At long last the reconstruction, by organ-builder Trevor Crowe, of the organ in Holy Trinity Church, Killiney, has begun. My aim is to describe how we got to the point in 2021 when the work began, and to follow it as it progresses. I hope some will find it interesting.
September 2009 – A Harvest Festival of Flowers -150th anniversary of the church
The little Parish publication, ‘Holy Trinity Church Killiney 1858-1996 – A Parish History’, relates that the decision to install an organ was taken in 1864, and it had apparently been installed by 1866, by Telford. The Telford family firms were the leading Irish organ builders in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Three major overhauls were carried out since its original installation, the first by Conacher and Co in 1909. Conacher and Co was a firm of British organ builders based in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire; there was a branch in Dublin. In their overhaul in 1963 Ireson added a 16ft Bourdon rank to the Pedal section; apparently before that there was only one Pedal stop, a loud 16ft Violone. In 1989 Philip Prosser of Belfast installed a new pedalboard and made considerable modifications to the ranges of stops on all three manuals.
Since the Millennium there had been sporadic attempts to initiate another overhaul, which was becoming increasingly necessary. In 2010 Ian Bell, a professional organ consultant from London and a member of The Association of Independent Organ Advisers, was engaged to report on the organ. His report came in three sections: The Past, The Present, and The Future.
Ian Bell made some interesting observations:
“… there are indications of an organ having been sited against the east wall of the south transept, raised on joists or a gallery and with the hand-blowing equipment in the porch beyond.”
Writing of the organ in its current position, on the west side of the south transept, he says:
“The character and value of the organ as it stands today derive principally from a major reconstruction undertaken in 1909 by Peter Conacher & Co of Huddersfield … it is unclear whether the older material in the organ is based around the earlier Telford, or even came from somewhere else altogether. The scaling of the pipework does not suggest an instrument for a space as large as this, and the key compass of only 56 notes would have been the norm 30 years earlier, but at this date is decidedly old-fashioned.”
He goes on to say that this might suggest “that the entire organ was transplanted, with modification, from elsewhere.” Trevor Crowe, as early as 2005, had suggested that it might have started life as a house organ rather than a church instrument.
Ian Bell documented the stoplist as it was in 2010 (and as it remained until the present restoration). See it here.
Ian Bell’s comments on the state of the organ when he inspected it relate mainly to age and wear. Most of the structure dates from the 1909 restoration; of the subsequent modifications he said that the work of Philip Prosser in 1989 was by far the most thorough.
In 1996 the Parish History noted:
“In 1937 Frederick Wright provided an electric fan blower in memory of his wife … It is still in use after nearly 60 years … Interestingly, the old hand pumping system still works, so far as the tracker action is concerned. Recently at a wedding there was a power failure just as the bride was due to enter the church! Two gallant wedding guests took off their coats and pumped, which saved the day.”
By that time the Pedal section depended on electricity. The hand pumping system was later removed; more research might reveal when that was done.
Ian Bell’s main concern was the pipework:
“The pipework is, as will be realised, from a variety of periods and sources … The difficulty with the pipework … is with its sound. Certainly, it sounds mild and inoffensive, and does not draw attention to itself; but in fact it is blown hard, and quite strained. At the same time, and related to the efforts in the past to louden it, fundamental weakness is that the scaling of the pipes – their proportions and in particular their diameter in proportion to their length – is less than adequate to move the air sufficiently in a building of this size.
“Scaling is all-important, and is carefully varied to suit every individual project. Whilst builders’ preferences do differ, by any standards these pipes are of too modest a scale for an organ speaking from an unfavourable position, around a corner in a spacious and acoustically inhibiting building such as this.
“Pipes of large scale are, for want of a better description, fuller and more resonant, without working hard, than pipes of smaller diameter.”
Ian Bell said that the options available to any parish in our position might be summarised as being:
A. Do nothing and soldier on.
B. Undertake a limited or phased programme of work, addressing the most pressing items.
C. Undertake a complete restoration, without other major changes.
D. Embark upon a thorough reconstruction based around some or all of the existing material.
E. Begin again with a new, or rescued, organ.
Next > Organ Restoration – Progress