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Hans Conrad Swertz

Tilly Fleischmann and Parents Hans Conrad Swertz was a German musician who worked in Cork as a church organist and music teacher for twenty-seven years, and then moved to Philadelphia. He was the maternal grandfather of Aloys Fleischmann, composer and professor of music at University College Cork 1934-1980. Swertz was born in Geldern (now North-Rhine-Westphalia; then Rhine-Prussia) in 1858; his father was a primary schoolteacher. He was sent to Rome to study for the priesthood, but decided instead to study music, and enrolled in the newly-founded College of Church Music in Regensburg, Bavaria (often known by its Latin name: Ratisbon).

In the Bavarian town of Dachau, about twenty miles north of Munich, Swertz was appointed organist to the parish church of St. Jakob (St James) in 1878 at the age of twenty. He fell in love with the only daughter of a prosperous tanner. In the hope of overcoming her parents’ opposition to his suit, he left Dachau the following year for a better-paid post in Cork as assistant organist in St Vincent's Church Sundays Well. He married Walburga Rössler in Dachau in 1880 and brought her to Cork. They lived in No 14, later No 15 Dyke Parade.

Swertz worked in St Vincent’s Church from 1879-1890, when he became organist at the Cathedral of St Mary and St Anne. He became professor of harmony at the newly-founded Cork School of Music and taught there from 1882-1906. He was a composer of choral music and songs, a number of which were published in the UK. His brought his mixed-voice choir in the cathedral to a high standard; he participated with various choirs in the great civic celebrations of the city, for instance in the Cork Exhibitions.
He and his wife had nine children. The eldest, Maria Walburga, became the first professor of German at University College Cork – and the second woman professor of Ireland. The second daughter, Tilly, was sent to Munich to study the organ and the piano at the Royal Academy of Music. There she met Aloys Fleischmann, organist in the church in Dachau where her father had begun his career. They married in Dachau in 1905.

The following year, Hans Conrad Swertz left Cork to take up a post as organist at the Visitation B.V.M. Church in Philadelphia; his son-in-law was appointed to his post in the cathedral in Cork and supported the eight Swertz children who were still either at school or college. One of the reasons for Swertz’s departure was the reform of church music decreed by Pope Pius X. His Motu proprio (1903) elevated church music to an integral part of the divine service; this had the consequence that women were no longer to be admitted to church choirs. Swertz was unwilling to give up his mixed-voice choir. In America the papal instruction was interpreted differently, and he continued there with a mixed choir for over twenty years. He died on 29 July 1927 aged 69; his two sons Xaver and Ferdinand buried him in Philadelphia’s Cemetery of the Holy Sepulchre on 1 August 1927.His wife Walburga, born Dachau on 28.11.1854, died in Cork on 28.8.1945 aged 90.