Carmel Uí Cheallaigh pays tribute to Father Willie Doyle, the fearless priest who died on the battlegrounds of World War I
William Joseph Gabriel Doyle was born on March 3rd, 1873, in Dalkey, Co Dublin, into the middle-class family of Hugh Doyle, a High Court magistrate and Christine Doyle (née Byrne). He was the youngest of seven children, four of whom joined the religious life.
Although Willie was a pale, delicate child, prone to nose bleeds, he loved sports and played croquet, cricket and tennis on the lawns of Melrose, their detached home in the picturesque little village. He loved swimming, sailing and fishing in the sea nearby.
He was a cheerful, good-natured child who showed great compassion for others. In particular, he helped the country maids settle in at Melrose, assisting them in their duties and offering a soothing cup of tea at the end of a long day. One of these girls, called Anne, said later, “I know I was really awkward after leaving the rough country but Master Willie made me feel right at home.”
This kindness and generosity extended outside, especially to the poor people who lived on Dalkey Hill. It was common for him to assist around the house, run errands and distribute food to them. The local beggars benefitted from his pocket money.
After being home schooled up to the age of eleven, he was sent to join his brother Charlie, at the Rosminian Father’s College in Ratcliffe, Leicestershire.