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Unsung Irish : Brother Columbanus Deegan July 31, 2007

Posted by Rambling Man in The Unsung Irish.

Brother Columbanus Deegan was a Franciscan friar well known around these parts who sadly passed away last week. Born in 1925 and raised in Dublin, he led a long, brave and interesting life and was very involved in community work and helping the poor.

Following the outbreak of World War II, and having lost family in action, he joined the RAF as a salvager and took part in the D-Day landings. He landed at Sword beach as part of the Allied campaign. His job involved rescuing survivors and stripping downed planes of useful parts. Later, at the end of the war, he would be among the first Allied personnel to enter the Belsen concentration camp and is quoted with saying “I couldn’t shake off the smell of death I experienced that day. I sometimes get flashbacks and the smell returns as if it was yesterday.” The experience was to stay with him the rest of his life.

When he returned to Ireland, he joined the Franciscan order in 1958 and was posted to Waterford in 1981, following spells in Drogheda and Rome. He did great work with the poor of the city and always had a moment to stop and talk. Other groups and organisations such as the Special Olympics and homeless services also benefitted from his involvement.

I remember the well known Blessing of the Animals which was held in the friary garden every year. We attended on at least two occasions and it was always an interesting event for young and old. What a strange scene it must have made to see a robe clad monk surrounded by adults, kids, dogs, cats and all sorts of other pets … tourists must’ve thought it crazy …

Franciscan Friar Brother Seán Columbanus Deegan. RIP.



1. Shane - July 31, 2007

I met Columbanus a couple of years ago, when he was kind enough to share his life story with me. He was a wonderful man.

2. Rambling Man - July 31, 2007

his life would make a great book …

3. Nick Hough - September 2, 2007

I’m surprised to be honest that his story hasn’t already been made into a book. It would be truly fascinating.


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