Appreciation: Kevin Dalton

Kevin Dalton. Photograph: Carole Cullen

Kevin Dalton. Photograph: Carole Cullen

 

Kevin Dalton was a remarkable man. He grew up in an orphanage and had no formal secondary education. He had a lifelong ambition to be a clergyman, and in due course was ordained in the Church of Ireland and had a successful ministry, retiring as rector of Monkstown, Co Dublin where he served for 28 years.

Kevin left the orphanage, aged 15, and worked on a farm in Co Tipperary where he ended up running a chicken project. In Tipperary he had access to a library and read voraciously. He saw no future with the chickens, and in 1951 he made his way to Dublin.He first got a delivery job before later moving to a job in a flour mill where he qualified as a miller.

However, his strong sense of vocation had not gone away. He studied for the Trinity College entrance exam on his own, getting help with Latin from a work colleague during lunchtime at the mill.

While at Trinity, he recruited actors from amongst his friends, many of whom had never acted before, and produced a number of John B Keane plays in aid of famine relief in Ethiopia. He was also elected auditor of the College Theological Society. During the long summer university holidays he sustained himself financially by working at the mill.

Kevin was ordained in 1966 for the parish of Stillorgan, but before he started there he went to CDSP Divinity School California on a World Council of Churches scholarship to study for a BD degree. He was greatly enamoured with the US and returned there on holiday many times to friends he had made while in California.

One of his first projects in Stillorgan, which lasted for his six years in the parish, was to set up a youth club. It was a great success. In the summer he used to take away young people to parishes in remote parts of Ireland where Church of Ireland parishioners were thin on the ground. There they cut grass and tidied graveyards.

After Stillorgan he became rector of Drumcondra/North Strand and in 1979 he was appointed rector of Monkstown, considered by clergy of the Church of Ireland as a “plum” parish, where he stayed until he retired at the compulsory retirement age of 75, in 2007. He was puzzled to know as to why he had to stop then, given that he still had plenty of energy.

All through his ministry he used that energy in the service of people. One friend on learning of his death referred to “his distinctiveness and abomination of humbug”.

During his life he kept a close eye on the racing page of the daily paper. A relaxing evening for Kevin was to play poker with friends from the days before he was ordained.

He died on November 4th leaving his wife Jennifer, daughters Tara and Sally-Ann, grandchildren Daniel, Ella-Rose and Lily, and his sister Mary.