Sunday, October 05, 2014

Richard Gardiner Brewster

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The first I knew of Richard Gardiner Brewster was when I saw his name on his brother's grave.

I had gone to Kilbarrack graveyard to check out the grave of Gordon Brewster, the artist who had died in my mother's shop in 1946.

So from that point on, I was chasing up Gordon's brother as well as Gordon himself.

It was not long before I came across the website of Doug Vaugh who has a particular interest in the South Irish Horse Regiment in which Richard had enlisted. Doug sent me Richard's military records and they make very sad reading. You can see a summary of Richard's military career here

Then I found this photo of a plaque on the internet. It commemorated those parishioners from St. George's parish, Dublin, who died in WWI, and Richard's name was there.

So the next step was to check out the plaque. However, St. George's was no longer functioning as a church. It had become a nightclub, among other things, and my recollection from passing it on more recent occasions was that it had then become a commercial premises. So I resolved to make it my business to get in to have a look.

By the time I got round to that it had been vacated and was up for letting. To make a long story short, I contacted the letting agent who put me in touch with the owner, Eugene O'Connor. I explained to Eugene what I was at and he checked out the church. No sign of the above plaque, but what he did find was even more interesting.

A beautifully crafted stained glass window commemorating those parishioners who died in WWI. Richard's name was in one of the stained glass panels surrounding this magnificent resurrection window. Eugene sent me a photo, but I was anxious to also check it out for myself. I got the opportunity during Heritage Week when the [former] church was open and the Heritage Architect, James O'Connor, who had been involved in its magnificent restoration, was on site.

James told me that the original plaque I was looking for had not been in the church when Eugene became the owner. So that would have to be for another day.

However, on my way out I spotted a plaque to those parishioners who had been members of the Boys' Brigade and who had fallen in WWI.

And, sure enough, there was Richard's name and regiment.

Then back to the net for more searching, and up comes this plaque in the High School in Rathgar (Richard's name is second from bottom). Not a great picture, so I thought to try and take my own. I saw from the school's website that they had a full-time archivist, Alan Phelan, so I wrote to him. Then I discovered they were doing a project on WWI on another site so I wrote to them. That led me to Michelle Burrowes who is doing the project which is attempting to fill out the lives of the 900 or so pupils who enlisted, and more particularly the 80 or so who died.

Michelle already had a post up on Richard with information culled mainly from the school magazine "The Erasmian".

Alan had already revealed that both Richard and Theo attended High School and I dug up a few extra bits when I visited the archive. Meanwhile Michelle had unearthed a good quality photo of Richard in uniform (and one of Theo as well). I had some pictures of Richard from the family and she has now incorporated them into her page.

While I was there, Michelle showed me the alcove which houses their stained glass window, which is by the same artist as the one in St. George's, William McBride, though this one doesn't have individual names on it. And I could see why the photo of the plaque looked so poor. The plaques are at the side of the window and are awkwardly placed to photograph unless you come with your own lighting setup.

The next thing I came across on the web was a reference to another plaque in All Saints' Church, Phibsborough. So I contacted them and Rev. David Pierpoint suggested I come over one morning when there was a service. Which I did. The service was still in progress when I arrived and I had to keep pinching myself. This was high high church and I could have been at a Roman Catholic mass. I can at last understand how my mother and her friend on holiday in England all those years ago thought they were at mass until the celebrant started to "pray for the King, the head of our church".

Anyway, the plaque is a beautiful enamel picture, in stained glass style, with panels on either side with the names of all the parishioners who enlisted, and those who died shown in gold.

So both Richard and Theo figure on this one. The parish thing seems a bit inconsistent on the face of it but the Brewsters had lived at a number of addresses and would have had associations with a few parishes. This was the only plaque I found with Theo's name on it. He survived WWI.

Still searching for my first missing plaque, I learned that, when St. George's ceased to function as a church/parish, its function passed down the road to St. Thomas's in Cathal Brugha St. which is now St. Thomas and St. George. So I wondered if they might have inherited the plaque. I contacted Gillian Dean who invited me to come in and check it out, and I did find a plaque from St. George's. But this was the roll of honour for all who served in WWI from St. George's parish.

Richard's name figures on this, but no Theo.

Incidentally this church is relatively modern (1930). The original St. Thomas's was burned in the Civil War and rather than restore it the decision was made to demolish it and break Seán McDermott St. right through to O'Connell St. The connecting road is now Cathal Brugha St.

Richard is commemorated in two other non-church locations. His name is in the books of the fallen Irish which are kept in the Island Bridge Memorial Gardens (above) ...

... and at the Pozières Memorial in France near where he fell.

The picture of Richard above is from the High School archive to whom thanks for permission to reproduce it here.

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