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James Rice, Mayor

Margaret Aylward Dr Edward Barron Philip Barron Denis Cashman Raymond Chandler Paddy Coad Patrick Comerford Donncha Ruadh Val Doonican Sean Dunne Frank Edwards Alfie Hale John M Hearne William Hobson Dr Thomas Hussey Charles Kean John Keane Edmund Leamy D. P. Moran Gen Dick Mulcahy James Nash Peter O'Connor Jas Louis O'Donnell Pádraig Ó Fainín Gilbert O'Sullivan John Redmond Edmund I Rice James Rice, Mayor Lord Roberts V. C. John Roberts Frank Ryan Thomas Sexton Archbishop Sheehan Susan Smith John Treacy Luke Wadding William V. Wallace Cardinal Wiseman Bullocks Wyse Lucien Bonaparte Wyse




'James Rice, Mayor, Merchant and Pilgrim' 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.

"Hic jacet Jacobus Rice, quondam civis
Istius civitatis, et mandato istius
Sepelitur Katerina Broun, uxor ejus.
Quisquis eris, qui transieris, sta,
Perlegendaplora, sum quod eris, fuique quod
es, pro me precor ora.  Est nostrae sortis
transire per ostia mortis, Nostri
Christe, te petimus miserere, quaesumus,
qui venisti redimere perditos, noli damnare

  Figures of saints are represented round the sides of the tomb with their names inscribed over the figures.            

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.

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