resident Michael D Higgins attended the launch yesterday of the 300th anniversary celebrations of one of Cork’s oldest churches.
Higgins visited the historic Unitarian Church on Prince’s St in the
heart of Cork City, where details of its year-long tercentenary
celebrations were unveiled.
Congregation secretary Fritz Spengeman said they plan to hold a
service of commemoration and several cultural events throughout the
It was announced the congregation is to appoint Rev Mike
O’Sullivan as its first minister in more than 50 years next month.
Unitarianism in Ireland grew out of the dissenting Presbyterian
tradition which emerged in the mid 1600s.
The Cork Unitarian Church was
one of the first buildings erected outside the city’s ancient walls on
an area then known as Dunscombe’s Marsh, with the foundations laid in
It hosted its first service on Sunday, August 1, 1717, and has
been a place of worship ever since. After Red Abbey and Elizabeth Fort,
the church is believed to be the oldest structure in Cork.
Many distinguished people have worshipped there over the years,
including Thomas Dix Hincks, the congregation’s sole minister from 1792
to 1815. He established the Royal Cork Institution in 1803 to promote
education, science, agriculture, and industry. It led to the
establishment of the Opera House, Crawford Gallery, UCC, and CIT. His
son, Thomas, ministered from 1815 to 1818, before becoming the first
professor of natural history at University College, Toronto, and
president of the Canadian Institute.
Throughout the 1800s, members of the Cork congregation were active in
many social and political movements, including the anti-slavery
movement, the Anti-Tithe Association, and the Young Irelanders. The
Father Mathew Temperance Agreement was signed in the church in 1839.
Another prominent congregation member, Richard Dowden, supported
Daniel O’Connell and Catholic emancipation. While serving as lord mayor
in 1845, his work on the anti-slavery movement led to a visit to the
city by leading abolitionist and US social campaigner Frederick
Douglass. Artist Daniel Maclise and the father of modern computer
science, George Boole, also worshipped there.
Earlier yesterday, Mr Higgins opened a major exhibition at UCC
celebrating Irish figures who have influenced the development of Latin
The Irish in Latin America exhibition honours people like General
Daniel O’Leary, and Eliza Lynch, a national heroine in Paraguay.
O’Leary, who was born in Cork in 1801 and emigrated to South America in
1817, became the aide-de-camp to the great liberator of the Americas,
Simon Bolívar, and helped Venezuela win independence from Spain. Ms
Lynch was the mistress of Paraguayan dictator Francisco Solano López,
and has long been the symbol of Paraguayan pride and resistance.
The exhibition includes displays of emeralds donated to Queen’s
College (now UCC) by General O’Leary in 1852. The exhibition opens to
the public today in the Aula Maxima, and can be viewed in the Glucksman
Gallery from February 7-12 and in the O’Rahilly building from February