John Donegan obituary: ‘Everyone knew him, he was always telling jokes’

Lives Lost to Covid-19: Dublin who lost sight in his 20s was devoted to his wife and God

John Donegan with his wife Mary. He lived with her in Ballymun for most of his life.

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John Donegan


John Donegan met his wife-to-be Mary in a queue for the chipper on Talbot Street in Dublin in the 1960s, and remained devoted to her until the moment he died, calling her name as he passed away from Covid-19 in April.

The eldest boy of eight children, John was born in the Liberties in Dublin in April 1938. He grew up there, but after his marriage to Mary, the couple moved to Poppintree in Ballymun, where they lived for most of the rest of their lives.

John developed eye disease in his late 20s, and lost his sight. The couple didn’t have children, and “Mary was his world . . . they went everywhere together,” his niece Catherine says.


“Everyone knew him, he was always telling jokes.” He had a strong faith, and “loved God very much,” Catherine adds.

The couple visited the grotto behind St Catherine’s Church on Meath Street most Saturdays. Afterwards they would meet the rest of the extended Donegan family on Thomas Street.

As they got older, the couple were cared for by Mary's niece Susan, until they moved to Ardmore Care Choice nursing home in Finglas two years ago. Mary died there after a short illness in April 2019, not long after moving in.

Catherine and her brother James went to see their uncle most days in the care home, but after the Covid-19 restrictions were introduced in early March, they could no longer visit.

John became unwell in early April, and tested positive for Covid-19. He died within days, a year and a day after his wife Mary, calling out her name to the carer who was with him as he passed away.

He was laid to rest in the sunshine beside Mary in Mount Jerome cemetery in Harold’s Cross on his 82nd birthday, with Time to Say Goodbye playing as he was buried.

“The day after John died, I saw hummingbirds fly towards me in my back garden, which I had never seen before,” Catherine says. “I think he was letting me know he was happy with his wife again.”

Ciara Kenny

Ciara Kenny

Ciara Kenny, founding editor of Irish Times Abroad, a section for Irish-connected people around the world, is Editor of the Irish Times Magazine