St Brigid’s Cathedral boasts in its North Transept a celebrated three-manual Conagher organ built in 1896. In recent years the Kildare Choral and Organ Festival has taken place in the Cathedral.

The History of this Cathedral Organ.

In 1896 the organ was assembled in the workshop of organ builder Peter Conacher, in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, England, at a cost of £600. The organ was dissembled in order for it to be transported to the Cathedral of Kildare. It was then reassembled and placed in the south transept. It was originally a Two Manual instrument.

Around that time, Peter Conacher also built four other organs that were installed in this general area - Church of Ireland, Monasterevin; St. David’s RC Church, Naas; Church of Ireland, Castledermot and the Church of Ireland, Straffan. In 1934 a third manual was added (the Choir Organ), and it was reassembled in the north transept.

There was a major restoration of the organ from 2005 to 2010, at a cost of €120,000. The work was carried out by the renowned Irish organ builder, Trevor Crowe. It was one of the successful restorations carried out in recent times in Ireland.


Tracker Or Mechanical Action

Tracker action consists of a direct system of levers between the key and the pallet – a lid covering the foot of the pipe. When you press down the manual key (or keyboard) you operate levers which in turn open the pipe, which then speaks. As your finger is itself is a muscular lever it is clear that one enormous advantage of this action is that you are in direct touch with the sound you produce, particularly as the whole process is instantaneous. You should really feel that you fingers are directly responsible for the sound, even though (as is sometimes the case) a “double pallet” may give the effect of first pressure and second pressure when you play a note. The combination pedals on a tracker or mechanical action organ of course work on the same principle of direct leverage. Therefore the more stops they are supposed to operate the heavier they will be. This is an additional reason for drawing stops when possible by hand.

The organ is a fascinating mechanical contraption. Along with the clock, it was considered one of the most complex human-made mechanical creations before the Industrial Revolution. The instrument traces its history as far back as at least the 3rd Century B.C. and uses wind moving through pipes to produce sounds.Since the 16th century, pipe organs have used various materials for pipes, which can vary widely in timbre and volume. The pipes are divided into ranks and controlled by the use of hand stops and combination pistons.

Here are an assortment of diagrams all created to help illustrate the mechanics of how an organ works...


Peter Conacher

Peter Conacher was born in Scotland in 1823, a time when there were few organs in Scotland, and little opportunity for a career in organ building, tuning and restoration. Peter Conacher went to Leipzig where he was an apprentice organ builder and voicer. On his return to England he worked for Hill & Sons, and Walker & Sons. When Walker & Sons sent Peter Conacher to work on their new organ at Highfield Chapel, Huddersfield, he saw the opportunity to start his own firm in an area of rapid growth.

Peter Conacher started trading in 1854 with a partner called Brown, who soon lost heart and returned to London. He took on a new partner, Joseph H. Hebblethwaite (a local gentleman and music-lover) and with his financial help built a new factory in George Street, equipped with a small steam engine which powered a circular saw. Recitals on his new instruments were given to large audiences in the erecting hall of the factory by two young men, Mr. Albert L. Peace (later Dr. Peace, of St. George's Hall, Liverpool) and Mr. Walter Parratt (later Sir Walter Parratt, Master of the Royal Music). On the death of Mr. Hebblethwaite, Peter Conacher was joined by his brother, and their first project was to build an organ for the Yorkshire Exhibition of 1866. This instrument was awarded a grand medal and was sold to Huddersfield Parish Church.

In 1873 Springwood Organ Works was opened. It was said at the time to be the largest and best equipped in England, and with its large steam engine, full compliment of machinery and eighty craftsmen, built around thirty large organs each year.After training in France, Peter's son, Joseph H. Conacher brought several French organ builders home with him and joined the family firm and succeeded his father in the business in 1896.The firm went from strength to strength, but this was interrupted by a serious fire at Springwood Organ Works in 1910. There soon followed the Great War, after which the building of new places of worship declined, but Peter Conacher & Company's work was still in demand. The Depression and the Second World War followed, and many of Britain's old established organ builders closed down.