New Light on ‘Father’ Smith and the Organ of Christ Church, Dublin


  • Cheryll Duncan



organ, Bernard Smith, Christ Church, Dublin, King's Bench


According to received opinion, Bernard Smith never built the new organ that Christ Church, Dublin, commissioned from him in May 1694, and the contract was later awarded to his rival Renatus Harris; documents from the courts of Chancery and King’s Bench show that narrative to be only partially true. In 1697 William Moreton, Bishop of Kildare, instituted proceedings against Smith for breach of contract, from which it emerges that Smith actually built two organs for the cathedral. However, for various reasons, including Moreton’s dithering over stops, difficulties arranging delivery and transferring money, the cost and Harris’s meddling, both agreements ultimately foundered, leaving Smith with two unsold instruments. Great St Mary’s, Cambridge, took one of them, and St Michael’s, Barbados, probably the other. The documentation, comprising the lost contract and specification for Smith’s first Dublin organ, as well as depositions from Harris, Henry Aldrich and John Blow, illuminates a shadowy corner of Christ Church’s musical history.

Author Biography

Cheryll Duncan

Cheryll Duncan has taught at a number of UK colleges and universities, and is currently tutor in Academic Studies at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. She is working on legal documents in relation to the professional music culture of London in the long 18th century, with a particular focus on records of the equity and common law courts. Recent publications include studies of opera singers Caterina Galli, Gaetano Guadagni, Giuseppe Manfredini, Angelo Maria Monticelli and Ferdinando Tenducci, and impresarios Francesco Geminiani and Charles Sackville, Earl of Middlesex.




How to Cite

Duncan, C. (2015). New Light on ‘Father’ Smith and the Organ of Christ Church, Dublin. Journal of the Society for Musicology in Ireland, 10, 23–45.