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.

Adare, Co. Limerick, Uncategorized

Bringing the bodies home:  JJ Murphy and the ‘Pickled Earl’

The monument to Lady Eva Constance Aline Bourke (1858-1940), Countess of Dunraven, in Saint Nicholas’ Church, Adare (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

by Patrick Comerford 

I was in Saint Nicholas’ Church, Adare, Co Limerick, last week to preach at the Harvest Thanksgiving Service.

Throughout this beautiful church, there are many monuments to the Wyndham-Quin family of Adare Manor, Earls of Dunraven. One monument recalls, Lady Eva Constance Aline Bourke (1858-1940), who became the Countess of Dunraven when she married Windham Wyndam-Quin (1857-1952), the 5th Earl of Dunraven.

Lady Eva was born in the Chief Secretary’s Lodge in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, now the residence of the US ambassador. She was the elder daughter of Richard Southwell Bourke (1822-72), the 6th Earl of Mayo, a former Governor-General of Mayo, who became known as the ‘Pickled Earl’ due to the circumstances surrounding his state funeral.

A similar funeral story involves Jeremiah James Murphy (1795-1851), who died in Pisa. He was part of a prosperous and adventurous merchant family in Cork involved in the Murphy distillery in Cork. His family members included John Murphy (1772-1847), Bishop of Cork, the Biblical scholar, the late Jerome Murphy-O’Connor (1935-2013), whose obituary I wrote for The Irish Times, and the late Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor (1932-2017), former Archbishop of Westminster.

The death of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor last month [1 September 2017] reminded once again of the story of JJ Murphy’s funeral.

I told the story of both Victorian funerals last year in ‘Bringing the bodies home: JJ Murphy and the ‘Pickled Earl’,’ which was published as Chapter 40 in Death and the Irish: a miscellany, edited by Salvador Ryan (Dublin: Wordwell, 2016), pp 151-154.

Palmerstown House, the former home of the earl of Mayo. Photo: Patrick Comerford, 2016

Bringing the bodies home:
JJ Murphy and the ‘Pickled Earl’ 

 by Patrick Comerford 

Air travel has reduced the stress when grieving Irish families have to arrange to bring home the bodies of loved ones who have died on foreign shores but want to be buried in their native soil.

It was not so easy in Victorian days, though, and families either had to accept someone was going to be buried overseas and or had to find innovative, sometimes even irreverent, ways to bring home the bodies for burial.

Jeremiah James Murphy (1795-1851), of Lota Park, Co Cork, came from a prosperous and adventurous merchant family in Cork who lived in Ringmahon House. His father, James Murphy, with two of his brothers, established the Murphy distillery in Cork, while his uncle, John Murphy (1772-1847), was Bishop of Cork.

Jeremiah’s nearest brother, John James Murphy (1796-1883), led an extraordinary life. As a teenager, John sailed the South China Seas and supposedly fought at the Battle of Trafalgar. In his 20s he went to Canada and become a frontiersman for the Hudson Bay Trading Company. While he was in Canada, John was elected chief of a tribe and became known as ‘The Black Eagle of the North’. He returned to Liverpool in the 1820s to go into the family business, went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and Rome in the late 1830s, then studied for the priesthood, and eventually became Archdeacon of Cork. When he died, he was buried in the Murphy family plot in Carrigrohane.

That spirit of adventure rubbed off on John’s elder brother, Jeremiah, who was in his 50s when he went on the grand tour of Italy. During that tour, he died in Pisa on 29 November 1851. But getting his body home to Ireland proved difficult for his family because the sailors at Naples feared taking the coffin would on board would bring them bad luck at sea. The Murphy family proved resourceful, however, and outwitted the Italian sailors by putting Jeremiah’s body in an upright piano which they then shipped back to Ireland. He was buried almost two months later, on 18 January 1852 in Carrigrohane, Co Cork – still in the upright piano. His widow Catherine (Bullen) lived on until 1872, and his sons set up James J. Murphy’s Brewery in Cork in 1854. The descendants of this branch of the Murphy family include Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor and the Biblical scholar, the late Jerome Murphy-O’Connor.

Richard Southwell Bourke (1822-72), of Palmerstown House, Co Kildare, was the sixth earl of Mayo. He was murdered in India in 1872 and is buried in Johnstown Churchyard, near Naas, Co Kildare. He is known as the ‘Pickled Earl’, since his body was preserved in a vat of rum on the long journey back to Ireland following his assassination.

Bourke was born in Dublin in 1822 and educated at Eton and Trinity College Dublin. He was descended from the de Burgo family; his great-grandfather, Joseph Deane Bourke, the third earl of Mayo, was the Church of Ireland bishop of Ferns and Leighlin (1772-82) and archbishop of Tuam (1782-94); and his grandfather, Richard Bourke, was bishop of Waterford and Lismore (1813-32).

A Celtic cross marks the earl of Mayo’s grave in Johnstown, Naas, Co Kildare. Photo: Patrick Comerford, 2016 

From 1849, Richard Bourke was known as Lord Naas, a courtesy title in his family. In County Kildare his tenants saw him as a good landlord, and during the famine he attended public meetings and supported the Dublin Central Relief Committee. After travelling in Russia, he entered politics and was elected Conservative MP for Kildare in 1847, and later sat as MP for Coleraine, Co. Derry.

He was three times chief secretary of Ireland (1852, 1858-9 and 1866-8), and in 1867 he succeeded his father as the sixth Earl of Mayo. Two years later, he became the Viceroy and Governor-General of India in 1869. Before leaving for India he gave instructions that should anything happen to him his body was to be brought back for burial in Johnstown.

In India, he was known for his reforming legislation. He consolidated the borders of India, reorganised finances so that a budgetary deficit was turned into a surplus, planned widespread irrigation, built roads and railways, undertook India’s first census, and founded Mayo College, since known as ‘India’s Eton’.

In 1869 he negotiated a close alliance with the Emir of Afghanistan, Shir Ali Khan, to offset Russia’s influence in the region. But while he was visiting a convict settlement at Port Blair in the Andaman Islands, he was attacked by an Afghan convict, Sher Ali Afridi, who murdered him with a knife on 8 February 1872. His dying words were words of forgiveness.

Lord Mayo’s partially-embalmed body was shipped home to Ireland, but in order to delay decomposition, his body was placed in a rum-filled cask … and so he became known as ‘the Pickled Earl’. To add spice to the story, when the cask was opened the body was there but there was no rum. Had it leaked out? Had it evaporated? Had it been drained off by the crew?

After a state funeral in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, Lord Mayo was buried on 26 April 1872 in Johnstown churchyard. He is commemorated by the large Celtic cross in Johnstown and the ‘Mayo Window’ at the east end of the North Aisle in St Patrick’s Cathedral. There is a statue to him too in the Cumbria fishing town of Cockermouth, where he was MP before he went to India.

His son, Dermot Bourke (1851-1927), seventh Earl of Mayo, became a member of the Senate of the Irish Free State. While he was a senator, Palmerstown House was burned by the IRA in 1923.

Apart from Mayo College, there are Mayo Halls in Allahabad and Bangalore, and a Mayo Hospital and a Mayo School of Arts in Lahore.

● Bringing the bodies home: JJ Murphy and the ‘Pickled Earl’ was first published as Chapter 40 in Death and the Irish: a miscellany (ed Salvador Ryan), Dublin: Wordwell, 2016, pp 151-154.

Adare, Co. Limerick, Uncategorized

Adare’s Desmond Castle

Adare’s Desmond Castle. Built in the 12th century on the site of an earlier O’Donovan structure it the home of the Kildare Branch of the FitzGeralds, who became the Earls of Desmond.

Adare’s Desmond Castle is regarded as a fine example of the medieval fortified castle in Ireland and is one of a number of outstanding castles situated in County Limerick. It is situated on the north bank of the River Maigue in a strategic position on a substantial earlier ringwork, possible an O’Donovan ringfort, where it was able to control traffic on the river. It was an important stronghold of the FitzGerald Earls of Desmond.

A strong, square keep forms the defensive core of the castle that stands within a walled ward surrounded by a moat. Beside the river is the great hall, with early 13th century windows looking out on to the river, and nearby is a kitchen and a bakery.


Adare, Co. Limerick, Uncategorized

The Dunraven Fountain

The Dunraven Fountain; a gift by Caroline, countess Dunraven to the people of Adare, Ireland.

Oh sweet Adare, Oh lovely vale
Oh soft retreat of sylvan splendour
Nor summer sun nor morning gale
E’er hailed a scene more softly tender
       Gerald Griffin   1803-1840


A freestanding, carved limestone monumental fountain, erected in 1855, set within a cut limestone pentagon-profile basin with carved copings.

Tapering four-sided obelisk style shaft surmounted by Celtic cross with carvings in relief and to the base. Plinth comprising projecting gables with trefoil and cross motifs and carved lettering in relief. Cast-iron spouts to three sides.

As its inscription indicates, this monument was ‘erected by Caroline Countess of Dunraven in grateful memory of the zeal shewn by the people of this village in quenching fire at the offices Adare Manor on the 1st April 1844‘.

It adds, therefore, much historical and artistic interest to the town.

Its site, next to the Holy Trinity Church, or the Trinitarian Abbey as it is also known, is a prominent one and it contributes significantly to the streetscape.

It was designed by Charles Hardwick, who also restored the church. Fine stonemasonry and artistic skill are evident throughout the monument, with the lettering and carving to the base of the cross being particularly fine examples.

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The Geraldines of Kildare developed Adare in medieval times and the present village was largely an early 19th century creation by the Dunraven family.

In 1756 John Wesley preached to the people of Adare from under an ash tree near the Franciscan Friary and the tree was still there until about 1860. Today a stone marks the site where this tree stood and the Methodists hold a Field Meeting here in June each year. In the early 19th century, the Earl of Dunraven, laid the plans for the existing streets and townhouses of Adare. These lands and dwellings were rented to tenants under various agreements, some of which still exist today.