Let’s add the interesting last name of Smith to my ancestors. It must almost be any researchers worst nightmare.
Saint Mary’s Cathedral was built in 1168 A. D. on a hilltop on King’s Island, Limerick. It is still used today! It belongs to the Church of Ireland. The King of Munster, Donal Mor O’Brien once stood on its steps. It has witnessed invasions, sieges, battles, wars, famine, unrest and sometimes peace.
In researching I found the Vikings and Norsemen from Scandinavia came raiding the isolated monasteries in their longboats during the 8th century. Eventually in Munster, in the small kingdoms, amongst which Limerick was the most prominent, there were many rivalries and complex alliances with native Irish Gaelic clans, with other Vikings in Ireland. The kingdom of Munster was eventually divided after it withstood invasions by the Normans and in the 16th century was brought under the English Crown in Ireland.
The Ulster plantation was the cause of the 1641 Irish Rebellion. Thousands of settlers were killed, expelled and fled. The Irish Catholics were defeated in the Cromwellian conquest of 1652, and their land confiscated and thousands of English soldiers settled in Ireland.
I am assuming this may be how the Smith’s became Irish? The forced dominance of the Protestant class persisted until the late 1800’s when they reluctantly voted for the Act of Union with Britain in 1800. My 3rd great grandfather Nicholas Smith wed Alicia Jephson on May 29, 1806. The location for the wedding was the beautiful St. Mary’s Cathedral which has six chapels: the Chapel of Saint James and Mary Magdalene, the Lady Chapel, the Chapel of the Holy Spirit; the Jebb Chapel; Saint Mark’s Chapel, and Saint George’s Chapel. It’s sad to me that after 1651, and Oliver Cromwell captured Limerick, his army used the cathedral as a stable, his troops removed the altar which has been reinstated in 1960. Inside the cathedral are famous features of carved misericords. These misericords are unique in Ireland, dating from 1480-1500. In the early church, priests stood for the service, and sitting was prohibited. There was a lip on the edge of these seats that allowed the clergy to rest while the seats were tipped up, so it appeared as if they were standing but were allowed to sit in an act of mercy, thus the name misericords. There are 21 carvings, with depictions of a two legged one horned goat, a griffin, a sphinx, a wild boar, an angel, a head resembling Henry IV, a dragon biting its tail, antelopes with inter-twined necks, a swan, an eagle, The Lion of Judah with a dragon, a two headed lizard holding its tail and a wyvern or two legged dragon biting its tail. I can imagine the awe of wedding at this church, with its exquisite stained glass windows illustrating in great color the biblical stories of salvation. Standing in the main aisle of the Cathedral Nicholas and Alicia could look up and see the arcaded arches. High above them on three sides, on the north, west and south sides, was a monk’s walk or clerestory. The interior roof was wooden made from the Cratloe oak, from the forests of nearby County Clare. Below the 120 foot tower, Nicholas and Alicia would have entered the cathedral that day in 1806, through the elaborately carved door, once the entrance to King Donal Mor O’Brien’s Palace. Did they notice the two cannon balls, that damaged the Cathedral in 1691 during the Williamite Siege of Limerick? Or did they squint through the leper’s squint. In olden times leprosy, common then, was highly contagious and therefore Lepers were not allowed in. The holes allowed them to see in, hear mass and receive Communion. The couple are listed on a registry for St. Mary’s Cathedral at Limerick, Ireland for their daughter Anna Maria baptized on March 20, 1819.
The children were born: James William Smith May 23, 1808 – 1890; Johana 1809; Margaret 1814 and Anna Maria,1819. Alicia’s death is listed as 1819. This means my 3rd great grandfather James William Smith son of Nicholas and Alicia by the age of 11 was motherless.