Alfred O'Rahilly

Alfred O'Rahilly

Portrait of Alfred O'Rahilly, James Sinton Sleator PRHA, UCC

Alfred O’Rahilly MA DPhil DSc KSG, President, University College Cork, 1943-54

Alfred O’Rahilly, was born in September 1884[1] in Listowel, Co. Kerry, the son of Thomas F. Rahilly, clerk of petty sessions, and his wife Julia M. Curry. He changed his surname by deed poll in 1920 to ‘O’Rahilly’.[2]   He was educated at St Michael’s College, Listowel, and at Blackrock College, Dublin.[3] O’Rahilly was awarded a BA (1907), MA in Mathematical and Experimental Physics (1908) by the Royal University of Ireland. He then entered Stonyhurst College, Lancashire, England, where he is an resident at the time of the 1911 census. At Stonyhurst, he studied at St Mary’s Hall, where he attended a three-year course in scholastic philosophy in the Jesuit novitiate for which he was awarded the papal degree of DPhil.[4] O’Rahilly then gained a BSc (1912) at University College, Dublin. In 1914 he was appointed assistant lecturer in the Department of Mathematics and Mathematical Physics at UCC, and made full Professor of Mathematical Physics in June 1917. He became Registrar of the college in February 1920, and held the post until 1943 when he became President. He spent a year, in 1927, at Harvard University studying social and political theory. On his return, he persuaded the Governing Body to establish a lectureship in sociology, which he took on without salary.[5] The National University of Ireland conferred on him the honorary degree DLitt in 1939 and, in the following year, his work on Electromagnetics obtained for him the degree DSc.

After the 1916 Easter Rising, O’Rahilly publicly supported Sinn Féin and was elected to  Cork City Council as a Sinn Féin and Transport Workers candidate. Arrested early in 1921 for his political writings, O’Rahilly was interned in Spike Island prison in Cork harbour. Released in October 1921 he was constitutional adviser to the Irish Treaty Delegation. O’Rahilly supported the Anglo-Irish Treaty and in 1922 he composed a draft constitution for the Irish Free State.  O’Rahilly led Irish delegations to the International Labour Organization conferences in 1924, 1925 and 1932, and took on conciliatory role in trade union and employers disputes in Munster. Standing as a candidate in Cork Borough for Cumann na nGaedheal, he was elected to the 4th Dail at the 1923 general election but did not go for re-election in 1924.[6] As representative of the Irish Government, he attended the Sixteenth Session of the International Labour Conference at Geneva in 1932.[7] He was a member of the Banking Commission and Chairman of the Cork Arbitration Board, where he was prominent in the settlement of industrial disputes. In this latter role he was active in securing compensation for the loss of employment suffered by the workers of the Cork Electric Tramways and Lighting Company, for which work some of the tramway men of the city presented him with ‘The Tramway Cup’ in 1933.

O’Rahilly had a dominant personality and was a prolific scholar, polymath, controversialist and public figure. His UCC initiatives included improvements in his role as Director of the Library, the institution of student health and restaurant services, and the acquisition of the extensive former County Gaol site which made significant building expansion possible. Other innovations included the foundation of the Department of Electrical Engineering, Cork University Press in 1925 (which he handed over to the College in 1928)[8] and UCC’s second in-house magazine, Cork University Record, in 1944. O’Rahilly strengthened College links with the city and the province, particularly in adult education courses. He instituted a diploma in Social Science, the first diplomate was Seán Casey who was later a TD for Cork city and Lord Mayor.[9] He published prolifically, often on issues relating to religion and politics.

Alfred O’Rahilly married Agnes O’Donoghue on 4 September 1916 at Rathmines, Dublin. They had two children. She died on 14 September 1953.[10] He retired from the presidency of UCC in October 1954 and moved to Blackrock College (Holy Ghost Fathers), Dublin, where he was ordained as a member of the order on 18 December 1955, aged 71.  He remained at Blackrock, becoming a monsignor in 1960. O’Rahilly died at St Michael’s nursing home, Dún Laoghaire, on 2 August 1969. He is buried in the community cemetery in the grounds of Kimmage Manor, headquarters of the Holy Ghost Fathers.[11] O’Rahilly left his theological library to the Jesuits at Milltown Park; in 2019 the Milltown Park library was transferred to Dublin City University;[12] his other books were given to Blackrock College.

In 1998 the new Business and Languages building, named the Alfred O’Rahilly Building, was opened by Micheál Martin, Minister for Education (a UCC graduate).[13] O’Rahilly’s tenure as Director of the Library is remembered in the relief created by Séamus Murphy RHA that is on display in the Boole Library.

The portrait of Alfred O'Rahilly is on display in the Aula Maxima, UCC.

Prof. John A. Murphy, Emeritus Professor of History, contributes his memories while an undergraduate during the presidency of Dr O'Rahilly to the UCCIreland YouTube channel. 

 

 

Sources

Gaughan, J. Anthony, Alfred O’Rahilly, 4 vols. (Dublin: Kingdom Books, 1986-93)

Gwynn, Denis, ‘Monsignor Alfred O’Rahilly (1884-1969)’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review 58:232 (Winter, 1969), 368-75

Murphy, John A., The College: a history of Queen’s / University College Cork 1845–1995 (Cork: Cork University Press, 1995)

Murphy, John A., ‘Cork University Press in context’, 75th anniversary catalogue 1925-2000, Cork University Press [2000], pp37-44

Murphy, John A., ‘O’Rahilly, Alfred’, Dictionary of Irish Biography

O’Flaherty, Kathleen, ‘Professor Alfred O’Rahilly: an appreciation’, University Review 1:4 (Spring, 1955), 13-20

Ó Murchú, Micheál W., ‘Alfred O’Rahilly: Pathfinder in adult education’, Irish Educational Studies 7:2 (1988), 47-65

 

Select bibliography of Alfred O’Rahilly

O’Rahilly published prolifically including newspaper articles and brief papers, so this is merely a selection of his output.

A guide to books for social students and workers (Dublin: Educational Company, 1916)

The plot: German or English?, by ‘Lector’, New Ireland pamphlets, no. 2 (Dublin: New Ireland Publishing Co., 1918)

Father William Doyle, S.J. (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1920)

The case for the Treaty (1922). Copy at UCC

Verborgenes heldentum P. Wilhelm Doyle S.J.: ein Apostelbild aus unfern (Freiburg: Herder, 1923)

No income tax? (Dublin: Eason, 1925)

Notes on St. Thomas (1927)

The case for a flour tariff (Dublin: Eason and Son, Ltd., 1928)

Flour wheat and tariffs: a reply to the Tariff Commission. A study of the urgent problems of tariffs and tillage (Dublin : Eason and Son, Ltd., 1928)

Father William Doyle S.J.: a spiritual study (London: Longmans Green And Co., 1930)

Our daily bread (Dublin: Eason and Son, Ltd., 1930)

Statement written by Professor Alfred O’Rahilly, Registrar, University College Cork, on 6th November 1933 on behalf of himself and five of his colleagues (Cork: Lee Press, 1933)

Saint Mary Magdalen (Dublin: Catholic Truth Society of Ireland, 1937)

Thoughts on the constitution ([Dublin]: Browne and Nolan Limited, [1937])

Electromagnetics: a discussion of fundamentals (London: Longmans, Green, 1938)

Money, with a foreword by Prof. John Busteed (Cork: Cork University Press, 1941)

Aquinas versus Marx (Dublin: Education Company of Ireland, 1942-43)

The burial of Christ (Cork: Cork University Press, 1942)

Moral principles (Cork: Cork University Press, 1948)

Religion and science: broadcast talks (Dublin: The Standard, 1948)

Social principles: radio talks (Cork: Cork University Press, 1948)

The family at Bethany (Cork: Cork University Press, 1949)

The constitutional position of education in the Republic of Ireland (Cork: Cork University Press, 1952)

Moral and social principles (Cork: Cork University Press, 1955)

Gospel meditations, with a foreword by M. C. D’Arcy (Dublin: Browne and Nolan, 1958)

The Irish university question [Dublin : Studies, 1961]

Electromagnetic theory: a critical examination of fundamentals. Vol. 2 (Dover Publications: Constable, 1965)

The Crucified (edited by J. Anthony Gaughan) (Dublin: Kingdom Books, 1985)

 

Articles

‘Atomic anatomy’, New Ireland Review, Vol. XXVI (Jan. 1907), 257-277

‘The sun: his past, present and future’, New Ireland Review, Vol. XXVII (Jul. 1907), 263-283

‘The intra-Atomic world’, New Ireland Review, Vol. XXVIII (Feb. 1908), 335-350

‘Kant and after Kant’, New Ireland Review, Vol. XXXII (Dec. 1909), 212-226

‘Aristotle in biology’, New Ireland Review, Vol. XXXIV (Oct. 1910), 85-102

‘Types of imagery’, New Ireland Review, Vol. XXXIII (Jun.-Jul., 1910), 235-245

‘A working philosophy’, New Ireland Review, Vol. XXXIV (Dec. 1910), 200-213

‘Berkeley and Ireland’, New Ireland Review, Vol. XXXIII (May 1910), 185-189

‘Mendel and his work’, The Catholic Bulletin, Vol. II (Jun. 1912), 409-414

‘The meaning of evolution’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. I, No. 1 (Mar. 1912), 32-51

‘Professor Schafer on life’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. I, No. 3 (Sep. 1912), 459-471

‘Friar Bacon’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. I, No 4 (Dec. 1912), 721-730

‘Philosophy - Some recent studies on St. Thomas’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. II, No. 6 (Jun. 1913), 152-158

‘Averroism and scholasticism’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. II. No. 7 (Sept., 1913), 301-324

‘Averroism and scholasticism’ (continued), Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. III. No. 9 (March, 1914), 686-713

‘A seventh centenary: Roger Bacon’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. III, No. 11 (Sep. 1914),  248-267

‘The gospel of the superman’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. III, No. 12 (Dec. 1914), 381-402

‘Ideals at stake’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. IV, No. 13 (Mar. 1915), 16-32

‘The criterion of catholic philosophy’, Irish Ecclesiastical Record, Ser. 5, Vol. VI (Jul. 1915), 17-29

‘The influence of German philosophy’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. IV, No. 16 (Dec. 1915), 563-576

‘Was Dante a Thomist?’, Irish Ecclesiastical Record, ser. 5, Vol. VIII (Aug. 1916), 130-139

‘Catholic view of State authority’, The Catholic Bulletin, Vol. VI (Sep. 1916), 481-486

‘The Catholic Social League’, The Irish Monthly, Vol. XLV (Jul. 1917), 435-442

‘The Hound of Heaven’, The Irish Monthly, Vol. XLV (May 1917), 292-296

‘The social problem in Cork’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. VI, No. 22 (Jun. 1917), 177-188

‘Faith and facts’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. VI, No. 23 (Sep. 1917), 424-439

‘The significance of Suarez (1617-1917)’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. VI, No. 24 (Dec. 1917), 582-592

‘Democracy, Parliament and Cromwell’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. VII, No. 28 (Dec. 1918), 564-583

‘Suarez and democracy’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. VII, No. 25 (Mar. 1918), 1-21

‘Ozanam’s ideal of social work’, The Irish monthly, Vol. XLVI (Apr.-Jun. 1918), 189-195

‘The Catholic view of war’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. VII, No. 26 (Jun. 1918), 227-242

‘The failure of Christianity’, The Irish Monthly, Vol. XLVI (Aug. 1918), 425-432

‘The reality of religion’, Irish Ecclesiastical Record, Ser. 5, Vol. XII (Sep. 1918), 177-190

‘The Catholic origin of democracy’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. VIII, No. 29 (Mar. 1919),  1-18

‘Socialism and co-operation’, The Irish Commonwealth: a monthly review of social affairs, politics and literature, Vol. I, No. 1 (Mar. 1919), 6-10; Vol. I, No. 2 (Apr. 1919), 58-60

‘The sources of English and American democracy’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. VIII, No. 30 (Jun. 1919), 189-209

‘Our debt to Christ’, Irish ecclesiastical record, Ser. 5, Vol. XIV (Dec. 1919), 452-464

‘The Democracy of St. Thomas’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. IX, No. 33 (Mar. 1920), 1-19

‘Saint Thomas's theory of property’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. IX, No. 35 (Sep. 1920),  337-354

‘Some theology about tyranny’, Irish Theological Quarterly, Vol. XV, No. 60 (Oct. 1920)

‘The law of nations’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. IX, No. 36 (Dec. 1920), 579-596

‘The sovereignty of the people’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. X, No. 37 (Mar. 1921), 39-56

‘Is there a common citizenship?’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. XI, No. 41 (Mar. 1922), 1-12

‘Allegiance and the crown’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. XI, No. 42 (Jun. 1922), 169-185

‘Wheat growing and flour milling’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. XVIII (Jun. 1922), 271-286

‘Notes on St. Thomas’, Irish Ecclesiastical Record, 5th ser. Vol. XXX (Nov., Dec., 1927); Vol. XXXI (Feb.. April, June, 1928)

‘A letter about Miss Mulally and Nano Nagle’, Irish Ecclesiastical Record, Ser. 5, Vol. XL (Nov.-Dec. 1932)

‘The Syllabus’, Irish Ecclesiastical Record, Ser. 5, Vol. XLI (Jan. 1933), 13-26

‘The Constitution and the Senate’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. XXV (Mar. 1936), 1-19

‘The massacre at Smerwick (1580)’, Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, Ser. 2, Vol. XLII (1937), 1-15, 65-83

‘The stigmata of Saint Francis’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. XXVII (Jun. 1938), 177-198

‘Vocational organisation in the past’ (reprint of radio talk), The Irish Monthly, Vol. LXVI (May 1938), 295-304

‘Gospel studies I. The road to Emmaus. II. By the lakeside. III. The woman of Samaria’, The Irish Monthly, Vol. LXVI (Jun. 1938), 423-431; (Dec. 1928), 825-834

‘Father John Austin, S. J. (1717-84)’, The Irish Monthly, Vol. LXVII (Mar. 1939), 181-196

‘St. Thomas and ourselves’ (reprint of a radio talk), The Irish Monthly, Vol. LXVII (Dec. 1939), 805-813

‘Jewish burial. The burial of Christ’, Irish Ecclesiastical Record, 5th ser. Vol. LVIII (Aug., Oct., Dec., 1941); Vol. LIX (Feb., 1942)

‘Aquinas versus Marx’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. XXXI (Sep. 1942),  317-324

‘Aquinas versus Marx Part II. The so-called labour theory of value’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. XXXI (Dec. 1942), 493-503

‘An Ursuline writer on Irish history’, Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, Ser. 2, Vol. XLVII (1942), 77-86

‘Aquinas and Marx: III. Aristotle and Aquinas’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. XXXII (Mar. 1943), 73-81

‘The title of the Cross’, Irish Ecclesiastical Record, Ser. 5, Vol. LXV (May 1945), 289-297

‘Limiting the number of medicals’, Cork University Record, No. 7 (Summer 1946)

‘Address by President O’Rahilly, degree day, 15th July, 1947’, Cork University Record, No. 11 (Christmas 1947)

‘Conferring of the College Diploma in Social and Economic Science on twenty-four workers, 23rd June, 1928’, Cork University Record, No. 14 (Christmas 1948), 27-30

‘Apostolus Apostolorum: Father Michael Browne, S. J.’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. XXXIX (Mar. 1950), 72-74

‘An Coláiste seo agus an Ghaeilge’, Cork University Record, No. 19 (Summer 1950)

‘The adult education movement’, Blackfriars, Vol. 32, No. 371 (Feb. 1951), 57-60

‘Address at the conferring of degrees . . . Oct., 1951. Address at the conferring of degrees . . . Jan., 1952’, Cork University Record, No. 24 (Easter, 1952)

‘The proposed full-time state official for obstetrics and gynaecology. Statement made by President Alfred O’Rahilly to the South Cork Board of Assistance, 18th January, 1952’, Cork University Record, No. 24 (Easter, 1952)

‘Course for rural executives. Address by President Alfred O’Rahilly’, Cork University Record, No. 25 (Summer, 1952)

‘Encyclicals - cure for secularism (a quotation from article in Christus Rex, October 1951)’, The Irish Monthly, Vol. LXXXI (Sep. 1953), 341

‘Dr. O’Rahilly's conferring address (Jan., 1954)’, Cork University Record, No. 29 (Summer, 1954)

‘The Cork Medical School’, Cork University Record, No. 29 (Summer, 1954)

‘Sermons for Sundays. The Pharisee and the Publican’, Irish Ecclesiastical Record, Ser. 5, Vol. XCII, No. 1 (Jul. 1959), 41-45

‘The Irish university question. I. The Catholic attitude’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. L, No. 199 (Autumn 1961), 225-70

‘The Irish university question. V. The Catholic University of Ireland, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. L, No. 200 (Winter 1961), 353-70

‘The Irish University question. VII. Secondary Education’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. LI, No. 201 (Spring 1962), 147-70

‘The Irish University question. IX. The National University’, Studies: an Irish quarterly review, Vol. LI, No. 202 (Summer 1962), 209-36

 

Archival papers

Dublin: National Library of Ireland, Ms. 5636, Page proofs of a proposed new edition of Smith's History of Kerry (1756), with introductory essay, notes by Archdeacon Rowan, and additional notes by Alfred O’Rahilly, 1931.

Dublin: University College Dublin, Archives, UCDA P178, Papers of Alfred O’Rahilly (1884–1969) [1921–37 [–1963]]

Cork: University College Cork, Boole Library, U.118, Papers of Monsignor Alfred O’Rahilly (sometime Professor of Mathematical Physics, and President, University College, Cork), relating to religion, finance, mathematics, electromagnetics, Anglo-Irish affairs, Cork University Press, University College, Cork, [c. 1920-1969]

 

References

[1] Baptised 24 September 1884 per Gaughan; the confirmation name ‘Joseph’ was added later.

[2] John A. Murphy, ‘O’Rahilly, Alfred’, Dictionary of Irish Biography.

[3] He is at Blackrock College in the 1901 Census of Ireland, aged 16.

[4] Kathleen O’Flaherty, ‘Professor Alfred O’Rahilly: an appreciation’, University Review 1:4 (Spring, 1955), 13.

[5] Denis Gwynn, ‘Monsignor Alfred O’Rahilly (1884-1969)’, Studies 58:232 (Winter, 1969), 372.

[6] ‘Alfred O’Rahilly’, Oireachtas Members database. Online at https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/members/member/Alfred-O’Rahilly.D.1923-09-19/ (accessed 16/3/2021).

[7] ‘Prof. O’Rahilly says: A hundred million hungry men’, Ballina Herald, 14 May 1932, 1.

[8] John A. Murphy, ‘Cork University Press in context’, 75th anniversary catalogue 1925-2000, Cork University Press [2000], pp37-44.

[9] Denis Gwynn, ‘Monsignor Alfred O’Rahilly (1884-1969)’, Studies 58:232 (Winter, 1969), 374.

[10] Obituary, Cork University Record 29 (Summer 1954)

[11] ‘Monsignor O’Rahilly funeral’, Irish Independent, 6 August 1969, 9.

[12]DCU Jesuit Library Partnership sees Milltown Park Library move to All Hallows’, 9/10/2019 (accessed 16/3/2021).

[13] ‘Martin opens O’Rahilly Building’, The Irish Times, 18 September 1998.

 

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