The following extract shows one man’s view of Limerick in 1862. This section of text was included in the publication “Recollections of an Irish Police Magistrate” by Henry Robert Addison, formerly of the 2nd Dragoon Guards.
The publication tells of the heroic and bizarre stories involving Major Thomas Phillips Vokes, a police magistrate in Limerick. The chapter titled “A Day in Limerick” gives a brief introduction to Limerick as seen by an elderly gentleman in 1862.
A Day in Limerick
Limerick, formerly one of the most beautiful and salubrious cities in Ireland, once the throne of gaiety and delight, can, alas! be no longer quoted as such.
Her glories, her charms, exist no longer. Her once brilliant garrison appear to have carried away with them all the proud members of the ‘right old stock’ who made this desirable spot their residence; while, worse than all, her ‘lovely lasses,’ the pride of Erin, the envy of the world, have equally disappeared, and their once fairy that in George-street is now usurped and trodden by modern upstarts, commercial boors, and dowdy females, while the silvery tones, the bewitching smiles, and perfect forms of her lovely daughters are now replaced by the hooded huxter, and the peripatetic dealer in second-rate lace.
The names of those who once honoured the Club-house by being members of it, are now superseded by those who could never have anticipated the honour of entering it. In two lines, we may describe it by thus paraphrasing a passage in the prologue to Cato-
‘A city struggling with the storms of fate,
‘And gentle fallen with a fallen state.’
Yes, such is Limerick in 1862, She is now perhaps the quietest and dullest place throughout the whole of the sister isle. That she may still rank as a well-situated port, that profitable exportation and importation may still be carried on here, I do not for one moment doubt, and that many respectable individuals make fortunes within her boundaries I am free to admit; but he who has known her in her halcyon days will mourn over the seeming blight which has come over her, and breathe a sigh as he vainly tries to discover a trace of those who once kept up her glorious hospitalities.
I am not, however, about to plunge into a lament over her sad change, not am I capable or desirous of tracing the cause of her decadence; suffice it to say, that she is so changed that I cannot help thinking that the stirrings incidents of a day passed in this gay city some thirty-three years ago cannot be wholly uninteresting to those who now inhabit or feel an interest in her.
From here, the author goes on to tell a tale from 1829, a time when he believed Limerick was at its height. In 1829, Henry Robert Addison was twenty-four years old, and this may have swayed his view of the city. Addison was born in India, and spent much of his life travelling. He visited Limerick often in the 1820s and 1830s as the guest of his father-in-law, Major Vokes. Addison lived in London, where he was a prolific writer until his death in 1876.
As for Thomas Phillips Vokes, he was born into an established Limerick family c.1785. His first wife Susanna Brew died of tuberculosis only a few months after their marriage in 1806. He married Anne Walsh in 1809. He died in 1852 in Brussels. Vokes had two daughters, Susanna and Mary. It was Mary who married Henry Robert Addison. They had a son, Glentworth Addison who was raised by the Vokes in Limerick and Kilcolman after Mary’s death. Henry Robert remarried and Glentworth lived with him later in Brussels before immigrated to Australia.