Harry O’Callaghan obituary: a man known for his charm and loving nature

Lives lost to Covid-19: Although he made a life for his young family in London, he returned to Ireland for all big family occasions

Harry O’Callaghan:  “His death was a tragedy as he had so much more life to live”

Harry O’Callaghan: “His death was a tragedy as he had so much more life to live”


This article is one of a series about people who have died with coronavirus in Ireland and among the diaspora. Read more at irishtimes.com/covid-19-lives-lost. If you would like a friend or family member included in the series, please email: liveslost@irishtimes.com.

Harry O’Callaghan


Harry O’Callaghan had always dreamed of owning a house in France. Last year he finally signed the papers on his own French holiday home, just months before he died from Covid-19 at the age of 75.

Born on January 9th, 1946, to Jim and Bridie O’Callaghan, Harry had one sister Noreen, and three brothers Don, Jim and Seanie. After Bridie died when Harry was only six years old, her sister, known as “Lolo”, returned from London to care for him and his siblings until they reached adulthood. Stationed in Cork with the Defence Forces, his father commuted home to Fermoy every weekend.

At school Harry’s “effortless intelligence” was the envy of his class, according to fellow pupil and brother-in-law to be Billy Meaney (who later married Harry’s sister Noreen). He attended primary school in Barrack Hill in Fermoy, and went on to CBS secondary school. He was an altar boy, a field runner and a member of Fermoy Confraternity Brass and Reed Band. After completing his Leaving Certificate, he emigrated to England in the 1960s.

Harry started his working life at the Savoy Hotel, before embarking on a career in office procedures at IBM. He went on to become a manager at Shell, where he met his wife Francis in 1982. Not long after the couple got together, Harry was posted to Bangladesh, where he worked for a year before returning to London, where they married in 1985.

The couple had three daughters, Kate, Lucy and Polly. Harry referred to the women in his life fondly as “my girls”. He later became a grandfather to Hugo and Xanthe.

Although he chose to make a life for his own young family in London, Harry returned to Ireland for all big family occasions, always staying with his sister Noreen. His flashy cars arriving into Fermoy were a talking point for the town.

“He had an ear for anyone who needed it. He was loving, charming and naughty in equal measure,” his niece Emma O’Grady remembers.

2020 marked 30 years of sobriety for Harry, which he was very proud of, according to his family. In recent years he was a volunteer with the AA telephone helpline, and had been described as a “stalwart of the service”.

On March 18th, he developed symptoms of Covid-19. Ten days later he was admitted to hospital with pneumonia, and died on April 6th. A small funeral was held in London, attended by his wife and daughters, but his family in Fermoy were unable to travel to attend.

“The loss that we feel is intensified by not being able to grieve together,” his niece Emma says. “He will always be remembered for his charm and loving nature. His trips home were always looked forward to by everyone he has left behind. His death was a tragedy as he had so much more life to live, and we are counting down the days until we can all get on a plane to visit his final resting place.”

Covid-19: Lives Lost