Tim Cadogan RIP Fellow CGS.
Tim Cadogan passed away on 1 August 2014 after a long illness. Tim spent most of his
working life as an Executive Librarian at Cork County Library, specialising in local history.
His mastery of this area of scholarship, I believe, was attained not only by his natural interest
in the subject, but also spurred on by his desire to satisfy those who called to the Library to
look for assistance.
Reminiscing on his career in the County Library service a few years ago, Tim recounted
a number of stages in his development as a local historian. In the mid-1970s when he
first started handling queries on family history, he said that he found the expectations of
the enquirer were low and easily satisfied. The main difficulty at that time was the ever
increasing volume of inquiries. In the 1980s he had to cope with a new phenomenon, the
overseas visitors who had done their homework. Of this period Tim said: ‘for the first time,
the exchange of information became two way and researchers made a greater contribution in
the course of the 1980s to my education in genealogy and emigration patterns than I made
to theirs.’ The 1980s was also a time when the public library’s reference services came
increasingly under greater demands in other information areas such as academic studies and
business information. Tim had to widen the scope of his interests and worked hard to get on
top of these areas as well.
By the advent of the 1990s, after his demanding apprenticeship, Tim emerged as the
undisputed master of Cork historical records. His phenomenal knowledge of the county
was widely recognised. A 1994 magazine article on the resources of Cork County Library
stated: ‘The chief source of genealogical information [at Cork County Library] is Tim
Cadogan himself. He has a comprehensive knowledge of the Geography and history of Cork
and has a reputation for being able to dig up something new for most of the many researchers
who call in to him. ‘
Through the 1990s and into the Third Millennium, Tim’s reputation travelled far and
wide. Family history researchers, from Britain, Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand,
indeed from most parts of the world, had a path worn to the County Library to pick his
brains on their particular research interest. Tim made the following comment on one such
incident: ‘Contacts with the roots phenomenon has been the source of some happy and
memorable moments for me. I recall, from many such occasions, an afternoon when I helped
an Irish-American Jesuit priest to locate his ancestral family in the tithe books for Bere
Island. When success came, he gave an unclerical whoop of joy and danced a jig round the
As well as dealing with those who called in to him, Tim also kept up a huge correspondence
in his neat, legible handwriting, with those who mailed queries to him. Though much of his
work was done at the Library, Tim normally carried a briefcase back and forth from work to
home with him and I suspect that he spent much of his spare time on research queries.
From the early 1990s, half the books published about Cork included in the
acknowledgements section the sentence: ‘I would also like to thank Tim Cadogan...’ The
following sentence from Seán Beecher’s A Dictionary of Cork Slang is typical: ‘I could
not have completed the book without the help and co-operation of Tim Cadogan of the
Cork County Library. He provided me with books, suggested many sources, and was
always patient and courteous.’ With regard to the Cork books in which Tim’s help was not
acknowledged, it was often the case that the authors had simply forgotten to thank him: ‘he
weighed so lightly what he gave.’
Despite the huge amount of time Tim dedicated to other people’s research, he managed
to give talks to historical societies throughout Cork, to produce articles, and to co-found
and remain a pillar of the Cork Genealogical Society. Tim also wrote and co-wrote books,
notably, A Biographical Dictionary of Cork (with Jeremiah Falvey).
Tom Crowley, one of Tim’s old friends from the USA, commented when he heard the
news of Tim’s death: ‘My thought this morning: that he passed away without the several
books that were in his being, that we will never see.’ I’m sure those who knew Tim would
concur. But, perhaps on second thoughts, if Tim had spent more of his time writing books,
it would have meant rowing back on the help he dispensed so freely to all those who asked.
Essentially, Tim was an inspirational research facilitator and that is what set him apart from
all others in the field of local history where an obsession, often selfish, with a narrow topic is
My abiding memory of Tim is chatting to him in the local history room of the old County
Library while he sits at his large wooden desk, covered, of course, with an array of books,
maps, letters and papers of all kinds. Several people are loitering near the bookshelves or
seated at the tables, pretending an interest in various publications but really waiting for an
opportunity to talk to Tim. More often than not, I am one of the pretenders myself waiting
for my chance. During my many periods of waiting, I’ve had ample opportunity to observe
Tim engaged in his work. Whether it was a ten year old primary school pupil doing a project
for her teacher, or an academic trying to access some obscure historical data, Tim gave the
same politeness, the same respect, the same undivided attention. He gave as much time as
each person required (much to the annoyance of those waiting!). Often, before concluding,
he would rush off to ransack some library shelves and hand over some books, periodicals or
photocopies before concluding and moving on to the next person.
Tim’s requiem mass was held in the magnificent St Coleman’s Cathedral in Cobh: how
appropriate. From the Great Famine to the mid-twentieth century, Cobh was the main point
of departure for the tens of thousands forced by economic reasons to emigrate from Ireland.
As they sailed out of Cork Harbour, the spire of St Coleman’s was the last piece of Ireland
most of them ever saw. Many of those who came to Tim for help were the descendants of
such emigrants, yearning to reconnect to their Irish roots. Tim was the man who helped them
make the link. He provided them with their Irish credentials. He will be missed.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
3 August 2014