Sir Bertram C. A. Windle

Portrait, Sir Bertram Windle, J. H. ‘Harry’ Scully RHA, UCCSir Bertram Windle MA DSc MD LLD FRS FSA MRIA KSG, President, Queen’s College Cork/University College Cork, 1904-1919

Bertram Coghill Alan Windle was born on 8 May 1858 at Mayfield vicarage, in Staffordshire, England, to the Rev. Samuel Allen Windle (vicar of Market Rasen, Lincolnshire) and his wife Sydney Katherine Coghill. She was a daughter of Admiral Sir Josiah Coghill of West Cork. Thus Windle was first cousin (on his mother’s side) of writer Edith Somerville with whom he was a close friend. When Windle was a child, the family re-located to Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire) where he spent his early years. He was educated at Kingstown and Repton, England, and at Trinity College Dublin where he distinguished himself in English literature and natural science (BA 1879), he then went on to graduate in medicine (MD BCh) and Doctor of Science (DSc). He later received the honorary degrees: LLD from Royal University of Ireland, Birmingham and Boston, PhD from Rome, and DSc from Marquette University.  

Windle pursued his medical career in Birmingham. During his time in Birmingham he became a convert to Catholicism, became involved in social and charitable work and took up Liberal politics, supporting home rule and land reform. He was the first full-time professor of anatomy at Queen’s College, Birmingham, and was also dean of the medical faculty from 1891. He was foremost in the development of the Birmingham Medical School, which, after its transfer to Mason Science College (granted university status under the Mason University College Act 1897 and incorporated in 1898), then received a royal charter in 1900 becoming the new University of Birmingham. Windle was the first Dean of the new university’s medical faculty. In parallel with this he established a reputation as a brilliant anatomist. A member of the General Medical Council, he was twice Vice-President of the Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland. The Royal Society of London elected Windle a fellow in 1899. He was appointed member of the consultative committee under section 4 of The Board of Education Act, 1899.[1] In 1909, he was made a knight of St Gregory the Great by Pope Pius X and in 1912, he was knighted by King George V during a ceremony at Buckingham Palace on 6 March 1912.[2]

Coming to Cork in 1904 after his success as an administrator at Birmingham, Windle was a reforming leader who, as one of the Dublin Commissioners drafted and oversaw the Irish Universities Act of 1908, which saw the transformation of Queen’s College, Cork, into University College, Cork, within the federal framework of the National University of Ireland. The College premises were substantially extended during his tenure, particularly the acquisition of the Athletic Ground at the Mardyke in 1911 and of land to the east of the main campus, on which the Geography building now stands. A new Physics and Chemistry Building – now the Cummins Building (Civil Engineering) – was built in 1910, which freed up badly needed space in the West Wing. The engineering and medical schools were re-organized and new departments of Archaeology, Economics, Education, Hygiene and Public Health, Mathematical Physics, Medical Jurisprudence, Music, Ophthalmology, and Pathology were created, with several other subjects separated into their own departments.[3] The institution of a Student’s Club, which provided on-site catering for the first time in 1907, demonstrated a genuine concern for student welfare.[4] He also promoted the university by creating its first magazine – the UCC Official Gazette, which was published 1911-1920. This documented the campus for the first time, with maps and photographs. During this period the first promotional booklet was printed.[5] A concern for the well-being of male Catholic students led to the provision of accommodation at St Anthony’s Hall (previously known as Berkeley Hall), and a few years later was taken over and refurbished as the Honan Hostel.

In 1907 on the resignation of Professor Charles, Dr Windle separated Anatomy and Physiology, and took the Chair of Anatomy himself, from which he resigned in 1909 when he founded the Department of Archaeology in 1910 becoming the first Professor of Archaeology for the following five years. During his tenure, Mary Ryan MA was appointed the first female professor – becoming the first on the island of Ireland. Other women were also appointed, with Elizabeth M. O’Sullivan (Education) and Walburga Swertz (German) as lecturers. Windle was open to the world of business and founded the Faculty of Commerce in 1908,[6] and was also keen to promote journalism. In conjunction with Professor Timothy A. Smiddy (Economics), unpaid three-month internships in the offices of business firms, railways or chartered accountants in the summer months were offered to the second- and third-year Commerce students.[7]

The colleges of the National University of Ireland are non-denominational, however Windle wished to have student accommodation for Catholics and also a chapel nearby for staff and students. In association with Sir John R. O’Connell (solicitor to the Honan Trust), the Honan Hostel and St Finbarr’s Collegiate Chapel (usually known as the Honan Chapel) were established with a separate legal identity to the University. The Honan Trust was awarded a charter in 1915. The Honan Chapel (consecrated in 1916), which is extra mural to the University, is a key achievement of Windle’s presidency. It is the finest example of the Irish Arts and Crafts movement which brought together crafts men and women to create a collection of associated liturgical artworks in metal, stone, textiles, glass and wood.[8]

As President, Windle identified strongly with the local community and wider region, fostering adult education and taking a keen interest in national prosperity serving as President of the Irish Industrial Conference (1905).[9] As a member of the Irish Convention, 1917-1918, he strove to promote a practical compromise between the various groupings in Ireland. Ireland’s rapidly changing political environment was reflected within the University and Windle increasingly found himself at odds with the emerging new order. In April 1919, he was invited to join the staff of St Michael’s College in the University of Toronto to become a professor of philosophy, arriving there with his wife on Christmas Eve of that year. He contributed a course of lectures at the University of Ontario, later being made professor of cosmology and anthropology in St Michael’s College, Toronto, and special lecturer on ethnology, University of Toronto. During his stay in Canada he became a prominent figure in the intellectual life of the Dominion.  Despite his own perspective of seeing his years in Cork as ‘wasted’, Prof. John A. Murphy states that ‘Nothwithstanding this jaundiced retrospective self-assessment, Bertram Windle must be regarded as an outstanding, energetic, creative, and visionary president of QCC/UCC.’

Windle married twice, first in 1886 to Madoline Mary Hudson (1862-1900), with whom he had two daughters and a son who died an infant; and in 1901 to Edith Mary Nazer (c.1870-1960). His daughter Mary married John J. Horgan, Cork solicitor and city coroner; their daughter Madoline O’Connell was a medical graduate of UCC. Sir Bertram Windle died on 14 February 1929 aged 71 in Toronto, Canada, and is buried at Mount Hope Catholic cemetery, Toronto. Obituaries appeared in Nature,[10] British Medical Journal[11] and the Catholic World.[12]

portrait of Sir Bertram Windle hangs in the Aula Maxima, UCC.[13]


Publications of Sir Bertram C. A. Windle

Windle published prolifically. This bibliography presents only a selection and thus is  incomplete. Some works went into more than one edition, details of which are not included here.

Select works

Congenital malformations and heredity (Birmingham: Herald Press, 1888)

A handbook of surface anatomy and landmarks (London: H.K. Lewis, 1888)

The Birmingham School of Medicine (Birmingham: printed by Hall and English, 1890)

The proportions of the human body (London: Baillière, Tindall and Cox, 1892)

The modern university (Birmingham: Herald Press, 1892)

Life in early Britain: being an account of the early inhabitants of this island and the memorials which they left behind them (London: D. Nutt, 1897)

Shakespeare’s country (London: Methuen, 1899)

The Malvern country (London: Methuen, 1901)

The Wessex of Thomas Hardy (London: John Lane, The Bodley Head, 1902)

Chester: a historical and topographical account of the city (London: Methuen, 1903)

Remains of the prehistoric age in England: archaeological remains from the Stone Age to the Iron Age (London: Methuen, 1904)

What is life? A study of vitalism and neo-vitalism (London: Sands & Co., 1908)

Facts and theories: being a consideration of some biological conceptions of to-day (London: Catholic Truth Society, 1912)

(ed). Twelve Catholic men of science (London: Catholic Truth Society, 1912)

A century of scientific thought and other essays (London: Burns & Oates, 1915)

The church and science (London: Catholic Truth Society, 1917)

Science and morals and other essays (London: Burns & Oates, 1919)

Vitalism and scholasticism (London and Edinburgh: Sands & Co., [1920?]). A large portion of this book appeared as: What is Life? (1908)

The Romans in Britain (London: Methuen & Co., 1923)

On miracles and some other matters (London: Burns, Oates & Co., 1924)

Who’s who of the Oxford Movement: prefaced by a brief story of that movement (New York; London: The Century Co., 1926)

Evolution and catholicity (London, 1927)

The Catholic Church and its reactions with science (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne, 1927)

The evolutionary problem as it is today (New York: J. F. Wagner; London: B. Herder, 1927)

Religions past and present: an elementary account of comparative religion (London: Williams & Norgate,  1927)


Select articles and chapters

‘On the embryology of the mammalian muscular system. No. I: the short muscles of the human hand. (With Plates III. and IV)’, Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, Vol. 28, Science (1882), 211-240

‘LXXI. Preliminary report on the embryology of the mammalian muscular system’, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 2nd series, Vol. 3, Science (1883), 501-502

‘Reports and analyses and descriptions of new inventions in medicine, surgery, dietetics, and the allied sciences’, British Medical Journal Vol. 1, no. 1201 (1884), 18.

‘XII. The pectoral group of muscles’, Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, Vol. 29 (1887-1892), 345-378

 ‘The pectoral group of muscles’ [Abstract], Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, 45 (1888-1889), 99-101

‘Medical examinations’,  British Medical Journal Vol. 1, no. 1414 (1888), 271–271

‘British Medical Association. Fifty-Eighth Annual Meeting’, with Gilbert Barling British Medical Journal, 1:1533 (May 17, 1890), 1164-1165; 1:1535 (May 31, 1890),  1272-1275; 1:1537 (Jun. 14, 1890), 1397-1400; with Gilbert Barling and Francis Fowke, 2:1541 (Jul. 12, 1890), 107-112; 2:1543 (Jul. 26, 1890), 241-246

‘A discussion on the relations which examinations in anatomy and physiology bear to the teaching of those subjects’, with H. St. John Brooks, William Henry Thompson, Henry Clark, W. P. Herringham, A. Melville Paterson, T. Wardrop Griffith, Allan E. Mahood, A. E. Birmingham, Johnson Symington, Frank J. Allen, D. J. Cunningham, British Medical Journal, 2:1551 (Sep. 20, 1890), 679-682

‘The proposed reconstitution of the University of London’, with W. Hale White, R. S. Heath, G. Birt, E. Tenison Collins, British Medical Journal, 1:1583 (May 2, 1891), 991-992

‘Reconstitution of the University of London’, with John Curnow, George Eastes, T. W. Shore, James R. Upton, Edwin Chabot, Arthur Milman, British Medical Journal, 1:1584 (May 9, 1891), 1040-1042

‘Monsters and teratology’, British Medical Journal Vol. 2, no. 1603 (1891), 669–669

With T. W. Shore. ‘Proposed reconstitution of the University of London’, British Medical Journal Vol. 1, no. 1582 (1891), 933–934

‘The scientific standard of a medical degree in the new university for London’, British Medical Journal Vol. 1, no. 1626 (1892), 469–469

Macnamara, N. C., et al. ‘The proposed teaching university for London’, British Medical Journal Vol. 1, no. 1728 (1894), 324–327

‘Miscellanea. Irish folk-lore items’, Folklore Vol. 5, No. 3 (Sep., 1894), 283

‘University of Birmingham. The Birmingham Medical School: its needs, aspirations, and ideals’, British Medical Journal Vol. 2, no. 2075 (1900), 988–990

Introduction to the 1906 edition of The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne, by Gilbert White (1720–93)

‘A genealogical note on the family of Cramer or Coghill’, Ser. 2, Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society Vol. 16, No. 86 (1910), 66-81

‘A note on some kitchen-middens in the north of Ireland’, Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, Sixth Series, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Mar. 31, 1911), 1-4

‘A note on two megalithic structures near Gallarus’, Kerry Archaeological Magazine, Vol. 1, No. 6 (Apr., 1911), 339-341

‘Totemism and exogamy’, The Dublin Review Vol. CXLIX Nos 298 and 299 (July & October, 1911), 93-106

‘The National University and development of the intellectuality of the nation’, Journal of the Ivernian Society (1911)

‘Notes & Queries. I. Archaeological map of Kerry’, Kerry Archaeological Magazine Vol. 1, no. 6 (1911), 376–377

‘A note on an early interment near Macroom’, Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, Sixth Series, Vol. 2, No. 2 (Jun. 30, 1912), 169-172

‘Nicolaus Stensen’, in: Twelve Catholic men of science (London: Catholic Truth Society, 1912), 45-68

‘Thomas Dwight’, in: Twelve Catholic men of science (London: Catholic Truth Society, 1912), 225-247

‘Darwin and the theory of natural selection’, The Dublin Review Vol. CL Nos 300 and 301 (Jan & April, 1912), 307-324

‘The National University and the people’, Journal of the Ivernian Society (1912)

‘On certain megalithic remains immediately surrounding Lough Gur, County Limerick’, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics, Literature, Vol. 30 (1912/1913), 283-306

‘A great Catholic scientist: Joseph Van Beneden (1809–1894)’, The Catholic World Vol. XCVI (Feb. 1913), 627-636

‘Early man’, The Dublin Review Vol. CLII Nos 304 and 305 (January & April, 1913), 311-325

‘Some recent works on the antiquity of man’, Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review Vol. 3, No. 11 (Sep., 1914), 215-235

‘The latest gospel of science’, Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review Vol. 4, No. 13 (Mar., 1915), 49-60

‘A note on two objects on the north slope of Mushera Beg, Co. Cork’, Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, Sixth Series, Vol. 5, No. 4 (Dec. 31, 1915), 316-317

‘Miracles—fifty years ago and now’, The Catholic World Vol. CI (April 1915), 40-48

‘Prehistoric art in Europe’, The Dublin Review Vol. 160 (1917), 96-108

‘Science in ‘Bondage’’, The Catholic World, vol. CIV No 623 (Feb. 1917), 577-592

‘The Irish Convention: a member’s afterthoughts’, The Living Age Vol. XI No. 3872 (21 September 1918), 727-731 [repr. from The Dublin Review]

‘A medical view of miracles’, The Catholic World Vol. CX (November 1919), 221-230

‘From the Dark Ages’, The Catholic World Vol. CXIII (April 1921), 73-82

‘Recent developments in university education in Great Britain’, in Empire Club of Canada: addresses delivered to the members during the year 1920 (Toronto: Warwick Bros and Rutter, 1921), 53-63

‘Astrology’, The Catholic World Vol. CXVI (October 1922), 76-81

‘Science sees the light’, The Commonweal Vol. 1, No 1 (Nov. 12, 1924), 17-19

‘Scott and the Oxford Movement’, The Commonweal Vol. 1, No 4 (Dec. 3, 1924), 101-102

Chapter 13: Europe in the Age of Stone and Bronze, in: Universal World History, edited by J. A. Hammerton, Vol. 1 (New York: Wise & Co., 1939), 282-292


Select reviews

‘English Medicine in the Anglo-Saxon Times, by Joseph Frank Payne’, Folklore Vol. 16, no. 3 (1905), 362–365

‘35. Celtic Art in Pagan and Christian Times, by J. Romilly Allen’, Man Vol. 5 (1905), 61–62

‘74. An Excavation in Kemerton Camp, Bredon Hill’, Man Vol. 5 (1905), 133–135

‘87. Fayoom Flint Implements, by H. W. Seton-Karr’, Man Vol. 5 (1905), p. 160

‘10. A guide to the antiquities of the Early Iron Age in the Department of British and Mediaeval Antiquities’, Man, Vol. 6 (1906), 16

‘Bantu Folk Lore, by Matthew L. Hewat’, Folklore Vol. 17, no. 2 (1906), 248–251

‘111. The Stone Ages in North Britain and Ireland. by Frederick Smith’, Man Vol. 9 (1909),  187

‘The Oxford Book of Ballads, by Arthur Quiller-Couch’, Folklore Vol. 23, no. 2 (1912), 252–253

‘Beowulf and the Finnsburg Fragment. A Translation into Modern English Prose, by John R. Clark Hall’, Folklore Vol. 23, no. 2 (1912), 252–252

‘36. The Bronze Age in Ireland, by G. Coffey’, Man Vol. 15 (1915), 62–63

‘The Making of London, by Laurence Gomme’, Folklore Vol. 23, no. 2 (1912), 249–251

‘Essays on Questions Connected with the Old English Poem of Beowulf, by Knut Stjerna, J. R. Clark Hall’, Folklore Vol. 24, no. 2 (1913), 252–254

‘Studies in the history of mediaeval science, by Charles Homer Haskins’, The Commonweal, Vol. 1, No 13 (Feb. 4, 1925), 357

‘Contributions of science to religion, by Shailer Mathews’, The Commonweal Vol. 1, No 18 (Mar. 11, 1925), 496-498



British Medical Journal

Catholic World

London Gazette


John J. Horgan, ‘Sir Bertram Windle (1858-1929)’, Hermathena 94 (July 1960), 3–20

E. J. McCorkell, ‘Bertram Coghill Alan Windle F.R.S., F.S.A., K.S.G., M.D., LL.D., Ph.D., Sc.D.’, Canadian Catholic Historical Association (CCHA) Report 25 (1958), 53–58

John A. Murphy, The College: a history of Queen's/University College Cork (Cork University Press, 1995), 164–213

John A. Murphy, ‘Windle, Sir Bertram Alan Coghill’, Dictionary of Irish Biography

Monica Taylor, Sir Bertram Windle: a memoir (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1932)

Sir Bertram C. A. Windle, ‘Recent developments in university education in Great Britain’, in Empire Club of Canada: addresses delivered to the members during the year 1920 (Toronto: Warwick Bros and Rutter, 1921), 53–63


Further reading

Professor Bertram C A Windle MD PhD LLD DSc FRS’ (webpage), Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience, UCC

‘Windle, Bertram Coghill Alan; Who’s Who, vol. 59 (1907), 1915-6

Is Not Foe to Cause of Science. Sir Bertram Windle explains the position of the Catholic church’, The Toronto World, 16 March 1920, 4

‘Sir Bertram Windle, F.R.S’, Nature 123 (March 1929), 354

The Late Sir Bertram Windle’, British Medical Journal 1:3564 (February 1929), 375-376

Windle, Sir Bertram Coghill Alan’, Who Was Who, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 1920–2016; online edn, Oxford University Press, 2014

Henry Carr, ‘Sir Bertram Windle: The Man and His Work’, The Catholic World 129:770 (1929), 165-171.

Denis Gwynn, ‘Sir Bertram Windle, 1858-1929: A Centenary Tribute’, University Review 2:3/4, Jubilee Issue (Autumn-Winter, 1960), 48-58

John J. Horgan, ‘Sir Bertram Windle (1858–1929)’, Hermathena 94 (1960), 3

Eric Ives, Diane Drummond and Leonard Schwarz, The first civic university: Birmingham 1880-1980 an introductory history (University of University of Birmingham Press, 2000)

Ann and Dermot Keogh, Bertram Windle: The Honan bequest and the modernisation of University College Cork 1904–1919 (Cork: Cork University Press, 2010)

Dermot Keogh, ‘Both an architect and modernising force in third-level education in Cork’, The Irish Times, 15 February 2011

John A. Murphy, 'Windle, Sir Bertram Alan Coghill', Dictionary of Irish Biography (2009)

Hugh Neeson, ‘The educational work of Sir Bertram Windle, F.R.S., (1858–1929) with particular reference to his contributions to higher education in Ireland’. MA thesis, Queen’s University of Belfast, 1962

Ronan O’Rahilly, A history of the Cork Medical School: 1849-1949 (Cork: Cork University Press, 1949)

Monica Taylor, Sir Bertram Windle (London: Longmans, Green, 1932)

Eric W. Vincent and Percival Hinton, The University of Birmingham: Its history and significance (Birmingham: Cornish Brothers, 1947)



[1] The London Gazette (10 August 1900).

[2] The London Gazette (8 March 1912), No. 28588, 1745-6.

[3] John A. Murphy, The College, Appendix A.

[4] Murphy, The College, 170.

[5] A Handbook of UCC (1912).

[6] First meeting of the Governing Body of UCC, 3 December 1908: Murphy, The College, 180.

[7] Windle, ‘Recent developments in university education in Great Britain’, in Empire Club of Canada: addresses delivered to the members during the year 1920 (Toronto: Warwick Bros and Rutter, 1921), 59.

[8] Sir John R. O’Connell, The Honan Hostel Chapel: some notes on the building and the ideals which inspired it (Cork: Guy, 1916).

[9] Verbatim report of the First Irish industrial conference, Council Chamber, Cork, November 21st and 22nd, 1905

[10] ‘Sir Bertram Windle, F.R.S.’ Nature 123 (March 1929), 354.

[11] ‘The late Sir Bertram Windle’, British Medical Journal 1:3564 (1929), 792.

[12] Henry Carr, ‘Sir Bertram Windle: the man and his work’, The Catholic World 129: 770 (1929), 165-171.

[13] ‘Presentation to Sir Bertram Windle’, The Irish Times, 15 November 1919, 7.


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