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In memory of Paul Donnelly

Paul Donnelly

Celebrant: Fr. Ciaran McGovern

I’m sure I’m speaking for everyone here present and the tremendous amount of people who are outside the church today when I offer sincere sympathy to the Donnelly family – to Connie, Niall, Loren, Owen and Leah and to Paul’s sister Ann and his brother Austin. Paul’s passing has been so sudden and unexpected so, it’s a difficult time. You have our deepest sympathy today.

My name is Fr. Ciaran McGovern I’m a cousin of Connie. We were also near-neighbours growing up, but I had a lot of growing up done by the time Connie arrived in Annaghmacullen, I had moved away to college and got myself ordained and we lost contact for a while, except for family occasions

Some years later I got a phone call and she said she had ‘met the man of her dreams’ – well actually she didn’t use those words, but from the tone of her voice, I knew that’s really what she meant. I was asked if I would marry herself and Paul and I was only too honoured to be able to oblige. That was around 1990 and was the first time I met Paul. Since then I’ve met Paul and Connie on several occasions, usually family occasions or sometimes at a football match. It’s not often Leitrim and Down play (and we usually know the result).Paul and Connie would be there and went home in the same car afterwards despite the result!!

If you really want to know Paul and what kind of a person he was, the best thing you could do would be to look at your beautifully prepared leaflet and it’s there you will see, written on his face, the kind of person he was. Just look at the photo on the cover and that picture captures the joy, the happiness and I think there’s also a hint of mischief somewhere there - in the eyes especially. That picture there radiates happiness, above all other qualities. From what I’ve heard over the last few days, he was a bit of a ‘winder-upper’! So, I think we all know what that is, that he was good company but his winding up was always in the good sense. Over the last few days we’ve been hearing about great achievements: in sport with Shane Lowry and all the references to Neil Armstrong but if you were to ask any young person what they would like to achieve in life, with a bit of thought, I’m sure they would say they’d want to be happy – that’s something that everybody wants but it’s something that can’t be bought or achieved by fame. This is something that neither fame nor fortune can bring you.

Happiness was something that Paul experienced in abundance: Happy in his marriage to Connie; happy in his home and in his relationship with Niall and Loren and Owen and Leah, happiness in the community where he was rooted in, in the parish, in the GAA club and his work as a joiner. In his relatively short life, he truly achieved great happiness which is the ultimate we all seek and he was truly blessed in so many ways. And for that we must thank God today.

In the first reading from the Book of Ecclesiastes, it tells us there’s a time for every matter under heaven, a time to be born and a time to die and Paul’s time has come - ours will come too. He will be sorely missed by Connie and the family and the parish and the community. The reading goes on to say there’s a time to mourn and a time to dance. We’re in the mourning period now, deeply, but I’ve no doubt the time to dance will come in its own good time. Just think of all the happy memories that Paul has left behind. He will always be fondly remembered in his home and in the community. And the parish community has turned out to an extraordinary extent – the numbers of people who have called to the Donnelly home, offering their sympathy.When I arrived yesterday, there was traffic everywhere. I was directed into a field full of cars. It reminded me of the Ulster Final in Clones!! Anyone who was there ended up parking in the field. The crowds were such it was unreal.

Paul was so fondly remembered and so highly regarded in the community and I’ve no doubt that Connie and Niall and Loren and Owen and Leah will find tremendous support and solidarity in the days to come within the community and the parish here. There is such support and such loyalty.

The readings at Mass today have been very well chosen and if Paul had a final message today, what would it be? I think when the laughter will die down, the other (St.) Paul that we listened to this morning sums up what Paul would want to say to us today.

“Fill your minds with everything that is true, everything that is nobel, everything that is good and pure, everything we love and honour, everything that we thought worthy of virtue and praise. Keep doing all the things you have learned from me and have been taught by me and have heard and see that I do, then the God of peace will be with you”

I don’t think you could improve on that, if could put those words in Paul Donnelly’s mouth as a parting wish for all of us. It would be hard to find him so serious but if he was to become serious, these are the words that he would want to express. St Paul does it so well. And in the Gospel, we see Jesus as the ‘way the truth and the life’ and no doubt Paul was a man of faith deep down and he too saw Jesus as the ‘way, the truth and the life’. So today, on this sad occasion we thank God for all the blessings he bestowed on Paul in this life. We pray the Lord will reward him for his many acts of kindness and generosity and that God may forgive him his sins and that he may rest in peace.

The final words on the front of the leaflet are most appropriate:

‘Those whom we love and lose are no longer where they were before. They are with us wherever we go’.


Tribute to Paul from his cousin, Brendan Mason

The Road Less Travelled

Two roads diverged in a deep wood,

And sorry he could not travel both

And be one traveller, long he stood.

And he looked down one as far as he could

To where it bent far away

He took the other road, as just as fair

And having perhaps the better claim on him.

It was grassy and wanted some wear

Both roads that morning equally lay

In leaves and snow where no footstep had trodden.

Oh, he kept the first road for another day

Yet knowing how one thing leads to another

He doubted if he should ever come back that way.

Now I tell this story from years ago with a sigh

Two roads diverged in a deep wood, and

Paul took the one less travelled.

Paul Donnelly was my friend.

Paul was younger than me and my first memory in Apr 1969 was of our 2 families in grief when his mother, my aunt Margaret, passed away when he was just 4. I was only 7 and we knew nothing of death and the finality of saying good-bye to this life. It was one of the few times we saw our fathers cry.

Paul was born on the Falls road, moved to the Glen road, Shaw’s Road then to the top of the Suffolk road and eventually to the Dunkirk Road.

(Austin & Paul clearly liked roads)

Each of these moves by my Uncle Austin took the family down different roads. My mum and dad though, with the 4 Masons in toe, continued to visit and when the final family move happened to the Dunkirk road after Uncle Austin married Ruby we visited sometimes weekly, the odd time monthly and as time passed maybe only once a year. Family ties though never weakened.

Weddings, christenings and funerals followed after Paul returned from his world of adventures with his wife to be - Connie from Leitrim – a county like my native Antrim that has never gone too far in the All Ireland series.

Paul had plans. When Niall arrived he looked around for 2 candidates to be god-father and god-mother (Brendan and Imelda ) were the chosen 2. Little did we know those 28 years ago what trials and joys lay ahead. Niall was followed by Loren, the lump that is now Ouch, wee Leah and not forgetting baby Anthony. Home was eventually the Middle Slopes where neighbours and friends have become the extended family.

Family & friends meant everything to Paul Donnelly. He wore his heart on his sleeve with an equal pride for the achievements of each of his family. Paul chose Tullylish as the stomping ground for each of his brood of 4. I know Paul & Connie have been bursting with pride as each has flourished and has prepared to travel their own road.

Those same children here today with heavy hearts are well prepared by Connie and Paul to travel the roads that lie ahead. Help us to support them in the years ahead as they choose their own roads to travel.

That lottery ticket with the £¼ million “I’ve got a win here boys” statement from Paul Donnelly sits in the annals of facebook as the family’s best prank on him.

Let’s smile and laugh again today as we remember him - that’s what Paul would want.

Paul has now come back to travel that other road where one day we will all meet again and his infectious smile and hearty laugh will ring out once again.

We will miss him.

Paul Donnelly was my cousin but most of all a friend to us all.

His work here is done.

The family have asked me to extend thanks to all who have helped in any way over the last number of difficult days. Please continue to hold us all long in your prayers and thoughts as we try to continue life’s journey.

The family invite you all to join us as we lay Paul to rest in the family plot in this country graveyard and afterwards in Tullylish GAC.

May he rest in peace.




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