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I'LL NEVER FORGET "FR. TOM"
by
Fr. Brian D'Arcy, Enniskillen

Extracts, with the Society's permission, from an article in the 1991 Journal of The Creggan Local History Society

Appointment as Archbishop of Armagh - Rome - 22 August 1977To me, Cardinal O Fiaich was a genuine friend who encouraged me and gave me hope. We usually met at football matches or at some party organised by his friends, Christy and Betty Gunn.

It was at their house that I first met him when he was known simply as "Fr. Tom". To the day he died so suddenly while on a pilgrimage to his beloved Lourdes, he was still known as "Fr. Tom" to many close friends. He was always the friendly priest rather than the high-handed cleric.......

...... He was a lovely human being.

Whenever we met we usually had a laugh. Once at an Ulster Final, the Director General of the G.A.A., Liam Mulvihill, and his wife were sitting beside us. Their little child crawled around and sat with a perky innocence on the Cardinal's knee. The child remained there for most of the match, quite at home. And the Cardinal enjoyed it. I leaned over and whispered to him: "Imagine what would happen if Paisley could see you with a child on your knee". He roared laughing. That laugh was captured on film and made the front page of the "Irish Press" the next day. I wish I had that picture now because that's the way I'll always remember the Cardinal. A man who wasn't afraid to laugh, even at himself......

......He loved the ideals of being truly Irish, just as he loved the company of good people no matter what their religion or their politics.

At a party in his house there were people from all walks of life and a sizeable number of them Protestants, especially Protestant clergymen. We had a sing-song, a bite to eat, a few drinks and really good fun. He performed his party-piece, "The Auld Orange Flute" with his usual gusto and good humour. If only the bigots had got to know him. The pastoral side of his life was never forgotten. He was immensely popular in his Diocese. I never once heard a bad word about him from one of his priests. That, believe me, is unique.....

.....He was a humble, loyal friend. Others will tell you about his Political and Ecclesiastical decisions. I knew him as a friend.......

...... His wisdom will be missed......

......I'll be calling on him still from his place in heaven. Because heaven without the likes of "Fr. Tom" wouldn't be heaven at all. May God grant him peace and rest.




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