Delany, William, 1835-1924, Jesuit priest

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Delany, William, 1835-1924, Jesuit priest

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04 June 1835-17 February 1924

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Born: 04 June 1835, Leighlinbridge, County Carlow
Entered: 20 January 1856, Amiens France (FRA)
Ordained: 1866
Final vows: 02 February 1869
Died: 17 February 1924, St Ignatius, Lower Leeson St, Dublin

by 1866 at Rome, Italy (ROM) studying Theology
by 1866 at Rome, Italy (ROM) Making Tertianship
Father Provincial of the Irish Province of the Society of Jesus : 05 August 1909-22 October 1912

◆ HIB Menologies SJ :
He had studied Philosophy and one year of Theology at Maynooth before Entry.

1858-1866 He did Regency at Clongowes as a Teacher and later at Tullabeg, and then went to for Theology at Rome.
1870-1880 Rector of Tullabeg. Here he completely changed the method of studies. Introduced exams at London University and was mainly responsible for the Intermediate Bill.
He then went on a trip to America with Fr John Moore SJ of ANG.
1873 The Jesuits were asked to take charge of St Patrick’s House which began under Thomas Keating, James Tuite and Robert Carbery. When this house closed, a new one was opened on Temple St with William as Vice-Superior.
1881-1888 He was appointed Vice-Rector of UCD.
1892 He accompanied the Provincial Timothy Kenny to the General Congregation at Loyola which elected Luis Martin as General.
1897-1909 He was appointed Rector of UCD
1909-1912 He was appointed Provincial. When he finished he went to Leeson St as Spiritual Father and died there 17 February 1924.

“He was one of the most remarkable and distinguished Jesuits of the 19th and 20th centuries. Balfour said he was the most cultivated Priest of his time. He was called ‘Doctor’ having been awarded his LLD.

Paraphrase of Excerpts from an Appreciation published on his death :
“The death of ..... deserves more than the usual notice.... No man ever served the people better. Nation-builder........Pioneer in educational reform.........along with Archbishop of Dublin can be regarded as founders of Irish National University Education. Even before the Universities Act, the Intermediate Bill, he developed as a young Priest, standards at Tullabeg which ave become an idea for Catholic public schools.
He worked with the O’Conor Don to encourage the Government to endow Secondary Education in Ireland, and this before it was done in England. Then came the Royal Universities Act. Concentrating on Newman’s old buildings in St Stephen’s Green.......they gathered honours and prizes......His success was the final argument needed to win equality of educational endowment and opportunity.
Aside from the political success, those who came to know him as a Priest as well, were touched by his spirituality. His key gift was that of choosing the best men to teach and giving them encouragement and freedom. His short sermons (20 ins) were models. His religious zeal was the source of his public service. It was not a narrow zeal, and he worked with all sorts and conditions for the Glory of God and Ireland”

Paraphrase of excerpts from the Irish Independent article 19 February 1924 “A Pioneer In Irish Education” :
“As the ruler of a great College, whether Tullabeg or UCD, he was chiefly remarkable, I think, for his quickly sympathetic spirit and readiness to accept new ideas. He was neither conservative nor cautious - the refuge of the weak - nor the tenacity of ideas once formed - the defect of the strong. This was equally true of the young man who made Tullabeg the leading College in Ireland and the old man who led his team to victory at UCD over three state supported rivals. He transformed Tullabeg through introducing London University Exams. His encouragement of the Societies at UCD was not only financial but borne of liberal tolerance, best exemplified in his attitude towards Irish Studies. He gathered round him very talented Jesuits and laymen. He also gave money liberally to ‘Irish” things such as “Irish Texts Society”, the Oireachtas and the Dublin Feis.
He managed to publish in his limited free time, his best being a series of Lenten Conferences “Christian Reunion” and “A Plea for Fair Play”. He could be impetuous, but had a quick mind to save himself from many blunders! He was both decisive and inspirational, and could also be very reflective, and he possessed a very generous heart.
Enough to say that the energy which inspired his untiring labours, the patience with which he gently endured trials and misrepresentations, the charity which sought to give help to all the needy, were alike drawn no more from excellence of nature, though that indeed was his, but from an intense spirit of prayer, an abiding realisation of the invisible world, a devout piety which he seemed to retain through life, the simple fervour of a ‘First Communicant’.”

◆ Royal Irish Academy : Dictionary of Irish Biography, Cambridge University Press online :
Delany, William
by Thomas J. Morrissey

Delany, William (1835–1924), Jesuit and president of UCD, was born 4 June 1835 at Leighlinbridge, Co. Carlow, second of ten children (of whom five survived) born to John Delany and Mary Delany (née Brennan). As with many Irish catholic families of farming stock, there was an eviction in the background: John Delany had been evicted from the family farm just ten years before William's birth. He moved to Leighlinbridge and set up a small bakery business, which, with the assistance of his strong-willed, resourceful wife, began to prosper. William attended school (1845–51) at Bagenalstown; at home, during the bleak famine years, he assisted in handing out bread and soup to a starving people. At the age of sixteen he requested that he be sent to Carlow College to study for the priesthood. After two years he moved to St Patrick's College, Maynooth. His parents were pleased to learn of his academic success and good general conduct, but considered him extravagant and over-particular in his requests for new clothes. God's ministers should dress carefully and well, he claimed. The lavish use of materials in pursuance of lofty ends was to prove a characteristic feature, which added both to his influence and his troubles.

In January 1856 he joined the Society of Jesus. His noviceship commenced at Saint-Acheul in France and concluded at Beaumont Lodge, near Windsor, in England. Two years followed at Clongowes Wood College, Co. Kildare, teaching junior classes, and then (August 1860) he was transferred to St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, near Tullamore, King's Co. (Offaly), where (apart from three years at Rome) he was to be stationed for the next twenty years. In this unlikely location he achieved the reputation as an educationist that paved the way to his appointment to the presidency of UCD. After his ordination at Rome (1866) he served for a while as a chaplain of the Irish brigade formed to defend the papal states against the forces of Garibaldi. Soon after his return home (1868) he was reappointed to Tullabeg, this time as prefect of studies and rector. He embarked on an elaborate programme of building, updating facilities, raising academic and cultural standards, tightening discipline, and expanding games activities. His criteria were the more celebrated English public schools, but he placed more emphasis on academic excellence. Some of his fellow Jesuits, highly critical of the expenditure, complained to the general of the order. For a while Delany's hopes and prospects were dimmed, but all was changed when he entered the senior class for the London University examinations and 100 per cent success was achieved. The results received wide acclaim. A feeling of inferiority about academic standards in catholic schools was widespread; Tullabeg's success was seen as justifying claims for equal educational opportunity with the endowed protestant schools. Delany became noted as an educationist, and he was closely consulted by Randolph Churchill, then secretary to the lord lieutenant, his father the duke of Marlborough (qv). Delany's influence was said to be considerable in shaping the two government bills that, as the intermediate act of 1878 and the Royal University act of 1879, changed the face of Irish education; and he was instrumental, together with William Walsh (qv) (1841–1921) of Maynooth, in establishing the Catholic Headmasters’ Association in October 1878.

The success of his college in the London University examinations (and subsequently in the intermediate and RUI examinations) made him an obvious person to be president of the catholic hierarchy's University College, St Stephen's Green, Dublin, the unsuccessful heir to John Henry Newman's (qv) Catholic University. The Jesuits took over the college as it stood in 1883, which meant that the fellows of the RUI were to be among its lecturers and also examiners of the university. This form of monopoly later led to hostility from some other competing colleges and from Walsh, subsequently archbishop of Dublin; but Delany and the senate of the Royal University of Ireland held to the original agreement, arguing that the only hope of obtaining a university for the majority population was by strengthening one college so that it might do outstandingly well and the catholic case for a university prove unanswerable. Delany, moreover, sought to have as many Jesuits as possible as fellows, provided they were fully qualified and the best suited for the advertised posts. By this means the fellows’ salaries would be ploughed back into the college, which was seriously under-funded. The college, under his presidency, proved so successful that it eventually achieved more honours in examinations than the three queen's colleges (Cork, Galway, Belfast) combined, although these were subsidised by the government. The talented staff of the college included Gerard Manley Hopkins (qv), Edmund Hogan (qv), Eoin MacNeill (qv), Tom Finlay (qv), and Thomas Arnold (qv); while among the brilliant student body were James Joyce (qv), Tom Kettle (qv), W. P. Coyne (qv), Arthur Clery (qv), Éamon de Valera (qv), Patrick McGilligan (qv), and John A. Costello (qv). Not surprisingly, Coyne was to remark in 1900: ‘The real work for Ireland is being done over there [University College]’ (Jesuit Fathers, A page of Irish history (1930), 244).

The achievements of UCD and Delany's close links with members of the Irish catholic hierarchy, with key politicians, and with successive chief secretaries and lord lieutenants, all played a part in the eventual solution to the Irish university question in the national university act of 1908. Delany's role was widely praised, yet within a short time he was to be lampooned as anti-Irish and his great services almost forgotten, because he let it be known that he did not approve of making the Irish language an obligatory subject for matriculation in the new university. He had done a great deal to promote Irish historical studies and Irish language and culture, but he did not wish to close off the university to many by having Irish as an entry requirement.

At the age of 74 Delany was appointed Jesuit provincial. He held the office for just three years, yet his was not a mere holding operation. He opened a new residence in Leeson St. for Jesuits lecturing in the university, and a hostel for students in nearby Hatch St.; and he served on the senate of the new university and on the governing body of UCD. Ahead of his time, he advocated the scientific study of agriculture at university level, pressed for education in the areas of industry and commerce, and proposed that UCD move from Earlsfort Terrace to more spacious grounds outside the city, a proposal publicly acknowledged by a later president, Michael Tierney (qv), on the occasion of the college eventually moving to an extensive campus at Belfield. Delany lived for another twelve years. In those years of dramatic change in Ireland, he became an almost forgotten figure: in the words of Cyril Power, SJ, who knew him, ‘a great man who had outlived his reputation’. He died 17 February 1924 at the age of 89.

Thomas Finlay, ‘William Delany, S.J.’, Clongownian (1924); Fathers of the Society of Jesus, A page of Irish history: story of University College, Dublin, 1883–1909 (1930); Thomas J. Morrissey, Towards a national university: William Delany, S.J. (1835–1924) (1983)

◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 9th Year No 1 1934

Leeson St :
Monday, November 20th, was a red-letter day in the history of Leeson street, for it witnessed the celebration of the Golden Jubilee of the House's foundation. In November, 1833. the Community came into being at 86 St Stephen's Green, where it remained until 1909, when the building was handed over to the newly constituted National University. The Community, however, survived intact and migrated to a nearby house in Lesson Street, where it renewed its youth in intimate relationship with the Dublin College of the University.
Its history falls this into two almost equal periods, different, indeed, in many ways, yet essentially one, since the energies of the Community during each period have been devoted to the same purpose, the furtherance of Catholic University Education in Ireland.
A precious link between the two eras is Father Tom Finlay, who was a member of the Community in 1883, and ever since has maintained his connection with it. His presence on Monday evening, restored to his old health after a severe illness was a source of particular pleasure to the whole gathering. It was also gratifying to see among the visitors Father Henry Browne, who had crossed from England at much personal inconvenience to take part in the celebration. Not only was Father Browne a valued member of the Community for over thirty years, but he acquired additional merit by putting on record, in collaboration with Father McKenna, in that bulky volume with the modest title " A Page of Irish History," the work achieved by the House during the first heroic age of its existence. It was a pleasure, too, to see hale and well among those present Father Joseph Darlington, guide, philosopher and friend to so many students during the two periods. Father George O'Neill, who for many years was a distinguished member of the Community, could not, alas be expected to make the long journey from his newer field of fruitful labor in Werribee, Australia.
Father Superior, in an exceptionally happy speech, described the part played by the Community, especially in its earlier days of struggle, in the intellectual life of the country. The venerable Fathers who toiled so unselflessly in the old house in St. Stephens Green had exalted the prestige of the Society throughout Ireland. Father Finlay, in reply, recalled the names of the giants of those early days, Father Delany, Father Gerald Hopkins, Mr. Curtis and others. Father Darlington stressed the abiding influence of Newman, felt not merely in the schools of art and science, but in the famous Cecilia Street Medial School. Father Henry Browne spoke movingly of the faith, courage and vision displayed by the leaders of the Province in 1883, when they took on their shoulders such a heavy burden. It was a far cry from that day in 1883, when the Province had next to no resources, to our own day, when some sixty of our juniors are to be found, as a matter of course preparing for degrees in a National University. The progress of the Province during these fifty years excited feelings of
admiration and of profound gratitude , and much of that progress was perhaps due to the decision, valiantly taken in 1883 1883, which had raised the work of the Province to a higher plane.

◆ Fr Joseph McDonnell SJ Past and Present Notes :

Later the performance of the Jesuits in managing UCD with little or no money, and then outperforming what were known as the “Queen’s Colleges” forced the issue of injustice against Catholics in Ireland in the matter of University education. It is William Delaney who headed up the effort and create the National University of Ireland under endowment from the Government.from the Government.

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Irish Vice-Province of the Society of Jesus, 1830- (1830-)

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