Hibernian’s Irish Roots Part 2 – Canon Hannan

Canon Edward Joseph Hannan was born in Ballingarry, County Limerick in Ireland on the 21st June 1836. He was ordained as a priest on the 13th May 1860 and initially continued his studies, being appointed as a Professor of Classics until, while on holiday in Scotland, he was persuaded by the Bishop responsible for the Church in the East of Scotland to move to Edinburgh. After arriving on the 17th April 1861, he began what would be a 30 year service at St Patrick’s Church in Edinburgh’s Cowgate.

In October 1861 Father Hannan, as he was then known, was appointed as a junior curate at St Patrick’s. The Father decided to tackle some of the social problems in the area of the city known as ‘Little Ireland’ by seeking to open a branch of the Catholic Young Men’s Society, an organisation founded by the Father’s uncle, the Right Reverend Monsignor Richard B. O’Brien DD VG, Dean of Limerick, in 1849. He was successful in his efforts and the St Patrick’s branch of the CYMS was officially opened on the 5th October 1865. As the branch flourished, Father Hannan approached Edinburgh Corporation and permission was given for the erection of a hall to be called the Catholic Institute but which the people knew as St Mary’s Street Halls. On the 2nd April 1869, the Lord Provost laid the foundation stone for the building which was to play such an important part in the formation of Hibernian Football Club some six years later.

Father Hannan became priest-in-charge at St Patrick’s in 1871 and continued his work by expanding the church’s devotional societies, Sunday schools and educational facilities including the building of a new St Patrick’s boy’s school. Indeed his work in the field of education was such that he was elected to the Edinburgh School Board.

Following an approach from a 21 year old member of the St Patrick’s CYMS, Michael Whelahan, Father Hannan was instrumental, along with Whelahan, in paving the way for a football club to be formed as part of the CYMS and that football club, Hibernian, was launched on Friday, the 6th August 1875 as part of the celebration at the St Mary’s Street Halls to mark the centenary of the birth of Daniel O’Connell, the champion of the Catholic Emancipation. Father Hannan was elected as the Club’s Manager and Life President with Whelahan appointed Captain (a position to be held many years later by his great great great grand-nephew, and HHT trustee, Pat Stanton).

Canon Hannan died on the 24th June 1891, at the age of 55, after being struck down with pneumonia following a severe bout of influenza. His funeral took place on Friday, 26th June 1891 and, after the Requiem Mass, the coffin was carried by members of St Patrick’s CYMS to the hearse on the High Street which then proceeded to the Grange Cemetery in a procession which numbered 2,000 with many thousands more lining the route.

Within a few days a committee was formed to raise funds for a suitable memorial. Those funds came in the form of subscriptions, large and small, from the people of ‘Little Ireland’ and beyond in the city of Edinburgh and, such was the Canon’s standing in the community, the monies raised were sufficient to pay for a memorial tablet in St Patrick’s Church and an inscribed Celtic cross at the city’s Grange Cemetery. Furthermore, the monies left over were such that they were used to set up the Canon Hannan Memorial Fund for Orphans which was used to feed, clothe and board the orphans of ‘Little Ireland’ and Leith in St Joseph’s Industrial School in Tranent.

In 2006, the Hibernian Historical Trust funded the repair and restoration of Canon Hannan’s Memorial, and on the 20th August 2006, held a Re-dedication Ceremony at the Grange Cemetery in Edinburgh to mark their work to repair and restore the memorial erected in honour of Canon Hannan on his death in 1891.

The Trust contributed a sum of £3,000 to the project and the commemorative event was attended by the Canon’s great-nephew, Tom Burke from County Limerick.

Article submitted with the permission of the Hibernian Historical Trust. For more information visit http://www.hibshistoricaltrust.org.uk/

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