St Philip & St James’ War Memorial

by Robert Knaggs.


The Story of the War Memorial in St Philip & St James’ Church.

[This article was originally published in the newsletter during 2001]

The year 2001 saw an interesting anniversary in the long history of our Parish Church of St Philip & St James, Booterstown.  80 years ago, on Sunday 20th February 1921, our beautiful war memorial, erected to commemorate parishioners who perished in the Great War of 1914 – 1918, was dedicated.

It can well be imagined that, following the end of the fighting and the subsequent Treaty of Versailles, a great fervour existed throughout the world to remember in tangible form the enormous death toll which had resulted.  Amongst other plans, physical memorials figured largely – epitomised, perhaps, by Lutyens striking Cenotaph in London’s Whitehall, unveiled in 1920.  The scene of subsequent Remembrance Day ceremonies so familiar nowadays on television.

Like so many Irish churches, the parishioners of St Philip & St James determined that they would erect a fitting memorial and a committee was formed for the purpose.  This was chaired by the then Rector Rev. T. Arnold Harvey.  A man destined to become later Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral and subsequently a Diocesan Bishop.

The scale of the Committee’s vision can often nowadays not be appreciated.  It involved a complete transformation of the chancel by what is known as arcading.  Sections of marble, alabaster and Caen stone were to be placed under the east windows, with panels on either wing containing the names of the thirty Booterstown dead.  This to be complemented by the carving and erection of our present beautiful communion rails in marble.

A brass plate (an especially fine one executed by Messrs. Jones and Willis of Birmingham) was placed behind the lectern and reads as follows:

“The Communion Rails and Arcading in the chancel were erected by the Parishioners as a memorial to the men whose names are inscribed thereon who, at the call of King and Country, left all that was dear to them, endured hardness, faced danger and finally passed out of the sight of men – by the path of duty and self sacrifice giving up their lives that others might live in freedom. Let those that come after see to it that their names be not forgotten.”

A leading architect of the day, Sir. Thomas Deane designed the arcading and communion rails and supervised their installation.  His plans were executed by the prominent Dublin monumental works of C.W. Harrison and Sons of Brunswick (now Pearse) Street. A firm whose memorials proliferate in all Dublin cemeteries and countrywide.

The total cost of the work was £800 which, translated into the year 2001 monetary values, was a very sizeable sum.  It was, however, fully subscribed by parishioners prior to completion.

Looking at the scheme today, the beauty of the work is obvious.  Note how it is related to the design of the pulpit and prayer desk.  The former was erected in 1888 as a personal gift to the church by its Rector Rev. John Lombard “in memory of his beloved mother”.  The prayer desk opposite, a tribute two years later to him from his parishioners – to complement the pulpit.  The eye of the worshipper is led up to the war memorial from them – their features of alabaster, Belgian marble and “quatre-foil” replicated in the rails and arcading.

And so to the great dedication services on Sunday 20th February 1921.  In the morning the preacher was the Bishop of Killaloe, Right Reverend T. Sterling Berry, Rector of Booterstown 1892-1913.  In the evening the Reverend Samuel Hutchinson Curate of the church 1905-1913 occupied the pulpit.  Listen to the descriptive words in the parochial reports of the day.  I quote:

“The services were very reverently and beautifully rendered by the Choir (under their organist A. J. Thornton). There was no one but was impressed by the singing of Arkwright’s hymn “O Valiant Hearts” or by the conclusion of the evening service when, as requested, we sang very slowly and softly that hymn so fraught with childhood memories “shall we gather at the river”?

Names familiar in parochial lineage appear amongst the fallen on the side panels of the arcade.  Amongst them Lieutenant Frederick Norway – killed aged 18 – of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, elder brother of Nevil Norway (also a Booterstown Parishioner) who was destined to achieve world fame as an author under his pen name of Nevil Shute.

I have described a memorial of the dead of St. Philip & St. James.  Those of our former sister church Christchurch, Carysfort (now demolished once sited near the present Eagle Star building in Blackrock) are also commemorated.  Outside our Parochial Centre, a Celtic cross moved in 1960 from its former site outside Christchurch, honours 7 dead.

In two porches of our church are memorial boards listing those who served in the 1914-1918 war from the two parishes (united in 1944).

In the early 1950’s the then Rector, Canon Ernest Bateman, with great thought had the choir stalls moved from chancel to nave.  This opened up the fine overall view of the War Memorial that we see today.

These notes have been prepared by the writer from our parochial archives.  A fine feature of our church furnishings deserves to be placed in its historical context – as we move well into the 21st century and new generations of parishioners worship here in St. Philip & St. James.

Robert Knaggs.