The sound of an Irish organist

Archival Moment

March 24, 1878

porganOn March 24, 1878, Thomas Mullock, brother of Bishop John Thomas Mullock of St. John’s, Newfoundland died at Clonmel, Ireland. Thomas’s claim to fame was that he was the first organist at the Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica) of St. John the Baptist in St. John’s.

Thomas an accomplished organist in Limerick, Ireland came to St. John’s at the invitation of his brother (the bishop). He stayed in St. John’s and remained as organist for about fifteen years. The organ that he played was constructed by Messrs. Robsons of London, England.

For much of his life, Thomas remained in the shadow of his brother. He lived quietly supplementing his income by teaching music and raising his young family. In December 1854 he was devastated when his only child Charlotte Mary died at the age of 2 years, 10 months.

Upon returning to Ireland he was employed as the organist at St. Mary’s, Irish Town, Main Street, Clonmell. He knew the town well as he was married to Charlotte Frances O’Brien daughter of Daniel O’Brien of Clonmel.

Due to deterioration this “Grand Organ” in the Roman Catholic Cathedral in St. John’s, it was dismantled in 1938 under the direction of (Sir) Charles Hutton and was replaced by a Hammond electronic organ.

This, in turn, was replaced in 1954-55 by the organ that is presently used in the Cathedral Basilica. The new organ has 66 stops and a total of 4050 pipes.

The installation actually comprises two organs; the main organ of 51 stops located in the organ gallery, and the sanctuary organ of 15 stops arranged behind the main altar. Each organ may be played from the main organ gallery either separately, or, if desired, simultaneously with the main organ. The organ was built and installed by Casavant Freres Limited of St. Hyacinthe, Quebec.

The sound of an organ was first heard in North America, in a Québec church in 1660-61. Records show that 2 organs were in use in Québec Cathedral by 1663-64.

Recommended Archival Collection:  Take some time to explore MG 590 at The Rooms Provincial Archives; MG590 is the Charles Hutton and Sons fonds. It consists of textual records relating to the business interests of Charles Hutton & Sons in St. John’s 1930-1938.  The collection consists of correspondence between the company and patrons in Newfoundland and Canada, requesting songs, musical instruments and other enquiries.

Recommended Reading: An introduction to the Pipe Organs in Newfoundland and Labrador by Dr. David Peter’s, 2012 (unpublished)