Fr. Donal Gillespie died at the Princess of Wales Hospital, Bridgend, on Sunday 2nd November after a fall outside the Church of St. Joseph of Arimathea, Pyle, the previous evening. He was eighty five years old and had been a priest for fifty five years.
Donal Brian Gillespie was born on 25th July 1929 in Omagh, County Tyrone, N. Ireland, the son of Barney and Kathleen Gillespie. He was educated at St. Eunan’s College, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal. Having left school, he worked for three years in journalism as a reporter for the Dungannon Observer and then the Ulster Herald. 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 31st May 1959.
He began his priestly ministry in the Diocese as Assistant Priest at St. Cadoc’s, Cardiff, followed by St. Brigid’s, Cardiff and then St. Joseph’s in Aberavon. He became Parish Priest of St. Bride’s, Pontarddulais, Swansea, in 1966. Between 1969 and 1977 he trained to be a teacher, and taught at Bishop Vaughan School in Swansea. On leaving teaching, he returned as Parish Priest to St. Bride’s, Pontarddulais. This was followed by a chaplaincy at St. Clare’s Convent in Porthcawl from 1987 until 1991. His final appointment was to St. Joseph of Arimathea in Pyle where he retired in 2002.
Donal retained a great love for his family and friends in his native Omagh. He is survived by his brother, Brendan, his sisters Monica and Carmel, his sister in-law Claire, his brother in-law, Joe and his niece and nephews. His sisters Moira and Eithne predeceased him.
He was in Omagh on holiday during the summer of 1998 when the devastating bomb exploded there on 15th August killing twenty eight people and injuring more than 200. He spent many days ministering to the injured and comforting the families of those who had died. Those events made a profound impact on him as with all concerned in that tragedy.
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.