Dorrian, Patrick (1814–85), Catholic bishop of Down and Connor1865–85, was born 29 March 1814 in Downpatrick, Co. Down, son of Patrick Dorrian, shopkeeper, and Rose Dorrian (née Murphy). He had three brothers: one became a priest, one a doctor, and one farmed near Clough, Co. Down. Patrick was educated at a classical school in Downpatrick which was conducted by the local presbyterian minister, Dr James Neilson. In 1833 he joined the logic class at St Patrick's College, Maynooth. Because of the shortage of clergy in the diocese of Down and Connor his theology course was reduced from three years to two. Ordained priest on 29 September 1837, he was posted as a curate to the parish of Belfast. The catholic population of that parish must then have exceeded 20,000 and by the end of the 1840s may have reached about 28,000. Rapid growth brought severe social and environmental problems.
A convinced nationalist, Dorrian gave his support to the campaign for repeal of the union in the early 1840s, and spoke in favour of it on public occasions. At a dinner in honour of Daniel O'Connell (qv) during a visit to Belfast (which was met by strong protestant opposition) he encouraged his catholic audience to persevere in pressing their grievances on their rulers. Although he did not take a public position on two issues which split the catholic community in the 1840s – the charitable bequests bill and the academical colleges bill – it seems likely that his views differed from those of Bishop Cornelius Denvir (qv) on both questions.
In 1847 he was transferred from Belfast to Loughinisland as parish priest. A rural parish with numerous small holdings of less than fifteen acres, it suffered a severe diminution of its population after the famine. In 1861 he was appointed coadjutor bishop of Down and Connor. That appointment resulted from the complaints of Archbishop Joseph Dixon (qv) of Armagh and Archbishop Paul Cullen (qv) of Dublin to Rome about the inability of Bishop Denvir to deal with the pastoral needs of the rapidly growing catholic community in Belfast. He succeeded to the see in 1865.
Dorrian immediately set about tackling some of the pastoral and educational needs of Belfast and encouraged his clergy, where necessary, to take similar action in their parishes. The Sisters of Mercy had already been established in the town. In 1867 he brought the Good Shepherd Sisters and nine years later the Sisters of Nazareth to establish homes and orphanages. In 1883 the Sisters of Mercy founded the Mater Infirmorum Hospital. St Malachy's College was rebuilt as a secondary boarding and day school in 1867–8. The Christian Brothers, who came to Belfast in 1866, set up primary schools. In 1870 the Dominican Sisters established primary and secondary schools for girls in Belfast and the Sisters of the Sacred Heart opened similar schools in Lisburn. Throughout the diocese many churches were built, rebuilt, or extended and national schools built or enlarged. The pastoral work of the diocesan clergy (whose numbers increased between 1865 and 1885 from 80 to 126) was supplemented by frequent missions conducted by the religious orders.
Serious riots occurred in Belfast in 1857 and 1864, before Dorrian became bishop, and further outbreaks occurred in 1872, 1880, and 1884. He frequently begged catholics not to provoke or retaliate against their political opponents, and strongly condemned Fenian and other secret societies. One field in which Dorrian was unsuccessful was that of the catholic press. He invested substantial sums of money in a paper which was managed by one of his priests but which he was later forced to relinquish at a loss. Another disappointment was his failure to obtain fellowships of the Royal University (an examining body) for St Malachy's College. In his later years he supported Parnell's (qv) campaign for home rule, as he had once supported repeal, but died on 3 November 1885, before the first home rule bill was introduced.