01 June 2017

Archbishop Donald Caird,
a former Bishop of Limerick,
philosopher and ‘Gaelgoir’

With Archbishop Donald Caird in Christ Church Cathedral Dublin, at the commissioning of readers in 1994

Patrick Comerford

The Right Revd Donald Caird, former Archbishop of Dublin, Bishop of Meath and Kildare and Bishop of Limerick, Ardfert and Aghadoe, died early this morning [1 June 2017] at the age of 91.

Archbishop Caird appointed me to the Archbishop’s Committee for the Decade of Evangelism in 1990, and in 1994 he commissioned me as a Reader in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.

Donald Arthur Richard Caird was born in Dublin on 11 December 1925, the third son of George and Emily Caird. He went to school at Wesley College, Dublin (1936-1944), and played for his school on the 1st XV Rugby Cup Team.

He went on to Trinity College Dublin, where he was a distinguished undergraduate, being Scholar of the House and receiving several prizes, including the Kyle Prize in Irish, the Lilian Mary Luce Prize, and a prize in Hebrew. He graduated with a first class degree in philosophy (BA) in 1949.

A year later, he was ordained deacon in 1950 and was a curate in Saint Mark’s, Dundela, Belfast 1950-1953, and was ordained priest in 1951.

From Dundela he moved to Portora Royal School, Enniskillen, where he was an assistant master and chaplain at (1953-1957), and proceeded MA (1955) and BD (1955).

He was a lecturer in philosophy, St David’s University College, Lampeter, Wales (1957-1959), and received the Higher Diploma in Education in 1959.

He returned to Ireland as Rector of Rathmichael Parish, Shankill, Dublin (1960-1969). While he was there he was also an Assistant Master in Saint Columba’s College, Rathfarnham (1960-1967), a Lecturer in the Philosophy of Religion in the Church of Ireland Theological College (1962-1970), and a deputy lecturer in philosophy at Trinity College Dublin (1962-1963).

In 1969, he was appointed Dean of Ossory by Bishop Henry McAdoo (later Archbishop Henry McAdoo of Dublin). But he remained at Saint Canikce’s Cathedral, Kilkenny, for only a brief time, and he was elected Bishop of Limerick, Ardfert and Aghadoe in 1970.
When he became Bishop of Meath and Kildare in 1976, the diocese of Limerick, Ardfert and Aghadoe was united with the Diocese of Killaloe and Clonfert, and Bishop Edwin Owen of Killaloe became Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe. In 1985, he was elected Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland, in succession to Archbishop McAdoo, who had been his bishop in Kilkenny.

He received an honorary DD from TCD in 1988 and an honorary LLD from noth the NCEA (1993) and the NUI (1994).

He retired as Archbishop of Dublin in April 1996 and was a Visiting Professor of Anglicanism at the General Theological Seminary in New York from 1997.

Donald Caird was succeeded both as Bishop of Meath and Kildare in 1985 and as Archbishop of Dublin in 1996 by Archbishop Walton Empey, whom he had appointed as Dean of Limerick in 1971, and who had been Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe in 1981-1985.

The future Archbishop Caird married Nancy Ballantyne Sharpe in Arlington, Virginia, in 1963 and they had three children, Ann, John and Helen.

Aonghus Dwane’s biography, Donald Caird: Church of Ireland Bishop, Gaelic Churchman, A Life, was published by Columba Press in 2014. This insightful biography is a tribute to Archbishop Caird’s lifelong interests in the Irish language and ecumenism.

In a tribute to Archbishop Caird today, the Bishop of Limerick, Killaloe and Ardfert, the Right Revd Dr Kenneth Kearon, recalled ‘fond memories of a kind and gentle bishop who did so much to shape the Church of Ireland in the 20th century, especially in the Republic.’

He said Archbishop Caird’s ‘time as a philosophy lecturer fostered his love of ideas, and in meetings or in conversation he could be distracted joyfully from administrative procedures to pursue an important philosophical point, often drawing the listener to the writings of Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher on whom he was quite an expert.’

He spoke of his predecessor’s ‘passion for the Irish language, nurtured during his frequent family holidays in Kerry and visits to the Gaeltacht there.’ He ‘spoke Irish with a most wonderful ‘blas’ (accent). He was quite an expert on the life of Douglas Hyde, first President of Ireland and another Gaelgoir, on whom Donald often lectured.’

He added: ‘Above all, he will be remembered as a kind and caring priest and bishop. His wit and disarming charm belied a pastor and churchman with a clear vision for the Church of Ireland and its place, role and potential contribution to the shaping of modern Ireland. He was never more clear or animated than when he spoke of church and society and the essential interrelationship between the two.

‘Here in Limerick we thank God on every remembrance of him as our former bishop, and pray for his wife Nancy, and their children Anne, John and Helen, and their families.’

Archbishop Richard Clarke of Armagh Archbishop Caird ‘gave wonderful service to the Church of Ireland in so many ways over very many years. Donald was loved and respected in equal measure.’

Archbishop Caird’s funeral takes place in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, at 11 a.m. on Monday next, 5 June 2017.

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