Iconic cathedral organ to ‘speak again’

WORK has begun on a mammoth rebuild of one of the country’s finest cathedral organs.

Highly skilled experts from Trevor Crowe Organ Builders have begun dismantling the historic instrument located in Cork city’s iconic St Fin Barre’s Cathedral.

Such is the complexity of their task, the €1.2 million project is expected to take over two years to complete.

“We are very excited by the project, daunting and all as it is,” Dean Nigel Dunne said.

“But the result will be magnificent. It will be one of the best organs in the country when this is finished.”

The earliest definitive mention of an organ at St Fin Barre’s dates from 1633.

When architect William Burges was designing the modern cathedral, he envisaged two organs – one at the West end and a smaller organ near the Chancel.

Buttresses designed to support the Chancel organ, and a door leading to a staircase up to it, can be seen in the building today.

But just one organ was built in the West gallery by William Hill of London and it was in place for the consecration of the new cathedral on November 30, 1870.

However, because the choir was located at the East end of the cathedral, problems emerged and the organ was moved.

To avoid obscuring the stained glass windows and mosaics, a large 14 foot deep pit was dug in the North Transept and the organ was placed there in 1889 by the Cork firm TW Megahy.

Today, only the tops of the tallest pipes are showing.

The organ was rebuilt over the years – including in 1906, and in 1965 when JW Walker and Sons of London rebuilt it.

The current instrument has four keyboards or manuals, 56 stops, and an incredible 3012 pipes.

It is understood to be the only Irish cathedral pit organ and it is considered one of the finest of its type.

But its location poses certain acoustic difficulties because there is a lag between when sound leaves the pipes and when it is heard at the back at the cathedral.

Acoustic experts say the rebuild will allow the organ which currently has to “shout” from the pit, to be able to “speak” again.

And it is in dire need of repair – its bellows and blowers are damaged and its electric motors are shot.

“This instrument lies at the heart of who we are, what we do,” Dean Dunne said.

“We had hoped it would have lasted a little longer – at least until the economy improved.

“But we had no choice but to get on and do it. We hope that people will rally around this project and the forthcoming fundraising.”

Church of Ireland Bishop Paul Colton assured people that the project is being done on foot of the highest international advice and to the highest professional standard. It is hoped that by using new durable materials, this rebuild will see the instrument last up to 50 years.

Meanwhile, work is continuing on the €4m restoration of the cathedral building itself with scaffolding erected around the main spire and tower.


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