A West Cork-born priest whose wish was to come home before he died, passed away within hours of meeting his family there for the last time.
Fr Denis ‘Gus’ Hurley (92) from Teadies Lower in Enniskeane who had spent 67 years living and working in Glasgow, also expressly wished to be buried in his adopted home. Surrounded by family members and the many friends who knew him, he was laid to rest there earlier this month.
His grand-nephew Barry Holland from Courtmacsherry said Fr Denis was a remarkable man, who despite being in the late stages of terminal cancer, managed to fulfil his final wishes.
‘Fr Gus was a fantastic painter and had started studying art in the Cork School of Art. He had a great eye for it, but he was dissuaded from continuing it by his dad William and he joined the priesthood, studying at St Peter’s College in Wexford,’ said Barry.
Ordained on June 6th 1954, at the very young age of 26 he was sent off to Glasgow and was first appointed to St Augustine’s Church in Milton.
‘Remarkably it had no church, so his first job was to build a church, which he managed to do through fundraising and donations. Coincidentally, when my uncle John Hurley and aunt Rosalie Collins went over to bring him home last month, he took them to see the very church that he built, which was a lovely touch.’
Fr Gus then spent 20 years as the parish priest of the Holy Family & St Ninian’s parish in Kirkintilloch, a town north of Glasgow.
Retired since 2007, Fr Gus was a big football fan, supporting Celtic and would have gone to many a game at their home ground in Parkhead.
‘He was a very broadminded and open individual and in Kirkintilloch, he extended the hand of friendship to the local Protestant minister and they became good friends and that relationship between the two churches is still there to this day.’
Fr Gus was a regular visitor home during the summer and was almost guaranteed to be home for both the Galway Races and Ballybuidhe Races. As soon as he retired, Fr Gus was able to come home at Christmas too because he had more free time.
‘He wasn’t home last year due to Covid and when restrictions were lifted John and Rosalie went to visit him and then his wish was to come home. His health had been declining following a cancer diagnosis and he probably knew this would be his last trip home.’
Fr Gus came back on the ferry with them on August bank holiday weekend.
‘He arrived home at about 4.30pm that afternoon and died in the early hours that morning. Looking back on it now he got his wish of seeing his brother Declan and his wife Phil and he got to die in his homeplace surrounded by his family. His wish was to then be buried among his flock in Glasgow.’
Barry said that it wasn’t until he and other family members went to the funeral in Glasgow that they found out how people over there held Fr Gus in such high esteem.
‘Everyone had a different story to tell and it seemed he was there for entire families and it was very heartening to meet all these people who had such kind words about him.’