Father "Willie", as he was affectionately known to his fellow priests, was born on January 27th, 1879. He received his early education from the Jesuits at the Preston Catholic College. The family moved from Preston to Birkenhead via Manchester and so it was as a Shrewsbury Church Student that he went to Cotton College and then to Ushaw. At both colleges he was remembered chiefly as a sportsman. He was captain of games at Cotton and at Ushaw he played for "The House" at football and cricket. One innings at Ushaw remained a record for several generations. At the end of his two years of philosophy, however, he had decided that his vocation was more towards the contemplative life and he was accepted as a postulant with the Trappists at Mount Melleray In Ireland, in 1903.
After finishing his novitiate and studies he was ordained in 1910 and became Fr. Cuthbert, O.C.R. He was happy in his monastic life and particularly enjoyed teaching English in the school there. In 1918, however, the "Great 'Flu" epidemic hit the monastery. Only three monks stayed on their feet including Fr. Cuthbert. After nine days and nights without any rest he collapsed from complete physical exhaustion. With his health badly impaired he was sent to Mount St. Bernard's in Leicester. In spite of the change he could not regain sufficient energy for the rIgorous discipline of the Trappists. He was advised to seek a dispensation from his monastic vows and to offer his services as a secular priest for the few years of life that were supposed to remain for him. After a period of convalescence and some supply work in Westminster he came back to his own diocese and served it faithfully for 45 years.
Because Fr. Corcoran was older and possibly more mature than the average curate the Bishop chose to send him to a succession of parishes to help some of the legendary giants of the diocese in their declining years. He was assistant priest to Canon Welch at Altrincham, Canon Mottram at Seacombe, Fr. Cregan at Northwich and Canon Hennelly at St. Werburgh's, Birkenhead. His first parish was at St. Joseph's, Upton, where, for 15 years, he combined the duties of Parish Priest and Chaplain to the Convent. He also opened the Chapel of Ease at Greasby prior to its becoming a separate parish. From Upton he went to Knutsford until 1947 when, after a short time as chaplain to the Poor Ciares at Tattenhail, he moved to Acton Burnell where he remained until his retirement. He was particularly blessed in his retirement at Lichfield by the tender care and devotion of Mr. and Mrs. Emery and their children with whom he lived as one of the family.
Fr. Corcoran always retained his preference for the quiet and the contemplative life, but as a Diocesan Priest he was a model of devotion and care for his people. He had a deep understanding of human beings and human problems and a precious gift of real sympathy. His advice and guidance were sought by priests and religious even after his retirement. He knew from his own experience the problems of community life and the priestly life. As a monk he had steeped himself In the writings of the great masters of the spiritual life and as a teacher he had aquired an extensive knowledge of his English classics. He could quote from both at length and it was often by using an apt quotation that he would solve a problem. In his humility he gave the credit to the author and it was quite often a recent author since he continued to keep up to date with his reading. His deep sincerity enabled him to speak about pious things, about God and the Blessed Mother, without ever giving the impression of being sanctimonious. Such a word would be anathema to one whose mischievous sense of humour was only kept in check by his universal charity.
While he was at Mount Melleray, Fr. Corcoran was often called upon to entertain that great Irish litterateur and author Canon Sheehan. He was well acquainted with all the Canon's books and one of his fondest quotations was from "Luke Delmege" where the dying priest says that he wishes to be buried near the statue of our Blessed Lady and within sound of the Mass. "There I spent my happiest hours on earth. I shall not rest anywhere but where I can hear the Mass-bell. I have decided to remain where the Divine Mother will look down with her pitying eyes . . . and where the syllables of the mighty Mass will hover and echo when the church is silent betimes. And no foolish epitaph. 'Here lieth' and 'Pray for his soul.' That's all."
Father Corcoran died in retirement at Lichfield on Christmas Eve 1967. He was only a month short of 89 but he had said his morning Mass as usual and found time during the day to write two letters in his distinctive and firm script and without the aid of spectacles. Although he had been retired from parish life for some three years he still rejoiced In being able to continue the work and office of a priest in the offering of his Daily Mass. He kept himself busy also with a quite extensive correspondence. He died quietly and peacefully as he had lived.
He is buried now within earshot of the chapel at Acton Burnell within sound of the Mass and within sound of the nightly "Salve Regina" which both meant so much to him. His Requiem was concelebrated by His Lordship the Bishop and his four priest nephews with Fr. Abbott the present Parish Priest. There was a note of triumph rather than of sadness as his remains were carried through the convent grounds accompanied by so many of his fellow priests, It is with greatest confidence that we pray, "Grant him eternal rest."