Tributes paid to former VP ‘legend’

June 11, 2018

Shock and sadness have followed the sudden passing of former Vice Principal of Our Lady’s Grammar School in Newry and Crossmaglen native, Mr Louis O’Donnell on Thursday last.

Well-known and popular both in his native town, and where he made his home in Newry, Mr O’Donnell suffered a recent fall in the garden of his Warren Hill home, sustaining injuries from which he never recovered.  

The news prompted scores of tributes on social media platforms with many of his past pupils at Our Lady’s recalling fond memories of their treasured teacher and expressing their sorrow at the passing of a “legend”.   Louis’ outgoing personality endeared him to young and old, described as “the very best of craic” with a “brilliant sense of humour but a brilliant mind too”. Another former student said he was the “joyful light” in Our Lady’s and was responsible for establishing the first Gaelic team in the school. 

An avid GAA fan and huge Armagh supporter, Louis had maintained his strong links with his hometown of Crossmaglen, and was a former manager of the Cross Rangers ladies team. A renowned advocate for ladies football, the ex-chairman of the Ulster Schools GAA was remembered by Ulster Ladies Gaelic as “a wonderful supporter of the ladies game”.   

The beloved teacher was also known for his charity work, devoting hours of his time to helping others through the St. Vincent de Paul charity. His dedication to his local community spanned decades and he was heavily involved in a number of community and youth projects in south Armagh down through the years. 

Thanking everyone for posting such wonderful tributes to Mr O’Donnell, Our Lady’s Principal, Fiona McAlinden, offered her own personal tribute to her friend and former colleague, adding that she was fortunate to know Louis as her Vice Principal while she was a student at the school and later when a newly qualified teacher.  

“He was my mentor and from then on, my friend,” she said.  “Louis was a legend and will never be forgotten in Our Lady’s. We will never see his like again.”

Hundreds of mourners from across the district gathered at St. Mary’s Church in Newry on Saturday to bid a final farewell to the man heralded a “true gentleman”.  Representatives from the GAA community and the district’s school communities came together with Louis’ family and friends for the moving Requiem Mass.  Interment followed in the adjoining cemetery.  

Left to mourn Louis’ passing are his wife Geraldine, daughters Orla and Deirdre, son Bill and large family circle, to whom deepest sympathy is extended.