Limerick Churches

When I was small, my auntie used to take me to the churches around Limerick . It was great being a kid in those days. Spooky exorcist shit: plaster saints and candles and all that Hollywood stuff, but almost free. No entrance fee except you had to put some money into a shiny box if you wanted to light a candle.

I remember them so well. The Augustinians – the church with the best drainpipes in Limerick. It was easy to climb them because they were square and easy to hold on to. The church had a flat roof you could play football on it, like Brian Crowley did,wherever he lived,, and fall off and got paralysed as well, like he did. I nearly did that once, leaping over a parapet and gazing down into a forty-foot drop. I still don’t know how I seemed to just stop myself and fall back. Frightened.

Let’s not forget the Franciscans. The good old Franciscans, the humblest of them all, in open-toed sandals and simple friars’ robes just like Saint Francis, their team captain. Songbirds landing on their hands: hello St Francis, can I have a nut? So fucking humble that when a nearby block was being redeveloped, they vetoed an upper floor on the building because they didn’t want their views of the River Shannon obstructed.

Let’s see now. Where else? Oh right, of course. How could I forget the Redemptorists, or, as we serfs knew them, the Holy Fathers? The Holy Fathers. The saintly, wise Holy Fathers with their arch-confraternity. The good, decent Holy Fathers who were behind the only pogrom in Ireland that I’m aware of. Maybe you know of another, in which case you can email me and I’ll be happy to publish the details. I’m proud to say that my parents never sent me to the confraternity because they held the fuckers in contempt, and so I was spared that quasi-fascist shite, but sadly, my home town of Limerick was not.

Moving right along here, you had the new churches that looked like crashed aeroplanes, and we won’t talk about them. They were designed by a fucking fool called the Chevalier Sheahan, a sort of architect with a plume of feathers on his head for special occasions. He was called the Chevalier because he got some kind of a kiss on the back of the bollocks from the Pope of his time. (Hey: I told you this used to be Albania!) He was a sort of architect, though he had no formal qualifications at all except for a loud mouth, a thick neck and the ear of some fucking bishop. A miser and a good Catholic who treated his staff like shit, I’m told. A Christian man. We’ll come back to this guy some day, I promise.

Saint Michael’s was great. It has the real Saint Michael on the roof still to this day, killing the Serpent with a lance. Take that, you fucking serpent, he’s saying in Latin. He was one of the Archangels: the guys with special powers. I think Saint Michael’s special power was that he could curse in Latin.

But my special favourite was the Dominicans. Not because of the paintings on the ceiling, though they were impressive. Old naked guys with beards waving at each other: how’s it goin’ Boss? Not even because of the side altars they had, full to the brim with spooky plaster saints. No. What I loved was a piece of plumbing outside the church. A steel tank, rectangular, proto-cuboid, perhaps two metric feet by two metric feet by one deep. Grey-painted and not much to look at. With a small tap at one extremity, about two metric inches from the bottom.

I nearly forgot to mention that the Dominicans were the people behind the Inquisition, a fact that leaves me feeling a little uneasy. What if they should take exception to anything said here? Would it be the Iron Maiden for me? Probably not, as they were forbidden to shed blood, out of Christian mercy. More likely, it would involve multiple dislocations, breaking on the Wheel, and perhaps a bit of racking, followed by the Boot. Since childhood, I’ve admired the evil ecclesiastical genius who came up with the Boot. Saint Plumbum, perhaps?

Where were we? Tank. Tap. Yes. Holy water. A tank of holy water, that my beloved auntie could use to replenish the Baby Powers bottle for the font in the hall, without disturbing the tranquillity of the saintly fathers. Glug glug into the bottle.

In those days, people went through a lot of holy water.

Well, here comes the chemistry. You see, in my childish error, I thought that every night, one of these saintly gentlemen appeared on the roof and zapped some holiness into the tank for tomorrow’s pilgrims. It’s the least you’d expect, isn’t it? A crash of thunder. Some lightning, and there he is on the parapet. Spiderman! Or Dracula.

But no. Not a bit of it. It seems the tank worked the same as a toilet. When it was empty, a ball-float simply dropped down and let more water in, just like the cistern in your bathroom. Nobody ever went near the fucker.

So, I asked my little nine-year-old brain. How, who, what, when, what the fuck?

Simple. The good Fathers’ reasoning was impeccable, befitting a community of their erudition. The two inches between the bottom of the tank and the tap meant that there was always some holy water in there. The knowledge of ullage, you see, gleaned in college. Glowing H2O particles forever transiting in Brownian serenity. And because you can’t dilute holiness, they just let the blessed molecules mingle with the mortal.

Do you remember a chap by the name of Avogadro? Maybe not, but it doesn’t matter. Avogadro did the scientific groundwork that allowed scientists to quantify the number of molecules in any small amount of stuff, and it works out to be precisely one metric fuck-load. You see, there are so many molecules in even the slightest quantity of water that they irradiate the whole lot with their holiness. Brilliant. That’s productivity.


If I called up to the Dominicans today, filled a Baby Powers bottle with their holy water and then tossed it into the majestic River Shannon, thereby to convey it to the sea, wouldn’t it be safe to assume that in short order the entire Atlantic would be holy water? A weapon of mass-sanctification.

Or perhaps the salt would neutralise it.

11 thoughts on “Limerick Churches

  1. Im back ,im sober(I think)and I can use spell check.
    Bock ,youll burn in hell you heathen bastard!please supply photo of said steel grey holy grail.

  2. Maybe they blessed the tank and, in doing, made blessed anything that resided therein. The only problem with that is that you’d have to ask Annie Fitz to wash her toenails elsewhere.

  3. HZC: Well you sobered up, did you? Good man.

    Cap’n: That’s probably it. The tank is irradiated. Holy Toenails!

  4. Hey bock, is there any chance you could give details about that pogrom you mentioned?? pretty please.

    There is so much dark shit that went on in this country and I’m busting to know about it. Its hard to find books with this kind of info, most of it just relates to what the brits did.

  5. BTW, as far as I’ve read, the Catholics invented holy water since there is no mention of it in the Bible.

    Its little more than fairy charms and magic words. Think of the absurdity of Holy Water in general.

    I just started reading Leviathan, its cool

  6. Bock,

    Let’s hear you on transubstantiation when you run out of Holy Water.


  7. Bock, and do the Js, pardon me I mean the Society of Jesus, not have a church worth writing about?

  8. Niall: I’ll try and get to it some time.

    Benny: Good plan.

    Conan: I’d never be able to cover them all, but interestingly enough, they don’t actually have a church now. It’s been decontaminated and I think it’s going to be a lap-dancing club or something.

  9. You should have a look at the movie “Holy Water”. It is an Irish movie set up North (in Derry i believe). Myself and a friend came across it in the movie rental store in Kilkee towards the end of this summer, we got quite the laugh from it.

  10. Limerick Boycott 1904: Anti-Semitism in Ireland, by Dermot Keogh and Andrew McCarthy, Mercier Press, 163 pp, €20, ISBN: 978-1856354530

    From Manus O’ Riordan Dublin Review of Books

    “The first non-Jewish writer to write a comprehensive history of Ireland’s Jewish minority and incorporate into it much original research on Limerick was Dermot Keogh. In his 1998 work, Jews in Twentieth Century Ireland, Keogh was already writing somewhat equivocally:

    Various writers have described as a ‘pogrom’ the events in Limerick of early January 1904. Is the retention of the term justified, considering nobody was killed or seriously injured? I believe it is, for the following reasons: based on their experiences in Lithuania, the word pogrom came immediately to the lips of Limerick’s Jews when they found themselves under attack in January 1904. This was pointed out to me by Gerald Goldberg, whose family lived there in 1904 and were obliged to leave the city as a consequence of the disturbances.

    Yet nowhere in the course of Goldberg’s own previously-cited scholarly article had he himself ever used the word “pogrom”, not even once.

    In 2005 Dermot Keogh revisited this subject matter in a new book co-authored with Andrew McCarthy. While incorporating material that had been in his 1998 work, this latest publication had the added bonus of providing marvellous facsimile reproductions of original documentation from that period. Moreover, Keogh had, in fact, also moved a step further from his more tentative reservations of 1998: “Ultimately, of course, it is for the reader to judge whether the events should be viewed as a boycott or a pogrom … The fact that we have chosen to entitle the book Limerick Boycott 1904 will indicate our preference, but nothing can detract from the terror experienced by the Jews of Limerick on the evening of Fr. Creagh’s first sermon.”

    In my 1974 essay on the subject I had connected the Dublin public house argument of the Cyclops episode of Ulysses with the contemporary boycott of Limerick’s Jewish community. But five years later I failed to set Arthur Griffith’s propaganda against Jewish immigration into Ireland against the backdrop of anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom, which manifested itself in the 1905 Aliens Act. The vileness of Griffith’s anti-Semitic propaganda during 1904 had, of course, been as unconscionable as it was inexcusable: “The Jew in Ireland is in every respect an economic evil”, “they are – nine tenths of them – usurers and parasites”, while all “were aware from childhood that the Jews slew a much greater than St. Stephen or St. James”. Such statements by Griffith would also have remained permanently unforgivable if he had continued to sustain even one iota of that stance in subsequent years. But he did not.”

  11. It is unwise to view isolated incidents as national traits we can cite the underrated and non-violent Irish born internationalist Michael Davitt who during 1904 worked in defense of beleaguered Russian Jews, his involvement was recalled two years later by Rabbai Rev. Dr. Joseph Silverman (1860-1930) of Temple Emanu-el voicing the gratitude of the Jewish people when celebrating the life of that most effective of internationalists at Carnegie Hall June of 1906, Dr. Silverman was received with good will by a thousand Irish people and put on record the debt of gratitude his race owes to Michael Davitt, recounting the effectiveness of his efforts during 1904 “When the piteous cries from Kishineff resounded throughout the world and told us that a slaughter of the oppressed was going on in Russia, stories calculated to give a false impression were circulated by the agents of the Russian Government” “Micheal Davitt then went into the Lion’s den and hunted down the stories as lies and extravagant exadurations. He (Davitt) learned the truth and told it to the world.”
    “We will never forget his service, by a strange coincidence while we today keep this vigil in his memory comes the piteous cry again from Russia saying that the murderers are again about their bloody work. Pillage murder and rapine are working havoc in Bialystok, while we are here remembering the champion of liberty.” (Silverman was the first american born Rabbai)
    No doubt cultural contempt and injustice still exist.

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