The Honan Chapel & Collection - Essays and Discussion


This collection of essays about the honan serve to provide a forum for discussion, and facilitate in the gathering of knowledge about the chapel and collection.


Short Essays

Rev. Fr. Sir John Robert O’Connell (1868-1943) and the Honan commissions

James Cronin, History of Art & Centre for Adult Continuing Education, University College Cork, Ireland

The "Collegiate Chapel of St. Finn Barr", known as the Honan Chapel, celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2006. It was consecrated on 5th November 1916. Rev. Sir John Robert O’Connell, as legal executor of the Honan Bequest, was a significant college patron during the term of office of President Sir Bertram Windle (1904-1919). O’Connell oversaw the refurbishment of the Honan Hostel in 1914. As a patron of the Dublin Arts & Crafts movement he was in a central position to commission leading Irish craftsmen and women in furnishing the Honan Chapel. O’Connell fostered science and technology in College through his endowments to engineering and the Honan Biological Institute.

O’Connell, a Dublin-based lawyer, had Cork connections. His aunt Mother Aloysius O’Connell left Rutland St., Cork in 1843, for Bermondsey in London and eventually founding a community of the Sisters of Mercy in Oaklea, Sunderland in northern England. When John was ordained a priest, following the death of his wife, Mary, he said his first mass in Oaklea. He also endowed the Sisters of Mercy in Green Street, Sunderland with liturgical items.1

John was educated by the Jesuits in Belvedere College, Dublin and went on to become a member of its Board of Governors. Many of the patrons of the Arts & Crafts movement were old Belvederians: Thomas Bodkin, Laurence Waldron, and the artist Harry Clarke.2

When Isabella Honan died in August 1913 O’Connell was charged with the disposal of the family fortune for charitable purposes. 3 Sir John was on good terms with the college president, Sir Bertram Windle. In 1914 O’Connell, with the support of Windle and the Munster bishops, purchased St. Anthony’s Hall for the lodging of Catholic students. This hall had been breifly a House of Studies for the Irish Franciscans. O’Connell was largely responsible for the refurbishment of the hostel which reopened on 20th April 1914. At this time the Honan Hostel served the needs of a quarter of the student population of college.4

O’Connell was appointed a life member of the Board of Governors of the Honan Hostel. 5 The provision of a chapel was one of the conditions of its charter. By 1914 plans were underway to design a chapel on the grounds of the hostel in the Hiberno-Romanseque style. 6 O’Connell commissioned Harry Clarke to design a set of windows for the chapel in January 1915. 7

Virginia Teehan and Paul Larmour have praised the Honan Chapel for its overall unity of design. 8 Many of the key members of the Irish Arts & Crafts movement are represented: Oswald Reeves; Harry Clarke; William Scott; the Dun Emer Guild; Egans of Cork; Johnston of Dublin; Oppenheimer of Manchester; Catherine O’Brien and Alfred Child of the Sarah Purser glass studio. Rev. Sir John O’Connell’s personal influence was a significant factor in bringing these designers together for the project and creating the harmony of design so praised by scholars.

O’Connell was committed to fostering local Cork craftsmanship for the Honan Chapel project. 9 He commissioned the Cork firm of Egan & Sons for work on the altar plate and vestiments. Names of Cork seamstresses from the Egan workshop in no.32 Patrick St, are inscribed in the lining of the Cloth of Gold. 10 Students from the Crawford Municipal Technical Institute were involved in the exterior carvings. The foundation stone of the chapel was laid on 18th May 1915. James Finbarre McMullen was the architect and John Sisk was the builder. 11 Both were Cork firms. McMullen had a high profile in the city. He had been High Sheriff for the City of Cork in 1907-08. 12 Significant works by McMullen in Cork city include: Eye, Ear & Throat Hospital, Western Rd. (1897); conservation of the Firkin Crane, built in 1855, Shandon (1900); St. Finbarr’s West Total Abstinence Club, Bandon Rd. (1900), formerly “Lough Rovers” now the “Spires” apartment complex and remodelling Holy Trinity Church, Fr. Mathew Quay (1906-08). Due to his involvement in the Honan Chapel project McMullen was invited to bid for the proposed new entrance to College from Donovan’s Bridge in 1917 following the collapse of the old bridge during the winter floods of 1916-17. 13 In 1996 Sisk & Sons worked as contractors on the O’Rahilly Building project. This complex was built on the site of the former Honan Hostel (1914-91).

O’Connell was committed to fostering science and technology in education. Cork’s economy largely depended on agriculture and so he believed that students needed appropriate training in the natural sciences. By June 1915, the Honan Biological Institute was completed with the assistance of £3,000 of the Honan Bequest endowed by O’Connell. It housed zoological and botanical laboratories an aquarium room, research room and offices. There were glasshouses attached to aid the study of plant science. It allowed the natural sciences to move from the cramped location in the quadrangle tower to a more appropriate space. O’Connell also assisted in the purchase of new equipment for the engineering plant house. 14

Rev. Sir John Robert O’Connell’s collaboration with Sir Bertram Windle between 1914-17 greatly contributed to the provision of student accommodation and provided for the physical expansion of campus. The Honan Chapel is regarded as a shrine to the Irish Arts & Crafts Movement (1894-1925) not just because of its artwork, but because the project generated much needed work in Cork. The project fostered the development of Cork crafts and industry and in this O’Connell was a catalyst.

Footnotes
1 Here, I wish to thank Mother M. Nolasco(1910-2010), Convent of Mercy, Oaklea, Tunstall Rd., Sunderland, Co.Durham, England for her assistance in tracing this connection.

2 Nicola Gordon Bowe Harry Clarke (The Douglas Hyde Gallery, Trinity College, Dublin, 1979), 21-27.

3 John A Murphy The College: a history of Queen’s/ University College Cork, 1845-95 (Cork University Press, Cork, 1995), 194

4 Murphy, 195

5 John A Murphy The College: a history of Queen’s University College Cork, 1845-95 (Cork University Press, Cork, 1995, 195

6 The President’s Report 1913/14 mentions that plans were already underway to build “a very handsome chapel” of the Irish Romanesque order see Murphy, 195. I wish to acknowledge the assistance of the Chaplaincy, Heritage Office and College Archives in tracing sources.

7 Nicola Gordon Bowe Harry Clarke, 21.

8 See Virginia Teehan & Elizabeth Heckett The Honan Chapel: A Golden Vision (Cork University Press, Cork, 2004) Paul Larmour The Arts & Crafts Movement in Ireland (Belfast, 1992), 133

9 John R O’Connell The Honan Hostel Chapel Cork: Some Notes on the Building and the Ideas which Inspired It (Guy & Co., Cork, 1916), 20. Bertram Windle, “The Honan Benefactions” University College Cork Gazette iv 12 June 1914, 103-07). McMullen, J. “St. Finn Barr’s Collegiate Chapel” University College Cork Gazette vii 19 December 1916, 187-88.

10 Jeanne Sheehy The Rediscovery of Ireland’s Past 1830-1930 (Thames & Hudson, London, 1980) 167 ills. 136.

11 The foundation stone is on the south-west corner of the Honan Chapel.

12 Paul Larmour “The Honan Chapel: a shrine to the Irish Arts & Crafts Movement” Decorative Studies V (2002) 23-47.

13 Ann-Martha Rowan unpublished biographical index of Irish architects, Irish Architectural Archive, Dublin (05 March 2004) 1-19

14 Bertram Windle “The Honan Biological Institute” University College Cork Gazette v 15 June 1915, 143-46).

References

Gordon Bowe, N. Harry Clarke (The Douglas Hyde Gallery, Trinity College, Dublin, 1979)

Murphy, J. The College: a history of Queen’s/ University College Cork, 1845-95 (Cork University Press, Cork, 1995)

Larmour, P. The Arts & Crafts Movement in Ireland (Belfast, 1992)

Larmour, P. “The Honan Chapel: a shrine to the Irish Arts & Crafts Movement” Decorative Studies V (2002) 23-47

McMullen, J. “St. Finn Barr’s Collegiate Chapel” University College Cork Gazette vii 19 December 1916,187-88

O’Connell, J. The Honan Hostel Chapel Cork: Some Notes on the Building and the Ideas which Inspired It (Guy & Co., Cork, 1916)

Rowan, A. Biographical index of Irish architects, Irish Architectural Archive, Dublin (unpublished)

Sheehy, J. The Rediscovery of Ireland’s Past 1830-1930 (Thames & Hudson, London, 1980)

Teehan, V. & Heckett, E. The Honan Chapel: A Golden Vision (Cork University Press, Cork, 2004)

Windle, B. “The Honan Benefactions” University College Cork Gazette iv 12 June 1914, 103-07

Posted 2006-8-25

Does anyone have any comments to add for discussion?

James Cronin, 2006-11-2