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  • Gerard McNamee

A Lover of nature who devoted his life to St. Malachy’s College.

One hundred years ago this week a distinguished and scholarly priest was laid to rest in Milltown cemetery.

Patrick J. O’Neill was born in Bellaghy, County Derry, the son of a tailor. After his primary education he came to St. Malachy’s as a student in August of 1884. He won first place in both intermediate and university examinations before leaving in 1889 to continue his studies at Maynooth. On 21st January 1889 he was ordained in the College Chapel by Bishop McAllister. From 1895 to 1907 he taught Classics at the College. Appointed President in 1907, he presided over a very successful period. There is a clear record of prizes and scholarships won, and many students proceeded to the newly constituted Queen’s University. He established the tradition of clerical students residing in the College while taking their degrees at Queen’s before proceeding with their theological studies.

Besides the Classics, Father O’Neill’s abiding interest was nature and horticulture. During his time, a shrubbery was planted on the bank along the back of the big field and the walkways of the College grounds were adorned with plants and flowers. In 1919, ‘P.J.’ was appointed Parish Priest of Holy Rosary parish but served a mere 18 months before his untimely death on 4th June, 1921.

Requiescat in Pace Fr P.J. O’Neill (1869-1921)


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