Michæl McFarland Campbell

Always telling the story

Archive for the ‘Design’ Category

The Phœnix, the altar frontals, and the Protestant nuns

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It is often said that the truth is stranger than fiction. On Tuesday, Rachel Phelan A-ICRI, the lecturer at the first of the “Of the Cloth” lectures at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, brought together three unlikely strands that told the story of two altar frontals.

For those who don’t know, an altar frontal is a cloth that covers (at least) the top and front of an altar or Communion Table, particularly in Roman Catholic and Anglican traditions. Often made of silk damask of the liturgical colours, they may also have Christian symbols embroidered upon them.

The story begins

Rachel’s story began with her being asked to conserve one such altar frontal in Kilternan Church of Ireland in south County Dublin. The frontal in question is somewhat of an oddity in that it is in quite a rich blue. Blue is not one of the more normal liturgical colours (white or gold, red, green, violet or purple, rose, and black). Not only is the frontal blue, but it has lots of fleurs-de-lys embroidered upon it. When Rachel saw the frontal, it was very threadbare after constant usage.

Information from the parish

She didn’t know who had made the frontal, but a parish member came forward with the information that a Mr Myerscough had commissioned it with his winnings from the 1943 Irish Derby. It was stated that he had also commissioned another frontal for St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. The latter piece of information surprised Rachel as she had worked on conserving the frontals in the National Cathedral, and she had no recollection of such a piece. However, she did recall something from the back of a cupboard in the diocesan Christ Church Cathedral.

The frontal in Kilternan had a maker’s label on it,

St John’s School of Embroidery,
Sandymount, Dublin

Where was this school of embroidery? Who ran it? Rachel contacted St John’s Church in Sandymount. It became apparent that the St John’s School of Embroidery was run by the Community of St John the Evangelist (CSJE), founded in Sandymount in 1912 by the Reverend Sheridan Fletcher Le Fanu. The first nuns, including Sister Edith Mary Whiteman, came from St Mary’s Wantage. The members of CSJE were referred to as the Protestant nuns.

On arrival in Dublin, the nuns did not know how to sew. But they took lessons from a Dublin seamstress, and having seen the work on the frontal in Kilternan church, Rachel confirmed that their work in 1943 was excellent.

Rachel contacted Christ Church Cathedral and discovered a green frontal for the high altar, which dates from 1943 and has similar flowers, though it is different from that in Kilternan.

Other examples of altar frontals worked on by the St John’s School of Embroidery include that on the high altar in St Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick.

Photo of the high altar in St Mary's Cathedral Limerick with a Celtic design upon it.

More about the CSJE

By the 1960s, the work of the CSJE changed as they moved from their original home to that of the Community of St Mary the Virgin, another Irish Anglican religious order for women, where they took over looking after the nursing home there. St Mary’s home was relocated to St John’s House on Merrion Road in November 2019, when only one member of the CSJE left. Sister Verity Ann Clarendon CSJE said at the time of the final service in St Mary’s Chapel,

I’m the only one left.

She added that the demise of the Community was a great loss. With its demise the expression of the religious life within the Church of Ireland more or less came to an end. It is not quite at an end with there being members of the First Order and Third Order of the Society of St Francis, as well as the fledgling Community of St Benedict.

And The Phœnix?

Now, I’ve not quite explained everything have I? Where does The Phœnix come in? That was the name of the horse that won the 1943 Irish Derby owned by Mr Myerscough. Without the winnings from that race, the two altar frontals would not have been commissioned by him, and we would not have had the lecture on Tuesday.

Of the Cloth: a series of four lectures

Tuesday’s talk was the first of the “Of the Cloth” series of lectures organised by Christ Church Cathedral Dublin for the Tuesdays during February 2024. The second lecture will be by Dom Colmán Ó Clabaigh of Glenstal Abbey on Medieval ecclesiastical and liturgical vesture. The third lecture will be by the Very Reverend Niall Sloane, Dean of Limerick, entitled “Robing the righteous: From ruffs, rochets, and caps to frockcoats, cassocks, and gaiters”. The fourth lecture is by The Venerable Peter Thompson FBS, Archdeaon of Armagh, entitled “Dressing by degrees: the convergence of ecclesiastical vesture and academic dress”. The four lectures are at 13:10 in the Chapter House of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin on the Tuesdays of February 2024. Find out more.

Accessibility issues at Iarnród Éireann lifts

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For the last few weeks, travelling between Monasterevin and Port Laoise, I have noticed new signage at the lifts at stations on the Iarnród Éireann network. Helpfully this signage has large clear icons next to the instructions to aid understanding. The instructions are shown both as Gaeilge and in English. There is an additional line of Braille under the instructions to improve accessibility. All of this is much better than the previous signage. However, I have spotted a couple of issues with what is displayed, and have highlighted these to Iarnród Éireann.

First of all, the second and third of the large clear icons seem to be in the wrong places. The second instruction,

Brúitear an cnaipe / Press button

has a speaking telephone indicated next to it.

The third instruction,

Labhair leis an oibreoir / Speak to operator

has a Press button icon next to it.

It seems to me that no one checked the signs before they were printed. Since they are on all the updated and improved lifts on the network, it seems a significant waste of money to have allowed them to go to press without checking that they were correct.

Secondly, while it is fantastic to see Braille appearing on signage to improve accessibility for those with sight difficulties, it is disappointing to see that the Braille is up only in English. Ireland is a bilingual country. We have a national language, Irish, and a second official language, English. (Article 8, Bunreacht na hÉireann). Since 2014, there has been an Updated Irish Braille standard, approved by the Irish National Braille and Alternative Format Association. I accept that there may be accessibility issues in having Braille up in more than one language, but surely there is some way of managing this? Given we have both the Irish and the English in the latin characters on the signage, can we not have both Irish and English Braille as well?

I have raised both these issues via Twitter:

I will report back if there is any major response from Iarnród Éireann.

A sound from my past

As an aside, I have fond memories of waking up at my grandparents’ house in Cornwall to the sound of the Perkins Brailler being used by my grandfather. He used to help the RNIB by Brailling books for them. It was a very comforting sound throughout my teenage years when staying there.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

June 9th, 2022 at 1:58 pm

World Drowing Prevention Day – social media post for SJAI

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Today, is World Drowning Prevention Day, and so I wrote a post for the Facebook page of St John Ambulance Ireland to raise awareness. I used information from the WHO, and Water Safety Ireland to give some facts and figures, together with an image from Pexels.com and Adobe Spark to create the image for the post.

Social media image created for St John Ambulance Ireland on World Drowning Prevention Day 2021.


Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

July 25th, 2021 at 12:53 pm

Wedding keepsake certificates – CofE

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Due to recent changes in marriage registration in England, the Church of England’s clergy will no longer issue the legal marriage certificate following a wedding at which they officiate. That will be done by the civil authorities. However, many clergy will want to give the couple a certificate from the church as well. Over on Twitter, a design from the CofE was shared and it was suggested that it was not great. I have designed a couple of alternatives.

Any cleric of the Church of England who wants to use these designs is welcome to do so. Please contact me on Twitter to arrange.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

May 6th, 2021 at 4:49 pm

Get the Proclamation off the National Flag

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It is most unfortunate that Carrolls Irish Gifts are advertising a version of the Irish National Flag with the Proclamation of the Republic in 1916 emblazoned upon it. The guidance on the National Flag from the Government of Ireland is very clear.

The National Flag should never be defaced by placing slogans, logos, lettering or pictures of any kind on it, for example at sporting events,
§13, The National Flag accessed 2020-09-12 at https://assets.gov.ie/2949/151118153516-096a94ba6955435cae965414f7667104.pdf

§13, The National Flag

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

September 12th, 2020 at 3:29 pm

Our Lady of Sorrows

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We were reminded yesterday that September is the month of Our Lady of Sorrows by Fr Sam.


In response, here is, newly typeset, The Litany of Our Lady of Sorrows.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

September 2nd, 2020 at 2:22 pm

For hospitals and infirmaries

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Particularly during the Covid-19 situation, Christians may find that they want to pray for the hospitals and infirmaries of our land. In the Church of Ireland’s Book of Common Prayer, there is a beautiful prayer to cover this.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

March 23rd, 2020 at 9:49 am

Mothering Sunday

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God of compassion,
whose Son Jesus Christ, the son of Mary,
shared the life of a home in Nazareth,
and on the cross drew the whole human family to himself;
Strengthen us in our daily living
that in joy and in sorrow
we may know the power of your presence
to bind together and to heal;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Collect of Mothering Sunday, Book of Common Prayer, 2004.

Featured image

The featured image is one I designed for my parish’s Facebook presence and have used it myself. Should anyone want anything similar designed, please get in touch.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

March 22nd, 2020 at 7:52 pm

Ash Wednesday

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I have been volunteering by looking after the local parish Facebook page in recent months. Every now and then we need an image for the next post.

Today is Ash Wednesday so here is the one I created for our Instagram as well as the one for Facebook. Each platform has a slightly different format. But I try to ensure we have similar content.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

February 26th, 2020 at 10:50 am

Posted in Christianity,Design