Corcoran, Timothy, 1872-1943, Jesuit priest

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Corcoran, Timothy, 1872-1943, Jesuit priest

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17 January 1872-23 March 1943

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Born: 17 January 1872, Roscrea, County Tipperary
Entered: 06 December 1890, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 01 August 1909
Final vows: 21 November 1938
Died: 23 March 1943, St Vincent's Nursing Home, Dublin

part of the St Ignatius, Lower Leeson Street, Dublin community at the time of death

Older brother of John Corcoran - RIP 1940

Early education at Clongowes Wood College SJ

by 1902 at Leuven Belgium (BELG) studying

◆ Royal Irish Academy : Dictionary of Irish Biography, Cambridge University Press online :
Corcoran, Timothy
by Patrick Maume

Corcoran, Timothy (1872–1943), priest and educationist, was born 17 January 1872 at Honeymount, Dunkerrin, Co. Tipperary, eldest son of Thomas Corcoran, a large farmer, and Alice Corcoran (née Gleeson). His father was locally prominent in the Land League and GAA, and first chairman of Tipperary (North Riding) county council. Corcoran was educated at Lisduff and Roscrea national schools, Clongowes (whose history he later wrote), and the Jesuit novitiate at Tullabeg, which he entered in 1890. He taught classics and history at Clongowes 1894–1901, followed by studying philosophy and education at Milltown Park (first-class honours BA (RUI), 1903) and Louvain. His Belgian experience influenced his preference for European over British educational models, and his support (albeit limited) for recruitment in 1914. In 1909 he became first professor of education at UCD (1909–42). His teaching positions brought contact with the nationalist elite. Corcoran served on the Molony viceregal commission on intermediate education (1918–19) and advised the dáil commission on secondary education (1921–2) and national programme conferences on primary instruction (1920–21, 1925–6). He successfully advocated imposition of Irish-only teaching on primary schools whose pupils, like Corcoran, knew no Irish.

Corcoran saw education as inculcating received knowledge by memorisation and the authority of the teacher. He opposed ‘progressive’ teaching methods as pandering to corrupt and wilful human nature. He idealised medieval education, claiming it created a meritocratic elite, and denounced the reformation as an aristocratic takeover. Corcoran attacked John Henry Newman's (qv) views on university education, believing the disinterested pursuit of knowledge impossible, and holding that universities existed to transmit vocational skills. He generally rationalised existing educational practices, projected on to the medieval and Gaelic past.

Corcoran edited many classical and other texts for school use, serving as general editor of Browne & Nolan's intermediate textbook series. He published numerous text selections and educational pamphlets (some in Latin) in limited editions for UCD students. His major publications concerned the history of Irish education: Studies in the history of classical teaching, Irish and continental, 1500–1700 (Dublin, 1911); State policy in Irish education, A.D. 1536 to 1816. Exemplified in documents. . . with an introduction (Dublin, 1916); Education systems in Ireland form the close of the middle ages (Dublin, 1928); The Clongowes Record, 1814 to 1932. With introductory chapters on Irish Jesuit educators 1564 to 1813 (Dublin, [1932]); Some lists of catholic lay teachers and their illegal schools in the later penal times, with historical commentary (Dublin, 1932). He argued that eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century hedge-schools were slandered by British officialdom and superior to the national schools that replaced them, a thesis developed and modified by his pupil P. J. Dowling. Corcoran was a founding member of the Irish Manuscripts Commission. He wrote extensively for Studies (which he helped to found) and the Irish Monthly on educational and historical subjects. He has been accused of misrepresentation of evidence, and of supplying students with ‘cribs’ in examinations.

Despite early praise for the exploits of Clongownians in the British army, Corcoran soon moved to supporting Sinn Féin, and took a leading role in attempting to organise a ‘National Academy of Ireland’ in protest at the expulsion of Eoin MacNeill (qv) from the Royal Irish Academy after the 1916 rising. Corcoran opposed the treaty, and became one of the most extreme nationalist spokesmen of the 1920s through his contributions to the monthly Catholic Bulletin from the early 1920s until its cessation in 1939. The Catholic Bulletin (founded 1911) was noted for outspoken republicanism and long-winded and scurrilous abuse of opponents; it supported Fianna Fáil from 1926. It denounced the Cumann na nGaedheal government as culturally and economically subservient to protestant and West British interests. Corcoran wrote for the Bulletin under numerous pseudonyms (notably ‘Inis Cealtra’, ‘Conor Malone’ ‘J. A. Moran’, ‘Art Ua Meacair’, ‘Momoniensis’, ‘Dermot Curtin’, ‘Donal MacEgan’, and ‘Molua’), partly to avoid being held accountable by religious superiors. He used the Bulletin to carry on vendettas against academic opponents such as the UCD economics professor and advocate of free trade, George O'Brien (qv) (‘the Hamlet of Earlsfort Terrace. . . economist in chief to Green Grazierdom’). The weekly Irish Statesman edited by A E (qv) and sponsored by Horace Plunkett (qv) was particularly targeted for its criticism of literary censorship and compulsory Irish, its support of free trade, and its defence of the view that the Anglo-Irish tradition was a distinctive and legitimate element of Irish civilisation. Corcoran declared in numerous articles on ‘squalid ascendancy history’ that the mere existence of an Anglo-Irish protestant tradition implied a continued claim to ascendancy; only assimilation to catholic and Gaelic Irishness was acceptable. Protestants should be excluded from public positions that might endanger the faith of catholics. Protestant nationalists were wolves in sheep's clothing, catholic clerics of West British tendencies were enemies of faith and fatherland, and English catholics were hardly catholic at all (notably for their failure to establish an independent catholic university; Corcoran believed catholics should be forbidden to attend Oxford and Cambridge). Corcoran's views and language represent the extreme development of catholic and nationalist positions in nineteenth-century religious and political conflicts over land, education, and nationality.

From 1938 Corcoran developed arteriosclerosis and suffered from partial paralysis. He died from cardiac failure at St Vincent's Nursing Home, Dublin, on 23 March 1943.

Catholic Bulletin; D. H. Akenson, review of P. J. Dowling, The hedge schools of Ireland (paperback ed., 1968), IHS, xvi, no. 62 (Sept. 1968), 226–9; E. Brian Titley, Church, state, and the control of schooling in Ireland 1900–1944 (1983); Séamus Ó Riain, Dunkerrin: a parish in Ely O'Carroll (1988); Brian P. Murphy, ‘The canon of Irish cultural history; some questions’, Studies, lxxvii, no. 305 (spring 1988), 68–83; John Joseph O'Meara, The singing-masters (1990)

◆ Irish Province News

Irish Province News 1st Year No 1 1925

Fr. Lambert McKenna is Chairman of a committee appointed by the Ministry of Education for the purpose of reporting on the National Programme of Primary Education. During the meetings of the Committee, very valuable evidence was given by Father T. Corcoran

Irish Province News 2nd Year No 3 1927

University Hall :
Fr Corcoran has added another to his remarkable series of works concerned with the history of education. In the preceding volume (Renovatio Litteraruml he gave, in their own admirable Latin, the educational theories of the sixteenth-century humanists. In this volume (Litters Renatael he describes, again in the language of the original documents, the realisation of these theories in the Ratio Studiorum of the Society. The work is invaluable for all the students of the history and practice of education.

Irish Province News 6th Year No 1 1931
Brussels Congress :
Fr. Rector (John Coyne) and Fr. J. O'Meara (Louvain) represented the College at the First International Congress of Catholic Secondary Education, held at Brussels July 28 . August 2. Fr, O'Meara read a paper on State Aid in Irish Secondary Education. Our Irish Jesuit Colleges were well represented in the Exhibition organised by Fr. Corcoran S. J.

Irish Province News 8th Year No 4 1933

Father T. Corcoran's labours in connection with the examinations for the Higher Diploma had scarcely concluded when he had to betake himself to Holland to preside at the second International Congress of Catholic Secondary Education. The meetings of the Congress took place at the Hague each day from 31st .July to 5th August.
Their Excellencies, the Bishops of Holland, were patrons of the Congress, which was attended by some 350 delegates representing the leading Catholic countries. Among the delegates were about 45 members of the Society from lands outside Holland. Prominent among the visitors were the Provincial of the Paris Province, with various Rectors and Prefects of Studies from our French Colleges. Père Yoes de la Brière, the Rectors of Brussels, Namur, Liege and other Belgian Colleges, Fathers Errandonea, Herrera and others from Spain, the French Oratorian Sabatier and various distinguished lay-men from Germany and Italy.
Cardinal Pacelli, in the name of the Holy Father, sent a long and cordial telegram of good wishes to the Congress , also the Nuncio Apostolic in Holland, who was prevented by serious illness from attending in person.
In the absence of the Nuncio the final allocution was delivered by the Bishop of Haarlem, after the Rector Magnificus of the University of Nijmegen and Father Corcoran, as President of the Congress had already spoken. Mr. J. O'Meara from Louvain Messrs. B. Lawler and C. Lonergan from Valkenburg acted as assistants to Father Corcoran at the Hague.
A splendid paper on “The Present Condition of Secondary Education in Ireland” was read by Dr. John McQuaid, the President of Blackrock College. All accounts agree in stating that the Congress was a brilliant success.
As the proceedings at the Hague coincided with the Biennial Conference of the World Federation of Education Associations, Father Corcoran was unable to be present at the functions in Dublin, but an important paper from his pen was read by Mrs McCarville, Lecturer in English in University College, Dublin. This paper expounded the Catholic philosophy of Education.

Irish Province News 10th Year No 1 1935

Works by Father Timothy Corcoran SJ

  1. Studies in the History of Classical Education, Irish and Continental AS 1500-1700
  2. Renovatio Litterarum - Academic Writers of the Renaissance, AD 1450-1600, A.D. 14,50-I6ro, with Documentary Exercises, illustrative of the views of Italian and French Humanists.
  3. Renate Litterae - Latin Texts and Documentary Exercises exhibiting the Evolution of the Ratio Studiomm as regards Humanistic Education, A.D, 1540-1600
  4. Plato : De Juvenyute Instituenda - Greek Texts, from Dialogues other than The Republic, with Introduction and Documented Exercises
  5. Quintilianus Restitutiae Ltinis Preceptor - Latin Texts with Introduction and Exercises on Quintilan's influence on Renaissance Education
  6. Newman's Theory of Liberal Education -The three Discourses on Liberal Knowledge, as in the text of the First Edition Dublin, 1852 , with Preface, Historical and Philosophical Introduction, and Documentary Exercises
  7. Education Systems in Ireland A.D. 1500-1832 - Selected Texts. with Introduction
  8. O’Connell and Catholic Education - Papers for the Centenary Year of Emancipation. With a Portrait hitherto unpublished (out of print)
  9. Catholic Lay Teachers. Regional Lists, A.D. 1711-1824 - with Historical Commentary, Illustrations, and Three Maps
  10. The Clongowes Record, A.D. 1814 to 1932 - With Introductory Chapters on Irish Jesuit Educators A.D. 1564-1813 with 40 pages of Illustrations outside the Text
  11. Narrative Text, with Supplemental Documents for Professional Students of Education, issued separately.

Irish Province News 18th Year No 1 1943

Presentation to Fr. Corcoran :
The Chancellor of the National University, Mr. de Valera, the Minister of Education, Mr. Derris, and the Ceann Comhairle, Mr. Fahy, were among the large attendance at a ceremony at 86 St. Stephen's Green, on Saturday, 12th December, when Fr. Corcoran was presented with a portrait of himself by Sean Keating. R.H.A., on the occasion of his retirement from the Chair of Education at U.C.D., which he has held since 1909.
Senator Michael Hayes, making the presentation, said it had been his privilege to be a student, a colleague, and close friend of Fr. Corcoran, a friend who, like many another, owed much to his counsel and encouragement. He was being honoured that day as a professor, a guide, and an example to research students, a scholar and a clear sighted lover of Ireland. He had always been. careful, methodical, meticulous, accurate over a wide range of learning, punctual to an unusual degree, and redoubtable in argument. No professor could have been kinder, more considerate and more helpful to his students. The portrait by Sean Keating was a fitting tribute. The artist had caught the spirit of his sitter and had given a work worthy of his subject. On behalf of Fr. Corcoran he returned the most sincere thanks to his many old students, who had contributed to the Presentation.

Irish Province News 18th Year No 3 1943
Obituary :
Father Timothy Corcoran SJ (1872-1943)
Father Corcoran died at St. Vincent's Nursing Home, Dublin, on March 23rd, 1943. He had been ill for about a month and during the past year his general strength had been failing rapidly. He had resigned his post as Professor of Education in U.C.D. in September, 1942.
Father Corcoran was born at Honeymount, Roscrea, on 17th January, 1872. He went as a boy to Tullabeg in 1885 for the last year of the old school's separate existence, and was transferred to Clongowes in the following year. During the next four years he won high distinction as a prize-winner and medallist under the Intermediate System laying a wide foundation for his future studies in Classics, History and English Literature. He entered the novitiate at Tullabeg on 6th December, 1890. Within a few months his younger brother John (the future Master of Novices tor the Australian Mission and Vice-Province) followed him to Tullabeg. They were together in Tullabeg until 1894.
From his Juniorate Mr. Corcoran went direct to Clongowes, where he taught for seven consecutive years (1894-1901). These were the years when Clongowes was leading the country in the Intermediate prize-lists. under the stimulating direction of Father James Daly, and Mr. Corcoran was one of a small group of “the experts” whose abilities as teachers were mainly responsible for these successes Many Fathers of the Irish Province have vivid recollections of his classes in the old Junior. Middle and Senior Grades. When he died. Father Corcoran left behind him among his private papers a small note-book in which he had noted the name and class of every boy he had taught, with a note as to their later careers. The letters “S.J.” are common after many of these names. Others went to Medicine, the Bar or one or other of the professions at home or abroad. The notebook. was thus a miniature record of the careers of a very representative group of the alumni of Clongowes in the last years of the past century. Those who remembered Mr. Corcoran’s classes in his last two years (he returned to Clongowes from Louvain in 1904, and taught for two more years before his Theology at Milltown Park) will remember a tradition that he never “sent a boy up”, and indeed the legend round his name in those later years was sufficient to guarantee due awe and respect. But Father Corcoran, in later and more reminiscent years, would recall earlier days when he had won his control over difficult classes by the simple method of prescribing “twelve” at regular intervals to boys whose habitual record was always a justification for drastic action.
From 1904 Father Corcoran studied Philosophy at Louvain, taking his B.A. degree at the same time under the old Royal University. He was never a metaphysician, and Belgian Jesuits of later years. who had been his very much younger contemporaries at this time, remembered a solitary and imposing figure, who walked in stately majesty round the small garden reserved for the Philosophers, and seemed to take little interest in life's petty round. But Louvain has seldom had a more loyal past student than Father Corcoran. On more than one occasion he contrived to secure his own nomination as the National University's representative at the public functions which have marked the various stages of Louvain's recent history, and he collected an unusually fine series of old and modern works on the University’s history. A student of Louvain who came to Ireland could always count on Father Corcoran's s support for any scheme which involved full recognition of his studies abroad. Indeed he used to boast he had persuaded the National University to give Louvain a recognition which was denied to Oxford and Cambridge.
After his nine years at Clongowes, Father Corcoran went to Milltown Park for three years, in the old “short course” of pre-Codex days. Even during his course at Milltown he was marked out as the probable holder of a chair in the new University.
Father Corcoran had applied for the post of Professor of the Theory and Practice of Education (then a relatively new subject in the more modern Universities), and he was appointed as the first Professor of this subject during the winter of 1908-9. He had taken his B.A.. with first place and first-class Hons. in History in 1903, and his Higher Diploma in Education in 1906, with a special gold medal. He was also University medallist in Latin verse and English verse. Apart from his long years of experience in the Honours classes at Clongowes and his exceptional gift of methodical teaching Father Corcoran had a quite unusual gift for map-making in illustration of his class-work. When he was being considered as a candidate for the Chair of Education he organised an exhibit of these maps, and tales are still told of the assistance given him by his friends at Milltown Park in that first venture.
There is no space here to record the many achievements which have made Father Corcoran's long tenure of this post (1909-42) one of the memorable phases in the life of University College, Dublin. It seems hard to believe that the difficulty at first was to get any student at all. Ever willing to oblige fellow-Jesuit Farther Darlington - who had himself retired from the University in 1909 - wrote round to suggest a course in Education to past students of the College. A small group was got together, and Mr. Eamonn De Valera’s name is claimed as his first student. Professor W. J . Williams, who was later to succeed him in the chair, was another of the same group. When Father Corcoran retired in 1942 the annual classes were seldom less than a hundred and were often very much more numerous. Public tributes have been paid by many of his past students not only to Father Corcoran’s gifts as a teacher and organiser, but also to his unfailing willingness to help any student whose need of help was brought to his notice. For more than thirty years Father Corcoran made a special study of the history of Catholic education, with special reference to Ireland and to the tradition of the Jesuit schools. His “Studies in the History of Classical Education” (1911) won him the degree of D.Litt. - it is a study of the Irish Jesuit Father William Bathe's “Janus Linguarum”. The publication of his “State Policy in Irish Education” (1916) established Father Corcoran’s reputation for pioneer work in a new field of Irish historical study. The book is now very rare, for the whole stock was burnt in Easter Week, but Father Corcoran used most of the materials in this book as a basis for his lectures on Irish educational history and he could justly claim that he had stimulated more than one good student to produce work on similar lines under his direction. The Clongowes Record appeared in 1932, and was in large part a study of the old Jesuit Ratio Studiorum as applied in pre-Intermediate days at Clongowes. Soon afterwards one of Father Corcoran's ablest students Father Allan P. Farrell, published an important work on the history of the early Ratio Studiorum (The Jesuit Code of Liberal Education) which he had originally prepared as a thesis for the Ph.D. degree under Father Corcoran’s personal direction at University College, Dublin. Father Farrell’s book is generally counted the ablest work that has yet appeared on this important phase of early Jesuit history. For many years Father Corcoran also issued, for private use in his own class-room, a series of important volumes on various aspects of educational theory and history which have had a very great influence on educational thought and policy in this country. “Renovatio Litterarum” (1925) and “Renatae Litterae” (1926) dealt with the main aspects of Renaissance thought and the origins of Christian humanism in education. His volume on “Education Systems in Ireland” (1928) repeated a good deal of what was in the earlier volume, now inaccessible on “State Policy in Irish Education”. A volume on “Newman’s Theory of Liberal Education” (1929) is a highly controversial account of the ideas set forth by Newman when he was asked by the Irish Bishops to organise Catholic University in this country. There were also volumes on Plato, Quintilian, the Irish School-teachers in Penal Days etc. In 1938 Rev. Fr. General promoted him to solemn profession of four Vows in recognition of his “Eximium Scribendi talentum”.
Father Corcoran's work on behalf of Catholic education was revised abroad as well as at home. At home he was an influential and very active member of all the various Educational Commissions which have marked out the new tendencies of educational policy in this country since 1909. He attended Catholic Educational Congresses at Brussels and Amsterdam in the years before the war, and was elected President of the Amsterdam Congress. Our late Father General was anxious to have the benefit of his advice and experience when he was working on a scheme for the reorganisation of studies in the Juniorates of the whole Society, and arrangements had been made to enable Father Corcoran to spend some months in Rome during the academic year 1938-9. But the imminent danger of war caused a postponement of this scheme, and Father Corcoran never saw Rome. His own health was beginning to fail about this time, and it became more and more evident that the strain of continuing his work for the large classes in U.C.D. was beyond his powers. But Father Corcoran was not easily induced to surrender to any sign of physical weakness, and the illness of his colleague, Mr. W. J. Williams, threw extra work upon him at a time when he himself was obviously in need of assistance. The last two or three years of his active work were thus a painful struggle against a breakdown that all who saw him knew could not long be delayed. A paralytic stroke, shortly before Christmas 1941 ended his teaching days, but he did not formally resign his position as Professor until the following September.
Meanwhile a committee had been formed among his past-students to present him with a portrait-sketch by Mr. Sean Keating, as a token of their high regard for his long years of service. The presentation of this portrait was almost the last public function which he attended in the University, though he continued to the end to take an active interest in all its doings. He was particularly proud of the success of the new Graduates Club in 85 and 86 Stephen's Green, towards which he himself had contributed much useful work as a member of the Senate and Finance Committee of the University. His death was the occasion of many touching tributes from past students, men and women, who recalled his stimulating influence as a teacher and his personal interest on their behalf through so many years. A characteristic sign of Father Corcoran's personal kindness towards those who helped him in his work is the fact that the Hall-porters in the College felt his death as the loss of a personal friend. He had never failed to thank them in person for anything they had done, and his almost miraculous punctuality had made their task easier in a world where punctuality is not always guaranteed! R.l.P.

◆ James B Stephenson SJ Menologies 1973
Father Timothy Corcoran SJ 1872-1943
Fr Timothy Corcoran will always be remembered, both inside and outside the Society as the great authority in educational matters. He was Professor of Education and University College from 1909-1942. His published works include “Studies in the History of Classical Education” and “State Policy in Irish Education”.

Born in Roscrea on January 7th 1872, he was educated at Tullabeg and Clongowes. Brilliant as a boy in Classics, History and English Literature, he pursued and taught the same subjects as a Jesuit with equally brilliant success. It could be impossible to give an adequate account of the extent of Fr Corcoran’s influence on University life and on his contemporaries and on current affairs. He was intensely interested in all things Irish, especially our Irish games, and was proud to be the promoter of such in College.

His manner by some was considered brusque, and he certainly did not suffer fools gladly, yet he was capable of arousing almost fanatical admiration in his pupils. “If I had my way, there would be a public statue of Fr Corcoran in University College”, said one of his illustrious pupils, many of whom became the leaders of the Nation.

In 1938, by solemn decree of His Paternity Fr Ledóchowski, he was promoted to the solemn profession of four vows, in recognition of his “eximus talentaum scribendi”.

He died at St Vincent’s Nursing Home on March 23rd 1943

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