Records of the Father Mathew Temperance Halls

Repository: Capuchin Provincial Archives

Identity Statement

TitleRecords of the Father Mathew Temperance Halls
Archive ReferenceIE CA/FMH
Web Link to this Entry
Creation Dates1881-2012
Extent Medium10 boxes


Creator(s): Irish Capuchins

  • Administrative History ↴

    Father Mathew Hall, Dublin Father Mathew Hall stands at the corner of Church Street and Nicholas Avenue not far from Smithfield in Dublin’s north inner city. The origins of the Hall can be traced to the establishment by Fr. Albert Mitchell OFM Cap. in 1880 of a sodality under the title of the ‘Temperance Society of the Sacred Thirst of Our Lord Jesus Christ’. In 1881, a Hall was opened at No. 3 Halston Street. The lease was signed on 31 January 1881. The building, although in a dilapidated state, was put into sufficient order to open within a fortnight. The first meeting of the Temperance Sodality took place in the Hall on 14 February 1881. At this time, sodality membership was increasing all over the country in line with participation in all forms of lay piety such as in rosary, retreat and novena groups. The rapid expansion in participation in the Halston Street Temperance Sodality was emblematic of this period of devotional fervour. Fr. Albert was succeeded by Fr. Columbus Maher OFM Cap. as President of the Hall in June 1883. An inspirational figure, Fr. Columbus undertook the formidable task of resuscitating the entire temperance movement and transforming it once more into a populist working-class crusade. Largely as a result of his efforts, membership of the Hall rose to over a thousand in both the male and female branches of the Sodality. It soon became clear that the Halston Street Hall was inadequate to accommodate the increasing numbers. With the centenary of Fr. Theobald Mathew’s birth approaching (1890), Fr. Columbus and the Sodality committee decided to conduct a search for more suitable premises to meet the growing membership demands and to perpetuate the memory of the ‘Apostle of Temperance’. Eventually, the committee secured the aforementioned site on Church Street. The foundation stone of the building was laid by the Most Revered William Walsh, Archbishop of Dublin, on 2 February 1890. The total cost of the building was £4,000 to which was added another £2,000 in furnishings. The Hall quickly became a focal point for the local community as membership of the Total Abstinence Sodality increased to almost two thousand members. Complementing the temperance function of the Hall were other social, cultural and pastoral activities. Lectures, dramatic entertainments, pantomimes and sports events were organised by and on the behalf of the Sodality membership. Other activities included billiards, badminton, a drama group (the ‘Father Mathew Players’), a reading library and a cycling club. Fr. Nicholas Murphy OFM Cap., appointed President in 1895, extended the Hall in 1901 with the addition of a new wing which became known as St. Brigid’s Hall. In 1905, further impetus was given to the entire temperance movement by the invitation offered by the Irish Bishops to the Capuchin Order to undertake a ‘national crusade’ against the evils of intoxicating liquor. Fr. Aloysius Travers OFM Cap. extended the main auditorium of the Hall, inserted a new stage and erected an elaborate proscenium arch decorated with Celtic Revival motifs. A new library in the Hall was opened in April 1908 by Fr. Peter Bowe OFM Cap., Provincial Minister. The Hall was regularly frequented by those interested in promoting the Gaelic cultural revival including Pádraig Pearse who urged ‘closer co-operation between the Gaelic League and the Temperance movement in the cause that is common to both … the regeneration of Ireland’ (Father Mathew Record, May 1908, pp 70-5). The ownership of the Hall was vested in a number of elected trustees who represented the members of the Temperance Society. A Capuchin Friar was always appointed President. The day-to-day management of the Hall was entrusted to a committee which was selected at an annual general meeting. An annual Feis Ceoil competition (Feis an t-Athair Maitiú) was founded by Fr. Aloysius in 1909. The initial syllabus included competitions divided between singing, instrumental performances, Irish dancing and artistic creation. Among the first adjudicators at the competition were Sinéad Ní Fhlannagáin and Brian O’Higgins. The Feis was an immediate success and attracted nearly two thousand entrants. Encouraged by this immediate success more competitions were added to the Feis programme in subsequent years with the avowed aim of preserving native language and culture. In addition, various Dublin-based theatre companies used the Hall for their productions and a number of fund raising concerts and drama festivals were held. In 1962, weekly bingo sessions were started, initially in St. Brigid’s annex and later in the main auditorium. In order to facilitate improvements to the Hall, the ownership of the building was transferred to the Capuchin Order in the late 1960s. Although these renovations succeeded in creating a relatively modern purpose-built theatre, by the early 1970s the membership of the Temperance Sodality had dwindled. As a result, the activities of the various temperance societies associated with the Hall came almost completely to an end. However, the Feis Maitiú continued to act as a focal point for the promotion of Irish culture and music. In the absence of any state funding or assistance, the Capuchin Order maintained the sole responsibility for the staging of the annual Feis competition. The only source of financing for the Feis remained entrants’ fees and funding obtained from corporate sponsorship. By the mid-1990s, however, the costs associated with organising the Feis had become prohibitive. Further renovation work was also required if the Hall was to be maintained as a public amenity. In 1998 the decision was made by the Capuchin Provincial Definitory to sell Father Mathew Hall and to discontinue the Order’s direct association with the Feis. In 2001 the Hall was sold to Harry Crosbie of the Crosbie Business Centre who converted the building into corporate office suites. As a listed building, the Hall’s interior Celtic Revival plasterwork has been conserved and other external architectural features have been restored. To date (2012) the Hall has failed to attract any long-term business tenancy. Father Mathew Hall, Cork Like its counterpart in Dublin, Father Mathew Hall, Cork originally functioned as a meeting place for the local Total Abstinence Society attached to the Holy Trinity Church. In 1896, it was noted that the Sodality had over three hundred male members. On 30 January 1907 the present Hall was opened on what was then Queen Street (later renamed Father Mathew Street). The Hall served as an amenity centre for the local community with a billiard room, a card room, a reading room and a lecture theatre where occasional plays and talks were held. Major refurbishment work was undertaken in the 1940s during the presidency of Fr. Mathew Flynn OFM Cap. with the installation of new theatre seating, a balcony and improved stage facilities. The destruction by fire of the old Cork Opera House in 1955 left Father Mathew Hall as the only regular theatre venue in the city. Companies such as the Southern Theatre Group and Carol Clopet Productions subsequently signed up to fixed tenancies in the Hall. The reopening of Cork’s Opera House in 1965 heralded a decline in the Hall’s fortunes but the commencement of bingo sessions offset some of the financial losses. The Everyman Playhouse Group took up a licence on the auditorium in the early 1970s and their renovation of the Hall ensured the continued survival of the building as a functioning theatre. Feis Maitiú Corcaigh was established in 1927 by Fr. Micheál O’Shea OFM Cap. who saw the need for a platform to help and encourage people interested in the performing Arts. Cork’s inaugural Feis ran for four days with about 300 competitors taking part. Father Mathew Hall was chosen as the venue for the Feis. The 400-seat auditorium has continued to serve as the festival’s venue ever since. Fr. Micheál served as President of the Feis for approximately 12 years. During Fr. Matthew Flynn’s tenure as President, the first Cork Drama Festival was launched by the then Lord Mayor of Cork, Michael Sheehan. This festival, which has since ceased, was hosted at Father Mathew Hall, and ran for a fortnight under the adjudication of Ria Mooney, Principal of the Gaiety Theatre School of Acting, and Seán Neeson. By 1985 there were almost 12,000 performers registering with the Feis Maitiú Corcaigh. The festival was subsequently extended to eight weeks with classes in a range of disciplines covering a broad spectrum of the Arts. The Feis continues to operate under the patronage of the Capuchin Order but the day-to-day management of the programme is now undertaken by a lay administrator. Temperance Hall, Rochestown, County Cork The Temperance Hall at the Capuchin Friary, Rochestown, County Cork was built in 1913 as a ‘centre of temperance propaganda’ for the surrounding community. Fr. Sylvester Mulligan OFM Cap., backed by enthusiastic local support, organised a raffle which raised such a substantial sum that the Capuchin Order gave permission for the building of the Hall. When completed, the Hall was capable of seating just over 300 people. It was officially opened for public use on 15 December 1913 by the Lord Mayor of Cork and Fr. Thomas Dowling OFM Cap., Provincial Minister. The new Hall consisted of a concert-platform, an auditorium and spacious committee rooms which could be used as classrooms. Despite the decline in adherence to total abstinence ideals, the Hall continued to function as venue for drama, music and dancing productions. Fr. Declan McFadden OFM Cap. was later successful in his attempts to re-organise the management of the building which changed its name to Marian Hall in the early 1950s.
  • Archival History ↴

    The fonds form part of the archival collection of the Irish Province of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin. The collection is held at the Provincial Archives, Capuchin Friary of St. Mary of the Angels, Church Street, Dublin 7.
  • Immediate Source Acquisition ↴

    Official Transfer

Content & Structure

  • Scope & Content: Irish Capuchins ↴

    The fonds consists of records relating to the Temperance Halls established by the Capuchin Order in Dublin and in Cork. The majority of the material dates from circa 1910-1960. The records relate to the establishment of confraternities, the opening and operation of Temperance Halls, and the organisation of missions and retreats connected with the promotion of the Total Abstinence Movement. The fonds consist of a large number of minute books, administrative files, financial statements, correspondence, plans, publicity material, newspapers, photographs and miscellaneous items of ephemera and artefacts connected with the use of these Halls for the promotion of temperance and as locations of recreation for members of various local Total Abstinence Societies. The fonds also includes records relating to the annual Father Mathew Feiseanna (Feis an t-Athair Maitiú) and to the educational lectures, concerts, sketches, dramatic plays, pantomimes and other social and cultural events held in these Halls to further the cause of temperance.

  • Appraisal Destruction ↴

  • Accruals ↴

    Records from the Father Mathew Feis, Cork (Feis an t-Athair Maitiú, Corcaigh) may be deposited periodically in the Capuchin Provincial Archives.
  • Arrangement ↴

    The material has been catalogued (2012) and a new arrangement has been imposed upon the fonds. The collection has been divided into three series, of which two have been further divided into sub-series. The series represent the three main Halls founded by the Irish Capuchins to further the Temperance mission. Due to the large extent of papers relating to the Dublin Father Mathew Feis, this particular sub-series has been further divided into three sub-sub-series. The papers in each of the sub-series represent either a particular area of activity, a subject or a specific document or record type and have been arranged accordingly. Within the various divisions all the papers have been arranged chronologically.

    1. Father Mathew Hall, Dublin
    1.1. Total Abstinence Sodality
    1.2. Administrative Records
    1.3. Financial Records
    1.4. Legal Records
    1.5. Building, Repair and Maintenance Records
    1.6. Plans
    1.7. Entertainments
    1.8. Father Mathew Feis (Feis an t-Athair Maitiú) Dublin
    1.8.1. General
    1.8.2. Competition Records
    1.8.3. Feis Cups, Trophies and Awards
    1.9. Photographs
    1.10. Sale of Father Mathew Hall and the Bow Street Friary

    2. Father Mathew Hall, Cork
    2.1. General
    2.2. Father Mathew Feis (Feis an t-Athair Maitiú) Cork

    3. Temperance Hall, Rochestown, County Cork

Conditions of Access & Use

Access Conditions There are restrictions on access to some of these records. The Capuchin Provincial Archives is open only to bona fide researchers. Access by advance appointment.
Conditions Governing ReproductionNo material may be reproduced without the written permission of the Provincial Archivist. Copyright restrictions apply. Digital photography is at the discretion of the Provincial Archivist.
Creation Dates1881-2012
Extent Medium10 boxes
Material Language ScriptEnglish. Some specified material is written in Irish.
Finding Aids Descriptive List Archive Web Link →

Allied Materials

Related MaterialOther records relating to the Father Mathew Halls can be found in the ‘The Father Mathew Record’, a monthly publication of the Capuchin Order in Ireland. It was founded by Fr. Aloysius Travers OFM Cap. in January 1908. Fr. Aloysius expressed the hope that the publication would ‘afford an opportunity of recording month by month, the efforts made by the Father Mathew Total Abstinence Association and the Father Mathew Hall to advance the sacred cause’.

Descriptive Control Area

Archivist NoteProvincial Archivist
Rules/ConventionsIGAD: Irish Guidelines for Archival Description, Dublin Society of Archivists, Ireland, 2009 ISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description, 2nd edition Ottowa, International Council on Archives, 2000
Date of DescriptionsJun-12