. 2,000 years of history in a single glance. The first monument to catch your eye is the impressive banks and ditches of an early medieval ringfort, one of the many such homesteads that are dotted around the area. The view is dominated by the ‘Black Hill’, which overlooks this part of Limerick and from which you can see five…

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#OTD in Irish History – 6 October:

Stair na hÉireann | History of Ireland

1175 – Under the Treaty of Windsor, concluded on this date, Rory O’Connor recognises Henry as his overlord and agrees to collect tribute for him from all parts of Ireland. Henry agrees that O’Connor can be king of the areas not conquered by the Normans. But O’Connor cannot control the territories of which he is nominally king, and Henry and his barons annex further land without consulting him.

1216 – The union of the diocese of Glendalough with that of Dublin, having been promulgated by Pope Innocent III last year, is confirmed by Pope Honorius III.

1798 – Grattan removed from Irish Privy Council, falsely charged with being a sworn member of United Irishmen.

1891 – Death of Charles Stewart Parnell, champion of tenants rights and co-founder of the Land League; often called the “Uncrowned King of Ireland”.

1901 – Birth of C. S. ‘Todd’ Andrews, revolutionary and public servant…

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Tracing the stucco art  of Pat McAuliffe on the  streets of Abbeyfeale

The former O’Connor’s on Main Street is Pat McAuliffe’s most extravagant work in Abbeyfeale, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017) 

Patrick Comerford 

Tracing the stucco art of Pat McAuliffe on the streets of Abbeyfeale

Some months ago, I wrote about Pat McAuliffe (1846-1921), the stucco and architectural artist who lived and worked in Listowel, Co Kerry, and his decorative stucco work in Listowel. I had walked through the streets of Listowel, and had been enthralled by his hotel façades, detailed shopfronts and pub decorations.

His work is a wonderful and eclectic mixture of classical, art nouveau, Celtic and Byzantine influences. They are important examples of the late 19th century pan-European quest for a national style, and they remind me of the style of stucco work by my great-grandfather, James Comerford (1817-1902), at the Irish House on Wood Quay and the Oarsman in Ringsend, Dublin.

But there are significant examples of Pat McAuliffe’s work too in Abbeyfeale, Co Limerick, and recently I spent a rainy but enthusiastic afternoon there exploring the surviving parts of his work.

From the early 19th century, Abbeyfeale – like Listowel – grew in importance and expanded as a market town and commercial centre. A new Market Square was laid out, with new streets leading off it, and the building trades found a new demand for their skills.

In Abbeyfeale, Pat McAuliffe plastered and roofed many of the new buildings in New Street, and he renovated shopfronts and pub-fronts, embellishing them with his decorative stucco work.

McAuliffe’s most extravagant and best-known work in Abbeyfeale was at O’Connor’s on Main Street. This building was an example of how Abbeyfeale grow as a business town in the 19th century. The original building was probably erected in the 1850s, and originally housed the family townhouse, with a drapery shop and a branch bank at ground-floor level. In time, it came to accommodate a drapery, public house, grocery, hardware, builders’ suppliers.

Large-scale renovations were carried out in 1905-1910, and McAuliffe probably did not work on the ground floor, where there was already a large shopfront, an entrance to the family residence and a pub-front.

Instead, McAuliffe worked on the two upper floors, where his stucco decorations are eye-catching and riotous.

The first floor has nine pilaster-style strips with inter-lacing Celtic designs that are mainly interspaced by the windows, while the second floor has ten large imposts that, along with the window keystones, are decorated with animals, Biblical allegories, including a mammoth, a wolf, a frog, a peacock, Eve in the Garden of Eden, a dove elephants and lions’ heads.

A Latin aphorism and an Anglo-Saxon blessing on O’Connor’s on Main Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The focal point of McAuliffe’s work is found at the corner of the top floor, which he decorated with a segmented curved mass. In bold clear lettering, a Latin citation stands out: Vita Brevis Ars Longa – ‘Life is short, art is long.’ This is a Latin version of an aphorism originally in Greek, quoting the first two lines of the Aphorismi by the classical Greek physician Hippocrates:

Ὁ βίος βραχύς,
ἡ δὲ τέχνη μακρή,
ὁ δὲ καιρὸς ὀξύς,
ἡ δὲ πεῖρα σφαλερή,
ἡ δὲ κρίσις χαλεπή.

Life is short,
and art long,
opportunity fleeting,
experimentations perilous,
and judgment difficult.

The familiar Latin translation quoted by McAuliffe reverses the order of the original Greek lines. In plainer language, Hippocrates is saying: ‘It takes a long time to acquire and perfect one’s expertise and one has but a short time in which to do it.’

Below this, McAuliffe has a three-lined scrolled text that reads:

Hal, wes bu, folde, fira modor Beo, bu, growende on Godes ferfine Fodre grefylled, firum to nytte

This is said to be a 10th century Anglo-Saxon agricultural charm, and has been translated:

Hail to thee, Earth, Mother of men!
Be fruitful in God’s embrace
Filled with food for the use of men.

McAuliffe placed an angel on the corner above the texts, but this has been removed in recent decades. The upper floors now show signs of neglect, with layers of paint peeling away from the façade, although much repainting and repair work was carried out on this majestic building in 2004.

McAuliffe turned the former Georgian shopfront at JD Daly’s into a typical expression of his tastes in decoration (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

JD Daly’s is a three-storey, two bay building on Main Street, Abbeyfeale, that was a public house, grocery shop and guesthouse, first built in 1853 on Georgian architectural principles.

McAuliffe’s expressive work on this building dares from about 1890 and included Corinthian capitals, Egyptian gorge moulding, arabesque features, Latin scrolls, Hiberno-Romanesque bearded men, lions’ heads, and Italian diamond-pointed quoins.

When the gable end was replastered in the 1960s, it meant the destruction of an embellished text on a curved scroll that quoted the motto on the great seal of the United States: E Pluribus Unum.

Two, large Byzantine urns that once crowned the façade – one at each side of a large bracketed cornice – were removed in the1970s, supposedly for insurance reasons. In more recent years, Daly’s former pub has become a drapery shop, and then a private residence, resulting in the loss of McAuliffe’s fascia board.

Tangle’s was once a pub and retains much of McAuliffe’s work (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Tangle’s Hair Salon on Main Street is a former pub that has retained its render quoins, a decorative sill band, window surrounds and pilasters. The elaborately decorated shopfront demonstrates the influence of classical design ideas on McAuliffe’s work, and he used the pilaster as an economic substitute for cut stone.

McAuliffe’s work can be seen on Fuchsia Hair Design on Main Street, (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

McAuliffe was possibly also the stucco artist who decorated the premises now known as Fuchsia Hair Design on Main Street, with its large amount of render decoration to the façade. There are heavily-rusticated quoins coupled with a dentilated cornice and interlacing motifs that create a striking composition.

McAuliffe’s work at Cryle’s is an eclectic mixture (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Cryle’s Dry Cleaners and Laundrette on New Street was built as O’Mara’s public house. This is a two-storey, three-bay building, and McAuliffe’s work on the façade was an eclectic mixture of exaggerated classical detailing, combined with Celtic, Byzantine and Middle Eastern influences.

The Byzantine influences are seen in the eight urns, each topped with a cross. The first storey is framed by pilaster strips of Celtic tracery, each topped with foliated capitals designed by McAuliffe himself. The three windows on this floor are linked with large moulded bands, and above these bands is a pair of radiating starbursts, flanked on the outside by interlaced Stars of David.

When the building was replastered in 1990s, the fascia detailing was lost along with the ground-floor pilasters with their interlacing strapwork.

At MJ Moloney’s, McAuliffe was influenced by Classical Revival styles (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

At the former MJ Moloney’s pub on Church Street, now a takeaway food shop, McAuliffe’s work was influenced by Classical Revival styles, and the designs for the shopfront includes plants and circular motifs enlivening the frieze.

There are more premises throughout Abbeyfeale that seem to be McAuliffe’s work, or that were influenced by his stucco art. I may need to return on a sunny afternoon this summer to see if I can identify them.