The Foundation and Development of the Church of Ireland Divinity Hostel

During the summer of 2016 Sean Hanily worked in the Representative Church Body Library, where as well as cataloguing this collection he also worked on the Library’s printed collection relating to the Church of Ireland’s connection with Trinity College, Dublin. Take a look at his some of his findings.

The Church of Ireland Divinity Hostel was founded in 1913 as a hostel for students in the Divinity School of Trinity College in Mountjoy Square. Between then and 1964, several generations of ordinands lived and were trained there while they pursued their academic studies in Trinity. By the 1960s, a need for more modernised accommodation emerged, and Fetherstonhaugh House in Churchtown (formerly the convalescent home of the Adelaide Hospital) was acquired for this purpose. The building was adapted and a new residential block added to designs of the architect Ian Roberts. The new facility was officially opened by the then Archbishop of Armagh, Dr James McCann, on 17 February 1964. The Archbishop of Dublin, Dr George Simms, dedicated the new chapel.

Memorandum covering the original twelve terms of operation of the Divinity Hostel which appear on the inside cover of the minute book. The first entry in the minute book, dated 20 May 1913, containing the names of all those present at the very first meeting of the board (MS1043/2.1)

Memorandum covering the original twelve terms of operation of the Divinity Hostel which appear on the inside cover of the minute book. The first entry in the minute book, dated 20 May 1913, containing the names of all those present at the very first meeting of the board (MS1043/2.1)

Many of the items in this collection (catalogued and accessioned the RCB Library MS 1043/) relate to Michael Lloyd Ferrar, who was born in Dublin in 1909, the son of Dr Benjamin B. Ferrar, the curator of the Dublin Zoological Gardens. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and ordained for the curacy of St Mary’s, Drogheda, in 1934. He was then curate of Rathmines before being appointed the warden of the Divinity Hostel in 1939, succeeding the Revd R.G.F. Jenkins, after the latter’s appointment as incumbent of All Saints’, Grangegorman. In his distinguished clerical and education career, Ferrar was also given the honourary role of Clerical Vicar at Christ Church Cathedral in 1952, and would remain in the post of warden of the Divinity Hostel until his premature and sudden death on 3 December 1960. Blind in one eye, Ferrar was attending an appointment for medical work on his other eye when he suffered a fatal heart attack.

Described by former students as ‘meticulous’ and ‘humorous’, but ‘rigid’, he enforced the wearing of cassocks in all public areas of the Hostel. The students nicknamed him ‘the bagman’ and liked to mimic him. He acted in the position of a college ‘grinder’ to the students at the hostel, helping them in their coursework as well as instructing them on the pastoral side of ministry. He was a member of various church committees, and active in youth work, as well as the Anglo–Catholic Guild of Saint Hilda and Saint Erik. Much of his correspondence related to the guild is addressed to ‘Father Michael’.

Items, including a photo of the student cast in costume, relating to the first performance of Richard Hansen's “In the Day of Judgement”, a two part play produced by Lennox Robinson of the Abbey Theatre and performed in 1944 (MS1043/10.2). During much of Ferrar's time as warden, there was a student play performed around Christmas time each year.

Items, including a photo of the student cast in costume, relating to the first performance of Richard Hansen’s “In the Day of Judgement”, a two part play produced by Lennox Robinson of the Abbey Theatre and performed in 1944 (MS1043/10.2). During much of Ferrar’s time as warden, there was a student play performed around Christmas time each year.

Extracurricular activities throughout the history of the theological training have been just as varied as the training itself. In the 1940s and 1950s, when Ferrar was warden, he arranged a Christmas play on several occasions. The students formed the cast, and the subject was often connected to church history. Mr Lennox Robinson of Abbey Theatre fame produced the plays on no less than two occasions. In later years, the College Theological Society (which was founded in 1830 as a student society) became an outlet for the ordinands. Members gathered weekly throughout the term to engage in debate and listen to guest speakers in the Graduates Memorial Building, where they were provided with a forum for the discussion of Philosophical Theology. Items relating to these meetings appear in MS1043/12 and make for interesting reading. Until recent years, ordinands were encouraged to take active membership in the society and very often made up a majority on the committee. The items in this collection cover the period between 1963 and 1965. The papers in this collection give a good insight into the level of discussion that was enjoyed by ordinands at the time.

Amore extensive and detailed commentary is provided by Sean Hanily on the RCB Library website. Click here to read more: https://www.ireland.anglican.org/news/6606/the-foundation-and-development-of