Its soaring sound provided the backdrop to countless prayers of hope for generations of Irish emigrants leaving Cobh for America over the last 100 years, but now the organ at the town's St Colman's Cathedral is undergoing a refurbishment that will see it echo well into the next century.
Built by the leading Irish organ builders Telford & Telford of Dublin, the organ was originally installed in St Colman's Cathedral in 1905 where it was located in the west gallery and its importance within the Gothic designed cathedral was quickly apparent.
Adrian Gebruers, Cathedral Carillonneur and Organist at St Colman's Cathedral, explained that "the pipe organ was aptly described in the Cork Examiner newspaper of July 21st of 1905 as "the crowning work in the interior equipment of the sacred edifice".
The St Colman’s organ features an Austrian oak case which rises to a height of 45ft on either side with the openings filled with 77 highly polished and burnished decorative pipes of pure tin while the actual organ pipes – 2,500 of them – are placed behind the case, he explained.
The action of the organ was originally tubular pneumatic, but this was changed to electro pneumatic in the early 1970s. The console has three manuals and a pedal board and there are 46 speaking stops, as well as combination stops and pistons, he said.
Restoration work began in 2015 when the Padua firm of organ builders, Fratelli Ruffatti, which carried out a similar restoration on the organ at St Patrick's National Seminary, Maynooth, and also built the new organ in St Mel's Cathedral in Longford, began dismantling the Cobh organ.
The organ was later delivered to the Ruffatti factory in Padua in October 2015, inside two 20ft containers and all parts were carefully examined before restoration work commenced with completion of the restoration scheduled for autumn 2018.
The restoration will be done well in time for centenary celebrations of the Consecration of St Colman's Cathedral on August 24th, 2019, and once it is completed the organ will reside with the only carillon in Ireland – which, with 49 bells, is the largest in Ireland and the UK.
Speaking at the launch of fundraising drive for the restoration of the organ and completion of a refurbishment of St Colman's Mr Gebreurs said: "The restoration of our pipe organ is essential for maintaining the high standards in liturgical music for which the Cathedral has long been renowned."
Bishop of Cloyne Dr William Crean said that it hoped to raise €1 million for both the restoration of the pipe organ and the completion of other refurbishment work to St Colman's Cathedral.
“This is a very important occasion for the Cathedral and our fundraising efforts for the magnificent organ. At the end of this restoration project, St Colman’s Cathedral will have one of the finest organs in Ireland and will continue to serve as a magnificent house of prayer and praise”.