- 18 June 1922 - 27 December 1983 (Creation)
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Born: 22 November 1904, St Stephen’s Green, Dublin
Entered: 31 August 1922, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 31 July 1935, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 02 February 1938, Clongowes Wood College SJ
Died: 27 December 1983, Loyola House, Eglinton Road, Dublin
Eldest brother of Dan - RIP 2007; Herbert - RIP 1993
Great grandnephew of Daniel Murray, 1768-1852, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin
Early education at Clongowes Wood College SJ
by 1937 at St Beuno’s Wales (ANG) making Tertianship
◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 59th Year No 2 1984
Fr William Dargan (1904-1922-1983)
When Fr Bill Dargan died somewhat suddenly in Eglinton road just after Christmas (27th December) having been laid up for only one day, it might have been said that his death was unexpected. Yet, on reflection, the real surprise should be, not that he died as he did, but that for so long and with such poor physical reserves, he had with vigour and determination lived out his life to the very end, often planning months in advance events which he suspected he might never see. His interest in and appetite for life must have been part of the secret power which kept him going when many another would have given up. Although, for many months, and even longer, he had reminded us he might not be here next year, his very efforts to live and be alive, belied his assertions that his time was short. On Christmas day, he went out as was his custom, to visit his relatives; he returned and dined with the Community. He retired early, and the following day stayed in bed, with what seemed not much more than one of the periodic chest conditions he occasionally contracted. The doctor was uncertain. It might be serious. Within twenty-four hours, Bill took his leave, quietly and unexpectedly.
The vigour and determination with which Bill lived out his life in the Society was paralleled by strength and vigour in other areas, in his deep faith and inner strength, combined with a great simplicity. Perhaps the fact that at his bedside, when he died, was a recently published Irish Messenger booklet on Advent, illustrates these admirable qualities. The booklet which had provided the matter for his morning prayer over the previous weeks had a marker placed in it for Christmas Day.
When Bill died, he had spent over sixty-one years in the Society. Fifteen years had been given to his own studies and formation, ten to Clongowes as Rector and Prefect of Studies, two to Galway as Rector and Treasurer, and the remainder of his years (34 in all) to the work of the Province Treasurer's office, whether as Treasurer or as assistant. While the enumeration of years and offices by no means says every thing, it does convey something of the qualities and characteristics of Bill Dargan (”Billy” to his relatives). As was apparent through his life, Bill was a person in whom the Society put a great deal of responsibility and trust. Most of the writer's knowledge of those earlier years derives either from hearsay, or from Bill's own reminiscences. But even without these aids, it is clear that Bill was a success as Prefect of Studies – he was to be made Rector after four years. It would not have been in character if he were not painstaking, efficient, far sighted (these were World War II years), companionable, and generous; often amusing and entertaining in company. With the boys, his manner was some times stern and even forbidding. In later years, he felt he had been too severe in those years, and, yet, one knows he would never have been in any way unjust.
After the end of his term in Clongowes, Bill took up a similar role in Galway as Rector, with the additional chore of Treasurer, in his first year. This, according to himself, was to give him something to do! When, in his second year, apostolic, social and other commitments increased, he returned the ledgers to Fr Joseph O'Connor. Little did he suspect at the time that this one year as Treasurer was to be his only preparation in bookkeeping and accountancy for the job that was to occupy him, in one way or another, for the next thirty years.
Fr Charlie Doyle, aged 79, was seriously ill. Before the end of his second year in Galway, Bill was summoned to Gardiner street; he was to visit Fr Doyle in hospital and learn what he could about Province finances, and immediately take over as Treasurer. Needless to say, the dying man was unable to communicate a great deal. So, with only meagre gleanings, Bill returned to Gardiner Street to unravel the mysteries of finance. Fr Tommy Byrne is known to have set great store by good judgment. He showed his own in his selection of Bill to fill a job without any previous training or expertise, but endowed with an abundance of common sense, practicality and commitment.
As those who knew Bill would expect, he entered his new office with vigour and with the perceptiveness that helped him to decide quickly where the problems lay, and to take action on procedures which were to structure the Province finances for many years to come. Conscious of the unsatisfactory circumstances in which he found himself, of having to take on a job quite uninitiated and without satisfactory records, he compiled in his early years a small compendium of the duties of the Province Treasurer. He also set up a completely new and revamped ledger system. Apart from a visit or two to his opposite number in Farm street, he implemented the new system without any special professional assistance, a testimony to his painstaking competence and thoroughness. For Province investments, he sought and obtained the type of professional advice which helped him, during his time as Treasurer, to see the resources under his care increase many times. This made possible the much greater outlays necessitated in a world increasingly more affluent and costly. Over the years, he always remained open and generous in meeting requirements, whether of communities, apostolates or of individuals.
No man is completely absorbed or epitomised by his office, and this was absolutely true of William Dargan. His range of interests extended far beyond his work. It was he who, in the first place, introduced Evie Hone to the Society when he commissioned her to undertake the installation of her stained glass in the Boys' Chapel in Clongowes. He always had an interest in art, music, and literature. To the end, he remained a member of the Royal Dublin Society, and kept two or three biographies or novels by his bedside. The advent of tape recorders and cassettes added a new dimension to his musical interests, and he spent many hours taping and listening to the classics. When the Financial Times was no longer of great interest to him, he still was keen to rescue old copies in order to complete the crosswords. To the end Bill, who looked so frail and thin, by some mysterious alchemy and will power, sustained his own energy and maintained an active interest in events around him. He remained remarkably open to change - whether it was in the Church, in the Society, in the Province or in his Community. This openness to the Spirit and to change may well be attributed to his deep faith, his ready obedience and alertness to what the Church, the Society and Superiors were saying.
Bill had the gift of being able to enjoy himself. Those who were his holiday companions in his later years were often thirty years younger than himself, and it speaks volumes for Bill that they were happy and indeed honoured to accompany him. One of them who holidayed with him for the last ten years of his life remarked on the singlemindedness with which Bill could focus on the planning of the holiday. He would secure the brochures, make the arrangements himself, once the initial scruples about cost were overcome with the help of a kind push from a succession of Provincials, who were only too glad to have him enjoy what he could of life, given his precarious health. He would bring guide-books and dictionaries and books of crossword puzzles, tapes, and maps. He was known to write ahead with a little bribe, to persuade the concierge to hold a room facing the sun for the Padres Irlandeses. He supervised the packing of rations, and had various stratagems to avoid being accused of overweight baggage. On arrival at the apartamiento, he would win the hearts of the house staff with smiles and Spanish phrases. He supervised kitchen operations, and was easy to please in matters culinary, but made sure that the younger men got all they wanted. He dictated the order of time with a simple sense of his primacy, which occasionally infuriated the party. Tours, shopping, trips to the beach, were all planned with meticulous care, and with never a hitch. A favourite image is of Bill: thin, tanned body dressed in shorts and ancient straw hat, sitting on the balcony with the blue Mediterranean sparkling below, sipping a cooling beverage, and engrossed in a crossword, or possible savouring a morsel of food and holding forth on music, or humbly asking for light on abstruse theological points, or telling funny stories with delight and wit. Or again, emerging from the sea (somewhat like Venus) with a beam of sheer delight, and avowing that the sea was never so warm. Towards the end, he lived for his holiday, and as each one came to an end, he toasted what had been given to him. and tried to resign himself to the possibility that there might be no more. His holiday companion writes: 'Dignity, patience and graciousness characterised his acceptance of life and of his growing enfeeblement. We often chatted about matters eschatological, and of the joys of things unseen and yet to be; he would always end our speculations with the simple hope that God would be kind and merciful to him at the end. I have no doubt that He was, and that Bill was overwhelmed on the 27th December with the best of company, the open companionship of friends both human and divine, for he loved such company above all else while he was among us. I miss him very much, and I look forward to picking up our friendship anon,'
As time progressed, while Bill's interests remained alive and active, his ambit of activity narrowed. His Sunday Mass in St Anthony's was too much, as also was his weekly game of bridge. To the very end, however, he would visit his relatives. He was very attached to his sister, Ena. For Dan and Herbert he retained a great affection and was always anxious for them to call on him. Each Thursday he visited his aged cousin, and on Sunday his sister-in-law and nieces. These visits were never omitted. They were the palpable sign of his love and affection for his own. With them all, a word of sympathy in their loss of a true and constant friend, cousin, uncle, brother.
In conclusion it is not out of place to quote a tribute from one of Bill's professional advisers on hearing of his death:
“On behalf of all of us.,. I am writing to express our deepest sympathies on the death of Fr Dargan. It is comforting to know that his passing was so peaceful and, that at the end of a long, full, and creative life, he could still make good use of his exceptional faculties.
"He was a man of considerable talents who combined his religious calling with a perspicacity in financial affairs which
commanded our strongest respect. Indeed, in the almost daily enjoyable and stimulating conversations ... we used to hold with him over so many years, he always contributed greatly to the interpretation of events and the formulation of successful investment policy.
'His depth of understanding was, however, much greater than the purely rational analysis in which he excelled. He was, above all, a loyal friend. We grieve at his passing, for which we are all the poorer, and regretfully have to accept the end of an era which brought so much richness to our lives”.
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A file relating to Fr William Dargan SJ, including biographical information, black and white photographs, birth certificate and stole with the initials W.D. (William Dargan) and the date of his ordination, 31 July 1935.
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The Irish Jesuit Archives are open only to bona fide researchers. Access by advance appointment. Further details: [email protected]
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No material may be reproduced without the written permission of the Archivist. Copyright restrictions apply. Photocopying is not available. Digital photography is at the discretion of the Archivist.
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- County Offaly (King's) » Ballycowan (Bar.) » Tullabeg » St Stanislaus College
- Wales » St Asaph » Tremeirchion » St Beuno's
- County Kildare » Clane » Clongowes Wood College SJ
- County Dublin » Dublin City » Rathfarnham » Rathfarnham Castle
- County Dublin » Dublin City » Great Denmark Street » Belvedere College SJ
- County Limerick » Mungret » Mungret College SJ, 1882-1974
- County Galway » Galway City » Sea Road » Coláiste Iognáid SJ
Name access points
- Dargan, William, 1904-1983, Jesuit priest (Subject)
- St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, Offaly, 1818-1991 (Subject)
- Harris, Richard, 1903-1998, Jesuit priest (Subject)
- Clongowes Wood College SJ, County Kildare, 1814- (Subject)
- McGrath, Fergal P, 1895-1988, Jesuit priest (Subject)
- Prendergast, William R, 1906-1971, Jesuit priest (Subject)
- Bates, J Stephen, 1906-1990, Jesuit priest (Subject)
- Byrne, Thomas, 1904-1978, Jesuit priest (Subject)
- Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin (Subject)
- Coyle, Rupert F H, 1896-1978, Jesuit priest (Subject)
- Belvedere College SJ, Dublin, 1832- (Subject)
- Mungret College, Limerick, 1882-1974 (Subject)
- Coláiste Iognáid SJ, 1862- (Subject)
- O'Donovan, D.K., doctor (Subject)
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