By C.J.McGinley and John McCukser
A FORMER reporter with the Derry People (now the Donegal News) has died after a fall in Wales.
Highly respected priest Fr Donal Gillespie (85) passed away at the Princess of Wales Hospital, Bridgend last Sunday after the fall outside the Church of St Joseph of Arimathea, Pyle, the previous evening. He was 85-years-old and had been a priest for 55 years.
From the Derry Road in Omagh, he was born in 1929 and educated at St Eunan’s College, Letterkenny. After leaving school he worked for three years in journalism as a reporter for the Ulster Herald. He had celebrated the Golden Jubilee of his ordination in May, 2009.
In 1952 he was transferred from the Ulster Herald to the sister paper then known as the Derry People (now the Donegal News) in Letterkenny.
There he continued his work gathering up local news from Letterkenny to the Donegal coast at Falcarragh, Gortahork and Gweedore.
In September 1952, he retired from gathering local news and began training for spreading the ‘good news’ of the Gospel in the priesthood. He spent one year studying Latin at St Eunan’s College, Letterkenny before entering St Peter’s Seminar in Wexford.
In 1953 he was accepted for the Diocese of Cardiff and commenced his training for the priesthood at St Peter’s College, Wexford. He was ordained there on May 31, 1959.
He began his priestly ministry in the Diocese as Assistant Priest at St Cadoc’s, Cardiff.
In 1966 he became parish priest of St Bride’s, Pontarddulais, Swansea and three years later began training to be a teacher before taking a post at a school in Swansea. He spend all his years in the priesthood in Wales, his final appointment at St Joseph of Aramathea in Pyle where he retired in 2002.
Fr Gillespie retained a great love for his family and friends in Omagh and was on a visit to the town during the summer of 1998 when the devastating bomb exploded killing 29 people and unborn twins.
He spent many days ministering to the injured and comforting the families of those who had died. He later spoke about the profound impact the atrocity had on him.
A spokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Cardiff said, “In recent years Donal was beset with ill health and only recently had a spell in hospital.
“He was anxious, however, to return to Pyle to the home and people he loved. He had just attended Mass on the Saturday evening when he fell on his way back to the presbytery and never regained consciousness. May he rest in peace.” he said.
Fr Gillespie’s sister Monica lives in Omagh while his brother and sister Brendan and Carmel reside in Dublin.
He is pre-deceased by his parents Bernard and Kathleen Gillespie and sisters Moira and Eithne.
Fr Gillespie will be laid to rest in Omagh.