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Donal Coghlan, class '27

In Memoriam

Sep 13, 1996
Donal Coghlan, class '27 - KnockUnion.ie

Fr. Donal Coghlan, Parish Priest, St. Mary’s Lucan, 1970 - 1985

Donal Coghlan came to Knock as a sprightly thirteen year old in 1923. Although not quite the sporting type, albeit in later life he developed into a formidable force on the tennis court, his mischievous sense of humour and gregarious manner won him many friends.

Unhappily the premature death of his father in May 1925 necessitated his withdrawal from the college and despatch to relatives “down the country”, much to his disgust; life in rural Ireland was, one has to relate, not quite Donal’s thing.

Donal survived his sojourn in the countryside and landed a job in the Hibernian Bank much to the delight of his sisters and his brother Leo who was already an employee of that most respectable institution.

Alas, totting up figures perched on a high stool, with occasional sorties to ensure that the big brass plate which adorned, not to say dominated, the Bank’s frontage was polished to the standard appropriate to the august institution whose fame it proclaimed, proved to be no more stimulating than his sojourn in the country and to the distress of his siblings, Donal abandoned the Bank for the grey walls of Clonliffe and the secular priesthood.

During his time in Clonliffe, and subsequently in Maynooth, he applied himself to studying chemistry and botany with considerable success, attaining professional status in the latter discipline.

Ordained in 1938 he was appointed curate assisting in Manor Kilbride, a rural parish perched high in the Wicklow Mountains, not quite what he had in mind but then the ways of the Lord are not always our ways. Yet it is an ill wind that blows no good and Donal’s newly acquired expertise as a botanist was quickly applied to a study of the local flora and fauna. A gift of a second hand Baby Ford gave him the mobility to extend his research in a most fulfilling way.

Alas, all good things come to an end and in the late forties Donal found himself in Seville Place, a tough working class parish rather lacking in flora and fauna. The early sixties saw him transferred to Navan Road, a rather more up-market parish which had the additional merit of being in easy reach of the National Botanical Gardens to which he became a frequent and most welcome visitor.

In the early seventies he was appointed Parish Priest in Lucan. Despite a heavy work load which included, inter alia, the construction of a school in extraordinarily difficult circumstances, Donal found time to develop an exceptionally beautifully garden, helped by his many friends at the Botanical Gardens.

On his retirement in 1986, Donal was allowed to retain the use of the Presbytery as a tribute to his many achievements in building up the parish; his successor invited him to continue his ministry saying the early morning mass at the convent and in the parish church, an activity which he continued until his final illness.

Donal passed away in September, deeply mourned by his parishioners who, at his funeral Mass offered moving tributes to his many acts of kindness.

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