Henry Stewart O'Hara

Vicar of Belfast, appointed in 1894. His name is on a list on the West wall. He was present at the laying of the foundation stone. An inscription on the wall nearby records that he was the first Dean of the cathedral. The corbel above the Pillar of Industry shows O’Hara holding a model of the cathedral indicating his major role in its creation.

Charles Frederick D'Arcy who succeeded O'Hara, in his autobiography, "The Adventures of A Bishop", writes, "Among the changes which took place in the diocese during this period, one of the most important was the appointment of Canon O'Hara of Coleraine to be Vicar of Belfast. With that statesmanlike insight for which he was remarkable, he very soon saw that the great and growing city of Belfast, the centre of the most populous diocese in Ireland, had urgent need of a cathedral to be the focus of its religious life. The old parish church, St. Anne's, was a small Georgian building quite inadequate for this purpose. Some of the newer churches were larger and more adapted to modern needs; but none of them was fit to become a cathedral for the city and diocese. After much discussion and many proposals and projects, it was decided to build a cathedral on the site of the old parish church, thus securing a central position and carrying on traditions which were very dear to the older families of the city. A Romanesque design by Sir Thomas Drew was adopted; and the foundation-stone was laid by Lady Shaftesbury on the 9th of September, 1899. Lord Shaftesbury, as the largest ground landlord of Belfast, took a keen interest in the movement, an interest which was accentuated by the fact that his mother, the previous Lady Shaftesbury, had left a large legacy for the building of a cathedral in the city. Heiress of the Marquesses of Donegall, it was through her that the valuable Chichester estate, which included the Belfast property, had come into the Shaftesbury family. She was an ardent churchwoman, and proved her interest in the growth of the Church by her generous benefaction.

"A cathedral charter was obtained for St. Anne's by means of an Act of the General Synod, and Henry S. O'Hara, Vicar of Belfast, became its first dean. The insight and enthusiasm with which he had thrown himself into the creative work of the great enterprise, and the energy and self-sacrifice which he showed in raising funds to carry it out, were thus most worthily recognised.

"It was decided to build the cathedral in sections; beginning with the nave, because the most urgent need was the provision of a great church where central services for the whole great diocese could be held. Capacity was the first essential. This nave was built on so great a scale that, within the circuit of its foundations and slowly rising walls, the central portion of old St. Anne's remained and continued to be used for all the accustomed purposes.

"In February 1900, and while the work was in this condition, Dean O'Hara was elected to the Bishopric of Cashel"