Castleknock College Union

James Dyar, class '37

1918 - 1993

Jan 10, 1993
James Dyar, class '37 -


The sudden unexpected death of Fr Dyar on January 10th was a great shock to his family and his confreres. As we mourn our loss we are left with our memories of respect, affection and inspiration.

One of my early memories of James occurred when we were deacons in Blackrock. The superior took the four of us to the parish church to practise preaching. The only other persons in the church were two women sweeping and dusting. While the first three of us gave out our homilies these ladies continued with their work. James was the last to ascend the pulpit and no sooner had he said a few opening words than the ladies downed tools, sat down in a seat, folded their arms and fixed their eyes on him.

This incident was typical of his whole life. What he preached was the result of his prayer and came from the heart. On another occasion James, Fr Tom O’Flynn and myself were on holidays in Cushendun. While there we said mass, one after the other, in a convent. Afterwards at breakfast the good sisters were commenting on the priests when one lady said: “Fr Dyar is the cream, the others are just skim-milk!”. Later we discovered that this sister was not quite impartial as she was from James’ home town of Castlerea. But what she said was true. There was something special in the reverence and simplicity that he displayed whenever he carried out the sacred ceremonies of the mass.

The last time I observed this trait was about eighteen months before his death. We were on holidays in the West, and as the weather was very bad we decided to move on to Cork. On the way we called to visit James’ nephew Paul and his famiy. Paul was manager of a well-known hotel near Limerick. We were entertained to dinner and James was asked to celebrate mass next day, Sunday, in the hotel. There were about forty elderly Americans present in a huge hall. During the mass one could literally hear a pin drop, so great was the attention of the congregation. This was especially noticeable when James gave a brief homily on the gospel. Again “the eyes of all were fixed on him”.

As a boy in Castleknock James was held in high esteem by all for his intelligence, wit and music. He was one of the few to win an all-Ireland scholarship in the then Intermediate Examination. He also obtained a gold medal in piano playing from the London School of Music. After ordination to the priesthood he returned to the college as a gifted member of the staff, in the language department. He had a great love for the college. He donated a beautiful silver cup (with small replicas) to be presented each year to the boy who wrote the best essay on Church History. As sacristan he donated two full sets of vestments in cloth of silver. He was a good community man with a keen sense of humour. On one occasion his friend Fr Tom O’Flynn had just been elected to the Community Council. As Fr Tom emerged from the President’s office after the first meeting James was heard to remark: “Here comes Councillor O’Flynn”.

His next appointment was as director of students in St Joseph’s, Blackrock, a position which he held for about ten years. One confrere mentioned to me that he was able to inspire students with an awareness of their own abilities in the academic sphere. This was also noted of him as a gifted spiritual director, where he helped one to rise above the routine, to a personal relationship with Christ.

It was during his time in Blackrock that the students became aware of his expertise on the piano. It happened that the students were invited to a concert. At the last moment it had been cancelled for some reason. Fr James took all the students and seminarists to the Students’ Hall and entertained them for over an hour with music varying from Beethoven to Gilbert and Sullivan. After this they were amazed at the quality of his performance.

That reminds me of another occasion when he displayed his talent for music. Again we were in Cushendun on holidays. In the hotel a rather stoutish gentleman asked if either of us could play the piano. I suggested that James was very good, and he was immediately accepted. It so happened that the gentleman in question was a talented cello player and told us that he had a friend who played the violin. He explained that he belonged to the Church of Ireland and his friend was a Presbyterian. Anyhow, they formed a trio and entertained the guests on Sunday evenings with music based on a radio programme called Grand Hotel. The stout gentleman kept up communication with James every Christmas for years afterwards.

After his period in Blackrock he was appointed to parish work in England and Scotland, where he spent the remaining years of his life. During these years he liked to spend a good deal of time on holidays visiting his family. And when his brother, Dr Martin, took seriously ill he spent the last few weeks at his bedside, to the great consolation of his family and himself. He had this wonderful gift in assisting the dying, which was often commented on during his parish work in Britain.

He had a great love for his family and his relations. To his brother Michael, to his sister-in-law Mrs Martin Dyar, their families and all his friends, we offer our heartfelt sympathy.

Seamus O’Neill CM

Born: Castlerea, Co. Roscommon, 12 July 1918.
Entered the CM: 7 September 1937.
Final vows: 8 September 1939.
Ordained a priest in the oratory of Holy Cross College, Clonliffe, by Dr John Charles McQuaid, archbishop of Dublin, 23 December 1944.


1945-54 St Vincent’s, Castleknock.
1954-64 St Joseph’s, Blackrock.
1964-67 St Vincent’s, Castleknock.
1967-68 St Patrick’s, Armagh.
1968-76 St Vincent’s, Sheffield.
1976-78 St Mary’s, Lanark.
1978-83 St Vincent’s, Sheffield.
1983-87 St Cedd’s, Goodmayes.
1987-90 Nithsdale Place, Glasgow.
1990-93 St Mary’s, Lanark.
Died 10 January 1993.
Buried: Lanark.