NEW WILD GEESE MUSEUM IN LIMERICK – ST MUNCHIN’S CHURCH AND GRAVEYARD
I was unable to visit Limerick in 2020 because of travel restrictions and when I visited Limerick last September this churchyard was closed to the public.
In the past I have complained that it always rains every time I visit Limerick, even at the height of summer. This year I took a huge gamble on the weather and forecast the day before I travelled to the city was that it would constantly during the week but it only rained for a few hours on my first day and for the duration of my visit to St. Munchin’s Church (Church of Ireland).
When I visited today [19 April 2022] I discovered that it was now operating as the “Wild Geese Museum” [explained below] which was officially launched as part of the 2021 Limerick Bastille Day Wild Geese Festival on 9th July. I also visited on the 20th. but had problems with my camera so I did not manage to photo the interior of the church as I had planned.
A joint project by the Limerick Civic Trust, the Limerick Museum and the Consular Agency of France in Limerick (French Embassy) this new museum celebrates the city’s rich Wild Geese heritage by giving an overview of the history of those who left Ireland over the centuries and went on to fight in foreign armies across Europe and the world.
The term Wild Geese was originally coined to refer more specifically to the 14,000 Jacobite soldiers and their families who left Limerick, led by Patrick Sarsfield, following the signing of the Treaty in 1691. The majority of them, including Sarsfield, ended up joining the French army of king Louis XIV. Many of them, and their descendants, settled and prospered in France (a significant number of them, known as the ‘wine geese’, in the Bordeaux engaging in wine production) greatly contributing to strengthening the links between France and Ireland.
The museum tells their story and features a wide range of objects from the collections of the Limerick Museum which had never been put on display before.
I must admit that I had, up until a few years ago, believed that Munchin was not a real name, maybe because I had confused it with the word munchkin. I learned that I was wrong when I came upon St. Munchin’s Church across the road from King John’s castle.
St. Munchin’s Church (Church of Ireland) built in 1827. Designed by The George and James Pain who gave the building a Gothic style. The four pinnacles at the top of the tower provide this church a distinguished aspect. The church is situated in King’s Island, between the Bishop’s Palace and the Villier’s Alms Houses. It was built in 1827 and was renovated in 1980 by the Limerick Civic Trust. It was a used for a period by the Island Theatre Company and is now used, until this year, as a store for Limerick Civic Trust.
Mainchín mac Setnai (fl. late 6th century), also anglicised to Munchin, was allegedly the founder of the church of Luimneach (now Limerick), Ireland, and a saint in Irish tradition, acquiring special eminence as patron of Limerick City. Both his origins and the date of his association with the city are debated.
Through his father Sétna, Mainchín is alleged to belong to the Dál Cais, given a pedigree linking him to the ancestors of the O’Brien dynasty. His tutor was the Corco Mruad saint Mac Creiche according to the Life of that saint. Mainchín is said to have founded Luimneach when Ferdomnach, king from the Dál Cais, granted him land at Inis Sibtond.
A major problem with the above is that the Dál Cais themselves are unknown by that name before the 930s and are believed by scholars to be the descendants of a Déisi population which migrated into the region at an uncertain period. Before the Dál Cais the greater region appears to have been dominated for a time by another people entirely, the Uí Fidgenti, who eventually found themselves much displaced by the Dál Cais in the second half of the 10th century and following, although after having previously overrun many of the Déisi themselves in the very same territories.
It has been argued that his appearance in Limerick is actually due to his adoption by the later Norse there, with whom the O’Donovan family, late representatives of the kingdom (although of uncertain origins themselves), were closely associated.
In fact no “successors” of Mainchín in Limerick are known before the 12th century and so his existence there cannot be verified before then.
In the Martyrology of Donegal, Mainchín’s feast day occurs on 29 December. In Bruree, his feast day is commemorated on 2 January, but this date may have been erroneously taken from that recorded for St Manchán (Manchéne) of Min Droichit in the Félire Óengusso. The Roman Martyrology also lists January 2 as Mainchín of Limerick’s memorial.
The origins of St Munchin’s parish can be traced back to the Treaty of Limerick of 1691. Originally called St Lelia’s parish, the name was changed to St Munchin’s in 1812. There are currently churches in the parish named in honour of both saints.
St Munchin’s parish is one of the five original parishes in Limerick City along with St John’s, St Michael’s, St Mary’s and St Patrick’s. However with the growth of Limerick City in the last 40 years, the area of St Munchin’s has been reduced greatly due to the creation of new parishes. In 1964 the parish of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary was created, from the south eastern part of St Munchin’s parish. [I assume that this creation of new parishes applies to the Roman Catholic Church and not to the Church Of Ireland]
In 1970 the parish of Christ the King in Caherdavin to the west was created and six years later to the north of the old St Munchin’s parish, the parish of Corpus Christi in Moyross was created. The population of the parish is around 10,000.