Remembering Fr Brendan Bradshaw
Sir, – Further to your otherwise admirable obituary of my friend and colleague Fr Brendan Bradshaw, it is not the case that he was one of the first Catholic priests to study in post-reformation Cambridge: by the time of his arrival in the 1970s, three generations of priests had taken Cambridge degrees through St Edmund’s House, now St Edmund’s College.
He was, however, one of the very few Catholic priests to hold a teaching post in the university in modern times. His directorship of studies in history at Girton College was held jointly with Queens’ College, where he was a fellow and a much-loved and admired figure. For many years he served as joint editor of the Journal of Ecclesiastical History, the premier journal in its field, meticulously promoting (and as editor often improving) the work of other scholars. But perhaps his greatest achievement in Cambridge, and his enduring monument, was his establishment of the Cambridge Group for Irish Studies, an interdisciplinary research seminar exploring all aspects of Irish studies, which he founded in the early 1980s to promote scholarly exploration of Irish history, institutions and culture, and which continues to flourish.
On the evening of Wednesday, January 24th, the choir of Queens’ College will sing the Victoria Missa Pro Defunctis at a requiem Mass for Fr Bradshaw. – Yours, etc,
Prof EAMON DUFFY,
Sir, – Your welcome obituary of Fr Brendan Bradshaw, the esteemed lecturer in history at Cambridge, is not correct in stating that he was one of the first Catholic priests to attend the university since the Reformation.
There was a steady flow of Roman Catholic priests up at Cambridge from the 1890s when St Edmund’s House was founded as a hostel for those enrolled in colleges of the university. It catered largely for secular priests, one of whom, Thomas Gavin (later monsignor), became in 1949 the first Catholic priest to play rugby for Ireland. St Edmund’s has now evolved into a full college of the university; its chapel is Roman Catholic rather than Anglican as in the other colleges.
Thanks to Dubliner Abbot Cuthbert Butler, Benedictine monks were a regular presence as undergraduates at Christ’s College Cambridge from the early 20th century. One of them, Dom David Knowles, became professor of medieval history at the university in 1947. – Yours, etc,
Oxford and Cambridge
Society of Ireland,