In the first service of its kind in more than 200 years, Ireland’s Huguenot heritage was commemorated at the Princes Street Unitarian Church in Cork on 12 February 2006.
The Friends of the Huguenot Cemetery in Cork sponsored a bilingual service of commemoration and thanksgiving - in English and French.
More than 125 people attended the service. The guest of honour at the service was the Lord Mayor of Cork, Deirdre Clune.
The sermon was delivered by Professor Ruth Whelan, a member of the Royal Irish Academy. Prof. Whelan, who teaches at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, is the author of some 50 books and articles on 16th and 17th-century French religious history.
The service commemorated the Huguenots who settled in Cork from the mid-16th century. The French Protestants were followers of Jean Calvin who fled their country to escape religious persecution.
The first Huguenots were living in a small colony in Cork by 1569. They had a temple, a pastor’s house, school-house, an alms house and a burial ground between Carey’s Lane and French Church Street.
Over the years, they produced 12 Lords Mayor of Cork.
The service highlighted the need to preserve Huguenot heritage in Cork and introduce the subject to new generations of Cork inhabitants.
Founding member of the Friends of the Huguenot Cemetery Petra Coffey said:
"The 17th-century Huguenot service was very much focused on psalms and singing. But Sunday’s service was a modern one. We were delighted to be able to hold it in the Unitarian Church. We were there at the invitation of the congregation. They have been very generous to us.”
Cork-based historian Dr. Alicia St. Leger presented the Lord Mayor with a copy of her book "Silver, Sails, and Silk: Huguenots in Cork, 1685-1850".
The service was followed by a short walking tour of the Huguenot Quarter in Cork led by Dr. St. Leger.
Rev. Stephen Johnson