Wexford People

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Eminent Wexford historian Tom McDonald dies aged 66


The late Tom McDonald.

The late Tom McDonald.

The late Tom McDonald.

Cloughbawn Church, outside Clonroche was crowded for the funeral of one of County Wexford's most eminent professional historians, Tom McDonald, aged 66, from nearby Ballymackessy.

A congregation of more than 300 people, including some of the county's noted historians, hurlers, footballers and community leaders spilled out from the church into the rain-soaked churchyard and beyond.

Among his mourners there were his colleague history scholars who would meet at Wexford library every Friday for many years, Nicky Furlong, Billy Sweetman, Liam Gaul, Ken Hemmingway, Seamus Seary, Gloria Binnions, Aidan Quirke, Michael Moran and Dominic Williams, the GAA chronicler, author and newspaper columnist.

The attendance included members of Wexford Library staff and members of the staff of Knockeen Nursing home where he spent his final days.

There too were his friends, local historian Lorcan Dunne, from Clonroche, Danny Doyle, the music and entertainment impresario, from Adamstown and Breda Cahill, of the ICA and of the New York-Wexford Association.

On his coffin were symbols of his lifelong passions, an old book of historical importance and photographs of some of his favourite flowers.

Fr Brian Broaders celebrated and preached at the reqiuem mass,

Fr Bobby Nolan concelebrated the mass and Frs Jim Nolan and Jimmy Moynihan were also in attendance.

In a 10-minute tribute to him, Fr Broaders, quoted a recital by Tom on You Tube of one of his favourite poets, Patrick Kavanagh:

On an apple ripe September morning

Through the mist dewed fields, I went

A pitchfork on my shoulder

Less for use than for devilment.

He said that Tom told how Patrick Kavanagh would marry the earthly with the mystical and how he elevates the rural idyllic life into the heavenly.

People recalled their personal memories, told stories of former days, recalled his great passion for Irish history and poetry, his dates filled with visits to the library, people he encountered and chatted to along the way, the history he wrote of this parish and others and his passion for the GAA.

Tom, a native of Barrystown, Carrig on Bannow, went to live in the Clonroche area in his teenage years, but never lost contact with his home parish. He attended CBS Enniscorthy in the 1960s and studied history in UCD for five years specialising in County Wexford in the 19th century.

Years later in his blogs, he would call himself the Barrystown Boy, never losing that connection with his roots.

As a professional historian, he wrote predominantly on religious and land issues in the 1800s.

Born in 1951, he had articles published in many books, journals and newspapers including the Wexford People, Journal of the Wexford Historical Society, The Past, the Kilmore Journal, Taghmon Historical society, Bannow Historical Society and Bree Journal.

The beloved brother of John, Helen and the late Matt, Tom is sadly missed by his family, nephews, nieces, relatives and friends.

Wexford People