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James W. Slattery

Portrait of James W. Slattery, President of Queen's College CorkJames W. Slattery MA, President, Queen’s College Cork, 1890-1896

James W. Slattery (1832-1897) was a native of County Tipperary. He spent a brief time at Maynooth College, followed by a brilliant undergraduate career as a classical scholar at Trinity College Dublin. The 1864 University of Dublin Calendar records that James Slattery was awarded a Non-Foundation Scholarship in Classics in 1859. Also in 1859 Slattery was awarded a Vice-Chancellor’s Prize for his poem, ‘Iona’, in Greek. In 1861, he won a Studentship and held two Senior Moderatorships: in Classics, and in History Political Science and English Literature. James Slattery graduated BA in Spring 1862 and MA in Spring 1866. As one of the twelve Non-Foundation Scholars in 1864 at TCD, he was one of two Senior Bachelors. Slattery was Whately professor of political economy at TCD between 1868 and 1872, becoming the first Roman Catholic to hold the position, while also becoming one of the professors of law at King’s Inns from 1868.

Slattery was appointed President of Queen’s College, Cork in 1890 succeeding Prof. William Kirby Sullivan who died on 12 May 1890. His presidency was short and difficult. Internal institutional problems were compounded by Slattery’s ill-health and personal financial difficulties. However, within this context Slattery made attempts to expand the University premises. In his first annual report, he called for a Library building, which was not to come to pass for almost another century. He encouraged extra mural lectures.

In 1868 Slattery and a friend had invested in Slattery’s brother’s business at Limerick. The business failed in 1877 and Slattery took out a bond to guarantee the friend’s investment. When this bond was called upon, Slattery’s offer to pay it off in annual payments was refused and this resulted in a bankruptcy judgment against him on 31 July 1896 (notice in Cork Examiner). After a struggle by Slattery, he was dismissed as President of Queen’s College, Cork, on the grounds of ill-health, bad relations with the QCC professors and bankruptcy, to vacate by 31 December 1896. However, owing to the serious nature of his illness, he remained in the President’s official residence, in the East Wing of the Main Quadrangle on the University campus and died there on 25 April 1897, aged 65.

James Slattery was married to Virginia Wolfe of New York. She was the daughter of a wealthy businessman, Udolpho Wolfe (of Richmond, VA) and Anna Burke (of Mobile, AL). Slattery is buried in St Finbarr’s Cemetery, near the grave of his predecessor. Mrs Slattery set up a trust fund administered by the Chemical Bank, New York, to maintain the grave and headstone. She died at Geneva, Switzerland on 24 October 1911 (death announcement New York Times, 26/10/1911) and is buried with her parents at Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York.

A portrait of James Slattery by artist John B. Yeats was gifted by David Antony Douglas Slattery MBE to UCC in 2008 as one of a pair with the portrait of Virginia Wolfe Slattery.

Further reading

John A. Murphy, The College: a history of Queen’s / University College, Cork (Cork: Cork University Press, 1995), Chapter 6. Available to purchase from Cork University Press


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