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Doyle, Charles, 1870-1949, Jesuit priest

  • IE IJA J/129
  • Person
  • 26 October 1870-15 June 1949

Born: 26 October 1870, Dalkey, County Dublin
Entered: 14 September 1889, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 30 July 1905, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final vows: 02 February 1908
Died: 15 June 1949, St Vincent's Hospital, Dublin

Part of the St Francis Xavier's, Upper Gardiner Street, Dublin community at the time of death

Brother of Fr Willie Doyle - RIP 1917

by 1893 at Exaeten College Limburg, Netherlands (GER) studying
by 1895 at Valkenburg Netherlands (GER) studying
by 1896 at Enghien Belgium (CAMP) studying
by 1907 at Drongen Belgium (BELG) making Tertianship

◆ Fr Francis Finegan : Admissions 1859-1948 - Took First Vows at Milltown Park February 1892

◆ Irish Province News

Irish Province News 23rd Year No 4 1948

Manresa House, Dollymount, Dublin.
We moved in on Saturday morning, 14th August. Fr, Superior (Fr. McCarron), Fr. Minister (Fr. Kearns), and Bro. E. Foley constituted the occupying force, and Fr. T. Martin not only placed his van at our disposal, but gave generously of his time and labour for the heavy work of the first day.
A long procession of vans unloaded until noon, when the men broke off for their half-day, leaving a mountain of assorted hardware and soft goods to be unpacked and stowed. By nightfall we had a chapel installed, the kitchen working, dining-room in passable order, and beds set up, so we said litanies, Fr. Superior blessed the house and consecrated it to the Sacred Heart.
Next morning Fr. Superior said the first Mass ever offered in the building. It was the Feast of the Assumption and a Sunday, so we. placed the house and the work under the Patronage of Our Lady and paused to review the scene. Fr. Provincial came to lunch.
The building is soundly constructed from basement to roof, but needs considerable modification before it can be used as a temporary Retreat House. The permanent Retreat House has yet to be built on the existing stables about 130 yards from the principal structure, but. we hope to take about twenty exercitants as soon as builders, plumbers, electricians, carpenters and decorators have done their work.
Fr. C. Doyle is equipping and furnishing the domestic chapel as a memorial to Fr. Willie, who worked so tirelessly for the establishment of workingmen's retreats in Ireland. A mantelpiece of this room has been removed, and thermostatically controlled electric heating is being installed. Lighting is to be by means of fluorescent tubes of the latest type.
With all due respects to the expert gardeners of the Province, we modestly assert that our garden is superb. Fr. Provincial was so impressed by the work done there that he presented us with a Fordson 8 H.P. van to bring the surplus produce to market. Under the personal supervision of Fr. Superior, our two professional gardeners took nine first prizes and four seconds with fourteen exhibits at the Drimnagh show. Twelve of their potatoes filled a bucket, and were sold for one shilling each. The garden extends over 2 of our 17 acres and will, please God, provide abundant fruit and vegetables.
From the beginning we have been overwhelmed with kindness: by our houses and by individual Fathers. Fr. Provincial has been a fairy-godmother to us all the time. As well as the van, he has given us a radio to keep us in touch with the outside world. We have bene fitted by the wise advice of Frs. Doyle and Kenny in buying equipment and supplies, while both of them, together with Fr. Rector of Belvedere and Fr. Superior of Gardiner Street, have given and lent furniture for our temporary chapel Fr. Scantlebury sacrificed two fine mahogany bookcases, while Frs. Doherty and D. Dargan travelled by rail and bus so that we might have the use of the Pioneer car for three weeks. Milltown sent a roll-top desk for Fr, Superior's use. To all who helped both houses and individuals we offer our warmest thanks, and we include in this acknowledgement the many others whom we have not mentioned by name.
Our man-power problem was acute until the Theologians came to the rescue. Two servants were engaged consecutively, but called off without beginning work. An appeal to Fr. Smyth at Milltown brought us Messrs. Doris and Kelly for a week of gruelling labour in the house. They scrubbed and waxed and carpentered without respite until Saturday when Mr. Kelly had to leave us. Mr. Hornedo of the Toledo Province came to replace him, and Mr. Barry arrived for work in the grounds. Thanks to their zeal and skill, the refectory, library and several bedrooms were made ready and we welcomed our first guest on Monday, 30th August. Under the influence of the sea air, Fr. Quinlan is regaining his strength after his long and severe illness.
If anyone has old furniture, books, bedclothes, pictures, or, in fact anything which he considers superfluous, we should be very glad to hear of it, as we are faced with the task of organizing accommodation for 60 men and are trying to keep the financial load as light as possible in these times of high cost. The maintenance of the house depends on alms and whatever the garden may bring. What may look like junk to an established house may be very useful to us, starting from bare essentials. Most of all, we want the prayers of the brethren for the success of the whole venture, which is judged to be a great act of trust in the Providence of God.
Our postal address is : Manresa House, Dollymount, Dublin.

Irish Province News 24th Year No 4 1949

Obituary

Fr. Charles Doyle (1870-1889-1949)

He was born on 26th October, 1870 at ‘Melrose’ Dalkey, Co. Dublin, the son of Mr. Hugh Doyle, an official of the High Court of Justice in Ireland. Educated at Ratcliffe College, Leicester, by the Fathers of Charity, where he spent six years, he entered Tullabeg on 14th September, 1889. After two years' Juniorate at Milltown, he did philosophy at Exaten and Valkenburg, Holland for two years and for one year at Enghien in Belgium, and then was master for six years at Belvedere College. He studied theology at Milltown where he was ordained on 30th July, 1905. His third Probation he made at Tronchiennes. He was professed of the four solemn Vows at Belvedere on 2nd February, 1908. A brief record entered up by him in the Catalogus Primus of the year 1930 contains the following summary of the offices he held prior to his appointment as Procurator of the Province in 1925 : "Proc. dom. an. 9: Min. an. 5 ; Soc. mag. nov. an. 3 ; Rect. an. 10.'' He was Rector of the Crescent from 1912 to 1918, then for a short year Rector at Rathfarnham Castle in 1919, where he was succeeded by Fr. John Sullivan, and Rector of Belvedere College from 1919 to 1922.
During the last year of his life Fr. Doyle was subject to many infirmities and had to go to hospital frequently, but despite this he carried on manfully at his appointed tasks and observed common life with edifying fidelity: He died at St. Vincent's Hospital on 15th June, 1949.

An Appreciation :
From the above rather bald and barren collection of dates and places certain events stand out with arresting interest in the life of Fr. Charles Doyle : that he held most of the offices of trust in the Society, that in addition to having been Minister, and Socius to the Master of Novices, he was three times Rector and for nearly 25 years held the onerous post of Procurator of the Province, that he died in his 79th year within a few months of his Diamond Jubilee, a man who can deservedly be reckoned among the “bene meriti" of his generation in the Society.
It would be impossible in a short appreciation such as this to do justice to the many aspects of such a long and varied career. All we can hope to do is to give a few impressions that may serve to describe in outline :
(1) The brother of Fr. Willie.
(2) The Procurator of the Province.
(3) The Man of God

The Brother of Fr. Willie :
The reason, perhaps, why Fr. Charles Doyle's name will be best remembered by posterity is because he was the brother of a saint, or at least of a candidate for canonization. One might add that it is the only pretext he himself would have advanced as a claim for immortality: His veneration for his brother was a veritable hero-worship, the advancement of his cause a holy obsession from which his mind never deflected. There were only three pictures in his room, all of Fr. Willie, as the youth, the young priest, the missioner and chaplain.
Some may see therein an excessive family glorification, but who that has ever read "Merry in God” could not feel "proud' of having had such a brother. Fr. Doyle moreover had additional reasons for sustaining his devotion, for be alone could measure, by a mail-bag that brought letters from every corner of the globe, the universal veneration in which his saintly brother was held, and as a consequence there was none more confidant than he that God willing, the day would eventually come when Fr. Willie would be elevated to the altars of the Church.
Procurator of the Province :
Only one who has held the office of Procurator for a considerable time can appreciate the monotony of the task, the unavoidably material outlook it engenders in the mind, and the intimate contact into which it brings one with the Mammon of Iniquity. It requires much agility of mind and sublimation of the mental processes to convert every figure entered in a ledger and every letter tapped out on a typewriter into an act of the pure love of God. Fr. Doyle, however, appears to have acquired this gift and perhaps also to have discovered therein a clue to the secret of the countless aspirations made by his saintly brother. For twenty-five years he held the office of Procurator of the Province and may without exaggeration be described as the Procurator “par excellence”. Under his skilful guidance the book-keeping of the Province and in the Province was re-organised and standardised. His own books were a model of neatness, accuracy and meticulous care.
He was approachable at all times and patient with all comers, even when they broke into the middle of a long tot or disrupted the counting of a sheaf of notes. For all his manner betrayed, they might only have disturbed him in a cross-word puzzle or a game of patience. He had a keen sense of humour too and enjoyed the good-humoured banter that from time to time was levelled against the hapless holder of his office. He enjoyed the bon mot of the facetious father who said that book-keeping in the Society should be labelled “leger de main” and every holder of the office provided with a treatise on that particular form of craftmanship. No one chuckled more wholeheartedly than he at the alleged quotation from a certain Domestic Exhortation : “In olden days a subject, starting on a journey, meekly approached his superior on his knees with a request for a paternal embrace and a blessing ; now he brazenly beards the Bursar on his hind-legs with a demand for treasury notes and a voucher!”
As a " distraction” from the work of book-keeping he turned his attention to the task of censorship. For over twenty years the words “Censor Deputatus, Carolus Doyle”, were wont to meet the eye on most of the Province and Messenger Office publications. Not that this implied that he had read through everything that bore his sanctioning name on the title page, for presumably even a Censor Deputatus can appoint a deputy in his place. Such was certainly the case with “Carolus Doyle, Censor Deputatus” of many publications in the Irish language, his knowledge of which he could frankly confess was practically nil!
But book-keeping remained his paramount care. Three times within the last twelve months of his life he was compelled to go to hospital and on each occasion he insisted on bringing all the essential paraphernalia of his office with him. Perhaps, it may be urged, he acted unwisely in so doing and should have accepted the services of an “adjutant”, but error, if error there was, was one of judgement, that only served to emphasize his outstanding devotion to duty and his desire to carry out his “job in life” even to the end.
The Man of God :
But the dull routine of book-keeping did not damp his ardour for spiritual things or lessen his desire to take a share in the work of the Ministry. As a young priest and even well past middle age he was recognised as one of the outstanding preachers of the Province, distinct in delivery, sound of doctrine and above all with a telling way of driving home the truth, however unpalatable to his hearers. His Lenten lectures on “The Home” were said to have reached a financial peak, even for that famous annual feature in Gardiner St., though he himself would have been far from using such a measuring rod as a test of their success.
Every year, until his failing health compelled him to reduce the numbers, he gave from four to five retreats and only twelve months ago, in his seventy-eighth year, with sentence of death hanging over him, he conducted a priests retreat, which many a younger man would have hesitated to undertake. The “tableaux vivants”, which were a marked feature of his retreats did not win universal appreciation, but none could question the zeal and sincerity which inspired them.
Except for the purpose of giving retreats and making the annual audit of the accounts of the Province (”Praecursor Visitationis” was one of his soubriquets) he never wandered much abroad and agreed with Thomas A. Kempis “that they who do so seldom thereby become holy”. Indeed, his room was his castle and his only regular wanderings therefrom were for the purpose of making a lodgement in the bank or having a friendly interview with the Income Tax Commissioners.
For the rest, he was the “beau ideal” of Common Life. An early riser with an early Mass every morning, a man who never missed recreation or Litanies (and how grateful some tired father was when he recited them in his stead on a confession day), a man who always answered the first sound of the bell, leaving not only the letter but the figure unfinished, a man who sang his simple song on Christmas night but who also, despite every pretext, always went to bed in good time.
He was not without his idiosyncrasies, however (as what holy man is not?) and it was said of him, as of others who regulate their lives with clock-like precision, that he looked askance at those who, he suspectedwere ready to throw a spanner in the works of what they regarded as excessive routine rigidity. There were occasions too, when he could be exacting to a degree, as his companions knew to their cost. He was notoriously allergic to noise. His hearing was so acute that ever the winding of a watch or the striking of a match was said to reach his ears from overhead and woe betide the man who dropped his boots above him! No time was lost in admonishing the boot dropper, yet it was done in such a disarming fashion that no feud ensued - but the boots ceased dropping!
But, if he could be exacting at times, he was ever ready to make allowance for the foibles of others and never completely lost the human touch himself. His partiality for sweet things, even in old age, was such as would have given serious cause for alarm in the case of a school boy, and even a youngster might have envied the gusto with which he pursued the daily adventures of “Gussie Goose and Curley Wee”. “Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto”, might have been his motto, but “Merry in God” would be more appropriate and could be applied to him with the same aptitude as it was to his saintly brother. For beneath all his merriment lay an abiding sense of the Presence of God.
In that presence he closed his accounts with a smile on his face. If ever he had an overdraft in the Bank of Heaven, it has long ago been converted to a comfortable credit balance, and if his spiritual petty cash did not always balance, 'twas only a matter of pence which the great Auditor assuredly has long since overlooked. May his saintly life and simple merriment long continue to be an inspiration to all those. who are destined for the unenviable task of having care of the purse.

◆ James B Stephenson SJ Menologies 1973

Father Charles Doyle 1870-1949
Fr Charles Doyle was born in Dublin on October 24th 1870. He entered the Society at Tullabeg in 1889. He made his Philosophical studies at Valkenburg, his Theology at Milltown Park, and his tertianship at Drongen in Belgium.

His life in the Society was spent in offices of administration, being Minister for five years, Rector for ten, and Procurator of the Province for the last twenty-five years of his life.

He was the elder brother of Fr Willie Doyle, whose life he wrote “Merry in God”, and for whose beatification her worked hard for many years.

He was an exemplary religious, an excellent member in community, and he was noted especially for his unfailing cheerfulness. In his personal life he practiced a constant severity or even austerity. Outside the Society he was well known for his Lenten Lectures delivered in Gardiner Street. As a Retreat giver he was much sought after.

Doyle, Willie, 1873-1917, Jesuit priest and chaplain

  • IE IJA J/2
  • Person
  • 3 March 1873-16 August 1917

Born: 03 March 1873, Dalkey, County Dublin
Entered: 31 March 1891, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 28 July 1907, Milltown Park
Final vows: 02 February 1909
Died :16 August 1917, Ypres, Belgium

Younger Brother of Charles Doyle - RIP 1949

◆ HIB Menologies SJ :
Educated by the Rosminians at Ratcliffe, Leicstershire, England.
After First Vows he studied Philosophy at Enghien and Stonyhurst.
He was then sent for Regency teaching at Belvedere College SJ, and later also as a Prefect at Clongowes Wood College SJ.
1904 He was sent for Theology to Milltown Park, Dublin and was ordained there after three years.
1905 He was sent to Drongen, Belgium for Tertianship.
He then became Minister at Belvedere, and was put on the Mission Staff, where he displayed outstanding qualities, especially as an orator in the pulpit.

He was something of a literary person as well. He founded the “Clongownian”, wrote regularly in the “Messenger” and wrote some booklets and a life of the French Jesuit Paul Ginhac.

In the early years of the Great War he volunteered for service as a Military Chaplain. 15 November 1915 he wrote “Received my appointment from the War Office as Chaplain to the 16th Division”. 01 January 1916 He moved with his regiment (8th Royal Irish Fusiliers) from Whitely to Bordon. he remained with this group until he was killed 16 or 17 August 1917 near Ypres.

Notice in the “Irish Independent” 25 August 1917 :
“When Irish troops advanced at Ginchy, Father Doyle was in the thick of the fighting ministering to the wounded, and for conspicuous bravery then, was awarded the Military Cross. The story of his Priestly devotion in the advance at the Zonnebeke River, when he met his death while administering the Last Sacraments to his stricken countrymen, has been borne testimony to alike by Northern Orangemen and Catholic Nationalists, and it is admitted by all who witnessed his courage and indifference to danger that his heroism will rank among the great unselfish, self-sacrificing deeds of the war.”
Mr Percival Phillips writing on his death in the “Morning Post” :
“The Orange will not forget a certain Catholic Chaplain who lies in a soldier’s grave in that sinister plain beyond Ypres. he went forward and back on the battlefield, with bullets whining about him, seeking out the dying and kneeling in the mud beside them to give the Absolution, walking with death with a smile on his face, watched by his men with reverence and a kind of awe, until a shell burst near him and he was killed. His familiar figure was seen and welcomed by hundreds of Irishmen who lay in that bloody place. Each time he came back across the field he was begged to remain in comparative safety. Smilingly he shook his head and went again into the storm. He had been with his boys at Ginchy and through other times of stress, and he would not desert them in their agony. They remember him as a Saint - they speak his name with tears.”
Sir Philip Gibbs KBE wrote :
“All through the worst hours and Irish Padre went about among the dead and dying giving Absolution to his boys. Once he came back to HQ, but would not take a bite of food or stay, though his friends urged him. he went back to the field to minister to those who were glad to see him bending over them in their last agony. Four men were killed by shell fire as he knelt beside them, and he was not touched - until his own turn came. A shell burst close and the Padre fell dead.”
A Soldier writing :
“Father Willie was more than a priest to them, and if any man was loved by the men it was he, who certainly risked every danger to try and do good for their bodies as well as their souls.
A Fellow Chaplain wrote 15 August 1917 :
“Father Doyle is a marvel. They may talk of heroes and Saints, they are hardly in it. he sticks it to the end - shells, gas, attack. The first greeting to me of a man from another battalion, who had only known Father Doyle by sight was ‘Father Doyle deserves the VG more than any man who ever wore it. We cannot get him away from where the men are. If he is not with his own, he is in with us. The men would not stick half of it were it not for him. If we give him an orderly, he sends the man back. He doesn't wear a tin hat, he is always so cheery’.”
An Officer writing :
“Father Doyle never rests, night and day. he finds a dead or dying man, does all he can, comes back smiling, makes a little cross, goes out and buries him. It would be the proudest moment of my life if I could only call him VC.”
(cf Father William Doyle SJ, by Professor Alfred O’Rahilly ISBN 9782917813041)

◆ Royal Irish Academy : Dictionary of Irish Biography, Cambridge University Press online :
Doyle, William Joseph Gabriel
by David Murphy

Doyle, William Joseph Gabriel (1873–1917), Jesuit priest and military chaplain, was born 3 March 1873 at Melrose, Dalkey, Co. Dublin, youngest child of Hugh Doyle, registrar of the insolvency court, and Christine Doyle (née Byrne). He was educated by the Rosminian Fathers at Ratcliffe College, Leics., and entered the Society of Jesus in Ireland (March 1891). On completing his novitiate he taught at Clongowes Wood College, Co. Kildare (1894–8), founding the college magazine The Clongownian (1895). He then studied philosophy at Enghien, Belgium, and Stonyhurst College, England, before returning to Ireland to teach once more at Clongowes and later Belvedere College, Dublin. His final theological studies were taken at Milltown College, Dublin (1904–7), and he was ordained in July 1907. After completing his tertianship at Trenchiennes, Belgium, he began to work as an urban missionary and retreat-giver in Dublin. Due to his positive attitude he was a great success at this work and also travelled around England, Scotland, and Wales. Recognising that urban labourers were in great need of spiritual direction, he proposed that a special retreat house be opened in Dublin to cater for the needs of the working classes. He also wrote several best-selling pamphlets including Retreats for working men: why not in Ireland? (1909), Vocations (1913), and Shall I be a priest? (1915).

At the outbreak of the first world war he volunteered to work as a military chaplain and was posted (November 1915) to 8th Bn, Royal Irish Fusiliers, 16th (Irish) Division. Arriving in France early in 1916, he soon gained a reputation for bravery and was recommended for the MC (April) for helping to dig wounded men out of a collapsed shelter under fire. Present at the battle of the Somme from its beginning in July 1916, he was awarded the MC (January 1917) for his work with casualties during the battle. He was transferred to 8th Bn, Royal Dublin Fusiliers, in December 1916 and greatly impressed the men of his new unit. The CO of the battalion, Lt-col. H. R. Stirke, later said that Fr Doyle was ‘one of the finest fellows that I ever met, utterly fearless, always with a cheery word on his lips, and ever ready to go out and attend the wounded and dying under the heaviest fire’. He was killed in Belgium, along with two other officers, while going to the aid of a wounded man on 16 August 1917 during the third battle of Ypres. His body, supposedly buried on the spot by men of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, was never recovered. He was recommended posthumously for both the VC and DSO, but neither was granted.

Personal papers, opened after his death, were the basis of Alfred O'Rahilly's biography of Doyle (1920), and he became a focus of popular devotion in Dublin. The papers also revealed that Doyle had inflicted extreme physical punishments on himself since his novitiate, perhaps since childhood. In August 1938 the cause for his canonisation was proposed and relevant documentation sent to Rome. The cause subsequently fell silent. There is a substantial collection of Doyle papers in the Jesuit archives, Leeson St., Dublin.

Fr W. Doyle papers, Jesuit archives; Alfred O'Rahilly, Fr William Doyle, S.J.: a spiritual study (1920); Henry L. Stuart, ‘Fr William Doyle S.J.’, The Commonweal, no. 8 (11 Nov. 1925), 11–14; Sir John Smyth, In this sign conquer (1968); Louis McRedmond, To the greater glory: a history of the Irish Jesuits (1991); Tom Johnstone and James Hagerty, The cross on the sword: catholic chaplains in the forces (1996)

◆ Jesuits in Ireland : https://www.jesuit.ie/news/commemorating-willie-doyle-sj/

Fr Willie Doyle SJ – a lesson for Europe

In a lengthy article for the UK Independent, renowned British writer and journalist Robert Fisk has used the exemplary life and death of Irish war chaplain Fr Willie Doyle SJ as an anti-Brexit morality tale. “The image of an Irish Catholic going to the aid of a (Protestant?) German in little Catholic Belgium, wearing the battledress of a British soldier,” Fisk writes, “is surely the finest image of what the EU was supposed to embrace and redress: that there should never again be a European war.” He concludes with a stern reproof of the British Prime Minister: “Theresa May, hang your head in shame.”

Fisk was prompted to write the article by a talk on the life of Fr Doyle, given in Dalkey Library on Tuesday, 15 August, by Damien Burke of the Irish Jesuit Archives. The talk, which was attended by more than 60 people, was one of a number of events to mark the centenary of Fr Doyle’s death at the Battle of Passchendaele in Flanders in August 1917.
The fact that Fr Doyle was himself a Dalkey native added poignancy to Damien’s account of his life and his death in the trenches. The slides which Damien presented of Fr Doyle’s letters, writings, and personal belongings, which had been preserved for many years in Rathfarnham Castle, were also touching.

At the same event in Dalkey Library, Dr Patrick Kenny discussed his book on Fr Doyle, entitled To Raise the Fallen. Amazingly one of the parishioners present was a 105-year-old woman who remembered the news of Fr Doyle’s death!

RTE’s Morning Ireland covered the Dalkey event. Damien Burke and Fergus O’Donoghue SJ of the Irish Jesuit Archives were interviewed for a package about Fr Willie Doyle, which you can listen to here. A commemorative Mass for Fr Doyle was celebrated on 16 August in Dalkey Church. Since his remains were never found some people considered this to be his real requiem, albeit one hundred years after his untimely death. At the Mass, Fr McGuinness referenced the self-sacrificing love that Fr Doyle had for the men who engaged in the horrific war.

Centenary events to mark Fr Doyle and the other Jesuit chaplains of the First World War continue in the coming months. This Friday, 1 September, a documentary by Irish Times journalist Ronan McGreevy entitled, ‘The Irish at Passchendaele’, featuring the story of Jesuit chaplain Willie Doyle, will be screened at Veritas House, 7-8 Lower Abbey Street, Dublin 1, at 1pm.

And in October, there will be a Dalkey-themed RTE Nationwide programme in which Fr Doyle will feature. Material from the Fr Willie Doyle exhibition currently on display in Dalkey Library will be incorporated in an exhibition on ‘Jesuit chaplains and Rathfarnham Castle 1917’ at Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin, 2 November- 3 December 2017.
There will also be an exhibition on ‘Fr Michael Bergin SJ and Australian Jesuit chaplains’ at Roscrea Library, Tipperary, from 2 to 27 October 2017.

Also worth noting is the attention garnered by the remarkable graphic short entitled ‘A Perfect Trust’ by Alan Dunne, which is displayed in the Dalkey Library exhibition. It has been nominated for an Irish Design Award

https://www.jesuit.ie/who-are-the-jesuits/inspirational-jesuits/willie-doyle/

A champion at the front
The third of March marks the birthday anniversary of Willie Doyle, who was killed in the Battle of Passchendaele, Flanders in 1917. He was one of thirty-two Irish Jesuit chaplains in the First World War. His life and the lives of his fellow-chaplains were commemorated, around the centenary date of his death on 16 or 17 August (exact date of death unknown), at a number of events in Dublin in 2017. The exhibition ‘Jesuit chaplains in the First World War’ continued its tour in April 2018 at Stillorgan Library, Dublin where material relating to Jesuit chaplains in 1918 and Fr Doyle was on show.

To us today the First World War can only be seen as an indescribable waste of life, a cause which served no purpose other than the decimation of an entire generation. Willie Doyle served and died in the Great War; he willingly put himself forward again and again to help those with him, and in the end it cost him his life.

Willie Doyle was born in Dalkey, just outside of Dublin, in 1873, the youngest of seven children. His education took place both in Ireland and at Ratcliffe College, in Leicester. At eighteen he joined the noviciate for the Society of Jesus, a decision he reached after reading Instructions and Consideration on the Religious State by St Alphonsus. In 1907 he was ordained as a priest, and spent several years following as a missionary, travelling from parish to parish all across the British Isles.

With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Doyle volunteered, knowing that many would be in need of guidance and assistance in the time to come. He landed in France in 1915 with the Royal Irish Fusiliers, serving as chaplain. He went to the front, serving in many major battles, including the Battle of the Somme. Out on the battlefield Doyle risked his life countless times, seeking out men where they fell dying in the mud to be with them in their last moment and to offer absolution; those who served with him described him as fearless. His selflessness was not just given to those who shared his faith; Doyle was a champion too among the Protestant Ulstermen in his battalion.

In August 1917 he was killed by a German shell while out helping fallen soldiers in no man’s land. Three other Irish Jesuits were killed in the war along with two who died from illness. Doyle was awarded the Military Cross, and he was put forward for the Victoria Cross posthumously but did not receive it. According to the National Museum of Ireland, this was arguably due to the “triple disqualification of being an Irishman, a Catholic and a Jesuit”.

The commemoration in 2017 by the Irish Province took the form of an exhibition on Fr Doyle, which was launched at Dalkey library, and the National Museum of Ireland exhibited some of his chaplain effects from the front. Bernard McGuckian SJ told his story as part of a collection of essays in the book Irish Jesuit chaplains in the First World War.
Watch the trailer below for Bravery Under Fire, a docudrama on his life.

https://www.jesuit.ie/news/film-forgotten-hero/

Film on ‘forgotten hero’
Details of a docudrama about the life of wartime hero Fr. Willie Doyle SJ have just been released by the Catholic network EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network).

The docudrama already dubbed Ireland’s Hacksaw Ridge, has the working title Bravery under Fire. It will explore the life of Fr. Doyle, showing his bravery as an army chaplain in World War I when, disregarding the advice of his superiors and his own personal safety, the Irish Jesuit saved many lives, repeatedly going into no man’s land to drag soldiers back to safety.

EWTN say the story is an ‘inspirational’ one and they have appointed Newcastle Co. Down man Campbell Miller to direct it. He is filming on location in Passchendaele, Ireland and England.

In April 2018, for the very first time, the historic events will be brought to the big screen and will include readings from Fr Willie’s personal diaries, historical footage and re-enactments of his many brave actions.

Producer Campbell Miller said, “I accepted this project as I believe Fr Willie Doyle is a forgotten hero. While other soldiers have got the Victoria Cross for showing one act of bravery, Fr. Doyle performed miraculous acts of bravery each day he was on the front line. In this secular age there is a lot to be learned from his actions, his teachings and his respect for all others regardless of their creed.”

The high budget docudrama is the first of its kind for EWTN Ireland, and it will bring significant job opportunities for local cast and crew, when it goes into production here in Ireland next month.

Speaking about the movie and its producer, the CEO of EWTN Ireland, Aidan Gallagher said, “We are absolutely delighted to be producing this movie. It will bring the story of Fr Doyle and his selfless heroism to a wider audience. It is a new opportunity for EWTN and I wish Campbell every success..”

Campbell, who studied film at Ball State University in Indiana, brings to the project over 10 years of experience directing documentaries and short films and a proven track record in producing award winning films — receiving accolades in film festivals around the world, including Orlando, New York, New Jersey, and London, to name but a few.
Campbell’s award winning films, Respite at Christmas and Family, were pivotal in EWTN selecting him as the Director of the film.

The film will be shot in London and Belgium, with the majority of its World War I re-enactments taking place in Ireland.

https://www.jesuit.ie/blog/damien-burke/a-sparrow-to-fall/

A sparrow to fall
Damien Burke
A BBC Northern Ireland documentary, Voices 16 – Somme (BBC 1 NI on Wednesday 29th June,
9pm) explores the events of 1916 through the testimony of the people who witnessed it and their families. Documentary makers and relatives of Jesuit chaplain Willie Doyle were shown his letters, postcards and personal possessions kept here at the Irish Jesuit Archives. In the 1920s, Alfred O’Rahilly used some of these letters in his biography of Fr Willie Doyle SJ. Afterwards they were given to Willie’s brother, Charles, and were stored for safekeeping in the basement of St Francis Xavier’s church, Lower Gardiner Street, Dublin in 1949. In 2011, they were accessioned into the archives.
Fr Willie Doyle SJ was one of ten Irish Jesuits who served as chaplains at the battle of the Somme (1 July- 18 November 1916): seven with the British forces; three with the Australian. Their letters, diaries and photographs witness their presence to the horror of war.

◆ Irish Province News

Irish Province News 1st Year No 4 1926

The third edition of the life of Fr Wm Doyle SJ has received high praise on both sides of the Atlantic. Reviewers foretell for it a place among the classics of ascetical literature. It is a treatise on the spiritual life, in which the truths of spirituality are not treated in an abstract manner, but brought home to us by the life of one who shared the common experiences of us all. The sale of the book has been rapid. Already half of the English edition has been sold, the American edition is nearly exhausted. German, Italian, and Dutch translations have appeared, A French translation is in the press, and a Spanish is nearly complete. An abridged Polish translation is also in hand.

Irish Province News 23rd Year No 4 1948

Manresa House, Dollymount, Dublin.
.......... Fr. C. Doyle is equipping and furnishing the domestic chapel as a memorial to Fr. Willie, who worked so tirelessly for the establishment of workingmen's retreats in Ireland.

◆ James B Stephenson SJ Menologies 1973

Father William (Willie) Doyle SJ 1873-1917
Father William Doyle, or Father Willie as he was affectionately know, was born in Dalkey County Dublin on March 3rd 1873. He was educated at Ratcliff College, Leicestershire, conducted by the Fathers of the Institute of Charity. He became a Jesuit in 1891 and was ordained at Milltown Park in 1907.

He was possessed of great literary ability. He founded the “Clongownian” and translated the life of the famous French Jesuit, Pére Gignac. He was a frequent contributor to “The Irish Messenger” and wrote a number of other pamphlets which showed considerable research and erudition. He was a pioneer in the movement of retreats for the working man, to advance which he wrote his pamphlet entitled “Retreats for workingmen : Why not in Ireland?” He was also a great missioner and preacher, being attached to the Mission Staff for many years. As a pulpit orator, he won signal admiration in all parts of the country, both at hone and in England. It was during this period that he wrote his famous and still popular and useful pamphlet on “Vocations”.

In 1915 he was posted to the 16th Division of the 8th Royal Irish Fusiliers as chaplain. He has been very fortunate in his biographer, for his life by Monsignor Alfred O’Rahilly is world famous. Written in 1920, it has already run through at least four editions. In that biography, details are given of Fr Willie’s heroism on the field in the Battle of the Somme and Ypres, and of the love he evoked in all, both Catholics and Protestants.

In the same biography will be found and exhaustive account of his interior life, so remarkable for its absolute dedication in every detail of life to the Lord, so permeated with mortification and penance. He indulged in the “follies” of the saints, the most outstanding of which was standing up to his neck in the pond at Rathfarnham Castle and rolling himself in nettles.

He was killed while ministering to the troops at the Battle of Ypres on August 17th 1917. He died as he wished – a Martyr of Charity – and that his sacrifice was acceptable seems proven by the wide devotion which sprang up to him, not only in this country, and by the number of cures which have been wrought through his intercessions.

Ratcliffe College, Leicestershire, 1847-

  • Corporate body
  • 1847-

Ratcliffe College is a coeducational Catholic independent boarding and day school in the village of Ratcliffe on the Wreake, Leicestershire, approximately 7 miles (11 km) from Leicester, England.