Corcoran, Timothy (1872–1943), priest and educationist, was born 17 January 1872 at Honeymount, Dunkerrin, Co. Tipperary, eldest son of Thomas Corcoran, a large farmer, and Alice Corcoran (née Gleeson). His father was locally prominent in the Land League and GAA, and first chairman of Tipperary (North Riding) county council. Corcoran was educated at Lisduff and Roscrea national schools, Clongowes (whose history he later wrote), and the Jesuit novitiate at Tullabeg, which he entered in 1890. He taught classics and history at Clongowes 1894–1901, followed by studying philosophy and education at Milltown Park (first-class honours BA (RUI), 1903) and Louvain. His Belgian experience influenced his preference for European over British educational models, and his support (albeit limited) for recruitment in 1914. In 1909 he became first professor of education at UCD (1909–42). His teaching positions brought contact with the nationalist elite. Corcoran served on the Molony viceregal commission on intermediate education (1918–19) and advised the dáil commission on secondary education (1921–2) and national programme conferences on primary instruction (1920–21, 1925–6). He successfully advocated imposition of Irish-only teaching on primary schools whose pupils, like Corcoran, knew no Irish.
Corcoran saw education as inculcating received knowledge by memorisation and the authority of the teacher. He opposed ‘progressive’ teaching methods as pandering to corrupt and wilful human nature. He idealised medieval education, claiming it created a meritocratic elite, and denounced the reformation as an aristocratic takeover. Corcoran attacked John Henry Newman's (qv) views on university education, believing the disinterested pursuit of knowledge impossible, and holding that universities existed to transmit vocational skills. He generally rationalised existing educational practices, projected on to the medieval and Gaelic past.
Corcoran edited many classical and other texts for school use, serving as general editor of Browne & Nolan's intermediate textbook series. He published numerous text selections and educational pamphlets (some in Latin) in limited editions for UCD students. His major publications concerned the history of Irish education: Studies in the history of classical teaching, Irish and continental, 1500–1700 (Dublin, 1911); State policy in Irish education, A.D. 1536 to 1816. Exemplified in documents. . . with an introduction (Dublin, 1916); Education systems in Ireland form the close of the middle ages (Dublin, 1928); The Clongowes Record, 1814 to 1932. With introductory chapters on Irish Jesuit educators 1564 to 1813 (Dublin, ); Some lists of catholic lay teachers and their illegal schools in the later penal times, with historical commentary (Dublin, 1932). He argued that eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century hedge-schools were slandered by British officialdom and superior to the national schools that replaced them, a thesis developed and modified by his pupil P. J. Dowling. Corcoran was a founding member of the Irish Manuscripts Commission. He wrote extensively for Studies (which he helped to found) and the Irish Monthly on educational and historical subjects. He has been accused of misrepresentation of evidence, and of supplying students with ‘cribs’ in examinations.
Despite early praise for the exploits of Clongownians in the British army, Corcoran soon moved to supporting Sinn Féin, and took a leading role in attempting to organise a ‘National Academy of Ireland’ in protest at the expulsion of Eoin MacNeill (qv) from the Royal Irish Academy after the 1916 rising. Corcoran opposed the treaty, and became one of the most extreme nationalist spokesmen of the 1920s through his contributions to the monthly Catholic Bulletin from the early 1920s until its cessation in 1939. The Catholic Bulletin (founded 1911) was noted for outspoken republicanism and long-winded and scurrilous abuse of opponents; it supported Fianna Fáil from 1926. It denounced the Cumann na nGaedheal government as culturally and economically subservient to protestant and West British interests. Corcoran wrote for the Bulletin under numerous pseudonyms (notably ‘Inis Cealtra’, ‘Conor Malone’ ‘J. A. Moran’, ‘Art Ua Meacair’, ‘Momoniensis’, ‘Dermot Curtin’, ‘Donal MacEgan’, and ‘Molua’), partly to avoid being held accountable by religious superiors. He used the Bulletin to carry on vendettas against academic opponents such as the UCD economics professor and advocate of free trade, George O'Brien (qv) (‘the Hamlet of Earlsfort Terrace. . . economist in chief to Green Grazierdom’). The weekly Irish Statesman edited by A E (qv) and sponsored by Horace Plunkett (qv) was particularly targeted for its criticism of literary censorship and compulsory Irish, its support of free trade, and its defence of the view that the Anglo-Irish tradition was a distinctive and legitimate element of Irish civilisation. Corcoran declared in numerous articles on ‘squalid ascendancy history’ that the mere existence of an Anglo-Irish protestant tradition implied a continued claim to ascendancy; only assimilation to catholic and Gaelic Irishness was acceptable. Protestants should be excluded from public positions that might endanger the faith of catholics. Protestant nationalists were wolves in sheep's clothing, catholic clerics of West British tendencies were enemies of faith and fatherland, and English catholics were hardly catholic at all (notably for their failure to establish an independent catholic university; Corcoran believed catholics should be forbidden to attend Oxford and Cambridge). Corcoran's views and language represent the extreme development of catholic and nationalist positions in nineteenth-century religious and political conflicts over land, education, and nationality.
From 1938 Corcoran developed arteriosclerosis and suffered from partial paralysis. He died from cardiac failure at St Vincent's Nursing Home, Dublin, on 23 March 1943.