Patrick J. Merriman

Patrick J. Merriman MA LLD, President, University College Cork, 1919-1943

Portrait of Patrick Merriman, James Sinton Sleator PRHA, UCCPatrick Joseph Merriman was born on 3 May 1877 at Annesley Place, North Strand, Dublin to Bartholomew Merriman (labourer, later clerk) and his wife Mary Casey. He attended the Christian Brothers’ Schools, North Richmond Street, Dublin, where he won a gold medal for English.[1] In 1895 he gained honours in several subjects in the Royal University of Ireland Matriculation examinations.[2] Merriman then proceeded to study at University College, Dublin, gaining a BA (1898) and MA in History and Political Science (1899),[3] both with first-class honours, from the Royal University of Ireland. He also won a Studentship in History and Political Science (1903) (tenable for three years) and a Junior Fellowship in English and History (1905) (four years) awarded by the Royal University of Ireland. Prior to being appointed to the professorship of History at UCC in October 1909, Merriman taught at UCD and St Patrick’s College, Maynooth.[4] He was elected a member of the NUI Senate in 1914.

Following the death of Professor John P. Molohan in 1915, Merriman was appointed Registrar while continuing as Professor of History at UCC. After a ballot, he was appointed President in December 1919 by the Governing Body, the first President appointed at UCC under the regulations set down by the Irish Universities Act (1908),  and proved a discreet professional during his lengthy tenure. Merriman was conferred with an LLD honoris causa by the NUI in 1928.[5] Recognised as being skilled in the arts of academic administration, Merriman played a role in the consolidation of the newly established UCC Governing Body and National University Senate.

Responding to local and national change, the College adapted and expanded in line with the values set down by the new Irish state. In 1923 a Diploma in Irish Studies at UCC was approved by the NUI.[6] Under the terms of the University Education (Agriculture and Dairy Science) Act, 1926, grants were made to UCC for the purchase of buildings, capital purposes and annual funding that would be part of the new Faculty of Dairy Science. The Dairy Science building was constructed on Fernhurst Avenue (now Donovan’s Road) with an experimental creamery that produced ‘University Brand’ butter and cheese. The opening of the Dairy Science Institute and the development of this discipline in Cork was a direct reflection of the College responding to the economic and social context within which it was placed. Such was the new building’s significance in the new Ireland, President W. T. Cosgrave laid the foundation stone on 20 July 1928. During Merriman’s tenure, the formal entrance to the College was constructed from the Western Road, with a bridge and new lodge also being constructed in the late 1920s.

As can be seen from his letters to Pádraic Pearse (now at the National Library of Ireland), Prof. Merriman was a supporter of the national language and also its games, as reflected in a photograph of ‘The New President with Gaelic Friends’ which appeared in the Cork Examiner a few days after his election as President.[7]

Merriman was married twice, first on 6 August 1904 to Elizabeth Murray (died 1932) and secondly, on 18 July 1934 to Mary J. Riordan of Cork, whose brother Dr Michael Riordan was also a member of the Medical Faculty staff at UCC.

Patrick J. Merriman died in his residence on the UCC campus on 13 September 1943, aged 66. He is buried at St Finbarr’s cemetery, Cork. Obituaries were published in the Irish Press, Irish Independent and the Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, of which he was vice-president.

The portrait of Patrick J. Merriman is on display in the Aula Maxima, UCC.


Select bibliography of the publications of Patrick J. Merriman

‘The end of the Irish parliament’, Journal of the Ivernian Society, Vol. IV (Jul-Sep 1912), 200-226

‘Shane O’Neill: a vindication’, Journal of the Ivernian Society, Vol. V (Apr-Jun 1913), 133-52

‘The Irish chief in Irish history’, Journal of the Ivernian Society, Vol. VI (Apr-Jun 1914) 164-75;  (Jul-Sep 1914) 216-30; Vol. VII (Oct-Dec 1914) 19-23

‘Edmund Burke and Ireland’, Journal of the Ivernian Society, Vol. II (Apr 1910), 129-142

‘Struggle for Catholic emancipation’, in J. Scannell (ed.), Catholic emancipation: Cork centenary record ([1929] 



National Library of Ireland, MS 21,047/3/25: Letter from P. J. Merriman, 2 Strandville Place, North Strand Road to Padraic Pearse, 25/2/1902

National Library of Ireland, MS 21,047/12/1: Letter from P. J. Merriman, 2 Strandville Place, North Strand Road to Padraic Pearse, 1/11/1902

National Library of Ireland, MS 21,047/12/4: Letter from Mac Giolla Mheidhre [P. J. Merriman], to Padraic Pearse, 5/11/1902

National Library of Ireland, MS 21,047/12/10: Letter from Mac Giolla Mheidhre [P. J. Merriman], 2 Strandville Place, North Strand Road to Padraic Pearse, 11/11/1902



Cork Examiner, Dublin Daily Express, Freeman’s Journal, Irish Independent, Irish Daily Independent (website)

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



[1] ‘The Intermediate results’, Freeman’s Journal, 10 September 1894, 5.

[2] ‘Royal University of Ireland’, Irish Daily Independent, 27 July 1895, 6.

[3] ‘The Royal University of Ireland’, Freeman’s Journal, 28 October 1899, 6.

[4] ‘National University’, Dublin Daily Express, 22 October 1909, 5; ‘Cork University College. The Presidency’, Cork Examiner, 17 December 1919, 8.

[5] ‘Honorary degrees’, Irish Independent, 2 June 1928, 8.

[6] ‘National teachers’, Freeman’s Journal, 30 March 1923, 6

[7] ‘The New President with Gaelic Friends’ (photograph), Cork Examiner, 22 December 1919, 3.


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