by Rev. Martin Coen
Article provided by Joe Monaghan.
Galway lost one of its most distinguished citizens at the death of “Father Tom” Fahy, which took place at his home, Mill Street, on July 18, 1973.
Family and Education
Born in 1887 in Gloves in Kiltulla parish, he was the son of Patrick Fahy and Ann Creaven, and was one of a family of eight. Educated at Esker N.S. and Eskcr diocesan college, after a distinguished course of studies, he was ordained in Maynooth in 1912. Following classical postgraduate studies, he taught at the Pines, Ballinasloe and Maynooth.
Professor of Classics
For over thirty years, from 1927, he was Professor of Classics at U.C.G. He was an excellent and revered teacher and found time also to write scholarly articles on the classics, scripture and education. After his retirement, he published a book on Scripture,
Born into a strongly nationalistic family, he naturally was both sympathetic towards and involved in the struggle for freedom. A close friend of Liam Mellows, he took part in the 1916 uprising in Co. Galway, in a spiritual capacity. He brought the word of disbandment to the Galway Volunteers under Liam Mellows at Lime Park, PeterswelL Thanks to Father Fahy’s approach to General Sir John Maxwell, the late Father Harry Feeney was able to go to America. Monsignor Fahy continued to take a discreet interest in. politics and was the friend of many Cabinet ministers and politicians.
Friends and Wise Counsel
He was also a close friend of the successive Bishops of Galway and Clonfert, After his retirement he was honoured with a Domestic Prelacy by the Pope. An expert horseman, be had a lifelong interest in greyhounds. A man of deep and simple piety, he was an exemplary priest, with a rare capacity for friendship. His wise counsel as a member of the Governing Body of U.C.G, was valued. It was there he made his greatest impact and many generations of his students recall him with affection.
Mr. Patrick J. Lindsay, S.C, a former Government Minister and one of his most brilliant students, pays this tribute:
At eighteen, anybody between twenty five and thirty was old. This view is the subconscious joy or the defective reasoning of youth. At eighteen in the then new Arts Building in University College, Galway, one could, for either of these reasons, be forgiven for thinking that Father Tom Fahy was old. How wrong I was has remained with me a feeling somewhat akin to remorse. Age, of course, has its physical finality; the mind generally is a timeless and ageless mechanism. And here at all times was the real Father Fahy. He was young and continued as young as each succeeding set of his students. After a very short time, I was fortunate enough to recognise this fact, and having recognised it, was blessed with the disposition that enabled me benefit considerably from a situation of respectful and appreciative equality. Added to that, his kindness, tolerance and interest made, what was, and continued to be, a wonderful relationship, work. There was an unspoken pride in this mutual craftsmanship.
Father Fahy was a man of great learning, acquired in the main by his perpetual quest for truth. To him things, and, indeed people, were real or they were not. The truth, governing all things, made his adherence to the principles of his adoption inflexible. Some people might consider this a fault, but, like the uniform of his joint vocations—teacher and priest—all was black or white: he knew no shades of grey. Of his many great qualities as a teacher, it is difficult to single out one more outstanding than another. I would venture, however, to say that in my experience the one facet that I can never forget was his unfailing facility to sustain one’s trust by the use—I think, the deliberate use—of digressions that always contained a significant relevance.
One liked the subject too, not so much, because of the power with which he explained it, but rather by the manner in which it was done. And in any assessment of Father Fahy, one must mention and extend this manner of which I have spoken. Charisma is the modem word. This is a charm or attraction one discovers in oneself and, once discovered, is cultivated and employed in advancing one’s career. It is the metler of actors and politicians. To me it is not good enough to describe accurately the charm of Father Fahy. I prefer the himeros of which Sophocles spoke in Antigone. This was the charm, simple charm, which is built in and of which the possessor is quite unconscious.
Gowned in his lecture-room; stock ash-stained in his study; riding over the stone walls of his beloved County Galway; agile mind keeping time with agile feet after his favourite dog; pulling his chin as a patient listener; in any of these situations this simple charm was the first thing that attracted the attention of even the least observant. Perhaps it was this charm that perennially appealed to the young and kept him young too.
In the most unexpected places and passages from Greek or Latin authors he never failed to equate the situations there described with those of our own times. This was his method of instilling patriotism into his pupils. Father Fahy loved his country. And the only occasion when he appeared to be angry was one that to his mind demonstrated the words or acts tended to impede his country’s true progress, in the sense of true progressive, he was the real conservative.
The cortege to Kiltulia was large and representative. His favourite countryside looked well. The darkness overhead emphasised the solemnity with which his parish received its distinguished son.
1 regret that his Requiem Mass was not read in Latin—the language of his discipline and his Church. To him “sursum corda” would have a celestial magnetism; J feel he would have regarded “lift up your hearts” as little more than an exhortation of a coach to his defeated team. I say this through no disrespect, but rather in veneration of my great mentor and friend. Kiltulia churchyard must he beatified by his mortal remains.