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RECOLLECTIONS
by
Rev. S. Maurice Noel, Rector of Creggan, 1950 - 1983

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

Rev. S. Maurice Noel, Monsignor Tomas O Fiaich, O'Neill Vault, Creggan Graveyard......It wasn't long after my Institution as Rector of Creggan and Forkhill in 1950 until I was introduced to Father Tom, as he was then affectionately known. We seemed to "hit it off' on that first meeting. A friendship was established, which was to last until his untimely and lamented death.

I have vivid memories of him coming on various occasions to the Rectory and spending hours smoking away and browsing through the ancient parish registers and old documents. Fortunately, these were preserved, because they were not sent to the Four Courts in Dublin for safe keeping, after the Church of Ireland was disestablished in 1870. I was amazed at the fascination they held for him, whilst I must admit they didn't interest me at all. It was Father Tom's presence and jovial company which delighted my wife and me on such occasions.......

......On Sunday 2nd October 1977, I had a Harvest Thanksgiving service in Creggan, so I wasn't able to attend Father Tom's ordination as a Bishop (The Church of Ireland terms it consecration). The following week, I called to see him in Ara Coeli. On leaving, I said: "Tom, now that you are Archbishop, will you give me your blessing?". His spontaneous reply was: "Maurice, we'll bless each other". I remember so well kneeling down for his and he for my blessing. That surely was the mark of a truly humble man.......

.......About twice a year, on a Saturday night, the Cardinal would invite to Ara Coeli, as his guests, people from a cross-section of the population. Frequently, my wife and I were included on his guest list. It was so fascinating, meeting people with such divergent views, interests and outlooks upon life in general. I also found it most instructive and enlightening. Before leaving, we partook of a sumptuous buffetsupper, prepared under the meticulous supervision of the Cardinal's sister-in-law, Mrs D. Fee, and his right-hand man, John Ward. Here in Armagh, we had in Cardinal Tomas O'Fee, one who endeavoured to break down barriers and reconcile Irishman with Irishman, not so much by what he said, but by his actions and contacts with ordinary people. He yearned to see Ireland living up to its tradition as the land of Saints and Scholars.

"Lives of great men all remind us, we can make our lives sublime, and in passing leave behind us foot-prints on the sands of time". The Cardinal left his foot-marks on the sands of his time and marked a path for all of us to follow.

Now the labourer's task is o'er;
Now the battle day is past;
Now upon the farther shore
Lands the voyager at last.

We have left the mortal body of the late Cardinal Tomas O'Fee resting peacefully beside the Cathedral he loved, now we leave his immortal soul resting in God's gracious keeping.




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