'James Rice, Mayor, Merchant and
was an astonishing Waterford man who served as Mayor eleven times between the years 1467 and 1488
- at a time when the holder of the office was the King's representative and was held personally responsible for everything
that happened during his term of office. It required a man of wealth and courage to undertake the post and James Rice had both in abundance. He was a merchant prince with a great reputation both at home and abroad. His name dominates the Liber Primus here and is also found on the Rolls of Parliament at London and in the Vatican archives. Above all else Rice was a Waterford man and sought to promote the welfare of his City at every opportunity. During his Mayoralty much legislation of benefit to Waterford found its way onto the statute-books. So highly respected was James Rice and such was the quality of his rule that he was able to get the King's permission to go on pilgrimage to Compostella in Spain on two occasions, ten years apart, and, on the second occasion,
to take two bailiffs with him, leaving the administration of the City confidently
to his deputies during his absence.
Although a man interested in high fashion he was also a deeply Christian man and
he employed a priest to say Mass for members of the Rice family. Like other wealthy men of his day he added a chantry
chapel to the old Cathedral. This chapel, on the north side of the
Cathedral, was twenty two feet square and it was erected in the year
1482. It was dedicated to St. James the elder and to the virgin
St. Catherine. In the manuscript papers of the Cathedral it was
called St. James's but it was more generally called Rice's chapel. This chapel lasted until the old Cathedral was demolished. On its
demolition the tomb was removed and placed in the present Christ Church.
Once seen this tomb is not easily forgotten for on it is carved a decaying human figure with vermin crawling from the rotten flesh. The effigy is carved in high relief and is represented lying on its
back, having a shroud, tied in a knot, at the head and feet. Vermin resembling frogs and toads are cut in the stone, as it were
creeping out of the body.
The following inscription, in the gothic
character, runs round the figure.
Jacobus Rice, quondam civis
|Istius civitatis, et
Broun, uxor ejus.
|Quisquis eris, qui
quod eris, fuique quod
|es, pro me precor
ora. Est nostrae sortis
|transire per ostia
|Christe, te petimus
|qui venisti redimere
perditos, noli damnare
Figures of saints are represented round the sides of the tomb with their
names inscribed over the
Rice meant this tomb to be a reminder to all, that fame, fortune and power, all of which he had in his lifetime, were very fleeting things. He died in 1488 leaving behind a sophisticated city, second only to Dublin, with guilds of Cobblers and
Weavers founded by himself.