The Organ Restoration Project

Find out more about the College’s ‘Organ Restoration Project’ and the history of the Chapel Organ at St. Columba’s.

To put this key project into perspective sharing the history of the Chapel will assist with your understanding of how the Chapel Organ has and continues to play a pivotal role in the SCC community.

The College Chapel is one of the most beautiful and significant ecclesiastical buildings in Ireland.

It is the only building in the Republic designed by the great Victorian architect William Butterfield (1814-1900). His biographer Dr Nicholas Olsberg has called it ‘a marvel’ and one of the very best examples of Butterfield’s work he has seen (his biography The Master Builder is published in August 2024 by Lund Humphries).

It replaced the first Chapel on the College grounds in 1880, a dramatic statement of faith in every sense. Since that date, at least one service has been held in it every day of the school year for the pupils and staff (and must be, under the Statutes). As such, it is the central gathering place for the College community, and its importance for this community cannot be overstated.

Central to this significance is the organ, since communal singing (in pews laid out in the collegiate style, facing each other) is a powerful expression of the school’s commitment to worship, and to our togetherness. The organ accompanies psalms (surely uniquely in this country in any school) and hymns, as well as being used for voluntaries and other accompaniment. The daily experience of 350 pupils and staff filling the building and singing out as a body is remarkable, and indeed for some people one of the most memorable of their lives. Without the organ this is not possible.

The Chapel has a wider outreach, too. Over the years it has hosted many concerts (including oratorios and solo performances) for the general public. It is the first venue for the annual national Culture Night, with visitors from around Dublin and further coming to learn about the College’s architecture and history.

Significantly, it remains for all their lives an important spiritual and psychological ‘home’ for former pupils (‘Old Columbans’), who return to it on individual visits and as part of formally-arranged reunions. Indeed, Old Columbansregularly are married in the building, and there have also been funerals and memorial services. It is a place of solace for everyone (of any faith: though the College is a Church of Ireland foundation, pupils of all and no faiths are welcome).

The importance of the Chapel to generations of Columbans is immense, and its positive influence ripples out to their lives after they have left the College, and to all that they do in the wider community.

Julian Girdham, Sub-Warden

The Chapel Organ

The original organ, built by Telford of Dublin, was moved from Stackallan House to the old wooden Chapel, and then to the present one, where it remained in use, with various additions and repairs, till 1940, being blown first by hand, then by water-power and finally by electricity.

This was replaced by an organ from the disused Baggotrath Church, but this in turn had to be replaced in 1958 by the current instrument, a completely new one built by the Dutch firm Pels.

This has needed reconstruction and maintenance over the years.

Many Old Columbans, former parents, staff and the Walsh family have kindly donated to The Walsh Fund. This memorial fund was set up to raise the funds to upgrade the Chapel Organ and was deemed an appropriate tribute to recognise the contribution that former Chaplain to the College between 1960 and 1983, the Reverend Bertram W.N. Walsh, had made to our community.

To mark the Walsh Fund, The Reverend B.W.N. Walsh Memorial Concert was held on Friday 14th October, 2016 in the Chapel. It was a superb evening of high-class music-making, particularly by the ‘headline act’, Old Columban, Colm Carey.

In the Spring of 2021, David Adams, PhD, BA, FRCO, LRIAM, ARCM, UM (Amsterdam), Solisten Dip (Freiburg), Organist of Christ Church Taney and St. Nahi’s Dublin, recorded a short recital from St. Columba’s College Chapel to encourage further donations. You can listen to this recital here.

Fundraising for this restoration project has been fulfilled and we thank all those who have supported the project including the specialist Insurance and Financial Company,Ecclesiastical.

Ms. Caroline Duggan, Director of Music, St. Columba’s College says;

 “I am delighted to be able to bring you an update on the refurbishment of the Chapel Organ which is currently in progress and going very well. 

 Stephen Adams had taken on this job and began the project in June 2023. It has involved installing a new organ keyboard and other items that the organist physically interacts with such as the internal communication system, a digital sound system and new instrumental tonal expansion. 

In addition to the above, five beautiful hand- crafted carvings have been created by Chaim Factor, Hill Picket Studio. These five wooden carvings frame the organ pipes and complement the entire Chapel interior including the floor and wall tiling.

We are so grateful to all those who have supported this important project.

I look forward to the works being completed early next autumn at which time we plan to hold an organ recital to showcase the organ and its capabilities.”

An explanatory leaflet about the College Chapel can be read here.

© Copyright - St. Columba's College 2019