Ireland’s oldest ringer of church bells dies at 98

Cyril Galbraith’s bell ringing journey in 1939 in Limerick cathedral when he was 15

Cyril Galbraith: ‘There wasn’t a whole lot to do in Limerick back then to be honest so it was good to have a distraction, a hobby.’ Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Cyril Galbraith: ‘There wasn’t a whole lot to do in Limerick back then to be honest so it was good to have a distraction, a hobby.’ Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

The bells of Christ Church in the Dundrum parish of Taney will toll loudly on Monday morning as Cyril Galbraith, the man who made them sing for decades, is laid to rest.

Ireland’s oldest campanologist who had previously pulled the strings on the bells in St Mary’s Cathedral in Limerick and St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin died on Wednesday in St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin.

He was 98- years-old.

He started out on his bell ringing journey in Limerick in 1939 as a 15-year-old boy when he wandered into the Limerick cathedral to work out how the bells there tolled.

Almost immediately it became a passion, one which was to last for more than 80 years.

“There wasn’t a whole lot to do in Limerick back then to be honest so it was good to have a distraction, a hobby,” Ireland’s oldest bellringer told The Irish Times in 2019.

After almost 30 years tolling by the Shannon, Galbraith’s job with the pharmaceutical company Wellcome saw Galbraith transferred to Dublin in 1968.

Limerick’s loss was Dublin’s gain and he soon found himself a position ringing the bells in St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. He only stopped ringing the bells there when climbing the stairs started to prove tricky.

In the 1990s, his home parish of Taney rescued the bells from the recently closed St George’s Church on Dublin’s Temple Street and secured them until Galbraith and a small team got the money together to install them in his local church just in time to ring in the new millennium.

“Those bells have rung out for a lot of weddings since then,” he told this newspaper. “And for a lot of funerals too.”

His own funeral service will take place there on Monday morning and his family and friends will be joined by bell ringers from around the country who will gather to mark the passing of one of their own.